Tzusing diffracts his debut album and 12” bullets via remixes from Slikback, Gabber Modus Operandi, Hyph11e, Zean and many more on the debut volley from his Sea Cucumber label
‘Next Life’ sees Tzusing express his bonds across the current scene, calling in a barrage of remix reinforcements that echo his own mutant tekkerz, giving a jolt to his highly promising label in one fell swoop.
Kenya’s Slikback can be relied on for a highlight with a slow/fast reshape of ’Shame’, riding scudding kicks and drill-tipped snares into the smoke, and Indonesian nutters Gabber Modus Operandi pierce the ‘floor’s 3rd eye with an alarming intro giving way to a cavalcade of hardcore brutalism. New to our ears, Shanghai grime artist Zean also impresses with the locked-on vocal drones and panel-beating drums of his ‘Flow States’ remix - think Egyptian Empire’s ‘The Horn Track’ for a new gen - and likewise another new name Jondu gets it bang on with their seething take on our Tzusing percy ‘Face of Electric Sound’.
Make sure to also check for Tomás Urquieta turning ‘Digital Properties’ into a steely, offset techno bomb, and for sweltering slow pressure from Suda’s slamming twist on ‘Esther’, and Tera Octe’s lushly suspenseful slow trance rework of ‘1976’.
Soaring, peak time techno steamers from Shed in DD guise for The Final Experiment
Rewarding the room’s need for a classier take on big room-entrancing techno, the Berlin don gives the rave what it needs with the effortless, swanging forward momentum and nagging bass drive of ‘Infinite’, incrementally triggering your MDMA nozzle with angelic pads done to utterly classic effect, before spinning torsos with galloping kicks and swivelling, pitch bent percussion and clambering dub chords in ‘Scattered Blue’ recalling a tempered take on Maurizio’s ‘Lyot’ remix.
Time-warping material from Berlin-based Aussie guitarist Julia Reidy, assembling gentle microtonal sine waves and subtle chops of outdoor environmental recording to manufacture an anxious, but unmistakeably pastoral mood.
If you've only heard Reidy's 12-string guitar-focused material you might be in for a surprise. 'Gardening' is a consciously minimal move from Reidy, and delves further into electronic realms only hinted at on 2019's Black Truffle-released "In Real Life" and last year's "Vanish". Soft-focus sine tones create the majority of the sound, but this isn't fuzzy music for beaming outdoor scenes. Reidy's careful tuning of each tone allows a sense of mystery to grow gently, that's enhanced by occasional pads, piano hits and disquieting field recordings.
We're guessing the environmental recordings are taken from people gardening, given the title, but Reidy's usage is so brief and particular that she refuses to allow sentimentality to seep through. Birdsong is fleeting, and voices are too indistinct to fully make out - the only constants are the clustered sine chimes, that shudder with eerie intensity. It sounds like a set of electronic bells operating in a distant pocket universe, blowing in the solar wind.
Haunted music, in the best possible way. One for fans of Oren Ambarchi, Jake Meginsky, gamelan music, or even early electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott. So good.
Manchester's Sharda follows tidy releases on Coil, Swing Ting and Kiwi with another slippery set for Local Action, bursting from UK garage roots into R&B, jungle and speed garage.
Garage is one of those genres that's much imitated, rarely nailed. Sharda's impressed before - not least on his recent set of dubs that found him reaming up with India Jordan and DJ Q, and remixing Charli XCX - and his new EP is another nod to UK soundsystem music that doesn't miss. His sound's throwback, but hybridized - standout banger 'Got to Love' fondly reminds of 187 Lockdown's mutant UK garage womp, but with housey organ sounds and syrupy vocals, it never stays in one place for too long.
'What I Feel' and 'South' are less cheeky, but more in line with Todd Edwards' clipped speed garage model. Both have the fwd motion of vintage Masters at Work remixes, juxtaposed with a bassline that speaks to Sharda's Northern roots. He cites coastal towns in the UK and Korea as an influence for the EP, and that's never more evident than on sunny closer 'No Fear', a rave anthem for a lost future.
Nanometer-tight electro-funktions from Brizzle’s FFT, wielding his scalpel on three killers for Glasgow’s Numbers that follow in the mould of MMM’s recent minimalist turns, Dopplereffekt’s iciest electro, or zingers by Alva Noto and Mika Vainio
Cut to Numbers’ exacting standards, ‘Disturb Roqe’ echoes the label’s roots in front-facing electro with a thoroughly modernist palette of precision tooled percussion and sculpted synth noise laced with a spirit of humanity in its fleeting vocal idents, warm chord progressions, and sexy swang.
The syncopated tinfoil drum patter and surging noise of ‘Disturb Roqe 2’ unmistakably recalls Carsten Nicolai’s ‘Uni’ worx as much as the stop-start electro calculations of Heinrich Muller, while ‘Disturb Roqe 4’ is blessed with a warmer flush of chords that surely remind us of Ø’s latter apex album ‘Oleva’, with meticulous detail in the reverberant dubbing. ‘Disturb Roqe 5’ is located farthest from club conventions, eking out a more freeform adjunct to the sparest moments of MMM’s recent album with pendulous bass pulses and glancing vocals that eventually gel into an air-stepping structure and delicious darkside blasts of cold air.
'But Only After You Have Suffered' is a layered and personal new work from multidisciplinary artist, composer, percussionist & producer Jamire Williams.
Following his 2016-released Leaving Records debut, artist and percussionist Jamire Williams expands his craft in widescreen with an album that's a cross between movie soundtrack and mixtape. Ambitious stuff, with guest appearances from Sam Gendel, Carlos Niño, Zeroh, Mic Holden and Josh Johnson.
'But Only After You Have Suffered' fluxes through ideas with a fluidity that's omnipresent in the post beat-scene Cali landscape. Williams cuts movie samples with bell sounds and loops wobbly tape-recorded vocals over his idiosyncratic drumming, and he approaches songs with the scope of a cult director and the record collection of a digger. There's burned-out, post-Madlib rap ('Safe Travels', 'Ugly'), hollowed-out R&B fusion ('When it Gets Dark', 'For the Youth'), even loungey Stereolab vibes ('Bow'), and everything's interspersed with the dusty grandeur of David Axelrod. Fans of Flying Lotus, Tyler The Creator, Dilla or Adrian Younge, check this one.
Face-freezing, strongback D&B steppers voodoo from emergent star Holsten, continuing to make a dead strong impression after sick shots beside Pessimist and Artilect
Stepping up from the Droogs label to its cult parent company, UVB-76 Music, the Bristolian nails it right on the icy cold spot of late ‘90s warehouse tech-step in the classic model of Renegade Hardware, Moving Shadow, or Metalheadz.
Aye it’s nowt new but it’s damn fucking effective and as captivating as a classic ‘90s motor with a peng paint job, shiny rims and fine tuned engine that lets you know it’s in the area. Muscle memories will be heavily triggered by the ice blast intro and Dom & Roland detailed breakbeat engineering ov ‘Odium’, and free party flashbacks sear thru in the rictus step of ‘Doom Spell’, saving the depth charge breakbeat detonations for ‘Breath of Life’, holding his line with classic discipline on ‘Corner Trap’.
Steel tipped, love it.
Google-proofed compendium of goodness from a stellar set of players; Eliza McCarthy & Mica Levi, Madteo, Joanne Robertson, Chuquimamani Condori (Elysia Crampton), LA Timpa, Steven Warwick, Jonathan Leandoer96 (Yung Lean), Die Reihe and many more
Assembling around mutual connections made at shows between London, Paris, and New York; the diverse roll call of composers, singers, rappers, and producers all share something of a beauty-in-melancholy-and-audness musical purview, with each lending a shade of a familiar style that adds up into something that quietly and baldly transcends the sum of its parts.
Pulling together 16 tracks, it’s really built for reflective home-listening, with a lowkey laminal elusivity that will keep keener listeners rapt. Hugely influential (yet criminally undersung) talent Elysia Crampton serves a real beauty with spare solo piano piece ‘Stars Over Riparian Corridor’ under the Chuquimamani Condori moniker, and there’s an unmissable shoegaze collab from Mica Levi and the angel-tongued Joanne Robertson ‘Pull’ that dances right on our nerve endings, while LA Timpa plays to his guess-again strengths with a strangely sensitive 12 minute noise abstraction ‘Self Respect (I’m Part Of It All)’.
Madteo keeps it groggy and fractured on his two parts, including a scratchy Sade cut-up, and we’re also snagged on the hazy, mazy ambient noise of Brandon Juhans (Hanz) in ‘Ninety Nine’, and the keening bittersweet discord of Behavior & Mayako XO’s druggy dirge ‘Deicide’, while the lesser spotted Steven Warwick (Heatsick) provides scuzzy electro-bop zap on ‘Delicious’, and Jack Callahan’s Die Reihe trades in tight trews rawk with playfully daft choose on ‘Brown M&M’s’.
Aye, it's a goodun.
Only Workshop’s 2nd release of 2021, Henrik Jonsson’s PST follows that pearl from Willow with a sort of motorik Scandi/Berlin/Balearic ambient house session
The producer FKA Porn Sword Tobacco skews to supple, rolling grooves in six parts, wafting a blissed sort of kosmische house in ‘Take One’, and slowing down to a mogadon Mediterranean acid crawl in ‘Choices In Paradise’, both taking over 10 minutes to work their charms. The echo chamber acid dub vignette ‘Limbic Soirée’ smudges the senses at the EP’s core, before his second wind comes with the acid chugger ‘Open Air’, and the blissed K-hole wipe-out ‘Tati’, saving the sun-struck strut of ‘Enantiodromia (Summer Of 2020 Mix)’ for the after-afters.
Superb return from PAN/Codes alum Sky H1, yielding a five year follow-up to her debut EP and its anthemic ‘Air’ on an album for AD 93 flush with a signature mix of noctilucent ambient pads and vox laced to beatdown and ghosted jungle rhythms
Last clocked in 2017 on the seminal ‘Mono No Aware’ compilation, Brussels-based producer Sky H1 has been notable by her absence ever since. AD 93 have admirably coaxed her out of hiding with ‘Azure’, an absorbingly brooding and immersive album that reminds to the most salient aspects of witch house as much as cloudrap and classic ambient electronica, but soused in a certain sort of airy Belgian melancholy that gets us right there. It’s a supremely classy affair, perfectly toned for loner listening at home and on the mooch with crafty slow/fast meters and a subliminal drive that’s certain to hit home with followers of everything from Andy Stott and Holy Other to Burial and DJ Lostboi/Malibu.
Picking up the knackered house baton for the times, your lass beautifully reads the room with nine keenly melodic cuts toned to her lowkey style and tempered with a masterful narrative arc. Entering via the woozily nostalgia inducing ‘Labyrinth’, she comes off like a quasi-speed Burial on the ace ‘Darklite’, while the heart-in-mouth tension of ’Silk’ shows off her classy grasp of deferred gratification. ‘Artic’ follows to make room for beat-less introspection layered with gothic crows calls, setting the tone for clear centrepieces in the glyding Reese bass strokes of ‘Blade’ and dreamlike jungle of ‘Elysian Heights’, with he John T Gast-liek steppers techno of ‘Freefall’ and a cinematic flourish in ‘Bird Strike’ making this lot quietly crucial for forlorn ambient dance romantics.
Tendon-twang EBM and industrial welters from Oliver Ho in Broken English Club guise on his Death & Leisure label
Forever pushing the prism in inventive ways, BEC has become a go-to project for Ho’s best work of late. Here he gives it sharp and neat with the propulsive title tune ‘Nil By Mouth’, harnessing his arps and vocals into a swaggering, intensifying canter, whereas ‘Coma’ locks into sleepwalker techno mode with Carpenter-esque synth washes and monotone midnight drive. ‘Taxidermy’ opens with what sounds like a Phil Collins tattoo, before deploying jagged midrange stabs, and ‘Young Dogs’ trades in a sort of grubbily deferred gratification with crashing drums and Far eastern horn tonalities holding a stygian line.
Loefah’s 81 host their first release by Kahter; four tracks of squashed, electroid UK bass minimalism in the post-dubstep mode
Following in the styles of the label boss and MVP’s, Chunky or Paleman, Kahter keeps everything stripped and bad-to-the-bone, werking tightest subs and insectoid percussion in the electro swang of ’Spores’ and the wider step of ‘Impendi’ in a way that will cut across powerfully on a big rig (with a decent engineer).
Global club stronghold Infinite Machine hustle 19 prime cuts by the likes of Xiao Quan, Gaul Plus, Only Now, and Daniel Ruane to mark their 10th anniversary of mutant dance moves
Now based between CDMX, NYC, and Bucharest, after years in Montreal, Infinite Machine here speak to their current base and an expanded weltanshauung thru myriad permutations of the dembow dancehall sound and syncopated tekkers, ragging the pattern each way from slow squashed swivels to irresistible chuggers and boisterous uptempo switch ups compatible with kuduro and hard drum styles.
To play favourites, we’re impressed by the vacuum-sealed tresillo drag tunnel coefficients of ‘ZZZZZ’ by Manchester’s Daniel Ruane, and Sistema Aero’s mid-tempo slugger ‘Virtual rave Destruction’ gets some serious traction underfoot, while Matías Contreras delivers a hip-gripping zinger ‘Rizoooo’ with shades of Paul Marmota’s goth and trance sidespins, and El Irreal Veintuno chase up a minter for Amazondotcom and Siete Catorce’s Subreal label with a hard ass winner in ‘Dogma’, and Bungalovv bends the meter to a pendulous swang somewhere between mutant Muslimgauze and wild paso doble styles.
Supremely zonked and groggy synth sprouts by Tim Goss ov Call Back The Giants - erstwhile bandmate of Graham Lambkin in The Shadow Ring - on his first outing in yonks.
Pinging a space between our ear’s eyes somewhere between Lucrecia Dalt & Aaron Dilloway, the wonky mysteries of Pekka Airaksinen, Decimus and Black Zone Myth Chant; this is a proper zoner. It’s the first from Tim Goss in nearly decades, and sounds as though it’s been fermenting to perfection in the back of cupboard somewhere, resulting a taste like aural kimchi. Nom fucking nom, as annoying people on social media say. There’s definitely a sense of humour at play, and something very compelling that will pique the earbuds of keener listeners with its pungency and sheer oddness. Honestly it’s making us salivate right now, especially when he gets right into it on the 11 minute centrepiece of ‘Fly IV’.
Humming of petrichor, mildew and roll-ups, Korea Undok Group’s catalogue of humble acousmagick is rummaged by Penultimate Press and paired with unreleased work for a fine introduction to the Canadian label’s lowkey charms
Presented with “zero mastering… to sound as shit as possible”, the 21 snapshots of barely there, warbling keys and ghostly vocals in ‘Senescence’ comprise 50% material previously issued on private run tape, and 50% work made for an abandoned LP. Compiled, they represent an engrossing overview of five years of work by the cult label and unit, who prize the infidelity of decay in a way that surely resonates with recordings by Wanda Group or Indignant Senility, and naturally shares an enigmatic appeal with Penultimate Press’ roster including Timo Van Luijk and Graham Lambkin.
It’s all deliciously zonked, with spidery webs of wandering, melancholic piano and guitar mælody and tape worn texture that nuzzle the ears and practically tickle our nose hairs, bringing eyes to half mast and dancing on the tip of the tongue, if you’re prone to that kind of thing. It is really best ingested in one sitting with appropriate time and space, but for the best glimpses into their haunted house, we highly recommend checking for the utterly gorgeous, trembling keys and echoic tape detritus of ‘Fell in a Well’, and what sounds like a knackered Elodie in the occluded chamber music of ‘Long Weekend, Pt. 7’ and the sibilant smear of drums and beautifully sore piano timbre to ’13-2’.
Nearly 20 years since their last new Tresor release, Berlin ambient torch career TV Victor graces the label with four slices of iridescent downbeats and dub techno
Technically the 2nd part of a session that started on Tobias Freund’s Non Standard Productions in 2010, ‘GRV, Vol. 2’ reprises that EP’s spirit in a style indiscernible from TV Victor’s original string of Tresor releases during the ‘90s and early ’00s, and also acts as connective ligature between the pioneering spirit of the Zodiak Free Arts Club and its enduring influence. The pieces are neatly sequenced and laid-back, perhaps primed for relaxing bodies frazzled by 12 hours of strobes and pounding techno, and drifting from the radiant pads of ‘GRV Tr 6’ to a sort of blissed, droning ambient exotica dub in ‘GRV Tr 8’, and slouchy, beatdown, motorik breaks in ‘GRV Tr 7’, with a 2nd wind of pulsating ambient techno in ‘GRV Tr 4’ that may well prompt some ravers to get back on it.
Deadly deep dive into the legendary artillery of Ghana’s Essiebons label during a golden and influential era of West African music
Parsed from the power house label’s hundreds of releases between 1973-1984, there’s pure pressure for any self-respecting dancefloor here, running proper organ-fired heaters from a crack squad, including multiple zingers by Joe Meah, at best in the wigged-out vamps of ‘Ahwene Pa Nkasa’, beside a haul of Ernest Honny aces, including the suave ‘Kofi Psych’, his swirling groove ‘Say The Truth’, and the pen-on-pot Afro-Latinate percussion of ‘Odo Mframa.’
And it would be remiss of us to neglect the choppy psych-funk killer ‘Yeaba’ from CK Mann & His Carousel 7, or the fiery bustle of Nyame Bekyere, and jeeeez those breaks on ‘Wonnin a Bisa’ by Black Masters Band or Sawaaba Soundz’ ‘Egye Tu Gbe.’
Influential French duo Étant Donnés concluded their natural sound trilogy with 1994's "Bleu".
It's quiet music, mixing environmental recordings with found sounds and whispered vocals, but there's purpose to their assemblages. They concoct magical narratives that feel mysterious without treading over the line into darkness - it's incredible to hear now how prescient the Duchamp-influenced brothers were, in fact.
Best known for collaborating with Alan Vega, Lydia Lunch, Michael Gira and Genesis P Orridge, Étant Donnés sound most confident and vital when working in their own universe. The tracks presented here - like the waterlogged 'Sirène', made from spliced splashing sounds, or the bizarre and rhythmic 'Pierre Lune', that pairs a pattering beat with pebble scrapes - map out an internal world of texture, philosophy and context. 'Bleu' demands active listening, and if you dedicate yourself to it, it'll reward you in spades.
Quickly following October's heady, slow-burning "Veneza", 'Magna Moralia' continues Portuguese trio Niagara's exploration of new age modalities, layering delicate Satie-esque piano with minimalist FM electronics.
A far cry from their gritty Príncipe-released 2020 breakout 'Pais & Filhos', 'Magno Moralia' shows the sheer range of Sara Eckerson, Alberto Arruda, and António Arruda's vision, fusing waterlogged bathhouse ambience with furniture music stylings and rigorous synthetic flexes. It would be inaccurate to badge the music as simply ambient - Niagara make music that floats into astral realms, but remains slightly too manicured and intentional to slip easily into the background. The kosmische shimmer of 'Veneza' is absent here, replaced by the sort of gentle, glassy electronics you might expect to find on a rediscovered Japanese oddity, with the trio's assured ivory-stroked minimalist curlicues adding dimension.
Opening track 'XX' is rooted in piano ruminations that aren't a million miles from Eno's "Thursday Afternoon" or Harold Budd's meditative balminess. On 'IV', these soft melodic tendrils are almost eclipsed completely by bubbling environmental sounds and arpeggiated neon blips. Washing waters are expressed with such clarity that they function like a synth, circling around buzz'd oscillations and faint acoustic murmurs. By 'V', haunted temple bells have joined the ensemble, echoing synthesizer chimes and punctuating levitational, resonant pads.
'Magna Moralia' sounds like healing music, but it's unshackled from the expectations and cultural weight that exercise might suggest; it's music that can lift your spirits and transport you for a brief moment without outstaying its welcome.
A strong look for anyone snagged on Mihály Víg’s Bela Tarr OST side, Colin Stetson, or Goblin’s giallo scores; Swiss-Bosnian accordionist Mario Batkovic moves between cinematic choral works and swirling folk-jazz electronic fusions on a captivating 3rd solo side
Batkovic’s 2nd album with Geoff Barrow’s Invada powerhouse is a melodramatic tour de force of brooding east and central European themes handled with emotive vigour. The head of the BeBa Orchestra and a skilled accordionist, he brings a masterful flair for shifting cinematic moods and soundscaping to ‘Introspectio’, leading in with the hauntingly stark choral arrangement of ‘Sanatio’ and cutting sharp left into swingeing jazz breaks and quickstep, keening accordion with thrilling style on ‘Repertio’, intruding electronics to the mix with a carmine-stained Goblin-esque feel in the needling arps of ‘Chorea Duplex’.
The 10 minute centrepiece of widescreen drones glacially brings his various elements together in a pensive vision that feels like Colin Stetson scoring a sped up Bela Tarr scene, with pulsing tones bleeding over ‘Surrogatum’ into smartly tempered dissonance. An elegiac then rushing accordion coda in ‘Primordial Finale’ lends an ideal closing sequence that wraps up his narrative in a satisfyingly succinct manner that makes the whole thing ideal for colouring your commute with a brilliant sense of drama, or however one sees fit to use it.
Anonymous acid techno collective Lost Trax give it up up for the ghosts of classic Robert Armani, Djax and Plastikman styles on legendary Dutch label Delsin
Still jamming the box 15 years since their total classic for SCSI-AV, the unknown bods bang it old skool between the tweaky Chicago attack and tweak of ‘Bring It Back’ and the sleazier funk of ‘Under A Spell’, upping the darkside atmosphere and 303 squelch with ‘In Pursuit’, and getting under your bonnet with the Poindexter-like title tune.
Proper club percolators from K-Lone, juggling Jersey/B-More/Juke and UKG tropes in-the-pocket for the DJs and dancers
Part of a class one-two tag team return to the ‘floor with his Wisdom Teeth bredder, Facta, this lot also follows on from his debut album ‘Cape Cira’ with a more club-dedicated style. The title tune is an infectious meld of styles recalling Addison Groove’s classic UK spin on juke, but bent a little slower with added Jersey bump, while ‘Airtight’ keeps the subs low and swanging in equilibrium with more effervescent chord play sure to lather up a good crowd. With ‘Deluxe’ he switches foot to a sort of junglist/UKG/broken beat pressure with restless rolling subs and vibes that get right inside your bones in an unmistakeable UK way, and ‘Softie’ signs off with some deliciously skippy pressure.
Can's live series continues with another pit-taped psychedelic sesh from 1975, following Spring's release of "Live in Stuttgart 1975". Unhinged music that captures the Krautrock pioneers at their most vital - outside of the studio, performing in front of a crowd of weirdos.
By 1975, Can's studio juice was running dry. That year's 'Landed' was a far cry from '71's "Tago Mago" - after losing idiosyncratic vocalist Damo Suzuki, their recorded music began to take on a more boxed-in sound. But as "Live in Stuttgart 1975" demonstrates, they were still just as ragged and rough around the edges. Like its predecessor, "Live in Brighton 1975" is another privately taped recording, remastered under the watchful eye of Can co-founder Irmin Schmidt.
It sounds exceptional given the covert nature of the recording, which is a testament to the equipment used to clean it up and producer Rene Tinner's keen ear. Split into seven sprawling sections, it features material that never made it to Can's recorded catalogue - we're guessing it may not have even been performed again - and most interesting for Can devotees, it features a rare (indistinct) vocal from guitarist Michael Karoli and an epic drum solo from Jaki Liebezeit.
With sleeve notes from Rob Young and journalist Kris Needs, it's a well assembled package that fleshes out the Can story into new dimensions.
0PN mounts a definitive opus with his rapturous 9th studio album, entirely produced during lockdown, with “executive production” by The Weeknd, who also supplies vocals alongside Arca and Caroline Polachek.
‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ is titled after the mispronunciation of Magic 106.7, a local radio station in Boston, Massachusetts; the state where Daniel Lopatin aka 0PN grew up, and where the album was created. The radio station’s adult contemporary programming is a formative and enduring influence on 0PN’s music, and it’s clear that he’s saved this album title for some of his most accomplished tributes to his influences, but refracted thru his prismatic styles to illustrate the distance between that era, and this, with some of his most elusive, illusive and beguiling sound design wrapped up in a mix of stunningly mazy and pop-toned arrangements.
0PN is one of those artists we’d imagine took to lockdown quite naturally, sequestering themselves away to immerse in their art for the good of everyone outside. Written between March and July, the results of ‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ speak for themselves as 0PN’s most broadly appealing record, typically placing avant-inventiveness and curiosity at the service of a tumultuous narrative that really needs some kind of road-trip simulation game to go along with its possessed dial-strafing.
You’re probably familiar with the album’s opening sequence, which appeared on a lead single, and includes the lushest FM synthesis of 2020 in ‘Long Road Home’, and the rest of the album follows suit with a profligate approach to genre, cutting from phased dream-pop grunge in ’I Don’t Love Me Anymore’, to hypnagogic ident collage in ‘The Whether Channel’, and The Weeknd’s romantic ‘80s power pop turn on ‘Lost But Never Again’, crucially fractured with cut-scenes and mutant jingling of the ‘Cross Talk’ parts that tie the album’s story together with something approaching a sonic-visual analog of Safdie Brothers’ choppy editing gone lysergic.
Pétra's Chantal Chadwick assembled her solo debut album after a series of near-death experiences, exploring liminality with thick waves of synthesis, subtle environmental recordings and faded processed instruments. RIYL Harold Budd, Noémi Büchi, or Perila.
'Night Blindness' is an album that almost triggers dissociative states - there's something about Michelle's smudged-out concoctions that feels dreamlike, formed from "a transitory space that is somewhat akin to lucid dreaming." Notoriously, AFX's "Selected Ambient Works II" was fuelled by similar experiences, so you can imagine the general aura here, but Michelle's successive tangles with mortality give her compositions a strikingly different emphasis.
There's no lack of hope in tracks like 'Rupture' or 'Pure' though; on the former, Michelle drives field recordings through rich drones, a psychedelic vision appearing through white noise and into symphonic synths, ascending to almost new-age clouds. On the latter, Michelle uses piano from Sonja Mauro and blurs it with reverb, adding billowing synth pads and painting a landscape similar to Harold Budd's sublime "The Pavillion Of Dreams".
The title track appears at the mid-way point, spiraling into a darker void. 'Cold Streamers of Dust' is especially moody, with echoing sax from Michelle's Pétra cohort Brian Allen Simon, flashing synths and ghostly reverb-drenched vocals that strike with poignancy.
More crackling 1950s and '60s slow rock, pop and R&B jammers gathered from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh as the country reacted to US and UK pop and chanson and bolero from France and South America.
Death Is Not The End does us more solid service here with a second collection of levitational Cambodian pop music that provides a vivid picture of a period many of us are completely unaware of. In the 1960s, the country fully embraced psychedelic and garage rock that was flooding in from the USA - especially in the Vietnam war era - but here we get to witness Cambodia's pop landscape in a more transitional, and more malleable state.
This selection follows on seamlessly from the first volume, centering Cambodian language versions of music that sounds so close to its stylistic forebears that it's almost familiar. There's a localized twang to these compositions, but the root sounds are chirpy and exist in a haze of global nostalgia - they could almost be attached to an aging movie reel or TV show. Yet the vocals, sung by Cambodian performers - often singing through heavy reverb and delay - give slow, romantic tracks like 'Word of Promise' or 'Ivory River' an otherworldly resonance.
It's yet another invigorating listening experience (and history lesson), that gets better with each play - fans of Sublime Frequencies, you know what to do.
Dave Moufang makes his solo debut on Smallville after numerous key appearances on the label beside Benjamin Brunn, as part of L’Amour Fou, and compilations.
Aye, we’re as surprised as you that it’s Move D’s first solo mission for Smallville, but the levels of loveliness are entirely expected. The three tracks give it up for the Freerotation festival’s annual chum off; firstly smushing crowd chatter into an effortless deep, minimal house swang on the title tune, in a way that speaks to how he’s bridged ambient and house dimensions since the early ‘90s, before ‘The System Is…’ lays it down a bit thicker with rump-powering bassline and dabs of soulful vox for the hair-kissing crew, leading to a lush guitar coda, and ‘Swarm Robot Love’ tucks away a superb nod to Detroit and NYC electro-house blowing kisses at Morgan Geist.
Thunderous, industrialised bass functions from Tectonic’s new lamb to the slaughter, going off like the feral child of Pinch and Ploy.
US-born, Czech based Pruvan proves his mettle in a volley of five hard alloys of post-dubstep/grime, D&B and industrial dynamics forged with a meticulous attention to detail. ‘Pozor’ lets loose insurgent bassline and skull-rattle rimshots with a seething synth edge, and ‘Beastwoman’ buckles classic grime templates into something like Ploy on ‘roids. At its core ‘Buckets’ recalls the inch tight 2-step tekkerz of Two Shell, while ‘Yoji’ comes with dread industrial halfstep levels of The Bug and Pinch, with ‘Raw Dawg’ making room for scything sound designer mutation of halfstep D&B.
Legendary toaster and vocalist Prince Far-I in the spotlight for a 40 year livication of enduring vibes by his disciples at On-U Sound
One of the most distinctive voices of his generation, Michael Williams aka Prince Far-I’s hoarse delivery earned him the sobriquet “The Voice of Thunder”, before he was tragically taken before his time; shot to death at home in 1983, aged only 39. His voice still cuts deeper than most, and ‘Cry Tuff Chants On U’ defines that fact with 11 top shelf examples in a dubwise mode recorded with On-U Sound’s in house band, Singers & Players in the years just prior to his ascension to the next plane.
Wrapping up standouts such as ‘Virgin’, with its telephone rings and booming declarations, plus the staggered drums and hunched delivery of ‘Prodigal Son’, the set encompasses the languid skank of ‘Calling Over The Distant Sea’, the storytelling styles of ‘Bedward the Flying Preacher’ and ‘Autobiography’, and buoyant echo chamber steppers ‘Quanté Jublia’ and ’91 Vibration’, plus the playful boast ‘Cha-Ris-Ma’, as a fitting tribute to a serious legacy.
Very Vladislav Delay-like levels of rhythmic ingenuity and electro-dub ephemerality from Vantaa-based Olli Aarni on ace Persian label, Active Listeners Club.
Sneaking in on ACR before everyone turns attention to EOY picks, Olli Aarni joins Daniel Karlsson as one of the non-Iranian artists on Parsa and Ramtin Niazi’s special label, which has so far explored a super intriguing corner of adventurous - and crucially listenable - computer music that piques our interests at every turn. The label bosses are present in their Ben & Jerry remix, but more of that later, as Aarni flexes some impressively supple and psychedelic tekkers that smudge the borders between subaquatic dub slosh, shoegaze and free electro-jazz in a way that’s going to make us have to rake back thru his catalogue of 10 years for the likes of Cotton Goods and Preservation.
We can’t help but recall Vlad Delay’s overlooked classic ‘The Four Quarters’ in the beautifully elusive, amorphous grids of Aarni’s ‘Valaistu Iatu’, while ‘Flipperi uimahallin aulassa’ unexpectedly weaves in forlorn vocals to that shifty matrix to properly gorgeous, febrile, chaotic dreampop effect that rewards amplification and pishes on a lot of more milquetost ambient-whatever “living room” stuff. ‘Kuivaa asfaltti katoksessa’ dials it down for a more introspective passage playing around with proprioceptive senses and quiet/loud dynamics that makes for a fine contrast with what came before, effectively shoring us up in the fine grained textural gradients and polymetric lushness of ’Nokoset bussissa’ ready to do it all again, but not before Ben & Jerry slow down and home in on the K-hole dynamic of ‘Kuivaa asfaltti katoksessa’ and play around with its plasmic goop in the lushest, tactile psychedelic style for 14 minutes - smash this at the afters and send everyone into the best spin out.
Well aye, it’s that time of year again and we’re all sick of hearing the same seasonal shite, but these smudged takes on the classics are offering welcome respite.
It’s very much historic classical, not modern, as Hesitation tackle the real old skool diamonds such as ye olde favourites ’Silent Night’ and ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’, or the nativity naivety of ‘Away In A Manger’ with an ambient-pop lightness of touch that doesn’t feel cloying, surely refreshing their timelessness for tired ears.
‘The Last Christmas’ makes up the duo’s 3rd LP together since 2018’s eponymous debut, and warmly speaks to their fraternal familiarity and nous, cannily mostly leaving out the more religious lyrics and themes for a lowkey secular slant that treats the melodies loosely in a way to be enjoyed by all during the season of goodwill and over-imbibing. Their reedy recorder-like instrumental rendition of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ is a lovely highlight, and the curdled vocal in ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’ should raise a wry chuckle, while ’Silent Night’ is strung out like an particularly opiated Low, and ‘Away In a Manger’ is most beautifully smudged to an ambient bliss-out, with ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ rent as a gloriously slurred drone guitar version that seals the deal with a ribbon bow.
Nyawwww, good lads.
The eternally evocative and enigmatic concept of black holes fuels the musical imagination of Dr. Valery Vermulen on his debut mission for CM Von Hauswolff’s Ash International - RIYL Roland Kayn, Heinrich Mueller, Thomas Köner, Mika Vainio
Just over 100 years since German physicist and astronomer Karl Schwarzchild theoretically discovered and proposed the idea of black holes - a region of spacetime where gravity is so strong that nothing — no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light — can escape from it - the mathematician-artist Dr. Valery Vermulen takes advantage of subsequent scientific research data to model and sonify a multidimensional sound experience akin to passing out in deep space. Cynics may say this stuff is up its own black hole, but lovers of free-floating, spatialized electronics will be in their element when following the music’s path into next level oblivion.
“Black holes were first theoretically discovered and proposed in 1916 by German physicist and astronomer Karl Schwarzchild. Their possible existence resulted from an exact solution Schwarzchild had found of Einstein's theory of General Relativity published a year earlier. Being a long-contested concept, the existence of the first black hole, Cygnus X, was confirmed in 1971. Four decades later, in February 2016, science made another huge leap as the first merger of two black holes was observed by the LIGO – VIRGO telescope. This discovery announced a new exciting era in observational astronomy based on gravitational wave detection.
Using the latest technology, Mikromedas AdS/CFT 001 connects these fascinating scientific evolutions to the realm of electronic music. Having worked on previous astrophysics related musical projects, Vermeulen had the first idea for the album in 2016. It was not until 2018 that these conceptual ideas became a reality when Concertgebouw Brugge (BE) commissioned a new musical piece and live show for their Cosmos Festival. This work ultimately resulted in the album Mikromedas AdS/CFT 001.
The six-track album is produced using data streams generated by various simulation models of astrophysical black holes and observational data of regions in space with extreme gravitational fields.
Data used for the realization of Mikromedas AdS/CFT 001 includes gravitational wave data, data generated by black branes (i.e. higher dimensional generalizations of black holes), neutron star data, data from white dwarfs and trajectory data of elementary particles near black holes.
As a mathematician and artist, Vermeulen effectively designed and programmed new innovative data sonification, i.e. the means to translate data into sound and music, systems and techniques. These were used to transform black hole data and their associated mathematical models into engaging, moving and multidimensional sound experiences.”
The second release in David Shea's Film Series following October's ace "AM/PM", "The Art of Memory" is a selection of sample-based material that overlaid Shea's collected sounds with music recorded with Belgian classical ensembles. Quite brilliant, and completely mad.
Based on a book by Francis Yates about the history of memory techniques, "The Art of Memory" is an album that uses our preconceptions of culture to inform our listening experiences. Shea uses snippets of classical music and disrupts them with movie samples or elements he'd procured from his travels through Europe and Australia. After reading Yates' book, he attempted to use the sampler as a type of "memory theater", connecting nicely with the pieces' ultimate usage in experimental cinema.
It's fantastically forward-thinking material that feels devious and contemporary - a cross between musique concrète and plunderphonics. By fusing his own memories - recorded performances with various ensembles in Brussels - with collective memories, abstracting the sounds by cutting into them and sculpting them carefully, he creates a narrative patchwork that's effortlessly engaging.
Bumping up the super-limited and long sold out album from 2017, this expanded set of work explores the work of opera singer Mary Mazzacane, one of the first women to graduate from the Yale School of Music and the mother of Loren Mazzacane Connors.
Not much recorded music survives from Mary Mazzacane; she was working regularly on stage from the late 1940s through the '70s but recorded very little. All that remains of her creative life is this selection of songs, taken from her "barely playable" practice sessions, live performance recordings and radio broadcast acetates.
Somehow though, the aesthetic of these recordings lends a warmth and authenticity to the recordings. Mazzacane's voice is hypnotic as she leans into classics like Schubert's 'Ave Maria' and Puccini's 'Vissi d’arte' - these aren't commercial studio versions, but they show how flawless and well-oiled her voice was. "The Art of Mary Mazzacane" is the perfect partner record to Akira Rabelais' lengthy Proust tribute "À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu" - while Rabelais processed the music to sound like a foggy memory, Mazzacane's recordings already sound locked in time.
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.
Airtight electrobass finesse from Finland’s Sansibar, leading on from missions with MCR’s Natural Sciences and Helsinki’s Émotsiya with a sturdy haul for Belgium’s Kalahari Oyster Cult
Effortlessly funked up and subtly proggy, the seven tracks recall a tuffened take on classic styles of Shiver, Radioactiveman and E.R.P., all propulsive electro-techno grooves etched with emotive lustre, at best in the dark and sexy flow of ‘Teal’c’, the reverberant electro-breakbeat workout ‘Scully (Earth People Mix)’, and at a quickened pace in ‘Send It’, with the beatdown romance of ‘Aurora Eclipse’ recalling aspects of Cygnus X.
Facta gives it some wiggly tech house strut in a more engrossed follow-up to his sanguine debut LP
Part of a double drop on Wisdom Teeth with his sparring partner K-Lone, the two tracks of ‘In Bloom’ wriggle under the skin with subtle metallic sound craft and slinky grooves recalling the classier end of ‘00s tech house minimalism. ‘C Sequence’ serves a strip of effortlessly coiled and purring bass freckled with tin-pot percussion and the sort of ohrwurming vocals that recall Tobias. or Villalobos classics, whereas his title track is better compared with the dreamier motion and melodic progressions of Lawrence and Efdemin in their prime.
Salem Rashid's Bedouin imprint rounds up a selection of its releases from 2016-2018, choosing impressively grimy industrial abstraction from AQXDM, Hieroglyphic Being, J Tijn, Merzbow, Tzusing, Pan Daijing and more.
Established in the United Arab Emirates but now based in Thailand, since 2014 the Bedouin label has established themselves as a thought leader in the contemporary industrial landscape. "The Shadows in thy Glimpse" maps out their greyscale modus operandi for those that may have missed some of their best moments, collecting material from their out of print catalogue and re-introducing it into the world once more.
There aren't and dull moments either, and plenty of unmissable highlights. Hieroglyphic Being turns up assisted by the The Truth Theory Trio for 12-minute electro-jazz jammer 'The Papyrus of Ani' that, as expected from anything Jamal Moss touches, is worth the asking price alone. EKMAN's 'Alchemy' and 'Quintic' will be essential for Bedouin heads looking for blown-out grimdark electro, while Nene Hatun (now Nene H), Pan Daijing and Tsuzing show the label's outer fringes with tracks that hint at warehouse techno's booming excess but drape it in searing noise and squelchy analog electronics.
Aquarian and Deapmash's ace AQXDM melt jungle and industrial techno into a polished floor filler on 'Ballad 002', one of the compilation's clear standouts. But it's Merzbow who takes the gold (and the longest runtime) with the 15-minute 'Tomarigi, Pt.2', a searing blast of acid noise and burbling power electronix. Utter chaos, in the best possible way.
Working again alongside Norwegian noise deity Lasse Marhaug, Hilary Woods follows up 2020's incredible 'Birthmarks' album with a dense set of grim textures sculpted from orchestral strings and ethereal vocals. Like all Woods' work - it's pretty fucking special.
Woods assembled "Birthmarks" while she was heavily pregnant back in 2019 and considered her work in relation to anxiety and humanity. "Feral Hymns" arrives as a moody, transcendent follow-up and suggests a fresh artistic slate. Here, she allows herself to embrace the cavernous ambience that underpinned "Birthmarks" and impressed us so much on her 2020 contribution to our "Documenting Sound" series.
Her vocals are still present, just about, but almost completely buried beneath an orchestral mass of processed strings and crackling environmental recordings. On 'II', her voice is transformed into a resonant pad, humming beneath field recordings that sound like scraping footsteps or a fistful of pebbles tumbling down a well. Disintegrating, chattering voices appear and disappear as if captured by dictaphone, melting into her ritual drones.
'III' is more menacing, as Woods allows her stark strings to echo out on their own, before whispering resonant harmonies, building in radio static and ferric hiss. This is music for spaces in-between - for purgatory, not for hell - and Woods sounds as if she's channeling the spirits of Western religious music and Celtic traditional sounds simultaneously.
Graduate of the midwest US techno scene, Israel Vines closes a long loop with his first batch for Berlin bastion Tresor after heavy handfuls for his Eye Teeth division of Ectomorph’s Interdimensional Transmissions
Restless, direct, and suffused with a timeless technoid machine soul, ‘Voices’ marks out some of Vines’ classiest work as he toggles the pressure on the offbeat with a fine grasp of layered, atmospheric dis-content. Business techno this is not; it’s the proper stuff, resonating with recent, syncopated Regis styles as much as Dasha Rush’s rolling sleekness and the Detroit futurism of Ectomorph.
He comes out swaggering with the hissing pistons and gibberjaw vox locked into rollicking motion of ‘Breakign’, then dials up the panoramic pads on an unruly swang with ‘Culling’ and the whirring darkside finesse of ‘Downing’, tempering the rolige with surgical precision and tense sci-fi cinematic scope in ‘Keeping’, which also appears in extended, immersive forms for those who want to get right into it.
Dub maverick JGD treats Laura Agnusdei’s ‘Jungle Shuffle’ to byzantine mixing desk chicanery on a return to their spiritual nest at The Tapeworm
A reminder never to sleep on The Tapeworm’s bucket of wonders, the Agnusdei Dubs un/furl in two striking contrasts between the thunderous steppers drums and Laura’s pealing sax on the rework, before the percussion is vanquished for a widescreen beatless version reverberating with vangelisan brass synth streaks and ancient portent. Hard swoon for this, pal.
Violet’s Naive label pack Photonz first productions since 2019 - four cuts of rumpy techno shakk ’n jack and a weirdo psychy wobbler
Marching orders are served with the head-down electro-techno sizzler ‘Planetary Spirit’ and its bruxist, biting point synths, whereas ‘Badagas’ loosens up the drums with a slashing latinate hustle and rhythmelodic cadence. ‘Circumference’ is the tightest of the lot, nodding to Robert Hood’s minimal Detroit styles with modulated arps and slinky hi-hats, and ‘Earth2’ heads sharp left into a sort of slouchy, acidic psych rock breaks jaunt.
Turkish ambient shoegaze reductionist Ekin Fil recovers from the anxiety of 2020 with a foggy set of introverted folk and melancholy cinematic piano. RIYL Grouper, Deaf Center, William Basinski.
Following an impressive run of releases for Helen Scarsdale Agency and Students of Decay, Ekin Fil's latest album is an exercise in emotional catharsis. Her soft vocals are the album's anchor, and add a beam of optimistic humanity through the thick fog of doom. On 'Little One', he voice cuts through piano and sounds like a lost Cocteau Twins demo, while on 'Infinite Space', it's almost reduced to a ghostly whisper, struggling to be heard beneath the sound of rain.
The album's most successful moment is the title track, a collaboration with Bulgarian artist Krāllār. Here, Fil's voice is blown out into psychedelic harmonic prisms that swirl through slow-moving frozen soundscapes. The piano is still there, but re-sculpted into warped icicles - it's disarmingly beautiful.
Low End Activist’s Bruk label hosts Berlin-based Cassius Select on a brooding, grimy broken beat/dubstep tip after rhythmically inventive aces from FFT and Siete Catorce
Veteran of Hypercolour and Accidental Jr. esteem, Cassius Select is at his taut, restless best here, hovering into view with tense, scene-setting pads and fractious sampler shrapnel in ‘Dread Percent’ before getting down to business, proper, nodding to early dark garage and cusp-of-grime styles with the lurking subs and 2-step roll cage of ‘Fish Tek’ recalling Hatcha’s dub of Benga’s Star Wars’, then dipping to a minimal mid tempo dembow swing in ‘Mess Mutual’, and giving it up for early Wiley and Digital Mystikz with the spooked flutes and shifty bass functions of ’Shake Like Me’.
Arca doubles down on the psychosexual thrust of her ‘KiCK’ series with a more “manic, violently euphoric and aggressively psychedelic” gush of queered reggaeton energies in its wild 3rd volume
Where the parallel release of KiCK ii’ was more locked to reggaeton’s 100bpm bracket, this one ramps the tempos and conceptual pressure with blazing sound design to delirious effect across another dozen belters that rinse the dembow template into fresh new dimensions, as shared by the likes of Paul Marmota, Debit and Lao from the NAAFi crew, and explored in more oblique and unique ways by likes of Ziúr and Aya.
In her own words “Electra Rex is a new archetype I propose in reference to commonly understood ideas of Freud regarding the oedipal complex—Oedipus Rex kills the father and unknowingly making love to the mother. Electra complex posits the binary opposite: killing the mother and unknowingly making love to the father. And so I am the first to propose a non-binary psychosexual narrative to avoid falling into the same generational tragic blind spots. Electra Rex, a merging of both names, an integration of both Oedipus Rex and Electra: it kills both parents and has sex with itself, and chooses to live”.
So yeh, it’s an album about fucking your dad and killing your ma. Take or leave that whichever way you need; the music utterly slays on its own merits, but certainly takes on a whole other, cyber-operatic, uchronic-mythical dimension in context that may take more than a few listens, and an ability to understand Spanish, to really grasp. On the most immediate level it’s an arresting experience, reeling form the rambunctious snarl and attack of ‘Bruja’ to the piquant hyperballad of ‘Joya’ via the recoiling technoid ferocity of ‘Incendio’ and the staggering futurism of ‘Electra Rex’, with thrilling sense of restraint and deviousness in ‘Rubberneck’.
Duane Pitre's first solo album since 2015's 'Bayou Electric', 'Omnicient Voices' is an intuitive work made from piano and electronics that's inspired by Morton Feldman, Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
Pitre wasn't intending to work on a new album when he started experimenting with electronics and a piano tuned using just intonation - a system that tunes all the intervals as whole number ratios, or pure intervals. He had been studying Morton Feldman's scores and wondered if the fusion might work, and in 2020 he recorded a series of experiments that used his Max/MSP network to interface between the piano and two microtonal hardware synthesizers. The result is a set of unsettling drones that feel both synthetic and acoustic, where the piano becomes alien and the synthesizer tones blur completely with its decayed resonance.
'In Rhodes, To Delphi' sounds disorienting and dissonant initially, before your brain adjusts to the unusual tuning. Piano notes take on the character of bells, almost, and icy electronic drones follow the sounds like traces of parallel reality. This theme is expressed in more detail on 'The Rope Behind The Bee', creating an almost sacred atmosphere that nods towards church music without mimicking it. Pitre's understanding of minimalism is laudable, and his use of tuning unique and expressive. "Omniscient Voices" is an absorbing record that slowly reveals itself until it's firmly lodged in the frontal lobes.
Arriving seemingly moments after summer's florid 'Under~Between', 'Keep Going... Under' finds Dialect in a weightless space, augmenting jazzy improvisation with subtle cybernetic webs of vaporwave-influenced synthesis.
When he revisited material recorded with Daniel Thorne's Immix Ensemble to come up with "Under~Between", Andrew PM Hunt had too many ideas to confine his work to one album. "Keep Going... Under" comes from the same set of recordings, but channeled into deeper crevices, expanding ideas that were too ecstatic for its predecessor, blasting each sound with digital processes that work like compressed air on dried moss.
The Steve Reich-influenced buzz that underpins 'Crypt' gives it a whimsical familiarity that gently evolves into brittle electronics before you even notice what's going on. 'Half Moon' meanwhile offsets jazzy woodwind gusts with bulbous oscillations, using percussion sounds like flickering stars in the distance. Our highlight is 'Mesa', a heartstring-tugger shaped by descending synth bass tones, melancholy strings and delicate, silvered chimes.
Hunt is braver with his references on 'Keep Going...' and decants each unique element into vibrant emotional spaces. If its predecessor was informed by an obsession with Buddhist concepts and animated by an interest in Harold Budd's minimalism, this smooth sequel loosens the release valve, inviting comparisons with ASA-CHANG & Junray, or even Haruomi Hosono.
After teasing it in for ages now, Arca finally commits her extraordinary 2nd volume of fwd mutations nearly a decade since she first made our jaws drop.
The shapeshifting child of influences ranging from Elysia Crampton to TCF and Autechre; Arca is easily one of the most thrilling, prism-pushing artists on the planet right now. Her take on a distinctive Venezuelan heritage, spliced with formative experience of life in NYC during the ‘00s, and a leading edge production knowledge, has become an inimitable template sought out by everyone from Shayne Oliver, Dean Blunt and Björk to FKA Twigs and Kanye since her emergence, signifying a tectonic shift of underground and pop attention to South America’s melange of Afro-Latin musicks in the process, and, quite importantly, with a queered tang shared by SOPHIE (RIP) that’s also paved the way for the likes of Aya and Eartheater in her wake. Now ‘KICK ii’ is effectively her tightest body of work yet, balancing all aspects of her style in singular, sexy af equilibrium that feels for the frayed, phase-shifting hyperreality of the times like few other records that come to mind.
The dozen tracks are puckered with a pop-wise suss that leaves no two seconds wanting for detail or beautifully dissonant expression coupled with a lusting drive. Powered by permutations of tresillo, she bitch slaps form and style into the 2020s, fleeting from the alien, polytemporal hymn of ‘Doña’ thru tight reggaeton bullets in ‘Prada’ and the trance-synth gilded ‘Rakata’ to the gyring perreo of ‘Tiro’ and godly ballad ‘Luna Llena’, with ‘Araña’ and ‘Femme’ suturing the links between her killer early work on the ‘Stretch’ EPs. ‘Muñecas’ plucks on the ‘artstrangs with beautifully bittersweet pull, and ‘Confianza’ perhaps best illustrates the influence from Elysia Crampton’s all too often overlooked emosh genius, slipping into Radio A-list ready territory in their Sia collab ‘Born Yesterday’, and ‘Andro’ plumes off into cinematic, sensual hyperspace ready for the incoming volumes.
Restless genius Arca pulls in Garbage’s Shirley Manson, No Bra, Planningtorock, and Oliver Coates for the 4th - and notably more introspective - volume of her ‘Kick’ album bounty.
After expending her wilder energies in searing variations of dembow experimentalism and operatic composition in previous instalments, Arca here looks inward to complete the current album cycle with a quieter take on her sweetly curdled tunings and expressively queered sort of songwriting. The 11 songs feel more contained and finely mark the distance traveled since the first volume emerged in 2020, mostly shorn of beats but full of bittersweet emotion that oozes from her puckered, balladeering arrangements and painterly flourishes of extended melody.
Self-described as “an entry of sensual charge in the cycle; my own faith made into song, a posthuman celestial sparkle, psychosexual pulse-width modulation, queering the void” the album is the patently the most intimate in her decade-long, phase-shifting catalogue. ‘Whoresong’ opens with stripped back soundcraft, all warbling keys and signature, peculiar vocals spotlit like an alien crooner in the corner of smoky gay bar in a sci-fi, while there’s an almost seasonal glow to her chamber styled meld of choral cadence gilded with horns and strings aided by Oliver Coates on ‘Esuna’, prepping for the grand arrival of Planningtorock in ‘Queer’, one of the album’s few beat-driven bits, which they describe as “a queer dream come true”.
Susanne Oberbeck ov No Bra (the legendary project that once feat. sweetie pie Dale Cornish) proves a perfectly droll election to the shivering torchsong ‘Witch’, where the album takes on a brooding avant-grungy tone with percy ‘Boquifloja’, and Shirley Manson gives us a strong dose of ‘90s feels in ‘Alien Inside’ calling to mind aspects of Cindytalk, and we’re also find ourselves drawn heavily to the piloerect burn of trance licks and detuned, minor key Reese bass in ‘Lost Woman Found’.
Dunno what sort of alchemy took place in Brooklyn in 2019, but this first in-person (full length) collaboration between long-time file-sharers Félicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is - quite dramatically - the most enveloping and deep work either artist has been involved with in both their respective and mutual careers thus far. There’s a deeply Badalamenti-esque quality at play here - and we don't mean the throw-away stuff - but a properly enveloping fog of smoke, all shuddering, single-note bass plucks and neon lit engineering that's like an arthouse companion to Bohren & der Club of Gore via Richard Youngs’ peerless CXXI set from earlier this year, into 80’s 4AD and classic Tarkovsky’s scores. Aye, we’re into this one, big time.
Resounding with a discrete, sublime sense of closeness, ‘Un Hiver En Plein Ete’ (‘A Winter in the Middle of Summer’) renders the results of Atkinson and Cantu-Ledesma’s studio sessions in August, 2019. To our ears, the six parts offer a whirling, transient sense of joy in the act. Everything feels in a perpetual motion, with instrumental gestures enlivened by a subtle but key use of electro-acoustic rendering that leaves space to the imagination, from the tip-of-tongue unfurling of Félicia’s ASMR-like vox and Jefre’s oily bass strokes in ‘And All The Spirals of the World’ to the aleatoric enigma of the field recording textures that precipitate glistening wind-played chimes and the sonorous, floating pads of ‘The Hidden’, enriching the stereo-swirled spiritual jazz intimation of ‘Septembers’, and with an absorbing mix of rawness and oneiric surreality on the album’s nine minute centrepiece ‘Not Knowing’ that reminds us of the strange state of stasis offset by the gnawing knowledge of a world in psychic distress.
While their performance - Atkinson on piano and voice, and Cantu-Ledesma harnessing space dilating electronics - is distinct, the music itself offers an emotionally unified sense of purpose; it's a musing on friendship that transcends artistic influences and guiding narrative lines. The duo still make connections to the past, but on "Un Hiver En Plein Ete" they sing a song of closeness, and gesture at the sublime jumble of thoughts and desires that dissolve and weather with time. Isolated by borders, restrictions, sickness and circumstance, it feels as if friendship is more insurgent than ever.