Finnish electro player Mesak oscillates drily funky and romantic electro on Orson Records - the label co-founded by Transparent Sound’s Orson Bramley
‘Mihi’ gets into it with a stealthy transition from cold, bleeping electro abstraction to late night mode; ‘’Kuta’ strikes out into slower, distorted industrial electro framework; ‘Huru’ tightens up the drums but allows the bass to flow out in a nimble style recalling classic, robotic Bitstream; and ‘okra’ keeps it simple on a slinky Miami-style 808 pivot layered with shivering breaks, warm pads, and underwater acid rip-currents.
Body-chewing abstract techno of the kind that really gets between your teeth - fresh from the machines of Germany’s by-now legendary Siegmar Fricke - a producer who has been active for 4 decades and still going strong, out now via Hamburg’s excellent V I S label.
Toiling under the Pharmakustik moniker that’s been his main hood since 2009, ‘Propulsion’ deftly dices with ideals of inexorable forward motion that have driven techno and electronic dance music over the past three decades. He’s been at it since the late ‘80s at the least, so he surely knows a thing or two about this stuff, and more importantly has worked out how to really get within the structure and f#ck with it from the inside-out.
Cannily following suit with the ‘Yield’ tape by Herron - another artist who’s recently got to grips with his style - and also compatible with the likes of L. Lund’s mutant moves on Youth, the five tracks of ‘Propulsion’ diffract the idea of forward motion in as many ways. From the gritty brownian slosh of the first, to the 2.1-step origami of the 2nd part, thru the Autechrian refusal/acceptance of linearity in the 3rd, to the fine-tuned robotic mechanics of the 4th cut, and the persistently morphing algorithmic swagger of the 5th part, this one’s a must for all hard-to-satisfy ravers with three feet and extra hips.
Class new batch of low-key dance & pop cover versions by Nathan Jenkins (Bullion) and friends including Camila Fuchs, Georgia, Jovial, Kreme, Nathan Micay, C.A.R. and more
Proceeding from Jenkins’ loveably daft remix of the Blue Peter theme, the ‘4 Down’ set lives up to his Deek label motto “Pop, not slop!” in 11 parts sequenced to get under the skin and leave silvery ohrwurm trails inside your lugs.
Tasking each artist with “singing a song you wish you’d written”, the results return canny highlights in Bullion’s own dancehall/reggaeton-toned production for Joviale’s take on ‘Storm’ by Rare Silk, his lean groove for Westerman’s Arthur Russell-esque cover of ‘Kathy’s Song’ by Paul Simon, and Nautic’s gauzily harmonised flip of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Only Over You’, while other highlights come in Kreme’s bittersweet spin on ‘Missing You’ by Larry Heard, and the strung out System Olympia take on Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You.’
It's a veritable bonanza for all the Disco loving kids right now in a market flooded with edits, revisions and reissues. This is one of the strongest and most hilarious reissues we've had in recently with the irresistable NY '78 styles of Buari's 'Disco Soccer'.
Disco Soccer in Sidiku Buari's own words is "...a brand new dance - also called, THE SPIRIT OF SPORTS DANCE. The most important part of this dance is the footwork of the steps. Just Remember, the "Soccer ball" is the drum beat of every disco beat, as well as this new dance - so, follow the drum beat and you will find it easy to dance. Hand swinging, head shaking, body moving, slightly kicking, jumping and stepping is a part of this dance", who are we to argue? If this LP makes you half as happy as the guy dancing with a topless broad in football boots on the cover, you'll be having a disco orgasm.
Mechanical Fantasy Box is Cowley’s homoerotic journal, or as he called it, “graphic accounts of one man’s sex life.”
"The journal begins in 1974 and ends in 1980 on his 30th birthday. It chronicles his slow rise to fame from lighting technician at The City Disco to crafting a ground-breaking 16-minute remix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” to performing with Sylvester at the SF Opera House. Vivid descriptions are told of cruising in ‘70s SoMA sex venues to primal highs in Buena Vista Park and composing pornophonics in his Castro apartment. The entries are introspective and show a very out-front, alive person going through the throes of gay liberation post-Stonewall.
Patrick Cowley was one of the most revolutionary and influential figures in the canon of electronic dance music. Born in Buffalo, NY on October 19, 1950, Patrick moved to San Francisco in 1971 to study electronic music at the City College of San Francisco. By the late ‘70s, Patrick’s synthesizer techniques landed him a job composing and producing songs for disco diva Sylvester, including #1 hit “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”. Cowley created his own brand of peak-time party music known as Hi-NRG, also dubbed “The San Francisco Sound.” By 1981 Patrick had released a string of his own dance 12″ singles, such as “Menergy” and “Megatron Man”. That year, he co-founded Megatone Records to release his debut album 'Megatron Man'. Meanwhile, Patrick was hospitalized and diagnosed with an unknown illness, which would later be named AIDS. Recovering for a spell, in 1982 he composed two more #1 hits, “Do You Wanna Funk” for Sylvester, and “Right On Target” for Paul Parker, as well as a second solo album 'Mind Warp'. His life was cut short on November 12, 1982, when he passed away two weeks after his 32nd birthday from AIDS-related illness.”
Strident Russian house styles from Suokas, making his debut mark on Gost Zvuk
Cliched as it may be to say, but ‘Reka Vremeni’ is exactly how we imagine Russian house music to sound - a bit cold, dry and martial - but it’s not without its more sensual aspects in the rich bass and glassy high registers. ‘Scratches’ meanwhile is a bit more supple, working raw, room-recorded bass and drums into a nervy, driving swing that recalls Matthew Herbert productions.
Steph Horak and Renick Bell's live collision from 2016 (with text from DeForrest Brown, Jr.) alongside remixes from themselves, approaching the material again in the cold light of day.
"Steph Horak and Renick Bell sift through tangential possibilities in a serial production of live algorithmic beats and vocalizations. Their coming together for a collaborative, conditional album widens the scope of the generative improvisation by superimposing a self over the enclosed circumstances of sound.
The concept of proxemics offers a diagnostic approach to the operable bounded zones of sound. Horak improvises through self-processed vocals meeting Bell who in real-time creates fractured conditions under which they can both engage in a social discourse, a choreography of variable entanglements of allowed freedoms. Horak’s use of an OWL pedal - an open source, programmable effects pedal - converts the voice into a stereophonic mass of sonic possibility. The throat constricts and opens, air compresses and congeals in response to the architectural development of the mouth and lungs; systems of the body and systems of acoustic formation interlock and augment."
Promising 1st EP from Aussie, Destiny71z, proving a dab hand at sculpting freaky garage, house and techno from a stacked modular set-up for Floating Points/Alex Nut’s Eglo
With a gauntleted, hands-on approach your guy wrestles four cuts that bristle with raw electricity primed for the ‘floor. ‘Softbeta’ sets it off with sparky 2-step that dissolves into fractal electronic madness, whereas ‘Destiny71z’ short circuits garage rave and fidget house like a frazzled Solid Groove zinger. The liquified jazz-funk chords and Herbert-like tics of ‘Foodprogrammevoltage’ prove more clearly why he’s signed to Eglo, while ’Sinescannerz’ flaps about with fluttering IDM/techno like a hyper Border Community workout.
Vicki Bennett’s brilliant People Like Us short-circuits easy listening and psychedelia in her familiar-not-familiar style for a seriously trippy new one on Discrepant.
Still going on like The Caretaker’s twisted sister, here Vicki relays the results of a 2018 A/V show ‘The Mirror’ alongside a piece with her regular collaborator, avant-songwriter Ergo Phizmiz, from her 360º immersive cinema piece ‘Gone, Gone Beyond’ to provide a headful of none-more-elusive ohrwurms recalibrate at uncanny angles and in combo with myriad others. If you’ve followed her work thus far, you’ll know exactly what to expect, and get it just as you couldn’t imagine, but if you’re new to her work, prepare to pinch yourself and check you haven’t been overdoing the microdosing.
“Each song is singular. And each song is a collage of and undefined number of other songs from other artists. It sounds familiar because that has been the modus operandi of People Like Us since the early 1990s. But “The Mirror” plays with the notion of familiar, driving around a collection of famous pop songs/artists, messing around with the memory of the listener and, of course, his unique comprehension of those specific songs applied in a new context.
Because of the use of familiar pop sounds, “The Mirror” is often grandiose. Like an epic film only with highs, never letting the listener down or letting him doubt the power of pop. Even, of course, when the coordinates are twisted, mixed, over or underrepresented. Each moment feels like something that could only happen in a parallel universe.
Although that may sound naïve, it’s just a lost thought of reaction to the beautiful collages of People Like Us in “The Mirror”. This mirror doesn’t reflect an image of ourselves or an image of pop. But an image on the way memories drift and are being constant rebuilt. An unfinished collage.”
Pacy, gruffly textured techno pressure from Blawan on his Ternesc label
Now fully at grips with his modular system, he tweaks the groove between skating, tribalized rhythms and mind-bending synths in ‘Many Many Pings’ and a body-swilling piece of 140bpm techno hydraulics in ‘Lox’, while ‘Gadget’ sounds like a battalion of murderbots trampling and chanting in your direction, and ‘Hapexil Rotator’ goes double deep with pounding, padded kicks laced thru hypnotic drones and elusive, dreamier motifs that really set it off for pie-eyed ravers at 5am.
Total Control drummer Trevor swerves from grotty, strangled electronics to clod-hopping rhythmic fractals and strange bedtime stories in his solo debut for Luke Younger’s Alter, after their 2018 issue of TC’s ‘Laughing At The System’
“‘Becoming A Bed’ gathers seven tracks that run the gamut between battered drum-machine beats, minimal-wave, scratchy noise and spoken word. ‘Romp with Monty’ is the album's least demented moment and delightfully evocative of it’s title with simple melodies and rigid drum machine patterns. A sharp contrast to ‘Cabbage Land’s flailing gabber and breaks combination, resembling something akin to Jamal Moss or Beau Wanzer experiencing a severe breakdown of both mind and hardware. These hybrids of erratic, free percussion and wild synth blurts (see also ‘Midi 2’) lend the album a charming edge, favouring a playful kind of experimentation which extends to the album’s calmer moments too. ‘Bedtime Story’ provides one such bit of respite and the only appearance of Vinciguerra’s voice, processed here in a cold, curious monologue that ruminates on lethargy and illness, atop looping dark ambient textures. It's position in the album providing a centrepiece of cavernous and confounding simplicity.
Elsewhere, tongue-in-cheek end skits sound as if they were heckled at the end of a gig and then decidedly left on the tape. The reckless rave of closing cut ‘Speed Ave’ reflects this in-the-moment sensibility, the machines being close to escaping their captain. It may provide the most didactic dancing effort on the record, but neatly aligns with a loose and uninhibited mindset that skirts around the same warped techno vision as label affiliates Cru Servers or Acolytes.”
Eternal charmers ISAN investigate the melancholy inner life of their machines with a typically tender touch in a very user-friendly, gorgeous album of burbling electronica.
Arriving just over 20 years since their now-classic debut LP, ISAN’s new side finds that not much has changed in their self-contained world of gilded and exquisitely melodic small sound composition, and nobody’s complaining. Future-proofed by their feel for low-key melancholic ambiguity, they maintain a line of music that’s sweetly primed for warmth.
As ever with ISAN’s music the devil lies in the detail of their recordings. Ostensibly simple and stripped down, there are extremely fine layers of plasmic resonance that inhabit the background and periphery of their elegantly fluid and ribboning arrangements. With the sleight of a master hypnotist they subtly draw the ears in one direction while subliminally illuminating the layers surrounding it, leading the ear’s roving eye to wander the soundfield in slow saccades between their pointillist motifs and strange harmonic remainders.
The effect is just gorgeous, prompting very cute highlights between the kosmische lullaby of ‘Perlon’, and the nimbly star-stepping gait of ‘Ichthyosaur’, along with the crystalline shimmer of ’Strix Aluco’ and the AFXian bliss of ‘Ephemeroptera’, before waltzing you to bed with ‘Calliscope’ and their sighing title song.
Matana Roberts returns from an extensive, celebrated live tour with the fourth volume of her deeply personal but resoundingly immersive ‘Coin Coin’ chapters.
The onetime member of Exploding Star Orchestra looks south to Memphis and the memory of her grandmother (that’s her on the cover) for a typically passionate investigation of her roots, using a patented combination of storytelling and ethnography brought to life with free-metered vocals and strong echoes of early blues, jazz and cajun music.
Make no mistake though, it doesn’t sound old, but raucously psychedelic, contemporary and avant-garde in a totally peerless fashion. Matana’s legion followers hardly need to be told this, but if you’re new to her sound and keen to dip in, expect a helluva journey. Seriously feels like we’ve drunk a gallon of moonshine after listening to this one.
Touch Sensitive lean in for an ace group portrait ranging from spectral organ works to tumpin’ techno, IDM hyper-prisms, doom drone and sleazy psych grinders
Marking five years of the label’s non-linear diversions, ‘Wacker That’ is one of those rare compilations that transcends the sum of its parts and opens a window on microcosms you might not know exist. It also serves as a strong reminder of what they’ve been up to, and may turn a few heads back to their aces releases such as Cherrystones’ ‘Critical Mass’ compilation, Barry Lynn’s kosmiche escape pods or Autumns’ metamorphosis into nasty EBM band.
It’s puckered with myriad, off-road surprises that reveals the Northern Irish experimental and electronic music scene to be in rude health, ranging from the SND and Far Eastern-oriented electronics of Sonopy’s ‘Diamante Shithouse’ to a seriously rugged slug of crushed grime by Bloom with ‘Mystery Setting’, and a cap-tip to yer mam’s favourite in Elaine Howley’s BoC-like ‘Song For Mary Black’ racked up beside the Factory Floor-compatible EBM jab of Autumns’ ‘Loosen Up’, and mutant industrial death-bop from Fears, as remixed by Gross Net Blood, plus a gorgeous analog synth coda by Natalia Beylis.
Schizoid mix of raw, haptic, haphazard electronics and deadpan pop tones from Manchester’s Michael Cutting and Vitalija Glovackyte on the Preston-based Them There Records
Skip over the caustic opener ‘Bleach’ and you’ll find a fine collection of songs-in-flux, sweetly illuminated by Vitalija’s vocals which prove to be the big attraction of Hyperdawn’s debut outing.
From the floating, gauzy structure of ‘Millenial Pink’, with Vitalija channelling Laurel Halo circa ‘Quarantine’, the album opens out as a gently febrile dream between the mix of scuffed electronics and folk-wise cadence in ‘Laugh And Laugh’, to a piece of deliciously decayed eldritch chamber-pop recalling Alexander Tucker on ‘Plastic’, and in their transition from faded, cranky vibes to the suppressed ecstasy of ‘End Of The World’, and the mutant cybeR&B dimensions of ‘Avalanche.’
Joy O nimbly bridges London club sounds in a strong new refinement and loosening of his style for Hinge Finger, the label he runs with TTT’s Will Bankhead.
Bringing members of his home city’s jazz and soul scene, Mansur Brown and Keyah Blu, to a series of warped house, trip hop and experimental cuts alongside NYC’s Infinite, Joy O pointedly makes a transition into more textured, freeform and psychedelic/soulful frameworks after a decade of knocking out definitive UK club standards.
Rounding up six diverse productions, ‘Slipping’ is as close as you’ll get to an album from Joy O, for now at least. From the charmingly scrappy but soulful intro to ‘Burn’, which soon turns into an irresistibly deep and technoid garage workout, to the Flying Lotus-like dexterity of ‘While She’s Away’, the session naturally scales between tempos and vibes is a very satisfying way, dipping to Tricky-meets-Tirzah-esque R&B/trip-hop on ‘Under’ ft. Keyah Blu, and taking in fuzzy, summery ambient nostalgia ‘w Dad’, plus a wickedly abstract sort of hardcore dembow stance on ‘Breathe In’, and a sweetly sun-blushed slice of ambient rare grooving in ‘Walworth Waltz’ ft. Mansur Brown.
Much more than a pure dancefloor set, this one’s for the journey.
Posthumous LP of lush Susumu Yokota sketches written around ‘The Boy And The Tree’ (2002), newly dusted down and issued to mark the 5th anniversary of his untimely departure.
Widely adored for his quintessential contributions to Japanese ambient electronica in the ‘90s and ‘00s, Susumu Yokota passed in 2015 after along battle with illness. His legacy is suitably sustained with ‘Cloud Hidden’, a lovely collection of 10 unfinished but charming works which are here adapted and remained by Jon Tye; proprietor of the Lo Recordings label behind many of Yokota’s most prized releases.
Following Mark Beazley of Rothko’s discovery of a DAT of sketches dating to before Yokota’s fan favourite ‘The Boy And The Tree’, Jon Tye has done his best to “honour the spirit and legacy of Yokota’s work by completing the tracks in a way which I thought he would approve”, resulting a 10 tracks suite that sensitively forms an illusive yet tangible bridge between the artist and his unfinished collection.
Working under a quote taken from Alan Watts’ book ‘Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown’, the set comes together with a suitably dreamy resolution, drifting from frayed and gently febrile rhythm excursions to passages of schizoid carnival music and doom belch, and thru to Vangelis-like synth-brass scaping, desert-at-night guitar strums, and more psychedelic, pre-dawn ritual invocations.
Pessimist goes deep in the jungle for brethren at UVB-76 in a high pressure follow-up to his dank collab with Karim Maas, including a mean Simon Shreeve (CUB) remix
Greased up with war paint and crossbow in hand he goes in like Schwarzenegger or Stallone on ‘Burundanga’, using his considerable sound design chops to raise the dread and roll out with cutthroat tech-step pressure, before yoking back for the stone cold guillotine snares and negative energy of ‘Lithosphere.’
Fresh from CUB duties with Regis, Simon Shreeve (Mønic) joins the mission with a dense, roving rework of ‘Paian’ from Pessimist’s 2016 EP, before ‘Thug’ swaggers out on a lethal, bone-rattling steppers’ lunge.
Following the watershed madness of his ‘Yield’ tape for V I S, Meandyou. co-founder Herron unbuckles in rude and fractious form for Peder Mannerfelt Produktion, alongside the bossman’s own remix.
Where Herron’s music was mostly 4-squared and greyscale until recently, it’s now rambunctiously off-kilter and swirled with iridescent electronics that appeal much more to our heads at least.
‘Billy’s Walk Home’ epitomises this new energy in a swarm of swanging electro and fizzing automated FX, while ‘Throwing Mud’ sounds like classic T++ swilled with gravel, and ‘Losing Spirit’ parries with chewy acid electro recalling Gescom, and ‘United Walls’ sidesteps into stranger eldritch folk melody and crunching vintage AFXisms. Bravo, lad. Peder Mannerfelt is also on hand to resculpt ‘United Walls’ with a bolshier techno pressure.
Beautifully ponderous blends of solo piano keys, strings and fine-feathered electronics from John Roberts, keeping it regular with his once-every-three-years album outing. Essentially, the minimal house & techno influences of his earlier LPs ‘Glass Eights’, ‘Fences’ and ‘Plum’ are left for dust as John heads for a tonal and textural sound world exploring space and bittersweet dissonance with the calm, unhurried poise that has won him stacks of followers over the years. Let’s just say it opens more questions than it answers.
“What are the best non-physical landfills for discarded thought? Do waves transition between naturally occurring substrates and audio signals? Does adrenal fatigue and replenishment in the human brain relate to cycles of euphoria and dysphoria in music? What is the mental effect of visual versus aural repetition? Is all music fictional? Can the language of objects and memories impregnate sound? Are bodies out of fashion? What is the music production equivalent to a green screen in film? What is the best non-physical preservation method for sound? Is film editing a way of ordering memories? Is repetition therapeutic? Are all films fictional? Have physical forms slipped into obsolescence? Did Erik Satie have an anxiety disorder? Is background music parasympathetic? Are physical players more virtuosic than virtual instruments? Is thought finite? Is physical music a fetish? Is reality fictional? What is the most elegant way to float between corporeal and ethereal forms? Do memories deteriorate and fade like audio signals exposed to the elements? Can thought exist without the body?”
Optimo rack up wide-ranging highlights from the first year of their Digital Danceforce label
To play faves, we advise listening out for the likes of Bergsonist’s weirdo dance-pop wobbler ‘Heat’; vanessa Worm’s Chi-styel jacker ‘I Did A Lava Dance’; the EBM kink of ‘Fall Rise’ by Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy & Phil Kieran; the slinky suss of ‘Poli-Ritmo’ by Internal N.Y. Rhythms.
Aquarian and Deapmash return as AQXDM for their Houndstooth debut EP ‘Infrared’.
"Written remotely from Berlin and Caen respectively, this five track EP expands on their now hallmark sound — hypnotic, big room, golden-era rave, 90s jungle and mind-bending techno n’ IDM filtered through a high-definition, cinematic lens. Massive kicks, quaking sub bass and blistering breakbeats converge with soaring atmospherics and throwback rave stabs in a wholly modern and heavy-as-hell package."
Anthony Naples & Jenny Slattery’s Incienso embrace Melbourne’s Sleep D for a debut album scaling between cosmic chug, electro, ambient jazz noise, and a snappy uptempo workout.
"Across ten songs, Sleep D take us from the deep desert chug of “Red Rocks”, through the center of the best rave in town with “Danza Mart”, and “Central”, past a head-trip of styles in the deep core, and ease us back down to some kind of new earth in the final songs, including “Morning Sequence”, a beaut’ of a track featuring Kuniyuki. When it’s all said and done its big smiles and fuzzy heads all around— we’ve said it once and we’ll say it again - rated “E” for Everyone."
Showcasing the influence of funk, rock and disco on Nigerian music during the 1970s.
"Originally released as a nowlong- out-of-print collectors’ 7” box, this fully expanded album release now also includes extra tracks from Sonny Okosuns, Wings, Chief Kollington Ayinla and more. While for many people the fusion of funk and jazz music with Nigerian rhythms and aesthetics began with Fela Kuti and his afro-beat sound, in fact this can be traced further back to the phenomena of the 1960s Nigerian artists and house bands in nightclubs and hotels who interpreted US soul and pop music with a local flavour and none more so than Geraldo Pino, the ‘African James Brown’ who features heavily in this collection. Other similarly inspired Nigerian funk and soul artists featured here included Tony Grey and his Ozimba Messengers and Don Bruce and The Angels.
‘Nigeria Soul Power 70’ includes a number of tracks from the group Wings originally known as BAF (Biafran Air Force) Wings, an army band formed during the Biafran civil war in Nigeria. The groups’ heavy mixture of funk, rock and African styles was popular among many Nigerian groups at the time. Beneath the shadow of the few Nigerian artists who signed international recording deals in the 1970s - Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Chief Ebenezer Obey - lies of vast wealth of largely undiscovered musical transmutation and cultural cross-pollination and included here are heavy afro-funk/rock and disco tracks from artists such as the legendary Sonny Okosuns as well as rare cuts from little-known outside of Nigeria - groups such as Colomach and MFB. Most of these obscure artists signed to major labels in Nigeria in the commercial slipstream that opened up as Philips, Decca and EMI tried to emulate the international success of the big three international Nigerian artists.
Finally featured here is Kollington Ayinla, one of the co-founders of Nigerian Fuji music, who gives us perhaps the heaviest of all tracks on this album. Ayinla is the great moderniser of the Fuji sound and in the late 1970s began adding Bata drums and synthesizers to his authentic music to create a powerful and heavy new fusion of traditional and modernist aesthetics, embracing both new technology and experimentation while rooted firmly in Nigerian historical lineage."
Footwork/Juke OG, DJ Spinn hits hard and funky on return to Hyperdub following link-ups with his Teklife crew and the likes of Fractal Fantasy, and remixes for DJ Shadow and Jessy Lanza
Kicking off with the striking chords and pussy chat of ‘Knock A Patch Out’ in dirty and clean versions, he goes all P-funky with the wavey top line and quick/slow flows of ’Sky Way’ with DJ Manny, but the best bits are tucked away with the catalytic, rave-ready blend of burning diva vox and sub-loaded pressure in ‘Make Her Hot’, and the radiant, floating ace ‘U Ain’t Really Bout Dat Life.’
Beni B gets back to roots in broken beats with the jazzy hustle and bustle of Waajeed’s ‘Hocus Pocus’, following turns by Pote, Gila and Blue Iversen on the Deviation label arm of his club night and radio sessions
Ghostly International spell out their ambient and modern classical tastes with a fine haul of exclusive material by Sarah Davachi, SK U Kno (Suzanne Kraft), Space Afrika, Tadd Mullinx, Emily A. Sprague and more.
Political dance anthems in a new beat/new beta-style from Not Waving’s Alessio Natalizia, following from a series of collabs with Jim O’Rourke, Mark Lanegan and Jay Glass Dubs over the last year.
Closing out a banner year with a club-ready boot up the ass, Not Waving follows those divergent 2019 outings with a wildly driven lunge for the strobes, balancing pure escapism with a reminder to dance and laugh at the populist peckers that dominate global politics right now.
The A-side’s Belgian new beat-styled détournement ‘Tremendous’ makes ironic use of a foamy-mouthed but blithe Tr*mp speech about the Paris attacks, sliced and jacked into a strapping mix of jagged EBM arps and Italo/Detroit chromatics with a naggingly playful aesthetic that harks back to Belgian new beat and UK rave’s mix of politics and subversive escapism.
The B-side ’S.M’ then opens with a rabble-rousing recording of Italian students chanting “Salvini, merda” against Matteo Salvini - Italy’s immigrant-hating far-right former deputy Prime Minister - over a bucking, pulsing electro groove that sounds like CoH jamming Ro Maron.
Acts of subversive defiance such as this, encouraging dissent and ridicule of pompous right wing blowhards - and no matter how small in the wider scheme of things - have never been so vitally required in the modern day.
Tunes of Negation is a new project from Shackleton, featuring Heather Leigh, Takumi Motokawa, and Raphael Meinhart in a world of binding rhythms and ancient harmonics meshed in multidirectional flows, highly recommended for lovers of mystic drumming, psychedelia & syncretic sonic traditions...
Shackleton works up hypnotic group energy alongside avant-goddess Heather Leigh, percussionist Takumi Motokawa, and mallet player Raphael Meinhart in their debut as Tunes of Negation for Shapednoise’s label; Cosmo Rhythmatic. ‘Reach The Endless Sea’ is a heady blast of lysergic, chromatic colour and syncopated rhythms that partly imagines an alternative musical timeline where Hawkwind and Ashra Tempel fans, proto-Humanoid types, and new age travellers who made up the UK’s rave vanguard prevailed against the law to enact a freely psychedelic dance music.
The album follows in the vein of Shackleton’s previous trio of vocal-focussed trips for Honest Jon’s and his Woe To The Septic Heart! label to find the mystic pied piper’s spirit bolstered and tempered by a collaborative, multi-directional flow of energies. Split into five durational parts running between 10-15 minutes each - or long enough to draw listeners into their dilated temporality - the music comes in waves of pointed, timeless intensity and illusory suggestion, subtly shifting pattern with an acid-dosed logic.
Following her triumphant ‘Throne’ LP’ in 2018, Heather Leigh provides sacral vocals to the canto couplet of ‘The World Is A Stage’ and ‘Reach The Endless Sea’, providing an elevated constant between its moire of possessed vibes and lilting rhythms, before the trio of instrumentalists take the reins on a mazy trajectory between the harmonic lather of ‘Tundra Erotic’, thru the sanguine meditation of ‘Nowhere Ending Sky’, and an epic, 15 minute invocation of ancient Indian raga traditions and mountaintop kosmische in ‘Rückschlag / Rising, then Resonant’, before they all come down together in the Amazonian delta flow and oozing sprawl of ‘The Time Has Come.’
While no single description will sum up the potency and conviction of Tunes of Negation, their mission can be summed in a line from a poem by 13th C. mystic Rumi which inspired the album’s title, stating that ‘Reach The Endless Sea’ strives to “aid transmutation and enter into the light.”
Electro-acoustic explorer John Chantler expands his timbral horizons with a subtly dynamic suite recorded at INA-GRM, Paris; Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg; and 1703, Stockholm, in a commission for the GRM’s François Bonnet.
Chantler absorbingly pays attention to the nanoscopic and macro details of his sound here in a vast cosmic entanglement of subatomic chatter and arcing harmonic structures that describe a real head-fuck of awesome electronic abstraction. On the surface it can appear formidably alien, but those parts always lead somewhere sweeter and gratifyingly inquisitive.
“Australian born, Sweden based artist John Chantler returns to Room40 with his fifth solo edition. 'Tomorrow Is Too Late' was commissioned by INA GRM for their Présences Électronique festival in 2018 and sees Chantler significantly expand the horizons of his acoustic palette. Moving from subtle microtonal movements to passages of intense harmonic saturation, Tomorrow Is Too Late is his most dynamic work to date. A powerhouse of reductive intensity that bares witness to Chantler’s uncompromising sonic articulations.”
Classy debut album of ephemeral ambient-pop and groggy rhythms from SSIEGE, an Italian producer lending his romantic touch to Andy Lyster’s ace YOUTH label. Recommended listening if yr into 1991, Casino Vs Japan, Lorenzo Senni, Black Zone Myth Chant, Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Adding a snugly seasonal vibe to YOUTH following their cranky and cinematic turns by FUMU, Hoshina Anniversary and L. Lund in recent months, SSIEGE explores an endearingly warm and melodic style of electronica to soundtrack transitions from summer to autumn.. For anyone who picked up on SSIEGE’s vinyl outings for Rome’s La Beauté Du Négatif, it’s nice to hear him expand those styles into more expressive, weightless zones on the longer format release.
Crafted for an end-to-end listen, rather than a collection of DJ cuts, the album flows with an enchanted/enchanting quality from the plucked pointillism of ‘Turbe In Sviluppo (version)’ to the weepy, 1991-esque gauze of ‘Miss You’, taking in the vulnerable peal of ‘A Man’ alongside what sounds like The Cure jangling with Black Zone Myth Chant on ‘Angelo Azzurro’, and some deft yet detached drum machine workouts in the noirish junglism ‘Chromatic’ and the listing ambient breaks of ‘Swan’.’ However the best parts are those ambient bridges that join it all together, as with the puckered introspection of ‘Biscotti 180’, the angelic coos of ‘Regina’, or the seductive iridescence of works such as ‘Boxe’ and ‘Delete Instagram.’
Moor Mother heralds her 4th and strongest solo LP with ‘The Myth Hold Weight’, a preparatory EP including Saul Williams on one of four album highlights
On ’The Myth Hold Weight’ Moor Mother holds the listener’s gaze to the fact the western world is largely built on slave-made cotton and sugar - hardly more apparent in Manchester, aka Cottonopolis, or Liverpool and Glasgow’s Tate & Lyle links - over subtly affective ambient backdrop, while ‘Mother’s Clock’ is a a short sharp shock of puckered electronics and tribal drum drive, then ‘Black Flight;’ catches her slugging out a Suicide-esque dancefloor rattler accentuated with pointed rap and countered by ice cool verse from Saul Williams, before ‘After Images’ hits hardest with a JK Flesh-like slice of mentasm-laced, hardcore blues rave stomp.
Hutchins puckers up a mix of melancholy electronica and effortless, rolling club rhythms in a follow-up to his UIQ 12”, Dale Cornish split, and the inverted dance music of ‘Clubeighteen2thirty’
Playing up to his bittersweet side, the tracks increase in literal and metaphoric optimism between the deep blue swang of ‘(Can’t) Find Love in the Club’, the looser whirr and curious party parry of ‘(Won’t) Find Love in the Club’, and, ultimately, the search ’n screw mode of ‘(Let’s) Find Love in the Club.’
Debut turn of shadow-dancing tribal grooves and hypnotic electronics from J. Chrysalis for the UK’s globe-trotting Blank Mind label
Both touted by Ben UFO on his Rinse show, ‘A Kind Robin’ syncs dusty, hiccuping drums and avian lead with a tight, in-the-pocket hustle and slow building arrangement that sounds like Joe meets Carl Craig, whereas ‘Latent Space’ turns cues from Durban Gqom into a sort of psychedelic stroller that swaps Gqom’s dark energy for something more limpid and dreamy.
Jonny Nash and Kyle Martin rekindle their Land Of Light in the quiet new dawn of ‘The World Lies Breathing’ some seven years since their debut with ESP Institute.
With a barely-there presence, Nash & Martin converse in a small sound vocabulary of china-tinkle pointillism, spare string touches and bubbling electronics quite clearly inspired by Japanese ambient environmental music that also loops back into early Eno styles. They masterful balance contrasting sounds and textures in pensile space with a tremulous, tip-of-the-tongue sensitivity to tone and clarity that keeps listeners suspended by a silky thread.
“Written and composed over the course of two years, “The World Lies Breathing” reflects the pair’s shared development towards spacious, abstract composition crafted from a wide range of contrasting sound sources. Utilising a combination of acoustic instruments, contact microphones and Martin’s self-built modular synthesiser “The World Lies Breathing” focuses on the space between sounds, conjuring up an organic yet alien landscape that exists on the edge of an unknowable void.”
Russian techno boss Tolkachev goes into orbit on two glyding and grumpy techno missions for Gost Zvuk
One of the most distinctive producers to emerge from the Russian Federation in the past decade, Polkachev here tends to his most experimental sides with the cascading, glittering arps and cheek-pulling torque of his beatless roller ‘Optical Illusions’, before he puts a donk on it with the techno distress signal of ‘Suddenly I Realised’, which ultimately ends up stranded and all out of bass drum fuel.
Geordie folk bard Richard Dawson takes his role seriously but playfully with the glorious chops of his strongest album since 2011’s cultishly acclaimed ‘The Magic Bridge’. Top marks for still never compromising a shred of his accent, which only reinforces the storytelling. Sounds a bit funny when he goes falsetto though, a bit Jim Moir/Vic Reeves, like
“2020 is an utterly contemporary state-of-the-nation study, that uncovers a tumultuous and bleak time. Here is an island country in a state of flux; a society on the edge of mental meltdown. This is England today.
On 2020, Dawson introduces us to grand themes through small lives. His are portraits of human beings struggling with recognisable (and dare we say it, relatable) concerns, conflicts and desires, each reminding us that tragedy and gallows humour are not mutually exclusive, and that the magical can sit next to the mundane. Lyrically it is by far Dawson’s hardest-hitting and unflinchingly honest album to date. It is his poetic masterwork.
Within, we find disgruntled civil servants dreaming of better days, anxiety-addled joggers listlessly searching Zoopla for houses they cannot afford in their spare time, amateur footballers who think they’re Lionel Messi and beleaguered pub landlords battling rising floodwaters.
Sonically, Dawson’s new-found fascination with pure pop music is also evident across 2020, manifesting itself in some of his most direct work to date. Melding his most melodic moments with flashes of choral dissonance, nerve-shredding crescendos, heartfelt laments and a deceptive finger-picking style.”
Iridescent electro from Secret State, a new name on Falty DL’s Blueberry, leading on from zingers with CPU and Varvet in ’18
Jacking straight in to the Blueberry mainframe, they throw down the classically analog-sounding 150bpm missile o warped crime and cold drums ‘Blast’, beside the itchy detail of ‘Just Because’ and a strong nod to Drexciya and Stingray in ‘Scales’, while the relatively reserved but moody drive of ‘Dystopian Preset’ offers emotive equilibrium.
Shanghai’s Svbkvlt spring a killer new batch of martial steppers and pointillist ‘tronics by 33emybw to chase her blink ’n miss vinyl pressing of the ‘Golem’ LP - backed with remixes by Lechuga Zafiro, Ikonika, and Hakuna Kulala’s Don Zilla
Issued to coincide with its live premiere at Poland’s Unsound festival, ‘Arthropods’ manifests as the alien spirit twin of the soul-seeking creatures 33emybw brought to (semi)life in the ‘Golem’ album. Her animist powers appear strengthened here, generating seven unique constructions that synthesise aspects of footwork, deco-club music and trilling trap with crystalline IDM melodies and a virulent, gremlin-in-the-machine sort of madness.
This stuff is pretty much exactly what we reckon a lot of folk imagined music to sound like in the year historically imagined by Blade Runner. From the lush pads and flyaway chorales of ’Symmetry’ the album delivers a futurist rush of probing electronic tones and posthuman, bone-bending rhythms between the rail-gunning attack of ‘Tentacle Centre’ and the tri-step trills of ‘Induce’, packing thrilling runs into dembow DNA mutation with ‘Adam Bank’ and a sort of militant sino-soca-footwork style in ‘Arthropods Continent’, while ‘Drum3’ sounds like it evolved from a patch left on a synth in the Radiophonic Workshop.
By contrast with the main body, the remixes are a bit safe, as Ikonika evens out ‘Arthropods Continent’ into a sort of bucking ballroom workout, and Lechuga Zafiro reins in ‘Adam Bank’ with a fidgety parry, but Uganda’s Don Zilla keeps it out there with a cyclonic twyst on ‘Drum3.’
Alex Menzies persists in pushing Glasgow’s experimental envelopes with Other World Music Vol.2
It's an unsettling, immersive suite of psychoacoustic electronic projections that perhaps pessimistically suppose new sonic terrain beyond the new age and modern world music zeitgeists. Some of his most impressive work to date. Comparable in theme and aesthetic with recent works by Sote, Cam Deas, Rashad Becker, Autechre.
Special Request answers the question “what if Jam & Lewis signed to Metroplex?” with the 3rd and final instalment of his 2019 album cycle.
Arriving in the glistening wake of his ‘Vortex’ and ‘Bedroom Tapes’ sides, ‘Offworld’ completes the trilogy with a unchronic suggestion of ‘80s soul meets Detroit electro, with results that lean into melodic AI electronica and glyding late ‘90s “breakbeat” trance.
Fair to say that Paul Woolford aka Special Request nails the vibe with dead on with the combo of Midway’s ‘Set It Out’ vocal applied to rocking 808 in ’237,000 Miles’, while he takes it deeper with the smooth R&B/electro-soul shimmy of ’Shepperton Moon Landing’, along with lazer-zap electro and Plaid-like melody in ‘Offworld Memory 3’, the lush nose-drip dissonance of ‘Front Screen Projection’ and ‘Are End Of The Moon.’ The bashy breaks and acid of ‘Morning Ritual’ are a mishit but ‘Floatation (SR Offworld Mix’) pulls it back with a fine marriage of Twin Peaks-meets-Italo House keys, NASA comms, and Wild Bunch-era breakbeats.
Brilliantly loose-limbed, inspirational solo debut album from Kim Gordon after four decades fronting myriad projects, most notably Sonic Youth, but also with numerous collaborators including Tony Conrad, Ikue Mori, Julie Cafritz, Stephen Malkmus and most recently with Bill Nace as one half of Body/Head.
It’s a raw and effortlessly experimental album, from the red-lining subs of opener 'Sketch Artist' to the tripped out lo-fi Gamelan pop of 'Paprika Pony’, the industrial Berghain grind 'Don't Play It’ and NYC drum machine jam 'Cookie Butter’, it’s a properly, endlessly enjoyable electronic punk album held together by Kim’s sharp lyrics and still completely inimitable vocal delivery - you just can’t f#ck with it.
In lesser hands 'No Home Record’ would be a heavy-handed mess, but - really - it’s the most artful and yet somehow least pretentious record you’ll hear this year - nothing less.
Second instalment in a planned trilogy from ex-Deadly Snakes frontman André Ethier, created in collaboration with Sandro Perri (producer) at his Toronto studio in late 2018 / early 2019.
"Croak In The Weeds continues Ethier and Perri’s musical relationship which was originally established on 2017’s Under Grape Leaves. Croak expands upon that album, deconstructing synthetic elements to a point of raw organic beauty. Lyrically, André’s approach has shifted to the natural world, focusing heavily on flora and fauna. Almost every track on the 34-minute album references animals, with central characters ranging from pigs to dragons. This is André’s third attempt at a trilogy of records. Previous attempts have stalled for various reasons; disillusionment with genre, unrealistic sense of self, arachnophobia...
Though it would not be inaccurate to suggest that he now has completed a trilogy of unfinished trilogies (he would thank you for your optimistic reasoning,) and is still planning to finish this one. Regarding trilogies, André opines: “In the first you establish the tools and build yourself a room, in the sequel you live in the room and imagine what’s outside, finally in the third.... you escape?” He doesn’t know, he has never gone all the way."