Semtek’s Lost Futures label chase their ace Culture Clash debut with a necessary introduction to Egypt’s PanSTARRS; Cairean peers of Zuli, in possession of a wickedly brooding and concentrated post-punk/shoegaze style recalling The Birthday Party, Suicide, Lydia Lunch, Yves Tumor
Quite the switch up from Culture Clash’s early ‘90s techno hybrids, PanSTARRS plot a path thru dense guitar textures and stygian machine rhythms guided by the flickering light of Youssef Abouzeid on a slow, bristling handful of songs from the recent past. The songs hark to a time when, as Youssef writes “I was actively occupied by arguments on the fusion of culture in creative context, specifically between western and arabic elements”, and the music follows with a scorched blend of brittle machine pulses and keening guitars picking out piquant, distorted melodies that contrast with the haunted, strung-out vox.
Landing on the sweet ’n sore spot between Arabic and Western traditions, ‘Ghaby Ghaby Ghaby’ presents a decidedly unique proposition from his neck of the woods, hustling an experimental, mid-decade sound that joins the dots between stylized ‘80s rock experiments and a wave of recent song-writers and producers from Cairo testing new fusions of electronics and traditional themes. Pardon our prejudices but It’s really not what we’d expect from Cairo, although it’s not hard to draw lines in the sand between PanSTARRS and The Birthday Party’s desert goth in ‘Men Gheir Wa7da’ in that heat-struck sort of way.
Flanked by Hazm El Shamy on drums and Ismail Arafa on bass, Youssef cuts a timeless classic swagger on the Suicide-like charge of ‘Tomtit Nami’, and even recalls Zelionople with an Arabic accent on ‘Sahla Ya Khaifa’, while ‘7omar 3ala 7osan’ could be compared with a burned out Yves Tumor, striking a strong balance of grit and expressive contemporary soul that gets under the skin.
Prolific Los Angeles beat scene / jazz scene staple Carlos Niño calls up friends Sam Gendel, DNTEL, Laraaji and others for a many-headed celebration of spiritual jazz. Absolute zoners for fans of Alice Coltrane, Matthewdavid, Dilla or Kamasi Washington.
'More Energy Fields' is yet another full-length from Niño and friends, following last year's "Actual Presence". Yet again, Niño calls on regular contributors Jamael Dean, Randy Gloss, Devin Daniels, Sam Gendel and Nate Mercereau, making room for DNTEL on modular synthesizer and new age legend Laraaji on zither and voice.
If you've heard Niño's previous recordings you should know broadly what to expect. He's an expert bandleader, and his particular brand of heady beat scene-doused spiritual jazz is a well-worn, proven concept at this point. "More Energy Fields, Current" is Niño's most confident material to date, and its high points - the giddy 'Nightswimming', Laraaji-touched zoner 'Ripples Reflection Loop, or lifted beatbox jammer 'Now the background is the foreground' - are worth the asking price alone.
Classy jazz fusion from the lads behind Max D, Motion Graphix, and Co La, getting back in the Lifted zone after a pair of ace albums for PAN, and now back to Future Times. We've no label notes on this one so not 100% who else is featured...
‘3:2’ is their subtlest and perhaps most classically authentic take on this style, foregrounding lithe, live-sounding instrumentation over the slippery electronic dynamism of earlier outings. The electronics are still there in the zapping, Moogy synth lines and Fender Rhodes vamps, and more craftily subsumed or rendered in the studio-as-instrument mixing trickery, but the emphasis is clearly on showing off their vibesome instrumental skills.
In that sense they nod to Miles Davis as much as his seminal producer Teo Macero in the 10 mins of shapeshifting groove on ’Cushion Push’, before getting skronkier, odder in ‘Purplelight Beat’ with something like a fractal Afrobeat jazz turn, and bringing it with lip-smacking, heads-down swang in ‘Cushion Beat.’
Berlin mainstay Ziúr shatters her musical glass ceiling with this completely essential, exalted, airlock dub pop masterpiece. Jagged, genre-bleached instrumentals that sound like John Carpenter, Talk Talk and AFX mucking with the dials at Black Ark Studios.
Sometimes it takes a period of dramatic change to truly channel the creative mind. For Ziúr, lockdown meant winding down the momentum she'd been building for years running game-changing events in Berlin and regularly touring as a DJ. Facing the anxiety of endless time and missing the affirming validation of social space, she retreated inwards, configuring a sound-world that's part biography and part escapist fantasy. "Antifate" is a concept album of sorts, but built around a place rather than a specific narrative. Ziúr uses sounds - clattering off-world percussion, booming subs, whimsical instrumental snatches - to texture-map a 4k, widescreen image of the world of Cockaigne, the medieval land of plenty.
In 14th-century European folklore, Cockaigne was a peasant's dreamland, where gluttony and laziness was encouraged, sex was readily available and food was free and luxurious. Ziúr fleshes out this oddly contemporary anarchist concept by spiking her music with aural opulence, engineering it for sensual pleasure and bathing it in reverberating excess. The tracks map out a personal journey that's seen Ziúr shape-shift through various scenes and sounds over the years, from death metal and aggy hardcore punq to deconstructed club and shimmering abstract electronics. This openhearted storytelling has always been present in her DJ sets, but on "Antifate" resides far outside the club.
'Orange Cream Drip' sounds like a no-wave "Assault On Precinct 13" beefed up with tin can percussion and rolling kicks; the title track is a dreamy psychedelic shuffle that reminds of '90s back-room head-fuzz and Seefeel's electrically enhanced shoegaze; and 'Fringe Casual' is Talk Talk's "Spirit Of Eden" fragmented and rebuilt from damaged circuit boards. But Ziúr saves the best for last, closer 'The Carry' might be her most unashamedly elegant track to date, with lilting fairytale flute loops splayed over gut-wrenching bass and malfunctioning electronix. It's a fittingly theatrical finale to one of the deepest records we've heard this year.
Latest Warp signing Squid cobble together angular post-punk shards and drone rock fuzz.
Post-punk is one of those genres that never ceases to inspire young minds. Brit five-piece Squid sound curiously out of time with eight-minute drone funk rawk workouts that straddle shouty Television-cum-Public Image Limited universes and betray a youthful obsession with LCD Soundsystem. It might seem like odd move for Warp somehow, but should please anyone whose entry point into the label was Maximo Park or even before that, !!!.
Remember when people were banging on about Brexit and Tory rule being the touchpaper for a new creative explosion in the UK? Well, about that.
Two eternal shoegazers render their first collaboration after many years in orbit of each other, resulting in a swoon-worthy suite of vaporous vignettes and loner strums textured with immersive field recordings
Presented as a kind of collection of short stories, ‘You Can See Your Own Way Out’ sees the longtime pals finally combine their talents - Ahmed’s explorative guitar/synth work, and Cantu-Ledesma’s enigmatic electronics and field recordings - in strokes of strung-out heartache and pastoral bliss that holly transcend the sum of their parts. It’s a rich romantic album, evocative as a decaying photograph and full of tristesse that, considering it’s their first recording together, ironically feels like the soundtrack to a break-up.
The curt title of ‘You Can See Your Own Way Out’ signifies a sense of malady that diffuses throughout the recording, with their mostly instrumental songs variously connoting fleeting feels of grief, regret, and introspection, yet tenderly balancing their sombreness with a sort of redemptive promise. The rustling midnight restlessness of ‘Never Sleep At Night’ sets the mood, and their elision of bruised synth pads with murmuring guitar in ‘Dark From Daybreak’ evokes a sort of Lynchian blueness, while at its core the likes of ‘Mr. Sophistication’ allows for gorgeous glimmer of hope that they build upon to the peripheries of ‘City Walls’ and shores up in ’Shining Sea.’
Pure Serge Modular magick from Thomas Ankersmit, emulating the peerless sonic phenomenology of Maryanne Amacher recordings on a remarkable release with Bartolomé Sanson and Félicia Atkinson’s Shelter Press.
Maryanne Amacher (1938-2009) is an icon of 20th century experimental music who studied with Stockhausen and collaborated with Cage, and is regarded among electronic music’s most distinguished pioneers. ‘Perceptual Geography’ is a concept developed by Maryanne and here articulated by Thomas Ankersmit on the Serge Modular synth system that she introduced to him around 2003, when the nascent artist was getting to grips with an EMS Synthi.
The Serge Modular system, invented by Serge Tcherepnin - a close friend of Maryanne’s - has since become Ankersmit’s machine of choice, with his take on ‘Perceptual Geography’ - referring to a 3D diffusion of otoacoustic (sounds that appear to emanate from inside the ear) and other sonic phenomena - manifest as a compelling tribute to Maryanne’s research into non-musical, psychoacoustic phenomena and proprioception - which is also known as the way human gauge and engage sound within space.
Like Maryanne’s peer, Eliane Radigue, her work was known to a rarified few during the 20th century, but Ankersmit’s interest in her work is indicative of a new generation who have encountered and become enthralled by Maryanne’s probing studies and practice since the early ‘00s, often via presentations of her work in Berlin during that period that lead to Ars Electronica awarding her their highest honour, the Golden Nica, in 2005.
On ‘Perceptual Geography’ Ankersmit emulates the late, great polymath’s combination of scientific rigour and avant pursuit with 40’ of physically powerful subbass textures and pealing sirens-in-your-head that may make listeners check that the oven is switched off. There’s a steeply abstract dramaturgy to proceedings that richly connects with Maryanne’s own iterations, connoting a sense of the unknown and unknowable that’s surely life-affirming to listener’s of a certain, searching, but hard to please disposition.
Intoxicating ambient R&B vapours from Jio, the tenderest alias of J. Albert, landing in gauzy ground between that recent John F.M. ace and The Wkend
Reviving an aegis first birthed for Quiet Time Tapes in 2019, Jiovanni Nadal presents his most vulnerable, sensual work as Jio, quite literally personalised with the inclusion of his sparingly used vocals. Like we said, it really calls to mind the soulache of that recent John F.M. joint, but dialled down to pillow talk degrees and practically smudging out the drums, leaving only watermark traces of percussive inference.
The three songs really do not outstay their welcome, and in fact could easily be twice as long and still have our attention. ‘Ride or Die’ has nowt to do with DMX (RIP) and everything to do with gently rubbing your temples and sweetly singing from the ether, while ‘4D4U4MEP’ sees him quietly express his woes on chiffon keys and new age pads, before the barely there touch and tip-of-tongue vocals in ‘HME~out’ takes this sound to a naturally faded conclusion.
Don’t sleep until you’ve got this cued up ready to drift off with.
Swiss artist Magda Drozd follows 2019's acclaimed "Songs For Plants" with a dedication to the apartment building she called home for several years. Blending skeletal pop elements with field recordings and subtle ambience, she makes an avant garde statement about the home and its sacred space.
Built from field recordings Drozd made in her building, she expands them into spine-tingling ambient drones, or layered vocals, pads or drum machine rhythms. 'Over Exposure' sounds like a nauseous alternative "Drive" soundtrack with synths echoing around deep, reverberating clangs and ghostly pads. 'Pink Chimney' meanwhile is a subtle pop charmer, with hints of Jenny Hval's surrealist lyricism.
As the album dips into its second half, the environmental recordings - gurgling pipes, scraping machines, buzzing light fixtures - are pushed to center stage, enhancing the general feeling of anxiety. At times, it feels like an unusually fitting soundtrack to the harrowing, realist work of Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski. If that doesn't pique your interest, go watch "Dekalog" immediately.
Manchester psych/sludge rockers Gnod traverse alternate universes on this trippy latest slab. One for the Les Rallizes Dénudés obsessives or the Can fan club.
'Easy to Build, Hard to Destroy' is the latest blessing from long-running Manc outfit Gnod, finding the band yet again diving into the sludgy psych rawk dungeon, fusing lysurgic feedback passages with the kind of motorik rhythmic push you'd more readily expect to find on a Neu! album. Rock 'n roll is the backdrop, and not the kind of rock that's been steadily sterilized each year, but the recorded-in-a-basement rock that birthed the punk revolution in the early 1970s. Everything on the album sizzles with an energy that seems to welcome failure - you get the feeling that at any point the power could be cut and everything would be lost, and in a digital world, that's refreshing.
From the magickal opening clank of 'Elka', through the wall-of-sound Grateful Dead-gone-Stooges frazzled of 'They Live' to the haunted spoken word and drone horror grime of 'Deadbeatdisco', there's a dazzling scope to the album. Gnod refuse to stay moored in one particular genre or other, they're dedicated to grit, and seem completely nonplussed about where that grit might take them. One moment the band is in Dusseldorf, the next NYC circa 1982, but the texture is the same - Gnod make sludgy jammers, and that's something to celebrate.
A excellent primer on claire rousay’s filigree detailed and perceptive compositions, demonstrating their transition from drummer to composer of musique concrète and new music across 2 hours of recordings made prior to the new album ‘A Softer Focus’
Quietly questioning the nature of music and arranged sound,, ‘A Collection’ scans back over some five years of recordings made by rousay between San Antonio, TX and Saint Louis, MO, to present an engrossing introduction to their wonderfully elusive and allusive work. The first half is given to their earlier recordings as a drummer, with 67’ of sprawling improvisation spanning concrète-like scrapes and jazzier, free meter thru to barely-there inference and in depth explorations of gamelan-like minimalism, each defined by a sparse crispness and attention to detail.
On the 2nd set that sharp focus is found in transition to a more layered, composed style of concrète, proper in ‘things i doubt you’d care about’ and get increasingly more interesting. Liminal vocal intimations elide in filigree forms with location recordings and hints of percussion, finding a sort of languorous poetry in domesticity on ‘for theo, erik, meghan, alex’, and their previously issued work ‘a moment in st. louis.’ And if you’re still here, 100% make sure to check for the candid text-to-speech revelations of ‘I’m Not a Bad Person’ that close the album with a series of therapeutic confessions alternating between uncomfortable and laugh out loud funny and set to keys and drones in an uncanny way recalling Terre Thaemlitz’s best.
Screaming hardcore from Donny rave dynamo India Jordan, with five hi NRG and deep hits following accolades for their 2020 EP (Resident Advisor’s #1 Best Track of 2020, Crack Magazine’s #2 and Pitchfork’s #21)
Maintaining the momentum of their hugely praised ‘For You’ EP, India slaps the peak-o-meter between nutty breakbeat rave levels and slamming Bassline garage with flavours for all ravers. The first couple were created at the behest of India’s close DJ spar, Finn, who tasked them with making some proper hardcore belters, à la the 1991-style breakbeat ‘ardcore tussle and red-faced diva screams on ‘Only Said Enough’, and the rolling jungle tekno pressure of ’Watch Out!’
We can’t imagine anyone will not be on their feet for those two, but India’s restless groove also takes in percolated techno mutations on ‘You Can’t Expect The Cars To Stop If You Haven’t Pressed The Button’, beside their signature line of SoYo-styled Bassline garage in ‘Feirabend’ inspired by their daily cycle commutes and so titled after the German word for feeling relief at the end of day’s work, before rolling off the hair-kissing garage goodness of ‘And Groove.’
Musical Willy Wonka JG Thirlwell returns to Editions Mego for his second Xordox album, using an array of synths to conjure up '80s OST jammers that remind of John Carpenter, Giorgio Moroder and Vangelis.
Widely known for his influential work as Foetus, industrial pioneer Thirlwell has barely stopped creating music since the early 1980s. In recent years, he's been most notable for his musical contributions to Adult Swim animated series' "The Venture Bros" and "Archer", aside from that he's channeled his remaining energy into the Xordox project.
'Omniverse' follows 2017's 'Neospection' and again hinges around Thirlwell's love of sci-fi synth soundtracks. Like John Carpenter's recent albums, these records blend the old and the new in a way that's not as nostalgic as it is fun. In fact, this run of tracks reminds us more of video nasty soundtracks than it does the more credible fare - at times it sounds like the accompaniment to some gruesome melt movie that hasn't aged nearly as well as you'd have liked.
Thirlwell recorded some of the material on EMS Stockholm's Buchla and Serge modular synthesizers and blends these recordings with software and hardware in his NYC studio. His expertise working on TV soundtracks sings loud; the press release describes "Omniverse" as "Kraftwerk scoring a video game" and, yeah, that's pretty spot-on.
High grade rhythmic inventions from club don Max D on Dawit Eklund’s unique label, 1432 R
If Max D’s Dolo Percussion alias is an experimental - yet properly functional - testing ground for his craftiest drum programming, then the ‘Many Any’ LP is where those ideas gain musical muscle mass and really come out to play. Metrically scaled between 90bpm boogie swangers and 160bpm razz-outs, the album spurts its dancefloor juice in nine natty shots including detours into evocative field recordings alongside his inimitable, rug-cutting rhythms, all sequenced for a totally immersive vibe.
Coming at 2020 with a fresh but timeless sound, Max works up a singular spin on Juke and current East/central African styles in the hot-stepping psychedelia of ‘I Think Our Souls Are Other People’ and the frenetic, scissoring syncopation of ‘Many Any Dolo Brush’, before sweetly cooling out with the pendulous, breezy blend of Nu Jack swing and deftly jazzy chords in ‘Fly Around the Room’. Further in, he gives a sweet nod to the offset drum suss of Mark Clifford in ’Shoutout Seefeel’ on a tight, latinate pivot, before bringing the vibe closer in with the final run between his feathered stepper ‘Lullabiological’ starring Dawit Eklund on keys, and the Major Force West-like breaks of ‘Cuz It’s The Way’.
Quirky melodic (early?) electronics for fans of Mort Garson, Plone, Raymond Scott and Pauline Anna Strom.
Well this is a bit lovely. Los Angeles-based artist Olive Ardizoni first appeared last year with their debut "Six Songs for Invisible Gardens", a record designed as a communication between both plant life and the people who care from them. "Music For Living Spaces" is yet more sound with purpose, crafted to elevate our homes at a time when we're seeing almost too much of them. Ardizoni's music is unashamedly retro, crossing delightful vintage electronic bleeps and wobbles with proggy electronic folk sounds and elements of '80s new age tape music that should be familiar to any regular Leaving Records listeners.
On tracks like 'Sunflower Dance' and 'Royal Fern', they flesh out delicate riffs with Mellotron flutes and brassy synth sounds that sound like they could have been snatched from Vangelis's studio. Elsewhere on 'Soft Coral' and 'Birds of Paradise' the mood is more in line with an eerie wildlife documentary or psychedelic children's TV theme. Basically it's "Plantasia" 2.0, but this hardly matters - it's lovely stuff, and should raise the quality of life in any drab, airless living space.
Masterful melange of choral cut-ups, wizened strings and pulsing, keening electro-acoustic sculptures from Italian native Pilia (3/4HadBeenEliminated) and resident Duncan, reprising a relationship ongoing over decades
Latest in a streak of genius releases starring Duncan’s inimitable vocals finds the duo plumbing the depths of an avant soul space between man and machine. Both based in and around the industrial nether region of Bologna, Italy, and its meridian wilderness, Pilia brings a stark avant rock energy to Duncan’s brittle vocals, which have gripped and uniquely entertained us most acutely on a stack of releases for iDEAL in recent years - not to mention his catalogue since the late ‘70s.
’Try Again’ is prefaced by the command “Try Again / Lie Again/ Deny Again”, which does sound a little like something Roger Stone would say, and speaks to the dark forces at work inside. Of course we’re sure they’re not trumpy, more understandably grumpy with the state of things, and working in line with Duncan’s abstract grasp of transgressive matters. He’s really more like a sort of psychopomp for Pilia’s music; a visionary medium whose work crosses so many boundaries of time, politics and space, which Pilia renders remarkably malleable between his sweeping transition from night-flight to sepulchral depth in the album’s towering opener ‘Try Again’, and the guttural lament ‘Fare Forward’ at its peripheries, while nesting more knotted ideas in the album’s hexed core of ‘The Reprisal’, and unsettling keen and croon of ’The Sellout.’
Bleakly life affirming stuff.
Carter Tanton has been performing and recording music since the age of 15. Over the years, Tanton has toured and recorded with numerous artists including Marissa Nadler, Strand of Oaks, Lower Dens, and The War on Drugs.
"In 2012, he assembled Freeclouds, his first collection of songs for Western Vinyl. A couple of years later, Tanton moved to England where he wrote all of the songs on his sophomore solo album Jettison the Valley, which featured Nadler and Sharon Van Etten. On his new ST album: "I recorded these songs in 2017 in my childhood home which had been sitting empty on the market for nearly a year when I first brought over a microphone and laptop, guitar and piano. From the start an allegorical quality ran underneath any surface level pragmatism I told myself was guiding things. "During the year and a half prior, I had finished two discarded versions of the record. On the first, I played a slew of instruments to build up a band sound while the other was finished with help from friends in the War on Drugs. I had been growing disillusioned as to what music production actually accomplishes in the digital space and my old studio tricks didn't have the same punch anymore.
Mark Fisher once wrote 'technology has been decalibrated from cultural form' and likewise, I felt a flat disconnected drift disaffecting both prior versions. "A few friends had often told me how they wanted me to strip it all back and record just voice and guitar. The further I slipped down technological rabbit holes the more the concept of recording in the simple way the Carter Family once had freaked me out. However, similar to re-entering the sun filled room with quiet grounding, the dark familiar soundhole of my Martin D-18 eased out a new and unexpected hypnotic sound from the very beginning. "The records which haunt me are the ones which have a definitive feeling of time. 'Plastic Ono Band', Cat Power's 'Covers Record', 'Seventeen Seconds', The Blue Nile's 'Hats' and Lewis' 'L'Amour' all seem chiseled from one continuous strain of expression. A cosmic timestamp on a spiritualized totality salvaged by and blooming through prismatic specificity. After nearly two years of listless work, each of these nine songs was written and recorded within one day, respectively.
Any more time spent only weakened the original weight of the moment. few songs center around racism in America, especially framed by what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. "Steep Angles" quotes Sinead O'Connor's song "Black Boys on Mopeds" and I hope it can serve as a Trump era sequel. "Out Fayette" is a fragmented love letter to my hometown Baltimore, using the panoramic sprawl of Fayette Street punctuated by the then recent murder of Freddie Grey as moral axis. Two ambient pieces made with a field recorder and sampler, "V Rose" and "Honey in Tea", remain from the previous versions of the record. They were both created in single days and carried the same uncanny presence as the others. "Uneven High Places" was the first song I put down in the new improvisatory way. It's a distinct stylistic break from my earlier songwriting, heavy on mood and only sometimes stumbling into structure or hooks. "Five Pound Cheques" was recorded on my phone in a rush the day the piano movers came after the house had finally sold."
Anti Pop Consortium’s Beans on the beat for patten, fronting their first single in four years, back on home-brewed label 555-5555
The instantly recognisable Beans (now ex-APC) lights up ‘eat Smoke’ with angular, intricate wordplay working anti-clockwork to the skittish slowfast drama of patten’s tightest production. ‘Crystal Pacific' scrambles through killer diced syllables, before the burned out drill mutation ‘Mood Ring’ shots a sort of eviscerated take on road rap instrumentals.
Dusty, Dilla-esque beat nuggets from London’s Eahwee, starring Scouse MC Lee Scott and local spitters Melanin 9 and the more mellifluous Ninjah Aragniz
“Astral Black welcome Eahwee (pronounced errr-wee) to the fold for his 'Solitude' EP. Through his production work with MC's such as Mutant Academy's Koncept Jack$on & High Focus' Coop, a handful of releases on Dallas-based label Sunday Dinner and a flurry of bandcamp beat tapes - the London-based producer has quietly made a name for himself on the international beat scene.
Across the 12-tracks here on 'Solitude', Eahwee contorts a gold-mine of 70's soul samples into a psychedelic reflection on the experience of isolation in the human experience, presented in the form a life affirming 17-minute long mixtape. From the exultantly ethereal sounds of 'Duuduu' & 'Windough' to the heart string pulling 'Naybahuud' & 'Rarecandy', Solitude is a testament to how Eahwee has developed his craft into an effortless touch. Though largely instrumental, peppered along the way are a handful of vocal performances in the form of guest appearances from Blah Records commander-in-chief, Lee Scott, the mafioso memoirs of extra terrestrial MC Melanin 9 and neo-soul sage, Ninjah Aragniz – who closes off proceedings with the infinitely loop-able summer anthem 'yah yah’.”
Epic, rare disco/new wave wonk from NYC Downtown mainstay Mark Freedman, with Arthur Russell on cello! Historical, effortlessly weird and delightfully funky.
Freedman was a key component of the Downtown scene, heading up the Battery Sound studios where Arthur Russell worked on some of his most classic material, including "World Of Echo". Working under the Powerman alias, Freedman used a synth pop and disco framework to map out a slippery vision of early 1980s NYC, with off-kilter drum machine loops, deadpan vocals and of course, Russell's unmistakable cello.
Thirteen-minute epic 'Lost Tribe' is the go-to here, but noisy new wave jammer 'Love Whisperings' is a jaw-dropper, with its scraping oddball synth blurts and singalong vocals. Extended closer 'Loving Was Easy' is worth a peep too, all naked machine funk and robot romance. Well good.
Emptyset's james ginzburg grapples with dense Celtic drone on this gargantuan deep listening tome. Think Catherine Christer-Hennix, Ellen Arkbro or Laraaji, but lost somewhere chilly in the Scottish highlands.
On 2018's 'six correlations', the Subtext boss and bass music veteran set his sights on Gaelic folk music, using electronic and acoustic instruments to reflect his heritage and build those sounds into something completely new. ginzburg revisits the concept on 'crystallise, a frozen eye', fleshing out his meditations using instruments such as the Appalachian dulcimer, the psaltry, the shruti box and a special drum custom made for Emptyset's "Borders" album.
These luscious acoustic sounds are arranged into rich orchestrations, elevated by ginzburg's engineering prowess, and widened with thick bass tones from his trusty Octave Cat synthesizer. That instrument might be best known around these parts for forming the memorable riff on Joker and Ginz's 'Purple City', but here it's used to create a low-end rumble that's more comparable to Sunn O))) or ELEH.
On opener 'light evaporates', gut-churning bass anchors a flutter of airy strings that combs across the pineal gland with pleasing ASMR softness. 'the eyes, behind' sounds like Laraaji's most off-world dulcimer experiments being stretched like a drum skin over a creaking wooden frame. ginzburg's music creates a magical universe that's out of time, part historical and part completely contemporary; 'a gate left open disappeared' is a prime example of this, with twinkling strings that sound like faery dust being blown into a collapsing wormhole.
Anthony Naples’ Incienso grip Aussie raver Big Ever for a tightly coiled and restless quartet of electro, garage, breaks and deep house sidewinders
Previously known as half of Cop Envy, and more recently for their work with Logic1000, Big Ever strikes solo with his own brand of daring dance music, testing out harddrum-adjacent twysters and slippery offbeats that will work a treat in-the-mix with other mutant grooves.
The hiccuping electro roil of ‘Rolled Into’ sets out his style with needlepoint arps weft into a pendulous swang somewhere between Simo Cell and Ciel, whereas ‘Burst Dial’ switches tack to nervy, tracky minimalism with lurking but driving bass. ‘Apt’ is the set’s craftiest oddball, working trim tresillo rhythms into a other recalling Call Super’s album on Incienso before him, and ‘Otto’ evens out the groove on an earthy, trippy deep house tip shades away from DJ Qu.
Coiled hard drum pressure from NYC’s Significant Other, riding reticulated rhythms for Hank Jackson’s anno label.
Putting some grungy NYC muscle in it, Significant Other follows shots on Spe:c and Oscilla Sound with some of his darkest gear here. ‘Every Night A Dtream Visits Us’ works a lather of sidewinding, sinuous arps and drums under Ghost In The Shell atmosfear, and the scaly ‘Gomek’ drags us down an alley to chew our bones and spit ‘em out in a sort of slompy cumbia dance. ‘Oblivion’ allows for some more brooding, beat-less introspection continuing his narrative style, and ’Second Skin’ crawls out on swingeing, snag-toothed tresillo rhythms lodged somewhere between DJ Python and Nick Klein.
Strange, enchanted confections of folksong and computers from first generation Estonian-Australians - file somewhere between Maja S.K. Ratkje, Fonal Records, and Paul De Marinis
“There is an overarching hypothesis that music and place are inextricably linked. Where the ancient folksong may be regionally grounded, migration and modernity have confused this notion. Who owns what is by definition the music of the people and not of the composer? Passed down by generations and subject to revision, reappraisal and re-telling, music develops over time in the public domain; new routes providing new understandings.
In the words of Charles Seeger this is the concept of the folk process. ‘Creak Whoosh’ is a collection of choral ballads originating in the Finno-Ugric regions of Estonia and Ingria, electronically adapted predominantly by Olev Muska and Mihkel Tartu, based around the contemporary arrangements of Veljo Tormis. Originally established as ‘Kiri-uu’, the project was undertaken by the children of Estonian refugees, most of whom grew up over 8,000 miles away in the metropolis of Sydney, Australia. With the majority having never visited the land of their ancestors prior to the tour of 1989, the first generations reshaping of these ancient folk tales conveys Seeger’s process amidst displacement and its subsequent fringe-culture. Fusing modern recording technologies and synthesised instrumentation with themes of nature and eternity, for a short time the Kiri-uu choir dictated their own unique reading of Estonian music for the Australian market. Love and family, swamps and forests, seasons and desire.
‘Is it the moon or the sun or a rainbow, or are they the stars in the sky?’
It is my strange inclination for Nordic music(s) perhaps explained by my Scottish family history and geographic proximity to the Northern countries that made the appeal of Olev Muska’s vision so immediate. From Gaelic psalms to Finnish kantele recordings and Swedish children’s songs (Hårgalåten!), there is often a degree of comfort to be found in their coldness. Much like Kiri-uu’s initial subversion of music and place, it is ironically the height of Australian summer when I meet Olev to share a pint of beer or two, unaware that the album is to become the definitive soundtrack of my time there. Heat stroke and sunburn, perspiration and transit, fantasy beaches and suburban homes.
In collaboration with STROOM, the fundamental messages of the old Estonian bards are carried forth this time into the 21st century, a revised selection of the original 1988 recordings accompanied by ‘Tšimmairuudiralla’ allowing for new perspectives and, perhaps crucially, a truly global audience. After all, in Finno-Ugric folk song it is perhaps only the strictly functional that remain unchanged, such as herding calls or Sami joik. - Fergus Clark, Glasgow 2021”
Basic House's Sähkö Recordings debut is a bleak, noisy voyage into greyscale industrial ambience. A fitting accompaniment to our troubled times, then. One for fans of Prurient/Hospital, Dilloway, Justin Broadrick et al.
Steven Bishop is usually busy heading up the Opal Tapes label, but found enough time in his day to bolt together a seething slice of industrial ambience for the legendary Finnish imprint. The result is his grimmest plate to date - "Crown Ever Remain" reminds of peak '80s DIY industrial tape culture, with half-heard vocal snips, crashing over-saturated bass and properly psychedelic synth whines.
'Mechanical Nudes' is our fave here, bringing to mind Sähkö's own dearly departed folk hero Mika Vainio with its heaving glitchy rhythm made from a bare, distorted bass womp. The record closes on 'Alphabet (Swallowing Gold)', inching windswept drones and cracking ambience over degraded answerphone messages that sound just mundane enough to be completely terrifying. Good stuff.
Red Axes’ Nic Arizona turns out a sizzling breakbeat bustler backed with playful remix muscle from Lena Willikens
The rug-cutting drums and jagged synth arps of ‘Floating the Flood’ are just the ticket for sand-trampling festival scenarios and sweaty basements alike, but it’s the Lena Willikens remix for us, phasing the original’s wobbly-jawed vocals into a Dego-like broken beat hustle and adding her own snippets of what sounds like some rosy cheeked ‘90s Manc raver intoning “top atmosphere” and “having a good time” that are giving us the chuckles right now.