It’s a Swedish house thing. Börft boss Jan Zwarre Svensson a.k.a Frak returns to his early project, Villa Åbo, for six deep and rude acid rub downs.
Named after the former bank he grew up in and later founded Studio Styrka, site of early Frak and Alvars Orkester recordings, Villa Åbo is a funky study in teenaged fascinations and nostalgia for dance music’s golden era.
Reprising the vibes of his 1997 releases, ’Ticketiketas’ and ‘Tagetes’, Villa Åbo pays tribute to classic NYC/Chicago/Detroit styles with the ruddy flavour his music’s become prized for, running from the slompy Chi-town grit of ‘Acid Clearout’ and the submerged deep house of ‘Rings of Cross’ to the slow swagger of ‘Elektro Formage’ on the front, then giving the floor something to bite on with the skudgy motion of ‘Zürish’, and rounding out on the killer, Anthony Shakir-esque bomb, ‘Brain Charter Disco’.
Vocal studies by Dutch minimalist Machinefabriek, working with Richard Youngs, Marissa nadler, Peter Broderick, Chantal Acda and Terence Hannum.
“With Voices is the newest recording by Dutch composer Rutger Zuydervelt under the moniker Machinefabriek. True to its title, the album’s eight pieces exhibit Zuydervelt’s use of cassette recorders, tone generators, radios, synths, and other hifi curio to construct bewildering aural architecture around vocal work from Peter Broderick, Marissa Nadler, Richard Youngs, Chantal Acda, Terence Hannum (of Locrian) and others. These human voices are featured as musical instruments rather than mere vehicles of lyrical content, resulting in a sub-linguistic mosaic of primordially stirring moods.
The initial spark of With Voices was kindled while Zuydervelt was in Taipei creating music for a dance company. In the final days of his trip, a dancer named Wei-Yun Chen caught Zuydervelt’s ear with an instagram video featuring a voice that turned out to be Wei-Yun’s own (she would end up on the album’s seventh movement, a piece that features dissected bits of Taiwanese poetry amid low-pitched murmurs and whispering fogbanks of static). The encounter stirred Zuydervelt to create a single 35 minute soundscape upon which each vocalist on With Voices was encouraged to improvise, be it talking, reading, singing, or wordless, guttural intoning. Such vocal smatterings were then used to determine how the other tonal elements should be arranged, dictating where each musical passage would ultimately lead. “The idea was for everyone to just do what came naturally” he recalls, “the element of unpredictability was important to me.”
Indicative of this approach “III” (the tracks are simply titled with Roman numerals) slowly winds like ivy through staccato phrases spoken by Zuydervelt’s peer Peter Broderick, whose micro-incantations skip along mechanically only to telescope into monastic grandeur at the track’s midpoint; the vibrations of vocal cords are often stretched to a seismic hum to form the heavy implements in Zuydervelt’s toolkit. On “V”, tape recordings of Berlin electronic artist Zero Years Kid (aka Joachim Badenhorst) sputter with their own apparent intelligence like a faulty AI attempting to interpret reels of human speech in some ruinous library of the distant future. Finally, a siren-like Marissa Nadler leads the suite to its lullabic endpoint with overlapping wisps of harmony devoid of accompaniment ending the album on an angelic note.
In these moments, like much of With Voices, warm-blooded arteries seem to have grown around bits of well-designed artifice to form something warmly alien, soberly futuristic, and inherently satisfying. More than simply an album of collaborative features, With Voices is a mutating collage of modern minimalism that challenges as often as it comforts. There is an alchemical, metallurgical quality that arises from Zuydervelt’s unique way of merging humanness with abstraction, harshness with beauty, and unintelligibility with familiarity on what may be the most affecting Machinefabriek release to date.”
The mothership has landed! Unseen Worlds finally deliver a premiere edition of Laurie Spiegel’s rare 1991 follow-up to ‘The Expanding Universe’ , filling a gaping hole in electronic music collections across the known world
The jaw-dropping ’Unseen Worlds’ was first released on CD in 1991 by Scarlet Records, but the label went defunct soon after, leaving Laurie seeing to any further pressings. She issued a 2nd CD edition on her Aesthetic Engineering label in 1994, but since that sold out, her amazing album has become very hard to find. Perhaps understandably, that scarcity is probably because nobody wants to sell their original copy, making this new pressing an invaluable window onto ‘Unseen Worlds’ in all senses of the phrase.
In the years between her debut and sophomore sides, Laurie moved away from the New York new music scene to focus on other projects, most notably the MusicMouse software; an “intelligent instrument” allowing for greater real time automation of her equipment. MusicMouse for Macintosh, Amiga and Atari gained a lot of traction with rock artists and paid her bills, and effectively allowed Laurie up to focus on the aspects of music which interested her the most - improvisation and artistic process.
Freed from the more laborious constraints of electronic music composition, Laurie’s artistic-technological breakthrough gave her greater tactility and control in the composition process. The result is some of the lushest and vivid electronic music you’ll ever hear. In the impossibly smooth pitch gradients and timbral complexities of the opening ‘Three Sonic Spaces’ trio, and the hallucinogenic harmonics of ’Sound Zones’ we hear the MusicMouse in blinding action, while the rest of the LP is no less impressive; leading us thru breathtaking black hole sonics on ‘The Hollows’; into mind-bindingly vast noise scapes on ‘Two Archetypes: Hurricane’s Eye - II’; while the shimmering beauty of ‘Riding the Storm’ are right up there with classics by Jean Claude Risset or Roland Kayn; and moments of exquisite beauty like ‘Strand of Life (*Viroid*) and ‘From a Harmonic Algorithm’ give way to the rarely paralleled scope of ‘Passage’, one of those epic electronic music works that makes wading through all the other stuff truly worthwhile.
Mirage-like new age and early-techno synth groves from Nigeria’s Hama on Sahel Sounds, the amazing label behind that sublime Luka Productions album and the ‘Music From Saharan Cellphones’ sets
Neatly summed up by the label as a re-appropriation of 4th world ethnoambient music, ‘Houmeissa’ lands on the mind’s eye like a lysergic dose. Hama’s ten instrumental songs re-voice traditional nomadic herding ballads, ancient caravan songs and ceremonial wedding chants with colourful synthetic means to resemble something like “a Saharan 1980s sci-fi soundtrack or score to a Tuareg video game.”
We advise running straight to the pulsating, ruggedly elegant charge of ‘Bororo’, the flooding chromatics of the title track, or the deeply trippy, off-key cascades of ‘Takamba’ for the strongest flavours. You’ll know exactly what to do next.
Massive tip for fans of Rizan Sa’id, Black Zone Myth Chant, early B12!
‘Rare Ravers’ is The Dead C’s umpteenth album of end-of-the-line Kiwi rock, and their 6th LP dished up by Ba Da Bing! following ‘Trouble’  and a 2013 split side with Rangda.
By now regarded among noise rock’s greatest exponents, The Dead C’s Bruce Russell, Michael Morley and Robbie Yeats continue to hack new paths thru thistly fields of guitar distortion in ‘Rare Ravers’, which, for the record, has nowt to do with glowsticks or warehouses, but everything to do with ideas of reverie and a lust for psychedelic transcendence.
“Disguised as the meandering outpourings of vacant thought and activity dialed simultaneously from zero and ten. Formed in the cauldron of a fevered mistake resolute. Surrounded by ignorance, dis-interest, and the attention of the carefully self-selected. Recorded and burned through a thousand galaxies of dust and doubt and endless infinite wonder, transforming both time and space. Forever exiled to the very bottom of the world to reflect on the struggling desperate pile above. Recognizing any contribution as minuscule and insignificant when placed within the greatness of the other, the dominant insolent preening satisfied, continually shouting the pre-eminence of the first world order.
It's a long player.”
Wolfgang Voigt’s ambient techno evergreen mercifully reissued as a standalone release for the first time since 1997, and its inclusion in the sumptuous Gas ‘Box’ set, now remastered.
Right up there with ambient techno’s greatest slabs, ‘Zauberberg’ is a classic balm for overworked minds and stressed bodies. As the 2nd Gas album, following the project’s eponymous debut, it pressed deeper into a uniquely dense yet diaphanous mixture of ambient and modern classical themes, exploring a breathtakingly lush, Black Forested adjunct to the sort of ambient/dub/techno austerities explored by other contemporary German producers such as Basic Channel, Monolake and the rest of the Berlin cabal surrounding Chain Reaction/Hardwax.
As with all GAS releases, It’s possibly difficult to provide any definitive description of ‘Zauberburg’, as we’ve usually fallen under its spell and towards the pillow, or at least drift off into a half-lidded reverie before it finishes. In that sense, we can only limn it from sub- or unconscious recollections, but the two effectively merge into one, as Voigt’s patented, distanced kicks mirror the soft throb of arteries heard muffled in a pillow, and the strings feel to descend with the inevitability of nightfall, all leading to the same conclusion - your head caressed by the sandman.
For obsessives fiending a fresh copy, or those lucky noobs about to pop their Gas cherry, this album is 100% essential.
A cocktail of sultry disco from late night ‘80s Tokyo, compiled by Toshiya Kawasaki for Mule Musiq
“Midnight In Tokyo is a compilation series that aims to be the perfect companion to nights in Tokyo, collecting tracks by Japanese artists that sound best at night. Vol. 2 (STUDIOMUL 006CD/LP, 2018) focused more on '80s jazz fusion, but the latest installment, Vol. 3, picks up where Vol. 1 (STUDIOMUL 001CD/LP, 2018) left off, bringing together forgotten soul, disco, and new wave gems.
The compilation opens with Japanese rare groove classic "More Sexy," a provocative song by Yoko Hatanaka. "Kimi No Yume," from the album Yume No Yonbai (1984) by Masumi Hara, is one of the best Balearic acid folk songs to come from Japan. "Silhouette Call" is an electric bossanova track in the vein of Antena, from a rare album called Octopussy (1982) by Yuki Nakayamate, a singer-songwriter who worked with Motoharu Sano. "Theme Of High School Student" is a dubby cut featured in the Japanese film Kougen Ni Ressha Ga Hashitta (1984), written by Atsuo Fujimoto (Colored Music), one of the key artists in the recent wave of global interest in Japanese music.
"Get To Paradise" is a stone-cold funk jam by Mari Kaneko, who was known as the Janis Joplin of Shimokitazawa. Following that is one of Japan's greatest new wave disco tracks, "Hannya", taken from Tomoko Aran's popular third album Fuyu-Kukan (1983) produced by Masatoshi Nishimura, who was part of Friends Of Earth with Haruomi Hosono. Masako Miyazaki, whose rendition of Seawind's "He Loves You" is a fan favorite, puts her own spin on Earth, Wind & Fire's "Fantasy," singing in her accent-heavy English, giving the song an undeniable character.
"Watashi No Koukoku" is a certified disco-boogie classic by Junko Sakurada. The Brazilian-esque jazz fusion, "Sunshine Bright On Me" is by fusion group Kangaroo, who were often billed as "the japanese Shakatak". "Stranger's Night" is a synth-pop number by Maiko Okamoto, which bears a suspicious resemblance to Rah Band's "The Shadow Of Your Love". Electro-pop disco "Singing Lady", off the sole album by The Fad sounds like something Giorgio Moroder could've cooked up.
"Magic Eyes" is a disco anthem recorded by Tetsuji Hayashi's disco project, The Eastern Gang. Following that is Japanese soul gem "Crazy Baby," found on a rare 7" entitled Minato No Soul by Rinda Yamamoto also composed and arranged by Tetsuji Hayashi. Closing out this collection of 14 Japanese rare groove goodies is "I'm In Love", a bittersweet mellow dance number by Tomoko Aran.”
We’re all stardust, innit? Jeff Mills acknowledges this matter with ‘Str Mrkd’, his banging first chapter in the Star Marked odyssey
Taking the project’s cues from ‘Abali’, which first appeared on ‘Confidentials 5-8’ [AX-009b, 2006] and now opens this 12”, Mills spins his concept out into three new cuts; opening out into the slow, sylvan Detroit ride of ‘Patterns In Nature’, then locking into mind-bending, phasing minimal techno rhythmelodies and drones with ‘Helix Nebula’, and drifting off course into potently hallucinogenic electro with ‘Aquarius’.
Mills fans - miss this at your peril!
Following a trio of sprawling, planet-gargling double-LPs, 2013’s self-titled LP on Skrammel, and Second Launch (2015) and Eclipsed (2017) on Blackest Ever Black, Bremen – J. Tiljander and Lanchy, previously best known for their contributions to Brainbombs’ long rapsheet of genius-and-brutality, but latterly exponents of a rarefied cosmic melancholy – return with Enter Silence, their most concise, and powerful, album to date.
"Once again the Uppsala multi-instrumentalists combine elements of trogged-out psychedelic rock with a deadly serious Arctic minimalism and weeping modal improvisations that owe more to the outer limits of jazz and burnt-out free music from Japan. It’s connoisseur’s space music, grown-up and grievously honed; outwardly inclined towards the epic but studded with details that reward attention and introspection.
There’s always been a strong undercurrent of sadness animating Bremen’s work, and that existential burden is present and correct on Enter Silence, culminating in the all-out cosmic anguish of ‘Palladium’. Even ‘The Middle Section’, whose ragged chords are nothing if not the sound of optimism and defiance, sounds like it’s navigating some kind of unsayable trauma. But this band has always allowed plenty of room for bonehead slash-and-burn as well: see here especially the Stoogeian/39 Clocks-ish rock’n’roll of ‘Aimless Cruising’ and the pulpy quasi-cinematic tension of ‘Sinister’, or the brilliant ‘Too Cold For Your Eyes’, a blast of voidal motorik that sounds like a cranked-up Clean. "
We might be drowning in a sea of re-issues right now (not least ones from long-forgotten synthesizer pioneers) but ever so often something comes along that’s really very special indeed.
Laurie Spiegel’s ‘The Expanding Universe’ is hardly a forgotten or lost gem, but this new re-issue is without a doubt one of the finest things we’ve heard (and no doubt will hear) this year. The album managed to supplant itself in the subconscious of electronic music ever since its release in 1980, and in recent years it has gone from strength to strength forming the building blocks that gave us Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never, Rene Hell and so much more. Spiegel’s use of the interactive compositional software GROOVE formed the backbone of her works, and little did she know at the time that the fusion of live and software would become the norm in 2012.
That’s enough history though, the extensive liner notes should be able to reveal plenty to satiate that appetite, the fact of the matter is that it’s Spiegel’s music itself that has stood the test of time. Not quite as reckless and ominious as the blippy sci-fi of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop pioneers and far more exact and economical than the oft-compared Terry Riley, Spiegel produced electronic music that was both fun to listen to and incredibly deep. It’s no surprise that Bach is mentioned on the record cover as an influence, as while the tracks are electronically composed and performed there is a clear backbone of traditional classical composition that gives her music the power to get the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.
On top of the original tracks that formed the 1980 release, Unseen Worlds have done an incredible job of scouring the archives to provide a veritable treasure trove of additional material. So often the bundled tracks with reissues are simply a collection of crap demos and live performances, but not so here – there’s almost too much to go through and every single little bit is worthy of as much praise as the original record itself.
Avant-rock, concrète and jazz blasts from the time-served Gallic vanguard. RIYL Nurse With Wound, Ghédalia Tazartès, Lol Coxhill
“Jac Berrocal, David Fenech and Vincent Epplay return with Ice Exposure, their second album for Blackest Ever Black. A sequel and companion piece of sorts to 2015’s Antigravity, its title couldn’t be more apt: sonically it is both colder, and more exposed – in the sense of rawer, more volatile, more vulnerable – than its predecessor, capturing the combustible energy and barely suppressed violence of the trio’s celebrated live performances with aspects of noir jazz, musique concrète, no wave art-rock, sound poetry and spectral electronics all interpenetrating in unpredictable and exhilarating ways. While there are moments of great sensitivity and even a cautious romanticism, the prevailing mood is one of anxiety, paranoia, and mounting psychodrama: close your eyes and Ice Exposure feels like a dissociative Hörspiel broadcasting from the seedy backstreets of your own troubled mind.
Before he picks up an instrument or opens his mouth, Berrocal’s unique and compelling presence can be felt: a combination of studied, glacial cool and anarchic, in-the-moment intensity that has served him well over a long and storied career. It was honed during his time as a theatre and film actor, and in the 70s Paris improv scene, it powered his influential Catalogue group in the 1970s, numerous seminal, sui generis solo sides, and far-sighted collaborations with the likes of Nurse With Wound, Lol Coxhill, Pascal Comelade and James Chance which have seen him come to be valorised by two generations of avant-garde agitators and eccentrics. Now in his eighth decade, it comes with an added gravitas, perhaps, but no less energy or vitality. On Ice Exposure, his lyrical, instantly recognisable trumpet playing is a key feature – see especially the ghostly, dubwise take on Ornette’s ‘Lonely Woman’, the dissolute exotica of ‘Salta Girls’, and the sublime echo-chamber soliloquy ‘Opportunity’. But more often it’s his voice that commands centre-stage, whether casually discharging surreal poetic monologues or moaning in animal despair – a vocal tour de force that transcends language and culminates in the Dionysian frenzy of ‘Why’, Berrocal’s half-spoken, half-howled exclamations jostling with David Fenech’s slashes of dissonant guitar, over Badalamenti-ish, panther-stalk drums.
Fenech’s origins are in the mail-art scene of the early ‘90s, when he led the Peu Importe collective in Grenoble, and since then, in addition to his own recordings he has worked as a software developer at IRCAM and played with Jad Fair, Rhys Chatham and many others. Together with Vincent Epplay he is responsible for Ice Exposure’s inspired arrangements and vivid, vertiginous sound design. Epplay is a visual artist and composer with particular interest in aleatory composition, concrete, and the reappropriation of vintage sound and film material. He and Fenech fashion a remarkable mise-en-scene for Berrocal to inhabit, one that embraces cutting-edge electronics while also paying homage to the best traditions of outlaw jazz and libidinous rock’n’roll (‘Soundcheck’ invokes the brutish spirit of Berrocal’s hero Vince ‘Rock N Roll Station’ Taylor). On ‘Blanche de Blanc’, Berrocal’s voice is framed by a groaning, ghoulish orchestra of industrial drones, while ‘Equivoque’ evokes the most humid and hostile Fourth World landscapes and ‘Panic In Surabaya’ lives up to its name, a hectic, pulse-quickening concrète collage that leaves you gasping for air.
This is a searching and singular trio operating at the absolute peak of their powers, with an interplay that transcends studio and stage and occurs at an almost telepathic level. Ice Exposure is a triumph of that group mind, an underworld dérive as life-affirming as it is unnerving and psychologically precarious.”
As part of Finders Keepers’ ongoing dedicated Jodorowsky soundtrack series the label presents the original film edits from the 1979 studio sessions featuring Steve Hillage (Gong) and members of Cossi Anatz.
"From Guy Skornik, the composer and arranger behind Popera Cosmic and Pour Pauwels, comes the enigmatic instrumental cues that provided fellow existentialist and notorious auteur director Alejandro Jodorowsky (‘The Holy Mountain’) with the soundtrack music to what is now considered his rarest and most overlooked feature film, ‘Tusk’.
Following his mind melting masterpieces ‘Fando & Lis’, ‘El Topo’ and ‘The Holy Mountain’, Jodorowsky’s ‘disowned’ attempt at a family film retains the director’s ongoing demand for intense, experimental film music, resulting in what is undeniably one the best kept sonic secrets from the darker corners of this coveted filmography. Cherrypicked from pre-recorded synthesiser-fuelled cosmic pop sessions by Skornik, these compositions provided ‘Tusk’ with arabesque new age synthesis alongside fullblown ambitious electro rock, as well as classic French Fender Rhodes-driven romanticism during some of this lesser-spotted movie’s most memorable moments.
Presented here in isolation, Guy Skornik’s multifarious futurist-pop evokes worthy comparisons to Ash Ra Tempel, Eno’s Bowie and Suzanne Ciani, mapping an unlikely journey between Magma and 10cc in the process. Don’t ignore Jodorowsky’s ‘elephant in the room’ - you never know what’s hidden in the trunk."
Highly promising newcomer Nazar gets down to bassbin business on Hyperdub after introductions made on Kode 9 & Burial’s ‘Fabriclive 100’ mix.
From phthalocyanine grime to blown out techno and distorted drill, the ‘Enclave EP’ is one of the freshest/crankiest sessions you’ll hear from London in 2018. It’s unmistakably Hyperdub, repping fractious madness that’s compatible with Gqom, Príncipe styles and loads of deconstructed club musics, yet patently distinguished as UK rave.
Opening with the virulent weightless synths and cold bass knocks of ‘South Border’, the EP delivers a deadly payload of non-standard club pressure with the mutant Gqom of ‘Warning Shots’, and a severely blunted sort of Burial-does-drill sound in ‘Airstrike’ featuring Hyperdub’s secret weapon Shannen SP on vocals, along with the swerving murder of ‘Enclave’ on a killer Angel Ho-styled sci-fi flex, plus the Dutch Bubblers’ troubles of ‘Konvoy’ and a very smart cinematic closer with ‘Ceasefire’.
This may well be the strongest Hyperdub debut since Burial’s seminal ‘South London Boroughs’, or at least since Doon Kanda’s first entry. A must check!
Slowdive, Gwenno, Mark Peters and XAM revise Sobrenadar’s sultry shoegaze EP, ‘Y’ for Sonic Cathedral
As you may have predicted, Slowdive offer the strongest highlight with the dreamlike momentum of their take on ‘Del Tiempo’, while Wigan’s Mark Peters - former bandmate of Ulrich Schanuss in Engineers - also gets it right with a gently buoyant version of Cruce’, and ‘Inhabit’ becomes a sloshing, recursive pop gem peppered with pitching vocal treatments, shimmering synths and sweetly elusive rhythms at the hands of XAM.
It's been nearly five decades since Joe McPhee assembled a group of musicians to perform the weekend concerts that would become Nation Time, his debut LP.
"It was December 1970, thirty-one-year-old McPhee was inspired by Amiri Baraka's poem 'It's Nation Time,' and the students at Vassar College didn't know what hit them. 'What time is it?' shouted the bandleader. 'C'mon, you can do better than that. What time is it?!'
"The music on Nation Time came out of the fertile, but little-known creative jazz scene in Poughkeepsie, New York, McPhee's home base. Two bands were deployed, one with a funky free foundation featuring guitar and organ, the other consisting of a more standard jazz formation with two drummers and the brilliant Mike Kull at the piano. Across the concert and the next afternoon's audience-less recording session, the band was ignited by McPhee's passion and his gorgeous post-Coltrane / post-Pharoah tenor. On 'Shakey Jake,' they hit a James Brown groove filtered through Archie Shepp, while the sidelong title track is as searching and poignant today as it was during its heyday.
"Originally released in 1971 on CjR, an imprint started expressly to document McPhee's music, Nation Time has a sense of urgency and inspiration. Additional material from those December days would later appear on Black Magic Man, Hat Hut's first release. In fact, the first four records on this seminal Swiss label all featured McPhee.
"Nation Time was largely unknown a quarter century or so later, when it was first issued on CD through Atavistic's Unheard Music Series. On Corbett vs. Dempsey, we reissued the album along with all known tapes leading up to and around it as a deluxe box set, but the standalone LP has long remained incredibly rare. Now is the time for a new generation of freaks to lose their shit when settling into the cushy beat of 'Shakey Jake' and answer McPhee's call with the only appropriate response: It's NATION TIME."
– John Corbett
Merzbow, Nyantora and Duenn’s 3 Rensa trio churn up Grade A+ improvisations for Entr’acte with the first vinyl edition of their ‘Redrum’ recordings.
Leading on from Nyantora & Duenn’s collaboration on the ‘086-087 Area’ CD for Entr’acte in 2017, on ‘Redrum’ introduces Merzbow as a vital, variable catalyst in their next venture for Antwerp’s finest. Recorded at Red BullStudios in Tokyo on 3rd August 2017 over the course of three hours, the results are edited for length in six parts to reveal a deeply uncanny intuition and amorphous nature to the trio’s music.
It’s maybe not what you might come to expect from a record involving Merzbow. Tempered by his collaborators’ leanings towards sound art and electronics, they triangulate a steady but swirling mid ground where free jazz notions collapse into noise and industrial musicks. We’re not entirely sure why each track bears one of their names after the title, i.e. ‘Redrum Session 1.1 Merzbow’ or ‘Redrum Session 2.1 Duenn’, as we were under the impression each track is a collaboration. But never mind, as the results each smudge space-time in fascinating new ways, from the oxidised electro-acoustic fulminations of the first, thru the spheric ceramic roil of the 2nd, to arcing space rock-outs in the 3rd and 4th, thru to abyssal black hole sonics in the 5th, and an exhilarating transition from pummelling percussion and noise squall to vaporised conclusions of the 6th.
Baddest DJ, Beatrice Dillon re-assembles the entire RVNG Intl archive for her ‘Select/Dissect’ mixtape to mark the far-reaching label’s 15th anniversary
There’s hardly a better selector/dissector out there than Beatrice; since her emergence with the exquisite Folkways II mixtape for TTT, thru her ‘Studies For Samplers & Percussion’ with Rupert Clervaux, and a deadly Fact mix splicing computer music, avant garde classics and forward rave, she patently knows how to work fractious components into a cohesive whole.
On ‘Select/Dissect’ she puts those skills to use in a sort of narrative context, craftily spelling out a non-linear account of RVNG Intl’s adventures between new age reissues, Japanese electronics, kosmische psych and jazz-taught electronics. Sometimes she breaks tracks down to loops and stabs, at others she’ll let it roll, and often with imperceptible transitions between the material that leaves listeners gently bewildered, wondering how the fukc did we get here from there?!
There’s no tracklist, but we can spot numbers from K. Leimer, Visible Cloaks and Oliver Coates in there, as well as her Lifted bandmate Max D, if our ears aren’t mistaken. But what the chuff is that rootsy Nyabinghi bit, and what’s it layered with? Or that Oramics-y piece on the B-side? And top marks for including one of our faves from recent-isn Tashi Wada with yoshi Wada and Friends album.
Continuing Subtext’s exploratory electronics and devastating sonics is the expansive Ego De Espinhos, the debut full-length from twenty-two year old Porto, Portugal-based artist Gonçalo Penas.
“Described by Penas as a series of “self-exorcisms,” Ego De Espinhos is the cathartic outcome of a highly introspective process. Shaped by opposing forces and instincts, the LP touches on themes that are at once intimate, yet omnipresent. Splendor confronts destruction; id confronts super-ego.
Created solely with digital instruments designed and built by the artist, Ego De Espinhos is the result of Penas’ improvisations. Tracks such as “Introdução, Umbigo” and “Tecto Falso” were recorded in one take, and evidence a stark, dramatic emotional palette.
The release begins as Penas chooses to reject rigidities, customs and conventions of experimental electronic music. Of his process, Penas says: “Personally, I feel that creation should come from a completely free act of will. It is a place where there should be no rules, no expectations, no rights and no wrongs.”
In Ego De Espinhos, Penas turns away from his own technical background, and towards a journey of forward experimentation. This follows his education in Music Production and Technologies at Porto’s School of Music and Performing Arts. For the first time, he finds the freedom to articulate himself sincerely, unearthing beauty and acceptance amidst wreckage and devastation.”
The brothers Overmono rave between tribalist and ambient jungle-tekno and stepping IDM on return to Whiities
‘Lil’s From’ works out natty, rolling breakbeat edits in a way recalling Peder Mannerfelt’s broken styles, whereas ‘Quadraluv’ rolls out on a flighty mix of ambient techno and rude jungle swerve, and ‘Yell0W_Tail’ swings out into breezy IDM dimensions.
Up until the release of his debut album in 2014, Shinichi Atobe managed to stay off grid since his release on Basic Channel’s Chain Reaction imprint back in 2001. He delivered the second-to-last 12” on the label and then disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a solitary 12” and a trail of speculation that led some people to wonder whether the project was in fact the work of someone on the Basic Channel payroll.
That killer Chain Reaction 12” was also a long time favourite of Demdike Stare, who had been trying to follow the trail and make contact with Atobe for many years before a lead from the Basic Channel office turned up an address in japan and - unbelievably - an album full of archival and new material. That material was compiled and released back in 2014 as Butterfly Effect.
And what a weird and brilliant album it is - deployed with a slow-churn opener that sounds like a syruppy Actress track, before working through a brilliantly sharp and tactile 9 minute Piano House roller that sounds like DJ Sprinkles at his most bittersweet, before diving headlong into a heady, Vainqueur inspired droneworld. It’s full of odd little signatures that gives the whole thing a timeless feel - like a sound bubble from another era.
Ric Kaestner’s impossible-to-find, esoteric ambient gem surfaces on vinyl for first time, taken from one of only 2 known copies of the original tape. Happy endings for all collectors of obscure new age and under-the-radar ambient music! RIYL Dominique Lawalrée, Brian Eno, JD Emmanuel...
“Recorded and released in 1987, the original cassette bore a minimalist plum tree design on the cover and music soothing to match. There are only 2 confirmed copies of the original cassette, one of them was used in the restoration and revival of this classic new age album.
Five years after the New Age cult-classic album Music For Massage hit the shelves, it’s sequel was silently released. Never intended for consumer sale, Music For Massage II was only known to a select few masseuses and tape collectors. The very definition of esoteric. Musically, it’s both an homage to how far the genre had come in those five years and served as a predictor of what was to come. Comprising elements of Folk, Drone, Ambient, Ethereal, Minimal, Modern Classical, the recording is quintessential of all things New Age. These are sounds meant to induce healing, therapy, and relaxation. Hand crafted by Ric Kaestner and inspired in part by an encounter with one of the fathers of modern music, John Cage, for actual massage or for casual listening, it holds its own almost four decades later.”
Crackshot 12” of electro-dub jazz-fusion from London’s Lunch Money siblings, backed with an almighty Equiknoxx remix - one of their very best!
Doing it the right way, under their own steam and laying down proper roots, Lunch Money’s 1st 12” is a beguiling introduction to their style of future jazz first mooted on the ‘Flashing Neon Signs’ 7” in 2016.
On the A-side they cook up a wild brew of strings, double bass and perpendicular brass parts spun out in roiling dub with ‘Living 3000’, before going all ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ with ‘Informant’, and leaving us wondering wtf just happened.
Equiknoxx’s remix of ‘Living 3000’ caps another banner year for JA’s most fwd squad, with Time Cow and Bobby Blackbird turning out the bolshiest, most psychedelic, and powerful turns in their whole discography. They aren’t messing yano!
Current 93 coven Tibet & Stapleton unfurl more outtakes from ‘Musical Pumpkin Cottage’ as extended addendum to the ‘Threat Of Memories’ 2LP + 5CD
The 20 year vintage recordings both appear in vinyl for the first time. The A-side’s take on ‘The Dead Side Of The Moon’ uncannily coincides with the Chang’e 4 probe proof that organic material can grow on the moon. The piece itself is remarkably different to the 1996 CD edition, omitting the original’s krautrock freakout finale in favour of a sumptuous sidespin into Indian raga drone, with Tibet’s vocal pitched to childlike tones against a swell of Shruti box and electro-acoustic apparitions.
The B-side’s ‘Frail Albatross’ is effectively a stripped down version of the track ‘DreamBreath’ found on ‘Threat Of Memories’, swiping away Tibet’s vocal but leaving his meditative gasps at the fringes, buffetting the piece’s pulsing axis of Craig Leon-like chromatic chronics and Coil-like electronic gremlins.
Kora-player Sourakata Koité’s ‘en Hollande’ is one of ATFA’s most treasured digs. It’s been available on their blog since 2010 and only now sees a proper reissue, rendering a spellbinding session of quicksilver melody and buzzing harmonies on the 21-string instrument, sometimes combined with vocals, as on the arresting, almost rap style of ‘Djonol’ or the anxious melancholy of ‘Dioula’
“Sourakata Koite is a Paris-dwelling kora-player from Senegal. He is a griot, which means he is a story- and history-teller and singer. He accompanies himself on the kora. The kora is the most representative instrument of Manding music and culture. It is a harp-lute with 21 strings. The instrument is more than 600 years old and has existed in its present form for about 400 years. The griots often make their koras themselves, using a great dried gourd, a thick stick and two smaller sticks and a scraped goatskin. In the old days they used strings of skin, but nowadays often plastic fikshingline is used. The kora is held with the last three fingers of each hand at the small sticks on both sides of the strings. The strings are played by both thumbs and forefingers. With one hand the accompanying part is played and with the other the more free melody. Koite has performed in most African countries and also in a great deal of Europe.’
‘Wet Will Always Dry ‘is the blistering début album by Blawan. Arriving 8 years after his first move, ‘Fram’ for Hessle Audio - during which time he’s forged the Karenn duo with Pariah, set up his Ternesc label, and played to the biggest crowds of gurners in the world - Blawan’s first LP is a gnashing statement of intent that finds him sticking ever closer to what’s served him well thus far, while also folding in subtle new traces of his own vocals to great effect.
Like the recent Surgeon album, Luminosity Device, Blawan’s first album finds him tactfully in tune with his modular set-up after years of coal-face experimentation. The result is a sound that lies right on the biting point between clarity and distortion, delivering a thrillingly caustic experience for dancers already locked his martial swagger.
That biting point is fully in effect in the hovering search-and-destroy synth tone that snakes around opener Klade, and it continues to defines the albums strongest moments, from the whipsmart mix of T++-alike hydraulics and kinetic lead of Tasser to the virulent, Haswellian snarl and gobble of North, to the stark, skeletal dancer Stell and Kalosi’s napalm burn.
It’s arguably more difficult than ever for a techno artist to eke out their own sound nowadays, but that’s just what Blawan’s done with Wet Will Always Dry. Bravo.
After no-wave legends Liquid Liquid broke up in 1984, singer Salvatore Principato took some much need to time to revaluate his musical direction. Renting a studio on the Lower East Side with Ken Man Caldiera. It was there that they started their next musical project, Fist of Facts.
"In 1985 Ken Man showed up in the studio with this IBM AT computer. It had a 1/2 MB of RAM and some Voyetra software that could sequence music, becoming the duo’s backing band. Fist Of Facts contributors included Mark Cunningham from Mars, Felice Rosser, Genevieve De Monvel Boutet, Carlos Vivanco, Scott Hartley from the Liquids and a whole host of others.
Fist of Facts expand the natural groove that Liquid Liquid established over their quick career, with a strong political message combined with abstract dub soundscapes."
Two masters of very different string instruments, Ellen Fullman and Okkyung Lee, colour in ‘The Air Around Her’ with beguiling microtonal timbres at a time-melting pace for John Chantler’s 1703 Skivbolaget, Stunning, highly absorbing recordings.
Setting up her famous long string instrument in the 26 metre length of Stockholm’s Kronobageriet - Sweden’s former royal bakery - Ellen Fullman brings a lifetime of dedication to her unwieldy and uniquely resonant instrument, while preeminent improvising cellist Okkyung Lee acts as a more agile counterpoint, subtly contrasting Ellen’s glacial cadence with a broader range of quicker strokes and pointed extended technique.
Produced by John Chantler and recorded by Maria Horn during the First Edition Festival for Other Music, Stockholm on 20th February 2016, ‘The Air Around Her’ takes its title from a quote in ‘Vermeer Interiors’, a poem by Margaret Rabb, from her book ‘Granite Dives’. In both parts, Ellen and Okkyung play with sound as light, conducting a tonal shadowplay of inherently vast scope and ambition that comes with any recordings of Ellen’s long string instrument, as it always requires a good deal of time and space to properly tune and set up.
The results are swept around the space of the old bakery, captivating in their keening swoons and nimble plies, and also the smoothness and friction of their flux of overtones, seeming to coruscate and bend in mid-air in tingling ecstasies, always pulling the ear to the full extent of the room’s parameters.
Uniquely fruitful duo, John Wall and Alex Rodgers beguile again with a brilliant batch of oily glitch-hop and processed vocals in ’Soar’, a book and CD from Antwerp’s finest publishing house, Entr’acte
Just as we were caught out by their ‘Rafia Longer’ 7” in 2015, ’Soar’ finds pivotal London-based artist Wall recalling everyone from Lorenzo Senni to Vladislav Delay and Jay Glass Dubs in the piece’s viscous contours and pinched percussion, while Alex Rodgers supplies the pointed text, delivered in gruff processed tons to sound uncannily like he’s inside the listener’s head, riffing on observations of self-obsessed society.
Caspar Brötzmann Massaker’s masterful second album from 1989 - remastered.
"The power trio’s blunt force execution is directed by Brötzmann’s explosive and exquisite six string conjuration. Channeling Hendrixian vibrations, mixed with hard German industrial atmosphere."
Raw and original house music from Mix Mup, leading on from his MM/KM link-ups with Kassem Mosse
Up top he herds the Detroit-modelled hustle of ‘Clear Drive’ with its wooden kicks and recursive FX opening out into lush synth pads and rude bassline, whereas ‘Flair’ is all about gritty, hypnotic motion in a Marcellus Pittmann or Howard Thomas style, and the B-side’s ‘Pa Toppen’ puts some strut in your pipe.
Capturing The Space Lady in her natural habitat - the streets of late '70s San Francisco - beaming messages of peace and harmony via cover versions of pop classics
The collection includes an ohrwurming 'Major Tom', the haunting 'Ghost Riders In The Sky' and a hypnotic version of 'Fly Like An Eagle' among others - and original material played on a then-new Casio keyboard (bought after her accordion was robbed) whilst typically dressed like some flamboyant character from a Greek play.
They're all taken from the only known recording of her legendary street performances (documented in the physical release's liner notes and archival photos), which has since become an outsider music classic feted by everyone from Erol Alkan (he included her take on 'Major Tom' in his 'Bugged In' mix for !K7) to Kutmah and John Maus.
Thanks to the fantastic Night School label for bringing this album to wider attention, it's easy to hear her music's influence on like-minded avant-pop music, from John Maus to Julia Holter and Group Rhoda, Pram, Laika, and far beyond. If you've got even the slightest interest in that sound, this record is just so damn good.
Brilliantly freeform smudged ambient/house blissness from the widely-adored NYC producer and boss of the Incienso and Probito labels, shaping up his 2nd album three years after ‘Body Pill’ for Kieran Hebden’s Text.
Across the 12 tracks of ‘Take Me With You’, Naples rudely works out of the lines, with tracks bleeding into one another to the chagrin of any neat-ass DJs, but making for a deliciously keening, psychedelic effect that emulates the good hours of a mushy trip, or the effect of having multiple browser windows in the afterparty serendipitously fading into one another, in the best way.
Potent midnight melancholy from Brussels, featuring Victor De Roo debuting under his own name after introductions made as Vanderschrick on a delectable 7” for Stroom
Picking up where his 7” left off, and with more room to play with on ‘Nachtdichter’, De Roo unfolds his sound along more lonesome, lofty lines with the chirruping tape nose and hushed downbeat delivery of ‘Gewoon’, before penning the kind of red-lit synth-pop we could imagine cropping up in a Gaspar Noé flick with the slick but brooding dungeon boogie of ‘Voorbenachte Rade’. On the other side, the artist’s Belgian synth heritage bleeds thru in the floating spectral figures of ‘Beland In Bed’, and the EP’s title cut regresses to a sort of smacked-out drone rock dirge recalling Clay Rendering as much as Pseudo Code.
Quietly unmissable, this.
Carla Dal Forno yields her self-released cover versions tape, ‘Top Of The Pops’, which was previously only available on her 2018 US tour
Recorded on the cusp of winter/spring, it features Dal Forno placing a gently haunted spin on personal pop & wave favourites by The B-52’s, Rénee, The Kiwi Animal, Liliput, Lana Del Rey, and The Fates.
Stripped down to their essence, the songs provide a fine showcase for Carla’s strong yet plaintive vocals and skill in painting and framing her subtle instrumental backdrops. The results are most alluring in her skeletal reduction of the B-52’s ‘Give Me Back My Man’, with its seaside town-in-winter ambience, and in the dark blue stripe of her take on Lana Del Rey’s ’Summertime Sadness’, but we’re sure you’ll all have your own favourites.
Sold out at source. Think quick if you’d like one.
Séance Center survey the ghostly soundtrack work of Storm Bugs’ Philip Sanderson in the ‘80s, after leaving the cult industrial group to pursue solo interests...
“By 1981, after four years of DIY electronics, it was time for a change. For Philip Sanderson that change came in the form of film. At first, requests came from friends for soundtrack work, and by the end of the decade he was making short experimental 8mm films himself. On One of These Bends is a collection of unreleased songs, soundtrack work and obscure cassette-only pieces from the 80’s which reflect Philip’s shift in focus. It was a departure from the industrial music he had been making with his group Storm Bugs, having more in common with Nino Rota and Henry Mancini, albeit as seen through a DIY lens, and with a reel-to-reel orchestra comprised of an EMS VCS3, vibraphone, DX7, Roland SH-101, Roland TR-606, tape delay, acoustic guitar, fretless bass and Yamaha FB-01
On two numbers, Philip jokingly asked an American chanteuse to “sing it like a cross between
Streisand and The Shangri-Las”, and to his surprise she did, the results sounding like a loungey AC Marias, or a lost early Crépuscule recording by Anna Domino. Counterpointing this are tracks such as E For Echo made with just an acoustic guitar, and the very first piece Bright Waves which combines the choral vocal talents of Nancy Slessenger with a Revox tape delay system, originally released on his own label Snatch Tapes, under the pseudonymous duo Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey.
These tracks are presented with the ‘picture turned down’ so to speak, and as such the music acts as a kind of memento mori for the absent moving images, and maybe even for the decade itself.”
Shadowy Berlin techno stalwarts Pom Pom sell up to Ostgut’s A-TON with a typically enigmatic album of murky ambient, industrial and electronica
For years the preserve of techno neeks and anyone intrigued by the racks of identikit black labelled and sleeved 12”s in X-Berg’s Hardwax and Space Hall racks, Pom Pom has done well to maintain its anonymity in a the current, hyper-commercialised and surface level state of things in techno right now.
Still, nobody has a clue who’s behind the label, apart from maybe A-TON, who bring the artist(s)/label to a wider audience with ‘Untitled II’, which, to our ears, sounds like the work of more than one person, as it ranges from comedown drones to purring electro offcuts and arpeggiated nightflights with a subtle shift in accents that, to be fair, could be the work of one as much as many.
Our album of the year 2018 is Eli Keszler’s ‘Stadium'; an isolationist avant-jazz masterpiece that's both highly complex and entirely accessible. With his close collaborators Daniel ‘0PN’ Lopatin and Laurel Halo smoking in the back seat, on ‘Stadium’ Keszler somehow manages to emulate a feeling of being lost in a crowd, of time slowing down as the world accelerates around you. In a year full of global upheaval and noise - it was the album that offered us the greatest sanctuary.
Painted in diffuse strokes, Keszler offsets rhythmic complexity with spacious Rhodes chords, floating woodwind and field recordings - showing off an expressive grasp of meter and mood while creating a kind of slow-fast simulation that alters your perspective and sense of scale, zooming out from the atomic to a gauzy panoramic view.
Keszler navigates webs of sound as structurally fascinating as a spider’s web or a deep space image of a distant constellation, seemingly moving on eight legs along steep vertical and fast-flowing horizontal axes with a shocking grasp of precision and pointillism that will leave new listeners to his work scratching their heads, wondering how to programme such chicanery electronically. But as longer term followers of Keszler’s work know, the magick is all acoustic and haptic; physically converting impressions of images and emotions into overlapping geometries of geography and psychology - and in this case effectively projecting a singular, inverted form of sonic deep topography, if you will.
While challenging and highly complex in its construction, it’s an album that's also tremendously easy on the ear, effortlessly binding instrumental dexterity with cool blue harmolodic sentiment in a timeless style that could feasibly be dated to any point between the mid ‘70s heyday of jazz-fusion and right now - in the most thought provoking, evocative way. It reminds us of Milford Graves, Jan Jelinek and even Miles Davis at their most smoked out and moody: best enjoyed alone, late at night.
Preeminent sound artists William Basinski and Lawrence English roll out the quietly breathtaking ’Selva Oscura’ as the first fruit of their collaborations spanning the past half decade and more.
Mantled in reference to Dante’s Inferno, ‘Selva Oscura’ literally translates to ‘Twilight Forest’, a title which serves as metaphorical device for the way Basinski and English’s lives in transit have serendipitously crossed paths over the years between Zagreb, L.A., and Hobart, in a variety of situations. On another level it also speaks to the nature of losing one’s way in place and time, which is beautifully reflected in the music’s disorienting, otherworldly ebb and flow flux.
Using a palette of sounds broken down, magnified and inverted from macro to micro scales and vice-versa, and mailed to each other between L.A. and Brisbane, the results map out vast tracts of psychic terrain that shift like the sands of time, with sounds perpetually rearranging themselves on the granular level to render a broader, slow moving tapestry of sublime, anaesthetic quality.
The A-side’s ‘Mono No Aware’ (Japanese for “the pathos things” or “a sensitivity to ephemera”) is a captivatingly transient and hypnagogic work of sferic tones and sprawling wide bass, lulling listeners into a state of lushest melancholy with the allure of a time-lapse video of autumnal weather patterns. ‘Selva Oscura’ follows with a discernibly darker and submersed appeal, as though the clouds have come down to us (or us to them?) and we’re left wandering the firmament, initially swaddled in a creamy grey-pink expanse marbled with pealing partials, before crossing oceanic basses and gently touching down to pinch ourselves.
Amazing record! Avant-pop enigma Leslie Winer slinks the plasmic, recursive matrices of Jay Glass Dubs in a brilliant but unexpected marriage of husky trip hop and psyched-out dub styles on Your Mom’s Favourite Eazy-E Song for Bristol’s excellent Bokeh Versions.
Finding common, scorched ground between Jay’s gutted structures and Leslie’s abyssal, esoteric insight, YMFEES serves to perfectly highlight the similarities and mutabilities common to both artist’s oeuvres, which have previously shared label space on The Tapeworm, and both share a keen lust for the dankest ends of the dub pool.
With Winer’s lyrics reprinted in swirling ellipses and contoured kerning on the inner sleeve, and presumably (and smartly) designed to mirror the elusive structure of Jay Glass Dub’s arrangements, the listener is offered some kind of star chart thru their no-man’s-land mental dub scapes of ricocheting riddims and droll reportage from the brink of consciousness.
In a dancefloor situation, we’d imagine these tracks to trigger some healthy bewilderment, as bodies get snagged on Jay’s cranky churn and heads spun by Leslie’s stream-of-non sequiturs in Woodshedded, or likewise bullied by the blown-out bass and genuinely spooked, over-the-shoulder vocal of About The Author. However, it’s most likely to be consumed in solitude, which is probably the most appropriate for really getting into the album’s strangest nooks, such as the deliciously OOBE-like detachment of No Famous Actors featuring Winer as HAL-like ghost in the machine, or the masterfully heavy-lidded drowse of Cogged featuring a barely-there Winer suspended above Dubs’ murkiest, hypnotic strokes.
What a beauty?! Don’t sleep!
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.
T H I S album - jesus. Stunning collection of torch songs and electro-acoustic dramaturgy - hugely recommended if you’re into Scott Walker, Élg, Félicia Atkinson, Ghédalia Tazartès or Mica Levi. Easily one of the most striking, rewarding albums of the year so far.
The King is a remarkably absorbing collection of enchanted orchestrations and abstract torch songs by Cee Haines aka Chaines, a Manchester-based artist in possession of a starkly singular sonic language, who has collaborated extensively with the London Contemporary Orchestra and had their work performed at The Roundhouse, Union Chapel, Printworks and Tate Modern.
Leading a thematic expansion of Chaines’ OST debut from 2015, their 2nd solo release yields a phantasmic and richly evocative soundtrack-esque series of works written over the past three years, including exclusive versions of commissions by the LCO and Union Chapel, all serving to frame an intimate yet beautifully elusive portrait of a unique artist coming into their own.
In eight parts, Chaines draws a mercurial line that connects the almost bestial intimacy of purring strings and whispered vocals in For Your Own Good to something like Scott Walker-invoking-Fantasia in Eraserhead, conjuring a mutably surreal and mystic atmosphere that keeps listeners teetering between knife-edge suspense and sublime relief as they scale from delectably detailed avant-garde psychedelia in Knockturning to a bout of Grouper-as-spectral-Jazz diva styles of Population 5120, and all in a way that makes the exploded hyaline castles in the sky dimensions of Airship seem totally feasible next to the cavernous avant-techno impulses of Carpathia. Never following a linear path, Chaines are as likely to incorporate doom-laced chamber motifs and asymmetric techno rhythms as operatic vocals and microscopic sounds, always with a sensitivity to the metaphysics of space and spirit which coolly sets their work apart.
Chaines find themselves amid exemplary, boundary-morphing company on the Slip label, whose diversity finds a common strength in the will to express something of a pathos beyond easy comprehension, yet which can be felt and understood immediately and instinctively by anyone with an open mind and a thirst for the new.
Redeemer is the brutally seductive debut album by Phase Fatale, a key player in the recent charge of EBM and post punk-informed industrial techno infecting ‘floors from his home city, NYC to his DJ residency at Berghain, Berlin.
In Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions, Phase Fatale finds a fitting home for his personalised brand of clinical, rictus rhythm programming and searing synth and guitar lines, adding a vital streak of black and blue electric energy to the legendary label in its 20th year of cultish operation.
In seven parts (and a trio of extended Silent Servant mixes due to come), Redeemer follows the direct, jagged lines of his 12”s for Jealous God and Unterton to a deeply personal realisation of weaponised sonics, upholding a strong tradition of techno as a prophetic exercise or ritual to gird dancers and listeners for the onset of future war. It presents Phase Fatale as an ultimate emissary of electronic violence and domination in the process, steeling the limbic system and muscle memory thru a fine-tuned disciplinarian approach to pharmacokinetics and biomechanics.
Picking from the leather-bound cadaver of industrial dance music past, he reanimates his influences with pointillist precision and unapologetic force. Alloying muscular bass and metallic percussion with wire-combed 16th note synthlines and a barbed perimeter of guitar distortion, his sound can be heard as a metaphorical representation of holding your line against the attrition of a degenerated present.
Each track dances concisely around the 5 minute mark, unfolding a series of densely packed and subtly rendered minimalist/maximalist structures. The shuddering tension of Spoken Ashes opens with banks of rotted chorales against a coalface of hacking stabs, establishing a pent vibe that vacillates precariously thru the adrenalised battery of Operate Within, to the clenched funk of Human Shield and the bombed-out, Alberich-alike Interference, seeming to resolve slightly with the supple roll of Order of Severity, before Beast bottoms out into immolating synth distortion, and Redeemer brings up the rear with a coolly-tempered, stoic form of industrial ecstasy.
An excellent Arvo Pärt primer...
"Arvo Pärt creates music of deceptive simplicity, and listening to his work can be a transformative experience. Imagine taking your ears on a retreat, and you’re some way to understanding why his work is so popular.
The Estonian composer underwent his own transformation in the 1970s, having explored dense avant-garde music in the early part of his career. He put himself through an eight-year creative exile, and emerged with a new, purer voice. The Arvo Pärt that many people are devoted to today (including R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Björk) creates music that cleanses. A sonic detox."
Raw but balmy recordings of electrified desert blues from Agadez, Niger south of the Aïr Mountains in the Sahara
“Etran de L'Aïr play a style that captures the contemporary sound of Agadez, incorporating vastly different musics into their repertoire. While Tuareg guitar follows a predictable format, Etran breaks convention and throws a third guitar into the mix. The two lead guitars solo on top of one another, in constant dialogue, with a crashing response from the drum. There is a bubbly underwater warble that emerges from reverb and crackly amps. It's electric party music, surf rock, from a place that is all beach. They differentiate themselves from the other wedding bands: "We play our own folklore, not like the other artists in Agadez. Our music is based around traditional Takamba...and we listen to a lot of Malian music. Not Tinariwen, but musicians like Ali Farka Touré and Oumou Sangaré."
Etran de L'Aïr is not just a musical group, but a family collective. The group was formed in 1995. Agadez was much smaller then, few homes were electrified, and guitars were rare. "When we first started to play in weddings," Abindi explains "we only had one acoustic guitar, and for the percussion, we hit a calabash with a sandal." As new technology found its way to Agadez, they band adapted, amplifying the acoustic guitar with a transducer microphone, acquiring electric guitars, and finding a drum set. As the family grew, so did the band, integrating the younger siblings into the musical group.
There is an established hierarchy in Tuareg society, and this is reflected in the wedding scene. The best wedding contracts are awarded to musicians with social standing, tribal affiliations, and family connections. Suffice to say, Etran does not belong to the upper class. "They make music for people who don't have money," says manager Madassane. "If a wedding can't afford the expensive musicians, they hire Etran." So while the band continues to gig constantly, outperforming all other bands in Agadez, they still find themselves in dire straits, confined to a DIY aesthetic of out obligation. Their drum kit is dented and the cymbals are cracked, with bites taken out of them. The amplifiers could just have well have been excavated from desert sands. Nevertheless, the band not only makes the equipment work, they make it sound amazing.
This is Etran's debut record. They claim to have written over 40 songs, but none of them have been released until now. This session was recorded live, outside of their family compound in the outskirts of Agadez. The impromptu performance drew the entire neighborhood out of their houses - eliciting the audible clapping, shouting, and ululation. It is here as it was played, outside, with all the enthusiasm and passion of an evening at the end of the raining season one day in Agadez.”
RVNG Intl mint their promising reissue label, ReRVNG with the superb first anthology of Michele Mercure’s home-brewed synth-pop and electronic experiments circa late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
It’s actually a co-release with Freedom To Spend, the Pete Swanson and Jed Bindeman-helmed reissue label that Michele kicked off with her acclaimed ’86 debut ‘Eye Chant’ in 2017. Following the mood of that long overlooked side, ‘Beside Herself’ collects 19 further songs and instrumental pieces from hard-to-find tapes, documenting a creative development from her earliest, skeletal guitar, rhythm box and tape loop sketches through the era of her mutant, theatrical synth moves on ‘Eye Chant’ and beyond.
“Michele is a natural collaborator and has made music for all sorts of contexts, film, theater, dance, etc. You get that impression though this set, you hear different sonic collaborators, but you might also be able to pick up on one track being more kinetic, another more cinematic, another taking wild turns that may be due to edits or changes in a performance or just because she made some interesting choice here or there. Spend a little time with “An Accident Waiting To Happen” or “No More Law In Gotham City” and you’ll be taken on a bit of a ride through different movements, sounds, concepts, concerns, all in about four minutes. Some of this music is functional, some of it is dysfunctional, it’s all good.
For those familiar with Eye Chant, you’ll hear some familiar elements in Beside Herself. You’ll find the cool synthesizers and beautiful samples, storytelling through pop gestures, an apparent dedication to technological and aesthetic experimentation.”
Sunn 0)))’s entrancing, crushing doom metal totem ’White1’, entirely remastered by Matt “The Alchemist” Colton for its 15th anniversary edition, including the beastly rarity ‘Cut Wood(ed)’ from their rare-as-heck ‘White’ box
Notably featuring guest appearances from Julian Cope and Joe Preston, White1 is an exceptional highlight of Sunn 0)))’s near-sacred catalogue of doom metal drone recordings. Originally intended as an acoustic album, the recording session took a different route towards psychedelic electronic experimentation, with the results originally issued in 2003 on CD and as a now sought-after 3-sided LP packaged in a pillowcase and including a sleeping pill.
In the same year of its release, this reviewer popped their Sunn 0))) cherry at Autechre’s ATP, which was nothing short of a life-changing revelation, seeing Julian Cope prostrate, front of stage, surrounded by candles and dry ice, flanked by axe-wielding druids clawing the most monstrous riffs this teenaged bean had ever heard.
On disc, you might not get the full visual glory of O’Malley, Anderson, Ritter, and Cope on stage, but provided you crank it loud enough at home, you can now come closer than ever to the void of White1, from Cope’s foul mouthed induction in the 26 minutes of My Wall, to the brainfeezing blend of traditional Norse vocals and the super rare appearance of Joe Preston’s achingly tight drumming on The Gates of Ballard - one of scant few Sunn 0))) cuts to feature percussion, and which still makes us want to knock down skyscrapers - and right thru the subharmonic ritual of A Shaving of the Horn That Speared You.
Always pushing it one step farther, this release also now includes the abyssal dimensions of Cut Wood(ed), their 2003 collaboration with Ulver which didn’t make the original LP, later found on the White box in 2006, and now retrospectively added to this definitive edition of a staggering masterpiece.
On Bloodline, Steven Julien a.k.a. Funkineven explore a charmingly personalized sonic ontology under his own name for the 2nd time following 2016’s self-titled album, coming into his own with a wickedly expressive meld of jazz-fusion and machine music.
Bloodline is concerned with paying dues to Steven’s ancestral roots, but it’s also an acknowledgment of influence of new age synth styles, Japanese electronics and the history of East London raving, adding up to a sound that’s brilliantly timeless and distinctly his own.
It’s a sort of hauntological soundtrack, if you will, traversing in a range of jump-cuts and fades from the filmic synth atmosphere of Hunt to a killer 303 + Linn drum combo in Roll Of The Dice, and ruggedly debonaire electro-bass on Bloodline, before swerving hard into mutant jazz-funk with Apache. The vibe then takes a super sweet turn with the percolated electro-funk of Queen of Ungilsan, and wraps up with the classicist ‘80s boogie-meets-new age strokes of Temple Rd.
L.I.E.S./ Gravats mainstay Krikor Kouchian presents his soundtrack to the ‘Building Arnold Schwarzenegger’ documentary by Jérôme Momcilovic & Camille Juza, pressed up on limited edition tape.
As with Kouchian’s previous string of soundtracks including ‘Pacific Alley’ and ‘Saudi’, he demonstrates a keen ability to subtly underline visual aspects with his restrained yet suggestive arrangements.
The Cali boogie spinners ‘Gold’s Gym’ and ‘Building Muscle’ surely evoke a West Coast U.S. swagger, and the grand strings of ‘The Running Senator’ are suitably stately, while the muscular bass arps of ’T-800’ could almost be an offcut from Brad Fiedel’s OG ‘Terminator’ scores, and ‘memories of Conan’ perfectly nails the schlocky camp of the big man’s fantasy classique.
Killer retro-futuristic wares, big recommendation if you're into John Carpenter, Terminator OST, YMO!
The trio of Stephan Crasneanscki, Simone Merli, and Kamran Sadeghi,aka the Soundwalk Collective, are based between New York City and Berlin, their efforts span fine art and music, digesting anthropological, ethnographic, and psychogeographic study, through the lens of electronic sound - recording, processing, and synthesis. Marking the debut of the new imprint Dischi Fantom, Transmissions - a four LP anthology, gathers four previously unreleased studio compositions into a single sprawling set.
"Transmissions is a distillation of sonic worlds - its source material and recordings linked to specific locations, natural or artificial, collected by the trio over long periods of investigation, travel, and field work in the Mediterranean basin, the Black Sea, the Rub’ al Khali Desert, and the region around Odessa. Cacophonous and often chaotic, images drift in and out of view - the sounds of nature, captured frequencies, ambience, radio intercepts, voices, music, archival recordings - the list goes on. A careful ordering of chance encounter, captured in the search for beauty the chaos of the world. Across Transmissions' works - Ulysses Syndrome, Medea, Empty Quarter, and Bessarabia, emerges a startling post-modern realm. A sonic bubble of non-linear narrative, where concrete meaning eludes the ear - continuously changed by the listeners themselves. Published in an edition of 300 copies, and accompanied by a booklet (amazingly designed by Fabrizio Radaelli) which includes Black-Winged Night, an essay by David Toop, as well as a conversation between the Soundwalk Collective and Dischi Fantom founder, Massimo Torrigiani. A stunning start for the label, and a brilliant effort by one of the most interesting projects in the contemporary scene, this is one not to miss.
“I hear this displacement of refrains. I am not fixed within signs but adrift within signals. Like a bat or a dolphin, I hear scanned frequencies otherwise inaudible to my human limitations and these voices and tones captured from the aether seem to me to be our equivalent of those voices of gods who spoke ‘words that flew’; music asserts its regional and cultural affiliations and yet at the same time it drifts unmoored in the ocean of sound.” David Toop