Special edition of one of the year’s standout releases (the limited edition new vinyl pressing comes with an Exclusive bonus CD featuring an additional 50 minutes of music - ‘for harpsichord’ and ‘for pipe organ and string trio’). Having lived with this amazing album for best part of a year, we can confidently say it’s among the strongest in its field, full of radiant joys - we urge you to make some time for it.
On her captivating 4th solo album, Montreal’s Sarah Davachi - highly regarded for her majestic, coruscating synth compositions - divides her attentions equally between a purely instrumental palette of strings, piano, voice and organ with an enveloping, often ecstatic and mystic effect recalling Áine O’Dwyer’s recent Locusts wonder as much as Ellen Fullman’s works for long stringed instruments. We're completely blown away by it.
Rather than mining ancient synth hardware for its unique tones, in All My Circles Run, Davachi applies the same exploratory approach to acoustic instruments with glacially tense results that quietly light up the liminal borderland between the spheres of electronic and acoustic practice when contrasted with her previous recordings. As the title suggests, you can consider these new pieces as discrete strands in a sort of diffracted spectral venn diagram of her sound.
The results will ring true with anyone who has heard her previous releases, while also offering another perspective on her tonal ontology, pin-pointing her acute feel for pealing, plangent overtones in For Strings, which opens out with a raw beauty and scale reaching heights vaguely reminiscent of Áine O’Dwyer’s recent LPs, or by Charlemagne Palestine for that matter, whereas For Voice is a deeply sober, sombre piece again precisely focussed on those fluttering points where consonance/dissonance are near indistinguishable.
The solo piano piece, Chanter follows that slope into lower tones, slowing the heart rate to the point where we can almost perceive the notes as gauzy, keening and candle-flickering blurs, before her sound starts to coalesce in lustrous, upward facing drone in For Organ, burning with a quiet optimism which is sublimated into the exceptional parting passage of For Piano, where the pensile strings, gently cascading keys, and floating organ ebb and flow with a magic intensity redolent of an imagined, smudged meditation by Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guèbru and Pauline Oliveros.
Expanded, definitive, 1st ever vinyl reissue of classic early ‘90s EBM album; the 2nd LP by Dirk Ivens in solo mode as Dive after leaving legendary Belgian EBM supergroup, The Klinik.
On Concrete Jungle, Ivens’ signature growled and unheimlich vocals carry over from The Klinik into this project, but don’t quite dominate proceedings as strongly as before, which is all good with us. Here, the vocals are tempered and more diverse, sometimes coming on in his classic vein, but also diffused and mixed deeper into the matrix of his hard-edged yet stoically funked-up productions, and sharing space with Wendy Van Dusen ov Neither/Neither World.
Additionally, the 2nd disc contains Dive’s handful of cover versions of Joy Division, Kraftwerk, Wire, Martin Rev, and Fad Gadget taken from Extended Play , plus the cranky rarity Homeless from the Elektrauma compilation, and a grip of thistly winners that previously only appeared on the CD version of Dive’s First Album
RIYL. Silent Servant, Broken English Club, Helena Hauff
After leaving us with a Kylie Minogue collaboration in 2013, múm return 5 years later with a batch of quietly endearing recordings made in Berlin.
“Returning to Berlin for the third installment of their acclaimed live-score performance to accompany silent film classic Menschen am Sonntag (1930), múm present a 10" vinyl comprising material that was recorded during previous installments of this extraordinary film/music event. Arriving with shimmering sounds and ambient layers, "Cards" eventually bursts into a mix of live drums and massive beams of electronica.
Whereas "Evaporate" includes great piano miniatures, "Cycle Boats" boasts a melody that perfectly reflects the leisurely coming and going. "My Claws" is a wildly dense, unstoppable force of nature, that's catchy like an '80s pop tune.”
Sharply contoured, inventive electro mutations from Maelstrom, a french producer with previous form for Veronica Vasicka’s Cititrax, BNR, and Zone.
Again, CPU get the best out of their guy here, turning up some strong highlights with his fresh spin on Braindance tunings and ghettofunk pneumatics in the exquisite Lost Echoes, some filigree acid pirouettes on ALPH4, and pure electro/techno pressure on VZNIETIT and Praxis.
DJs, dancers - it’s yours.
Anthony J Hart (Imaginary Forces, Basic Rhythm) adopts the Hi Tek moniker as producer for East Man’s Red, White & Zero; a grime/dancehall/ project inspired by London’s vital relationship between mixed, working class cultures, inspired by conversations with theorist and academic Paul Gilroy - alumni of the late, great Stuart Hall. Features bars by Saint P, Darkos Strife, Killa P, Eklipse, Lyrical Strally, Kwan. RIYL The Bug, Blackdown, Alex Deamonds.
“London’s young people have been seen as a problem by governments for many generations now. Their distinctive street cultures stretch back into the nineteenth century when, just like today, a stylish public presence signified danger to respectable people. At that time, Britain’s class conflicts were being re-made amidst all the glorious fruits of a global empire. Divisions like class and sex had different shapes and tempos that hardly resemble the machinery of our increasingly networked and unequal world. Religion, racism and nationalism were all important, but work, exploitation and poverty supplied the fiery core of politricks.
These days, Britain’s imperial wealth and prestige are long gone. Today’s young people are excluded and marginalized, confined and criminalized, yet they remain at the heart of the vital, energetic best of our city. Their energy and imagination drive London’s convivial culture. They duck and dive just like their predecessors. They hustle, they suffer and they survive. Even where knives are common, most of the problems that come up get resolved without murderous violence. The defining experience of their precarious situation is more likely to be fear or anxiety than warfare between gangs. Their violence is more likely to turn inwards on to their loved ones and family members. There are many forms of self harm and self medication.
Yet the space in which those youthful lives unfold has contracted. The scale on which life is lived has shrunk. Moving around can be expensive. Surveillance is constant. Dignity and certainty are difficult to find and hold on to. It can be hard to feel comfortable outside the spaces and places you know best. Those familiar circuits are marked out by the roadside shrines of dead flowers that show just how vulnerable you can quickly become.
We have been losing London to Babylon but we are busy making a new place. The edges of the city have become fertile. The weeds grow up explosively between palisaded concrete boxes and the litter-strewn greenery. This is not zones 1 and 2 where houses and flats are capital rather than buildings to live in. The music that comes out of that edgy world isn’t what it was a generation ago, but it’s still fundamental--necessary for life.
These shocking sounds can be a part of healing and repair while staying faithful to the pressures that forged them. Musicians can’t make a living from their creativity, but their listeners can’t understand this historical moment unless they get to grips with its local rules, meanings and poetry. This is not America. Even without words, this music speaks for itself and tells a story. It calls out to be understood while seeking ways to escape interpretation.
We are always more than either this or that. We are more than either black or white."
Paul Gilroy 2017.
Four track EP made up of new songs ‘Keep It Surreal’, ‘Cold Water People’ and apocalyptic closer ‘Catch You Dreaming’.
"A defiantly reflective, blissed out, yet wistful six minute zero gravity swirl, the track showcases yet another side to the reborn and rejuvenated Ride, who last Summer returned with their first new music in twenty years.
Catch You Dreaming’ was originally written during the ‘Weather Diaries’ sessions in Autumn 2016, and sees the continuation of their working relationship with Moulder and Alkan, the same combination who helped shape their richly layered and multi-faceted comeback album."
Giuseppe Leonardi pursues the heat-stroked balearic vibes of his jack Of All Trades 12” into this one for Second Circle
Resulting some devilishly debonaire Afro-synth-boogie on Unsinn, an oily downstroke into Giallo-esque soundtrack music with Kannibalentanz, and two strokes of pure sensual synth élan with Every Tree And Creature and All Blue.
File in your adult contemporary after-hours section.
We’ve never come across a music fiend who doesn’t swoon hard for vintage Ethiopian music when at its best. Ernesto Chahoud’s ‘Taitu’ compilation of “soul-fuelled stompers” is all killer-no filler, an unmissable introduction this special sound, or a further education for anyone already snagged on Mulatu Astatke, Tilahun Gessesse or those classic Ethiopiques sets. Grooves to own your booty, and vocals that send shivers down the spine
“Ernesto Chahoud’s ‘Taitu’ is a collection of soul-fuelled stompers straight from the dancefloors of 1970s Addis Ababa. A breathless journey through the unique Ethio sound that bands were forging at the time, the 24-track compilation is the result of the Lebanese DJ and crate digger’s decade long love affair with the ‘golden age’ of Ethiopian music.
Among the musical gems featured are 7"s by some of the heavyweights of the scene including the godfather of Ethio jazz Mulatu Astatke and Alemayehu Eshete, the vocalist dubbed the ‘Ethiopian Elvis’, alongside tracks by more obscure artists such as Merawi Yohannis and Birkineh Wurga.
For ‘Taitu’, Chahoud has selected 24 of his essential Ethio-Soul 7"s, that never leave his DJ box, and together they capture this opportune moment in Ethiopian music history that saw bands experiment with an armful of influences: gliding through R&B, rock & roll, jazz, funk, soul and boogaloo. What came out was a distinctly Ethiopian interpretation: pentatonic scales, horn-driven melodies and soul-shattering vocals sung in Amharic.
The songs are difficult to box in to one genre but they share a simplicity and rawness, added to by their lo-fi quality – with many recordings made in rudimentary studios with only a couple of mics for the entire band.
From the R&B stomper ‘Honey Baby’ by Alemayehu Eshete to Astatke’s swaggering ethnic-jazz instrumental ‘Emnete’ and the bluesy melancholic vocals of Hirut Bekele on ‘Ewnetegna Feker’, ‘Taitu’ is a window in on the exciting records being made in Ethiopia in the 1970s.“
U.S. Girls is the protean musical enterprise of multi-disciplinary artist, Meg Remy, presenting her sixth studio album ‘In A Poem Unlimited’.
"Remy’s second release for 4AD, which also includes ‘Mad As Hell’ - a clarion call for pacifism - was tracked in collaboration with Toronto-based instrumental collective The Cosmic Range and features arrangements by long-time contributors Maxmilian Turnball and Louis Percival. The dizzying buffet of live grooves on ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ represents an inversion of the dusty, sample-based minimal textures of ‘Half Free’, Remy’s euphoric 4AD debut.
Steered into focus by Remy and mixer / co-producer Steve Chahley, ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ features disco employed as a protest vernacular (‘Mad As Hell’), as well as an unrelenting assault (‘Time’); moody, slow-burning funk (‘Velvet 4 Sale’ and ‘L-Over’) and earnest synth anthems ‘Rosebud’ and ‘Poem’, which form the album’s emotional core.
‘In A Poem Unlimited’ features dark meditations reflecting charged atmospheres that directly precede and follow acts of violence. Many of the songs are character studies of women grappling with power; how to gain and exert it spiritually, as well as desperate strategies to mitigate its infliction. Remy also rallies against the public lies told by political and religious leaders and, more crucially, questions the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive. While U.S. Girls, denoting the plural, is no longer a misnomer, ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ may be Remy’s most individually distilled protest to date.
‘In A Poem Unlimited’ album opener ‘Velvet 4 Sale’ concerns a female narrator imploring another to buy a gun for protection, impressing that the only way to change men is for women to use violence. Remy says, “Men are lucky women (and children) have yet to take up arms. And although I hope this never happens and I completely disagree that violence is ever effective, this very idea was ripe for a song."
Dubstep strongarm Pinch undertakes a dark and deadly mission for Loefah’s 81.
Walking With Shadows is a stripped down greyscale hulk of half step techno patterns arced with synths dialled in from late ‘90s D&B.
Better yet, AHH FFF SSS is one of those UK rave bombs that Pinch has built his career on, streaking evil rave stabs on a tense, stumbling, and distended techno/bass groove.
Glass offers the sublime results of a collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto), as performed and recorded at Philip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut during the private opening to Yayoi Kusama’s installation marking the 110th anniversary of Johnson’s birth.
Making sterling use of the landmark architectural work’s pellucid dimensions, the pair fixed contact mics to its glass walls, which they effectively played as an “instrument”, rubbing it with rubber gong mallets to generate delicate tones which they combined with a sympathetic palette of singing glass bowls, crotales, keyboards and mixers.
The seamless performance of floating, weightless tones and exquisitely quivering timbres is without doubt one of their finest. For the duration we’re held static and spellbound by the pair’s interplay of microtonal shifts and plasmic chronics, keening the listener thru hazes of digital dust and vortices of angelic harmonics to locate, alchemise and resolve a rarified, deeply mysterious spirit before the piece closes.
As the follow-up to their OST for The Revenant  and the warbling keys of Summvs  before that, the achingly lush tension of Glass is perhaps the purest testament to the clarity of vision and endless minimalist mutability of this highly revered duo.
Roving electronic curveballs from Quicksails, including a mad remix romp from $hit & $hine!
“For the second installation of the limited catalogue GODCUTS, we are happy to present 5 original Quicksails' tracks with 3 remixes by Brett Naucke, Khaki Blazer and Austin favourite Shit&Shine.
Ben Billington aka Quicksails is a polyedric musician very active in the Chicago scene, with a stringful of releases on different labels, among them the mighty Mayville Dream on Spectrum Spools.
On side A he explores the world existing between electronic and acoustic, with very unique and interesting results, not actually comparable to other stuff we've already heard. Check the clips to listen to what we're talking about.
On side B his Spectrum Spools colleague Brett Naucke transforms My Moon in a cybernetic dream, while Khaki Blazer goes on a different direction, moving toward a 4-legs transgenic footwork.
Closing the ep is the remix version of Craig Clouse, who puts the original version in his special washing machine for a heavy laundry that gives you back everything way more dirty.”
Terekke takes L.I.E.S. over the line with his sublime debut LP, Plant Age - the label 100th release. If you’ve been wowed by his handful of Terekke 12”s to date, take it on trust that this one’s his best so far. For everyone else, this is some of the loveliest, fugged-out deep house you’ll hear all year.
In the mould of his much loved singles, Plant Age finds the Amsterdam-based producer lushing out in eight ways, all linked by the classic spirits of deep, ambient and dub-house styles. It’s surely an analogue bubblebath for the soul - the kind of careful, caressing music to put on at any time of the day to ease your worries.
With xanax-like efficacy, he conducts a deeply anaesthetising drift from the watercoloured chords and elusive, Sprinkles-like bass on Tack thru cotton-built deep house in BB2 and delicicious, barely-there ambient structures in Swim, then sending gentle shockwaves thru the smoke with his doubles stepper Mix91, before pushing off into purely opiated 4th world zones in JQM, and kissing off with the aqueous smudge of Closer.
France’s Hard Beach Entertainment come off like a shabby chic take on Viewlexx/Murder Capital’s ‘90s electro aesthetics with the sound and look of Corporation Mindfuck’s Winds Of Corruption.
Expect five cuts of anaesthetised electro pressures working somewhere between Low Jack, Black Zone Myth Chant and BFDM, and a dead blunted I-F or Legowelt.
London/Milan’s Big Hands breaks thru with a deft collection of rave deconstructions backed by a grimy remix from Walton, all destined for the hands of canny DJs.
Big Hands takes cues from abstracted dancefloor emotions to generate six icy components ranging from Lorenzo Senni or TCF-liek flights in Prequel, to bumpy bass rolige in More Than Love, and Zomby-esque rave tesselations on the B-side’s Tensegrity, Kick Ballad and Blood, with Walton bringing up the rear on a tense, string slashed transfusion of Blood.
CV & JAB is Christina Vantzou and John Also Bennett, two artists that might already be familiar to many of you from their individual work over the years for the Kranky and Spectrum Spools labels. Together they have made this slowly engrossing album for Shelter Press - who else - perhaps one of the most elusive, uncanny and multi-layered “Ambient” albums we’ve heard in what feels like a long time, a worthy follow-up to a frankly astonishing sequence of releases on the label that started with Felicia Atkinson’s modern classic 'Hand In Hand'. If you’re into anything from Chris Watson’s field recordings to Vangelis and Badalamenti at their most romantic and evocative, or even Boards of Canada’s early forays into wildlife documentary pastiche, this one will sooth your mind like nothing else.
The album is a musical interpretation of Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface, a 90m panoramic wall drawing by Zin Taylor (a reproduction of which is included as a fold-out poster that comes with the vinyl edition). Through 10 tracks they render beautiful electro-acoustic meditations on the passage of time, which follows-on from their co-work on Vantzou's No. 3 album.
Vantzou brings a wealth of experience working between auditory and visual mediums to John Also Bennett’s synthesized and acoustic sound sensitivities, which have recently applied to his action in the Forma trio and a compilation of Pauline Anna Strom’s amazing Trans-Millenia Music for RVNG Intl, with a purposefully slow and immersive flow of acoustic piano and flute wrapped up in remarkably plasmic, spatially detailed synth contours.
In 10 parts, through a combination of literal track titles and abstracted allegorical inference, they describe the movement and feelings evinced by Zin Taylor’s massive tableaux, variously transposing his imagery of Cactus with Vent into webs of crystalline harmonics that acquiesce to brownian motion, or, as with the transition of Alfred Hitchcock Haze to Rock House With Door, a vividly synaesthetic transcription of figurative drawing to brooding, doomily Lynchian sound that brings to mind a wealth of captivatingly dank and alien imagery.
The vinyl package includes a miniaturised print of Zin Taylor’s Thoughts of a Dot as it Travels a Surface to peruse while you listen, so that you, like Christina and Bennett, can also make your own interpretation, and see how far their sonic translation differs with your own. Or then again, you could ignore it entirely and let yourself drift inside their free-formed dimensions without the cues. Either way, you’re in for a beautiful, open-ended and unpredictable trip.
An all time killer classic from Wackies.
This 12" features 3 cuts of Lee Perry's immortal Tight Spot Rhythm featuring searing vocals by Leroy Sibbles and the great Stranger Cole, together with an instrumental version by the Bullwackies Allstars. Yum.
An evergreen ambient classic and FACT's #10 album of the ‘80s, also in Pitchfork’s Top 40 Best Ambient Albums of All Time, Steve Roach’s Structures From Silence returns to its spiritual home on vinyl more than 30 years since it first came into this dimension.
On his 3rd album, self-taught synthesist Steve Roach made a break from his previous two sides of Berlin-skool kosmiche and ambient to foster a far more delicate, focussed yet heavy-lidded style of new age ambient music that was mercifully shy of the style’s more cloying cliches, favouring subtly phasing repetition and suspense over space soap opera dramatics or hippyish fantasy.
The result is a seductively minimalist suite of space music in three parts, gently flowing upwards and outwards to beautifully introspective ends on Reflections In Suspension, before Quiet Friend cradles your heart in diaphanous sheets of satin synth, and Structures From Silence imperceptibly returns to 0 in a creamy wash of aqueous pads that feel like a Vangelis romance theme slowed to alien temporality.
Ambient gold, this. Don’t miss!
The overdue and overproof sophomore Young Echo album is finally upon us, dispensing an epic 24 tracks of subby, red-eyed and distinctively Bristolian vibes set to dank-out smoky dwellings everywhere. Arriving five years after Nexus, their eponymous second album features cuts from each of the 11-strong mob, framing a fractious mosaic of style and pattern rooted in dub and the dancehall, but unafraid to fxck with noise, techno, ambient pop and grime in their own way.
It’s a proper group effort, playing to their strengths in diversity and unity in the best way by keeping individual track credits close to their chest, only allowing the album to be taken as a whole. Yeh, of course everyone’s going to have personal favourites, but they’re only facets of a much bigger body, and it’s to their credit that the whole thing feels coherent, a shared experience, and doesn’t simply sound like a compilation of music by like minds.
Young Echo have always been a bit of sore-thumb in the scene - are they a band? A label? A soundsystem in the mould of The Wild Bunch? The one takeaway from all their material is a sense of shared purpose and democracy - not in the usual, arrogant indie band style, or in-your-face political militancy - pivoting around mutual ideas of economy of expression and a sensitivity to space, rhythm and tone that effectively all pulls back to dub, no matter their individual heritage.
Young Echo is an organic complex where light hardly penetrates its papyrus-like walls, and much of the most crucial communication is made via infrasonics and atonality, relaying messages and emotions both as metaphorical/physical vibes and quite literally thru a morphing voice, which might be gruff poetic realism of Rider Shafioque one minute, the crisply enunciated diction of Jabu or Chester Giles the next, while a number of ghostly, sampled characters also haunt its corridor, perfusing half-heard messages thru their smoky matrix.
It adds up to an album symptomatic of the times in which it was made, yet does so timelessly, bridging the original, super plush studio trip hop creation of their geographic forebears, Massive Attack or Portishead, with a more road-level appreciation of economy and soul which might be best recognised by members of their generation, but should also be felt by any open-minded and empathetic souls the world over.
It’s definitely not another fxcking coffee table record, we’ll give you that for free.
Russian-Israeli singer/songwriter Mary Ocher saddles up a brooding and driving new collection including a stunning cover of Robbie Basho’s Blue Crystal Fire featuring Julia Kent (Antony and The Johnsons), and a live cut with instrument builder Hans Unsworn and band. RIYL Circuits Des Yeux, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey
“Mary Ocher closes 2017 with the release of a further trove of songs. The "Faust Studio Sessions and Other Recordings" is a collection of pieces whose vast majority was recorded during the sessions that gave birth to "The West Against The People", Ocher's full-length release that came out on Klangbad earlier this year to much praise, released alongside a sociopolitical essay and further collaborations (Felix Kubin, Die Toedliche Doris).
These two weeks of recordings were made with Hans Joachim Irmler at the Faust Studio, which is located in a small village by the Swiss border, in a big industrial space overlooking the Danube. Mary's two drummers, Your Government joined the sessions for a short while, the rest was recorded solo. The 10" also features a collaboration with cello player Julia Kent (Antony and The Johnsons) - in a rendition of Robbie Basho's phenomeal "Blue Crystal Fire", the second collaboration is a live recording with German experimental artist Hans Unstern and his band, known for their use of self built instruments.”
Rough Trade reissue this out of print classic from Sun Kil Moon.
'Glenn tipton' as opener is suffused with the plucked intricacies of prime nick drake, yolked to a vocal nuanced up there with the very best stuff from the great richard buckner recorded over the last 10 years. 'Salvador sanchez' wields convincing overdrive, a reverb-drenched shadow of neil young in flight, at his very peak, live with crazy horse on 'cortez the killer'.
If you're feeling a little spooked by these old man's music references then don't be - here there's a freshness, a lightness of touch which is all too lacking in the streams of plain old revivalism, masquerading as new music. Here, mark may well have been inspired by all the old geezers, but knows how to kick out fully on his own, rocking out on 'Lily and parrots' inna classic Big Star fashion, tempering it with the muted folksiness of 'Gentle Moon'. The entire third side is taken up with 'Duk koo kim', a piece which must surely take off in performance, one of those great holding-pattern riffs, building up to an ensemble jam which should definitely be experienced in one sitting. There's lightness too, in the shape of the mexican strings of 'Si, paloma' - subtle, shifting coda to a emotionally complex, genuinely wonderful album.
Charles Mingus' sharp and precise compositions rank among the greatest in jazz. While the composer / basisst / pianist's music lay rooted in the dominant-of-his-time genre of hard bop, it frequently ventured into realms of gospel, blues, free jazz, and classical music, all featuring innovative and pioneering double-bass techniques.
"He frequently encouraged collective improvisation, and unorthodox ensembles to compose his songs, which frequently included session legends like Pepper Adams, Jimmy Knepper, Booker Ervin, and other jazz musicians of note. Though infamous for having a firey temper on and off-stage, (Which led to the later nickname of "The Angry Man Of Jazz") Mingus is frequently paired with the likes of Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis as one of the greatest bandleaders and jazz composers of all time.
Among his many full-length releases, 1959's Mingus Ah Um is considered one of best, and the peak moment of his works with the collective of musicians dubbed the Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop. Clocking in at over an hour in length, Mingus Ah Um is 9 tracks of his finest, running the gamut from aggressive post-bop, to joyous gospel fusion, to progressive shuffling ballads, many of which would go on to become standards of the genre. It even took moments to praise his contemporaries in tracks like "Goodbye Porkpie Hat", written for saxophonist Lester Young, and the closer "Jelly Roll", an affectionate tribute to one of the first great composers of jazz. Regarded as one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, and one of fifty recordings added to the National Recording Registry in 2003."
New album from Dominick Fernow’s most intriguing alias with "Sound on Sound” processing by Silent Servant and a remix from Substance (Chain Reaction). A huge recommendation if you're into Vainqueur, Huerco S, Talk Talk, Carl Craig, Rhythm & Sound...
Following a still-ongoing series of reissues of the earliest, previously tape-only releases from Dominick Fernow’s Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, this long-in-the-making new album proper is an epic 80 minute set featuring additional production from Silent Servant, a remix from Substance and some of the deadliest subs we've heard in an age.
It’s by far the most ambitious and far-reaching Rainforest dispatch, taking that artificial, tropical humidity as a starting point before heading deep into a kind of textured ambience, moving away from the extreme saturation of those early cassettes and the industrial environmentalism of his previous album Green Graves and instead creaiting a kind of 'Fear Dub’ - as the label call it - which is essentially the perfect encapsulation of the deep sense of paranoia contained within.
The opening Jungle Is A Shapeshifter is a gargantuan 35 minute head-melter that’s split across the first two sides of the vinyl pressing. Co-Produced with Silent Servant, it’s the most absorbing piece of "Ambient" music we’ve heard in a long while - slowly unfurling via chorus pedal guitars that gradually degrade, while a fathoms-deep bass pulse and tape-delay gives the piece its shape. It’s like an updated, tranquillised, fever-dream variant of the kind of ambient dub Vainqueur made his own back in the mid-90’s - we could listen to it on a loop for hours.
Beyond The Yellow-Spotted Bamboo, another Silent Servant co-production, clocks in at a relatively modest 17 minutes and heads off into more open terrain, this time with submerged percussion providing some propulsion, while shards of coloured synth pull you back into the swamp. It’s another humid, breathtaking session - bringing out the best in both Fernow and Silent Servant via perhaps the most important and satisfying work either artist has been involved with.
Praying Mantis Black Arts is another masterclass in sub-bass construction, while Chile’s Crimson Tide is the shortest track on the album, a kind of broken coda before Substance ends the set with a remix of Beyond The Yellow-Spotted Bamboo, deploying a tribal reduction that references classic Chain Reaction from a producer who was part of it first hand.
It’s a relatively upbeat conclusion to one of the most immersive listening experiences you’ll have in 2017; those of you looking for escape should dive in - you won’t want to re-engage with the world around you for a while.
For anyone who knows these records already - you won't need much of a sermon from us about their stature and greatness. If you don't know them - you're in for a treat.
Rhythm & Sound was the project that Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald turned to after their seminal series of recordings as Basic Channel came to an end. From 1997 until 2002 the label released seven 12" EP's which pretty much defined the direction so much electronic music would turn to in its wake - and it still continues to exert a colossal influence, for better or worse. It's perhaps hard to remember over a decade later just how little these productions sounded like anything that preceded them - taking the essence of dub and breaking it down until all that was left was a vapour trail of melody and a colossal bass echo. We could spend an hour listing all the music that basically came along and copied this template in the intervening years but, the thing is, none of what followed comes anywhere near these productions in terms of substance, none of it has aged in the same way.
"Mango Walk / Mango Drive" was the second release on the label and, for many, remains its finest moment. The a-side features an original production from the Wackies vaults by Azul & Bullwackie recorded in 1979, with an incredible 9 minute revision from Mark and Moritz on the flip. The version that appeared on the Rhythm & Sound 'Compilation' is over two minutes shorter.
Kiel/K1’s classic Manny grime instrumental Who You Hang With finally finds its audience on vinyl, now backed with the wavey swagger of his new one Range Road, and marking up the crucial 1st shot on his Prism label.
Back in the hazy days of 2004-2007, Kiel was a clockwork regular at our brick n mortar shop, Pelicanneck, which was the only place to pick up new grime and dubstep white labels in Manchester back then (another shop at the time called this stuff “gay rage”, as in garage, geddit? Nah, us neither), and he’d pretty much hoover up all the best plates week in, week out.
A few years after the shop shut, Kiel knocked out the instrumental Who You Hang With, which has since become a vital part of the Manc grime canon, most famously used as the riddim to a freestyle on Westwood by his Mayhem Crew MC, Shifty. Now with nearly a decade of hindsight, it’s safe to call Who You Hang With a patently and uncannily prescient fusion of trap and grime which has clearly withstood the test of time.
For bittersweet contrast with his current sound, the B-side’s Range Road - named after the UK road with greatest range of languages spoken, fact fans! - locates a hoods-up, low-rolling mix of see-sawing synths and sub-fuelled trap bite that’s only shades away from Who You Hang With, but equally fresh and up-to-the-second.
100% Manchester modern. Tip!
DJ Nobu meets Kouhei Matsunaga (NHK) on their début batch of techno trax as MTv for The Trilogy Tapes.
Their Hollywood #1 EP broadly falls in two categories: firstly working with hyaline timbres and slow, dull thuds in Snow Ball, and then with a viscous EBM momentum powered by tangy synth liens in Smooth Motion.
On the other hand you have two uptempo workouts; the tentative 127bpm stepper Smart Ball, and a squeaky bum jacker called Look Back Motion, where they jointly put some proper, jacked-up techno back into it.
The people at Antinote are always excited to introduce new names to its roster and Sign Libra, its latest addition, makes no exception to the rule.
"Released under the moniker Sign Libra, Closer to the Equator is the work of Latvian artist and composer Agata Melnikova. Composed for a contemporary ballet at Latvian National Opera in Riga, the music on this record strongly relies on Melnikova’s appreciation of BBC-produced nature documentaries. Projecting the life of each creature that inhabits the British TV-program into her very personal and highly synthetized world, Sign Libra lends these microscopic beings her own voice. Each song works like a musical “tableau” in which the main protagonists – plants and animals – come on stage to play their part in a ballet carefully choreographed by the Latvian artist.
Sign Libra’s mental and musical incarnations of the microcosm of the rainforest have something to do with Software’s album populated by exotic insects and crawling plants, a “Carnaval des Animaux” released on Sky by a MIDI-addicted Hector Berlioz. These microscopic beings incarnate themselves in resonated melodies that echo through a technicolour rainforest, while winds blow through holographic ferns, vines and palms.
Closer To The Equator synthesizes visions panning treetops as the sun’s rays pierce through clouds nearby. Sign Libra takes you into a harmonic world that shines brightly wherever you stand, and offers a genuine synesthetic experience.”
Keith Hudson's key achievement in a career launched when as a fourteen-year-old he recorded members of The Skatalites on his Shades Of Hudson rhythm.
Originally released in 1974, after a series of solid-gold productions for Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson, John Holt, U-Roy and the rest, it projects Hudson's removal from JA to London and New York studios and transatlantic audiences, and inaugurates a sequence of albums - classics like Pick A Dub, Brand, Playing It Cool - which show his troubled experimentalism better suited to the LP than the cardinal 7" reggae format.
Anchored here by Santa Davis and George Fullwood from the Soul Syndicate - alongside musicians like Augustus Pablo, Count Ossie and Leroy Sibbles - Hudson's mood is tormented and dazed, as on titles like Darkest Night, My Nocturne and Testing My Faith he struggles for Black senses of commitment - political, existential, religious - at its breaking point. Magnificently and deadly serious, hauntingly unique, unmissable and unforgettable.
LFI yield the aural equivalent of a queasy mushy trip with Garland’s maiden voyage, Preludes #1
An intoxicating journey, guided by sloshing percussion and probing bass plongs thru lysergically dubbed-out electro-acoustic dimensions and keening microtonal ‘tronics.
Robert Haigh, who is perhaps better known as D&B legend Omni Trio, reprises the solemn, autumnal contemporary classical styles heard on his V-O-D retrospective and early releases for NWW’s United Dairies, this time in the esteemed comapny of Laurie Spiegel, Carl Stone, Lubomyr Melnyk on Unseen Worlds
“A new album of piano driven ambient music from British composer Robert Haigh. Following in the path of his albums for the Japanese Siren label, Creatures of the Deep is an underground vantage of a meeting between the musical worlds of Harold Budd and Erik Satie. With a storied musical career that has ranged widely in style — from his industrial-avant-garde works on Nurse With Wound’s United Diaries label as SEMA to his legendary ambient drum and bass records as Omni Trio on Moving Shadow — Robert Haigh's work occupies a space between music and mystery.
With Creatures of the Deep, Haigh is at the peak of his powers. Among noir, minimal, neo-classical landscapes are robust scatterings of bright reflection and a musical expression that is subtle and elusive yet uniquely Haigh’s in its voice and masterful execution. The closer we examine, the more is revealed, and the less is defined.”
The legendary #2 on Fact mag’s “20 Best Minimal Wave records ever made” list sees 1st ever legit vinyl reissue thanks to the heavy souls at Dark Entries. Since the original tape release in 1982, Solid Space’s only studio album Space Museum has become a definitive, widely sought-after example of early ’80s minimal synth music, coveted for its cold but exquisitely endearing mix of sci-fi themes with synth-pop, electronic disco, funk and even jangly folk chops. A massive recommendation to anyone into Current 93, Depeche Mode, Officer!
“Dark Entries is honored to finally present the first ever official vinyl reissue of Space Museum by Solid Space. Solid Space was the British duo of Dan Goldstein (keyboards, vocals) and Matthew ‘Maf’ Vosburgh (guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals) formed in 1980. Dan and Matthew met at the age of 11 while attending school in north London. In late 1978 at at the age of 14, they formed Exhibit ‘A’ with Paul “Platypus” and Andrew “Lunchbox” Bynghall. They recorded two EPs in 1979 and 1980, self-released on Irrelevant Wombat Records and appeared on ‘The Thing From The Crypt’ compilation. After the dissolution of the group, Mathew started taking his guitar over to Dan’s house where he’d play his Casio MT-30 and they would record songs. Eventually a second hand drum machine and Wasp synthesizer were acquired from classified ads in Melody Maker and the Solid Space sound was born. By this time they were just turning 18 and finally found the freedom to make the music they’d had in their heads.
Over the course of the next two years the band assembled eleven bedroom recordings that would become one of the most cherished DIY obscurities of its kind. Their debut album ‘Space Museum’ was released in 1982 on cassette by In Phaze Records. All of the songs were mixed by label boss Pat Bermingham on 8-track tape at The Shed, in Ilford, which was literally a garden shed. The band’s music and lyrics were heavily indebted to science fiction, in particular the 1960s television series Doctor Who. ‘Space Museum’ is an unveiling of atmospheric, minimalist post punk supported by bright melodies. The music combines drum machines and synths with acoustic guitar and toy drums whilst also experimenting with samples between tracks. Lyrics deal with space travel and a general sense of dejection. Representing a bubbling spirit within the underground, they foreshadowed an entire world of independent music which would emerge across the 80’s and well into the 90’s. For this reissue we’ve included two bonus tracks from the band’s archive, “Platform 6” originally released on the B-side of the second single by Exhibit ‘A’, this song features only Dan and Matthew and is the first Solid Space track ever recorded. “Tutti Lo Sanno” is a cover of In Phaze label mates Marine Girls, though the lyrics have been changed to suit the gender of the new singer.
Basic Channel heads Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald keep the burial mix series going with its most ambitious release to date - a collection of one-rhythm tracks featuring vocal contributions from Basic Channel collaborators old and new.
"See Mi Yah" is a classic collection of one-rhythm tracks, typical format and production approach in Reggae, featuring ten vocal versions and one instrumental of the See Mi Yah rhythm (an additional 3 are only available on the 7" collection), strictly roots!
After Paul St. Hilaire (formerly known as Tikiman) had lent his voice to quite a few Rhythm & Sound releases over the years, the starting point for this project was to work with him once again and also with his brother Ras Perez, their fellow Berlin based Dominicans Koki and Ras Donovan (also known from his collaboration with Mapstation), the Berlin based Jamaicans Freddy Mellow, Walda Gabriel, Bobbo Shanti, Lance Clarke as Rod Of Iron and Joseph Cotton aka Jah Walton.
With a toasting style heavily influenced by the legendary U-Roy, Cotton was a central figure in the jamaican DJ scene of the 70s and 80s. To cap it all off, on a visit to Berlin, the great Sugar Minott and Willi Williams (famous for Studio 1 classic Armagideon Time) did their versions in the Rhythm & Sound studio!
For each tune the rhythm is arranged and mixed differently. The legacy and genius of Basic Channel and all its myriad offshoots seems more relevant and important now than ever before, they have a knack of creating music that lives on in the listener's head long after voices, rhythm and sound have long gone. Highly recommended!!
'Versions' leaves out the vocal accompaniment and exposes the production as it drifts off into instrumental effervescence...
This second breathtaking CD leaves out the vocal accompaniment and exposes the terryfingly deep Basic Channel production as it drifts off into instrumental effervescance. The hallmarks are all there; Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald have already set the world ablaze once, twice, three, four times with their work as Basic Channel and the splintering into microscopic, heavyweight offshoots by way of the M series, Main Street, Chain Reaction, Rhythm and Sound and, of course, Burial Mix. It's hard to over-emphasise just how important their music has been to us over the last two decades and, for that matter, just how substantial their impact has had on everything that has taken place in electronic music since.
Following convention, each of these labels has offered a catalogue up on record (in this case 10" releases) before compiling the music. This is, in fact, the second Burial Mix compilation, the first "showcase" concentrating on the label's collaborations with Paul St Hilaire, aka Tikiman, for its opening set of releases. This second installment divides itself into Vocal and Instrumental "Versions" (the Vocal tracks are collected seperately on a second release), displaying the last seven releases in their entirety, plus "Mash Down Babylon" (a new take on "March Down Babylon"), and features a by-now totally classic collection of tracks that in their time have all been singles of the week for us here.
Just thinking of the majestic exuberance of "King in My Empire", or the breathtaking space of "Making Histroy" makes it hard to fathom how this material hasn't really aged a day in all these years...
A rare grail of Ghanaian cosmic high life bubbles back to vinyl for 1st time in over 30 years
“One of Ghana’s most sought-after LPs emerges from obscurity as a high quality reissue on the new Vintage Voudou label from the Netherlands. First released in Nigeria in 1979, this LP (also known as Basa Basa Experience - Together We Win) is a unique collaboration with Themba ‘T-fire’ Matebese, who propelled Basa Basa’s sound, inspired by Ghanaian traditional music, soul and afrobeat, into another dimension, adding disco elements, synthesizers and the production aesthetics of the next decade. Contains extensive liner notes and fold-out poster.
The new Amsterdam based label Vintage Voudou focuses on re-releasing a carefully picked selection of rare tropical music on vinyl, paying special attention to sound quality and print work. Vintage Voudou was founded by Alex Figueira (Fumaça Preta / Conjunto Papa Upa), originally as a club night in Amsterdam dedicated to vintage tropical dance tunes. In 2013 he joined forces with Edo Bouman (Bombay Connection), opening the Vintage Voudou record shop in the heart of the Red Light district in Amsterdam. Basa Basa is Vintage Voudou’s first release, and is a collaboration of Edo Bouman and Thomas Gesthuizen aka DJ Gioumanne.”
An all-time classic, production masterclass - it doesn't get any better.
The hallmarks are all there; Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald have already set the world ablaze once, twice, three, four times with their work as Basic Channel and the splintering into microscopic, heavyweight offshoots by way of the M series, Main Street, Chain Reaction, Rhythm and Sound and, of course, Burial Mix. It's hard to over-emphasise just how important their music has been over the last two decades and, for that matter, just how substantial their impact has had on everything that has taken place in electronic music since.
This is, in fact, the second Burial Mix compilation, the first "showcase" concentrating on the label's collaborations with Paul St Hilaire, aka Tikiman, for its opening set of releases. This second installment divides itself into Vocal and Instrumental "Versions" (the instrumentals are collected seperately on a second release), displaying the last seven releases in their entirety, plus "Mash Down Babylon" (a new take on "March Down Babylon"), and features a by-now totally classic collection of tracks that in their time have all been singles of the week for us here.
Just thinking of the majestic exuberance of "King in My Empire", or the breathtaking space of "Making Histroy" makes it hard to fathom how this material hasn't really aged a day in all these years...
After 10 years in the game, Alessandro Adriani’s Mannequin marks 100 releases with an 8-way gangbang starring Silent Servant, Ron Morelli, Beau Wanzer, S. O’Sullivan, Not Waving, An-i & Adriani, Willie Burns, and Illum Sphere.
As main catalysts behind the current wave of waves, Mannequin have been crucial in reappraising a wealth of overlooked and classic material from late ‘70s and ’80s underground scenes, to the extent that they now hold the reins on a new wave of artists making mutant fusions of EBM, industrial and proto-house musics.
This set spells out their sound in no uncertain terms, kicking off with a signature Silent Servant wriggler, then taking in some proper rhythmic noise by Morelli, some sick porterhouse run-off from Beau Wanzer, a klonqy glam trampler by Not Waving, some dirty sauna tackle from An-i & Adriani, and what sounds like Liquid G and Dirk Ivens sharing a straight jacket in the Willie Burns effort.
Vangelis' 1982 masterpiece, back in on wax.
We probably don't need to spell out the influence of this soundtrack and Ridley Scott's correspinding take on the Philip K Dick short, 'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep'. It's simply one of the finest scores and one of, if not THE most influential pieces of electronic music ever written.
Slang is a new project from DJ Deep and Traumer giving both artists room to explore blends of Afro-percussion and dub thru the prism of House music.
On their début for German label Possible Futures they work out three tracks together - the reticulated, Villalobos-like wriggler Streets At Night Part 1, the grubbing, gritty groove and over-the-shoulder vocals of Streets At Night Part 3, and the Hieroglyphic Being-esque sign and chord clusters of Knocked Out - while Traumer has another go with Streets At Night, turning it into a more propulsive, pendulous workout erring to the smart side of tech house.
Basement Phil digs deep for this set of exclusive jungle dubs and in-demand classics from Peshay, The Truper (Photek), Roger Johnson, and some souls who’ll only ever be known as Unknown.
Despite the extra hiss, the A-side’s previously unreleased and highly sought-after Peshay & Roger Johnson joint Crazy Daydreams • Original Dubplate Mix is one big reason to snaffle this set, but the fiends should also like to know there’s handy pressings (from DAT) of Street Beats’ Unknown Untitled Volume 6A + 6AA & 2A + 2AA 10”s, as well as some really choice cuts from Peshay and The Truper.
One way to look at it is, any one of the releases inside would cost roughly the same price as this lot, and may well be infinitely more knackered!
Fresh pressing of Digital’s sought-after 1995 ace, Space Funk
Backed with remixes by Rufige Kru, Futurebound, Nasty Habits and Special Forces (Photek), although the choppy Om Unit mix is decent. Worth it for that new cut of Spacefunk alone.
Fit Siegel and Sotofett galvanise their S & M Trading Co duo with Metal Surface Repair, a labyrinthine acid beauty, backed with a trackier version and a very handy beat-less version.
The A-side’s title cut is a real midnight bloom, flowering from an intro of mystic Eski flutes and layered subs into a 303-gilded masterpiece meant for deployment at the most crucial times of the dance. B-side, DJ Sotofett takes the lead on a chunkier Acid Mix emphasising the 303 and percussion, saving the floating pads for the final strokes, whereas the Synthetic Mix lets the synth and acid lines move in lush avian formation, leaving the drums aside to be dropped as a proper palette cleanser where needed.
Truly excellent work.
Top lip-sniffin’ trance techno nourishment from Aoud on Persephonic Siresn, the label behind Ancient Methods’ The First Siren  missile.
No denying it, when the bassline begins to gallop and the synths ascend around 2 minutes into SE MKII we’re right there with it, suppressing a gurn and pill belly at 5pm - and it even works similar effect at 33rpm - while the B-side’s I (One) stirs up techno-trance passions with a more distorted, burning edge, and Surd plays it down but stealthily bubbling under for proper lockjaw effect.
The Kelly twins’ Happy Skull play host to Roman siblings and IDM producers Fabrizio and Marco D’Arcangelo for only their 2nd outing since Rephlex did a houdini.
Hailing from the same Roman skool of ‘90s electronic music as Leo Anibaldi and Marco Passarani, the D’Arcangelo brothers were always Italy’s closest answer to AFX, blessed with an urge for melodic and rhythmic intricacy that set their work apart.
On Saba Tree they pick up where they left off, dispensing the near-baroque acid-electro elegancy of the title cut, then the curdling Braindance harmonics of Pull Seven, before whipping out the EP’s big highlight in AC - SF13 - 2 Cid - 13th Cider, which reads like a Cornishman’s weekend drugs shopping list, and sounds like a stray Analord production, leaving them to clock out on the downtempo tilt of Korty.
The untouchable AOS keeps the pressure gauge ticking with an acid boogie monster backed by a lithe, reticulated instrumental house groove.
Games That We Play finds Alex Omar Smith at his very best, joined by vox from Diviniti and live acid and CP-1 piano played by Ian Finkelstein, for a pendulous piece of garage-house pressure in the mould of late ’80s Juan Atkins, but with that inimitable Omar-S ruggedness. On the other side, he lets the soul flow on Potawatomi with rolling rattlesnake trills and stepping B-line driving a deep, tracky bomb in classic FXHE fashion.
Jóhann Jóhannsson presents his OST for another Denis Villeneuve flick, following from his work on Sicario and essentially, perhaps unavoidably, turning up as a sort of preface to thee most anticipated score of the 21st century; his work on the forthcoming Bladerunner 2049 sequel.
Whilst the recent, extraordinary Orphée gave room for Jóhannsson’s solo spirits to roam, back at the day job he provides the perfect backdrop of unearthly terror and fear-of-the-unknown atmospheres for Arrival’s first contact themes, employing a palette of symphonic strings and perilous electronic abstraction in thick, impending strokes of minor key portent and chasmic electro-acoustic wormholes interspersed by zones of weightless chamber music and blood-curdling alien chorales.
It’s all you want from the soundtrack to a big budget sci-fi and leaves us quite literally salivating for what comes next…
Two years in the making, Ahwar (Arabic for marshlands) is an otherworldly record, not unlike an abstract mythological story-tale.
"Opening with the mangled and filtered vocals of the album's lead track Afqid Adh-Dhakira (I Lose Memory) like an alien dream, the drones of a bowed double bass lead us into a drum groove that lays the groundwork for El Shazly's sultry and captivating presence, singing: "(I am) coming, from a time far away. Going, escaping. Alone in the wilderness".The Arabic prose lingers over interjections of slap-back delayed guitar twangs and an avant-garde arrangement of dissonant winds, horns and seemingly random drum fills, ending with an eerie soundscape that wouldn't feel out of place in a Giallo classic.
A daring and potent statement that sets the foundations over which the rest of the album can unravel. Composed, written and produced by El Shazly herself in collaboration with The Dwarfs of East Agouza's Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi on co-composition and arrangement duties, the album was crafted across two continents, between Canada and Egypt, and features the crème of Montreal's contemporary-classical and improvised music scene, most of whom aremembers of Shalabi's own Land of Kush ensemble. In between El Shazly's five original tracks, we are treated to an abstract coverversion of Sayyid Darwish's classic Ana 'Ishiqt (I Once Loved). El Shazly's haunting vocal floats over broken Kalimba and Harp arpeggios which slowly intertwine with a free, bowed double bass improv to nestle within the breaks between Younes Al-Qadhi's early 20th century verses of love and betrayal.
More than that, it is difficult to really describe, but imagine the worlds of Nico, Björk and Annette Peacock with the Arabic language as their mother tongue, re-approached through acoustic avant-jazz harmony and re-constructed with a dash of Kamilya Jubran's modern styling of Arabic maqam and you may be somewhere close. Recorded and delicately mixed through miles of analogue cabling by Thierry Amar at Hotel2Tango and mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering in Montreal, the album is adorned with the surrealist artwork of Egyptian artist Marwan El-Gamal and designed with custom typography by Egyptian designer Valerie Arif . All editions come with dual-language booklets featuring the lyrics in Arabic with English translation by Nariman Youssef."
Jóhann Jóhannsson returns with his first new solo album in 6 years, his first album for Deutsche Grammophon.
Multi award-winning composer Jóhann Jóhannsson - who was recently announced composer for the Bladerunner sequel score - presents his first solo work proper in six years with Orphée; a completely bewitching orchestral “meditation on beauty and the process of creation”, which takes its inspiration from various perspectives on the ancient greek myth of Orpheus and uncannily incorporates traces of the near-mythical Conet Project recordings.
Now firmly established as a preeminent composer of major film soundtracks thanks to his preternatural feel for atmosphere and sensitively emotive arrangements, Jóhannsson here takes the opportunity to transcribe his feelings on moving from Copenhagen to Berlin, and the process of saying goodbye, making new relationships, by caring to a deeply personal muse.
Tending to the seeds of ideas begun in 2009, he used an interpretation of the Orpheus myth - particularly Ovid’s version from Metamorphoses - to metaphorically unpackage themes of death and rebirth, the ephemerality of memory and the mutability of love and art with suitably magisterial, timeless appeal.
It’s worth reiterating that this is Jóhannsson working to his own, philosophical ends, and not at the service of visual elements or narrative requirement. And, in that respect, the personalised results are rendered for closest inspection, channelling the butterfly effect of Orpheus’ tales on the underworld, on love and music, on divine inspiration, with a sombre elegance and subtly intoxicating enthusiasm.
The addition of distant, elusive recordings from Irdial’s enigmatic Conet Project recordings - a nod to the title character of Jean Cocteau’s Orphée who listens to shortwave radio noise bursts of avant-garde poetry - forms the spectral spirit that binds it all together, perfusing the composition’s creaking strings, electronic timbres and airy dimensions like voices from another dimension, which for all intents and purposes, just like this record, might as well be.
Never before pressed on vinyl, IBM 1401, A User's Manual, is one of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s most loved works. Released in 2006, the decade since its release has seen Jóhann establish himself as one of the most important composers in the World today, most notably scoring movies such as Arrival, Sicario and The Theory of Everything.
:Inspired by the work his father did in the sixties when chief maintenance engineer of one of Iceland’s first computers, Jóhann originally wrote IBM 1401, A User's Manual to accompany a dance piece by long-standing collaborator and friend, Erna Ómarsdóttir. For this album release, he rewrote it for a sixty-piece string orchestra, with a new final movement (built around a poem by Dorothy Parker) and incorporating both electronics, and reel-to-reel recordings made by his father and friends in 1971 of an enormous IBM 1401 mainframe computer singing the hymn Ísland Ögrum Skoriðby Sigvaldi Kaldalóns as it was being decommissioned.
The first ever pressing of IBM 1401, A User's Manual comes in a deluxe gatefold sleeve, having been reworked by Chris Bigg (v23) from his original design. Pressed on clear vinyl, two album tracks recorded in 2010 with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra at the Rudolfinum, Dvorák Hall in Prague have also been added and are exclusive to this release:
End Ground forms the third and final installment in a series of records documenting the solo prowess of Sunn 0)))’s Stephen O’Malley released on Sweden’s iDEAL Recordings. It was performed on electric guitar thru Sunn model T amps, and captured on a zoom H4 at Centre Cultural Suisse, Bad Bonn Carte Blanche, Paris, France, on 18th October 2013.
In solo mode, stripped of his usual accomplices and collaborators, O’Malley is no less than an elemental force. His durational meditations absorb and consume with steady-handed wave after wave of charred, sustained, and sub-harmonised chords casting the mesmerising minimalist practice of La Monte Young into the physicality of Black Sabbath’s original, heavy metal die.
The A-side/first half of this 45 minute performance features O’Malley tentatively coaxing out languorous riffs which turn the air around him to a pensive, vibrating mush. As the 2nd half dawns he begins to deliver more crushing blows, drawing out and subsiding the chords with a patented, gut-wrenching and vivifying power that transcends rock, avant-garde, minimalism - all of that - to awaken dormant senses not usually experienced with other musics or concise temporality.
As with many of the most affective heavy drone recordings by Sunn 0))), among others, a modicum of patience is required in order to attain the right state for reception, but once your mind and body are malleable, the impact is deliciously visceral, primal and whelming.
Colour us blown away, once again.