"When Nils Frahm kicked off his world tour at Funkhaus Berlin in January 2018 to bring his highly acclaimed studio album All Melody to the stage, an ambitious journey was just to begin: Over the next two years, Frahm played more than 180 sold-out performances, including the Sydney Opera House, LA’s Disney Hall, the Barbican in London, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, and several big festival stages around the globe. Yet the stunning setting of Funkhaus Berlin, renowned for its vintage grandeur and outstanding acoustics, and also home to Frahm’s magnificent studio where All Melody was recorded, had occupied a unique place in the artist's heart.
In December 2018, Nils Frahm eventually returned to Funkhaus Berlin to host another set of four shows, tickets sold out within hours. Frahm’s friend and film director Benoit Toulemonde — a collaborator since 2011 — captured the concerts on film, only using handheld cameras, and employing techniques he had mastered for the famous concert series La Blogotèque, which featured some of the world’s most popular artists. Tripping with Nils Frahm is an illustration of Nils’s lauded ability as a composer and passionate live artist as well as the enchanting atmosphere of his captivating, and already legendary Funkhaus shows: An extraordinary musical trip – rare and exclusive, close and intimate, bringing a unique concert experience to the screen.
"It was about time to document my concerts in picture and sound, trying to freeze a moment of this period where my team and I were nomads, using any method of travel to play yet another show the next day. Maybe tonight is the night where everything works out perfectly and things fall into place? Normally things go wrong with concerts, but by combining our favorite moments of four performances, we were able to achieve what I was trying to do in these two years of touring: getting it right! When you hear the applause on the end of the film you should know that I was smiling happily, being a tad proud and feeling blessed to share these moments with you.
Much love, Nils"
No fewer than three unreleased Mika Vainio works resurface alongside quieter highlights of his catalogue in a 23 years-overdue compilation originally made for an exhibition in Milan.
First commissioned for the Snow Crash exhibition in 1997, ‘Kiteet’ now sees a posthumous release, reminding of Vainio's subtlest solo standouts in the likes of ’Syväys’ and ‘Radio’, sequenced beside three diverse, unreleased gems of the late, great composer at his piercingly focussed and minimalist best - utterly crucial listening for fans of his seminal mid-’90s output circa ‘Metri’ and ‘Olento’ for any Ø head or lovers of C.20th minimalist music.
For the uninitiated, the album serves as a handy primer on Mika’s most pivotal period, aside to his Chicago-inspired techno, when he forged a style of improvised live electronic music that hold up as some of the purest and most hauntingly life-affirming in a generation. The icy 12’ expanse of sliding sine waves describing endless tundra in ’Syväys’ is a total classic, while the 9’s of hypnagogtic drone and ether voices in ‘Radio’ is another, and ‘Halli’ is the closest we’ll come to shivering in an ice cave in the Arctic. We can now add the whistling bleeps and frozen synths of ‘Kiteet, Pt. 1’, and the characteristically cranky grip of its pulsating ‘Pt.2’, from the album’s unreleased highlights, to that list.
Lead by 17 year old Carlton “Dirk” Poward, San Francisco’s Monsta was one of many ephemeral late seventies funk and disco bands that haunt the dreams of record diggers worldwide.
"This is the only song Monsta ever released - on a 100 copies one sided test press - in 1979. But what a song. Produced by the late Bill Withers, Give Me Something Good Is an epic disco funk monster that has never been reissued to this day! This Past Due Records reissue comes with a full sleeve and the story of Carlton “Dirk” Poward, Monsta and how the mighty Bill Withers got involved in the production of this magnificent slice of boogie. Ultra limited release as always, don’t sleep!"
Breathtakingly unique dust'n'bones drone-folk-noize workouts from Minnesota trio Maths Balance Volumes, who accurately paint a painful picture of 2020 while refusing to ignore the past, cramming harrowing folk and blues wails into ghostly shells of genre-agnostic experimentation. A late highlight of a trying year.
Billed as "music for a world in which things have never been okay", Maths Balance Volumes' latest album "A Year Closer" sounds shockingly resonant as we prepare to close out twelve months that have shifted the cultural landscape for the foreseeable future. The Minnesota outfit have been recording since 2002 and have dropped a slew of records on labels like Chocolate Monk and KYE, but their music has never sounded so in tune with the global mood. The trio drift spectrally between the past, present and future, never relying on prettiness or resting on overdone signifiers. So when they use elements of American folk and blues it sounds like a conversation with the past - warts and all - rather than an attempt to paper over their country's awkward, guilty history.
At times, it sounds like the dying gasp of New Weird America coughing through lo-bitrate Limewire experiments; at others, it's more like Tortoise at dusk jamming with Florian Fricke, barely audible over kettle squeals and tape hiss. Instruments are blurred and indistinct (is it a bass? a guitar? a bottle? a sample?), voices are sung and spoken, sometimes sampled, sometimes screamed. Genres are approached, but nothing is sacred: every element is disintegrated within an inch of its life until only effigies remain.
Somehow "A Year Closer" brings these last few months into focus without feeling like a mournful lament, lashing together spirituality, history, sound and politics without falling into nostalgia, scolding or repetition. Unmissable, really.
Bumper crop of remixes for xx guitarist and vocalist Romy Madley Croft's debut solo single 'Lifetime', with a standout from the unstoppable Anz.
It's taken a while for xx guitarist and vocalist Romy Madley Croft to kick off her solo career, but she puts a foot forward with 'Lifetime', an electro pop earworm that reminds fondly of The Knife or Robyn. Of course, the Anz remix is the one for us here: the molten hot producer re-tools Romy's original with heart-pumping 4 Hero-esque bass wobbles and chunky 12-bit amen breaks, sending us into another dimension entirely.
Elsewhere, Jayda G goes with a slick, dubbed-out house edit, Planningtorock pushes the electro elements into overdrive with her 'Let It Happen' remix and HAAi expands on the trancey euphoria with a sunny version that makes Chicane's 'Offshore' sound like Xenakis. Remember Ibiza?
Faded as fuck 2009 new age/ambient soup from Lieven Martens, fka Dolphins into the Future. One for anyone missing Emeralds, Imaginary Softwoods or Skaters.
Originally released on Not Not Fun in 2009, "On Sea-Faring Isolation" is an early set from Edições CN boss Lieven Martens, initially issued under the Dolphins into the Future moniker. A sizzling concoction of torched new age synthesizer patterns, plaintive drones and evocative field recordings, it sounds just as relevant now as it did over a decade ago.
While the opening tracks layer euphoric arpeggios to lull listeners into an almost Emeralds-adjacent synthscape, the album really finds its footing when Martens strips things down to almost nothing. Stand-out track 'Lapse - Dream' is stark and minimal, a static-charged tropical field recording underpinned with rattling percussion and eerie synth gurgles. It reminds of Andrew Pekler at his most cosmic, or Popol Vuh half-heard through a bathroom wall. Weird and wonderful stuff.
Addictive '90s dance-pop goodness from Equiknoxx's Shanique Marie and Manchester mainstay Finn. Sounding like Mantronix rewiring Saint Etienne or Lil Silva producing Joyce Simms it's exactly what we wanna hear right now...
If there's one thing we're missing this year in the flurry of quarantine albums and mandatory introspection it's jubilant, anthemic bangers. Thankfully, Finn has teamed up with Shanique Marie to emerge with some of the most addictive dance pop we've heard in ages. 'Lifey' starts things off with blissful piano 'n breakbeats that reminds fondly of Saint Etienne's classic dubbed-out cover of Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart'. But Shanique lifts things up even further, adding a memorable, airy vocal that'll be stuck in yer head for days.
'Movers' meanwhile is an icy electro shuffler, nodding to UK funky, 80s dance pop and classic soundsystem jams without ever losing its coherent flow. Even the cover is a slick rework of Sims' 'Come into my Life' 12", with too-cute baby pics of Finn and Shanique in-between snazzy text. We're obsessed basically.
Posh Isolation present ”Galerie” by the Copenhagen based Scotsman Perko.
"While being mostly recognized for his organic blend of club music arrangements, “Galerie” emphasises a focus on field recordings, textures and striped-down abstraction. Over the course of 8 tracks Perko builds small worlds of tangible ambience and horizons of amiable beauty. The sense of ebb and flow throughout “Galerie” gives it a sense of contemplative weightlessness and the perception of mild sun glittering blindness."
Future Times boss Max D's Lifted ensemble explore the outer limits of cosmic, new-age jazz with another mind-expanding selection of blissed-out improvisations. A proper smoker's delight.
With a third album due next fall, the Lifted ensemble count down with the first in a series of EPs, a hazy, narcotic journey into the fourth world. Max D, Joe Williams (Motion Graphix), Matt Papich (Co La) and Jeremy Hyman (Ponytail) make up the core outfit, and here are joined by Dawit Eklund, Dustin Wong and Hirama, who trade sounds so levitational you'll end up on cloud nine whether or not you have access to herbal remedies.
If you managed to peep the group's last two albums on PAN ("1" and, um, "2"), you should know the vibe here. "3.3" continues the story, fleshing out their sound - that owes plenty to new age legend Jon Hassell and Move D's transcendent dub project Conjoint - in widescreen, exploring rounded grooves and coolly filtered bliss experiments. There's no heady concept here, no wall of text to wade through before taking a step inside - "3.3" is simply a mood. Sink into it.
Call Super and Parris craftily consolidate and explore each other’s style in a strong pair of collaborations
Striding at 133bpm in the dub-techno-stepper ‘Chiseler’s Rush’, Call Super is clearly in charge of the tempo, but the rhythm is typically offset with Parris’ deep rooted nous, resulting in a supple, Sheffield-style mid-ground between crystalline AI techno and rolling UK steppers vibes.
Dipping down to circa 120bpm on ‘Magenta’, Parris pulls Call Super into his temporality for a more spacious play on unresolved rhythms, dabbing deft bass patterns and flyaway chords with rippling marimba and organ motifs to sound out somewhere between recent Raime, Beatrice Dillon, and Peverelist.