Camila Fuchs makes a head-turning debut on ATP with the cosmic pop of ‘Heart Pressed Between Stones’; a remarkably accomplished LP worthy of comparison with the best from Jenny Hval, her label mate Zoë McPherson, or early Fever Ray and Bjørk classics
Leading on from 2016’s ‘Singing From Fixed Rung’ and her ‘Opuntia’ EP as Camila De Laborde, the Mexico City-born, London-based artist truly blossoms on this, her 3rd release to date. It’s rare that artists of this calibre of vision and poise come around, and we reckon that ‘Heart Pressed Between Stones’ is a modern classic in waiting.
Taking her fair time to ease in with the screwed groove and wide open vox of ‘One-on-One’ and its searching, serpentine bassline, Camila maintains an impeccable poise throughout the album, threading from the veiled electronics and unmistakeably Bjørkian urgency of ‘Heatwave (Coming Towards You)’, to transition into stark, mutated psych rock in the tempered rush of ‘My Body’. She expertly plays with liminal tension again in the deliquescent dream pop friction of ‘Direct Truth’, before she gets mired in the deliciously viscous, screwed gloop of ‘Battlefield’, and totally has us by a thread with the nonplace acid-folk finale, ‘For All Stable Appearances, He Was Wild’, where her blend of organic and inorganic textures, dense electronics and spacious vocals most effectively transport and consume us.
After 23 years out of print, FSOL’s definitive early ‘90s ambient-epic Lifeforms now returns to its natural habitat. Serving near-dangerous levels of nostalgia for almost anyone who came thru in the ‘90s, Lifeforms is set to soundtrack myriad afterparties and claim its place on a whole new generation of record shelves.
Originally released in 1994, a few years after FSOL had become a household name thanks to their debut LP Accelerator and its standout rave anthem, Papua New Guinea (and not forgetting Humanoid’s Stakker before it), Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain’s project really blossomed into something else with Lifeforms, where they consolidated a wealth of esoteric ideas and philosophies into what was effectively a new manifesto for psychedelic electronic music.
Whether unconsciously and osmotically absorbed, or dutifully studied and cherished by those cognisant of its brilliance, Lifeforms was almost unavoidably ubiquitous at the time, and inarguably worked its way into the popular consciousness in a way that electronic records rarely do nowadays. It was definitely a product of its time, and now, 23 years later, we can safely say it’s kept its charms intact.
Riffing on then-emergent themes of cybernetics, amorphous androgyny and artificial intelligence, together with nods to classic ‘70s psychedelia and kosmische - it features guest spots from Ozric Tentacles and Robert Fripp, and sampled Klaus Schulze - the results tapped into the era’s undercurrent of aerobic mysticism and eldritch new age spirituality to locate an unprecedented confluence of those styles which has influenced swathes of electronic dreamers ever since.
It’s techno-romantic and tech-gnostic in the lushest sense, a utopian beauty flush with the thrill of unknown futures, yet fringed with an MDMA come-down melancholy that’s totally crucial to understanding that era’s play and juxtaposition of energies. Quite simply, though: Lifeforms is an incredibly enigmatic and life-affirming album awaiting your (re)discovery.
Beautifully haunted, tripped out and richly absorbing set of apparitions recalling the most sylvan shadows of Aphex Twin's ‘SAW II’, Leyland Kirby / The Caretaker at his creepiest and the spectres of Loren Connors “airs”, a huge recommendation to followers/fans of any of the above...
Blue Chemise is the alias of Australia’s Mark Gomes and this is his debut for Students Of Decay, recorded direct to Dictaphone with minimal post-production to convey something poignant and eerily intangible.
Following from two similarly etheric gestures, both self-released on Greedy Ventilators, and a 7” with I Dischi Del Barone, Gomes here supposes 16 new passages of time that hold the listener’s aural gaze with uncanny ability. Most effectively, they conjure the sensation of solitude shared with paranormal spirits,, drawing the listener into possible parallel dimensions with a dusky, autumnal subtlety.
If you've been charmed by the desiccated but richly absorbing atmospheres of fellow antipodeans such as F Ingers or LST, those early BoC wildlife documentary interludes, or even the creepiest stuff on Mark Harwood’s Penultimate Press, we wager this one will rule your world. We’ve been listening to it on a loop since early in the morning and really not sure if we’ll shake off that hypnagogic feeling for the rest of the day...
Raw, Ur-primal improv from Dennis Tyfus (voice, tape) and Mette Rasmussen (sax, objects), rubbing out an inquisitive fuss for the latter’s exemplary Ultra Eczema label
Recorded at SIM Studio in Antwerp, Belgium, the results of Bazuinschal’s first session document elemental expressions that fall somewhere within the brackets of free jazz and experimental music.
Norway-based, Danish saxophonist Mette follows from her collaborative LP with Tashi Dorji for Feeding Tube Records to explore a more oblique sound here, no doubt encouraged by Belgium’s premiere freak, Dennis Tyfus to rinse out the brassiest parps and spittle-flecked sounds from her instrument, which is coincidentally recorded in the land of its origin.
In the first and longest part, Mette seems to match Dennis’ wordless chants thru her instrument, before they both trip hard into more hellish scenes, like the soundtrack to a demonic detail from a Bosch painting. A passage of bestial, tape-warped vox and plangent bleats then follows into the possessed styles of the B-side, slipping from throat-wrecking gargles and brittle brass scrapings to pranging metal percussions, gnarled parp and again, back to nightmare-inducing, animalistic connotations.
One for the quacks. You know who you are.
American-born multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Peter Broderick returns with the score for the award-winning animation of the same name, inspired by an early recording of his, plus a 9-minute electronic rework on the B-side titled Techno For Lemurs.
"Fairly often we see albums of “Music inspired by the film __”, but less common is a film inspired by music. Such is the case with Two Balloons. Director Mark C. Smith got the idea for his nine-minute stop frame animation film while out at sea, looking at a majestic funnel cloud in the distance. Shortly after he heard a song by Peter Broderick from one of his earliest recordings — 4 Track Songs — and the music struck a chord so strongly, he knew he wanted to make a film to fit the melody. And so began the five-year labour of love that would eventually produce this enchanting little film, currently circulating film festivals around the world and racking up countless awards and accolades including ‘Best Original Music Score’ at the New Renaissance Film Festival in Amsterdam.
Even though the film was inspired by an older Broderick composition, the score for Two Balloons was recorded from scratch, revised and expanded to fit each frame. The process of stop frame animation is a labour intensive and painstaking one, but the attention to detail didn’t stop at the picture for this film. The score was an integral part of the film from the very beginning, with both the director and composer going to great lengths to experiment not only with the composition itself, but also the fidelity. The first sound heard on the score is a piano playing a waltz figure, and the sound is noticeably lo-fi, but this isn’t just some modern digital trickery. This piano was recorded on a wire recorder, a recording technology that predates magnetic tape and has been virtually forgotten about.
In the process of recording the score, many different technologies were experimented with. In addition to purchasing and refurbishing several wire recorders, the director at one stage acquired several massive AM radio consoles as well as an AM radio transmitter, so that a digital recording from the computer could be broadcast through the AM radio waves and then captured through one of these nostalgic sounding old radios. A variety of these technologies from different eras were used to create a score that both sounds like it’s from several different time periods and from no specific time at all.
The B-side, if you will, is more than just a remix that recycles the original recordings. In fact none of the original parts have been re-used. ‘Techno For Lemurs’ is a homage to the two main characters in the story, the ring-tailed lemurs Bernard and Elba. Serving as Broderick’s first foray into the world of techno, this playful piece reinterprets the melodic themes from the original score by adapting them with electronic instrumentation. In Peter’s own words: “Let’s pretend for nine minutes that we’re ring-tailed lemurs and get this party started!”
Left Ear keep ‘em coming with reissue of ‘Percussions Pour La Danse’, a sought-after 1989 side of computer-processed rhythmelody written for the choreography of Tony Kenneybrew. Afro, balearic, cosmic disco ‘eads and fiends gonna freak out over this one, especially for their 9 minute, Pekka Airaksinen-like jazz out on ‘Vas Y Peter’
“Percussions Pour La Danse was a collaboration between North American born jazz & contemporary-dance instructor Tony Kenneybrew and French musician Jean-Pierre Boistel. Tony, a Washington native who had studied, taught and danced professionally since the age of 12, found himself in France in the late 80’s. It’s here that he linked up with like-minded musician Jean-Pierre; who had recently returned from a 6-month trip to West Africa. A trip that helped refine his craft that begun in the early 70’s.
The music was created for Tony to use when teaching contemporary jazz-dance classes and to accompany live performance, allowing students to “dance slowly, rapidly and change speeds without changing the tempo!”. This work of rhythmic research was based on the “Balance of The Walk”; in 4 times, in 6 times, in 7 times & in 3 times. In order to reach the spatial possibilities he was striving for, Jean-Pierre would also use computer assisted programming to sample and re-play his own instrumentation. This allowed him to lay down the tempo of the track and then play live over the top, which in turn gave him the freedom to add the desired instruments and effects to each song.
Jean-Pierre’s use of instruments such as the Kalimba, Talking Drum & Sanza gives the album a distinctly African feel, while contemporary Jazz-dance time signatures adds a unique perspective to these traditional instrumentations creating an ethereal balance between the old and new.”
The perfect companion to the David Hollander curated book Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music, this 20 track LP encapsulates the niche and fascinating subculture of library music.
"In the heyday of low-budget television and scrappy genre filmmaking, producers who needed a soundtrack for their commercial entertainments could reach for a selection of library music: LPs of stock recordings whose contents fit any mood required. Though at the time, the use of such records was mostly a cost-cutting manoeuvre for productions that couldn’t afford to hire their own composer, the industry soon took on its own life: library publishers became major financial successes, and much of the work they released was truly extraordinary. In fact, many of these anonymous or pseudonymous scores-on-demand were crafted by the some of the greatest musical minds of the late 20th century—expert musicians and innovative composers who revelled in the freedoms offered, paradoxically, by this most corporate of fields. Unusual Sounds is a deep dive into a musical universe that has, until now, been accessible only to producers and record collectors; a celebration of this strange industry and an examination of its unique place at the nexus of art and commerce.
Genres were spliced, conventions dispensed with, and oftentimes hybrid music of astonishing complexity was produced. Elements of rock, jazz, soul, even twentieth-century avant-garde composition were all utilized, and no stone was left unturned. As a result, some of the best library music defies all categorization, reflecting the individualistic quirks and artistry of the various musicians who made it. This compilation includes compositions by Brainticket founder Joel Vandroogenbroeck, KPM Allstars John Cameron and Keith Mansfield, Montenegrin-born composer Janko Nilović, and the Italian film composer Stefano Torossi amongst others. David Hollander is a producer, music supervisor, writer and collector living in Texas. A lifelong record collector, his library music collection is considered by many to be one of the finest of its kind in the world."
Salty modern synth-pop from Amsterdam, the first release on De Vlieger, a new label coined by Job Jobse. RIYL Fad Gadget, John Maus, Robert Rental
“This collection of short songs by Karel marks the first release of my new label, De Vlieger.
I will always remember the first time I saw Karel live. Jumping and flying across the room. One moment hanging from the ceiling, the next taking a plunge into the night. His feet in the air and his head in the clouds.
A desire to release music from friends had always been there, but only when I witnessed Karel's unique energy and his ability to write a perfect pop song in just a few lines, this desire took its first form. The results are six synthwave songs that are low on fidelity, but high on feeling. Recorded between 2016 and 2018 at his home studio, using three synthesizers and a drum computer.
- Job Jobse”
Bright, colourful modular magick from Mountains’ Koen Holtkamp in BEAST mode
“BEAST is a new project by composer Koen Holtkamp, known for his sweeping, maximalist work with Mountains, as well as his labyrinthian solo recordings. While taking some time away from music to focus on working with light and color his approach shifted, opening himself up to new working methods which led to the creation of a virtual ensemble of sorts. The process of refocusing on music found Holtkamp gravitating towards pieces centered on simple rhythmic patterns which, when built upon one another, create elaborately intertwining castles of sound. On Ens, Holtkamp reins in his sprawling sound with new resolve, crafting tightly constructed pieces of engaging and ecstatic beauty.
Ens was made during a time of anticipation of change for Holtkamp: the birth of his first child. Having recorded and mixed the album late at night and at odd hours in the months leading up to the birth and during the early sleepless days of fatherhood, Ens (which means entity or existence) is a profoundly intimate and heartfelt journey into Holtkamp’s psyche. The constant motion created by the ebb and flow of rhythmic elements connects Ens’ diverse compositions and mirrors the building expectation of such a momentous change.
Holtkamp’s initial recordings as BEAST (Vol 1 & Vol 2) were mostly conceived for the immediacy and physicality of performance and were directly linked to a series of visual environments he created with 3D laser projections. As a purely studio project, Ens takes on a more precise and contemplative approach. Moments of blissful grandeur such as the convalescence of melodies in “Paprika Shorts” are at once overwhelming and crystalline in the placement and clarity of each sound. Deceptively simple pieces like “Boketto” and “Miniature” appear more sparse and subtle, but the arrangement of sounds reveal deeper levels of nuance with each listen. By carefully arranging and selecting each element, Holtkamp both references genre tropes, from classical minimalism to beat-driven dance music, and constructs a sound all his own. The intricately detailed depth of field gives the album an almost sculptural presence. This level of detail is underpinned by Holtkamp’s move towards more virtual instrumentation which he utilizes to push beyond the physical limitations of their acoustic equivalents, as well as to synthesize new instruments.
As BEAST, Holtkamp has nimbly altered his process of creating dense, immersive music. Ens stands as not only the culmination of his newfound methods, but also a deeply personal moment. In crafting the graceful and passionate sonic tapestries into compact compositions, BEAST’s Ens masterfully melds the earthbound and the ethereal.”
All killer, no filler 4-way from Amsterdam’s Knekelhuis, turning out rugged, psychoactive dance music from Sabla,Patricia Kokett, Maoupa Mazzochetti, and Job Sifre
Presented as a “document of modern contemporary music”, all tracks could have feasibly been made at any point between 1980 and now, which is pretty symptomatic of these flatland times, to be fair.
Up top, Sabla follows a pair of strong 12”s with Gang of Ducks and Disk with ‘Chant’, a haunting rhythm excursion focussed on pure rhythmelodic cadence and possessed by elusive electronic duppies. Patricia Kokett follows with ‘Luxor’, flipping the script of their slow and heavy ‘Diabel’ 12” with pulsating drums and dizzy hi-register squeal.
On the other side, Maoupa Mazzochetti works a tangy sort of Arabic, aerobic mysticism with the psychedelic spin and bump of ‘644 Beauty Marks’, and Job Sifre leans on the downstroke with the On-U Sound-esque ace, ‘We Are Monsters’.
Magisterial, glacial, attention-demanding and powerful exposition of Buchla 200 synth tones mapped to acoustic woodwind and brass by a promising young composer; Stockholm’s Kali Malone. A strong tip to fans of work by Caterina Barbieri, Emptyset, Sarah Davachi.
Arriving in the resonating wake of her self-released solo début Velocity of Sleep , and flanked by the recently issued Organ Dirges 2016-2017 tape for Ascetic House, the Cast Of Mind LP gently but grandly expands the constellation of Kali Malone's solo releases, next to her Upper Glossa collaborations with Caterina Barbieri, a tape with Ellen Akrbro, and acclaimed live performances.
Joined by Yoann Durant (Alto Sax), Isak Hedtjärn (Bass Clarinet), Gabriella Varga Kalsson (Bassoon), and Mats Äleklint (Trombone), Kali’s Buchla 200 Synthesiser forms the basis for a quartet of diaphanous and slowly unfolding electro-acoustic landscapes that externalise a highly personalised form of emotive topography.
In the titular opener, wood and brass trace the swooning ellipses of Kali’s Buchla contours in stately procession suggesting a sort of resigned march to battle, before the Buchla appears to dominate in the warped streaks of Bondage To Formula, but listen closer and it’s harder to tell whether it’s electronic or organic sources so fully lending flesh to her rich sound field.
The answer to that question is much clearer in Arched To Hysteria, whose keening, hunched electronic forces hold powerful potential to conversely induce paranoia and heavily hypnagogic effects, whilst Empty The Belief yields a lustrous, Raga-like drone capturing a marriage of Buchla and bassoon at their most transcendent and steeply attractive.
This one should be filed for reference and safekeeping beside recent transmissions from Sarah Davachi, Anna Von Hausswolff, and Catarina Barbieri = properly good.
One of the most influential, insular and multi-layered albums of the last three decades, created through endless hours of improvisation - involving almost fifty musicians and recorded in complete darkness, 'Laughing Stock' is an album that has attained almost mythical status since its release in 1991.
Following the commercial success of their singles "It's My Life", "Life's What You Make It” and album "The Colour of Spring”, Talk Talk retreated back into the shadows and produced two albums that defied categorisation. After the release of the first of these (Spirit of Eden) and a proolonged court case, the band parted ways with EMI and signed to iconic jazz imprint Verve who financed the long and complicated recording of Laughing Stock. Assembling almost 50 guest musicians, Mark Hollis is said to have demanded they record in almost complete darkness, improvising for hours to produce individual parts without hearing any backing tracks or surrounding material. Most of these recordings were discarded, but from what remained Hollis and producer Tim Friese-Greene pieced together a record that is essentially one long sequence of overdubs separated out into six long tracks.
Laughing Stock was to be their last album - on its release the NME described it as “horrible” and many listeners were left perplexed by its insular, unfathomable dynamics. But in the time since, Laughing Stock's legacy seems to have grown in stature with every year that has gone by. You can easily see the stylistic and conceptual markers left by Talk Talk in the way that bands like Radiohead went on to explore more open-ended, diverse sound sources and stylistic shifts - feeling able to experiment without fear of alienating a large fanbase as if it were the most normal thing in the world for a band with considerable chart success to do.
"Laughing Stock" is not only one of the most absorbing albums of the modern era, it’s also a masterclass of production and construction, a relic, perhaps, of an era when artists could completely disconnect from the pressures of their surroundings and dive deep into the wormhole...
Dreamlike second collaboration between Félicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, a deeply affecting play of contrasting textures, densities and space that comes very highly recommended if you’re into Ryuichi Sakamoto’s collaborations with Alva Noto, La Monte Young, GRM’s 1970’s output, classic 4AD/Cocteau Twins, that incredible Autechre remix of Tortoise, or indeed Félicia Atkinson's scene stealing Hand In Hand album from last year...
‘Limpid as the Solitudes’ is the steeply immersive second collaboration between Félicia Atkinson and like-minded, explorative spirit Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. Both highly regarded for a sensually tactile approach to sound, they bring the best out of each other in an abstract, spectral form of songcraft indebted to shoegaze as much as concrète dreamscaping, millennial glitch works, and downtown drone classics.
Following from Felicia’s superb ‘Hand In Hand’ album and Jefre’s ‘Fragments of a Season’ side with Alexis Georgopoulos (Arp), the Franco-American duo humbly dissolve their egos into a sublime suite of hypnagogic drowse belied by a sense of widescreen detail and unpredictable arrangements that simultaneously beckons eyelids to half mast whilst encouraging listeners to remain in the waking world. This gentle push and pull of forces is a wonder to undergo, with an uncanny capacity to make time feel elastic, even polymetric and vertiginous.
To describe the album as ambient would indicate a much too passive engagement with the sound - leave it to play in the background and you’ll miss a lot of the joy. Felicia and Jefre describe the record as a series of postcards - “things and sounds that happen vertically as a slow ascension, vessels communicating in dreams”.
The first half breaks down to three pieces where fractured snatches of field recordings emerge over viscous drone beds and diffuse daubs of original instrumentation. Together, they resemble a form of sonic picnolepsy of overactive minds (yours and ours), where we attempt to fill in the gaps of their keening and precipitous collage of field recordings and original instrumentation, but soon enough succumb to their dream logic between he fragrant open space of ‘And The Flower Have Time For Me’, and the swirling axis of ‘Indefatigable Purple’, where Félicia’s ASMR murmurs mingle most beautifully detached bass pulses under a canopy of smudged keys.
But to be honest that all feels like preparation for the subtly keeling sensation impressed by the B-side, a 17 minute drift into vaporised sentiments that requires the connective tissue of your body and massaged senses to become complete.
Collapsing Market co-founder Eszaid sums up the mood of a Europe on the brink with ‘Eurosouvenir’, a raw and gloomy debut album inspired by the metaphoric symbolism of 0€ banknotes found at tourist hotspots across the continent. Highly recommended if yr into Ron Morelli, Pan Sonic, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement...
Leading on from Collapsing Market’s celebrated release of Persian Classical music by Morteza Hannaneh in 2017, ‘Eurosouvenir’ further examines Eszaid’s fascination with the connections between finance, human emotion, music and art, as previously explored in the impending atmospheres and blunted rhythms of his two previous 12”s, ‘€€€’ and ‘Geometry of Disorder’.
The nine track essay offers Louis Vial a.k.a. Eszaid’s most concentrated yet spectral designs, using samples, machines and field recordings to limn a the outlines of overbearing machinery and the feeling of impending dread. But thanks to a fine, suggestive sense of minimalist ambiguity and ghostly inference, the session isn’t necessarily pessimistic, allowing for the notion that the darkest hour always comes before dawn, and that beauty may still spring in the space between “..an idealised ancient and creative Dionysian Europe and the current one, where free market and low-cost tourism values stand.”
Working in aesthetic space somewhere between Eszaid’s fellow Paris resident, Ron Morelli, Tuning Circuits’ “power electronics” style, and the most stripped down S. English gear, the results range from pulsating steamroller rhythms such as ‘XEU.4217’, to isolated, empty stomach tones in ‘Derivation Lente’ and the subbass rumble of ‘Notre Mer’ on the first side, before opening out stealthily in the B-side to more nervously pent feelings between the harmonic shimmer of ‘Souvenir 1’, the plangent, syncopated drums of ‘Alicante’, and the tip-toe ready stepper ‘GRD.4217’.
dBridge presents his first album in 10 years on sophomore LP ‘A Love I Can’t Explain’, radically prioritising slow, oblique, and super minimal arrangements to offer a fresh new perspective on his sound
Threaded with guest contributions by Kid Drama, Alia Freco, Lewis James, They Live, and Poison Arrow, the 12 tracks album feels more elemental, organic than previous dBridge records, swapping out romantic lust or raving spirit for a more vulnerable, introspective and personal set of expressions. You get the feeling that he’s not trying to make you bruk out or lose your shit, but rather to meditate on bass weight and reflect on a more subtle set of emotive cues.
“The ten-year gap between solo albums has seen dBridge releasing landmark collaborations and projects as part of the Autonomic movement, Module Eight, Heart Drive and exploring other Bpms as Velvit.
dBridge's journey within electronic music has seen him at the front and center of electronic music culture and then by design, as the seasons change, he has retreated to his own world to work on his next statement.
A Love I Can't Explain is the sound of dBridge making music for himself. As a man he finds himself in a new phase of his life- in love, married and a father that is no longer concerned with previous constraints and this has led to a new freedom in creation. An artist looking at the same sculpture but now from a new perspective.”
RVNG Intl mint their promising reissue label, ReRVNG with the superb first anthology of Michele Mercure’s home-brewed synth-pop and electronic experiments circa late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
It’s actually a co-release with Freedom To Spend, the Pete Swanson and Jed Bindeman-helmed reissue label that Michele kicked off with her acclaimed ’86 debut ‘Eye Chant’ in 2017. Following the mood of that long overlooked side, ‘Beside Herself’ collects 19 further songs and instrumental pieces from hard-to-find tapes, documenting a creative development from her earliest, skeletal guitar, rhythm box and tape loop sketches through the era of her mutant, theatrical synth moves on ‘Eye Chant’ and beyond.
“Michele is a natural collaborator and has made music for all sorts of contexts, film, theater, dance, etc. You get that impression though this set, you hear different sonic collaborators, but you might also be able to pick up on one track being more kinetic, another more cinematic, another taking wild turns that may be due to edits or changes in a performance or just because she made some interesting choice here or there. Spend a little time with “An Accident Waiting To Happen” or “No More Law In Gotham City” and you’ll be taken on a bit of a ride through different movements, sounds, concepts, concerns, all in about four minutes. Some of this music is functional, some of it is dysfunctional, it’s all good.
For those familiar with Eye Chant, you’ll hear some familiar elements in Beside Herself. You’ll find the cool synthesizers and beautiful samples, storytelling through pop gestures, an apparent dedication to technological and aesthetic experimentation.”
Punch Drunk & Tectonic pay dues to pivotal Bristol duo Smith & Mighty with an unmissable compilation marking 30 years of crucial, if overlooked, influence on Avon bass styles and the UK scene at large. Anyone into dubby strains of breakbeat rave, jungle, dubstep - the ‘ardcore ‘nuum - needs to check this one!
Weighing in 10 massive riddims recorded between 1988-1994, ‘The Ashley Road Sessions’ drills down to the mutant roots of deep, UK rave music as a synthesis of Jamaican dub, rolling hip hop breaks, deep house pads and nagging electronics - a sound that was arguably unprecedented in British dance music for its bias toward proper, wide and glutinous subbass and stoned, rolling structures, rather than wide-eyed nuttiness.
Back in the late ‘80s this sound sort of had parallels in the rolling dance forms of SoYo bleep techno and NYC house, but Smith & Mighty were out on their own in Bristol, a city steeped in Caribbean culture perhaps more than any other in the UK. It was here that Smith & Mighty shaped a definitive Bristol sound at the time when The Wild Bunch and Massive Attack were also coming into their own. It’s maybe stating the obvious that Massive Attack have had the most financial success since then, but ask almost any Bristolian DJ or raver and they’ll tell you Smith & Mighty were the real dons of that era.
‘Ashley Road Sessions’ is another timely reminder, then, where needed, of S&M’s masterfully grooving, deep and rude style. Stepping down the timeline from Bristol Sound Archive’s ‘The Three Stripe Collection 1985-1990’ to the most critical phase of UK rave music circa 1988-1994, you’ll hear acid house moulded for play on proper sound systems, with proper scoops that could recreate the sensuous pressure of their subs and crisp, lithe percussion and filigree moire of FX. Sounds that could equally work in a big dance or a packed, smoky blues, provided the system was rite and nice.
If pushed to pick favourites from this set, we’d highlight the bare bones pressure of ‘Through A Dark Cloud’, where the division between UK steppers dub, D&B and hard techno is only a slight pattern change; also the beautiful slow chuggers’ recoil and spine-tracing arps of ‘Higher Than Tempo’; the skittish jungle dexterity of ‘Filmscore’; the haunting dread dub dirge ‘Tumbling (Death March)’; and the proper ravers’ spesh, ‘Always Be There (Step Up)’, but we’d be remiss to not state it’s all killer, absolutely no filler.
For any with an interest in the history of UK dance music, the technoid links between dub and techno, the Black Atlantic, or who simply like getting red-eyed and having a bubble, this set is 100% indispensable.
Distinctively crafty coldwave technopop metrics from London’s Lia Mice, making her debut on Optimo Music. Go straight to the pendulous form and swirling vox of ‘We Are The Beat’ and you’ll know exactly what to do next.
“Here’s a few words from Lia - "When I moved to London in 2015, many things changed at once - I started going to more techno and electro nights, I changed my live-set setup, and I had access to a fully-equipped recording studio through my music masters programme. At the same time I was reading a lot of books on time travel, not just science fiction but also psychology and neuroscience - like how the human brain perceives time from moment to moment, how we can experience overlapping time, and how we interact with our past and future through memory and imagination. “The Sampler As A Time Machine” is the result of all these new influences coming together. The tracks were developed out of ongoing studio experiments interpreting these different ideas of time travel by using samplers and tape to re-sample and manipulate original music performed by me on various instruments including my voice."
Planningtorock - aka Jam Rostron - return with their radical fourth album ‘Powerhouse’ via DFA Records.
"‘Powerhouse’ was written and recorded across Berlin, London, New York and Los Angeles. It comes couched in the precision-tooled synths that have become Rostron’s signature, though critics and fans will hear a subtle, ear worm-y shift in style here: from the Noughties US R&B swagger of ‘Transome’ and the bubbling old school 90s house of ‘Beulah Loves Dancing’ and ‘Non Binary Femme’, to the funky, flute-laced ‘Much To Touch’ (the only track on ‘Powerhouse’ to feature a co-producer, long-time friend and collaborator Olof Dreijer of The Knife).Ultimately, ‘Powerhouse’ is a celebration of liberation, a groove-filled record that sees Rostron consolidating power both personal and artistic."
Ilpo Väisänen pays powerful tribute to Mika Vainio (1963-2017), his friend and creative partner in the legendary Pan Sonic, on a staggering suite of solo production riddled with field recordings of their 2000 world tour.
Treading singular, familiar territory for anyone acquainted with Pan Sonic, the 14 vignettes of ‘I-LP-ON’ invoke the awesome might of Pan Sonic at the crest of their groundbreaking prowess, when they were arguably among the first acts to alloy industrial, dub, ambient and club music into a genuinely new, yet timeless form.
The recordings were made between Kuopio, Barcelona and Karttula, and feature all the hallmarks of Ilpo’s solo practice that also appeared in Pan Sonic - head-caving subbass, scratchy percussion and sublimated tones - with Mika’s presence lingering in the timbral aura thanks to field recordings of their world tour.
There’s no need to point out highlights - ‘ÄÄNET’ is guaranteed heavyweight and best served cold and in one go for optimal impact.
Inimitable percussionist Eli Keszler takes time out from 0PN’s ensemble to unfurl the incredible, dextrous rhythms and electro-acoustic jazz keen of his masterpiece, ‘Stadium’ - a spellbinding follow-up to his cherished ‘Last Signs of Speed’ LP and recent duties working on 0PN’s ‘Age Of’ and Laurel Halo’s ‘Raw Silk Uncut Wood’ sides. For us this is one of the defining albums of the year - an isolationist avant-jazz masterpiece that is a total must-hear for late-night listeners and, we reckon, anyone with a pulse and especially recommended if yr into Milford Graves, Max Roach, Han Bennink, Conjoint, Jan Jelinek, Miles Davis...
With both his close collaborators Daniel ‘0PN’ Lopatin and Laurel Halo smoking in the back seat of ’Stadium’, Keszler is the dynamic battery behind a shadow-strafing suite of spidery rhythms and inquisitive jazz gestures, effortlessly binding avant instrumental dexterity with cool blue harmolodic sentiment in a timeless style that could feasibly be dated to any point between the mid ‘70s heyday of jazz-fusion and right now, except for those spectacuarly subtle production flourishes that render this album pretty much indefinable. It’s both highly complex and entirely accessible - in the most thought provoking, evocative way.
Painted in diffuse strokes, darting flurries, and intoxicatingly rich tones, ’Stadium’ shows off Keszler’s expressive grasp of meter, texture and proprioception from myriad angles. Combined with floating Rhodes chords, sighing woodwind and field recordings, the results also demonstrate his uncanny capacity to transmute sound to limn landscapes, architecture and the sensation of being lost in a crowd. In the case of ’Stadium’ he uses this ability to specifically reflect his recent house move from the semi-industrial scape of South Brooklyn to the high rise vistas and street level bustle of Manhattan, beautifully connoting multi-storeyed perspectives and a sense of scale that zooms from the atomic to the panoramic via a gauzy, morphing middle-distance.
Within this space, Keszler navigates webs of sound as structurally fascinating as a spider’s web or a deep space image of a distant constellation, seemingly moving on eight legs along steep vertical and fast-flowing horizontal axes with a shocking grasp of precision and pointillism that will leave new listeners to his work scratching their heads, wondering how to programme such chicanery electronically. But as longer term followers of Keszler’s work know, the magick is all acoustic and haptic; physically converting impressions of images and emotions into overlapping geometries of geography and psychology - and in this case effectively projecting a singular, inverted form of sonic deep topography, if you will.
Perhaps the most wondrous thing about ‘Stadium’ is the way it describes the paradoxical quality of keeping your head amid the chaos - a notion that will surely resonate with inner city dwellers as much as fans of the finest noise, jazz, avant-garde music of all stripes, and is firmly at the heart of ’Stadium’ and its amorphous milieu of sound.
Simply an incredible album.
Near the end of Reagan's first term, the Western Massachusetts Hardcore scene coughed up an insanely shaped chunk called Dinosaur. Comprised of WMHC vets, the trio was a miasmic tornado of guitar noise, bad attitude and near-subliminal pop-based-shape-shifting. Through their existence, Dinosaur (amended to Dinosaur Jr. for legal reasons) defined a very specific, very aggressive set of oblique song-based responses to what was going on. Their one constant was the scalp-fryingly loud guitar and deeply buried vocals of J Mascis.
"A couple of years before they ended their reign, J cut a solo album called Martin + Me. Recorded live and acoustic, the record allowed the bones of J's songs to be totally visible for the first time. Fans were surprised to hear how melodically elegant these compositions were, even if J still seemed interested in swallowing some of the words that most folks would have sung. Since then, through the reformation of the original Dinosaur Jr lineup in 2005, J has recorded solo albums now and then. And those album, Sings + Chant for AMMA (2005), Several Shades of Why (2011) and Tied to a Star (2014) had all delivered incredible sets of songs presented with a minimum of bombast and a surfeit of cool.
Like its predecessors, Elastic Days was recorded at J's own Bisquiteen studio. Mascis does almost all his own stunts, although Ken Miauri (who also appeared on Tied to a Star) plays keyboards and there are a few guest vocal spots. These include old mates Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), and Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, etc.), as well as the newly added voice of Zoë Randell (Luluc) among others. But the show is mostly J's and J's alone. He laughs when I tell him I'm surprised by how melodic his vocals seem to have gotten. Asked if that was intentional, he says, “No. I took some singing lessons and do vocal warm-ups now, but that was mostly just to keep from blowing out my vocal cords when Dino started touring again. The biggest difference with this record might have to do with the drums. I'd just got a new drum set I was really excited about. I don't have too many drum outlets at the moment, so I played a lot more drums than I'd originally planned. I just kept playing. [laughs] I'd play the acoustic guitar parts then head right to the drums.”
There is plenty of drumming on the dozen songs on Elastic Days. But for those expecting the hallucinatory overload of Dinosaur Jr's live attack, the gentleness of the approach here will draw easy comparisons to Neil Young's binary approach to working solo versus working with Crazy Horse. This is a lazy man's shorthand, but it still rings true. Elastic Days brims with great moments. Epic hooks that snare you in surprisingly subtle ways, guitar textures that slide against each other like old lovers, and structures that range from a neo-power-ballad (“Web So Dense”) to jazzily-canted West Coasty post-psych (“Give It Off”) to a track that subliminally recalls the keyboard approach of Scott Thurston-era Stooges (“Drop Me”). The album plays out with a combination of holism and variety that is certain to set many brains ablaze. J says he'll be taking this album on the road later in the year. He'll be playing by himself, but unlike other solo tours he says he'll be standing up this time. “I used to just sit down and build a little fort around myself -- amps, music stands, drinks stands, all that stuff. But I just realized it sounds better if the amps are higher up because I'm so used to playing with stacks. So I'll stand this time.” I ask if it's not pretty weird to stand alone on a big stage. “Yeah,” he says. “But it's weird sitting down too.” Ha. Good point. One needs to be elastic. In all things. - Byron Coley
Revolving around hot-wired sluggers, Melvin Oliphant III (Traxx), Beau Wanzer and Jason Letkiewicz, Mutant Beat Dance turn out a monstrous debut album packing 25 tracks of zig-zagging, raw electronic blatz for the dancefloor and beyond.
Including more gear than you can shake three sticks at, the MBM posse make up for lost time since their ‘PolyfonikDizko’  outing by throwing some of their strongest gear into the pot and stirring it good and proper for those dancers and DJs who prefer buffets over fine dining. That’s not to say this all ain’t tasty AF, but there is a f***ck tonne of it.
We could be here all day playing favourites, but there are some obvious numbers to highlight and give taste of the breadth of styles on offer. Most unexpectedly, the trippy recursions of ‘From Another Source’ come off like a cyberpunk take on Torsten Pröfrock’s Traktor aces, Funk Groove (skit) sounds like a killer reworking of Prince's Erotic City while ‘Revival 80s’ trades in killer proto-Drexciyan vibes; ‘Midi’ offers proper, scowling darkwave pressure. For the sickest sequencer tweaks, check out the ruddy swerve of ‘Uncanny Ignorance’, and try not to buckle in the psychoactive recursions of ‘The Fear of Future and Euphoria’ or spin your limbs off in the razorblade whirling arps and scissoring rhythms of ‘No Ambition’.
Max Graef returns to Tartelet Records with his second solo album.
"A dungeon dub symphony in four parts, Lo Siento Mucho Pero No Hablo Tu Idioma is an album's album. Brimming with new and old guests, interludes and bonus skits, it's a consummate sketchbook of Graef’s most unique music to date. “Every bit of music or work represents the mood and skills of a certain period,” he says.
Where Graef's critically acclaimed debut LP Rivers of the Red Planet began an adventure away from the dance floor, No Hablo wormholes into totally lateral territory. Not interested in repeating old tricks, No Hablo sees Graef on a playful joyride through a whole new crate of influences. Echoes of Japanese video game music bubble through the Zelda-channeling “Master Quest” and dreamy bonus level “Midi Break 1.” “Midi Lisa” and “Intershop” roll out mutant digi-reggae, while “Rush” and “Level Zero” dig deeper into bass and juke. The album also premieres music with Chrissley Benz, a Kazakhstani singer.
As Graef explains: “No Hablo is a lot more intuitive with a lot less editing, raw arrangements, filled with experiments of strange instrumentation and rooms. I worked on it in a very unmusical way.” But the record isn't a universe apart from his previous output. Throwbacks to the tape-deck world of g-funk and 80s boogie are still present, as well as a few psychedelic jazz cuts. The record also sees the return of Graef's father and guitarist, Gerry Franke, plus long-time collaborators Funkycan and Ludwig.
A record of 20 tracks, it covers many bases. It's your favourite PPU cassette via Ocarina of Time and out through a progressive garage jam, all stitched together in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Somehow it all makes perfect sense and reaffirms Graef's natural-born ear for killer hooks and unique melodies. The album's title – Lo Siento Mucho Pero No Hablo Tu Idioma – is an elegant and simultaneously ironic way of apologising for not speaking one's language in Spanish."
Well-kept enigma, EYE ushers in their most expansive iteration of psychedelic soul with a 6th, self-released session of woozy rhythm and space-jazz vibes.
Where previous outings tended to sprawling 1-sided sessions, and one 2-sider, ‘006’ is a 16-track album showcasing some of EYE’s most DJ-friendly gear in handy chunks that add up to a wickedly loose and trippy listen.
Voices, both sampled and possibly original, crop up throughout the record, ranging from what sounds like a blunted Gil Scott Herron over the smeared subs and glassy-eyed, high-register piquancy of the opener, thru to aching gospel blues vibes and even what sounds like Yukimi Nagano doing psyche rock.
But, judging from the sound of previous releases, the music is all detectably written by EYE (although we still don’t know if that’s a singular or plural), rendering a mosaic-like album fractured into blatz of hot-stepping punk-funk, lo-fi drum machine workouts, and jazzy turns of phrase.
If you’ve been intrigued by the mysterious project but not dipped your toes in yet, this is the one to check.
Airhead comes off like PC Music doing jazzed tribal house and jungle with these two pearls for James Blake and Dan Foat’s 1-800 Dinosaur label
Stepping on from his ‘Kazzt’  ace for Different Circles, Airhead returns to site of his ‘Believe’ release with a cheeky glint in his eye and a wonky swagger on ‘Clatter’, winding up a carbonated and freaky sort of slosh-jack foe the A-side, before ‘Droplit’ straightens up yuh backbone on the AA-side for a wicked spot of tail-chasing jungle breakbeat chicanery.
Thomas Ankersmit, last seen on a pair of excellent albums for PAN and Touch (in 2011 and 2014, respectively) pays tribute to legendary Dutch composer / electronic and tape music pioneer Dick Raaijmakers with an extended study in electronic music, utilising Serge Modular feedback and sine/pulse/random generators, contact mic, and tape speed variation to mirror some of Raaijmakers’ deeply weird experiments. As the label so eloquently explain - despite the abstract nature of the material, a sense of loss somehow pervades.
Raaijmakers is a genuinely legendary figure in the history of electronic music, and Thomas Ankersmit’s fitting homage lands almost five years to the date of his passing, aged 83, in September 2013. Replete with experiments with sounds not found in the music, but generated by the listener’s own ear as a strange side-effect, this extended piece re-contextualizes Raaijmakers’ ideas about composition and spatial experience to focus on the sounds of raw electricity through creatively abused electronics, composing with analogue micro-sounds, and the three-dimensional sound fields; referencing storms, thunder, crashing and falling objects, and distant radio transmissions.
The concept of the recording is directly inspired by Raaijmakers’ thoughts on “holophonic” sound fields to be individually explored by the listener. With this phenomenon, the listener’s inner ears actively generate sounds that don’t exist in the recorded signal, and which can change with a small movement of the head. In other words; it’s unlikely that you will experience this piece of music in quite the same way as anyone else, or that you will experience it that way more than once. And it’s perhaps this sense of transience; of not quite knowing whether what you’re listening to has a real, physical presence, or is a direct result of strange otoacoustic phenomena, that imbues this work with such unexplained melancholy.
Listening to music borne out of conceptual curiosity, it's rare to suddenly find yourself staring into space, thinking about time, about the intangible essence of experience and beauty, of life itself. Homage To Dick Raaijmakers is an exceptional recording; approach with patience and care.
Reto A Ichi is the new alias of Guillermo Scott Herren, also known as Prefuse 73.
"The act of escaping that which is predestined. / A hustle. Reto A Ichi is a sonic tabula rasa for Guillermo Herren AKA Prefuse 73. There are identifiable elements of the artist you already know - an uncanny sense for rhythm, an ability to shape samples and frequencies like clay, an affinity for the subtle changes of repetition - yet this is first and foremost music born from the need for silence. There is no easy entrance point or index for the listener.
The first album, The Lapse of Exchange, is the sound of life as heard from a small Chinatown window in downtown Manhattan, the thunder of populism on the horizon. The album opens with music that reflects the inherent tension between the life of the artist - the self-doubt, the late nights, the aspirations - and the world outside - the hustle and bustle of a city that never sleeps, the wars abroad, the politicians at home. It's a tension felt in the repeating, circling keys of "Let The Pianos Freeze", the pulsating rhythms of "No Juntos", or the call and response of pitched vocal samples in "A Sword In The Rain". Ultimately it all becomes too much for our unwitting hero: the car horns outside the window, the 24 hour news cycle, the early stages of an election that tears down any remaining semblance of normality. Reto A’ichi can no longer grasp his humanity or connect to that of people around him.
With the walls closing in, he packs his small life and escapes. This change in situation is reflected in the second half of the album, with tension giving way to a rush of emotions: modulated elation on "All Regrets", sweeping melancholy on "Tuesdays Always Awful", and soaring hope on "Broad Plant Pt.2". On Alone Moving Often, the second album, we find Reto A’ichi away from the city, lost in the vastness of empty summer houses and the complications that solitude brings. Sitting in the prison of his own quiet, Reto A’ichi seeks to capture the essence of silence: the compositions are stripped back further ("Pforever Reto"), the instruments given prominence ("So Contra"), and the chaos of the city replaced by the cacophony of nature ("Criminality"). To be alone, one must learn to constantly move in both work and purpose. As the rest of the record unfolds, Reto A’ichi comes to realize that nothing is ever truly quiet and that to run from the world is to simply find yourself in another part of it. A sense of acceptance for these unsettling realities is reflected in the music, from the harsher tones and frequencies that resonate throughout "Noise Counter Melody" and "Ghost Arpeggio" to the heavy stroke of the keys on "Alone Moving Often" and the haunting drone of "Mountainside Hillside"."
‘Sonder Somatic’ is the debut Bruce album for Hessle Audio. If Monolake came thru in the UK during the post-dubstep phase, his music may have sounded a bit like this one.
“Bruce – AKA Larry McCarthy – is set to release his debut album Sonder Somatic this October on UK imprint Hessle Audio. The album packs 11 singular UK club tracks that evoke a distinctly emotive and dense energy, channelling detailed sound designs, tangled textures and club anthems for 2018 and beyond.
The record is deeply varied in styles, ideas and tempos; from the tight rhythmic groove of album opener 'Elo' to the weaponised onslaught of ominous club cuts 'What' and 'Cacao' - through drifting, meditative techno and the skeletal sound design of 'Ore' and 'Baychimo.' Each track shifts the tonal mood in subtle and distinct ways, whilst retaining a consistent icy sound palette infused with colour and human warmth.
The shapeshifting Hessle Audio imprint is run by Pearson Sound, Ben UFO and Pangaea. For over ten years, through their combined tastes they have continued to unravel and explore the edges of sounds and ideas from the wider dance music scene, across the boundaries of the functional and the experimental, with consistently innovative results. As a long time follower of the label, Bruce wanted to craft an album that continues their singular attitude and approach; incorporating vibes from UK soundsystem music as well as music from his home town of Bristol.
"From being a fan of their work from the very beginning, it's not only the music they have released that has informed my taste/work, but also the journey they have formed through the application of their attitude and approach." - Bruce
Much of Sonder Somatic was shaped by Bruce's own understanding of club culture as a whole, and predominantly his personal relationship with it both professionally and recreationally. The album was partly written as an attempt to capture that rare transformative feeling that can cause you to fully lose yourself in a club space, disconnecting from your immediate environment for a short time.
Sonder Somatic follows EPs for Timedance, Livity Sound, Idle Hands and Hemlock, and comes 4 years after his debut EP 'Not Stochastic' for Hessle Audio. The album pushes the boundaries of what club music can be whilst expertly refining his work as both a club producer and an experimental sound designer. With a unique sense of flair that sets him apart, Sonder Somatic is set to raise Bruce's profile across all corners of the dance world.”
Hallow Ground's curious vinyl series takes in an engrossing session by Colin Potter - ov NWW, Organum and Current 93 notoriety - after editions from Andrew Liles, Norman Westberg, and Danny Hyde's Aural Rage.
'Rank Sonata' is most notable for the first physical appearance of 'A Wider Pail of Shale' - which sprawls to nearly 20 minutes of wistful drones and 5/4 drug chug on the A-side and tails off on the 2nd - and is also remarkable for the extra two cuts of elliptical loops, calving noise and gamelan-aping percussion on the B-side.
The long cut portrays Potter in control of sweetly keening synth harmonics and shuffling chug, hypnotic and gently insistent in effect - perfect for your next pastoral rave.
The B-side is great, too, with the recursive gamelan tones of 'And' strongly recalling the work of The Threshold HouseBoys Choir, and the ripping electro-acoustic ecosystem of 'Knit Where' operating somewhere between Bellows and FiS.
Optimo’s JD Twitch cherry-picks classics, rarities and percies from Germany’s original independent post-punk scene from 1979-1985, including necessary oddball grooves and songs ranging from Malaria!’s snotty ohrwurm ‘Your Turn to Run’ to Andreas Dorau’s NDW rocket ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’, an edit of Christiane F’s sleazy ace ‘Wunderbar’, and the killer disko mission of ‘Veb Heimat’ by Weltklang
“This was an era of particular artistic upheaval in Germany; emphasis was placed on expression rather than technical perfection, artistic impact rather than skill. Bands consciously abandoned the English-speaking mainstream with German band names and lyrics. “Although we had a small underground scene, it was very vibrant,” explains Gudrun Gut of Malaria! “Bands like Die Haut, our first band Mania D., Malaria!... we organised gigs ourselves, hung around together in a handful of clubs like Risiko or Dschungel and went to gigs at SO36. West Germany had other regional scenes too: Düsseldorf and Köln around Der Plan and the Ata Tak label and there was the Hamburg side with Abwärts. Germany didn’t have a real music industry like the US or UK back then.”
This new collection is a personal selection from JD Twitch: “The compilation is not designed to tell a definitive story of what was going on in Germany in this era; it is more an arbitrary collection of records I adore from a specific era with a specific attitude that hopefully together sum up some of the musical undercurrents in Germany at that time.”
The package features a host of rare and unseen photos from the period along with extensive interviews with artists including Beate Bartel (Mania D.), Gudrun Gut (Malaria!, Mania D.) Christoph Dreher (Die Haut), Michael Hirsch (P1/E, ExKurs) and Thomas Voburka (Weltklang).”
By a stroke of pure luck, Carola Baer’s intoxicatingly dreamy avant-pop side ‘The Story of Valerie’ is made available for the first time via Concentric Circles, a new label minted by Jed Bindeman - the co-owner of Freedom To Spend with Pete Swanson
Apparently discovered in the goodwill bins of a Portland, OR thrift shop during the short window before said bins are sent to the dump, Carola Baer’s sole album - originally a demo tape for prospective collaboration - came this • close to escaping everyone’s attention, but now takes pride of place as the first Concentric Circles release.
Written circa 1990 on a Yamaha DX7, a Casio CZ-101, and a basic drum machinee while UK-based Carola was passing thru San Francisco on her way to Australia, ‘The Story of Valerie’ is a transfixingly intimate and melancholic affair whose heightened emotive atmosphere was the result of meeting new spirits and foreign partnerships that turned into relationships.
Its 11 songs are hauntingly frank and confessional, delivered in a style unmistakably indebted to early 4AD, but not beholden to it, as Carola is just as likely to err into edge of new age ambient-pop themes perhaps equally comparable with a lo-fi Enya, whilst also interspersed with much more wayward expressions of stressed distortion and even some wild rhythmic experimentation.
Of course, the discovery of ‘The Story of Valerie’ probably isn’t going to change the world, but it is most humbling to know that this kind of brilliance continues to resurface from blind spots everywhere. In the most classic sense of great art, it sometimes takes time to find your audience. In this case 28 years.
Mickey Pearce resets his style slower, kinkier, and more spaced out, with excellent, far-flung vocals by Lena Platonos, Meuko Meuko!, and Poté laced in among his characteristic quirks and playful twists...
“Mickey Pearce is back in business with ‘One Hundred Smiles’, a new album of swaggering UK club music experimentations, and a new label Box Of Toys.
His first album, ‘Michael’ (2016), saw him exploring new territory; crafting a strange and melancholic landscape of beatless textures and leftfield house and techno. Approached with a fresh perspective, ‘One Hundred Smiles’ slows the tempo and ups the collaboration.
“The last record was a reflection of my situation around that time. This one is like stepping out from under a cloud. It’s about the joy of collaboration; meeting and working with new people. It’s also about the ambiguity of smiles, and the complicated relationships we form.”
The album features appearances from rising UK talent Poté, Taiwanese vocalist Meuko Meuko and Greek electronic pioneer Lena Platonos. “Poté is a crazy talent. We’ve done a bunch of sessions and made a load of tracks, two of which ended up here and one of which is going on his next record. Meuko Meuko is an artist from Taiwan. We communicate entirely via Instagram. She’d send me translations of the lyrics in Instagram messages, but I’m still not sure if I’ve chopped them into any sort of sense. The instrumental was called ‘Slime’, and she misread that intentionally or unintentionally to mean “smile” and sent me all these crazy lines about “your lovely smile” and it was just perfect. I love her. Lena Platonos is a legend, and someone I was honoured to work with. The day she told me she had been playing and enjoying the record around her friends was a good day.”
‘One Hundred Smiles’ is the first release on his own label Box Of Toys. The label is named the same as his 2017-2018 radio show series, which featured the album’s guests as well as Randomer, Machine Woman, Airhead, The Maghreban and Object Blue.”
Soul Jazz Records’ new Studio One album is a fantastic selection featuring all-star legendary Studio One vocalists - Alton Ellis, Marcia Griffiths, The Heptones, Horace Andy, Freddie McGregor, Sugar Minott - alongside a host of classic and super-rare Lovers Rock cuts, all of which Clement Dodd recorded at the Brentford Road studio.
"Lovers rock brought together many elements and here you will find sweet harmonies, late 1960s rocksteady, 1970s soul covers, disco mixes, recuts and new rhythms, which all fit together in a timeless twilight of love and harmony - as if lovers silhouetted by a Kingston sunset. Here you will find stone-cold classic Studio One tunes - Marcia Griffiths ‘Truly’, Horace Andy’s ‘I’ll Be Gone’, superrare cuts like Carlton And The Shoes’ killer 70s versions of ‘Never Give Your Heart Away’ and ‘Let Me Love You’ (vocal cut to Jackie Mittoo’s mighty Wall Street), The Invaders’ sweet lovers rocksteady bomb ‘Sweet Soul Rocking’ (currently for sale at £2,500 on certain online secondhand sites) and many more."
Burning, high-energy funk from Hawaii, 1980. Remastered and reissued on 7” for the first time
“In 1978, Nova performed for Obama. Well, kind of: Nova was the band for the Punahou School prom in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a young student named Barack (known then as “Barry”) was in attendance.
Backtrack to 1976, and Nova was the opening band for Donald Byrd at the nearby Blaisdell Arena. The day was Sunday, June 27. The following day, Isaac Hayes would perform on island for the admission price of $1.
Nova, led by singer Checo Tohomaso, was one of several go-to party bands during the golden era of Hawaii funk and soul music in the mid-1970s through early 1980s.
The band’s infectious gospel-funk-disco can be heard on their sole release, a self-titled 1980 LP that feels like one big party recorded live in the studio. (Check out the Marvin Gaye-inspired “I Feel Like Getting Down” on the 2016 ‘Aloha Got Soul’ compilation on Strut Records).
The story is all too familiar, however: funk band releases LP, the music goes dormant in years to follow, and today original copies sell for hundreds online.
Not long after the album’s 1980 release, Checo met Marvin Gaye, who was living on Maui (where George Benson also resided). Shortly after, Marvin invited Checo and his counterparts to join his multi-city tour across Europe. Videos of Checo rocking keyboards, percussion and singing background vocals for Marvin Gaye’s last European tour can be found online.
Checo, born in Florida yet raised in lush Manoa Valley as well as Okinawa, Japan, now resides in Vancouver, Canada, where he leads the VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir and continues to deliver his signature sound: high energy, positive, “sweet soul” music.”
Harvey Sutherland returns with new single ‘Amethyst’, a jazz-leaning broken beat odyssey born out of sessions with London-based saxophonist Nubya Garcia and drummer Kahlil Memphis.
"‘Amethyst’ is a transcontinental collaboration with two musicians also at the peak of their scene: London-based saxophonist Nubya Garcia and drummer Kahlil Memphis. Garcia has earned acclaim for her expressive style of playing, which has afrobeat, hip-hop and grime influences seeped into its bones rather than worn like a badge. Memphis, meanwhile, glides through complex rhytms with ease, their edges roughened up by a sensibility lifted from London’s pirate radio, around which Harvey Sutherland’s cosmic synths and strings orbit.
“I wanted something that had a jazz feel and lightness that was still really informed by the London broken beat scene,” says Mike now. That it’s jazz is secondary – what’s exciting for Katz is exploring the “exciting, ephemeral” sensation of “interplay, the sound of people playing together.” And whilst ‘Amethyst’ might signal a more experimental evolution in Harvey Sutherland’s sound, you also sense his desire to bring players, sounds and global scenes together into something exciting and new is only just getting started."
Armchair dwellers succour from A Strangely Isolated Place, marking 10 years of melancholy ambient/classical whimsy with ‘Full Circle’, a 17-track compilation of tracks by artists key to the label’s history an aesthetic, all pressed to vinyl for the first time
“The music presented in this compilation is probably the closest distillation of what has inspired ASIP over the past ten years. The ASIP website and its many versions; blog posts; guest mixes; even some of the older archived (now hidden) posts, were revisited to find the perfect tracks to put forward.
There was however, a few limitations in mind: (1) It had to be a track previously written about or featured in some capacity on ASIP from 2008-2018. (2) The track has previously not been released on vinyl. (3) The artist isn’t currently a part of the ASIP label family.
The end result isn’t a compilation of rarities, b-sides or label exclusives that you may have expected at a typical ten year milestone. Instead, it’s a compilation of music that has helped define ASIP as many people know it today. From drone and space ambient; to shoegaze inspired guitars; nostalgic electronica and melodic synthesizer music, Full Circle presents many of the elements that have been captured over the past ten years on A Strangely Isolated Place.
Pressed into the grooves of this record is some of the finest music to grace my ears that I felt passionate enough to feature on ASIP in the past, and now once more on vinyl - Ryan.”
For their second Twinscapes collaboration, bassists Colin Edwin (of Porcupine Tree and MetalliC Taste Of Blood) and Lorenzo Feliciati (Naked Truth, Berserk!) address their respective ‘80s pop roots in the context of the same ambient soundscapes, freewheeling improvisations and prog rock flurries that graced their 2014 debut.
"Picture Soft Cell jamming with King Crimson, Ultravox with EL&P, Depeche Mode with Giant Giant and you’ve got an idea of what’s happening on Twinscapes Vol.2: A Modern Approach To The Dancefloor Edwin and Feliciati pay homage to some iconic ‘80s bands while also pushing the envelope on that idiom."
It's that time of year again isn't it, and although we don't seem to get snow anymore in England (damn you global warming!) we are still just about capable of celebrating the birth of the guy who invented Coca Cola...
Stevens takes some of the classic traditional sounds of the season and places them next to compositions of his own to create something genuinely heart-warming and enjoyable without ever becoming cheesy or overwrought. Starting in 2001 and going to 2006 these songs have been pieced together with love by Stevens and his friends year after year, and that's what makes them so effective - his version of 'We Three Kings' might be heartbreaking, but his own composition 'That was the Worst Christmas Ever' is one of the most crushing pieces Stevens has ever put his name to, perfectly summing up the hopes and dreams of the season....
Colin Potter’s vaulted classic ‘A Gain’ bubbles up for reissue with Joyful Noise, presenting its first ever reissue proper of a UK synth classic (if we discount the augmented compilation of ’Entering Again’ released by Sacred Summits in 2014)
Recommended to Joyful Noise for reissue by Benjamin John Power (F*ck Buttons), who states “…the lines are simple but perfect… It’s incredibly well constructed”, Potter’s best known release prior to joining NWW is a totem of British synth music, an economically constructed yet lush-minded LP of spindly arps and blossoming harmonies that gives us life everytime we hear it.
From the steep 10 minute introduction of awe-inspiring arps and pinched melody in ‘On Entering York Minster’, to the heart-rending, proto-0PN flourishes of ‘Rooftops’, thru his scudding kosmiche piece ‘You Tell Me’, to the passage of curdled drone, scratchy drums and dissonant funk in ‘Mainland’, this is a 100% purchase for fans of England’s hidden reverse and far beyond...
Official reissue of Ryo Fukui’s highly sought-after masterpiece Scenery (1976), sourced from the original masters.
"Unquestionably one of the most important Japanese jazz albums ever recorded, Scenery reveals Ryo Fukui as a miraculously brilliant self-taught pianist fusing modal, bop, and cool jazz influences for a very personal, dexterous and game-changing take on classic standards made famous by Bing Crosby and John Coltrane among others. From "It Could Happen To You" and its serene and calm intro which magically flows into a jubilant and upbeat piece, to the out-of-this-world piano solo of "Early Summer", or the incredible teamwork of "Autumn Leaves" where Fukui leads Satoshi Denpo (bass) and Yoshinori Fukui (drums) into groove heaven, every single note on the album oozes precision, confidence and flair and every single section slides seamlessly into one another, creating a supreme and elegant blend of jazz. Often compared to McCoy Tyner or Bill Evans, Ryo Fukui was a genius in his own right, a true master of his craft whose perfectionism gave birth to some of the greatest music ever recorded. Scenery is his magnum opus and an absolute must-have.
The Hokkaido wizard-pianist followed Scenery with the soulful gem Mellow Dream (also available on We Release Jazz) in 1977. He then focused on improving his live skills, often performing at Sapporo’s Slowboat Jazz Club (which he co-founded with his wife Yasuko Fukui) and releasing 2 live albums. Ryo Fukui sadly passed away in March 2016, leaving behind a legacy of works that is sure to captivate jazz lovers for generations to come."
Impressively weird spins on boogie, dub, house and traditional Japanese themes from Yoshinori Hayashi, who’s built a solid rep in recent years via outings for Going Good and Jheri Tracks, leading to this standout debut album on Smalltown Supersound.
“Previous work by the Tokyo-based producer has been called “a complex patchwork of studio gear, live instruments, dusty jazz records and smartly cut library sounds, whose textures are soft and inviting. But its arrangements are constantly ruffled, squeezed, brushed and pinched—which is to say, nothing stays still for long” (Resident Advisor).
Hayashi presents his self-described “collage expression” throughout Ambivalence, which he produced and played in its entirety. Album opener, “Overflow,” is a club track inspired by Cecil Taylor. It’s freeform nature sets the tone for the album’s cosmic, hypnotic, and almost ritualistic approach.
Hayashi has studied under Japanese avant-classical composer Mica Nozawa. When not DJing, he works in a record store in Tokyo.”
Official reissue of criminally overlooked Japanese jazz gem Mellow Dream (1977) by Hokkaido pianist wunderkind Ryo Fukui, released in conjunction with the its legendary predecessor Scenery, sourced from the original masters.
"Firmly standing on the foundation he laid down with Scenery, Ryo Fukui continues his exploration of modal, bop and cool jazz sounds with meticulous grace and absolute mastery. As its title suggests, Mellow Dream ventures into slightly mellower, more soulful, and sometimes more contemplative territories (the Bill Evans-reminiscent "Mellow Dream" and "My Foolish Heart") while still packing the commanding punch Fukui’s work is loved for, as heard on the amazingly bombastic "Baron Potato Blues" or the gigantic McCoy Tyner/John Coltrane-influenced "Horizon" which sees each member of the trio (Satoshi Denpo is on bass and Yoshinori Fukui is on drums) demonstrating their virtuosity for 9 exhilarating minutes. With his sophomore album, Ryo Fukui swings from melancholy to vibrant joy with ease, reminding us that jazz is best served with a pinch of blues, and displays an immensely rare combination of pure talent, unique personal approach and focused discipline. The man undeniably deserves a spot in the pantheon of all-time great jazz pianists.
After releasing the outstanding Scenery and Mellow Dream back to back, Ryo Fukui worked on developing his live skills, often performing at Sapporo’s Slowboat Jazz Club (which he co-founded with his wife Yasuko Fukui), and even releasing 2 live albums. He sadly passed away in March 2016, leaving behind a legacy of works that all jazz lovers should explore."
David Tibet pairs his apocalyptic prognostications with plush pastoral backdrops ranging from unsettlingly rose-tinted to beautifully melancholic, supplied by Andrew Liles, Ben Chasny, and various, nefarious associates of Coil, including bagpiper Michael J. York and Ossian Brown (Cyclobe)
““The Light Is Leaving Us All” is the new album from Current 93, everyone’s favourite Hallucinatory Cuneiform SuperGroup.
Three years in Her Making and Shaping, “The Light Is Leaving Us All” Spells WithIn Her 11 tracks.”
The Cradle is the artistic alias of New York City-based musician Paco Cathcart. His latest album 'Bag Of Holding' presents a more serene version of Cathcart's guitar-and-voice based songwriting, integrating orchestral arrangements, spirited collaboration, and brilliant production techniques to give way to The Cradle's most singular and focused work to date.
"In addition to working as a recording engineer focusing on analog mediums, Cathcart has honed his craft over the years as a member of bands such as Big Neck Police, Shimmer and Climax Landers, all the while prolifically crafting nearly 30 personal solo albums and experiments across various labels and self-releases. 'Bag Of Holding' takes all of these experiences and uses them thoughtfully to build a masterful, proper full-length album of highly personal and expressive orchestral pop compositions."
Out of print on vinyl since 1989, the award-winning Kronos Quartet performance of Steve Reich’s momentous ‘Different Trains’ is made available again via Nonesuch, backed with Pat Metheny’s recording of ‘Electric Counterpart’
“On Different Trains, which combines string quartet with taped speech, Reich evokes his American childhood during World War II while also addressing the Holocaust. The New York Times declared it "a work of such originality that 'breakthrough' seems the only possible description."
Electric Counterpoint was written for Pat Metheny, who gave the world premiere performance of the piece at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival in November 1987. The guitarist performs against multiple pre-recorded tape of himself—and "splendidly," said the New York Times. The piece is "filled with jazz and funk-inflected rhythms, reveling in the spirit of American vernacular culture ... [and] finds Mr. Reich capitalizing on his strengths. Here, at the point furthest removed from convention, is where his creative juices flow most freely."
Epic, brilliantly curated two hour collection of new and exclusive material celebrating iDEAL Recordings' (1998-2018) 20th anniversary featuring JASSS, Stephen O’Malley, Jim O’Rourke (an epic 17 minute trance-enducer - honestly worthy of its own LP), Ectoplasm Girls, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Prurient, Puce Mary and many others...
We always say this - we hate comps - they’re almost always shite - but this one’s a bit of a mindmelter, featuring 20 new and exclusive tracks commissioned by label bossman Joachim Nordwall to celebrate the occasion of his label’s 20th anniversary, almost 1 track per year of going against the grain. Trust when we say that Nordwall's selection skills and sprawling network of interconnected artists has yielded a frankly ridiculous tracklisting, including a 17+ minute steamroom special from Jim O’Rourke, a pulsing electroacoustic killer from Stephen O’Malley, a rare new hookup between Prurient and Carlos Giffoni, brand new ambient/field recording peach from JASSS, an amazing fizzing drone tribute to Folke Rabe by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, plus Puce Mary and Jesse Sanes aka JH1.FS3 on fine fine form, and just too many others to mention - over two hours of exceptional music.
The story of iDEAL starts out in London 1998, when Nordwall was living the hardscrabble life: working in an underwear shop near Liverpool Street station; living in a filthy Bayswater apartment; scoring industrial records from the Music and Video Exchange; getting drunk in cheap pubs, and dreaming of starting a new record label and platform. He called it iDEAL, and 180 releases, 20 years later, it has become an invaluable node for non-standard, wayward expressions of modern electronic noise in all its mutable variation.
iDEAL’s success and longevity may well be down to the way that Nordwall treated it as a social and artistic home, offering a place where mutually exclusive styles could bed down away from the mainstream or the genre police, and feed into a much larger, work-in-progress definition of fringe music. ‘The Black Book’ extends, in the spirit of the label, an idealised compilation of disparate possibilities connected by a sense of musical mystery and chaotic energy.
"Twenty. Not sure if its worth celebrating, or mourning. Anyways, we decided to compile an album filled with artists we are very close to, others we admire deeply and a few we feel connected to in different ways. THE BLACK BOOK is indeed a celebration, of musical mysteries, energies and connections. Three LPs, six sides of music.”
Long live iDEAL!
Black Merlin largely and unexpectedly drops the beats and commits to a cinematic, sub-tropical phantAsia with ‘Kosua’, a lush yet dread-filled album dedicated to the mystery of Papua New Guinea, the world’s 2nd largest island, and one of it’s most unexplored. A must check for fans of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement
“Back in 2015 George Thompson AKA Black Merlin started a deep love affair with the remote island of Papua New Guinea. After his first album ‘Hipnotik Tradisi’, released on Island Of The Gods; George was intrigued to find a place drenched in culture and untouched by the western world.
In 2016 George planned his first solo expedition, venturing out to meet the Kosua Tribe. Over the course of the next two years George would record the sounds of the Kosua people. From their daily lives, ancient dance customs and wildlife. During one of these trips he spent 14 days alone in the jungle, getting in and out of the Mount Bosavi crater and further 3 days inside recording and filming his experience. These recordings and experiences formed the basis of his second album, Kosua.
Pop subversives Beth Roberts and Andrew Hargreaves (The Boats, Tape Loop Orchestra) pose their 2nd album as The Mistys with ‘Pregnant Mannequin’, following some five years on from their debut album ‘Redemption Forest’. It basically sounds like an incredible, saccharine shoegaze/dreampop album recorded to a salvaged D90 tape that's about to disintegrate, warbling in and out of time.
Referencing a wealth of pop archetypes via their uniquely claggy, recombinant filter to render a new vision for subversive pop music, Beth Roberts’ sugary vocals are smudged and buried deeper in the mix, processed with fizzing textures that only add an extra poignancy and a sense of struggle to the classic pathos of her voice. In key, Andrew Hargreaves lends some of his most sharpened, devastating hooks, bringing their project closer to a polysemous conception of ambient-EBM-pop.
The formative experience and naivety of 2013’s ‘Redemption Forest’ album has given way to a newfound complexity over the five year interim. It’s there in the sense of gauzy ambiguity that oozes through the record’s synth, drum machine and vocal construction, with results that speak to a mix of uncertainty and determination, asking and answering ideas of imposter syndrome that can sometime undermine the urge to self-expression.
The diaphanous scale of ‘Bite Marks’ welcomes us into their distant, yet familiar world, where the tape worn cadence of Beth’s vocals leave indelible marks on the mind in ‘Womb’, and ‘Velvet Water’ leads us down a pinched ginnel of darkwave pop, to arrive in the stately air of ‘Heat Death’. At their most forceful, they’re still a pair of tender souls, though, as in the push and pull of tempered rage and romance in ‘Cut by Degrees’, while ‘Celluloid Skin’ sees them offer a warm, fuzzy embrace of shoegaze-pop akin to The Cocteau Twins heard underwater, and the dark blue swells of ‘Blades and Boardwalks’ and ‘Metabolisms’ reveals their natural affinity to what was once called Witch House, and can now be heard as a modern form of cold wave or gothic synth-pop - styles that take their pleasure from a feeling of negative ecstasy, an effective inversion of ‘poptimism’.
Proper bittersweet and addictive pop feels on this one...
Electro-wave survivor Caroline Hervé a.k.a. Kittin (f.k.a. Miss Kittin) finds her place in the current scene with ‘Cosmos’ - her first album in five years - marking a strong, variegated debut for San Francisco’s Dark Entries
The original queen of ’00s electroclash cuts a elusive, haunting figure in ‘Cosmos’, largely leaving the dancefloor behind in order to better explore more oblique influences from the fringes of the last 40 years of electronic music.
Dropping the “Miss” prefix from her name (which was only added in the first place by party promoters, not by herself) signifies a return to Caroline’s roots and sharper, yet broader, definition of her own sound.
Essentially liberated from preconceptions attached to her prior work, Kittin pursues a strongly cinematic sort of sci-fi narrative format in ‘Cosmos’ that richly resonates with her influences, ranging from Jean Michel Jarre to Dopplereffekt.
From the track titles such as ‘Multiverse’, ‘Last Day on Earth’, to her stranger-than-fiction study on Trump in ‘#Metoo’, and especially in her finely sculpted, physical, organic electronics, Kittin really comes into her own on ‘Cosmos’.