A low-key magisterial totem of US avant-minimalism, Robert Turman’s 1981 classic resurfaces, and has since become an expensive second hand find
As an original member of NON with Boyd Rice, Robert Turman made his recorded debut on 1979’s ‘Mode Of Infection / Knife Ladder’ single, but within years he moved into much quieter yet expansive zones with his solo material. His self-released 1981 tape, ‘Flux’ is the seminal first example of Turman’s relatively drastic new direction, weaving kalimba, keys, a “Mini-Pops Jr.” drum machine, and tape loops, to create a gorgeous cat’s cradle of small sounds that absorb the listener with much subtler tactics and tactility than his previous work.
We could quite easily classify ‘Flux’ in that category of albums whose endings are much fuzzier to the memory than the start, due to the fact they tend to lull us pillow ways with each listen. Shy of any hypnic jerk snags, the thing flows with a steeply mesmerising sandman quality, coaxing mottled rhythmelody and shimmering harmonics from his set-up in a way that was far ahead of its time, but can’t help but seduce the senses to more atavistic, dreamlike states. It’s no doubt a total wonder of its ilk, and understandably an influence on everyone from Aaron Dilloway to Helm, and quite possibly you if you haven’t heard it yet
Kevin Martin teams up with his long-term sound engineer Gorgonn and Brummie industrial shape-shifter Justin Broadrick for this brutalizing three-way split. You should know what to expect by now - and they don't disappoint: rave-inflected ten-ton dancehall, Stott-influenced knackered 4/4 grimness, sub-aquatic Chain Reaction dub. There's even a track called 'Head Deep in Shit'.
Martin's been on a tear in the last few months, releasing a slew of ambient records, a collaboration with Dis Fig and a brand new The Bug album. Now he returns to his G36 project, last spotted back in 2018. It was originally a collaboration with Goh Nakada, aka Gorgonn, but here the material is split between the three friends: Martin, Nakada and Broadrick taking four tracks each.
Martin's opener 'Wrong Place, Wrong Time' is thick with his signature overdrive, while Nakada's 'Sulfur' is comparatively dainty, zeroing in on swinging bass pressure, but sticking to a forceful dub mainframe. When Broadrick takes the reins, introducing himself with 'Dosshouse', he materializes in a space not dissimilar to Porter Ricks' most recent material - all precise modular squelches and side-chained throbs.
This back and forth continues as the trio taunt each other with bass weight, each vying for sonic supremacy. And with track names like 'Body Crusher', 'Annihilation' and 'Meat Grinder Dub', there's nowt subtle in either concept or execution. Apocalyptic, heaviest gear.
First international compilation of rare, sizzling 45s from the golden era of benga and rumba, circa the ‘70s/‘80s and the East African epicentre of Nairobi’s studios and recording facilities
Required listening for anyone checking contemporary East African music from Nyege Nyege Tapes and seeking historic context, ‘Crossroads Kenya: East African Benga and Rumba, 1980-1985’ uproots and shares a bounty of richly melodic grooves by artist hailing from Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Uganda, and Tanzania as well as Kenya. Focussed on the prevailing ‘80s trend for rumba and benga, the set highlights Nairobi’s role as a honey pot for musicians from a vast region flocking around contemporary grooves, as opposed to the more decentralised nature of A&R and recording nowadays.
All taken from 7”s produced by Audio Productions Ltd. in Nairobi, and issued via labels including Wedno, Lulus, Mlima and APL, it spans the sweetened female vox and palm wine guitar of local Kenyan act Les Victoria ‘C’ Kings thru the tight sway, jazz-funky notes and close harmonies of Tanzania’s Orchestra Les Volcano on standout ‘Kwa Wasiojiweza’, and the slinky rumba hustle of Orchestra Zaituken Band, so titled as a contraction of their home country’s names (Zaire, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya), who perhaps epitomise Nairobi’s role as the cross roads for East Africa’s best musicians at the time.
The collaborative venture of Turk Dietrich and Michael Jones, Belong inhabit a sonic territory that seems perpetually out of sight - giving the same effulgent warmth as standing with your back to a sunset, or glimpsing a blizzard through a frosted window.
Spectrum Spools scan back to the early work of Second Woman’s Turk Dietrich with reissue of his and Michael Jones’ first album together as shoegaze duo Belong. While there’s maybe no obvious connection between the hyper dance music of Second Woman and the romantically sore, heavily textured tones of October Language, look a little further and it’s possible to locate a shared lust for keening transcendence and a lush tension between freeness of expression and discipline of intent between the two projects.
But no worry if that’s not apparent. Just think of it belong as a sublimated MBV or echo of Fennesz and you’ve got the measure of this abrasively beautiful album.
Pure rhythm science from two of the best in the game, dicing with meter and infrasound in a devilish style set to spark floors and minds.
In the works for four years, ‘Automatic Vol. 1’ yields the first in a series of ongoing studies by Friedmann & Filipe after feeling out each other’s style on 2020’s ‘Eurydike’ EP. Their new project is presented as a concerted attempt to dis-associate their music from cultural idioms and notions of musicianship, in pursuit of a more automatic method of performance and production. With each cut titled by its BPM, the results are anything but gridlocked DJ tools, with each piece exploring syncopations of halved and doubled meter of their titular BPM to effectively investigate what they term “the unimpeachable laws of motion.”
Redolent at times of Mark Fell’s experiments with pulse-controlled acoustic performers, at others of Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force, and also Mohammad Reza Mortazevi’s intricate Persian rhythm geometries, the magick lies in the way in which Friedmann & Filipe nimbly strike and dance in the gaps between those aesthetic reference points. And when factored by their fascinations with infrasound - specifically the “rare infrasound ratios ranging from 11 to 23” - the session takes on a life of its own, curiously recalling the mathematically sound, buoyant structures of Aleksi Perälä’s colundi scale-strafers in their precise execution of concept into properly compelling dimensions.
Charmingly lo-fi Estonian machine funk from the archive of Ruutu Poiss, in pursuit of a mix for Gilb’r and last year’s debut LP
Serving the slanted and enchanted sound of Talinn, Poiss picks out two frazzled joints full of playful soul and serrated funk, cooking up woozy organ pads and brittle breaks in the warped wow and flutter of ‘Drumstixx’ shades away from Max D’s Dolo Percussion or like a rustier Lifted, before ’Springgg17’ dips to a jazzier sorta swivel with wonky flutes and burnished bottom end resembling Jimi Tenor jamming with Tapes.
100% stone cold classic roots album, recorded at the Black Ark by Lee Perry with an all-star line up of musicians.
"No reggae album more obscure than the Congos' Heart of the Congos is as rich, and no richer album is as obscure. The Congos were just a duo, airborne falsetto Cedric Myton and tenor Roydel Johnson, who got together in 1976 and approached old acquaintance Lee 'Scratch' Perry about recording an album at his Black Ark Studio. This was in a two-year period when Black Ark (along with King Tubby's) offered the most exciting, unpredictable facilities on the island and attracted top hands like guitarist Ernest Ranglin, organist Winston Wright, and percussionist Noel "Skully" Simms.
During the sessions, unrepeatable chemistry resulted in Perry's finest production of a vocal group and a body of songs more vivid than anything else by the Congos. Oddly, Island Records passed on The Heart of the Congos. Perry put it out under his own Black Ark insignia. Then the Congos released in themselves. The British Go-Feet label reissued it in 1980. It has popped up several other times, each edition muddy sounding, incomplete, or both. The handsome Blood and Fire reissue package gathers every snippet; vocal renditions and their dubs, extra Perry-Congos numbers and a second CD of 12-inch remixes.
This is a full-length revival in the Promised Land of the Rasta faithful, though nonbelievers can still revel in its fervent activist force. Perry knots electronic and handmade beats with consummate ease while Ranglin and Wright deliver unobtrusive solos that etch like slow acid. The album swims in hazy tones, shot through with mammoth bass rumbles and slow sweet moans from background singers, most often the silky Meditations. The sound that bursts out immediately is Cedric Myton's falsetto. On "Can't Come In" and "Solid Foundation" he seems to breathe the same air as Curtis Mayfield. Roy Johnson puts the vocal dignity and assurance he learned as a member of of all-Rasta bands into his tenor work on tunes like 'Open up the Gate'. The snaps and rumbles that power 'Congoman' make it a party natural, as does the jocular mood of 'At The Feast" Passover plus ganja). Poetically twisted Biblical metaphors add mystery to 'La La Bam-Bam' and especially 'Ark of the Covenant', which fuses that ark and Noah's into a militant salvation granted to 'Even the ants / Safe in a Noah sugar pan.' Still, compassion for humans shines on Heart of the Congos.
The mysterious images of 'Fisherman' flow around and around from Jah Rasta/Jesus as a fisher of men, to a provider of spiritual food, to a symbol of the congregation voyaging to redemption. All that is certain is that those who would save their souls must row to reach higher ground. No one sings the parable better than the Congos." Milo Miles - Spin (US), June '96
Funkineven’s label links Amsterdam garms makers Patta for a dope comp of raw synth soul and beatdown boogie by Ashtrejenkins, Brassfoot, J M S Khosah, System Olympia, and more
The label’s first various artists session, ‘Better Together’ finds strength in solidarity between far flung artists in London, Tokyo, LA and elsewhere, all linked by a mutually rude approach. Leading on from Jarren’s love note to London in 2021, this first Apron release of ’22 is typically all killer no filler not bothered by trends, more simply prizing classic bags of groove and textured electronic soul in their own, dare-to-differ ways.
On the downstroke, London’s System Olympia lock off the effortless electro-soul shimmy of ‘Passi Mai’ with its ear worming vox by Francesca Macri, while Ashtrejinkins supplies two ace bookends with the weightless glyde of ‘Passive Aggressive’ and rugged bumps of ‘Dashing Buttface’. For the rest it’s a party affair, dialling in the killer jazz-funk dancer ‘Candy Floss’ by Shy One (we just clocked she’s Trevor Nelson’s daughter!), plus the ragged speedway breaks of label boss Steven Julien on ‘E46’, while the nutter Brassfoot cuts loose on a percolated madness ‘Leven’, and his Tokyo-based spar J M S Khosah can be relied upon for the gauzy ghetto-disco rocket ‘Lessons’.
40th anniversary reissue of a stepping new wave bullet by Tel-Aviv/Brussels unit Minimal Compact, reinforced with an unreleased instrumental and unmissable Mad Professor dub
Originally found on the band's debut 12”, ‘Statik dancing’’ is a straight-up post-punk/new wave bullet working wiry guitars and flinty drums into a driving vehicle for Samy Birnbach’s gothic vox, surely channeling Nico via Ian Curtis. For the first time, the lithe instrumental is now available to extend the pleasure, but the most significant cut here has to be Mad Professor’s Extended Dub Mix, where he keeps the groove relatively intact while spinning the vox and guitar into webs of echo chamber FX with simply unmissable results for DJs and dancers.
'Vinyl' was recorded on location in Sweden, Iceland, Austria and England using various microphones, media and formats and features the sounds of wind, waves, tone generators, piano, guitar and "other stuff".
The tracks are two longer expanses of inimitable ambient drift clocking in at 14:44 and 15.14 respectively. Side A opens and closes to what we'd imagine to be field recordings, and moves through an internal system of mesmeric, plangent drone sonorities in between… maybe like a recording the electromagnetic radiance of some underground mine in the bowels of an icelandic volcano.
Side B is more concerned with extreme tonalities, from the sustained and shrill notes which open the piece through to resonant aquatic bass shapes like the rubbed gongs of Thomas Köner and more explicitly doom-laced subbass quakes sounding like the prelude to the calving of a titanic wall of ice. Mixed in Berlin 2010. Mastered by Jason @ Transition. Recommended nocturnal listening.
Deadly junglist wormhole experiments with concrète x avant jazz from Japan, 1998 - a 100% must-check if you were floored by Derek Bailey’s jungle tapes, Christoph De Babalon’s calcium-deficient D&B, or if you just fancy the thought of Photek/Souce Direct on a jolly with Boredoms’ Yamatsuka Eye.
Taking on a much needed new life on its first ever vinyl pressing, Jigen’s ‘Stone Drum Avantgardism’ is exemplary of the point in the hardcore ‘nuum when the jungle virus brukked loose beyond the UK and infected the rest of the world in radical ways. It clearly hit differently in Japan, where Tokyo’s Shi-Ra-Nui label were twisting it out in bold mutations, re-splicing its Afro-Caribbean roots with traces of avant-jazz, cranky industrial atmospheres and textured concrète bosh.
With the benefit of hindsight, Jigen’s work is comparable with the recently resurfaced tapes of Derek Bailey jamming over London pirate radio in ’97 as much as the desiccated mood of Christoph De Babalon or OG jazz fusion-sampling gear by Photek or Source Direct. Aye, it’s a lot, flinging bodies between shaky twin-bladed rotor breaks and Eraserhead industrial tones into deep furrowed jazz noir before hustling into devilishly dreamy mode and really crossing over with those Derek Bailey tapes on the 10 minutes of tail-chasing breaks and janky Joanna keys on album closer ‘五番勝負対次弦狂雲斎’.
So much buried treasure out there, it never ends!
Uwe Zahn's turn-of-the-millenium masterpiece, inspired by a vacation in the south of France and rendered mostly on harpsichord and jazz drum samples. It's a world away from the IDM intricacies of his DIN output and still sounds peculiar and intimate over 20 years later, fresh with a new remaster at D&M. It was also the first album we ever pressed up and distro'd, so it'll always have a special place in our Herzen.
After a few years of acclaim for his hyper-focused and precision edited electronic productions, Uwe Zahn was craving something different. The idea for 'Tides' bubbled to the surface after Zahn had a vacation in France and was inspired by the peaceful landscape to make field recordings, which ended up forming some of the album's background textures. Zahn wanted to find a way to avoid the ultra-processed sci-fi IDM aesthetic, and bring some feeling back to his sound - and he did it with help from his friend Christian Kleine. Sifting through Kleine's record collection, Zahn found a handful of jazz records and set to work recording the drums to his sampler and assembling tracks around them. Using a hardware sequencer rather than a computer and a delay unit, the tracks ended up retaining an organic sound while displaying Zahn's outsized engineering skills.
For the instrumental parts, Zahn took an even weirder route than he did with the percussion, using both harpsichord sounds and guitar improvisations from Christian Kleine. The woozy synth textures that elevated his early productions are almost completely absent, replaced by Kleine's folk whimsy and the medieval clang of the spinet. If all this sounds hard to imagine, just take a quick listen to 'Theme', where thick, jerky drums are interrupted quickly by harpsichord riffs that aren't so very different from Zahn's memorable synth melodies, just tonally - and culturally - shifted. It's unexpected how well the sounds coalesce, and its to Zahn's credit that he managed to create such a coherent theme out of such disparate elements. When Kleine's guitar is introduced on the album's title track, strumming gentle yacht rock reverberations over loose, reversed breaks and seagull calls, the album's sun-bleached vacation mood is as clear as day.
When "Tides" was released, it felt like a reaction to the plateauing and self-cannibalization of electronic music - in 2022 that mood is still relevant. And it still absolutely wrecks us.
A monstrous blast of jazz noise energy by the combustible trio with Sunn 0)))’s Stephen O’Malley and David Sandström of hardcore punks, Refused, on the mighty Rune Grammofon.
On the tail of their album ‘Defeat’ (2021), Fire!’s Mats Gustafsson, Andreas Werlin, and Johan Berthling channel the sounds of a wounded elk and burning churches in ‘Requies’, a climactic 21 minute transition from death knells to motorik post-punk.
The sort of piece that knows no chill, it kicks off with a descending pall of church bells and Gustafsson’s animalistic sax over guitar drones stretched out to a scorched horizon. Gloaming electronics open out the space with cavernous choral layers and shell-rattle percussion ratcheting the tension to a sort of sepulchral BM feel until he drums lock in with alarmed organ to a tempestuous finale, with O’Malley shredding over the trio engine of Werliin and Sandström’s drums plus Berthling’s revving death rock bass.
Exhausted, it all comes to collapse in glorious style leaving you with the feeling orks are about to beat on your door.
Hard-body synth-pop genius from SOPHIE, cooking up the 1st of two face-glazing 12”s completing her Product album after the Bipp / Elle session and Lemonade / Hard.
From the initial rush and drip-off, Msmsmsm hits with ambassador-grade narcotic potency before launching into this year’s freakiest EBM trap bounce and coldest, clammiest peak.
On the flip, Vyzee is an el3ctro-house hymn to jackin’ off your nut, soused in fluoro alco-pop impurities and warped ‘floor suss.
Bit of a rarity this one, a limited run 7” for Japan’s Big Love emporium, finding our man Krikor on a total YMO kick.
Yeah this one’a a bit of a madness, a love letter of sorts to Haruomi Hosono that also recalls classic-era Richard D James with its daft energy, and a cover image (courtesy of Jean Nipon) straight outta VHS glory.
The A-side’s ‘High Speed Car Chase’ channels Aphex Twin’s ‘To Cure A Weakling Child’ if it were played on an LM-1, all smashed snares and plastic synths - for the era-faithful. ‘The Memory Of Your Face’ on the flip is pure YMO, an uncanny facsimile of instrumentation and style that might well be the most convincing reproduction you’ll cast you ears on. Which is to say, fucking A.
A first volume of what looks to be a comprehensive retrospective mining a dynamic phase of German music between 1978-1984. The boutique label here gives focus to unreleased tracks, demos and rare cassette material from 11 bands: PVC, White Russia, No More, Didaktische Einheit, MDK, Din A Testbild, Odd Band, Poison Dwarfs, Funtastiklons, and Die Gesunden.
You'd be forgiven for finding it a daunting prospect, price tag considered, but we can assure you with confidence that there is an absolute ruck of incredible material to be discovered within the six white walls of this boxset. For us, we first turned to the tracks from Berlin's legendary Din A Testbild unit, who counted Gudrun Gut, Klaus Schulze and Frieder Butzmann in their ranks at one point or another, and who provide five tracks of embryonic Digital wave which have stood the test of time like a slowly oxidizing memorial. Sharing a taste for acrid electronics, the Poison Dwarfs side contains 13 fractiously brief but brilliant ideas, ranging from dystopian machine sequences to strange-wave charms and one unforgettably melancholy 5min+ piece 'Frequenz7'.
Their plate is shared with the NDW weirdness of Funtastiklons, who would appear to be so underground even the internet doesn't know about them! The best we can tell you is their eight tracks approximate a more psychotropic Der Plan, all plastic melodies and waltzes with a boz-eyed slyness. We really ought to shout about the The Didaktische Einheit and Off Band side too. The former's five tracks span oscillating synth slurry to early, Joy Division-esque motorik punk, while the latter is a freeform clash of NDW and Musique Concrète disciplines. Ohhhh, and then there's the Die Werkpiloten / No More vinyl... Die Werkpiloten bowling us over with eight tracks of melancholy but funky NDW including the sublime seven minutes of 'New Arrangements', and No More's side of darkened post-punk including the amazing 'Suicide Commando'.
We could really rattle on about this all day but there's work to be done! If you've been inspired by the Minimal Wave compilation or the groundswell of recent minimal synth reissues, this set is an absolute MUST! A huge recommendation.
Well overdue reissue of Hungarian musician and film composer János Másik's surrealist 1989 masterpiece "Trance Balance". Psychedelic to a point, it's an edgy melting pot of influences (from Japanese folk to avant electronics) that's certain to prick up the ears of anyone into STROOM, 23 Skidoo, or even Ghost Box.
When "Trance Balance" originally emerged, Hungary was in the midst of a political upheaval that effectively ended four decades of communist rule. The cultural shift that followed is represented succinctly by Másik, who initially released the album on Hungaropop, one of the country's first privately owned, independent labels. Musically, it's defiantly hard to place, jumping from trippy synth surrealism (think Luboš Fišer jamming with Raymond Scott) into fourth world rhythmic pattering ('Woods and Metals'), and from wonked cabaret dance ('Burlesque) all the way to lysergic funk ('Big 7').
The music sharply turns so frequently from track to track that it's hard to really settle it in one area or another. Másik's artistic vision appears to be trained on a world that was up for grabs in 1989, as borders came down and the possibilities felt boundless. So there's a different emphasis on tracks like the Japanese-influenced 'Domo, Domo' than there might be from similar contemporary cross-cultural experimentations from the UK or the US. Másik sounds as if his fascination is rooted in hopeful change, and he links each track with a production skill and methodology that gives "Trance Balance" the coherence it needs for repeat listens.
Far more intriguing than so many rediscovered lost library/electronic beat mines, this one's got serious depth, history and all the idiosyncratic joy you want from an eccentric set of experiments. Recommended.
Patrick Keuthen aka 82J6 melds mahraganat and techno in mesmerising mutations, like DJ Plead meets Muslimgauze, for Vladimir Ivkovic’s ever-searching Offen Music.
Heading in pursuit of the percussive and spiritual lines of club music enquiry key to Offen's principles, ‘Offen Im Sturm’ leads on from Patrick Keuthen’s handful of self-released 82J6 digital releases with the project’s most substantial works. In two variations, he tessellates between traditional North African drums and hypnotic saz pipes in dusty, driving, and swinging style that echoes Offen Music’s run of aces from dual battery CZN to Nic Arizona’s desert disco treks, but done with a stealthily unfurling, filtered, motorik approach of his own that’s clearly indebted to to everyone from Acid Arab to Can and Muslimgauze.
In the ‘R228 (Maison Mix)’ he rolls out lilting percussion and pealing pipes in a wide, swingeing groove that gels into a propulsive 4/4 around halfway in, with subtle filtering that lends a sort of french touch feel and lives up its ’Maison’ title. However we’re more inclined to ‘R228 (Beatless Tool)’, where he lets the drums slosh around its slinky bassline and filtered horns in a lithe, live, hands-on style of Bryn Jones aka Muslimgauze at his most potent and snake-charming.
Goes well with some crumbly hash and strong Arabic coffee if you ask we.
Mark Ernestus simmers down the Lagos-based brass band, Obadikah, in three version for Honest Jon’s, following release of their Obadikah LP and Ernestus’ own, recent efforts with Senegal’s Ndagga Rhythm Force.
Arriving ten years since Ernestus’ last trip to Nigeria - a breezy dub-disco reroute of Tony Allen’s Moyege - this return journey is progressively deeper, darker, almost psychedelic, feeling out nocturnal scenes of trampling bass and grubbing strings lit up with plangent brass flares in the first mix of April, before untangling a broadly more spacious and plasmic April Dub, and finally coming off like prime Basic Channel or Rhythm & Sound gear for the first minute of April Parts, until that heart-stopping kick reaffirms its presence front and centre of the mix with elephantine force.
No messing about, these are fucking killer.
Sydney-based jazz trio triosk and jan jelinek from Berlin have opened up a common equation. The title reflects their production method : jelinek mails selected samples and textures to australia, Triosk use these as a basis for composition and recording, the enhanced material then returns to Berlin for Jelinek to finalise.
But the mileage covered does not become audible - "four different instruments multiplied by four different approaches make one sense". Triosk and Jelinek play together with eerie assurance and emphatic sensibility. Archetypal, dissolving jazz elements correspond to repetitive patterns not known to the genre, electronics and acoustics circle each other but remain conjoined. A perfect evolution from the micro-contained glitch-house that Jelinek has adapted so brilliantly - forever searching for a myriad colour of jazz traditions and influences that have finally expressed themselves with a less contained form on this wondrous album.
Perhaps geographical circumstances have something to do with the fact that Jelinek and Triosk approach a similar musical task from completely different directions - but the result is a deep, timeless and brilliantly executed slice of machine soul music for the mellowest of blue nights - and another maverick album from a man who can seemingly do no wrong.
Unmissable compilation of gonzo missives recorded on cellphones during 2020 in the Sahel, Northern Africa, and disseminated by WhatsApp - from heartbreaking Tuareg blues to ambient hymns, boisterous rock jams and hypnotic keyboard sorcery
Starting in January 2020 (B.C.), Sahel Sounds uploaded one release per month (for one month only) from the vast Sahel region that spans Northern Africa, between the Sahara to the north and the Sundanese savannah to the south. Ranging from the balmy melody of Niger’s Etran de L’Aïr, thru the floating beauty of Luka Productions’ synth pads sent from Mali, to Hama’s mesmerising wavey keyboard chops, and the desert blues flare of Veyrouz Mint Seymali, Mauritania’s “Diva of the Desert”; the set is every bit as vital for global observers as Sahel Sounds’ first compilation of ‘Music From Saharan Cellphone’ back in 2011 - perhaps even more crucial as a historic document of how some non-Western communities got on with it during the pandemic.
So, for anyone who was maybe distracted during 2020, this compilation highlights cuts from each monthly release, taking in the lilting griot craft of Bamako, Mali’s Oumou Diabate beside the plugged-in tidnit (Mauritanian lute) tekkerz of Jeich Ould Badu, the brilliantly bashy garage rock drums of Timbuktu’s Alkibar Gignor, and an utterly gripping soul belter by Oyiwane & Troupe Ecole Tudu, beside the aforementioned standout bits of electronic production by Hama and Luka Productions. As real as it gets.
This was Actress' first release for Honest Jon's, arriving in the aftermath of his landmark 'Hazyville' album dropped in 2008.
The move signified a subtle but essential development in his sound, preparing the ground for a hugely promising album with two aces. 'Paint, Straw And Bubbles' untethers his Detroit dream from terra firma, percolating his ethereal sound through a system of camouflaging filters until the joins dissolve and we're left with a feat of intangible spatial dynamics viewed with unique depth perception. It's electro-acoustic dance music for Afro-futurist stoners. The near absence of any bass only enhances the weightlessness, creating a heady sensation of an overcast day between pressure systems when everything doesn't feel quite as it should.
On 'Maze (Long Version)' Actress looks to early 80's synth wave and the cold industrial pulse of groups like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, pinpointing the influences of Detroit music from Model 500 and Shake which in turn so heavily informed his sonic outlook.
Domino sign my bloody valentine, with the band’s seminal catalogue being made available digitally in full for the first time ever as of today. New physical editions for each release will follow on 21st May 2021 and are available to pre-order now.
"Isn’t Anything and loveless have been mastered fully from analog for deluxe LPs and also mastered from new hi-res uncompressed digital sources for standard LPs, with each being made available widely for the first time ever. Fully analog cuts of m b v will also be available on deluxe and standard LPs globally for the first time.
my bloody valentine, the quartet of Bilinda Butcher, Kevin Shields, Deb Googe and Colm Ó Cíosóig, are widely revered as one of the most ground-breaking and influential groups of the past forty years. During an era in which guitar bands denoted, at best, a retro-classicism, not only did my bloody valentine sound unlike any of their contemporaries, the band achieved the rare feat of sounding like the future.
With their debut album, Isn’t Anything (originally released in 1988), my bloody valentine revolutionised alternative music and heralded a new approach to guitar music for generations to come. The album birthed a sound which became a template for thousands of new subgenres, heralding a new approach to guitar music and studio production. Not only was it a new type of music, it paved the way for a new type of journalism; inciting comparisons to elemental phenomenon, tapping into how the music affected the psyche. Shields and Butcher frequently sang in a similar vocal range that allowed their voices to blend together. This had the effect of making their gender indistinguishable, to the point where their voices could be used as another melodic layer to complement the vertigo-inducing sounds made by Shields’ guitars.
The second my bloody valentine album, loveless, was released in 1991. Musically, it took an unexpected leap forwards, standing ahead of anything released at the time. Shields and the band moved further towards a music of pure sensation, creating textures and tones that could be felt as much as heard; with loveless the band created an album that overwhelmed the senses. loveless is widely considered a flawless whole and rightly regarded as a masterpiece; a 1990s equivalent to Pet Sounds, In A Silent Way or Innervisions, a record constructed by exploring the edges of what a recording studio is capable of. It is a record best experienced as a whole, in one sitting - a listening experience like no other and unmatchable in its sonic brevity.
ep’s 1988-1991 and rare tracks compiles the group’s four EPs, wherein many of their devoted fans’ favourite music lies. You Made Me Realise and Feed Me With Your Kiss both preceded the band’s debut album in 1988 in quick succession. In the gap between Isn’t Anything and loveless, the band released two further EPs; Glider (1990) and Tremolo (1991).
Finally re-emerging in 2013 after two full decades in relative hiding, their third album m b v is by turns their most experimental record but also their most melodic and immediate; proof real of their unerring desire for re-invention. Continuing to push boundaries of both music and genre, m b v is an album of astonishing music, some of which could lay claim to being of a type never been made before. Otherworldly, intimate and a visceral listen, m b v is a startling and beautiful metamorphosis of what was known of the my bloody valentine sound, pushing the boundaries of genre unlike any other band. The album’s closer, “Wonder 2” is an example of this, seeing Shields meld hypnotic guitar with drum’n’bass to astonishing result."
Remastered and finally available officially, 'Mother is the Milky Way' is Broadcast's rare-as-you-like final release, a spellbinding set of cut-n-paste Radiophonic bleeps, movie snippets, music box eccentrics, snatched vocals and overdriven drum machine loops.
Broadcast were on tour in Australia just before Christmas 2010, when Trish Keenan contracted the H1N1 virus and was hospitalized; she died shortly afterwards from pneumonia. This tragic incident was the end of Broadcast, by then a duo of Keenan and longtime bassist James Cargill, and while the soundtrack to Peter Strickland's "Berberian Sound Studio" emerged later, "Mother is the Milky Way" is the last release that Keenan fully oversaw. Unlike 2005's "Tender Buttons", "Mother is the Milky Way" leans wholeheartedly into spectral folk and occult weirdness - it has more stylistically in common with "Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age", or Keenan's lesser-heard folk project Hayward Winters.
Here, Keenan's long held obsession with Czech New Wave movie soundtracks (think Luboš Fišer's spring-loaded accompaniment to "Valerie and her Week of Wonders", or the bizarre experimental collage of Vera Chytilova's "Daisies") bubbles to the forefront. On opening track 'Creation Day The Travel Flute Way', splattered electronics and childlike recorder bleats are paired with chirpy field recordings that ooze into the grotty machine folk of 'In Here The World Begins'. 'Elegant Elephant' is even more affecting, stripping away the layers to leave Keenan's reverberating voice, a gently twanging guitar, and plodding synthesizer that sounds as if it's been pinched from an Oliver Postgate show. There's a surreal nursery rhyme quality to all this material, sounding as if Keenan's surrealist obsessions are swirled in a vortex of Grimm fairy tales and Alice in Wonderland abstraction.
Voices trap in marbled reflecting pools on 'Milling Around the Village', stop-starting against cheap guitar loops and farmyard sounds; 'The Aphid Sleeps' washes out further, all ghostly soft vocal echoes over dissonant clarinet bursts and tape delay vortexes. From beginning to end, the mini-album sounds like a privileged peek into Keenan's sketchpad - it's a personal and moving set that's all the more resonant now as it stands as Broadcast's final release. Originally issued as a limited edition tour CD of only 750 copies, it's been remastered from the original tapes and sounds crisper than ever.
‘John Tchicai With Strings’ is a shocking slab of contemporary jazz from onetime sparring partner for Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and John Coltrane, among many others, here delivering electro-acoustic magick in-the-mix, released in 2005 and finally available on vinyl. It's a wholly unpretentious but quietly inventive classic of our time.
Danish-Afro-American saxophonist John Tchicai brings decades of experience playing with everyone from John Coltrane to Han Bennink and Derek Bailey to the table in a constantly surprising album that may well reconfigure what you knew about jazz. Here flanked by Treader’s John Coxon and Ashley Wales of Spring Heel Jack fame on piano, harpsichord, electric guitar and percussion, plus Mark Sanders (Jah Wobble) on drums for a trio of cuts, Tchicai’s sax is the connective tissue that fuses its play of themes and mood, from avian freeness to romantically dusky chamber styles, to heart-breaking tristesse and stately introspection.
Tchicai floats with an enviable, gravity-defying, figurative freeness that comes with a virtuoso’s ability to project and transcend themselves instrumentally. But he’s not playing solo, and the supporting cast all play crucial roles in establishing the conditions for noumenal flight, from the way Coxon’s swooping string and percussion samples buoy and egg Tchicai to unfurl his wings in ‘Lied’, to the haunting, red velvet Lynchian backdrops painted in piano behind ‘Test Piece 1’, and the beautiful play of fading light conjured by sallow strings and bowed cymbal on ‘Formalism’, while the remarkable closing couplet of ‘Lullaby’ and ‘These Pink Roses’, with its poem narrated by Steve Dalachinsky, surely seal the album’s absorbingly lyrical or cinematic nature.
Fuck what you know of Huerco S, 'Plonk' is his first album in 6 years and switches tack from house and groggy ambient touchstones to a more glassy, iridescent palette of juked electrosoul and chamber-like paradigms.
Touching minds 10 years since his cult early works graced the likes of Opal Tapes and Ukraine’s Wicked Bass, ‘Plonk’ finds him drawing on a formative love of rally cars and experiences over the interim for a more ragged jag that still prizes a sense of heady lushness, but more fractal and bittersweet with it. Of course he’s not been slacking since his now classic album ‘For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)’, delivering ample goodies as Pendant and introducing key new artists via his curation of West Mineral Ltd. since 2017, but Huerco S. has taken a backseat until now, returning with a sparing, concentrated energy refracted into light-splitting ambient post-classical figures and splintered steppers that defy gravity with a cannily personalised sort of electro-dub physics.
We’ve long compared Brian Leeds’ work as Huerco S. with the likes of NWAQ and Actress, and those references still somehow apply, as he smartly moves parallel and perpendicular to those likemind auteurs’ evolutions across ‘Plonk'. They all share a patented sense of emotional intelligence and deep funk imagination that percolates their beyond-the-dance tekkerz.
The 10 tracks of ‘Plonk’ sensitively smash the template of ambient techno and IDM for a new decade, allowing new subtly mutated forms to emerge in the cracks. Between the first example of reeling extended melody in ‘Plonk I’ to the dematerialised tonal hues of the 11min bliss out ‘Plonk X’, he offers a thorough but faithful reappraisal of his style, tiling fleeting pieces of beat-less introspection rendered with electro-acoustic strategies, alongside nerve end-dancing, syncopated jitters and gyring hyperspace explorations such as the spine-licking bewt ‘’Plonk VI’ and smudged Autechrian functions on ‘Plonk VIII’, with a surprise turn of drawling cloudrap abstaction on ‘Plonk IX’.
Kali Malone’s 'The Sacrificial Code’ is a major work featuring almost two hours of concentrated, creeping organ pieces aligned to non traditional intonation/tuning systems. It's a stunning realisation of ideas borne out of academic and conceptual rigour, with a perception-altering quality that encourages exploration without a preordained endpoint.
The Sacrificial Code’ takes a more surgical approach to the methods first explored on last year’s ‘Organ Dirges 2016 - 2017’. Over the course of three parts performed on three different organs, Malone’s minimalist process captures a jarring precision of closeness, both on the level of the materiality of the sounds and on the level of composition.The recordings here involved careful close miking of the pipe organ in such a way as to eliminate environmental identifiers as far as possible - essentially removing the large hall reverb so inextricably linked to the instrument. The pieces were then further compositionally stripped of gestural adornments and spontaneous expressive impulse - an approach that flows against the grain of the prevailing musical hegemony, where sound is so often manipulated, and composition often steeped in self indulgence. It echoes Steve Reich’s sentiment “..by voluntarily giving up the freedom to do whatever momentarily comes to mind, we are, as a result, free of all that momentarily comes to mind.”
With its slow, purified and seemingly austere qualities ‘The Sacrificial Code’ guides us through an almost trance-inducing process where we become vulnerable receptors for every slight movement, where every miniature shift in sound becomes magnified through stillness. As such, it’s a uniquely satisfying exercise in transcendence through self restraint and by this point inarguably a modern classic.
Jinjé pursues a virulent strain of percussive madness for the big rooms and festivals with a barrage of rolling, trilling drums and arps a la Shackleton or Clap! Clap!
In five brightly lit and driving parts, Lee J. Malcolm aka Jinjé twirls ribboning rhythms and sampledelia in an update of outernational-influenced UK that has percolated forth from the original ‘80s travellers movement into the ‘90s megadog scene and ultimately the likes of Shackleton in this millennia.
’Ngoma’ sets it off with restive polyrhythms and cascading flutes and synths that tesselate in sparkling permutations across the EP, from the escalating attack and breakdown to choral harmonies in ‘Burkina Faso’, thru a finely tempered lull in the Ethiopiques adjacent organs of ‘Dusk’, to the nimbly skittish drums and breathless synth lift of ‘Ya Maji’, and swingeing, fine-tuned rhythmelody of ‘Jara’.
Vancouver's Alexi Baris blurs the line between synthetic and acoustic sources on 'Support Surfaces', flexing glitchy rhythms with jazzy instrumentation and horizontal drones, recommended if yr feeling Jan Jelinek, SERWED, Jake Muir.
There's a convincing energy enclosed within 'Support Surfaces'; while 'Eye Cast Mirror' references that early ~Scape vibe - particularly Jan Jelinek's 'Loop Finding Jazz Records' - it's not long before Baris carves out his own path. His addiction to vinyl popping rhythms and pitch-shifted jazz samples makes his music sound warm and familiar, he allows his soundscapes to descend further into the muck..
Baris's loopy electro-acoustic processes sound closer to Jake Muir's frothy bathhouse experiments or Philip Jeck's ascendent vinyl concoctions. 'Corner House' juxtaposes coffeehouse foley clunking with easy listening xylophone plonks and steam-powered hissing, evoking a subtly fractal atmosphere, while 'Who Is' plays whirring crackle against synthesized bonks and granular whirrs. As "Support Surfaces" develops, it pulls further from its influences, eventually rooting itself firmly in its own musical zone.
Insanely fresh debut volley by 19 year old “veteran” of Lisbon’s virulent sound, recorded when he was just 14 and now remastered and released by the mighty Príncipe. It's a brilliantly weirdo, avant-garde fusion of portugese/angolan dance music styles championing an ideal of dance music as punkish & direct rather than overworked and generic.
Hot out of Lisbon’s underground sprawl, 19 year old Puto Tito breaks thru on Príncipe with 20 tracks produced when he was barely into his teens, all salvaged from an old Soundcloud account and newly remastered for the dance. The sound of ‘Carregando a Vida Atrás das Costas’ is patently influenced by Tito’s Angolan heritage, and faithfully employs the popular slow Tarraxho and tougher Kuduro rhythm styles. Yet, like the best of Príncipe’s releases, it’s the way he injects a playful, weirdo character and uncompromising, psychedelic vision to his trax that sets Tito’s music apart form the crowd, whilst being very much connected to it.
With a direct fervour and naturally experimental quality to his productions, the album scales from drowsy, red-eyed, to brightly coloured downbeats on one hand, while charging into jagged and nagging uptempo styles on the other hand. But whichever way he goes, it’s always with an off-the-cuff flair and rhythm-lead suss that works the dance to its best.
The 2LP highlights the full spectrum of Puto Tito’s early remit, diving in with the darkside drone and rasping rhythm of ‘Noite Magica’, to swerve from the celebratory, drop-top cruise of ‘Mestre Das Artes’ thru to wickedly screwed Tarraxho in ‘Malucao’ and the deadpan drag of ‘1 2 3’, while he can hardly suppress his brilliant, weirdo tendencies in the zig-zagging arps of ‘C L Prod’, the heat-warped funk of ‘OIHo JoOnAe’, and the heatsick, syrupy pressure of ‘Locura Tutal’. Further, the digital bonuses extend the wigged-out fun in seven short, sharp shots, slipping farther down the rabbit hole into a bittersweet beatless flex on ‘Melodia daquelas’ alongside the hypnotic uptempo styles of ‘ABuzaNtesS’.
It’s an approach that, in the past, has yielded some of the finest underground music, from the UK’s early ‘90s hardcore and jungle, to South Africa’s Gqom scene, Chicagoan footwork and the Singeli sound of Dar-Es-Salaam. More specifically, its possible to place Puto Tito in the same dare-to-be-different, bedroom producer category of grimy Kuduro, Batida and Afrohouse as young heroes Nídia or P.Adrix, as ‘Carregando a Vida Atrás das Costas’ vividly demonstrates.
Don’t miss this.
Mazy no-wave dub killers by Grim Lusk’s Dip Friso, committing a 4th session of sawn-off drums, atmospheres and edits to surrealist effect on their Real Landscape label.
Hashed out in Glasgow and resonating with the city’s fine, strange energy, ‘Crocodile or Real?’ stages a gloriously daydreamy sort of sojourn from reality that variously bends between aspects of illbient, DIY concrète cut-ups, post-punk and dub, proper, in order to limn a day-in-the-life feel to proceedings. The results comfortably sit next to records from the 12th Isle quadrant, edging on new age exotica realms, but blessed with a haptic oddness and unexpected detours towards more elusive pleasure centres.
Ruffcut in a way that’s too often forgetten in favour of so much surface sheen, the dozen tracks fracture and stumble to create an engaging mosaic with a brilliantly groggy logic, drifting from the lounge swirl of the title tune thru half-cut vignettes like ‘Bananas’ to Dilla-esque sample chops in ‘Good Morning’, and what sounds like Golden Teacher in miniature on ‘Zig Zag Serpentine’. The serrated edges of ’Seventh Dub’ meanwhile recall Yong Yong’s wonky oddities, and ‘ThatIs Ugly (Whats Going On-) sounds like it crept out of an NYC sewer circa 1980, before it starts to congeal into more hallucinatory measures of Nyabnghi-like whorl on ‘Danger waters’, and precipitates the BAT-like grog of ‘Storm Clouds’.
Strong, weird gear.
Over 20 years since it was originally issued by Din, the short-lived but insanely good label run by Basic Channel office manager Sascha Brauer and Torsten Pröfrock aka T++/Dynamo/Resilent/Traktor/Various Artists, 'Atol Scrap' is still one of the most perfect specimins of an era we'd rather forget. Imagine vintage Autechre clatterbeats assembled with a bassy dub techno mentality and daubed with faint, hazed ambient textures = seriously next level, era-defining biz.
It's fair to say that for the most part, IDM hasn't aged well. When it worked, its sounds were absorbed into more forgiving structures (hello trap and grime) and when it didn't, the mess of overly masculine sound design (ie, greyscale) and underwhelming cycling non-melodies irritated more than they impressed, inching closer to history's trashcan with each passing year. Intelligent was a gross overstatement, and if you couldn't dance to it, what exactly was the purpose?
But certain records have retained their power, sounding better now than they did two decades ago. "Atol Scrap" found an audience when it was released in 1999, but somehow seems more relevant now with its confident fusion of faded dub-techno flutter, gut-punching trance arpeggios and "Chiastic Slide"-era percussive burps. At the time the album's closeness to Autechre was a sticking point for some listeners, but now it seems almost inconsequential. Who isn't influenced by Autechre, anyway?
Uwe Zahn's construction is inspired, but unique in its own way. Standout track 'thaem nue' is still an emotional knockout, with wobbly monosynth melodies layered over beats that sound as much like Timbaland as they do the Rochdale duo. Now in 2021, the R&B/IDM connection is understood far more clearly and Zahn's atmospheric dubbed out soundscapes (just check 'scapen te') sound almost in sync with the ambient bass exploration of the West Mineral/Experiences Ltd. set.
If you've never heard 'Atol Scrap', now's your time, freshly remastered by sensitive ears (this ain't an exercise in loudness, we promise), it's never sounded better.
Lars T C F Holdhus follows one of the very best releases of the new millenium so far, the 'Untitled' tape for YYAA, with another cryptic future-shock, his 1st for Liberation Technologies.
Continuing a trajectory away from the calculated dance mash-ups of his now-defunct Cracksmurf alias, this project and mini-album is based on a whole other algorithmic strategy, rendering densely coded formulae into utterly mind-boggling and synaesthetically affective compositions. Once you've heard his music and done a little research into his academic background and visual practice - he studied at Frankfurt's famed Städelschule; is fascinated by data encryption; loves a good brew - it almost becomes really hard not to hear T C F's music as immensely complex, fluctuating plumes of code billowing and refracting across infinite virtual landscapes.
It's fxxking staggering stuff, soaring between hardstyle peaks and the kind of ultra-lucid FX you'd expect to hear while watching Transformers at the iMax, traversing wide-open, lysergic ambient space and majestic neo-classical (more Matrix than Max Richter, tho) gestures with an incisive balance of wry humour and emotional pathos that's all too rare, nay absent, from much stuff nowadays. Ultimately, words fall well short of adequately describing this stuff; it simply needs to be experienced, fully immersed, piloerect, pupils dilated. It's one of 2014's most crucial pieces of new music, no doubt.
Jenny Hval puckers her purest pop creations on her debut for 4AD, after 10 years making some of the most distinctive solo work in her field.
Jenny’s first album since 2019 is, perhaps unavoidably, her “lockdown” recording, but expectedly crafty with it, drawing on a knack for observant lyrical poetry and timeless melody for her version of a “pop album”, proper. Where her previous work naturally experimented with song structure in a dreamlike way, this one's better defined by the songs’ verse-chorus-verse arrangements. Yet the oneiric appeal is still in strong effect thanks to strangely damaged and elusive post-production mixing by Heba Kadry, who introduces a subtly sore texture to proceedings meant to sound as though it’s being played through “a stereo in a mysterious room.” In effect it finds her songs edging closer to a sort of pop’s truth while masking them in patinas of uncertainty, conjuring a hallucinatory space of investigation between her reality and yours.
Starting out with the balmy bossa nova hustle of ‘Year of Love’ her sound brims and bristles with a strange energy that carries from a sort of lissom Latin rock/dream-pop fusion in ‘American Coffee’ to follow that Antenna-Like theme into the shimmering title tune. ‘Year Of Sky’ is another strangely occluded highlight of Sterolab-esque space-pop, while the cosmic roil of ‘Jupiter’ makes room for her boldest experimental urges and ‘The Future Will Not Be Owned’ ties it off with a signature, quizzically uplifting brand of pop brio.
In the 15+ years that have elapsed since 'Loop Finding Jazz Records' first shuffled out of his ambrosially dusty speakers, Jan Jelinek's most famous album has acquired an almost mythical status. Originally released via Pole's defunct Scape imprint, it now finds new life via Jelinek's own Faitiche label, for a new generation to marvel at one of the finest examples of loop-based electronic music typical of the early noughties.
Taking what reads like a pretty austere set of ingredients, Jelinek's technique revolves around a trio of elements which consist of second long cuts of 1960's-70's jazz recordings, the loop-finding modulation wheel (do your homework!) and the Moiré effect; albeit rendered in the acoustic as opposed to the image and spectral domains.
If all this sounds a bit academic, be assured that on record it is anything but; as crumbling edifices of mealy rhythms slowly pulse into life and swirl around your head like snow storms clashing with a dust devil. Taking sediments of fathom deep static then skimming the best stuff from the top, Jelinek opens through the dampened echoes of 'Moiré (piano & organ)' wherein a slow-motion thrum of spiraling clicks, rustles and analogue tones conspire to give the impression of recondite perspectives that extend well beyond the constituent elements.
Elsewhere, 'Rocky in the Video Age' instills a gratuitously optimistic blush to the aquatic micro-sound ebb, 'Moiré (Strings)' is a perfect companion to Basinski's disintegrating tape archive, whilst 'Them, Their' represents an aural crease so sleight you can only catch its distinctive gleam from the corner of your eye.
Numero's overview of Midwestern ad man turned self-help guru Dick Sutphen's Valley of the Sun catalogue is a nourishing deep dive into eccentric US new age music, featuring material spanning 1977-1990. RIYL: J.D. Emmanuel, IASOS, Tangerine Dream, Emeralds.
In the 1960s, Dick Sutphen was the art director for a sizable advertising agency. After winning "hundreds of awards", he started his own company, moving to Scottsdale, Arizona and hiring a slew of artists to work for him. One of these artists introduced him to hypnosis and past-life regression, and it was all the inspiration he needed to to pivot into what was to be a lifelong obsession. Sutphen opened a hypnosis center in 1970, and began publishing self-help books under his own Valley of the Sun Publishing imprint; in 1976, his reincarnation-centered book "You Were Born Again to be Together" sold over a million copies, and he was often seen on daytime television doing live hypnotisms.
Inevitably, Sutphen began to issue music, tapping some of the country's most interesting new age musicians for material. In 2016, Not Not Fun founder Britt Brown tracked down Sutphen and interviewed him, reminding contemporary new age listeners of a forgotten chapter in the story of US electronic music. Now Numero has put together some of the label's most impressive material, collecting up music from Upper Astral, Sutphen's Valley of the Sun house band, songwriter Gloria Thomas (who was married to Grammy winning singer B.J. Thomas), David Naegele (who served as Valley of the Sun's music director between 1980 and 1983), Berlin school synth devotee David Storrs, and Valley's replacement music director Robert Slap, among others.
All the material here is absorbing - especially if you're familiar with 1980s West Coast new age DIY tapes - but for us the best of it hews closer to the Euro sound. Celestial Odysseys (an imaginary duo of David Storrs and The Alien Wizard, also Storrs) recreates Jean Michel-Jarre's epic FM symphonies on a smaller scale on 'Daystar', and Storrs' 'Channel For The Light (Part II) [Edit]' is a charming revision of Tangerine Dream's arpeggio-focused Michael Mann-era synthedelia. But tracks like Upper Astral's languid, drone-heavy 'Celestial Whispers II' and Steven Cooper's glassy, lof-fi 'Crystal Garden I' are also helpful aesthetic markers that bridge the gap between this era and later developments from early 00s DIY imprints like Digitalis and more recently Leaving Records. Good stuff.
Sasu Ripatti's monumental hour-long prog-jazz masterpiece is finally available again in a newly remastered edition and a first vinyl pressing in over two decades. When it was originally released in 2001, it arrived as a culmination of Ripatti's many divergent musical threads, weaving deep house, dub techno and fried textures into a sprawling pseudo-soundtrack to drugged-out excess. It still pretty much sounds like nothing else.
Ripatti was obsessed with Anthony Drazan's 1998 Sean Penn-starrer 'Hurlyburly' when he wrote 'Anima', using it for stylistic inspiration and famously jamming along to a truncated hour-long version as he recorded. "I was in the movie; almost like an extra character playing music," he says in the accompanying press release. Influenced by recreational drug use, the album follows the movie's cycle of cocaine-fuelled repetition, disorientation and paranoia, playing with a sloppy mélange of plastique electronic elements that dip in-and-out of view.
A casual flick through the album's single track doesn't reveal much, but listening from beginning to end mirrors its dream-like merry-go-round, enabled through the use of a DAW - which Ripatti used for the first time on these sessions. Using a MIDI controller to trigger and play sounds, Ripatti mixed the music while watching the film, burying voices in muffled dub echoes and Michael Mann-esque LA synth textures in concrete noodles, attempting to create a longform piece of music that evolved constantly, but barely noticably. If you're familiar with Luomo's timeless 'Vocalcity' or his previous Vladislav Delay album 'Entain', 'Anima' fits somewhere between the two; borrowing the smudged house of 'Vocalcity', but never allowing it to overwhelm its abstracted atmosphere. Instead, he freezes sounds in glacial repetition, maintaining a groove that barely moves from a single melodic refrain.
Corroded bass twangs and psychedelic echoes give the album its relentless motion, but - like an ouroboros - it eats itself continuously, feeding on established formulae to sustain them in perpetuity. As such, 'Anima' is perhaps the dub techno answer to the addictively excessive yacht rock of the '70s and '80s - an album about the drug experience that's rooted in lidless ambition, aesthetic knowledge, Hollywood surreality and literary smarts. When it ends with a splash, it feels like being doused in a bucket of cold water.
Blackest Ever Black's 7th release is a lost classic of post-industrial music: a genuine cyberpunk artefact rescued from possible digital degradation and remastered to vinyl for the 1st time. 'Now I'm Just A Number: Soundtracks 1993-94' is an outstanding collection of cues by Stuart Argabright of NYC's seminal post-punk unit Ike Yard and his Death Comet Crew accomplice Shinichi Shimokawa.
Working together as Black Rain they were originally commissioned to score Robert Longo's '95 cinematic turkey Johnny Mnemonic, and an audiobook version of seminal cyberpunk novel 'Neuromancer', which were both coincidentally written by William Gibson. But ultimately (and mercifully) these sounds never made it to the final cut of Johnny Mnemonic, although they were collected on a 1995 CD, Black Rain's '1.0' for Fifth Column Records, crucially now making their first appearance on vinyl.
Perfectly befitting of the label's aesthetic, they're dramatically, presciently poised on the cusp of Techno minimalism and darkly atmospheric electronics, resurrecting that dystopian, loner spirit which is sadly absent or rarely rendered with such stoicism these days. They could be considered Techno for cyborgs who don't dance, or equally atmospheric cues for brooding dancefloors, suffusing clangourous, girder-strength drums with silver iodide electronics to precipitate the bleakest, most ominous sense of location and situation. Basically the samples will tell you everything else you need to know. Highly recommended.
Allow dance-pop star Yaeji to cast minds back to pre-pandemic times and the distant year of 2017, with a compilation reminder of her first two EPs for Godmode, now on vinyl in one bumber pack.
Scrolling back to tunes that paved the way for her debut album ‘What We Drew’ with XL, Brooklyn’s Yaeji is framed at her naif, soft focus best across a mix of cottony ambient downbeats, buoyant trap and insistent club trax in her two EPs of 2017.
EP2 yields her whispered ambient R&B lullaby ‘Feelings Change’ alongside the deep NYC/Jersey house hustle of ‘Raingurl’, plus duvet-diving trap with lyrics in english/Korean on ‘Drink I’m Sippin On’, and the dripping beatdown slow house of ‘After That’ to exemplify her fine range. Deeper still, her eponymous EP1 cues up the hazy house of ‘Feel It Out’, and feathered chords of ‘Noonside’, beside what sounds like Theo Parrish on a handful of valderamas in ‘New York ’93 (Single Version)’, and Galcher Lustwerk-adjacent acid house in ‘Guap’.
12 extraordinary tracks from the timeless genius of the New York underground...
Following up Soul Jazz's excellent retrospective on Arthur's disco material - now things really start getting serious. Mostly the material here is derived from two unreleased albums worth, a 1985 test pressing entitled 'Corn' and a long planned album for Rough Trade, worked on between 1986 - 90 and eventually shelved when Russell became too ill to complete, or let go of his material.
Arthur's curious, optimistic vocal - lifting us away from the corporeal into true mantric territories - is just completely inimitable and life affirming. The lyrical preoccupations with american upbringing and life could perhaps be found in an imaginary midpoint somewhere between Frank O'Hara's 'Lunch poems' and Billy Collins. His beloved cello and drum machine experiments still sound vital and completely innovative. Check 'Calling All Kids' for the beautiful Walter Gibbons remix, bringing us full circle back to the disco Arthur held so dear.
Russell emerges head and shoulders above, standing on the outside looking in, but glad of the fresh air.
Clipping. sever the spine of Whitehouse’s ‘Wriggle Like F*cking Eel’ in rugged rap mode on an expanded edition of their 2016 fan favourite, reinforced with solid remixes by Jana Rush, Dave Quam, Homemade Weapons, and Cardopusher
The cranky follow-up to Clipping.’s debut LP with Sub Pop revolves a nasty chunk of Whitehouse’s ‘Wriggle Like A F*cking Eel’ torn apart in its lead tune ‘Wriggle.’ The whole EP is is a prime example of the LA-based experimental hip hop crew at their rambunctious best, veering from grimy rap (’Shooter’) to cyberpunk jit (‘Wriggle’), jungle juke (‘Hot Fuck No Love’) and trilling rap noise hingeing on the iciest rimshots (‘Our Time’), plus a bashy new cut ‘Back Up 2021’ featuring bars by SB The Moor and Debby Friday.
Remixing, footwork Queen Jana Rush accentuates the kinkiness of ’Shooter’ on a rugged af Chicago flex recalling earliest DJ Nate in her ‘Face Rearranged Remix’, while Portland, OR’s Dave Quam drags ‘Back Up’ to a sort of dark electro sleaze recalling Pametex joints. Seattle’s Homemade Weapons keep it close to Sub Pop’s homeland with a rolling, acidic step-up D&B conversion of ‘Wriggle,’ and Cardopusher yokes the same elements to hard snares and muscle-twanging arps in his EBM remix.
First vinyl pressing of Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack to 1981 slasher flick, notorious for being seized and confiscated in UK during the video nasty panic, remastered from the original tapes.
"Officially issued after more than 40 years, TD’s soundtrack is finally available in its entirety. It's never been available on any format until now. For this release we dug out the original tapes and had them digitized and they sound incredible."
Renowned Native American flutist Timothy Archambault adapts Anishinaabeg shaking tent chants on these stark, unaccompanied flute solos. 'Chìsake' is rare, deeply affecting music that arrives steeped in historical and cultural significance, singing of an age of North American art that's been sidelined for far too long. Transportive sounds for anyone who enjoyed Fis's collaborations with Rob Thorne or even Mary Jane Leach's "(F)lute Songs".
Archambault is a well-known and studied player, composer and architect who's recorded for the Smithsonian National Museum. "Chìsake" means to chant or to conjure, and on this moving selection of solos, he reworks Anishinaabeg ritual music used for divining. The Anishinaabeg are a group of indigenous peoples who now live in the USA and Canada, and would sing chants, accompanied by drummers, in shaking rituals performed by a shamen to connect the world of humans to that of meditating beings. The sounds were considered an aid in reaching the transcendent state, where the specially trained shaman, known as Chìsakewininì, could gain insight into the past, present or future.
Across 24 pieces, Archambault shares his understanding of the form, mutating chants as each is repeated seven times to represent the seven sacred directions: east, south, west, north, above/sky, below/earth, and center. Recorded on its own, the flute takes on an impressive characteristic, mimicking the rich tonality of the voice but retaining its own eerie resonance. And there's little else like it; Ragnar Johnson's recordings of sacred flute music of New Guinea, also released on Ideologic Organ, shares similarities, as does Rob Thorne's haunting Māori wind music, but what Archambault manages here truly stands on its own.
The first of three 12"s from Flylo bumps with some non-album cuts, turning on with the ace 'Sleepy Dinosaur' before bugging the rhythm for 'Rickshaw'.
Dripping soul cut 'Roberta Flack' eases up the b-side with a fragrant vocal from Dolly over slapping percussion and a late afternoon vibe, while the rest of the EP reclines into psyched and stoned grooves that sound better than a lot of the tracks from the album proper.
Blawan & The Analogue Cops regroup for a batch of bad-minded bangers switching between soca snare-driven aces, grotty tonk and acid fried industrial
Saddling up their first mission since 2018, ‘Botmi’ harnesses the three-headed beast at their deadliest, getting at it with the cantering soca snares and misshapen acid of ‘KickN’Rush’, before trottin’ like they’ve got a bad case of the squits in the acid techno swill of ’Skorn Da Gask’. A quick rinse off and they get on with the dry thunk of ‘The Penguin Sin Drum’, and Rudis Materica runs ruffshod over ‘Botmi’ in a fierce rehoof of their title tune, replete with additional darkroom vox.
Touching Bass map South London’s rich hip hop, jazz and psych soul scene, and its rhizomic links to the US, thru crucial nodes such as Wu-Lu, Hejira, AshTreJinkins, Nala Sinephro, DJ Harrison, Clever Austin, and many more
Since 2017’s introductory comp, and over countless dances and NTS shows, Touching Bass has become a leading standard bearer of classic and contemporary Black Atlantic styles. ’Soon Come’ is their celebratory statement of solidarity and intent that acts as a class primer on the label in ’22, with as many tracks spanning interrelated, intercontinental vibes, Split between “day” and “night” sessions, the results imagine something like a glorious day/night out zigzagging wormholes between secret bars and clubs in Peckham, Chicago and NYC.
There’s a whole world to immerse in here. Dawning with the groggy downbeat rap of ROG & Brother Portrait’s ‘The Lighthouse’, it stretches far out from Roy Ayers-ian sunny day soul by Warp’s Wu-Lu, to the lower case folk soul of Hejira and a shimmering vignette by Nala Sinephro x Lyle Barton, with supremely woozy jazz-soul gems by Ego Ella May in ‘Miss U’, and keiyaA’s ‘Camille’s Daughter’, to name a few.
Night follows day with equally high quality on offer. Cowrie’s smudged broken beat soul brings the dusk before Arnheim turns on the deep jazz house flex, and Melo-Zed trade in punk psych funk chops beside a sizzling disco-funk workout by Stones Throw’s DJ Harrison, and AshTreJinkins psychedelic UKG ace ’Sunshine2point0’, with Ben Haucke’s mutant 2000 broken beat wriggler giving way to slower, soul jams by Beaux, Eun & Demae, and the crack of dawn feel to ‘Dïs & Dissolve’ by Molinaro.
Ana Roxanne exerts a gently intimate and singular spin on new age ambient tropes on her beautiful new LP, sounding something like Julee Cruise via Maggi Payne. Surely among this year’s finest quiet listens...
“Ana Roxanne is an intersex Southeast Asian musician based in Los Angeles. Born & raised in the Bay Area to immigrant parents, Ana's love for music and singing began through her mother's cd collection of 80's/90's R&B divas. Raised in the catholic church, she became a devout choir nerd and found any opportunity to sing, whether for religious mass, the jazz ensemble of her catholic high school, or karaoke at family gatherings. Her commitment to singing led her to a brief stint at a vocational jazz program in the cornfields of the midwest; in a remote town of 7,000 people, she began a formal study of jazz and classical music. During these years she would tour with various ensembles to beautiful old cathedrals in nearby cities and became enamored with the sacredness of choral music, as well as the enveloping sound of harmony. A near death experience, too, served as a connection between music and spirituality, and music as a healing art after facing tragedy.
In 2013, Ana was also fortunate enough to spend a few months in Uttarkhand, India where she met an incredible voice teacher who introduced her to classical Hindustani singing. Living and studying with this teacher deeply impacted her outlook on the voice as art. It was there that she began to see the singer - the Diva - as a symbol of divinity; that the unique power of one's voice comes from the vulnerability of using the body as an instrument. Be it romance, love, or worship of a deity - in order to access such depths of emotional expression, one must be willing to be intensely vulnerable, lay one's heart in the open air, expose what is kept hidden. This brief study was the catalyst that led her to finish her music study at the experimental Mills College in Oakland, CA, where she began to combine all of these influences into her current self-titled project. This album ~~~ was created during her last years residing in the Bay Area, a tribute to the great musicians who inspired her and the landscape where she spent her formative years.
In addition to the worship of R&B and pop divas, Ana's current practice explores themes of gender & identity. In October of 2018, she decided to come out publicly as intersex, and is dedicated to being a voice for her community and speaking out about social justice for intersex youth.”
Soaring kosmiche synth saga by an alum of Kranky and Not Not Fun, wrapping up thoughts on life/death and the netherworld in proggy narrative longform - RIYL early 0PN, Tangerine Dream, Jürgen Müller
‘A Ragged Ghost’ is Reinhardt’s first full length outing since 2018, proceeding from a decade of work with likes of Trans Am’s Phil Manley and fictional new age figure Jürgen Müller to refine his solo vision as a fine balance of sincere pastiche. Exploring what the artist describes as “a dance of religious syncretism, navigating spaces between the living and the dead,” he matches his lofty concepts with super spacious synth designs that weave a plethora of classic strands - German kosmische, US new age, library music and Italo disco - with a transportive sense of motion and classic, wide-eyed emotion sure to ring true with more romantic synth fanciers.
A perennial, if lifelong, pursuit for most synth obsessives, the idea of crafting your own stellar journey catalyses Reinhardt to his most evocative and succinct work here. In 11 neat steps we’re guided from the lift-off fanfare of ‘Ape & The Universal Axis’ to the sublime glyde of ‘In Lotto Commodore’ and feathered pulses recalling Werkbund on ‘Earthshaking Patsy’, an Roedelius via Global Communication in ‘Oxus’, leading to a pinnacle of Vangelis-esque synth and sax by Maxim Starcke on ‘Wretched Orchestra of Armistice’. We can hear distant shades of Italo via Carpenter’s pulsating film scores in ‘Quest or Go Fanatic’, with glorious choral pads in ‘An Alleged Jeremiad’ trailing off into his sublime new age curtain closer ‘The Five Paper Tell’.
London’s FFT prunes his obsessively precise electronica into a debut album bursting with ribboning melody and dynamic detail for Numbers
With a string of 12”s and tapes for Bruk and TTT paving the way, ‘Clear’ arrives as a definitive artistic statement of FFT’s meticulous arrangements and sound design, coiled and kinetic like the contemporary offspring of Plaid, Arpanet and D’Arcangelo or the most effusive ends of ‘90s IDM. His previous single for the Glasgow bastion follows the preparatory 12” ‘Disturb Roqe’ with that EP’s Heinrich Mueller-esque highlight ‘Disturb Roqe 2’ included alongside eight new works that crisply spell out his dextrous grasp of meter, space and melody in their deceptively effortless movements.
Three years in the works, the results of here are engineered to a breathlessly taut finish, with each track a playground for FFT’s devilish rhythmic acrobatics and emotions to express his technicality as soul. Brandishing over-easy melodies everywhere from ‘Clear (Eight-Circuit Mix)’ to soaring post-grime structures of ‘Heal’, he balances that thrust with biting point noise in ‘Heal (Alt Mix)’ and keeps the melodic content skewed into the buckled dembow and avant-pop design of ‘Redeemer’, while marking distance from the original IDM movement into the shearing, chromatic 2-step of ‘3 Sided’, and, at best, brings it all together in the diffractive ballistics of ‘You’ve Changed’, which join the dots between original synth-pop horizons, ‘90s IDM and an elusive future music.