Smart, fresh, blue pop music from London’s David Gray & Guy Gormley, presenting the first vinyl edition of their debut tape via Jolly Discs and Low Company
Regaling a suite of bittersweet synth-pop vignettes and lop-sided house jams for refined East London listeners and beyond, ‘The Word’ is a charmingly well-tempered and dreamy set of eight songs about love, life, and the odd bits in between, expressed in a mixture of dusty analogue textures, mulky melodies and David Gray’s genteel vocal.
Its songs could just as easily cater a low key ‘floor as a box room apartment, woozily keening from lilting marimba and Zummo-esque brass blurs in ‘Save’, to sound like a slompy, lo-fi This Heat in standout number, ‘The Hours I Wait’, whereas the airborne waltz of ‘Paparazzi Stakeout’ feels to reclaim Kompakt Pop Ambient styles from OCD-clean coffee tables. It’s hard not to be seduced by the balmy boogie loucheness of their instrumental ‘Father Brown’, but they’re definitely at best when it all comes together, with Gormley’s melodies, Gray’s vocals, and Jon Aumann’s lyrics at their creamiest and curious in the closing title track.
American rage on wax...
“Following the release of critically acclaimed LP Wake in Fright, which had two songs featured in the new season of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, it was time for Uniform vocalist Michael Berdan and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg to return to the studio. The duo decided to up the ante and add a third member to help perfect their vicious post-industrial dystopian cyber-punk. After some deliberation, Greenberg called upon drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) to help round out the sound they were looking for. Using a mix of triggered samples and real drums along with layered synths and good old electric guitar, the trio arrived at what would become The Long Walk after only a few short days in the studio.
From the opening whirr of the title track, it’s clear that the band is onto something special. Recorded in Strange Weather studios in the first part of 2018, The Long Walk is eight new tracks by the duo of Greenberg and Berdan, incorporating Fox’s skills behind the drum kit to add an entirely new dimension to the signature Uniform sound. Ditching sequenced tracks, Greenberg opted for single takes to highlight the Frankenstein-like guitar-bass-synth hybrid that oozes throughout the recording. Meanwhile, crushing guitar thunder is punched up by Fox’s masterful drumming while Berdan’s cries from the nether feel more desperate and morose than ever. This is Uniform at its most bleak, emotional, and powerful.
Lyrically, The Long Walk deals with paradoxes in spirituality and organized religion. Growing up in a devout Irish Catholic household in an Irish Catholic neighborhood, Berdan went to Catholic school for most of his primary education, and even was an altar boy. Fear of Biblical hell and damnation felt tangible. As Berdan grew and matured emotionally, he began to reject Catholicism bit by bit, viewing the church as a judgmental, repressive people who choose to live their lives dictated by hateful, fear-mongering dogma.
In the recent past, Berdan found himself slowly reconnecting with his Catholic background, observing how the faith that he found so repressive served as a great source of comfort and strength for so many. Eventually, Berdan began to view at the root of Catholicism and all major world religions a practice of love, tolerance, peace, and altruism. He began identifying as Catholic again, finding that basic tenets to be good guiding principles for daily life. Yet therein lay the contradiction that drove him from religion in the first place — many of the human traditions of the church also dealt in repression, intolerance, and bigotry, and some of mankind’s most hateful acts have been carried out in the name of God. Could one observe the rituals and practice of a faith while acknowledging and rejecting its ugliest elements?
The title The Long Walk comes from a Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) dystopian novel about an oppressive government that forces some of its children to endure a grueling game where there is only one survivor. In this case, it’s an allegory for an extended march away from comfort, family, and faith, and eventually into an amorphous sense of spirituality that can be understood on a personal level.”
Djrum strikes a fine balance between his beats and rekindled classical piano skills, also featuring Zosia Jagodzinska (Cello), and Lola Empire (Vocals). Check for canny highlights in the rudely serpentine swerve of Sex and the scrollin hardcore tapestry of Showreel, Pt. 3.
“'Portrait With Firewood' is Felix’s most personal body of work to date, the product of an emotionally turbulent 2017, capturing the range of feelings and emotions he went through in vivid sonic beauty. By putting aside his previous sampleadelic approach he returned to his childhood instrument of the piano as a core starting point.
"It's a confessional record… I realise that's a word mostly used to describe singer/songwriter rather than (largely) instrumental music, but I think it's apt. There's a sort of emotional candour.”
Felix is classically trained in the jazz tradition and influenced by the likes of Keith Jarrett and Alice Coltrane. Previously he was shy at the prospect of fans hearing his piano playing, but determined to overcome this fear he has brought forward a new honesty to his work. "Finding the confidence to work with my own piano improvisations was a big part of that. Once I had figured out how I was going to make the music, it actually fell in to place rather quickly.”
Felix's goal was to create something "overwhelmingly beautiful", but also to capture the "inherent melancholy in beauty in all it's impermanance and fragility". He took inspiration and solace from performance artist Marina Abramovic. "She has an incredibly deep understanding of the human condition, and expresses it in such a poetic way. Many of the themes of her work had particular resonance for me over the course of 2017 as I worked on the album. I was moved to tears on several occasions watching her videos or reading about her work.”
Felix collaborated with cellist Zosia Jagodzinska and vocalist Lola Empire. Jagodzinska recorded several takes of improvisations over the track 'Creature' which Felix would chop, pitch and layer into new melodic lines and seed throughout the album.
Felix's new approach expanded to experimentation with field recording, contact micing his beloved piano and purchasing his first hardware synth, all in service of enriching the personal, humane quality of the record. "Music helps me to communicate the sorts of things that I find almost impossible to put in to words. I think the process for this album has helped me create a more rich and emotionally complex body of work than I have managed before.””
John T. Gast completes his BTEC alchemy course with a 2nd platter of of high-grade, low-bit-rate bleeps and vibes from the archive c. 2013
On the ‘Club Version’ module he fuses zig-zagging, Zomby-esque grime arps and classic electronic soul pads on a rugged aerobic mystic exercise, while the flipped is given to a weightless night flight guided by electromagnetic pulses in ‘Jettison II’, and ‘NUN-001’ enacts a stereo warfare between militant grime artillery and robotic synth spirits, ultimately with no clear winner.
Big RIYL Zomby, Actress, Hype Williams!
Necessary reissue of Laraaji's Brian Eno-produced sophomore album, originally issued on Editions EG in 1980, two years after recording and releasing his gorgeous debut, 'Celestial Vibrations'.
With the boffin Eno at the desk, 'Days of Radiance' presents "an uncharted synthesis of resonating zither textures, hammered rhythms and 3-D sound treatments" rendering his fluid improvisations in a series of swirling, layered trips.
It's effectively new age in dub, inhabiting a unique space of complex, diffuse harmonic patterns and overtones mapping out hypnotic, oneiric terrain between the styles.
If, like us, you've run the grooves of 'Celestial Vibrations' thin, you really need this one, too.
Blazing début of hyper dance music from Tanzania by Bamba Pana, the first in a series of albums highlighting producers from the Sisso studio. Grimy hard dance from Dar Es Salaam deployed at 150bpm+, a huge recommendation if yr into Shangaan Electro, Príncipe, Nkisi - the most exhilirating dance music you’ll hear in 2018.
Jumanne Ramadhani Zegge a.k.a. Bamba Pana is one of the core producers, alongside Jay Mitta, of the Sisso studio - a central hub for MCs and producers in the Mburahati ghetto on the outskirts of Dar Es Salaam. Along with his peers, Bamba uses a laptop and software to update the local, usually acoustic and instrumental style of Singeli, computerizing its hyper rhythms and zinging melodies for the needs of younger crowds in an upfront, direct way that has translated far beyond its East African roots, as anyone who witnessed the Sounds of Sisso tour or heard the acclaimed compilation will surely attest.
As a début album statement, ’Poaa’ could hardly be more distinguished. Perhaps best compared with the urgent tempi and quicksilver syncopation of Shangaan Electro or Angolan Kuduro to outsiders, it’s effectively a form of Tanzanian grime or hard dance music, using rapid-fire, hypnotic rhythmelodies to drive crowds to dance in thrilling, new ways.
Bar one killer cut, ‘Linga Linga’ featuring the distinctive bark of Bamba Pana’s long-time vocal foil, MC Makavelli, the set is entirely instrumental with voices used only as strobing rhythmic filaments. The other eight tracks range from an “introduction to brand new dance from Africa” in ‘Agaba Kibati’, to what sounds like turbo speed Makina in ‘Biti Three’, whereas ‘Baria’ hops from shredding synths to hyper coloured percussion in wild style.
Meanwhile ‘Biti Six’ features some of the set’s giddiest harmonies, spiralling so fast they evoke weightlessness, while ‘Kusini’ is patently compatible with the ruffest P. Adrix riddims for Príncipe, and the incendiary ‘Pooa Bama Rmx’ provides a breathless 145bpm race to the finish that feels twice as fast, thanks to its inimitable, needlepoint percolations.
‘Janus’ features five superb Sun Ra pieces written and recorded c. 1970-71, collected together for the first time
It’s by far most notable for Sunny’s mind-blowing Moog performance and wildly distorted gongs, along with Marshall Allen’s astral winds on the A-side’s ‘The Invisible Shield’ and ‘Janus’, but that’s not to discount the balmy charms of his slow, mellow ‘Island In The Sun’, or the zig-zagging hard bop of ‘Velvet’ and the honking free squall of ‘Joy’ on the B-side, which both make their premiere appearance on vinyl here.
’35 S. Raymond 1976’ contains riveting, previously-unheard improv recordings made just before and after the historic first concert by Los Angeles Free Music Society, held on the 4th floor of their titular, run-down building in Pasadena, L.A.
Documenting an evening in late January, 1976, in the studio-turned performance and party space shared by Harold Schoreder and Tom Recchion, ’35 S. Raymond 1976’ was salvaged from two separate archival tapes, made before and after concerts by LAFMS bands, Le Forte Four, Doo-Dooettes, and Ace & Duce.
The recordings each consist of three “tracks”, if you want to call them so, of pre- and après-gig improvisations by the bands’ varying members in mutating configuration, feeding off a collective energy that would become an important locus of West Coast experimentation for decades to come.
On the first side we hear them earlier in the evening, twisting inspiration from Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa’s avant-rock, along with jazzy flights of fancy and a lysergic primitivism, into colours blatzes of splayed breaks, keening folk discord and quizzically quieter passages of woodwind that just reminded us of the recently uncovered Luc Ferrari improv side.
The 2nd side spies them later in the evening, perhaps a bit sozzled but more attuned to odder frequencies, as they rove from pranging organ and shards of guitar noise thru increasingly lysergic gestures to passages of swampy, head-melting oddness, culminating a soup of metallic clang.
Ultimately the results demonstrate an inherent connection with what Derek Bailey was doing with deconstructed blues, and what COUM Transmission were doing with psychedelic noise, some thousands of miles away in the UK at the same time, basically arriving at similarly bold new conclusions after the psychedelic scene had burned itself out in iffy riffs and pharmaceutical excess, and exploring a vitally transcendent, DIY alternative to scenes hemmed in by convention.
Bittersweet jungle D&B pearls from The Jaffa Kid on Rome’s La Beauté Du Négatif label
Rinsed and rinsable, ‘Start To End’ fires up one cranky downbeat alongside three high-velocity but moodily reflective jungle aces.
The downbeat piece recalls a lo-fi take on mid ‘90s AFX, whereas the thizzing clatter and haunted chorales of ‘Do The Job’ remind of Jega, and the brittle breaks and lush pads of ‘Place’ hearkens back to Plaid’s Balil output, before ‘Yyryrr’ cuts loose with flanging amens and lush rave pads in a way redolent of vintage Mark Pritchard jungle outings.
In 1996, Masaki Batoh, who’d spent the previous decade recording, playing and living in a hippie communal environment with the heavy chamber folk outfit Ghost, formed a new unit to play in a different manner.
"He’d just finished making an incredible new Ghost album - ‘Lama Rabi Rabi’ - but making music with Ghost was an intense and nspiritual endeavor; for a change, Batoh wanted simply to enjoy, with a free and open mind, the playing of the kind of music that he and his musical friends had grown up with; the 70s sounds of British, American and Japanese rock. ‘Help Your Satori Mind’ is a result of things they just naturally jammed on during a couple of sessions. It’s totally out of Ghost’s world. Along with Batoh were fellow Ghosts Fuji on congos and Michio Kurihara (a modern psychedelic rock guitar god previously in White Heaven and eventually joining with Damon and Naomi).
Also invited were notoriously crazy drummer virtuoso Futoshi Okano from Osaka’s heavy rock trio Subvert Blaze, bassist Chiyo Kamekawa from Yura Yura Teikoku and organist / pianist Jun Koto from Kakashi. Together, they were Cosmic Invention. The sound of Cosmic Invention was equal parts exploratory and explosive, accessing classical modes of psychedelic and progressive rock and roll music. These guys were so powerful when they played together, Batoh eventually recruited them to form most of the line up for Ghost’s second US tour, in 1997, after ‘Lama Rabi Rabi’ was released. As Ghost, from coast to coast, they pushed American audiences up against the wall with the enormity of their sound. That, though, was the end of their group partnership together; Cosmic Invention was a one-time excursion into this music. Today, The Silence combine elements of Ghost and Cosmic Invention into their eclectic ongoing experience.
Originally, ‘Help Your Satori Mind’ was released by The Now Sound, who’d previously issued two Batoh solo records, both of which became available on Drag City (as ‘Collected Works’) following the collapse of The Now Sound, not too terribly long after the Cosmic Invention release. So, this record has been kind of forgotten for some time, which isn’t the fate that was meant for it. It is the kind of item to be unearthed in a sarcophagus many years later - and at 20 years and counting, now is a good time. This marks ‘Help Your Satori Mind’s first appearance on LP, the vinyl giving new dimension to their multi-hued, raw rock performances. It’s the first appearance of the aptly-titled ‘Long Jamming’, which wasn’t included on the original release. It’s also the first appearance of images of the band, taken while deeply in the album making spirit."
Another dusty peach from ATFA: an 8-track Afro-Country album recorded in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
“In the 1980s, Abidjan’s Jess Sah Bi & Peter One became one of the most popular musical acts in not just the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire), but broader West Africa, eventually performing with a full band to stadium-sized audiences at home and throughout Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo. Although they’d been popular radio and television performers for several years prior, the catalyst for Jess and Peter achieving this new level of stardom was their debut album, Our Garden Needs Its Flowers, recorded and released in 1985.
In contrast with the heaving funk, disco and reggae sounds of the day, Our Garden Needs Its Flowers was a lush fusion of traditional Ivorian village songs and American and English country and folk-rock music. Jess and Peter sang in French and English, delivering beautifully harmonized meditations on social injustice and inequality, calls for unity across the African continent, an end to apartheid in South Africa and the odd song for the ladies, all set against lush guitar riffs, rustic harmonica and rollicking feel-good rhythms.
Wrapped up in the sort of pop sensibilities that see YouTube rips of their music littered with nostalgic French-language comments reflecting on a time now some thirty-plus years distant, Awesome Tapes From Africa’s reissue of Our Garden Needs Its Flowers memorializes the best intentions of the golden years before the Ivory Coast’s social, cultural and political landscapes transformed radically. Surprisingly, it’s the first time the album has been re-released in a high-fidelity, legally licensed form. (Currently available versions for sale on digital retailers and posted on YouTube are bootleg recordings of a crackly LP; no one has sent the artists royalties for these sales.)”
‘Brilliant days’ is a lovely album of tender, glitching pop-ambient fuzz from Michiru Aoyama, a Japanese ambient artist residing in the ancient seaside city of Kamakura, south of Tokyo. Listeners susceptible to the lower case romance of the Cotton Goods label or the widescreen washes of Fennesz will find much to admire here
“Michiru Aoyama’s music was hand-chosen by legendary composer Ryuichi Sakamoto in 2006 for a Japanese radio audition and he later flew out to Berlin in 2008 to further his studies in electronic music production. Since then, Michiru has released projects on prominent ambient labels such as Organic Industries, taâlem, and Somehow Recordings.
Michiru Aoyama’s Brilliant Days LP comprises of two long tracks featuring untitled songs that weave in and out of each other. Michiru’s signature guitar harmonics are treated with serene electronic filters and met with youthful under-layers of electronic experimentations and glitchy backdrops.
Brilliant Days leaves the listener to their own narrative of nostalgic youth, love, and memories.”
Paranoid London pay tribute to legendary San Fran DJ, Bubbles Bubblesynski, who was tragically gunned down in 2017, nearly putting an end to their plan to make music together…
“We met Bubbles at the Sunset Campout in California last year after giving him a pair of socks to pad his bra out. He was exactly the kind of character we love to work with & we all decided that we should make a track together. The week that we were supposed to send him a backing track tragedy struck & he was gunned down & killed in the Tenderloin District of San Fransisco … San Fran-fucking-sisco! The one place on Earth he should have been safe. To date the crime remains unsolved & nobody has yet been charged with his murder (although it is pretty much an open secret who was responsible).
The next time we were in San Fran we were talking to mutual friends & they told us how excited he was to be doing the record. We couldn’t let that slide so we decided we had to make the track.
We took some audio from his Facebook account (a piece of film where he breaks in to a construction yard on his own, sets up his decks & holds a rave for himself), did our usual repetitive drums & acid and married the two together. The result is The Boombox Affair.
Finally, this record is a celebration of Bubbles’ character & vitality & a celebration of the diversity of our culture at a time when we all need reminding that dancing itself can be an act of subversion & revolution. Dance your asses off, drink, party, get off with each other: it’s what he would have wanted.”
‘Sido Not Dead’ is a super groggy drone rock killer from Clayton Noone’s CJA, arriving in the wake of his head-slapping turn with The Futurians, which is also newly dispensed by Alga Marghen’s awesome Planam sublabel
The kind of record that will drive some to the edge of madness, and others to peaks of distorted euphoria, ‘Sido Not Dead’ says its piece in the bluntest, unconsciously honest terms with some 40 minutes of detuned, monotone, droning guitar jangle that makes everything else seem posh and try hard by comparison. Think Tony Conrad and Sunn 0))) attempting to undergo each other, and you’ve nearly got the measure of this magnificent slab. Maaaan, this shit is strongggggg.
“As reported by Campbell Kneale (Birchville Cat Motel, Our Love Will Destroy The World, C-Psi-P): "I narrowly avoided an English-second-language tete-a-tete in Belgium once when I refused to believe in the face of all evidence that Sunn O)))'s newly released Flight Of The Behemoth (2012) was not CJA. I was wrong, but whatever... I was already ascending Lucifer's path to the stars not garbed in chic grim-robes but a pilling homespun jersey that stunk of wet dog. I confess and repent... for me, all 'this kinda music' was an exercise in deftly crafted slovenliness and anonymous surface texture, but in spending time with a tape simply labeled Sido Not Dead I was struck dumb with the burning religious fervor of real people who had truly forgotten to give a fuck and at that very moment unto me was bestowed a mighty vision of two-bar heaters, worn cream carpet, mooching about in slippers with cups of budget herbal tea. A long winter weekend that passed too close to a tape recorder and whose glacial momentum had accidentally combed the little magnetic thingies on the cassette into recognizable geometric shapes. This was my (unwashed) fork in the road: facile, nihilistic, too lazy to make it to the letterbox, yet enlightened, enlivened, ascended, eternal... blangblangblang... GRONGGRONG... blangblangblang... GRONGGRONG... Fellow pilgrims and travellers to furthest inner outposts... herein lies your scripture."
Inch-perfect indie-pop with an unmistakeable Arthur Russell-esque sound from Westerman, produced by the genius Bullion
A-side’s ‘Confirmation’ is a radio-friendly 3 and half minutes of warmly harmonised folk-soul pop vox ready for the Yacht (or your canal-side barge), while the B-side is bluer, forlorn and blessed with an aching simplicity comparable to Jose Gonzales.
From a basement in New Jersey, Tommy Falcone remade himself into a DIY Phil Spector. From 1962 to 1970, he founded and ran Cleopatra Records, discovered and mentored young Garden State talent, wrote songs and produced wild studio effects, and quit his day job to promote it all himself.
"Trained as an accordionist, Falcone had a whirlwind imagination and an omnivorous approach to genre, expressed through acts like the Centuries, the Tabbys, Johnny Silvio, the Inmates, Bernadette Carroll, the Hallmarks, Vickie & the Van Dykes, the Shandillons, Eugene Viscione, the Shoestring, and more. Cleopatra became a time-capsule of every 1960s pop style imaginable—garage rock, psychedelia, surf, girl groups, soul, novelties, exotica, even a crooner—a kaleidoscope of sound in search of the ever-elusive hit record."
After 25 years out of print, Julee Cruise’s 2nd album, produced by Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch, is finally pressed to vinyl by Sacred Bones. In case you’ve never heard it before, the vibe is as languid and dreamy as you could hope for, with highlights in the carmine noir of ‘Up In Flames’ and the subtle industrial underpinnings of ‘Until The End of The World’. Just unmissable late night music…
“25 years after its initial release, Julee Cruise’s sophomore album The Voice of Love is being issued for the first time on vinyl as a deluxe 2xLP, and returning to print on CD. In 1992, after the release of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, David Lynch, Angelo Badalamenti, and Julee Cruise returned to the studio with new compositions as well as the intent to craft previously instrumental score-based material from Fire Walk With Me and Wild at Heart into Julee Cruise songs. The result was 1993’s final studio album The Voice of Love. “In the studio, David would always say ‘[sing] like an angel, like an angel…” Cruise remembers.”
David Lynch and Sacred Bones’ relationship bears sublime, vintage fruit with ‘Three Demos’ by Julee Cruise, dating to her earliest recordings with Lynch & Badalamenti that would become her debut LP, ‘Floating Into The Night’, as used on ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Twin Peaks’
The recordings yield a rare peek behind the red curtain of Lynch and co in the mid-late ‘80s, spying the formation of what would become one of modern culture’s most indentifiable, influential and referenced pieces of music.
Taking in the original Floating (Demo), which opens with a whispered spoken word into - “ever since you kissed my eyes / I find myself alive / I’m floating”, along with the timeless lullaby of Falling (Demo) a.k.a. the Twin Peaks title sequence music, and the intimate whimsy of The World Spins (Demo), this is a precious slice of history not to be missed by any fans of Lynch or indeed smoky, ethereal ambient / jazz / soundtrack music of all stripes.
Melodic indie-pop jangles, new from Mississippi
“After a slew of tape releases and years of playing shows around the Pacific Northwest here is the debut vinyl-release from Table Sugar, a band that could only be described by our team of underpaid writers as ‘very good’. Post-Punk/Genre Karaoke in the vein of other contemporaneous style-scramblers and re-thinkers such as LITHICS, HOUSEHOLD or perhaps even GEN POP (shared members??) A ditty about friendship and collective/subjective experience in the current Olympia moment—a city where simultaneously everything and nothing goes on. Think maybe of the music of TWELVE CUBIC FEET or the ethos of a band like MORBID OPERA or DELTA 5, or really just think whatever you want. The new wave of the O-Town sound. Look for a 12” version of their first keyboard-less tape from 2016 out later this year on Water Wing Records. “Thanks to each other.””
Bonkers, delightfully daft free improv from inspirational West Coast refuseniks, Smegma, documenting Ju Suk Reet Meate and pals having a lark in L.A. c.1973-74 while their parents were out of the house
“New primitive-suburban-folk music from Temple City and Pasadena, CA, circa 1973-4. This new edition is culled from the original unissued Smegma tape vaults of Ju Suk Reet Meate and represents the most pure expression of the insular sound-world that was spontaneously discovered as a group. Unlike 2017's Look'n For Ya (TES 154LP) no song forms are ever used, instead fearless group improvisational vocals take you on a strange shape-shifting journey through operatic show tunes, spirit visions and visits to a delirium motel room.
The only exception is the title track "Abacus Incognito" that features poetry by Dennis Duck (Human Hands, Dream Syndicate, LAFMS...) with accompaniment by the family stereo console record player/radio unit and utilizing conventional instruments creating a strangely unique non-jamming sound. Except for the first track, all sounds were recorded casually in various band-members parents' houses while they were away... they would have been horrified! The final track is possibly one of the strangest concepts ever recorded, inspired by both the Lord Dunsany story The Three Infernal Jokes and the most popular record of 100 years ago, The O.K. Laughing Record (or OKeh), there is The Smegma: Laughing to Death Record.”
Late 2016’s ‘Highway Songs’ brought Papa M back to us, after many years of silence and several harrowing dances with death for his Id-ego/host body, David Pajo. Now, two years on down the road, we’re all here again to witness ‘A Broke Moon Rises’.
"‘Highway Songs’ was a necessarily cathartic experience in all phases. Afterwards, with no tour dates forthcoming (partially due to lousy clubs and their lack of wheelchair-accessible stage doors), it felt good just to play for fun again, like being in the practice space instead of the psych ward - a much healthier change of pace than some might guess. David blew it out; all the different styles he’s played in over the years, from folk-blues to metal, electronic, pop, Bollywood... all of it. When the spasms subsided, however, a back-to-roots sediment remained in the bottom of the bowl, which he read as a motive for a new Papa M album done with all acoustic instruments.
That’s how there’s nothing electric about ‘A Broke Moon Rises’. Even the drums are acoustic. The five songs of ‘A Broke Moon Rises’ find David focusing his technique in unknown directions, to find out what he can do with them. When that happens, he finds himself on the very spot where Papa M music becomes alive. As the quietly funereal march of the opening track resonates with a spare drum beat, we are completely transfixed into the open spaces around the guitars. David’s been engineering and mixing his records for years, so the sensation of his sound-thoughts doesn’t entirely surprise us, even in their latest, acoustic anointment. Layers of guitars curl and unfurl, falling away from the centre with feathery softness. Slide figures cut through the progressions with a rusty glide. Arpeggiations flicker with light, leading into a change that’ll break on ones ear like a small revelation. Even the sound of Papa M playing in the room, leaning forward or untouching the strings, provides textural byplay in created space. ‘A Broke Moon Rises’ is meditative in the most active sense, with the unquiet mind leaping from place to place in a static, spartan theatre. All of which action makes hypnotic music, perfect for listening.
The album’s title is based upon his son’s observation of a half-moon one evening (when his son was 29) and it helped infuse the record with an essential feeling, which draws to a decidedly tasty conclusion with David taking on an Arvo Pärt piece. After years of fascination with the music, listening in passivity, he finally decided to do something about understanding it by playing it himself. If you’re wondering, that’s the key to ‘A Broke Moon Rises’."
First ever official reissue of a synth-heavy Nigerian disco diamond, recorded and produced in 1979, known to trade 2nd hand for the price of return flights from UK to Lagos...
“Livingstone Studio present a reissue of Gboyega Adelaja's Colourful Environment, originally released in 1979. Fresh from touring with Hugh Masekela -- The Boy's Doin' It (1975) -- Gboyega Adelaja goes into the lab to drop heavy keyboard science on his Moog and Fender Rhodes. Its Joe Sample meets the Afro funk of BLO. With names like Jake Sollo on guitars, Mike Odumusu (BLO, Osibisa) on bass guitar, and Gasper Lawal on percussion, this is a top quality, Afro funk -- an all-stars affair that shines from the inspired interventions, masterly arrangements to the sublime production.
Adelaja on the period of recording: "I was already following Hugh Masekela when I met him, he was an outstanding musician and I knew of his collaboration with Hedzoleh, that band brought him nearer to many of us, because he was playing authentic African melodies with the Hedzoleh sound which was mostly percussion oriented. Yes I knew about Hugh's music before I met him. In fact when we started playing together, he insisted that I stay with him in our three bedroom apartment, other members of the band had their own apartments, but Hugh and myself shared the same three bedroom apartment".
"We were touring, under Casablanca owned by Neil Boggart, we toured as professional musicians, flying to our gigs. There was a time when we were touring with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic we had two luxury buses deployed for our use. We made many friends where ever we went to play, we met many big and popular musicians who came to watch our shows, the Spinners came to see us in Detroit, we met Wayne Shorter of Weather Report, Freddie Hubbard, we played a gig with Herbie Hancock at the Carnegie Hall New York City, we toured almost all the 50 States of the US."
This Heat’s beguiling 1977 Peel Sessions, collected as ’Made Available’, is somewhat ironically their hardest to find vinyl release. Now remastered from original tapes and sanctioned for reissue by Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward, they are finally ‘Made Available’ for the first time in 20 years
In 1977, the year after punk’s revolutionary arrival in the UK, This Heat broadcast two sessions for John Peel’s legendary BBC programme. Recorded on March 28th and October 26th, with Tony Wilson and Malcolm Brown as producer, respectively, the sessions paid fascinating testament to a band who were unafraid to go against the grain, fusing mannered, proggy art school sensibilities with jazzy, outernational rhythms and punkish no wave dissonance in a way that effectively set the path for post punk’s explosion of experimental ideas.
This Heat’s two Peel sessions pre-dated their landmark, eponymous 1979 debut LP by a few years, and effectively document the band in gestation period, hatching a mannered yet mutant sound that would influence countless artists, from Hot Chip to Powell, over the years to come. And it’s not hard to why! From the taut angularity of ‘Horizontal Hold’ to an early iteration of ‘Not Waving’ and the funereal enchantment of ‘The Fall Of Saigon’ from he first session, thru the schizzy eruptions of ‘Rimp Romp Ramp’ to the clash of possessed outernational styles and boundary-pushing rock chops on ‘Makeshift’ in the 2nd session; this set is a properly outstanding record of its times, and a huge highlight of the inestimable These Records label.
Thumping psych-rock trance-outs between Chilean krautrock unit Föllakzoid and J. Spaceman (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized)
“It should come as no surprise to fans of the Chilean trio Föllakzoid that upon meeting the legendary Jason Pierce a.k.a. J. Spaceman (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized), they discovered they were kindred spirits. Föllakzoid and Spaceman’s projects share a restless drive to explore the outer limits of music, as well as an uncanny ability to lock into a groove until it infiltrates the deepest recesses of the listener’s psyche. When Föllakzoid met Spaceman backstage at a Wooden Shjips gig at London’s Electric Ballroom several years ago, they instantly became friends.
For London Sessions, the Chileans and Spaceman joined forces for new live renditions of “Electric” and “Earth,” two highlights from Föllakzoid’s III. The recordings were made in a private studio in London while Föllakzoid was on tour in Europe in June 2016, and Spaceman’s contributions breathe new life into the songs.
“Jason added a very different harmonic atmosphere to the songs,” guitarist Domingo Garcia-Huidobro explained. “It somehow rearticulated the space and metric that already existed in a way the band never could. These new versions have a different edge.”
Brilliantly cruddy sci-fi garage rock skuzz from Dunedin, NZ’s The Futurians - think Black Mecha meets MARS at The Dead C’s gaff
Following dozens of tapes, CDs, lathe-cut 7”s and a few LPs dispatched over the past 15 years, ’Programmed’ is the first time we, like many others, have encountered the raw might of The Futurians and their incendiary sound.
As true offspring of the notorious Dunedin sound forged by Michael Morley and his ends-of-the-earth cohorts, The Futurians are raw as heck and properly up for making an hypnotic racket. On the A-side they do it on a side-long jam of oil-sputtering, churning motorik groove and possessed vocals demonstrating a blend of athletic endurance and locked-in drunkenness, before dividing their energeis into six more succinct bits on the back ranging from raging walls of mentation electronics a la Black Mecha, to clattering death rock swagger, and hammering primitivism recalling MARS’ no wave blatz, and proper, The Dead C-style psych soreness.
A no brainer. Most satisfying.
Two This Heat masterworks surface on vinyl for 1st time in 20 years, pairing the funky, cut-up noise of ‘Repeat’  a reworking of their seminal ’24 Track Loop’, with the haunting, extended gamelan workout ‘Metal’ , which effectively made up their 3d album, and were last found together on vinyl in the ‘Health And Efficiency’  2LP
Still sounding like little else before or since, ‘Repeat’ and ‘Metal’ are held in almost cultish regard by myriad avant-garde and experimental music observers and lovers. Both pieces stand at a crossroads of ideas, twisting traces of krautrock and Afrobeat with production techniques borrowed from concrète cut-ups and dub reggae to open up a new space in the fabric of musical space-time that best reflected the world around their studios in Brixton, London.
The A-side is given to ‘Repeat’ in its 20 minute entirety, offering a remarkable, reticulated edit of their early masterpiece, ’24 Track Loop’ stripped down to dubbed-out drum breaks and burning organ drones that effectively bridges the difference between Gruppo D’Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza and Raime. On the B-side, they effectively invert that sound, recording a carillon of gamelan-inpsired metallic clangs outside their Cold Storage studios, resulting a windswept sort of electro-acoustic hypnosis that still patently works its magic nearly 40 years later.
Mutant trap maverick Suicideyear tees up his first album in five years with ‘Color The Weather’, a gauzily nostalgic collection named in reference to a local colouring competition for kids
The deep south trap sound is still integral to Suicideyear’s style, but less prominent this time, with more attention placed on melodic and harmonic development, ultimately bringing him closer to Clams Casino’s sound.
Make sure to check for highlights in the crystalline, hexagonal drum patterns and off-kilter sino tang of ‘Kept Design’ and the deep south Autechrian pressure of ‘Path’.
Bound to beguile and even shock their legion followers, Animal Collective genuinely push into experimental psychedelia with their ear-testing soundtrack to a visual study on coral reefs...
“Tangerine Reef is a full-length audiovisual album by Animal Collective (Avey Tare, Deakin and Geologist), in collaboration with Coral Morphologic, to commemorate the 2018 International Year of the Reef. Tangerine Reef is a visual tone poem consisting of time-lapse and slow pans across surreal aquascapes of naturally fluorescent coral and cameos by alien-like reef creatures (note: no CGI or artificial enhancement was used in this film). Tangerine Reef is the sight and sound of a literal underwater collective of animals.
In 2017, the Borscht Film Festival commissioned Coral Orgy, a collaborative site-specific performance by Animal Collective and Coral Morphologic ‘celebrating the cosmic synchronicity of sex on the reef’ in the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center on Miami Beach. The success of this performance ultimately led to this studio recording of Tangerine Reef and a subsequent performance at David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption earlier this spring at Brooklyn Steel in Brooklyn, NY.”
RAMZi’s smudged ‘Phobiza’ cycle culminates with Vol. 3 and the birth of her highly promising FATi Records label
Taking the artist’s impressionistic trilogy to a natural conclusion, ‘Phobiza Vol 3: Amor Fati’ seals the series with a warm kiss off in 11 parts featuring guest input from Asael, Regularfantasy and Hashman Deejay. It's a lush, blunted, tropical session.
Arriving five years after Phoebé Guillemot's debut, ‘Amor Fati’ is love letter to an imaginary island perhaps unrecognisable from the infamous Ibiza of ‘Uncovered’, and parallels the sensual spaces dreamt up and enacted by white isle dreamers such as Tony Pikes or N.O.W.
Still, even those dreamers stop short of RAMZi’s fantasias, rendering a series of head-melting scenes in flux between hallucinatory dub, early hours house and balearic vapours that work so well as a psychedelic, late night soundtrack for tripping romantics.
Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury have once again joined forces with writer and director Alex Garland for the filmmaker’s Paramount film ‘Annihilation’, starring Natalie Portman and produced by Scott Rudin and David Ellison.
“After our experience on ‘Ex Machina’, we obviously jumped at the chance to work on a new Alex Garland film. Right from the outset we could see we were going to have to use a wider musical pallet than we did on ‘Ex Machina’, and operate on a bigger and broader scale. So whilst synths and electronics do play a key role in one specific (and crucial) part of the film, 90% of the score is actually made up of acoustic instruments including voices, warped strings and the bass waterphone. Our main musical challenges were to be part of the world the scientists are travelling through, which is on the one hand terrifying, and on the other full of a strange psychedelic beauty.”
For Alex Garland, Geoff and Ben’s partnership “sets an incredibly high bar of creative skill and integrity, with music that is brilliant, unique and truly cinematic,” and their score for Garland’s Oscar nominated ‘Ex Machina’ gained two World Soundtrack Awards nominations and was the 2016 Ivor Novello Award winner for Best Original Score. Other recent co-written credits include Ben Wheatley’s ‘Free Fire’ (executively produced by Martin Scorsese) and Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror: Men Against Fire’."
Electronic pop meets classical music...
“Anna Meredith presents Anno, a boundary pushing collaboration with the Scottish Ensemble, in which original pieces of work by the classical-electronic composer are intertwined with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Released via Moshi Moshi, the project began as an immersive 360 degree live experience and is now available on double vinyl, CD and digitally. After a recording process using the unusual ‘binaural recording head’ the project will also be available in an exclusive binaural recording – allowing the listener to experience the unique spatial aspects of the piece through headphones.
Anno was conceived when Scottish Ensemble Artistic Director Jonathan Morton drew parallels between Anna’s writing style and that of Vivaldi. Already admiring her idiosyncratic writing in the pop/electronic world, Jonathan approached Anna about a new piece for strings and electronics. As one of the most recognisable pieces of classical music of all time, Four Seasons was the perfect piece for Anna to work with, crafting experimental and idiosyncratic partner pieces to sit alongside Vivaldi’s original compositions. The result is a continuous musical experience, blending old and new, ‘classical’ and ‘popular’ without distinction and Anna’s fascinating new pieces binding seamlessly with the original work.”
180g vinyl. Includes download code
Well measured Americana dream-pop from London’s Still Corners duo, conjuring comparison with everyone from Mazzy Star to Julee Cruise
‘Slow Air’ is Still Corners self-produced 2nd album on Wrecking Light following a string of sides for Sub Pop.
Balearic boogie, reissued with bonus DJ Sotofett remix
The fructose overload of ‘The Boogie’ is exactly the kinda thing that would make us do a 180º on our heels and leave the room in so, so many Manchester party situations.
On the remix, Sotofett leaves it out in the sun to dry up, before dubbing it resplendent in psychedelic FX for a much freer boogie house turn.
1991's Worlds in Collision was the eighth studio album from Pere Ubu (with the live recording One Man Drives While The Other Man Screams immediately preceeding it) and saw the inclusion of replacement synth player Eric Drew Feldman (whose credits include Captain Beefheart, The Residents and post-Ubu, The Pixies) following the departure of founding member, Allen Ravenstine.
Drummer Chris Cutler also departed around the same time, further compounding the notion that this waws a band in flux. Gil Norton (who by this point had himself already worked with The Pixies) took the production reins and helped concoct a veritable alt-rock epic that stands as the band's closest run-in with outright pop music. This reissue of Worlds In Collision comes expanded with new liner notes and four bonus tracks.
One of the most important ambient releases of all time, Jon Hassell and Brian Eno's 'Fourth World Vol.1 - Possible Musics' deservedly receives the prime reissue treatment for the benefit of a new generation.
Originally issued in 1980 ℅ Editions EG, it converges the paths of two musical pioneers who were mutually searching for ways to consolidate world musics with the possibilities of tape, electronics and jazz-wise improvisation. Across five sweetly concise pieces and the 21-minute dreamscape of 'Charm (Over "Burundi Cloud")' Hassell expresses gorgeous, considered flights of fancy thru his heavily effected trumpet against a backdrop of Eno's rippling, rhythmelodic percussions and diaphanous synth tones as languid as they are subtly beautiful.
For us, from the spirited float of 'Delta Rain Dream' to the achingly lush peal of 'Ba-benzele' and aerial elevations of 'Charm ("Over Burundi Cloud")' it's the definition of timeless, enchanted music. Out of print for far too long, it's a must check for anyone with a taste for worldly dissonance and forward looking composition. RIYL Hieroglyphic Being, OPN, Tomuttontu, T C F.
The breakout success of 2016’s ‘Puberty 2’ saw Mitski hailed as the new vanguard of indie rock, the one to save the genre from the white dudes who’ve historically dominated it.
"However, the often overlooked aspect of being a rising star is the sheer amount of work that goes into it. “I had been on the road for a long time, which is so isolating, and had to run my own business at the same time,” Mitski explains, “a lot of this record was me not having any feelings, being completely spent, but then trying to rally myself and wake up and get back to Mitski. I was feeling really nihilistic and trying to make pop songs.”
Secretly Canadian want their artists to be strong but they also expect them to be vulnerable. Rather than avoiding this dilemma, she addresses directly the power that comes from appearing impenetrable and loneliness that follows. “With a lot of the romantic infatuations I’ve had,” she says, “when I look back, I wonder, ‘Did I want them or did I want to be them? Did I love them or did I want to absorb whatever power they had?’ I decided I could just be my own cowboy figure that I so desire.” In ‘Be The Cowboy’, Mitski delves into the loneliness of being a symbol and the loneliness of being someone and how it can feel so much like being no one."
Laurel Halo lands on Latency with a cinematic suite featuring Oliver Coates on cello and drums by Eli Keszler.
Making her first move since 2017’s remarkable ‘Dust’ album, Laurel takes inspiration from her score work for Metahaven and Ursula Le Guin’s translation of the ‘Tao Te Ching’ in pursuit of a quieter, more tactile and elusive sound, moving deeper into a sort of twilight avant jazz realm that calls to mind the recently uncovered Luc Ferrari salvo on Alga Marghen as much as flashes of Conlon Nancarrow and the diaphanous swirl of Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas.
It's immediately obvious that this is a special release in Laurel’s catalogue. Two 10 minute works bookend the release; the sublime title track with its oneiric mesh of woodwind, early electronic music gestures, and almost funeral organ; and at the opposite end, a stunning symphonic piece that unmistakably recalls Gas, but also unlocks that sound’s potential from the grid thanks to Keszler’s free meter and an embrace of kaotic harmony deeply rooted in Derrick May and Carl Craig’s Detroit classics.
But that’s not to discount the bits in between; they’re also brilliant. From her pairing of Keszler’s inimitable snare rushes with dark blue keys and smudged, plasmic electronics in ‘Mercury’, to something like Mark Fell commanding an underwater gamelan orchestra in ‘Quietude’, and the rapid flux of keys in ‘The Sick Mind’, this one has us rapt from every angle.
Wonderful suite of archival gamelan minimalism from Bay Area practitioner Daniel Schmidt.
Recital dip into the personal archives of Daniel Schmidt, an integral scholar in the development of American Gamelan. After studying Javanese gamelan at California Institute of the Arts in the early ‘70s, Schmidt set about creating a West Coast movement based around an aluminium version of the instrument – the Berkeley Gamelan - forged of his own design. He’s since gone on to build numerous gamelan instruments, theorise on it’s compositional qualities, collaborate with Lou Harrison, Jody Diamond, and Paul Dresher, and currently teaches at Mills College San Francisco.
‘In My Arms, Many Flowers’ captures the American Gamelan movement in its nascent state, the result of a personal invitation for Recital boss Sean McCann to rifle through three boxes of Schmidt’s studio and live recordings committed to cassette between the late ’70s and early ‘80s. What’s immediately striking here is how Schmidt deviates from the traditional Javanese style of gamelan composition, instead seeking out the minimalist movement of North America for guidance.
Making use of a primitive sampler borrowed from Pauline Oliveros (RIP), lead track And the Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn pairs a sumptuous looped string arrangement with Schmidt’s delicate caresses of the Berkeley Gamelan which build with quiet melodic complexity into something quite wonderful. The title track sees Schmidt augmenting the mysticism of his Berkeley with the bowed strings of a rebab, another traditional Indonesian instrument, deployed to signify a bird that “calls from far away.”
Ghosts is one of two compositions done solely with the gamelan, Schmidt leading a procession of players using traditional techniques on a detailed 14-minute recording of percussive dexterity and intricacy that highlights the spiritual powers of the instrument. Faint Impressions offers a sombre finale, the ringing melodicism of the Berkeley gamelan set to a backdrop of an understandably captivated audience.
Another long-since deleted entry into Pere Ubu's 1980s back-catalogue, this album featured the final appearance of Allen Ravenstine's incendiary synth playing.
After 1989's Cloudland, Ravenstine moved on to pursue a career as an airline pilot of all things. He left them as they entered the most mainstream-compatible phase of their career to date, with 'Waiting For Mary' winning the band some MTV airtime. The song sounds very much in keeping with the alt-rock revolution that was reshaping America the time. In fact the album in general sounds braced with a kind of spiky optimism that manifests itself in the inflated productions and grander, often downright jubilant choruses. As with the other Pere Ubu reissues listed this week, Cloudland features new liner notes and a number of bonus tracks (five in this case), including the Van Dyke Parks-inspired 'Wine Dark Sparks'.
Remastered first vinyl edition of This Heat’s seminal live LP, compiled from Euro gigs in Tilburg, Nijmegen, Ärhus, Apeldoorn, Vienna and Rheims between 1980-81, right between their classic debut LP and its follow-up ‘Deceit’
Officially sanctioned by original band members Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward, this is the vinyl edition of the CD release, ‘Live 80/81’ . It was all recorded on cassette using a stereo microphone placed near the sound desk, capturing the performance and incidental sounds with an unflinchingly raw quality.
For the shows, This Heat comprised Charles Bullen (guitar, clarinet, voice, tapes), Charles Hayward (drums, kazoo, melodica, voice, tapes), and Gareth Williams (organ, tapes, guitar, bass guitar, voice) running through the entire track-listing of their tour in the Netherlands.
Material from both ‘This Heat’ and ‘Deceit’ appears in the set, which opens with the twisted metal screech and stop-start drums of ‘Horizontal Hold’, and takes in a high tension rendition of ’S.P.Q.R.’, along with the throttled No Wave tribal jangle of ‘Makeshift Swahili’ and ‘Twilight Furniture’, plus a mighty parting shot with their raucous version of ‘Health and Efficiency’.
B12’s Steven Rutter synchs with John Shima on four tracks of dreamy, rolling sci-fi electrot o follow Shima’s ‘Elements Unknown’  EP for FireScope
The vibe is pure, classic-sounding IDM-electronica, floating in with the chiming synths and sprung electro suspension of ‘Broken Spell’ before inducing headier, weightless sensations with the cirrus harmonics and precipitous percussion of ‘Skywards’.
‘A New Day’ follows with the strongest dancefloor highlight, powered by purring techno bass and hi-tech jazz pads in a time-honoured Juan Atkins style, while ‘Disjointed Route’ locates them in slower, distant electro territory recalling earliest B12 chill out room modes.
2nd pair of inch-perfect pop bewts from London’s Westerman, produced by the genius Bullion
Following the bluer feels of ‘Confirmation/I Turned Away’, this exceedingly cute plate finds Western upbeat and with a sunnier disposition in the gentle psych-soul-pop of ‘Edison’, and at a more laid-back angle with the hazy grained shimmers of ‘Easy Money’.
Proper ohrwurms, both of them.
Vital new electro and techno trax from the one and only Dopplereffekt, and Berlin's Objekt.
Once again, Leisure System bring out the best from Dopplereffekt, following the excellent 'Tetrahymena' 12" with some of their sharpest rhythms and inimitably romantic synth arrangements in 'Delta Wave' - the kind that only adventurous DJs will spin out, and the best crowds will appreciate. Objekt, meanwhile, keeps face with a strong effort called 'Ganzfeld' that sounds something like DJ Stingray in a step-off with Optical, all angular geometrics and moody blue pads...
Numerological mysticism from the LSD gang, slipping head-first down the rabbit hole into astral drone planes and Ur-technoid rhythmic noise from overlooked nooks of the vinyl frontier (and quite possibly YouTube)
Say what you will about the provenance, but these guys really know how to put together strange records. So far only one track from the set has been identified, a muffled cut of Mark Lane’s slunky synth-pop ‘Sojourn’ from ‘Who’s Really Listening?’, while the rest reaches out from dense microtonal drone and far-out kosmische, thru skeletal, lights-out dancers to smoky Gallic pop and an outstanding closing shot of hard-to-identify avant-pop with a wickedly acidic sting in the tail.
The Salford collective return with an album length rebuke at the ever-growing shit-stain that is the current political regime.
With many modern day musicians content on stockpiling social media kudos or chasing sync money, leave it to Tesla Tapes antagonists Gnod to offer up a dissenting voice against the post-Brexit, alternative truth-heavy, fascist malaise 2017 is currently descending into. Never a band whose sound you should second guess, the clear anger and intentions of this album’s title is more than matched by the politicised fury and antagonism unleashed within.
“It seems like we are heading towards even more unsettling times in the near future than we are in at present.” reckons Gnodder Chris Haslam. “2016 was just the beginning of what I see as the establishment’s systematic destruction of liberalism and equality as a reaction to the general public’s loss of faith in their system.”
With this renewed creative focus driving the band, ‘Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine’ embellishes their hard-edged rock repetition and heavily-dubbed out underbelly with a darkly-satisfying new hue.
In addition to re-establishing links with regular co-conspirators like Attila Csihar and Earth's Dylan Carson, this seventh SunnO))) album finds Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson greatly expanding their sound with personnel from beyond their usual circle of doom-dealing metallurgists.
Julian Priester (a veteran of Sun Ra, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock recordings) joins composer Eyving Kang alongside brass, reed and string ensembles and a Viennese female choir in embellishing the usual idiom of low frequency drones and glacial guitar motions, adding a whole other dimension to the band's sonic vocabulary. On the introductory piece 'Aghartha' the baritone incantations of Csihar collide with grinding guitar pulsations and a maelstrom of orchestral discord that takes hold of the second half. It's an incredibly powerful sound, but one that SunnO))) are brave to embrace.
Metal purists might be put off somewhat by the modern classical approach, but in truth it integrates with the band's music completely fluidly. Even more ambitious is 'Big Church' which aims for a kind of subversion of Arvo Part-style sacred music, setting satanic Orff-like choral allusions against the usual bottom-heavy razor-edged riffing. The contrast between deathly guitar duels and the tightly organised choir is a powerful one, adding a dark, ceremonial feel to proceedings. Presenting a more solid and familiarly savage sound is 'Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)', which although no less well-constructed or vast in scale avoids the orchestral dynamics for its ten minutes.
Final piece 'Alice' comes as the biggest surprise though, and you can actually hear a certain amount of light and clarity radiating from the mix: the guitars chime and twang with an uncommon freshness while string swells mark out austere, ambiguous chord changes - by the time the horns arrive you actually detect an implicit 'major key' feel to it all and the sixteen-minute piece plays out like a reluctant fanfare, subsiding into an incredibly light coda populated by harps, trumpet and glistening percussion but no guitars. Monoliths & Dimensions is undoubtedly a bold move for SunnO))) but the intensity and sonic adventurousness on show here are qualities that are very much in-keeping with the band's ceaselessly uncompromising music policy. Awesome.
The enigmatic Ash International imprint yields the willowing beauty of Jóhann Jóhannsson & BJ Nilsen's original score for 'I Am Here' (2014), written and directed by Anders Morgenthaler.
The score also features guest contributions from Hildur Guðnadóttir (cello), and the celestial voices of Elfa Margrét Ingvadóttir and Guðmundur Vignir Karlsson, it's a deeply effective synthesis of BJNilsen's intangible electro-acoustic atmospheres and Jóhannsson's celebrated string arrangements, creating an unfathomable world of noirish intrigue and tension which requires no prior knowledge of the film in order to understand its immersive appeal.
Prince Far I aka the Voice Of Thunder got his start in the burgeoning Jamaican music industry as a sound system DJ (for Sir Mike The Musical Dragon), working security at Joe Gibbs’ stuido and in a similar roll at Coxsone Dodd's Studio One.
"As fate would have it, King Stitt, the regular DJ at Studio One, failed to turn up to voice a track and the up and commer convinced Coxsone to give him a try on the mic. The resulting cut launched the career of one of Reggae’s most famous toasters – though he liked to describe his style as a chanter rather than the more popular term toaster. First releasing records using the moniker King Cry Cry, the same name he’d used working Sir Mike’s sound system, he soon changed his name to Prince Far I at the suggestion of producer Enos McLeod. On Voice Of Thunder, Prince Far I is supported by an extremely sparse yet heavy instrumental backing which perfectly compliments his growling voice. As is often the case with Prince Far I, much of the material is essentially Bible verse, “Ten Commandments” being a perfect example."
Sunn 0))) rise again with the arch doom metal of Kannon, their crushing follow-up to respective 2014 collaborations with Scott Walker and Ulver, and the first Sunn 0))) LP proper since Monoliths & Dimensions in 2009. Aye, crack out the ales, it’s worthy of a celebration.
By their own admissions, “It’s possibly the most figurative album Sunn 0))) has created” but, conversely, it’s also their “most outright “metal” in years”. Amassing a classic band line-up of core duo Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, shoulder-to-shoulder with long term allies and collaborators Attila Csihar, Oren Ambarchi, Rex Ritter, Steve Moore and more, it’s a glowering, physical testament to a band-as-organism achieving the peak of their powers.
Literally, Kannon is a polysemous representation of an aspect of Buddha as “goddess of mercy” or “Perceiving the Sounds (or Cries) of the World”, which ties farther back into the group’s readings of Asian belief systems, and is depicted in captivating artwork from Swiss designer/artist Angela LaFont Bollinger.
To experience Kannon is an overwhelming sensation, divided in three parts over 36-minutes, and one which we recommend wholeheartedly to anyone who has ever felt a shiver from the void, or is willing to submit themselves to one of 21st century music’s most elemental, powerful groups.