Singapore's Nat Ćmiel, aka Yeule, lands on Ninja Tune for their fifth full-length, centering their vocals over glittering productions that jerk from post-punk into trip-hoppy ambience. RIYL Sol Seppy, Grimes, Caroline Polachek.
There's a pleasant nostalgia to 'softscars' that transports us back to simpler times. It's not an album that evokes a specific era, it just sounds out of place in a world pocked by distrust, technological breakdown and cynical hopelessness. Yeule's electronically processed vocals are cute but never sickly-sweet, and their adherence to late '90s/early '00s song structures gives their songs a grounding in the familiar that lets their wilder production tics squeal. On the album's title track, they coo over rumbling downtempo bumps, cooly harmonizing while synths squeal and breaks crumble. And on 'ghosts' they pull the tempo down further, singing a schoolyard melody that dips through keys, splitting from quiet melancholy into tempered jubilance.
Yeule even saves space for their weirder inclinations, humming over swung beats and frothing synths on the curiously-titled 'software update' until it blows up and echoes the Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind?' And 'Bloodbunny' ditches the nostalgia for a second, sounding closer to Charli XCX with a reduced, 8-bit dubstep bounce. Funnily enough, the simplest, most effective track is closer 'aphex twin flame', that sounds absolutely nothing like Richard D. James, thankfully.
Sam Van Dijk (Mohlao, Multicast Dynamics) steps off into killer, mid-tempo to quicksilver ambient electro-techno for Rvshes or CUB fiends.
The brownian dynamic is strong on this one. ‘Waves of Change’ is VC-118A’s 5th album in this mode and marks a decade of chasing the dub techno dragon where it takes him. The mood is calmly held for locked-in listening with a fine grasp of the pressure gauge that keeps it bobbing and scudding subaquatic, replete with the distant echoes of Drexciya that inspire so much west coast dutch electronic music, but modulated at the sort of tempo favoured by Regis CUB or Fishermen and the silty dub chicanery of T++ or Rvshes.
His opener ‘Heat’ is a standout scene setter, flexing flickering drums on a sunken Reese bass drone that carries the cinematic payload of ‘The Deep’ and is diffracted into the subbass ripcurrents of ‘Stream’. The meditative momentum also informs ‘Mothjerboard’ at the core, but comes out quicker in the deep Detroit dynamism to ‘You’, while he pushes to near lightless aphotic zones in likes of ‘Echo Drop’ and comes to the surface for air in ‘euphonic’.
It's been over half a decade since we last heard from Grails, and they return with 'Anches En Maat', a synth-forward cosmic prog blast that's inspired by '80s softcore, soap soundtracks and disco.
Grails, now made up of founder members Alex Hall and Om's Emil Amos, with Jesse Bates, Ilyas Ahmed, and Zombi's AE Paterra, have always made their love of movies pretty clear. Their last handful of records have drawn from vintage Westerns, exploitation movies and '80s video nasties, so it tracks that they should keep looking deeper in the moldy Blockbuster bins, which is where we find 'Anches En Maat'. This is the band's most boisterous, self-consciously corny set to date, bolted together from errant synth riffs, boxy exotica rhythms and disco strings.
It sounds like the kind of record you'd expect to find presented on 180g gatefold vinyl in 10 variants, reclaimed from a vault in deepest, darkest Italy. The band are clearly keen listeners, and make a racket that's alarmingly era specific. Slippery analog basslines rumble under dramatic guitar riffs and tense drums, and swooping orchestral sounds crash over emotional wails. For instrumental music, this doesn't half pack a gut punch. If you're into Finders Keepers, STROOM et al, give this one a closer look.
Catalyst of the kuduro phenomenon, Angola’s DJ Znobia gets his long-overdue flowers with the first of a four-volume deep dive into his archive conducted by the awesome Nyege Nyege Tapes - 100% crucial for DJs/dancers feeling Príncipe stars, Nazar, M.I.A., Fever Ray
Arguably the most influential African producer of the past 30 years, Sebastião Lopes aka DJ Znobia forged the kuduro (meaning “hard ass”) sound with early versions of FruityLoops software against the backdrop of a civil war that has been documented, for example, in Nazar’s hi-tech echo of the OG sound.
Galvanising traditional styles of semba, kilapanga, and kazukuta with a technoid chassis between the late ‘90s and mid ‘00s at home in the Barrio Do Rangel music (shantytown) of Angola’s capital, Luanda, Znobia forged a virulent, energetic sound that spread like wildfire to the rest of the world during the nascent blogging era of the internet, grabbing attention of M.I.A. who enlisted him to produce ‘Sound of Kuduro’ from her pivotal album ‘Kala, and resulting in consequent releases with early kuduro disseminators Enchufada and Diplo’s Mad Decent. Then, practically nowt until NNT stepped in for this unmissable session, sifted from some 700 unreleased tracks to give a proper handle on Znobia’s templates for kuduro and its sexier sibling, tarraxinha.
In parallel to FL-produced movements of grime or bassline in UK, baile funk from Brazil, or merengue in the Caribbean, kuduro represented the voice of African and Afro-diasporic modernity; an upfront and incendiary dance sound that selectively updated the past for jacked-in, jacking bodies of a new era. While nowadays perhaps best known internationally for the work of DJ Marfox, Nervoso, or Niggafox on Lisbon’s Príncipe, the seeds of kuduro are clear to hear in Znobia’s productions. Catapulted by slamming kicks, and syncopated with pinging percussion, screwy soft-synths and sampled vox, Znobia’s style still sounds ruthlessly upfront and fresh decades later, and never more primed for western dancefloors ever drawn to the rudest, ruggedest dance music finesse.
For peaktime players, the series’ full throttle kuduro cuts are unmissable, but a big part of its appeal owes to the number of revelatory, slower tarraxinha bits, too. For every high pressure bomb like ‘Zambinamina’, the 4/4 grime-esque ‘Wo’, body-bouncing ‘Cuba em Angola’, and the utterly ratchet kuduro-noise of ‘Pausa’ or ‘floor-animating ‘Tom e Jerry’, there are slow screwed zingers such as the ‘U uu’ with its noirish strings and clipped strut, or the shades-on ‘Esfregado’ with its jagged rave riffs - not to mention the porno-sampling ‘Piqueno’ - each set to a molten, dancehall and dembow-compatible 95-100bpm.
Along with the likes of Príncipe’s early Lisbon scene survey ‘DJs DI Guetto’ and DJ Marfox’s Revolução 2005-2008’, consider this unprecedented set of DJ Znobia trax absolutely necessary listening and historic tackle for anyone tracing the rhizome of contemporary Afro-diasporic dance music, and its links to hybrid western pop music of M.I.A. or Fever Ray, in the C20th.
Black Twig Pickers and House And Land's Sally Anne Morgan endeavors to create new folk forms on 'Carrying', evaporating Appalachian folk traditions into warm, personal songs that dig deep into the emotions surrounding the birth of her first child.
For Morgan, songwriting is a spiritual process, a way for her to connect with her deepest feelings and connect to the wider world. 'Carrying' is a reflective record, made while she went through a number of significant life changes, but it's far from glum. With help from Pelt/Black Twig Pickers drummer Nathan Bowles, guitarist Andrew Zinn, Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson and bassist/engineer Joe Dejarnette, Morgan reimagines well-worn folk tropes, playing guitar, fiddle and banjo and singing emphatically of her experiences. The songs are lavishly orchestrated and engineered, reminding us of Will Oldham's tight, tidy arrangements, but still embody the homespun charm of vintage Americana.
'Dawn Circle' is an early highlight, a lengthy jam that accentuates the unique qualities of Morgan's expressive vocal delivery. Playing intricate guitar riffs alongside Bowles' boxy rhythms, Morgan freewheels into impressionistic harmony. She comments that her process is almost religious, and the influence of praise songcraft is intensely apparent here. The instrumentation isn't always particularly traditional either; Matthew O'Connell adds synthesizer and tape loops to the elegiac 'Streets of Derry', a song that starts off simply enough but rolls into sublime, euphoric ambience.
Helena Hauff trots out a fabric mix studded with crunchy electro bombs
After a decade dominating Euro ‘floors and beyond with her patented direct drive muscle, Hauff parades 19 tried and trusted bangers of a ruff cut and drily emotive electro-techno variety after heading more line-ups than we can count, both solo and in b2b with likes of Eris Drew, Marcel Dettmann and DJ Stingray, and hosting her own BBC Radio 1 show.
It kicks off with one of her own, ‘Turn Your Sights Inward’, and shells down lethal cuts including Clarence G’s pre-Drexicya zinger ‘Data Transfer’, a walloping Slam x Optic nerve juggernaut ‘Machine Conflict’, Radioactiveman’s murderous ‘Night Bus to Nowhere’ and Autechre’s remix of D-Breeze off MASK 500 (jeez, the nostalgia!), while highlighting a raft of newer names and obscurities.
All hitters no shitters.
333 play it nice ’n easy with Nairobi Sisters’ warm roots reggae breezer and its haunting dub after shelling a load of digi-dub-dancehall zingers
Currently racking up one of the finest programmes of 2023, Death Is Not The End’s 333 series keep them coming with this reissued slice of ’75 sweetness, running the funky reggae sway of ‘Promised Land’, with Nairobi Sisters’s drifting, close vocal harmonies swaying over reggae soul breaks and chicken scratch guitar, laced with nyabighi drum rolls that bubble to the fore in the stripped back and subtly dubbed B-side version.
Psychedelic Speed Freaks Asahito Nanjo & Munehiro Narita aka High Rise fill the tank and let rip on a long-out-of-print ’92 psych and garage rock zinger, including two bonus cuts
Beloved for their scene defining 1984 debut ‘Psychedelic Speed Freaks’, Nanjo & Narita collapsed free jazz, psyche, and garage rock into a potent brew between 1982 and 2002. ‘Dispersion’ emerged at the mid way point of their arc and trades in a rowdier adjunct to their oft cited peers Les Rallizes Dénudés or Keiji Haino’s Fushitsusha, pairing gas-guzzle bass guitar revs with percussive fury and copious feedback that gets hairs standing on end.
We can practically smell the sweat and amphetamine on opener ‘Outside Gentiles’, before they take the long road on ‘Sadducees Faith’ with howling solos giving way to a clattering mid way collapse and swaggering 2nd half. The LRD comparisons are most apt in ‘Nuit’ and destroyed quality of ‘Deuteronomy’, while the thunderous psych blues blow-out ‘Mainliner’ is the sort that puts a scissor kick in your step. The bonus cuts are exceptionally crude and brilliant, with ‘Monster A Go Go’ also reminding of a wilder Om, and ‘Induced Depression’ gets the blood up, we tell thee.
Adela Mede returns to Warm Winters with this brief two-tracker, looping operatic vocal phrases over tense drones and squelchy analog electronics.
Mede's debut 'Szabadság' examined the vulnerability of her voice, setting her vocals - sung in English, Hungarian and Slovak - against effervescent electronics. In contrast, this single demonstrates a lighter hand; the electronic elements are more subtle, and Mede's vocals are markedly more pronounced. On the opening track 'Száz Fele Nézek' she repeats a phrase like a mantra, wailing in the background accompanied by moody accordion drones. And on the flip, she whispers a moving drone lullaby, harmonizing with herself over swampy synths and submerged woodwind.
The Vladimir Ivkovic marshalled Offen Music hail another label debut with Phillip Otterbach’s diaristic illbient drone missives dialled in from the brink of sleep.
‘Correct Me If I Am Incorrectly You’ feels as though it emulates the sensation of post rave, post session, when one is trying to catch some Z’s but the powders and potions won’t let you. It follows from Offen’s introduction to Kinzua’s squashed club music and the cranky debut of Fritz Catlin (23 Skidoo) and Simon Crab (Bourbonese Qualk) as Big Daddy, with one of the label’s most abstract impressionistic turns, all strung out guitar meditation and collaged, textural samples that sweep frazzled, supine minds into opiated, liminal dimensions.
We’re not sure if the track titles are apocryphal or not, and the blurb’s playing suitably oblique - “Remember Cowboy Bob, Salaryman and Gary Floyd in that opium den in Fischeln?” - but their time stamps appear to span more than 30 years of sketches from the archive, and likewise parallel rave and dance music’s lingering after effects. ‘Sept 18, 92’ outlines a curious conception of queasy ambient romance that lists like restive bodies and minds between the OOBEy shape of ‘Jan 25, 03’ to the white hot, shearing guitars of ‘Apr 22, 04’ and uneasy blues meditation ‘Okt 01, 21’. A sense of respite and the gear wearing off comes with the final third of Loren Connors-esque plangency calving to stoner rock riffs in ‘Mar 27, 16’, and the final 10 minute krautrock fusion blow out of ‘Aug 18, 95’.
Cécile Schott's first double album is a magical and sprawling collection of all-electronic movements made using a single synth and a collection of delay pedals. Her first all-instrumental album since 2007's 'Les ondes silencieuses', it's an emotionally-charged and deeply human set of experiments that reminds us of Raymond Scott, Delia Derbyshire and more recently, Lau Nau.
It's an incredible achievement to keep releasing new music without repeating yourself, but Schott's been challenging herself ever since she followed her sample-based debut 'Everyone Alive Wants Answers' with the lush, instrument-led 'The Golden Morning Breaks' in 2005. Her last run of albums found her exploring songwriting, meeting her fallible vocals with dub and electro-samba rhythms on 2021's excellent 'The Tunnel and the Clearing'.
For 'Le jour et la nuit du réel' ('The day and the night of reality'), Schott initially wrote the album with vocals, but as the songs evolved into suites, she realized that the synthesizer was all she needed to express herself. Using a Moog Grandmother monosynth alongside a Roland Space Echo and a handful of delay pedals, she set about working on an investigation of perceptions of reality that's split into two sides: day and night. "To me, the capacity of synthesis to alter - subtly or radically - the physical embodiment in sound of the same series of notes is akin to how, when given new information about a person or a situation, we can reevaluate our initial perception of what we thought was the "reality" of that person or situation, sometimes drastically so," she explains.
Schott calls the process here a "human-machine hybrid style", using non-quantized sequencing and off-beat delay vortexes to create lilting rhythms that suggest dub without attempting to mimic its familiar step. Each piece is split into brief movements, or variations on a theme, beginning with 'Subterranean', a three-part swirl of bleeps and wiggling oscillations that fritters away to almost nothing. 'The Long Wait' is a complete contrast, drawing on kosmische and structuring its synth sounds into arpeggiated sequences that seem to fold in on each other, transforming into warbling echoes, while 'To hold and be held' is a playful, filtered set of melodic rhythmic phrases that twinkle like staccato string plucks.
As the album descends into night, the music gets significantly more moonlit - not dark, exactly, but starry and crepuscular. 'Be without being seen' is the first taste of this dusky material, but the lengthy 'Les parenthèses enchantées' is the focal point, five lengthy variations that twinkle romantically, sounding as spiritually charged as Popol Vuh's 'Affenstunde'. On the opening movement, Schott weaves molasses-slow melodies through a pool of delays, and on the third segment, it begins to sound like a chorus of nocturnal creatures singing to each other in twilight. Schott has outdone herself with this one, using synthesized thickets of sound to express a level of emotionality that often eludes electronic music - if you enjoyed Lau Nau's stunning '5 x 4' then this is the perfect companion.
Laurel Halo's long-in-the-making debut album for her newly minted Awe label is dazzling; a mix of weightless jazz, orchestral and drift energies that’s both elusive and engrossing; just when you think you have the measure of it, it shapeshifts into something else. Made of rarified material; it bends the contemporary “ambient” template into something almost entirely new, creating a blanket of pure atmosphere that wafts over you like a cloud, but which fully comes to life with closer, deep listening.
A real AOTY contender; featuring contributions from Bendik Giske, James Underwood, Lucy Railton and Coby Sey, highly recommended if you’re into anything from Pharoah Sanders to Gavin Bryars, GAS to Klein’s brain curdling ‘Harmattan’ album.
“Currently based in Los Angeles, Laurel Halo has spent over a decade stepping into different towns and cities for a moment or more, to the point where everywhere almost became nowhere. Atlas, the debut release on her new imprint Awe, is an attempt to put that feeling to music. Using both electronic and acoustic instrumentation, Halo has created a potent set of sensual ambient jazz collages, comprised of orchestral clouds, shades of modal harmony, hidden sonic details, and detuned, hallucinatory textures. The music functions as a series of maps, for places real and imaginary, and for expressing the unsaid.
The process of writing Atlas began back in 2020 when she reacquainted herself with the piano. She relished the piano's physical feedback, as well as its capacity to express emotion and lightness. And when the legendary Ina-GRM Studios in Paris invited her to take up a residency the following year in 2021, she spared no time to dub, stretch and manipulate some of the simple piano sketches she'd recorded over the prior months; these subtle piano recordings and electronic manipulations would go on to become the heart of Atlas. In the remainder of 2021 and 2022, with time spent between Berlin and London, Halo recorded additional guitar, violin and vibraphone, as well as acoustic instrumentation from friends and collaborators including saxophonist Bendik Giske, violinist James Underwood, cellist Lucy Railton and vocalist Coby Sey. All of these sounds were shaped, melted, and re-composed into the arrangements, their acoustic origins rendered uncanny.
In short, Atlas is road trip music for the subconscious. With repeated listens, it is a record that can leave a deep sensorial impression on the listener, akin to walking at dusk in a dark forest. Its humor and sharp focus would dispel any notions of sentimentality. Completely distinct from the rest of Halo's catalog, Atlas is an album that thrives in the quietest places, rejecting bombast and embracing awe. Fitting that it's the debut release on her new recording label, whose slogan parallels the mood and atmosphere of the album: Awe is something you feel when confronted with forces beyond your control: nature, the cosmos, chaos, human error, hallucinations.”
Traces of Jersey club, Detroit techno, ghettotech and special Washington D.C. spices gets chewed up and spat out in livewire jams by Amal, James Bangura & Nativesun’s Black Rave Culture
The trio juggle the drums properly on their 3rd, most substantial, and arguably significant outing since debuting in 2021 a s assailable of House of Altr. All tracky and built to sweep the club, they initially play it cool with the percolated, atmospheric pressure of ‘Full Circle’ and finely toggle the gauge between militant Afro-bounce on ‘Blood Omen’, to itchy Detroit tekkerz recalling Claude Young in ‘One Way Ticket’ and the dub chord-riding ‘Dat Jaunt Go Pt.2’ and ‘Track Hawk’, before dialling up the Jersey jiggle on ‘Crazy Legs’ and ‘Amtrak’, and harder still with the Jersey x Drill winner ‘Run It Up’. The hard ghettotech electro knocks of DJ Assault inform the bone rattling ‘Blowin O’s’. Strong!
Loraine James lets her influences run wild on her third Hyperdub volume, sampling DNTEL, Telefon Tel Aviv and Lusine on tracks that dig into her emotional core. Featuring guest appearances from Marina Herlop, keiyaA, Corey Mastrangelo, Eden Samara, George Riley and Contour.
The first taste we had of 'Gentle Confrontation' was '2003', the album's most personal track - a sombre, beatless memorial that drapes James' newly confident vocals over a bed of dreamy oohs and ahhs. "It's about my dad who passed away 20 years ago," she revealed on Twitter, "and my mum being the best parent ever." The track sets the pace for a charged set she says she should have written as a teenager, with its source material reflecting that time in her life. As anyone who's dug into her back catalog before - from her acclaimed 'Reflection' and 'For You and I' full-lengths to her hazier gear as Whatever The Weather - will already know, her earliest musical passions were early noughties emotronica and math rock. So on tracks like 'Glitch the System (Glitch Bitch 2)' and the sardonically titled 'I DM U', James casts her mind back to material from her teenage heroes like DNTEL, Baths and Lusine, capturing their ethereal shimmer while redirecting the mood with contemporary twists and turns.
On DNTEL's 2001 album 'Life is Full of Possibilities', he worked with vocalists like Mia Doi Todd, Meredith Figurine and Deathcab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, inadvertently setting the pace for a deluge of albums that followed. James continues the thought, weaving similar structures but adding fresher voices, like NYC-based keiyaA, whose characteristic tones lift 'Let U Go' into the heavens, soaring over James' syncopated, Telefon-sampling rattle. PAN's Marina Herlop whispers sweet nothings on 'While They Were Singing', turning her voice into a choir to offer an emotional counter to James' Merck-ish skittering percussion and calming sine tones, while Eden Samara follows her memorable performance on 'Reflection' with the poppy 'Try For Me'. On 'I'm Trying to Love Myself', James samples DNTEL's melancholy 'Anywhere Anyone' looping Mia Doi Todd's voice as she murmurs "I love you," her heart directly on her sleeve.
But 'Gentle Confrontation' shines brightest when it pulls us back into James' private fantasies, like on the Aaliyah-esque 'Speechless'. Here James sounds as if she's underwater, pushing her hard-swung rhythms through deep water while George Riley adds low-lit, smokey words. Similarly, on 'Cards with the Grandparents', James talks and sings, recounting personal truths over evocative field recordings and abstracted, tumbling foley beats. It's these moments that give us the best porthole into James' world, a space that's getting more vivid with each and every release.
Next up on TraTraTrax is a tidy set of eroticised 'n ecstatic dancefloor winders from Colombian-Swiss artist Pa' Bailar, who brings in an assist from his friend Parco Palaz, a psychedelic, half-time guaracha rework from Laksa and another from Perko, who smokes out his best Rhythm & Sound tribute.
If you've been eyeing the dancefloor closely there's no way you'll have missed out on Nyksan, DJ Lomalinda and Verraco's TraTraTrax output. The label shot into the spotlight with Nick Léon's raptor house breakout 'Xtasis' last year, but there's way more to find if you dig a little deeper. Luca Durán's been carving out a niche for the last few years with a slew of taut, hybrid club bangers and cheeky edits, but this latest EP might be his most intense yet. We'd urge you to head straight for 'Oh Oh', a collaboration with Palaz that'll already be familiar to dancers, mixing ecstatic prog house synths with dissociated vocal chops and a hard-swung pulse that's so thrusting it should come with an advisory sticker.
Lead track 'Pa' Bailar' follows roughly the same trajectory, occasionally falling apart into its consistent bits, but 'Ojos Cerrados' paints outside of the lines, adding trappy kicks and subverting its trance-pilled risers with slanted raps. It's the latter track that provides the fuel for Laksa and Perko's reworks. Perko slows it down to a sultry shiver, pulling a significant gulp of juice from Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald in the process, and Laksa follows his heady recent run with a hypnotic stumble of tipsy guaracha knocks and blotter-friendly synthwork. Very strong, beginning to end - don't miss.
Night School boss Michael Kasparis embraces divinity and ugliness on 'Prisoners of Love and Hate', tracking through pop history with a brace of mutant bangers that reference AFX, Whigfield, Erasure, Bruce Springsteen and Thin Lizzy. Mad.
Whether you like 'Prisoners of Love and Hate' or not, it's hard to deny its ambition. Kasparis is a lover of energetic pop music in all its forms, and he takes a trash-bag of Now That's What I Call Music classics here, cross breeding them into punky, tongue-in-cheek mutants. There's the Whigfield-referencing, hard dance-flecked EBM opener 'Saturday Night, Still Breathing', 'Rely On Me', that Kasparis explains is '80s Mute synth pop, or Erasure fronted by Bruce Springsteen, and the wiggly, AFX-inspired 'Spit Pit', and that's just the first three tracks.
After a brief diversion with the beachy, electro-samba inspired 'Nothing But Perfect', 'Summer of '03' provides the album's most chaotic mix, bending pop trance into donk - honestly though, without the vocal it'd be a perfectly respectable donk track. Kasparis references Shalamar's 'I Can Make You Feel Good' on 'Feel Good (You Can Make Me)', closing an eccentric run with rattly breaks and tinny synths. At least he's having fun.
Following a killer comp of early hardcore jungle roots and branches with Grooverider, Fabio flicks the needle forward to that sound’s sexier sibling of Speed-era liquid D&B via cuts by Marcus Intalex & S.T. Files, High Contrast, Chase & Status, Alix Perez ++
“After the Jungle scene declined and underwent a distinct shift in sound and style, Fabio took the initiative to establish London's first dedicated soulful deep Drum and Bass night, known as Speed. Week after week, Fabio shared the decks with LTJ Bukem, and their skillful sets eventually garnered immense popularity, drawing in not only junglists but also celebrities, club kids, record label A&R representatives, and the who's who of the West End at that time. When the curtain fell on Speed Fabio's legacy continued to flourish with the inception of his legendary Swerve weekly residency at The Velvet Rooms, which later relocated to the iconic club, The End. The influence of Swerve was profound, serving as a catalyst for the creation of influential labels like Hospital Records, Tony Coleman (also known as London Elektricity) became a regular attendee, further contributing to the scene's growth and innovation.
The term 'Liquid', was born out of Fabio's deep admiration and support for his protégé, the talented Northern Irish producer and DJ, Dominick Martin, famously known as Calibre. This inspiration led to the creation of his acclaimed 14-year radio show on BBC Radio 1, 'The Liquid Funk Show', which drew from Calibre's masterful productions that Fabio likened to "liquid gold" for the ears. Through this show, Fabio played a crucial role in breaking numerous iconic records, and artists such as Chase & Status, High Contrast, and many many more.
Now, 'Generation Liquid' takes the baton from the legacy of Speed, Swerve, and 'The Liquid Funk show', capturing the essence of the era and the soulful, deeper music that Fabio has championed throughout his illustrious career. This meticulously curated collection celebrates records that embody the spirit of soulful D&B, making it a must-have for anyone who has followed Fabio's musical journey since the vibrant days of the 1990s up until now.
The compilation is a treasure trove, featuring contemporary classics, late-night rollers, iconic remixes, and timeless Fabio originals. The roster of producers on 'Generation Liquid' is stellar, boasting names like Calibre, Alix Perez, High Contrast, MJ Cole, Chase & Status, and many others. It is an essential snapshot of soulful D&B at its peak, handpicked and presented by the genre’s Godfather.”
Keplar plunder Vladislav Delay’s archival riches again with an expanded and remastered reissue of his year 2000 debut, proper, featuring all tracks in their entirety on vinyl for the first time.
Sasu Ripatti’s debut/2nd album and a classic of Mille Plateaux’s reign over over minimal, glitchy electronics, ‘Entain’ followed his first LP ‘Ele’ (1999) with a similarly quiet tactility, sharing some of its material while locating more devil in the details of its electro-acoustic dub fissures. By this point, Vladislav Delay already stood out from the crowd for his ‘Multila’ comp of works for Chain Reaction, and his bifurcation into the full bodied deep house of ‘Vocalcity’ as Luomo, but his restless creativity would move deeper into his abstract dub thing with ‘Entain’.
Now spread over three slabs and including all tracks in their immersive breadth, it remains a remarkable example of the era’s analog-to-digital flux and need for music that represented the newness of life increasingly immured in the internet and virtuality.
Legendary Afro-futurist jazz pioneer Idris Ackamoor regroups The Pyramids at drummer/producer Malcolm Catto’s studio for a typically deep and tuff new session that speaks to their 50 years of heavily rooted jams adjacent to Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders.
"Recorded between San Francisco and London and brought together by the genius of Malcolm Catto at his analogue Quatermass Studio, the new recording represents another bold step in Ackamoor’s ever-evolving journey in jazz, adding full, intricate scores including string sections and choral elements to the Pyramids’ trademark spiritual Afro-jazz sound.
Driven by the core Pyramids members Ackamoor (sax, keytar, organ), Margaux Simmons (flute), Sandra Poindexter (violin) and Bobby Cobb (guitar), tracks range from hard-hitting commentaries about police brutality (‘Police Dem’) to celebrations of the ancestors and departed loved ones (‘Requiem For The Ancestors’, ‘Re-Memory’) and hazy cosmic journeys, including the album’s title track and the sparkling, experimental closer, ‘Nice It Up’.
‘Afro-Futuristic Dreams’ is mixed by Malcolm Catto and mastered by Peter Beckmann at Technology Works. The superb cover artwork illustration is by David Alabo."
The unsurpassable Julia Reidy returns alongside Berlin-based quartet The Pitch, who bless Reidy's peculiar xenharmonic tones with sparse flourishes of vibraphone, clarinet, double bass and electronics. A dizzying display of obtuse harmony and doomy, cosmic jazz, it's like Bohren & der Club of Gore playing Glenn Branca.
We've been knocked sideways by Julia Reidy's last run of releases, and 'Neutral Star' only fuels our obsession. Recorded in front of an audience in one take by Rebih Beaini at his Morphine Raum studio-cum-venue, it's a startling technical achievement, sounding deep and layered even without overdubs. The Pitch, made up of Boris Baltschun, Koen Nutters, Michael Thieke and Morten Joh, have been playing together since 2009, working out a way to blend acoustic improvisation with hypnotic electronics, and alongside Reidy they're able to slip into a parallel universe. Their music is both familiar and strangely exotic, following Reidy's obsession with non-standard tunings richly orchestrating the open-ended compositions.
'Endless ≠ Limitless' began as a tape-delay-based piece written by Reidy and Joh, and here plumes into a smoky, decelerated cabaret puff, with haunted, jazzy double-bass plucks at the root and sparse, wooly vibraphone tones and waved woodwind blasts fogging the upper register. The piece unfurls over almost 25 minutes, sustaining its particular, Lynchian mood and giving Reidy enough space to add their characteristic twang where necessary. On the flip, the title track is more nebulous, with Reidy adding subtle fingertaps to a high-pitched clarinet fanfare that sounds as if it's being carried across storm winds from beyond the coast. The lounge-y jazz vapors are all but gone here, swallowed by caliginous drones and wonky xenharmonic flurries - at times, it's tough to work out which elements are electronic, and which are emanating from acoustic instruments.
Subtle and uncommonly atmospheric, 'Neutral Star' is an album that takes the sultry evocative tone of film music and queers the pitch, neatly swerving any burned-out, melodramatic tropes in the process. Massive recommendation.
30th Anniversary edition of The Breeders' Last Splash - remastered from the original analog tapes.
"A defining album of the 90s, Last Splash by The Breeders turns 30 in 2023. Recorded by the ‘classic’ Breeders line-up of Kim Deal, Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson, and featuring the infectiously appealing ‘Cannonball’, Last Splash immediately became an alt-rock classic, achieving platinum status in the UK and US, and is ranked in Pitchfork’s Top 100 Records of the 1990s.
Entitled Last Splash (the 30th Anniversary Original Analog Edition), this special edition will span two 12” 45rpm vinyl discs, plus an exclusive, one-sided etched 12” disc containing two forgotten tracks from the original Last Splash sessions: ‘Go Man Go’, a track that Kim co-wrote with Black Francis, and ‘Divine Mascis’, a version of ‘Divine Hammer’ with lead vocals provided courtesy of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis.
For this special edition, the original, iconic sleeve art by the late visionary designer Vaughan Oliver has been gloriously reimagined by his long-time design partner Chris Bigg."
Tapes, Surgeon, Nadia Struiwigh, V.I.V.E.K., Amy Kisnorbo and more sign up to tweak out Om Unit’s acclaimed Acid Dub Studies.
Across two volumes of ‘Acid Dub Studies’ and corresponding ‘Versions’ since 2021, Om Unit and pals have gone deep on a strain of acid dub music that’s percolated the waters since ‘80s digi-dub classic ’Sleng Teng’ and Bobby Konders’ early ‘90s joints, and found in classic works like the ‘Acid Hall’ riddim and a series of aces by The Bug. ‘Acid Dub Versions II’ sees Om Unit originals tweaked out in forms ranging from dub, proper, to its offshoots in dubstep, UKG, acid techno and ambient with often ace results.
The Tapes remix of ‘Acid Tempo’, itself a version of Black Roots Players’ ‘Tempo Dub’ (Wackies, 1985), is a big one, and we’re also partial to Nadia Striuwigh’s weightless ambient rendering of ‘Electrospringwater’, and the stylistic purism of Frenk Dublin’s duppied acid dub version to ‘Ghosts’. Surgeon smartly takes the opportunity to ping off at uptempo angles with his springheeled modular reshod of ‘Tapped’, and V.I.V.E.K.’s is built for the biggest rigs.
Burly but sinuous hard drum body movers by Danish producer DJ JM, looping back for his 2nd EP with Nervous Horizon
With origins in TSVI’s ‘Sacred Drums’ (2016) EP and a full 2019 EP for the label, DJ JM returns to Nervous Horizon with four concentrated, reticulated club sidewinders on the ‘Abnormal’ EP. To be fair, they’re pretty conventional not abnormal, but that’s not to say they’re aren’t effective, carrying a shunting darkroom house momentum in ’Syze’, beside the distended electro tribalism of ‘Pepper’, a tracky, wickedly discordant title tune, and rugged electro of ‘Erazer’ with its squealing lead.
Swedish sound artist and composer Lo Kristenson, a graduate of the Master's Programme in composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm (where contemporaries Ellen Arkbro and Maria W Horn also studied), considers tension, impulse and longing on a magnificent debut album for XKatedral, an hour-long immersion in slowly unravelling arrangements for alto flute, baroque violin and baroque viola, highly recommended listening for disciples of Mary Jane Leach, Catherine Lamb, Lucy Railton, Morton Feldman, Pauline Oliveros.
The Swedish word förnimmelser translates to mean both sensations and perceptions. In the context of the album, it signifies the perception of other beings. Alongside Rakel Emhjellen Paulsen (alto flute), Julija Morgan (baroque violin) and Tove Bagge (baroque viola), Kristenson refines her sound over a series of "collective exercises, conversation and experiments," designed to help the ensemble unlearn their rehearsed musical gestures together. The process was explicitly developed by Kristenson to challenge the bodily and musical expectations associated with playing instruments in a traditional manner. To achieve this, it was essential for each musician to focus intensely on the listening process and maintain an awareness of their own body, harnessing naturally occurring friction and resistance to create dynamic waves of musical energy while playing.
The score was provided in fragments, giving the players the option to choose between notated phrases and more freeform directions. Tempo wasn't specified, but an approximate duration was offered for guidance, in the hope that whatever timing would emerge would come from intuition rather than design. Kristensen encouraged each player to think about their breathing patterns, and let that guide their performance. And that's starkly visible on the album's 20-minute opener 'I', where oddly pitched string phrases graze each other softly, strangled to silence periodically to emphasise negative space. Paulsen's ascendent flute tones melt into the strings, and the music appears to balance precariously between folk-y tenderness and sounds more regularly associated with experimental classical minimalism.
Kristensen intersperses these longer, core pieces with shorter, more abstracted compositions titled 'mellanrum', meaning the space in-between. These interludes add an important pause for breath, rupturing the silence with scant, virtuosic gestures. 'III' is almost funereal in tone, but the humanity of each vibrating string gives it a level of uniqueness that's hard to turn away from. Sustained tones waver and warble like strained voices, and tones seem to oscillate against each other, either forming subtle harmonies or languishing in phased dissonance.
Förnimmelser is confident, mettlesome music that asks the listener to reconsider the character of each instrument, but also that of the players and composer. Deep listening not only recommended, but fully rewards.
New Zealand's Noel Meek and veteran Spanish sound artist Mattin craft this smart tribute to the legendary Annea Lockwood from a long-form Skype conversation, that's peppered across mischievous tracks that re-examine her most memorable moments.
If you're going to make a tribute to a composer as important and singular as Annea Lockwood, you'd better find a novel way of approaching it. Thankfully, Meek and Mattin know exactly what they're getting themselves into, using a lengthy three-way chat with the New Zealand-born artist to form the backbone of the record, and fleshing it out with smart pieces that act as a commentary on her compositional practice. So opening track 'Das Ding an sich' establishes the form with vocal snippets from the interview cut, manipulated and juxtaposed with garbled laptop noises, and 'Computer Burning' is a digital age take on Lockwood's infamous 1968 composition 'Piano Burning'. Instead of hearing a piano dying as flames engulf its wooden frame and steel strings, we hear the plastic and metal of a laptop pop and bubble and spit for 15 minutes.
Lockwood's interest in sound maps and environmental sound is touched on with 'Otakaro / Where the Children Play', a "hydrophonic diary" recorded at the Ōtākaro river that runs through Christchurch, where Lockwood was born. And the final track 'Homage to Annea Lockwood (2021-22)' is a moving polyphonic choral piece. It's a touching and fittingly whimsical tribute to one of experimental music's true originals. Recommended.
Reinhold Friedl’s new music ensemble tackle the work of Domenico Scarlatti, reflecting the composer’s radical unconventionality among his c.17/18th peers.
“zeitkratzer director Reinhold Friedl and his ensemble present new compositions, grounded on Domenico Scarlatti’s piano sonata F-minor K.466. Commissioned by the dance company Rubato and dedicated to Mario Bertoncini (1932-2019).
Little is known about Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757). His music is, so to speak, left to its own devices: free, cheeky, playful, sonorous, surprising. Harmonically strolling again and again into unforeseen regions, the ear leads, not the theory; and also the fingers get their right: playful and haptic it goes. Scarlatti explained, "since nature has given me ten fingers and my instrument provides employment for all, I see no reason why I should not use all ten of them."
Freedom, friction and listening pleasure instead of convention: "He knew quite well that he had disregarded all the rules of composition in his piano pieces, but asked whether his deviation from the rules offended the ear? He believes there is almost no other rule than that of not offending the only sense whose object is music - the ear."
Reinhold Friedl applied this principle and composed the music for a choreography by dance company Rubato. Dance music drawn from Scarlatti, who was so inspired by dance music. The material of the piano sonata F-minor K.466 is twisted anew in all its richness, shifted back and forth, declined, frozen, noisified, sound structures extracted, floating. Those who know the sonata, will more than smell it’s shadows. Dedicated to Mario Bertoncini (Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza) who was particularly fond of K.466, on which all the music presented here is grounded.
"Wild flowers", Barbara Zubers had once called Scarlatti's music. Let them bloom. “
Tight electro split from Detroit-Inspired Texan, ERP (aka Convextion), and Rotterdam’s Duplex
Gerard Hanson’s ERP works signature bassline flair under shuddering metallic arps and chiselled machine percussion in ‘ZRX’, while the Frustrated Funk figurehead Klen aka Ovatow makes one of his relatively rare but ever precious outings on the pendulous, tenderly dubbed and expansive Ovatow Reclock of Duplex’ s ’Molecular’, the standout of this session.
BAT ruggedly balances neck-snap ‘90s hip hop, dub and ambient psychedelia in a definitive slab capping a decade of uncompromising work in this zone - RIYL early Dabrye, Kaman Leung, Spectre, Lukid, Actress
Call it illbient, ambient dub or whatever you want, this is one of BAT’s best and most woozily engaging long-players. The Portland, OR producer has remained steadfast in his pursuit of the perfectly uneven beat for 10 years now, with significant cuts on Opal Tapes, No Corner, Accidental Meetings and 12th Isle that established his cult reputation.
These dozen new bits typically take their cues from the beat craft of Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee and Boogie Down Productions, and could feasibly have come from any period of his work, but there’s a special magic at work on this one that really captures his skewed essence and places it among his most vital - a perfect entry point for anyone sitting on the fence.
While we don’t expect Bomb Squad fiends to be jumping on it, listeners who can join more oblique dots will surely get what his amorphous arrangements are hinting at. His grooves unravel and coil inside themselves simultaneously, loops crumbling into the next bar with a calm yet tongue-tip play of anticipation and resolution that has us rapt for the duration, at least.
50th Anniversary edition of Conrad Schnitzler's Rot, his first solo LP from 1973.
Nothing short of a milestone in the history of electronic music, 'Rot' marked a radical point where man and musical machine became far better acquainted. Schnitzler was already integral to the genesis of both Tangerine Dream and Kluster, both bands born of the Zodiac Free Arts Lab in West Berlin during the pivotal year of 1968. By 1973, the convergence of subversive, counter-cultural philosophy and his studies under German Fluxus member and avant-garde artist Joseph Beuys converged in the stark, uncompromising logic of his solo debut.
It's a monolothic statement, shirking academic praxis and forging an instinctively steely sort of psychedelia embracing Beuys' "extended definition of art" to act as a bold conduit for the alien and, quite importantly, "new music", harnessing sounds made possible by analog synthesis. With this album he physically shaped a new soundworld, unafraid of using all of his machine's atonal and motorik capabilities to express something elemental and uniquely nuanced like little else before or since. Quite simply, it's heavier and more psychedelic than almost anything else from the same era, and yet somehow does it all with a wry sense of groove which was essentially a sort of proto-Techno, making it a crucial addition to any connoisseur's electronic music collection.
50 year anniversary edition of Albert Ayler’s peak ’68 salvo clashing nursery rhymes and militant marches with free jazz fire music - essential listening for jazz, noise and psych nuts alike
After setting new high water makes for free jazz beside Don Cherry with ‘Ghosts’ (1965) and unleashing ’Spirits’ in 1964, Albert Ayler cut his most accessible, yet still freaking wild, album with 1968’s ‘Love Cry’. Perhaps best known for its transformative 10 minute finale, ‘Universal Indians’ the album is an end-to-end ravishing and playful masterwork which compromised to some extent on his fire music style with a more concerted bend toward prevailing psychedelic currents.
Propelled by Milton Graves percussive dervish and Alan Silva’s knotted basslines, Albert’s tenor and alto sax scorch are completed by a final recorded performance with his brother, Donald, who would depart the band for Cleveland in following months. The 9-piece record remains a towering example of the gush of energies that converged/diverged in wild style during the late ‘60s, prior to jazz’s fusion era, in step with the freedoms hard won by the civil rights movement and the emergence of new age consciousness that went hand in hand with psychedelia and associated drugs.
The fury of previous Ayler records is exchanged for wild optimism that draws from all corners, riddling popular nursery rhyme melodies and boisterous marches with Afro-Latin grooves and speaking-in-tongues vocals with an acidic flair and vibrancy that must have sounded wild upon original release, and arguably still stokes fires of the imagination with numbers such as the organ-spangled, Ra-esque ‘Zion Hill’ or gyring projections of ‘Love Flower’, not to mention that astonishing closer.
Let the guessing games begin with a 3rd and final instalment of Light Sounds Dark's 'Crossed Wires' series stuffed with pulsing minimal wave, industrial scuzz, ambient vapours and fizzing synth-pop melodies.
Once more unto the tubes for Light Sounds Dark, sluicing high grade, low fidelity zingers from fuck knows where into a compilation that typically plays out like a lovingly hand-crafted mixtape from your deepest digging pal. There’s a discernible focus on pulsating instrumentals here, with no vocals to give the game away and leave everyone humming their melodies to shop counter clerks in hope of IDs. There’s one that sounds uncannily like a Chris & Cosey tune, and some really spangled, campy disco prancers sequenced along with fluttering pastoral arp escapades and dérives into sputtering drum machines and bloozy rock ’n roll riffs, also nestling one lush organ vibe out, but always returning to the eternal machine throb.
Schnitzler’s pulsating 1980 industrial electro kosmiche bullets are reloaded for a new century
Featuring two zingers co-written with Wolfgang Seidel (Kluster, Popülare Mechanic, Eruption) ‘Auf dem schwarzen’ is a standout number in one of electronic music’s most singular and distinctive catalogues.
The tang of potent German wizz is strong on this one, fuelling four cuts of propulsive motorik rhythm, vocoder vox and aerodynamic arps between the optimistic uplift of its title tune and the cosmic turbulence of ‘Elektroklang’, with the additional presence of Seidel (Schnitzler’s bandmate in krautrock supergroup Eruption) helping to simmer the swagger and up the fizzing synth mania of ‘Fabric’, and the spiralling vortex of ‘Der Wagen roll’, which surely recalls bits from Chris Carter’s ‘Spaces Between’ album of the same year.
Prolific bass alchemist Sam Shackleton and Polish clarinetist/producer Wacław Zimpel team up with Hindustani classical vocalist Siddartha Belmannu on this breathtaking follow-up to 2020's 'Primal Forms'. High vibrational gear for advanced psychedelic explorers, this one's a fine addition to Shackleton's rapidly swelling canon - it's like ritual music assembled with the sensibility of Talk Talk, Zbigniew Preisner and Leaving Records' Arushi Jain.
Shackleton's had a pretty astonishing year already, if you've been paying attention. His last EP as The Purge of Tomorrow (Spring's 'The Other Side of Devastation') was a gorgeous, gamelan-led longform experiment, his full-length collab with DJ Scotch Egg 'Death By Tickling' was a chance for him to let loose with more dancefloor-focused material, and last month's collaboration with Heather Leigh as Flesh & The Dream is some of the most devastating gear we've heard from him in years. 'In The Cell of Dreams' again pairs him with hard-working Polish player Wacław Zimpel, whose pristine woodwind meshed with Shackleton's innovative bass explorations on 'Primal Forms' just a few years ago. Here they pick up where that album left off, adding transcendent voicework from Belmannu.
Shackleton starts us off on 'The Ocean Lies Between Us' with tender-but-stargazing metallophone hits, gently blending in pitch-fucked punctuations and watery echoes. Belmannu's raga pierces the psychedelic fog masterfully, warbling in the foreground before Zimpel's faint orchestral wisps add a melancholy narrative twist. Shackleton has approached Northern Indian classical forms before, but this is his most successful fusion. At this point in his evolution, the producer's expertise is implicit, he has little to prove and lets his sparse instrumentation take a relative back seat to his collaborator's chilling contributions. There's a constant rhythm, but it's gaseous and hazy, serving just to underpin Belmannu's powerful vocal performance and Zimpel's ghosted drones.
It would be hard to label the music as minimal, but there's not an element out of place. Like 'The Other Side of Devastation', 'In The Cell of Dreams' captures the blissful euphoria of Talk Talk's seminal 'Spirit of Eden', but diverts the energy in a different direction. The trio's use of raga forms, Eastern European and Baltic sacred music (think Arvo Part) and Indonesian traditional sounds isn't an arbitrary fusion, it connects emotions, histories and most importantly, people. It's deeply sensitive, transcendent material that we've had on repeat since it landed on our desks.
Sun Ra’s seminal cosmic jazz vessel and totem of Afrofuturism returns from orbit on a 50th anniversary edition as part of the Verve By Request Series.
Really the one Sun Ra record that should need little introduction, ‘Space is the Place’ is most commonly hailed a legendary touchstone of Afro-American expressionism that heralds their metaphoric situation as akin to aliens on another planet. It has since become his most widely known and beloved recording and a massive inspiration on successive generations of artists, dancers, and theorists over the decades who’ve delineated its themes and thrust into myriad progressive forms of music, art and literature, from the likes of Drexciya to 4Hero, Jamal Moss and Kodwo Eshun, who each take a distinct reading of its interwoven mythology and ravishing stylistic hybrids.
The spirit-rousing 21 minute title piece is fully in place, beside the big band swing and clatter of ‘Images’ and the cool metric slosh of ‘Discipline 33’, before letting rip with the wild cosmic atonalities of ‘Sea of Sounds’, the life-giving jazz-dancers jam ‘Rocket Number Nine’, which each help define its mischievous zig-zag between the consonant/dissonant, and unique place in between the popular imagination’s conceptions of jazz, rock, and the avant garde, for anyone not yet smitten with it.
Legendary Congolese guitarist Kahanga Dekula (aka Vumbi) makes an infectious noise on his debut solo recording, playing tangled soukous phrases alongside field recordings and tinny beatbox rattles instead of his usual full band. Revelatory material.
For the last four decades, Vumbi has been playing lead guitar in various bands throughout East Africa and Sweden, where he's based now. He learned how to play guitar by listening to Congolese icons like Dr Nico and Franco on the radio, eventually moving from the DRC's Kivu region to Tanzania, where he joined Orchestra Maquis and became a fixture of their shows. When he relocated to Stockholm, he joined forces with Ugandan Sammy Kasule to form the Makonde Band and Ahmadu Jarr's Highlife Orchestra, before forming his own outfit The Dekula Band in 2008. But until now he's never recorded a solo record. That took the intervention of Swedish producer Karl-Jonas Winqvist, who'd heard Vumbi perform many times, even releasing The Dekula Band's debut album in 2019.
'Congo Guitar' is a refreshingly open set of recordings, made quickly in two days and fleshed out with just a few extra instruments and backing vocals, and Winqvist's aging drum machine. Opener 'Afro Blues' is particularly inviting, setting Vumbi's impassioned playing against a humming environmental recording, with car horns standing in for percussion. 'Maamajacy' meanwhile is closer and more intimate, a playful whirl of inviting melodies set to a spartan rhythm from Winqvist's beatbox. Vumbi elaborates further on the generous 'Zanzibar, Kinshasa & Vällingby', overlaying his guitar parts into an orchestral thrum, and he goes a step further on 'Weekend', introducing hypnotic bass melodica sounds from Winqvist. Ending on the self-explanatory 'UN Forces (Get Out of the Democratic Republic of Congo)', he plays banjo, highlighting the link between the popular American instrument and its African roots.
Debut crackshot of jacking, rude house kinks and hyper-saturated soundsystem dubs on the 3rd volume of Porridge Bullet’s Sunda School series...
Dancing in the footsteps of Ajukaja and Tapes + Nikolaienko, LLL makes robust first moves that slot perfectly with the sort of psychoactive club suss we’ve all come to expect from Tallinn, Estonia’s Porridge Bullet. The sounds of Chicago via UK and Euro ‘floors come on strong in the swanging bass heft and weekend peacockery of ‘Friday Rituals’, while the squashed Kemetri-style beatdown budge of ’92’ offsets the mode, which gets back into the swang with ruddiest Jack Rabbit or Bam Bam acid in ‘Yyyeah Exactly’, and a lip-bitingly darkroom special ‘Valu-e’ to leave us gagging for more.
Vestiges of ’90s trance surface in strange, elegiac and unusual forms thru Friday Dunard’s debut album for Köln’s Magazine.
Hailing from the motherland of trance, Friday Dunard is somewhat qualified to riff on its lingering after effects, which emerge as residual traces of rushy arps and nostalgic melodies amid the impressionisic fog of memory across ‘Rhenus Aeternus’. While it starts up with propulsive electro-trance pulses, breakdowns and ecstatic vamps for the club in ‘Aeternus’, the thread of inspiration becomes progressively frayed in a manner recalling Lorenzo Senni via Mark Leckey’s collages as the tracks proceed, variously suggesting the form with the uneasy luft of ‘Ultra Citron’ and threaded into playfully syncopated breaks on ‘In McFit’, or congealed into club-teasing strictures with ‘Lower Beach’. The centrepiece ‘Rhenus’ comes closest to Lorenzo Senni at the afters, and by the time of ‘Upper Beach’ it’s full strung out and dreamlike, with a final flourish of escalating, beat-less, near baroque arp arrangements in ‘Latus et Altus’ surely recalling T C F’s legendary YYAA tape.
Perhaps this makes matters clearer? Then again…: “Friday Dunard pulls the sawtooth from trance. Now he whistles elegiac prayers to mystical rivers on it. He lets it bubble out of battered cans of Monster Energy. He sings a protestant canon with it. And in the end it's trance again. Just like when we were guessing track intros with Ben.K on cue point.de. When Fruity Loops was the actual homework. When PvD appeared on Stuttgart's Schlossplatz, or James in a basement a little further on. Duni shares the river with Karlsruhe, the harbor with the Cologne label Magazine. There, not far from a SPA, the "Gerade" EP docked a few years ago.”
Pastoral-hued electronica for the club by Berlin-Singapore duo YS, on a buoyant flex somewhere alongside Pender Street Steppers, RAMZi, Will Long.
‘Brutal Flowers’ is the YS’s debut and the 4th release on Jank Inc. and Walden S.’s Berlin-based Pace Yourself label. It is a fine example of club energies moderated by ambient instincts in the ‘90s AI model set by likes of AFX and refracted into myriad subgenres over the past 30 years. In 2023 the YS slant on this sound faithfully incorporates aspects of footwork and garage mechanisms as much as its original junglist and downtempo breakbeat impulses and more floral ambient embellishments for a sound that represents the one looping into the other.
We hear parallels with Will Long x BVDub’s ambient jungle in ‘Untethered’, and likewise Long’s Celer in the melancholic panorama ‘Autumn’s OST I’, lodged beside the sort of dubbed downbeat ambient slosh practised by RAMZi in ‘Pilgrimage I’, with standout turns of hair-kissing ambient gouch-out on ‘Something That’s Beautiful’, and the scuffed, spongiform UKG baubles of ‘On a Train in 2035’.
Good Morning Tapes with a vinyl pressing of Gi Gi’s blissed Ambient-Jungle session ‘Sunchoke’, cycling thru feathered permutations of New Age and dubwise styles thru richly-textured delicacies and sunkissed Trip Hop signatures, tipped if yr into classic Sabres of Paradise, Art of Noise, Future Sound of London, Terre Thaemlitz, William Orbit, The Orb.
Easy on the ear and with overflowing levels of serotonin, Gi Gi is a snug fit for the label; sanguine but just the right side of soporific, with a vibe that dials up echoes of classic downtempo Balearic crossed with turn-of-the-century trip hop somewhere between Olive’s ‘You’re not Alone’, William Orbit’s once ubiquitous ‘Strange Cargo III’ album and early Terre Thaemlitz - with a sound sensitive soulfulness and warmth.
Jazz drums, guitar and midi-flute conjure bright blue skies and cirrus streaks in ‘Dawn Song’, while ‘two ones’ doubles the tempo on a swaying jungle flex that also perfuses the hazier hues of ‘Ambergris (Blue)’ and dances around the links between deep house, ambient and D&B like Terre Thaemlitz’s classic ‘Tranquilliser’ (1994) in the lilting congas of ‘Asp’, caressing strums of ‘Lisle’, and the piano-led ambient blues of ‘Sunchoke.’
The last gasp of summer, right here.
Japan's EM Records with one of its most essential and memorable bullets, compiling material recorded 1979-83 by Brenda Ray who cut her teeth playing as part of Liverpool’s DIY wavey-dub-punk outfit Naffi Sandwich, and whose early solo work is compiled on this by-now hugely influential set. Huge recommendation if you’re into any late 70’s/early 80’s dub-punk-bossa mutations, anything from Antena to Maximum Joy, Vazz, The Raincoats, The Slits.
'D'Ya Hear Me!' surveys Brenda’s raw avant and DIY sound, mostly recorded straight to tape with no rehearsals at Cheshire's Naffi studios between 1979-83, squeezing the most out of rudimentary gear. As she explains; "Bands in London, Bristol etc, were using the top studios/equipment, and doing things properly as rehearsed bands. Naffi never rehearsed - it would have taken away the magic! Naffi were completely do it yourself and low-fi, a secret society releasing secret hits!"
The arrangements, lyrics and production here are just completely singular and inspiring, influenced by her native North West locales of Liverpool and Manchester and their record-devouring fanatics - soaking up everything from Pharoah Sanders and Ornette Coleman to dub, dancehall, rockabilly and imported soul - and an assortment of musicians who were hungry to pull into unchartered waters. It’s just one of those rare records that’s as full of memorable songs as it is boggling production stylings - a real special one from an era full of them. Apparently, even Nico was fan... !
Kath Bloom's 2005 comeback album - her first official release since 1984 - is finally (whoops) back in print. RIYL Bill Callahan, Loren Connors or Gillian Welch.
Bloom hadn't intended to quit music, it's just the way things panned out. She had begun recording with Loren Mazzacane Connors in the mid-1970s, but after producing six well-regarded but underground albums she moved to Florida with her husband, not returning to the studio until early '90s. In 1995 she was contacted by Richard Linklater, who wanted to feature 'Come Here' in "Before Sunrise" and it was all the encouragement she needed to record in earnest again, putting together a slew of CDRs and tapes. 'Finally' emerged in 2005 and compiled selected cuts from Bloom's run of CDRs, showing her development as an artist and the lilting folk loveliness that had always characterized her music.
Her voice is still astonishing; if you've only heard Bloom's earliest work, hearing her a few decades later is a healing experience. It's that same voice, but with the wisdom of experience, struck through with life lessons and interlocking stories. Tracks like 'It's Just A Dream' and 'Can't Rise To Your Feet' immediately stand out, foregrounding Bloom's songwriting ability and her gentle guitar playing. But the weirder, more meandering moments like 'Sand In My Shoe' go even harder for us, reminding us of Joanna Newsom or Diane Cluck.
Dubstep choirboy James Blake gets back to his club-adjacent roots with a 6th studio LP balancing tremulous vox, burnished trap and UK rave inspirations, including co-production by Mount Kimbie and interpolations of The Ragga Twins, Snoop Dogg and The Neptunes
Proceeding a slew of recent work with pop and rap notables such as K*nye West, Rosalía, Bon Iver, Metro Boomin, Frank Ocean, and Travis Scott, ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’ locates James Blake surrounded by partner Jameela Jamil, and longtime pals Mount Kimbie, for a grown-up take on the naïf melodies and heart-flutter UKG/dubstep beats of his early works with Hemlock and Hessle Audio.
Set in place by Matt Colton’s mix/master, Blake’s signature, forlorn falsetto lights up an 11-song suite of twinkling electronic motifs and padded rhythms ornamented with classical keys and samples plucked from classic rave and R&B. As one of the few dubstep-deriving artists to really transcend the sound and “break” the US, Blake has inevitably come in for flack from the diehards who think he diluted the sound. But likewise he’s arguably at least partially responsible for translating it to international pop as much as rave audiences, and ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’ is patently his clearest attempt in years to consolidate the two.
Allowing for the romantic, schmaltzy waltz of ‘Asking to Break’, a co-production with Jameela Jamil, and return influence from his pop spars across the album, he’s not breaking any molds, but does leave his imprint on them, at best in the playful rudeness of his Ragga Twins-sampling ‘Big Hammer’ and the Burial-esque flip of The Neptunes’ production for Snoop’s ‘Beautiful’, in ‘I Want You to Know’, with sweet highlights in the aerial glyde of ‘Night Sky’ and the lissom swing to ‘Fall Back’ that make it the sort of record we’d bite our tongue at if fancied by a younger sibling or wean who didn’t know better.
Blurt’s Ted Milton and Graham Lewis ov Wire/Dome assume their grouchiest post-punk lounge lizard slouch as Elegiac with a 2nd EP primed to grab fans of owt from James Chance to NWW, Suicide, Gen P-O or Burroughs
‘Meet My Stalker’ is the duo’s follow-up to a 2021 self-titled debut that outlined their Dadaist dad craic as proper no wave punk funk delivered with a snarl. The four new cuts make no concession to that sound, rubbing out coarse dubbed, fossil-fuelled grooves and off-the-dome vocals with a psycho-funk and jazz swagger that belies their veteran ages and makes many younger acts seem tame by comparison. They bring a wealth of experience to the table and send half of it scattering to the floor as they go heads down and outright rude with the revving basslines and possessed avant rock behaviour.
Enabled by co-producer Sam Britton, Milton & Lewis maintain a mean energy from the off, wielding sozzled sax lines over snake-hipped rock ’n roll bass and hypnotic industrial dubbing on ‘He Folds’, with Burton reeling off non sequituurs into the ether, before really laying it down with the crunching groove pugilism and scorn of ‘Boat’. It cools down on the B-side to let the lyrical refrain “It’s a wind-up” ring true over more tempered no wave thrust, and unleash an extended version of album highlight ‘Vancouver Slim’ that lets the prowling bass and sax skronk breath better, dubbier.
Esteemed synthesist Tom Mudd articulates an uncanny valley between guitar and software with sober but subtly mindbending-and-retuning results on the Glasgow/Manc label run by software developer and composer Marcin Pietruszewski - think an AI emulating Tashi Dorji, Derek Bailey or Bill Orcutt
“With sound synthesis in general and physical modelling in particular, there is a deliriously tempting urge to push every parameter to materially impossible extremes as part of a broader effort to enter a kind of floating realm freed of the shackles of history. While this approach can certainly be generative, in Guitar Cultures Tom Mudd is ultimately more concerned with the unavoidable rootedness of sound, the place of the instrument as tool in a complex network of social relations; there is something more subtly profound about treating synthesis as a warped mirror in which is reflected our actual mode of being, which itself bears the obscured histories and origins of the sound-making apparatuses themselves.
In this framework, the material being unfolded—code—is certainly synthetic, easily loaded and transported on a thumb drive; at the same time, that material is already a distorted representation of a “real” object—in this case, the acoustic guitar—itself synthetic in its own way. It is in the tension and interplay between these two poles that the power of the music emerges: this is the sound of one tool actively impersonating another, establishing not so much a glossy uncanny valley as a deceptively intimate self-portrait.
There are shreds and scraps of the recognizable in these sketches: Bailey and Fahey runs, Nancarrow vortexes, and LaMonte Young’s famed piano. However, there is no trace of a flashy “look what I can do” gimmickry here; rather, Mudd seems intent on unfurling the experiment and its sounds in a most clinical and neutral manner—precisely to demonstrate the impossibility of true neutrality
for a tool that is embedded in a particular social metabolism, the very human ideas injected into and fixed within all tools and technologies.
It is in and through this firmly social and historical context that Mudd’s work distinguishes itself from its surface-level compatriots. To establish a tenuous spectrum, Guitar Cultures is neither a study of abstract sound-as-sound nor a milestone in a breathless technical quest for a yet more accurate and “realistic” sound-representation. Rather, in these etudes I hear both the comical absurdity and deeply serious potential in the collective efforts behind these algorithms—which then makes me consider that same dialectic embedded in more tangible instruments, and ultimately even music itself. In the pockets of unexpected beauty that emerge from these digital plucks and twangs, I hear, in distilled form, the joy we have all felt in observing real organization, ideas, emerging from a primordial sou —still in that gelatinous state, just before they ossify and become familiar, even ignorable, once again. Sunik Kim.
Breakthru debut album of meter-messing, cuboid electronic music for the club from a cult UK talent - RIYL Actress, Beneath, Novo Line, Lee Gamble, Rian Treanor.
Building on nearly a decade of work for Beneath’s Mistry and alongside Gramrcy, Gaunt’s first long player ’Blind at the Age of Four’ is an unusual album of asymmetric structures, weirdly expressive tones and spatial convolutions that speak to the far reaches of UK club music. It is specifically a tribute to his dad, David Adrian Warne (1959-2014), who suffered the same, rare, congenital eye condition - Thiel-Behnke Corneal Dystrophy - that left a young Gaunt prone in bed in darkness, and helped shaped his synaesthetic relationship to sound. The music follows with funky and brilliantly odd juxtapositions of rhythm and noise that uniquely press on the mind’s eye and conjure amorphous shapes in the smoke and strobes of an imaginary club.
Turning the extra-musical to weirdly wired purpose throughout the album, Gaunt imprints his sensibilities at every turn from the staggered orchestral warm-up ‘Jack?’ to the dense vocaloid chatter and swanging ‘80s FM funk of ‘Because I’. The Korg M1 riffs of ‘Favourite Memory’ evoking Kassem Mosse or Actress’ ‘Maze’, and sprayed freehand in ‘Composition 001’, with wicked echoes of clonking Sheffield bleep in ’Sweet’, and literally in the curdled brain matter of ‘Memories Talk’, but always with an uncanny valley of displacement. He strafes into skewed cyberdub on ’Syncopate’, and pulls out a deep club roller in ‘Un’, while pushing into Novo Line-like messing with of OG computer grids on ‘Rear View Spectate-or’, and picnoleptic strobes of Lee Gamble’s future-regression sessions on ‘Lesser You’, leaving us with the strangest motion sickness of time travel.
Bare-boned x darkside Chi jack trax by Duke n Cliff on Delroy Edwards’ cult label
On their sole dispatch of 2023 so far, L.A. Club Resource play it close to their chest with the first shots by Duke n Cliff. The internet is offering little to no background on their provenance beside links to a Furry’s reddit (not going there) and Cliff Richard duking it out with The Backstreet Boys for xmas No.1, so we’ll wing it and guess it’s either Delroy hisself (sounds like it!) or some unarchived juice from a Chicago basement. Anyone’s guess!
We’re talking coldest Jamie Principle pads and Santos-style tape-warped bass with janky blues keys on ‘Overdubbed Drums A Piano And A Synth’, and ruggedest The Jit-style jab jack in ’Skoolhouze’, jibber-jawed wall-banging in ‘Go Kid Go’, and the the kind of acid that removes teeth plaque in ‘Presence of the Past’, with mouth-watering levels of dissonance recalling Jamal Moss and Africans With Mainframes in ‘Sympte Frequency Move Ya Thang’, and a flourish of woozy Virgo Four-like suss in ‘Ethereal’ to leave you grabbing at names while clawing the walls.
Bureau B profile the fertile DIY tape scene of East Germany prior to the wall falling on their latest compilation.
Picking up on the themes of Mannequin’s under-rated 2016 KlangFarbe primer, Bureau B widen the scope to profile 14 bands active in East Germany’s DIY tape scene in the last few years before the GDR was dissolved in 1990.
The strict State measures in place demanded these musicians flirt with prosecution to establish the self-distribution networks that proliferated their work on cassette, and it also cultivated the disillusion and despair that resulted in some startlingly creative work. The seeds of so much to follow are evident throughout ‘Magnetband’ as Bureau B highlight work by musicians that largely released on cassette but would go on to form Raster Noton, Rammstein, Kuntskopf, To Rococo Rot and Tarwater.
The various KlangFarbe projects of Raster Noton founder Frank Bretschneider feature prominently throughout, with the hushed guitar freakout of his A.F. Moebius track Böser Traum the sort of thing you’d find in a Beau Wanzer mixtape. Beyond Bretschneider there is plenty to enjoy for the avid archivalist. Stoffwechsel’s Fly, Fliege, Fly sounds like John T. Gast after a weekend on the sensimilla, the brilliantly-named Choo Choo Flame deliver one of the shortest but most unnerving moments in the creeping ambient of Nein and Aponeuron’s Jab Gab Hej is a bracing slab of gurning EBM with added wookie screams.
Best of all perhaps is Gesichter’s SK 8 Gesichte which offers a dizzying frenzy of primitive sampling you’d mistake for early Hype W from Inga and Dean.
Mana offer an excellent first international showcase of Hiroyuki Onogawa’s filigree, minimalist film soundtracks, gathering cuts off his ’95 debut and two follow ups for a gorgeous 40 minute dream sequence RIYL Mark Snow, Ry Cooder, Kenji Kawai, Nozomu Matsumoto.
‘August In The Water: Music for Film 1995-2005’ cherry picks pieces from the titular ’95 film soundtrack, plus Labyrinth of Dreams (1997), and Mirrored Mind (2005), for an immersive overview of work hard to find outside Japan. They all stem from Onogawa’s accompaniment to films imagined by Gakuryū Ishii (formally known as Sogo Ishii), whose ‘Crazy Thunder Road’ (1980) is regularly cited as the first Japanese cyberpunk flick, and, like Onogawa’s music, has until recently been difficult to find beyond the Far East. While the tracklist hops between films across a 10 year period, they share a clear emotional and aesthetic register of digital dread, paranoia, and dreamlike, melancholy lushness that jogs the listener’s nostalgia for sounds they may have never heard before, but patently remind of the formative thrill of discovering Japanese anime or cyberpunk, and finding their reference points everywhere from ‘90s sci fi and neo noir to Tarantino flicks.
With thanks to the efforts of UK distributors Third Window Films and forum-dwelling fans culling deep cuts from rare, private issue CDs, Onogawa’s exquisitely fine craft comes to light in a dozen works defined by their play of light and negative space, and highly synaesthetic, sensurreal ethers. You need no prior knowledge of the film to be enchanted by highlights such as ‘Endless’, with its tongue tip frisson of noctilucent pads, plangent bells and subaquatic tabla, or a sort of negative space in ‘Melting Skin’. The finesse of Mana’s selection comes into play with the Ry Cooder-esque country slide guitar theme from ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’, characterising the breadth of Onogawa’s palette along with the heart-in-mouth sting vignette ‘Reverse’, while a closing sequence of more discernibly traditional Japanese influences surface on ‘August In The Water 2005’ to bring us closest up to date with his work, which continues to receive acclaim.
Tom Boogizm pulls deeper into his thing on a new double album of scuzzed blooz and late night drifters, his second Rat Heart album this year, deployed in highly personalised formations recalling the arcane wonders of Arthur Russell, Labradford and Vini Reilly, shot thru a haze of smoke.
We’ve said it countless times, but if you ain’t paying attention to Tom Boogizm’s output, you really should be. Most of you know the deal by now; he ain’t married to a style, or sound, or era, equally at home playing punk, drill, grindcore, Jungle, folkways - whatever. Rat Heart has been home to his most loose and rewarding endeavours over the last couple of years, culminating in a pair of Rat Heart Ensemble albums that properly knocked us sideways - our album of the year last year ”A Blues”, and a stunning followup ‘Northern Luv Songs 4 Wen Ur Life’s A Mess’, released at the start of spring this year.
For ‘The Pamela Peanut Kitchen Sessions’ he reconvenes, Peanuts in tow, for an album of opposing energies, from electric blues to transcendent drift, all uppercase, wry-lipped track titles, with an emotionally melted core. Using pretty much just electric guitar, pedals and his voice, the songs here wind around the aesthetic progressions of Arthur Russell, manc style, running deep into the red with bare emotion. In fact, IT WAS A JOINT EFFORT SO I HAD TO DO IT ALL and HERE WE ARE (LAAAAAA) sound like Russell following up World Of Echo with an album of electric pop dirges, they’re that good.
And then things take a turn, halfway thru, with a trio of songs that clock in at almost 40 minutes between them, arcing from a sort of urban desert blues to properly smudged slowcore and into iridescent ambient, shot through with visions of manc backstreets filmed in the glow of night. There’s nowt mannered or urbane to see here, just pure expression, from one of the low key greats of our time.
Vladislav Delay’s Chain Reaction masterpiece resurfaced for a remastered 20th anniversary edition. Answering the prayers of dub and electronic fiends everywhere, this vinyl edition of ‘Multila’ acts both as a reminder of Sasu Ripatti’s pioneering work and a primer on his early practice.
Technically the Finnish artist’s 3rd album, 2000’s ‘Multila’ offered a looser limbed, sensuous take on dub techno as much informed by the Finnish climate and landscape as the templates of Basic Channel, SND, and the deep house styles established between the late ‘80s and during the ‘90s.
It’s an immensely immersive work that prizes the qualities and infidelities of analogue production nose to tail from hardware to tape and D&M’s revered all-analogue mastering facilities, which up until this reissue has only previously been available on vinyl spread across the 'Ranta' and 'Huone' 12"s. Anyway, the Keplar label remedy that issue right here with Rashad Becker’s remaster which faithfully combines to present the album as it was perhaps always meant to be heard.
Between the submerged, coruscating crackle of ‘Ranta’, the soothing tone of ‘Raamat’, and the 22 minutes of semi-organic, lissom swing and ambient smudge in ‘Huone’ on the first disc, to the water-logged tumescence of ‘Karrha’ and the 16 minutes of head-swilling textural abstraction and saline buoyancy in ‘Pietola’ on the 2nd disc, you’re in the presence of pivotal, peerless material that effectively splits the difference between the GRM, King Tubby, and Huerco S.