The fleet fingers of harpist Rhodri Davies pick out connections between Gaelic, West African and Far Eastern traditions - to our untrained ears at least - on the 3rd album via his Amgen label
Making up 1 part of 4 to his ‘Pedlar’ boxset, ‘An Air Swept Clean of All Distance’ was recorded in 2014 at Blank Studios, Newcastle, and exec produced by folk chief Richard Dawson, and adorned by a continuing series of artwork by Anna Peaker. It skips back along the timeline to what sounds like happy times, where Davies’ playing fizzes with typically inventive, optimistic, and timeless beauty, which, if you shut your eyes and try a little, could almost hail from any point in the past half millennia - although we do wonder if they really shredded like this back in thee day.
He’s really going for it on this one, so understandably the tracks are mostly succinct, as who the chuff could keep up this sort of energy for any longer?! They come on In flurried waves with ‘soaked ruins of a raft’ and culminate in him expending his energies on the longest, final piece with the hyper jabs of ‘on the outer reach of the unending’, with numbers such as ‘In Distortion-Free Mirrors’ attacking like Rian Treanor doing Korean classical music at hi-speed, and the breathless, mellifluous flex of ‘continues, placement’ recalling Kadodi styles we’ve heard on Nyege Nyege Tapes. But of course he makes room for slower, serene moments, diffracting the pace thru more spacious and lilting parts like ‘Each clear and sudden drop itself’ and the anticipatory pauses of ‘fingers pluck played on by’ that temper the album’s gushing sequence.
A bearhug of chill-out room gouching gear from MFM spanning the golden era of ‘90s ambient dance music with gems from David Moufang, LFO, Global Communication, Kirsty Hawkshaw, Sun Electric and many more notables of that era.
Since the world turned into a big chill out room in early 2020, albeit with a heavy sense of anxiety, this set could hardly be better placed for downtime in the comfort of your own home, rolling out mystic highlights such as LFO’s MDMA-tingle arps and pads in ‘Helen’ and the sublime suspension systems of Global Communication’s remix of ‘Arcadian’, along with Move D’s early nugget ‘Sergio Leone’s Wet Dream’, and the lush pads of his close spar Jonah Sharp’s Spacetime Continuum, plus a strip of killer slow acid in Sideral’s ‘Mare Nostrum’, and the blissed romance of ‘Love 2 Love’ by Sun Electric.
One for the lovers and the ravers.
Leading Australian contemporary music composer A. Pateras yields a stunning, phantasmic spectralist work for tape and live players, recorded in 2019 at the 17th Sacrum Profanum Festival in Krakow, Poland
‘Pseudacusis’ is the follow-up to Pateras’ work on Sunn 0)))’s ‘Life Metal’ and Judith Hamann’s ‘Music For Cello and Humming’, and features the latter artist among his Tape Septet recordings, which provide the bed for its live performance iteration, here recorded in Krakow’s impressive new arts space, Ma?opolska Garden of Arts for the festival closely associated with estimable Polish label, Bocian Records.
Reliably helmed by Pateras at his trusted piano, the live septet (Lucio Capece: bass clarinet / soprano saxophone; Krzysztof Guńka: saxophones; Riccardo La Foresta: percussion; Mike Majkowski: double bass; Anthony Pateras: piano; Deborah Walker: cello; Lizzy Welsh: violin) render his strikingly dynamic composition with vigour and precision, found here edited into seven movements.
The results are surreal, febrile, and compelling, sweeping over it’s 50 minute course from frightful string tintinnabulation down concrète wormholes to tracts of glacial stasis and belly-churning dread, with outstanding parts of technically challenging, sustained dissonance and massed, keening orchestration that introduces fractious percussive themes and outlandish electronics. We’ve no doubt it will light up the harder to reach pleasure centres of fans of everyone from Iancu Dumitrescu to Xenakis.
Avant garde sound poet AGF works with eleven Greek residents to investigate “women’s struggle for language” in the context of Greek myth and “patriarchal social relations” with remarkably complex and thought provoking results - we're still gettin our heads round it.
“In her famous quote from Three Guineas (1938), ‘As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world’, Virginia Woolf captured the spirit of alienation that women have felt, or indeed should feel, vis-à-vis the request of belonging. Such alienation could morph into refusal, but this, as feminist historians of culture know, has happened in very few cases. For the most part, women have buried their alienation, forced by multiple mechanisms of persuasion and induced consent, to succumb to belonging. But is this the whole story? Or has the territory of language been a central battleground for women? And how is a contemporary female musician and sound artist invested in feminist politics to approach this unstable condition of the gendered experience of language? This is the case of AGF, or Antye Greie, whose creative endeavour is overall an audacious synthesis of electronic compositions, voice, field recordings, as well as of political explorations and re-enunciations of women-centred aurality.
In this new work, Arachnesound, AGF, together with her collaborators (composers, singers, poets), sought to work with an enduring language, Greek, and treat it as a tentative record of women’s speech but also silence. Effectively, AGF relied on the ambiguity of non-belonging to stitch together a counter-archive of words written, spoken, or - when she herself makes them up - associated with women’s struggle for language. Greek has been a language steeped in patriarchal social relations, nation-building, and wildly generalised, civilisational ‘origins’. The task that AGF set for herself was to compose a music narrative that takes women’s efforts to speak beyond the canonical myths surrounding Greek language as a record. It was a difficult task, requiring much research, much listening, much translation, much acoustic imagining. The outcome, however, is movingly rewarding - and it is so as an encounter of myth and history with the contemporary feminist avant-garde in electronic-music experimentation.”
Whew! Radical Welsh harpist runs rings around tradition on a thrilling set of nerve-riding, biting-point performances with processed lap harp for his Amgen label
Another piece of the puzzle to his 4-part ‘Pedlar’ boxset, this one was thrown down in 2011 at Newcastle’s legendary Morden Tower, a C.13th, grade-listed turret on the West Walls of the city’s ancient defences against curious Mackems and Durham scunners, that was also previously and notably site of seminal recordings by The New Blockaders, a.o. In that vein, Davies gets raw to the bone in ‘Wound Response’, using Lap harp fed thru transducer, read by contact microphone, and pushed to seething limits with volume pedal and two amps to make everything bleed in the red with fierce effect.
Accompanied by the quotation - ““And may the freed bear bathe his body amid the flows of the frozen north and not languish in the aquarium of distilled water in the academic garden.” Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Manifesto (1916) - the album dances on the line between atonal freeness and melody with a wickedly demented alacrity and damaged/destructive results, running ruffshod and wild haired from the excoriating discord of ‘everything at each moment’ thru electrifying high line antics on ‘questions_____of middle distance’ to the caustic shredding of ‘a parallel or mirroring space’ and ‘here the sun does not enter’, with a janky bluesy brilliance in ‘only compromises were arrived at in the end’, spurting tongues of fire on the album’s longest burnout ‘the convergence of how we got here.’
New Age Steppers were a loose studio collective centred around the musical partnership of Adrian Sherwood and Ari Up from The Slits, operating on and off from 1980 to 2012. This is a 5CD + 32 page book boxset anthology of all their work for the On-U Sound label, compiled for the first time.
"Notable for bringing together musicians from the post-punk and reggae scenes together, their records feature contributions from members of The Pop Group, The Raincoats, Flying Lizards, Roots Radics, Aswad and Creation Rebel.
The set also includes a new LP of outtakes and rarities, Avant Gardening (in the On-U tradition of albums such as Return Of The Crocodile, Displaced Masters and Churchical Chant Of The Iyabinghi).
New Age Steppers launched the On-U label as the first artist to release both a single and album on the label, and it's fitting to have these brilliant records back out in the world as the label celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2021."
Relaxation aids from Picnic, the duo of Ju Ca and mdo, trailing the glistening wake of a lovely 2020 debut on Kansas City’s c- with a milky ambient bath featuring added suds by Huerco S, The Humble Bee, DJ Paradise (uon), and Dntel
On their eponymous sophomore outing picnic reveal a fuller picture of their sound. The eight original pieces are given to sensitively mulched textures and softly glowing pads mottled with new age spirited strings and wafting voices. It’s nothing particularly new or inventive but arguably works it’s way under the skin with pharmaceutic efficacy, at its lushest in the descriptive title and feel of ‘drops in the water (with tics)’, and the gently keening, hypnagogic appeal of ‘basket.’
The remixers however capture a sense of subtlety that draws us in closer, from Craig Tattersall’s typically hushed, drowsily suspenseful take on ‘folds and rips’, which contrasts with the air-stepping, weightless version by Huerco S., to the dusky tone of uon’s DJ Paradise remix of ‘drops in the water’, and the veteran Dntel’s aqueous smudge of ‘dewey.’
Jimmy Tamborello returns with the first of two albums this year, a dusty suite of sketches inspired by library music, early electronics and discarded acid folk.
Shaping electronic music for two decades, Tamborello has exerted an outsized influence on both pop and the landscape beyond. "The Seas Tree Sees" follows his recent run of more experimental excursions on Leaving Records, whispering from the shadows instead of shouting from the rafters. A humble, pleasingly low-key set of productions, it's intended to sit in contrast to Tamborello's more pop-poised work (like The Postal Service's 2003 smash "Give Up"), phasing through foggy moods and atmospheres rather than bright, bubbly riffs and hooks.
It almost reminds us of early To Rococo Rot, assembled from gently-coaxed samples of Rhodes piano, xylophone, vocoder and synth, and spiced with subtle field recordings and sympathetic static. Tamborello notes that he wanted the album to sound like something you'd find in a thrift store, so when a vocoder-heavy cover version of Kate Wolf's '70s folk song 'The Lilac and the Apple' appears, everything falls into place. A musical comfort blanket.
Unmissable stuff here, collecting Japanese avant pop and ferric beats from the scene's darkest, most thrilling corners.
Compiled by Yosuke Kitazawa and Dublab's Mark “Frosty” McNeill, this latest collection of Japanese obscurities from Light in the Attic sweeps up bizarre loose threads that fall through the cracks between the label's already released collections of city pop and ambient and new age music. Those two compilations spoke to the YouTube-driven resurgence of interest in albums like Hiroshi Yoshimura's "Green" and artists like Happy End's Haruomi Hosono and Shigeru Suzuki, and "Somewhere Between" investigates the fringes, dark crevices and unpicked crates.
Here, the sounds are exceptionally varied, falling from Mammy's twinkling odd-world electronix on 'Mizu No Naka No Himitsu' and D-Day's shimmering, dry ice-laced 'Sweet Sultan', to the gloomy avant synth pop of Neo Museum's unforgettable 'Area' and R.N.A-ORGANISM's gurgling, hiss-soaked 'WEIMAR 22'. The theme that unifies all of the selections is an unshakable sense of exploration and joy from the artists. The era's optimism is palpable, and it's a rare pleasure to hear musicians driven so wholeheartedly by exploration, experimentation, innovative song forms and bold artistic strokes.
Diggers will clearly get a kick from these rarities, but Kitazawa and McNeill have done such a great job with the selection that it's far more than just a curiosity. "Somewhere Between" is an invigorating listen, like a particularly wild and wonderful mixtape handed over by a trusted friend. It's a musical time capsule to get lost in.
Norwegian ambient maestro Geir Jenssen blurs Beethoven into a spectral haze on this disarming suite of eerie vignettes. Fans of Akira Rabelais' unmatched "Eisoptrophobia" need this one.
On Gier Jenssen's 2016 album "Departed Glories", the Norwegian veteran used barely-audible samples of Eatern European and Russian folk music to illustrate a narrative that explored the Medieval history of Poland. These ghostly audio snippets were processed through Akira Rabelais' surrealist DSP software Argeïphontes Lyre and then smudged into echoes of a distant world. On "Angel's Flight", Jenssen takes a similar stylistic route, but uses Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 as the source material, allowing familiar traces of the German composer's favorite late work to peek through frozen drones and haunted pads.
This music, whether you realize it or not, has been repeated thru our collective consciousness again and again since its completion in 1826, so hearing it stretched, filtered and crushed by Jenssen is a fitting way to reabsorb it. "Angel's Flight" sounds like time itself wrestling with musical hierarchies, as themes and tropes dance and heave through aural molasses, inspiring the memory to land on images of movies, ballrooms, music lessons or adverts. It's also strikingly sad and beautiful, and while it relies on elements we've been assured are sad - minor keys, spooky drones, distant strings - Jenssen handles the elements with a restraint that's way too rare.
Somehow, "Angel's Flight" never descends into the realm of forced melancholy - rather it seeps into your pores slowly and affects you gradually, urging you to play it once more. Sadbient? Maybe, but this sounds strangely timeless.
Though it's hard to pick a winner among the estimable Black Jazz catalog, this 1972 release from bassist Henry "The Skipper" Franklin would have to be near the top of the list.
"Franklin got his start woodshedding with Latin maverick Willie Bobo in the mid-'60s and went on to play with The Three Sounds, but probably his most notable gig prior to this debut album was his stint in Hugh Masekela's band (that's Franklin playing bass with Masekela at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival). For The Skipper, Franklin assembled a crack outfit that included a horn section of trumpeter/flugelhornist Oscar Brashear (Bobby Hutcherson, Ry Cooder, Donny Hathaway) and tenor & soprano sax man Charles Owens (Buddy Rich, Horace Tapscott, John Mayall) along with a Masekela bandmate in electric pianist Bill Henderson and ace drummer Michael Carvin (Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Liston Smith, Freddie Hubbard).
This is such a unique, organic recording that it's hard to make comparisons; definitely a little fusion, a little '60s Blue Note feel, and the usual Black Jazz journey to the more lyrical, pop-inspired ("Little Miss Laurie") and funk-infused ("Plastic Creek Stomp") sides of jazz, but perhaps the best comparison is late-'60s Miles before he went electric. In any case, The Skipper is just a joy to listen to from start to finish, beautifully recorded by Black Jazz producer Gene Russell and blessed with some really fine writing, most of it by Franklin himself. First-time LP reissue and a must-have!"
Outstanding introduction to Amapiano, the hypnotic house sound of Guateng, SA with feet in Kwaito and deep house styles. Proper dancers’ gear, dead compatible the deeper ends of Gqom, and new London sounds on Housupa. Tipped by Tom Booigzm, Black Mecha, and us, at the least.
“The past five years have seen amapiano, South Africa’s electronic music movement born in the townships of the country’s Gauteng province, evolve from an underground sound to a nationwide mainstream staple. Even with its commercial success though, amapiano’s DIY ethos has continued to disrupt music creation and distribution in the country. Most amapiano commercial successes today began their careers on cracked versions of production software like FL Studio, distributed their work through file sharing platforms like datafilehost and marketed it using social media pages they controlled and influenced.
Amapiano is partly a tasting menu of South Africa’s musical history, a lineage that has been as much a backdrop to the times as it has been a catalyst for change in the country. South African jazz has thrived pre and post-democracy, contributing international stalwarts of the genre, notably Miriam Makeba, Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela. Kwaito music—which itself borrowed from other genres like marabi, kwela, mbaqanga, maskandi, bubblegum and others—was created and proliferated in the 90s partly because of the newly accessible House music imported into the country. In the early 2000s, Deep and Afro House dominated, to be followed by the rise of diBacardi, a percussion—heavy electronic music genre most popular in the city of Pretoria and its surrounding townships.
Amapiano Selections, the debut album by DJ and producer Teno Afrika, gives listeners outside the movement’s online release economy an insight into the high-burn nature of amapiano that has spawned a distinct typology under its larger umbrella. Nineteen-year-old Lutendo Raduvha has spent the bulk of his life moving between different townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg and Pretoria in the Gauteng province. The palette of amapiano styles on the album reflect these influences.
But at first, South Africa’s youngest electronic music movement lived underground with a small, loyal following. “Amapiano is a genre that I chose because I have a passion for it,” says Teno “I started following amapiano in 2016 because I wanted to explore how it’s produced. It was not taken seriously in our country. By: Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi”
Virtuoso, smoky jazz from young Norwegian firebrand Kjetil Mulelid. We know you're probably bored with solo piano albums at this point, but this is a cut above: more Keith Jarrett than you know who.
Rune Grammofon has been begging Mulelid to record a solo piano album for years now. He was hesitant at first, not just because there's a glut of mediocre to terrible piano records clogging digital dustbins everywhere, but because in jazz, the solo piano record has a lot of competition. It's notoriously challenging, but last year in lockdown, Mulelid found himself with time on his hands and isolation to maintain. In many ways, masterminding a truly next-level solo piano record is the perfect COVID pastime.
'Piano' is deceptively simple in its presentation, but even a cursory listen will reveal a startling talent. Mulelid performed the album at Athletic Sound studio on their unique 1919 Bösendorfer grand, and this lends the album a haunting texture. In Mulelid's hands, it sings with sadness, joy and cultural resonance, not speaking directly to our period of isolation and collapse, but speaking around it. Fans of Gonzalez's enduring classic "Solo Piano" will no doubt get a kick out of these sultry, swinging selections.
Yes, Sports fans; YOUTH rally the troops for a sprawling 2nd compilation of roving downbeat styles, featuring Peder Mannerfelt, Iueke, and RVDS, alongside label fam like FUMU, Herron and Sockethead, plus enigmatic new names inc. Warlock, Jessicunt, Joe Cotch and many more.
In the three years since the first Youth compilation, Andrew Lyster’s label has grown in stature and scale to encompass myriad integers between the club, the bedroom, and headphones. Their releases from Sockethead, Dijit, Seltene Erden, Blazer Soundsystem, and the mysterious Remer Cier, among others - many of whom appear here - have set the label’s coordinates in bold, new terrain which they explore further with this sterling sophomore suite illuminating shared, rhizomic links that span continents, styles, and intentions.
The vibe is modulated between the artists’ respective flavours, and with 20 tracks the label’s curatorial skills come into play, ably demonstrating a discerning flow between their poles and shadows that surpass the sum of the compilation's parts. Between the threshold of Lluke's hyperprism and the noise slurry of 1012’s closer, ‘Reprise’ the artists practically terraform a mutant microcosm unto itself, offering enchanted and murky slants on dembow modernism, ambient zeitgeists, and bedroom-bound songwriting in the age of Covid.
FUMU provides highlights thru heady location recordings on ‘Aphex Hall’ and what sounds like mechanically performed water drumming in ‘Loco Motive’, while his Return To Zero crewmate Sockethead serves likeminded ambient blatz and the crooked soul of ‘I’m Here’, with Herron teasing out the music box malady of ‘Pearl’, and RVDS duets with David Attenborough and a Lyre bird. However, for new kicks, check for Joe Cotch’s killer dembow cyberpunk mission, and a murky proto-grime ace by Warlock (not that one!), the paranoid thoughts of Jessicunt, and a class cut of Farsi drill by Leo & Tardast.
Field recordings, delicate drones, noise and sublime ambience for fans of vintage Brian Eno, K. Leimer or Loscil.
Interest in US ambient pioneer Marc Barreca's productions spiked again a few years ago when the Freedom To Spend imprint reissued his loopy and playful 1983 epic "Music Works For Industry". But Barreca isn't just an ambient fetishists dream, he's still releasing new music and "The Empty Bridge" proves he's still exploring haunted, atmospheric soundscapes with just as much vigor as he ever was.
Assembled during lockdown in a remote mountain cottage, the album vaporizes subtle field recordings into languid pools of synth, spine-chilling drones and sampled instrumentation. Sometimes it sounds almost orchestral, reminiscent of Steve Reich or Terry Riley, and sometimes is more in line with the subterranean gems that pock Erik Skodvin's Miasmah label or Manchester's sferic imprint. These ambient-industrial landscapes are a fine reflection of a new isolated reality, and act as a tight commentary on ambient music's four decades of evolution.
Rebellious, charged spiritual jazz that holds a mirror up to Berlin, reflecting the city's unreasonable treatment of Black people. Cathartic, uplifting and simmering with rage.
In November 2019, Angel Bat Dawid and her band Tha Brothahood traveled from Chicago to Berlin for JazzFest. Tragically, vocalist and instrumentalist Viktor Le Givens had passed out on the street and been robbed, ending up in hospital. When Angel reached Berlin with the rest of the band, she was passed the message that unless they could find a replacement, their fee would be reduced. This set the tone for the rest of the trip, where the group of Black musicians were greeted with constant stares, repeated microaggressions and suspicion from the German city's majority white inhabitants.
But they persevered, and the band's performance was considered by Angel to be among their best ever, charged with attitude and struck through with rage-in-process. This recording documents the entire thing, opening with a racist incident at Berlin's Duke Ellington Hotel (seriously) before tracking through a lifted selection of spiritual jazz experimentation from a troupe of Chicago's finest players. Human and electric, the set reflects the power of Angel's composition and conducting and stands as a crucial document of a historic moment for the band.
Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) gets the best out of his longtime pal, Madlib in an ideal showcase of the master beat breaker’s untouchable, sampledelic style
Tailored for proper end-to-end immersion by Hebden, who’s responsible for the edits, arrangement, and mastering, ‘Sound Ancestors’ weighs in as one of ‘lib’s most distinctive albums, proper, flexing his inimitable style with extra focussed production that really brings his instrumentals to life in an LP context. That’s not to say his previous albums aren’t eminently listenable, but avowed Madlib stan Hebden has really done the hip hop icon proud, drawing from 100s of cuts sent him over the past few years, to render a lushly soulful collection contoured between bumping downstrokes and killlller cuts of syncopated, Afro-Latin suss.
Shy of any voices beyond the samples, the 16 tracks adds up to one of Madlib’s best sets since ‘The Beat Konducta’ series ended a decade ago, reprising that series’ colourful sampledelic tekkers at its best, while flowing with a livewire, jazz-wise quality that’s hard not to get snagged in. Fair to say Hebden’s touch can be felt in the swirling sound design of the album opener, but its a subtler presence as the album unfolds with Madlib’s patented swagger between instant anthem ‘The Call’, and a haul of crooked, club-ready gear such as the almost West London broken beat styles in ‘Loose Goose’, the flighty Afro-fusion of tht title tune and the rare groove move ‘One For Quartabê / Right Now’.
Okay! Grotty sleaze-dub, cavernous post punk, wyrdo industrial ambient and anxious keta-tekno on this gem of a soundtrack from 2001's underground porn classic "Bonking Berlin Bastards".
This is an absolute find, a scruffy collection of DIY electronix that soundtracked Ebo Hill's "Bonking Berlin Bastards", the hypersexual Berlin porn classic that captured the city's hedonistic, queer turn of the Millennium atmosphere. The music comes from improv techno three-piece AeoX and noise/industrial producer Rouage, who also shows up as CNM, and skates through the back rooms, free parties and squats of Berlin with a vivid cut-n-paste post punk aesthetic.
It's fantastically innovative music that captures the sound of Berghain's forerunner OstGut, that was apparently a primary meeting point for the movie's crew, so it makes perfect sense that Ostgut Ton is the label handling the release. It's hard to accurately describe the music except to say that it's somewhere between Vinyl On Demand's collections of scruffy proto-techno and industrial experimentation and the tape-scuffed noizz of Hospital Productions or Wolf Eyes' American Tapes imprint.
There's a raw, queer sexuality here that's missing from so much angry noise music; it's less angry boys than horny, disaffected ones. It feels celebratory somehow, with each squeal, thumping kick or harsh sheet of fuzz expressing the joy of public sex and messy chemical nights long before the tech companies and Australian coffee shops had moved into Kreuzberg. "Bonking Berlin Bastards" is a historical document of an influential era that's unlikely to be repeated, but stands as the backbone of contemporary Berlin's most endearing facets.
Mesmerising solo debut of works for mallet percussion from Brooklyn’s Patricia Brennan, crossing our paths for first time and recalling very classy works from CC Hennix to Miles Davis, Terry Plumeri and Michael Ranta
You can colour us enchanted with ‘Maquishti’, which introduces the Mexican born, NYC-based vibraphonist, marimbist, improvisor and composer Brennan with a deliciously low-key, furtive hush that’s totally snagged our attentions. Stepping forth from her previous experience, performing with everyone from Meredith Monk to Mary Halvorsen and Marcus Gilmore, here she employs a fine range of melodious thunks in lissom, playfully inquisitive style that’s both trance-inducing and edged with a fluidly sublime, but unresolved tension in her unfurling lines of extended melodic thought.
Brennan is patently adept at articulating her own sonic language, which makes it kinda surprising that this is only her first solo record, but we can only hope it’s the first of many, as she appears keen to experiment with the limits of her technique with a golden sense of patience and discipline that really shows on ‘Maquishti’, from her extra subtle use of pitch-bending and bowing, to her ability to lure us into the most curious harmonic spaces, without ever feeling hurried or demanding.
A real pleasure, this.
This is a gift: over four hours of revolutionary solo recordings from one of the US industrial/noise scene's earliest and most under-sung underground operators. Essential, completely proto shit, ranging from glacial, thrumming cosmic ambience thru fuzzy kraut-esque meditation and grungy tape noise to dusty rhythm-fuck'd experimentz and ghostly electro-punk, to harry partch/moondog-esque clattering percussion to tape worn solo piano drift oddities and smudged dub-pop vignettes. The square root of so much foundational DIY music, right here.
Don't worry if you haven't come across Robert Turman's music before, this epic set, originally released as an eight-cassette box in 1988 and now re-packaged on CD by Aaron DIlloway’s Hanson Records, gives you all the introduction to the US noise innovator you need. Turman was initially spotted as one half of legendary noise act NON alongside Boyd Rice, but quickly redirected his efforts into more personal, singular solo werk. "Chapter Eleven" rakes together some of the Ohio-based artist's earliest material, compiling 45 tracks made between 1976 and 1987. And jeez it's a revelation: out-zone sounds that are truly jawdropping not just for their stylistic scope, but for their originality. Really, who else was doing tape-degraded xylophone and kalimba loops AND crumbling rhythmic tape noise while Jimmy Carter was in the Whitehouse?
Listening to the album from beginning to end gives you a real sense of Turman's musical curiosity and dedication to his craft. It's the gnostic missing page that contextualizes the US noise/experimental scene's flirtation with industrial grot, dreamy guitar jams, futzed psychedelia, extreme noise, deep listening and hypnogogic tape loops. Turman has it all, and "Chapter Eleven" is an ideal primer to his sound, working like a diary or self portrait, revealing a personal journey marinated in emotion, texture and wonder, sitting a few paces outside the musical establishment's buttoned-up critical perception.
Dilloway has done the world a solid here, teaming with Helicopter Records to offer up a remastered edition of the entire long out-of-print set. And while Turman's music has experienced a resurgence of interest in the last few years following reissues on Spectrum Spools and Dais and collaborations with Dilloway, "Chapter Eleven" is the real key to understanding his role in the US experimental music landscape. Highest possible recommendation.
'Operation: Doomsday' has floated in and out of print since its original 1999 pressing on famed New York label Fondle 'Em, attaining mythical status amongst underground fans as one of the landmark releases of the decade, showcasing MF Doom's abstract wordplay, pointed wit, subtly subversive lyrics and alcohol drenched stream-of-consciousness flows over adventurous sample-based production.
The album's impact steadily grew to alter the landscape of hip hop as it was then known, and its periodic cycles of unavailabilty seem only to have enhanced its mythical status. This Deluxe Edition version is the same remastered and expanded double-disc set that was in the limited edition tin box reissue, but in a superior quality digipack sleeve with brand new cover art.
The audio content is identical; the same 42 tracks including 23 alternate versions, b-sides, instrumentals and acapellas. Still as bold, creative and villainous as it was 15 years ago, only now it's louder and longer.
Minimal, throbbing Kraut-inspired dubscapes from To Rococo Rot's Stefan Schneider and his long MIA Mapstation project.
Stefan Schneider is nothing if not reliable. His latest Mapstation full-length finds him ditching the studio drip in favor of a stripped-down setup: a TR-808 drum machine, Novation Peak synth, a guitar and a tape loop device. The result is his most immediate collection of tracks for years, a set that gets to the bare bones of his sound with uncomplicated ease. "My Frequencies, Where We" is hinged on a Cluster-influenced sense of rhythm, but one that's obscured by glitches, crackle and alien synthetic atmospheres. At this stage in his career, Schneider's primary point of reference is his own long career, so there are elements of To Rococo Rot or Kreidler that spring to mind as he cooks out eerie dub flavors from stark, disparate ingredients.
Schneider's real skill is his seemingly-effortless ability to evoke a sonic world that's immediately identifiable as his own: the magical, anxious buzz of 'To a Single Listener', the tape-distorted electo-psych ambience of 'My Mother Sailor' or the refined-yet-childlike early electronic squelch of 'Actual Possible'. It's a utopian, fairytale world we rather relish getting lost in.
Weightless ambient projections from the prolific don of this style Will Long aka Celer
“‘Being Below’ is a collaborative release between Past Inside the Present (US) and Two Acorns (JP). This is a mini-album of short songs created with digital and analogue instruments. Written with a structure that reflects shifting states, overlooking the past and future as a split pathway with the present endlessly fluctuating between. The pangs of rumination. An exercise in loop-less writing.
"Staring out, tense. Looking down isn’t so different than looking up, but it passes by faster. Contentment at the accomplishment that I'm here, and the fear that what I’ve always been looking for has passed by. Staring up and looking at the sky, wishing you were up here with me, here where you can see everything. Above, the surface drifts by, and the colors on the horizon in pale blues makes me calm. Then blue. Deep in pale blue.
Again, in the morning. Close your eyes. Repeating this, repeating that, then it changes. Try to stay focused, but you've already moved out of sight. You're a million miles away, and farther. Waiting for night. Stars, always beyond. Now, it's already tomorrow." -Celer”
The well trodden path of the Silk Road unveils new secrets to David Shea, who turns years of research into a masterfully absorbing trip for his latest opus with Lawrence English’s Room40
Landing square between the third eyes of Michael Ranta’s focussed east/west experiments and the more impressionistic scenes outlined by KWC 92, ‘The Thousand Buddhas’ feels out an epic journey across continents in a searching side intent on creating practical and esoteric connections between the myriad cultures, regions, and belief systems that follow the Silk Road between China and Rome, linking the ancient realities of Africa, Asia, India, Europe, and the Pacific region.
It’s no new obsession for David Shea, whose dozens of releases sine the early ‘90s have returned to these themes, specifically on ‘Hsi-Yu Chi’, ‘The Tower of Mirrors’, ‘Satyricon’, and ‘Rituals’, which were all based on adaptations of myths connected to the world’s ancient trading routes. Decades later, in a time when China is keenly pressing ahead with Silk Road 2.0, Shea’s latest retun to the area is a multi-dimensional thing, plotting a steeply immersive course from fathomless layers of gamelan percussion, field recordings, and keys, that reach some astonishing heights redolent of Alice Coltrane’s spiritual jazz as much as Michael Ranta’s forays deep into Eastern tradition.
Visionist dives into a chasm of deep introspection with this suite of smudged ambient textures and ghostly vocals.
Louis Carnell's third album as Visionist, "A Call To Arms" swerves the synthetic deconstructions of his debut "Safe" and the noisy, post-industrial grind of 2017's follow-up "Value". Here, Carnell channels light and dark elements, pairing slithering rumbles with operatic highs and enlisting a cadre of collaborators. He even explores the possibilities of his own voice for the first time, singing vulnerable phrases over torched doomscapes.
Opener 'By Design' has Childhood's Ben Romans Hopcraft on vocal duties, crooning in circling waves around wobbly sub bass and spooky waves of static. It's something like Arca's decadent 'Madre', Scott Walker's "Drift" and Antony and the Johnsons, but more introverted. As the album progresses, Carnell carefully reveals his own shy tones, draping his words uncomfortably around shivering foley percussion and grimbient drones.
Most successful is the album's extended eight-minute centerpiece 'Nearly God', which doesn't feature Tricky but does focus around a wonderfully brittle overdriven beat that eventually gives way to tape-munged church bells and looped vocal washes. Elsewhere, Carnell gets assists from Black Midi's Morgan Simpson, Circuit Des Yeux’s Haley Fohr and Ben Vince. It's a bold statement that fades his early Visionist material into the fog of history.
Transports' is the incredible 2nd album by audodidact and outsider musician/composer Tazartès. Originally released on vinyl in 1980, it has now been reissued with extra material on CD in 1998 and 2009, and "Probably represents the most original example of the artist's poetical and personal approach to sound organisation."
The tracks for 'Transports' were recorded in 1977 at Ghedalia's own studio in Paris, strafing stream-of-conscious between rippling electro rhythms to outernational singing styles, collaged field recordings and musique concrete, to chants, tape loops and exotic atmospheres with a perpetual sense of drift and magical imagination. We're spellbound from the first to last, through the deeply evocative peal of church bells and swirling synthetic textures in track 2, via humid sci-fi scenes and alien avian chatter on track 5 and the lost zones of the closing stages. Also included are the two parts of 'Transports' which were composed and recorded for a theatre piece later in 1997 and produced by Emanuele Carcano.
These are denser, more spacious and dramatic, but not necessarily that great. The disc concludes with 'Elie', a charming piano piece performed in duo with the composer's young daughter. For the original 'Transports' at least, this is nigh on essential for fans of adventurous electronic music and composition.
Following their ongoing exposé of Chicago Footwork, Planet Mu turn their keen ears to the 'floor and the sound of Bubbling; the hyper-futuristic Dutch dance craze perpetuated by the 2nd and 3rd generation descendants of Caribbean immigrants.
We'll let the ever-knowledgeable Dave Quam explain the origins "At a party in the late 80s in The Hague, a local DJ by the name of DJ Moortje accidentally dropped a dancehall twelve-inch at 45RPMs, causing chaos in the audience. Not the kind of negative heckling you get when a record skipped, but the kind of excitement that happens when a movement has been started. This beautiful mistake resulted in Bubbling, a cultural expression of immigrants from The Dutch Antilles and Suriname, a genre that would take these communities by storm in Holland in the 1990s. Jamaican exports such as the Fever Pitch and Bam Bam riddims were double and half-timed, with Cutty Ranks on one hand sounding like a pre-pubescent chipmunk, the other hand sounding like an evil duppy. Its sound borrowed slave rhythms from Curacao (DJ Moortje's origin), creating a new Caribbean style of music in Europe that ran parallel to London's Jungle scene."
Fast forward a generation, and now armed with pirate copies of Fruity Loops and basic PCs, kids like 18 year old Anti-G, Shaun-D, Master-D, Daycard, and Deschuurman are fusing the traditional Dembow rhythms of reggaeton with traces of HipHop, Funky House, Grime, and whatever else they feel like, resulting in some of the most exhilarating dance trax we've heard since 'Jukes & Bangs Vol.1'. 'Kentje'sz Beatsz' covers a spectrum of Anti-G's productions between 2009 and 2010.
Over these sixteen tracks his synths sound like Sooty & Sweep on battery acid, while the beats are arranged with an effortless Rubiks cube complexity. Most importantly of all, it makes you want to dance like a f**king Transformer rendered by Alex Rutterford and Hecker. That might not sound so appealling to some, but check the kids popping and locking to this stuff on youtube and you'll soon catch the bug. No doubt, this is already one of our records of the year, and manages to make 90% of stuff out there seem stiff and 5 years behind the times. Highly Highly recommended!!!
Carsten Nicolai concludes Alva Noto’s UNI-prefixed release cycle with UNIEQAV, the 3rd and most dancefloor-focussed instalment of the series. The follow-up to Unitxt  and Univrs  pairs pendulous minimal techno and electro rhythms with wide, sheer electronic drones in a way that strongly recalls recent Monolake output as well as Ilpo Väisänen in full swang. Comparisons aside, though, it’s unmistakably Alva Noto.
Pursuing the project’s roots in the dancefloor of Tokyo’s UNIT club to a satisfyingly logical endpoint, Nicolai rolls out 12 typically mercurial yet gripping sound designs defined by their fluid dynamics and seemingly fathomless dimensions intended to render the club or your head underwater, thanks to a still remarkable grasp of purified tonal minimalism/maximalism and studied sensitivity to proprioception.
The results are filigree yet robust, firmed up for deployment on the sickest sound system you can lay your hands on, but also highly pleasurable in a headphone or sofa-inclined context, keeping us rapt and twitching from the dubwise plong and looming pads of Uni Sub and the Robert Henke-esque pressure systems of Uni Mia.
The nervous skeleton of Uni Version flows into singular Alva Noto sounds in the jabbing pointillism of Uni Clip and the staggering scale of Uni Normal, with major highlights in the widescreen drama of Uni Blue, and footwork-like rapid movement join Uni Edit, while Anne-James Chaton’s vocal lend a sharp contrast in Uni Dna.
A new collection of current DIY post-punk shaped by the mutant sounds of no wave, punk funk and New York Noise bands from the late 70s and early 80s that collided with the world of underground dance music found at the Paradise Garage, Mudd Club in New York City (ESG, Arthur Russell, Bush Tetras, Talking Heads, Suicide, Liquid Liquid).
"Other influences cited here include Manchester and Sheffield’s industrial post-punk sounds of the 1980s (Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, Gang of Four) as well as the 1970s German electronic experimentalism of Cluster, Neu!, Harmonia and Can. Featured artists from around the globe include Los Angeles DIY band Automatic, New Fries from Toronto, artist/music collaborators Toresch from Germany, Susumu Makai from Japan/UK, Vex Ruffin from the Philippines/California and Madmadmad, Gramme, Tom of England and other UK groups. That all the bands featured here manage to make distinctive contemporary music out of these 80s roots is testament to the wide range of other musics that are seamlessly absorbed into a modern melting pot of sound - hip hop, the electronic European avant-garde, rave culture and more."
Norwegian duo Smerz release ‘Believer’, the debut album that pushes Smerz far beyond their previous EP releases, 2017’s ‘Okey’ and 2018’s ‘Have Fun’.
"Since releasing the ‘Believer’ trailer back in October 2020, followed by a video for the tracks ‘I don’t talk about that much/Hva hvis’, the duo of Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt have slowly revealed a new auditory world. The duo meld sonic touchstones from their youth, like musicals and classical music, with swirling, tranceindebted synth lines and hip-hop plus R&B vocals that is distinctly Smerz. The duo performed recently at Oslo’s Ultima festival; in early 2020 they scored a performance by Carte Blanche, the Norwegian national company of contemporary dance, as well as performed at Mira festival in collaboration with legendary visual maverick Weirdcore."
The Stereolab collection we've all been waiting for: a follow-up to 1998's fab "Aluminium Tunes", compiling a bunch of rare material from 1999-2008 including outtakes from beloved albums "Dots and Loops" and "Mars Audiac Quintet".
Stereolab's blend of early electronic noodling, French pop sexiness, suave lounge posturing and Krautrock's rhythmic thump has had us obsessed for decades. Back in 1997 when they released "Dots and Loops", they had reached a creative high-point, working with Tortoise's John McEntire in Chicago to come up with a sultry collection of space pop / post rock goodness that was a much-needed antidote to the laddish guitar music plaguing Europe at the time. Since the early '90s, the band would routinely collect up their rarer releases - EPs, remixes, B-sides - in "Switched On" compilations, the last being '98's excellent "Aluminium Tunes". Now, following the remastered reissues of the first three volumes in the series, they have put together a fourth, collecting rare material from '99-'08 and bundling it with outtakes from the "Dots and Loops" and "Mars Audiac Quintet" recording sessions. Phew.
This is hardly a set of second rate offcuts either, 'Lab fans know that much of their best material is hidden away on their weirder short-run releases, so having access to the long-deleted mini-album "The First Of The Microbe Hunters" again is just a joy. That seven-track release kicks off the album, dragging you immediately into band's turn-of-the-millennium tight sweater shakes. From there, we get tracks from tour 7"s, a few compilation cuts, a track written for a documentary about synth pioneer Robert Moog and even a dancefloor track that Tim Gane describes as "upbeat and party-ish". If you haven't heard these tracks before, we're jealous, and if you have it's still nice to have them all remastered and assembled together neatly in one place.
Vibes from village recording sessions in Senegal between Swedish musician Karl-Jonas Winqvist and residents of Toubab Dialaw, centre of Senegal’s bohemian art scene
Warped, soft-focus cosmique jazz from Senagal's Wau Wau Collectif - a sick fusion of sounds; West African dub one moment and devotional jams the next.
Hailing from the small fishing village of Toubab Dialaw in Senegal, Wau Wau Collectif make music that sounds unashamedly positive. "Yaral Sa Doom" is a collection of recordings that jumps through ideas fluidly, but coherently - dub reggae and jazz sounds are omnipresent, but sprinkled into a vibrant, instrumental concoction that dips into kosmische music, beatbox rap and more avant garde forms.
The backbone is West African folk music and hearing these instruments and forms - like Sufi prayers and fishing songs - repurposed is just a joy. As a lot of the world sinks into introspection and soul-searching, it's refreshing to hear music that seems to celebrate the very act of creating.
Two hour-long workouts from percussionist Hamid Drake and his long-time collaborator bassist William Parker, alongside London's Black Top (Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas) and Elaine Mitchener. Blistering!
Damn this is deep; "Some Good News" is a trans-Atlantic collaboration that finds a sweet spot between Hamid Drake and William Parker's legendary rhythms, Black Top's experimental electronics and Elaine Mitchener's avant garde vocal runs. The group clearly enjoys performing with each other as they broach calypso forms and Sarahan rhythms with a sense of humor and hypnotic, spiritual sense of timing. 'Put the Brakes On' winds from psychedelic organ and xylophone into off-planet synth fx and guttural vocal tricks from Mitchener. 'Some Good News' is even wilder, as Black Top duet with Mitchener, mimicking her screams with chirping synth sounds as Drake and Parker thump alongside.
Gut-punching politics inseparable from the music, steeped in revolutionary ‘60s/‘70s jazz, soul, funk and symphonic Blaxploitation soundtrack styles.
“The American Negro is an unapologetic critique, detailing the systemic and malevolent psychology that afflicts people of color. This project dissects the chemistry behind blind racism, using music as the medium to restore dignity and self-worth to my people. It should be evident that any examination of black music is an examination of the relationship between black and white America. This relationship has shaped the cultural evolution of the world and its negative roots run deep into our psyche. Featuring various special guests performing over a deeply soulful, elaborate orchestration, The American Negro reinvents the black native tongue through this album and it’s attendant short film (TAN) and 4-part podcast (invisible Blackness). The American Negro - both as a collective experience and as individual expressions - is insightful, provocative and inspiring and should land at the center of our ongoing reckoning with race, racism and the writing of the next chapter of American history.”
Deep, philosophical and emotionally rich piano, clarinet, percussion and vibraphone musings that sketch out a magically realist portrait of our troubling modern era.
Portuguese pianist Tiago Sousa follows 2015's solo piano album "Um Piano nas Barricadas" with this heady set, based on themes of nostalgic escapism, repetition, temporality and other existential concepts. Don't worry if that sounds like too much to get stuck into now, the tracks here are pensive, but can be enjoyed without having a working knowledge of Heidegger, Camus or Kierkegaard. Souza's skill is in his attention to the texture of the sounds he works with - the anxious squeal of the clarinet, the distant rush of cymbals, the familiar twinkly of piano - and his arrangements are minimal, but always engaging. "ANGST" is a pensive and expressive exploration of the modern condition and it's enchanting.
Enchanting griot tales from West Africa; recorded in traditional settings and spanning nearly half a century, and each accompanied by lilting guitar and koni lutes in a way that you’d never guess when they were recorded
“About a hundred kilometers south-west of Bamako, on the left bank of the Niger River, the Malian village of Kela is known to be home to a large community of griot musicians (jeliw) mostly belonging to the Diabaté family. Their art is recognized throughout West Africa and many griots come from all over the world to stay there, sometimes for several years, in the hope of becoming immersed in it. The six pieces for voice accompanied by guitar or traditional koni lutes were recorded in 1978 (tracks 3 to 6) and in 2019 (tracks 1 to 3), in the same traditional dwelling, which still serves as a "studio". The accompanying booklet contains the testimonies of several important musicians who took part in the recording, and evoke key elements of their universe. Recordings by Bernard Mondet (1978) and Vincent Zanetti (2019).”
Reliably unpredictable innovators Mouse on Mars are back with an album of bizarre AI-led club/Kraut deconstructions.
Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma's haphazard electronic experiments have been a refreshing constant over the last 25 years. Always different and often essential, the duo's productions inevitably reflect the era's shifting contemporary forms but inject them with a mischievous DIY spirit and innovative, exploratory sense of wonder. "AAI" is no different, and finds MoM exploring concepts of artificial intelligence without resorting to clapped posturing or empty-headed theorizing.
The title stands for "Anarchic Artificial Intelligence" and to assemble the record, Toma and Werner got together an intriguing team of collaborators: writer and scholar Louis Chude-Sokei, DJ and producer Ya?mur Uçkunkaya, percussionist and longtime MoM collaborator Dodo NKishi, AI tech collective Birds on Mars and former Soundcloud programmers Ranny Keddo and Derrek Kindle. The team worked together to create a piece of software that could model speech, feeding it text and voice from Chude-Sokei and Uçkunkaya and allowing the software to learn from that. The resulting voice sounds that guide "AAI" are completely computer generated, despite sounding like narration or samples. Mouse on Mars were able to use the voices like an instrument and play the software like a synthesizer, using the artificial intelligence elements less like an app to write its own music, but like a tool they could manipulate to inspire their musical methodology.
"Machines can open up new concepts of life, and expand our definitions of being human," says Werner. Certainly the line between human and computer is seriously blurred here, with voices melting into percussion and drums rattling and fluffing between words and syllables like bees in honeycomb. "AAI" is a deeply unusual album, utilizing familiar elements - rhythmic flutters from footwork or emerging club forms are brought together in harmony with pulsing motorik sounds - and corrupting or disrupting them with sci-fi-tinged philosophical elements. It's not a record that you can acceptably play in the background, by any means, it takes attention and concentration, and it deserves it.
Cool, off-kilter, improvised jazz-fusion from Norway’s foremost proponents; Mats Gustafsson, Andreas Werlin, and Johan Berthing a.k.a Fire!
“Not the most optimistic title for pressing times, but the music sees Fire! tracking new paths and reaching new levels of excellence, still honoring their 12 year old vow of presenting a fresh approach to improvised music. Their debut album, You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago, was released in 2009 to wide international acclaim. “The basic strategy of pairing the expressive energy of free jazz with a sturdy sense of groove has yielded something potent and self-contained” (New York Times). Between this and Defeat there´s been five albums, including collaborations with Jim O´Rourke (Unreleased?, 2011) and Oren Ambarchi (In The Mouth A Hand, 2012).
No two Fire! records sound the same, but with Defeat they have taken their biggest leap so far, with Gustafsson giving the flute a prominent place in the sound image, a surprising and most successful move, his both expressive and ornamental approach given ample room to breathe, especially on the two long tracks bookending the album. In places more subdued than on previous efforts, but with the distinctive bass figures and hypnotic mood fully intact. There are some lively stretches with guests Goran Kajfes and Mats Aleklint, bringing to mind their big band offshoot Fire! Orchestra, albeit on a much smaller scale.”
Longtime collaborators NWW and Aranos align their visions to a deeply psychedelic, minimalist focus on their self-released 2013 double album .
Also considered relative neighbours on the rugged West Coast of Ireland, NWW and multi-instrumentalist Aranos here reprise a creative relationship ongoing since 1997’s ‘Acts of Senseless Beauty’, with just shy of 2 hours of metaphysical drift; departing with the anaesthetising atmospheres and creepy piano of ‘Letter From Torpor (Draft)’, and the grinding loops of ‘Eyes Of A Scanning Girl (Draft)’ sequenced beside their fully formed versions, including a female french vocal and junkier keys on ‘Letter From Torpor’, and extra space in ‘Eyes’ recalling Muslimgauze’s extreme dubbing.
The one to really stick around for though, is ‘Monstercamer (Orgasm)’, where they properly put the willies up ya with 23’ of yawning metal mechanical noise jaws and garrotting, keening string menace.
Performers – Aranos, Steven Stapleton Sounds [Sculptured Sounds] – Graham Bowers Voice – Aurelie Nyirabikali Lierman*, Marie Venes.
A Winged Victory for the Sullen, the collaboration between Stars of the Lid founder Adam Wiltzie and L.A. composer Dustin O'Halloran, return with ‘Invisible Cities’, the score to the acclaimed theatre production directed by London Olympics ceremony video designer Leo Warner and produced by Manchester International Festival, Rambert, 59 Productions and Karl Sydow.
"Premiering at Manchester International Festival in July 2019, Wiltzie and O'Halloran were commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Rambert, Brisbane Festival, Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival, Sadler’s Wells, SMG Live, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre (JACC) and Karl Sydowto to compose the music for the 90-minute multimedia stage show adapted from Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel. Centered on the tense relationship between Kublai Khan, the volatile head of a vast empire, and explorer Marco Polo, ‘Invisible Cities’ brings to life a series of fantastical places and disparate worlds through the medium of theatre, music, dance, design and visuals. Described by The Sunday Times as “a beautiful frenzy of movement”, ‘Invisible Cities’ was originally conceived as a touring project with its last performance in Brisbane, Australia before COVID-19 changed the world as we know it.
Transformed into 45 minutes of breathtaking beauty, ‘Invisible Cities’ opens with the numinous ‘So That the City Can Begin to Exist’, as Wiltzie and O'Halloran draw breath from distinctively enthralling and vastly expansive worlds. The ominous soundscapes of ‘The Dead Outnumber the Living’ contrast with the new beginnings that are presented in ‘Every Solstice & Equinox’, while the jagged and uneasy ‘Thirteenth Century Travelogue’ is one of tension and dread. Elsewhere, ‘The Divided City’ captivates and intrigues while ‘Only Strings and Their Supports Remain’ and ‘There Is One of Which You Never Speak’ are bold roars for survival before the choral ambience of ‘Desires Are Already Memories’ and piercing drones of ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ bring down the curtain on a spectacular and incredibly emotive body of work. Released on their own Artificial Pinearch Manufacturing label, ‘Invisible Cities’ comes as part of an agreement with A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s current label, Ninja Tune.
Releasing their self-titled debut album in 2011 (Erased Tapes), A Winged Victory for the Sullen has developed something of a cult status over the past decade and alongside artists such as Max Richter, Hauschka, Hildur Guðnadóttir and Tim Hecker, are the vanguard of the neoclassical and ambient world and can count the likes of Jon Hopkins as fans.
The duo has gone on to release two further studio albums; ‘Atomos’ (Erased Tapes, 2014) and most recently ‘The Undivided Five’ (Ninja Tune, 2019) and were asked to perform at the BBC proms in 2015 by 6 Music presenter Mary Anne Hobbs. A Winged Victory for the Sullen also scored the music for the independent film ‘Iris’ (2016), directed by Jalil Lespert.
Wiltzie is best known as founding member of drone legends Stars of the Lid, The Dead Texan and Aix Em Klemm and has scored multiple film projects including ‘American Woman’ (2019) starring Sienna Miller, ‘Salero’ (2016¬) and The Yellow Birds (2017). In 2018, he also scored ‘Whitney’ (2018), the estate-approved documentary about the life of the late Whitney Houston, directed by Kevin Macdonald. Elsewhere, his original music has featured in Hollywood films including ‘Transformers: Dark of The Moon’ (2011), ‘Godzilla’ (2014), ‘Like Crazy’ (2011) and acclaimed TV shows including ‘House M.D’, ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ‘Top Boy’. He also collaborated with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson on his scores for ‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014) and ‘Arrival’ (2016).
O'Halloran, a self-taught pianist from the age of 7, began his musical life as a guitarist and formed the much-loved indie rock outfit Dévics with Sara Lov, releasing four albums on Bella Union. As a solo artist, he has composed music for numerous film and television projects including Sofia Coppola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ (2006) and Drake Doremus’ ‘Like Crazy' (2011) starring Felicity Jones. Demand for his film scores is high and in 2015, he won an Emmy for theme music for the Golden Globe-winning Amazon series ‘Transparent’, starring Jeffrey Tambor. He has also collaborated with film composer Hauschka on numerous films, including ‘Lion’ (2016), with the score nominated for an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe. Most recently, he co-composed the music for the film ‘Ammonite’ (2020) with Volker Bertelmann, directed by Francis Lee and starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan."
Dust-to-Digital close a century wide circle on a real collector’s special, racking up all 84 x B-side songs to the ‘78s originally included in Harry Smith’s pivotal ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’
Smith’s original 1952 series and boxset of country, blues, Cajun, and gospel music from the ’20s-‘30s arrived as something of an anachronism in the ‘50s, but would serve to light the touch paper of interest for this olde timey music that helped spark the whole ‘50s and ‘60s folk revival. It has remained a major touchstone for many ever since, with a resplendent boxset in 2000 also helping to trigger another wave of interest in this sound that, again, arguably influenced another generation of indie-psyche-folk types at the start of this century - heck, it’s fair to say even Taylor Swift is referencing this stuff, via her work with The National’s Aaron Dessner on ‘Folklore’.
Now newly remastered, like their A-side counterparts, these B-sides have also been arranged with the same sequence as filmmaker and record collector Harry Smith’s original set. They span a whole world of merriment and woes from a 100 years ago, taking in multiple barndances and church’s worth of material ranging from Mississippi John Hurt’s lilting folk, the quick Cajun fire of ‘Back To Mexico’ by Carolina Tar Heels, and the likes of Hoyt Ming & His Pep Steppers’ stomping ‘Old Red (Country Dance)’ along with glorious gospel by the legendary Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, and heads down, hard-bitten blues by Blind Willie Johnson.
The first new material from beloved Bay Area new age composer Pauline Anna Strom since 1988. Gamelan-esque rhythmic experiments, mind-expanding cosmic drones and smudgy tropical ambience - all the good stuff.
In the early 1980s, Bay Area-based composer Pauline Anna Strom released a series of beguiling synthesizer albums under the moniker Trans-Millenia Consort. But as the decade drew to a close, she sold her equipment and concentrated her energy on spiritual practices, becoming a Reiki master and counselor and putting the music on hold. That all changed in 2017, when RVNG compiled Strom's early catalog on the anthology release "Trans-Millenia Music", suddenly allowing a wave of new fans the opportunity to hear her inspiring sounds.
This surge in interest prompted Strom to start recording again and "Angel Tears in Sunlight" is the result - a transportive collection of hazy ambience and blissful experimentation that picks up exactly where Strom left off in 1988. In 2020, we're hardly short of new age music, but the mood Strom recaptures here reminds us how unique her sound is. Icy shards of sparkling FM synth cascade over gamelan-esque rhythmic sequences that remind more of Maggi Payne or Laurie Spiegel than Steve Reich; head-frazzling, blurry spiritual ambient tonal work that's only a few paces from Steve Roach's essential early material; and fascinating tropical dreamscapes that sit comfortably alongside Andrew Pekler's sonic universe.
We've had this one on repeat recently - it's a balm in trying times that sits outside time and space, inspiring a peaceful wave of calm.
The Scottish post-rock faves return for their umpteenth album of cinematic quiet-loud melancholia. Nowt new, but as reliable as a Honda Civic.
It's a little worrying to accept that Glaswegian Slint devotees Mogwai are 25 years old. At this point they're basically an old friend and their latest full-length is packed with the elements that have kept them on our collective radars for the last quarter-century. There's the vocal led slowcore sadness that elevated "Come on Die Young" ('Ritchie Sacramento'), "Rock Action"s fuzzy mix of lite electronix and distorted riffs ('Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever'), the euphoric synth-led glow of "The Hawk Is Howling" ('Dry Fantasy') - even the Sonic Youth-esque fuzzpunq of their crucial earlier material gets a look-in on 'Drive The Nail'.
And while the band may have started life as a patchwork quilt of sleeve-worn references, a couple of decades later they just sound like Mogwai. That reliability is frankly refreshing. "As the Love Continues" doesn't really add anything new, but it doesn't have to, it's just good.
Kiwi drone pop mainstay Roy Montgomery celebrates four decades of activity with a fresh set of shimmering moods, joining the dots between Slowdive's "Pygmalion" and Vangelis's legendary "Blade Runner" OST. Seriously it's that good.
We're not sure why New Zealand's Roy Montgomery isn't more widely appreciated; he's been working tirelessly for forty years at this point, and while his particular brand of exquisite dream pop is still consigned to the underground, his imitators are too numerous to mention. "Island of Lost Souls" is the first of four albums slated for release this year and serves as a welcome reminder of his compositional skill and restraint. Comprising four long tracks, the album is a sequence of dedications to some of Montgomery's biggest influences. Opener 'Cowboy Mouth (For Sam Shepard)' sounds like an effervescent shoegaze reimagining of Jean-Michel Jarre's "Oxygene", but considering the recently-passed American playwright and actor, you could almost hear it alongside Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven", humming gently over the infinite sunset.
Each piece is built from transcendent layers of reverberating guitar, dense with harmony and dancing with flutter. If My Bloody Valentine showed one extreme this suggests another, a crushing quietness where extremity is found in meaning, resolve and discipline. This is never more evident on the album's epic closer, 'The Electric Children of Hildegard von Bingen (For Florian Fricke)', a track that honors the Popol Vuh founder and godfather of kosmische music, influenced by the 2nd century nun who inspired hundreds of years of music, science and theology. Musically, Montgomery wears his Fricke appreciation on his sleeve here, evoking fond memories of "Hosianna Mantra" with rhythmic, chiming strums that whirlpool into a blissful, transcendent abyss.
This is a cosmic corner of the musical universe that's often visited but rarely respected or explored successfully. For some reason, the crossover with new age attracts rogue elements, but hearing Montgomery in his comfort zone just reminds us how supreme the dream pop/kosmische crossover is when approached with sincerity and caution.
This one's going to be on rotation for a while - it's divine.
Jim O’Rourke pushes Apartment House to test their limits via an open-ended score for string trio requiring the players to whistle and sing wordlessly, with absorbing, minimalist results.
Commissioned by Anton Lukoszevieze of Apartment House, who also perform the work with exacting patience and nuance, ‘Best that you do this for me’ is a 50 minute work for string trio (featuring Lukoszevieze alongside Mira Benjamin and Bridget Carey) that also requires the performers to work out of their comfort zones, with additional instructions for them to whistle and sing, as well as play their instruments (violin, viola, cello.) The piece was originally performed in a 15 minute iteration for the BBC, but in this new expanded version its wider scope leads the players to unpredictable harmonic junctures as they work their way around its cyclical indications, overlapping into achingly mournful and sighing cadences with a glacially time-slipping quality.
O’Rourke was inspired to incorporate whistling and singing into the piece after re-listening to a few choral works by Martin Smolka, and was struck by how this relatively simple and always “on hand” instrument is rarely used. In the context of highly skilled instrumentalists such as Apartment House, the simple gesture of whistling and singing becomes a radical one, encouraging the trio to offset and balance their skills and intuition in a sometimes unnerving way that lends the work a beautifully uncertain character, unfurling like an archipelago of islands illuminated by moonlight and punctuated with gulfs of dark, pregnant silence.
Stunning archival material from groundbreaking percussionist Michael Ranta - a collaborator with Stockhausen and Conny Plank, highly regarded for his bridging of East/West avantgarde movements - here playing to the breadth of his style between 1971-1978
’Taiwan Years’ supplies another highlight to the Metaphon label (Timo Van Lujik’s home of critical Ranta reissues since 2010) with three durational recordings demonstrating Ranta’s seamless, freeform but disciplined, meld of concrete electronics with Eastern traditions and a singular sort of psychedelic, rhythmic minimalism. Just as he previously had us rapt on the ‘Ranta / Lewis / Plank’ boxset, and a few years ago with the incredible ballet soundtrack ‘Die Mauer’, Ranta’s metric and spatial sensitivities are just breathtakingly uncanny on this collection, too, speaking to a genuinely remarkable sense of timing, tone and proprioception that makes his recordings here comparable with the elemental works of Annea Lockwood as much as David Behrman’s inquisitive minimalism, or the esoteric psychedelia of his former collaborators, Takehisa Kosugi and Toshi Ichiyanagi.
In chronological order, Ranta’s ‘Taiwan Years’ covers the period before he would settle down as the resident composer, percussionist, and instrument handler, at Asian Sound in Cologne. It opens in 1971 with ‘Kagaku Henka’, a slow, beguiling 18 minutes of mind-bending electronic tones and microcosmic rhythms recalling Group Ongaku and Marginal Consort works, before really drawing us into his style of ultra sound-sensitive psychedelia on a 1973 recording of thizzing electronics and location recordings of distant drums and vocals that calls to mind Roland Kayn meeting Peter Christopherson circa The Threshold Houseboys Choir era. And 1978’s ‘Bei Nacht’ ideally brings the set to a close with a pineal-squeezing stretch of gamelan and resonant synth magick that will keep dreamers right at the edge of a hypnic jerk.
Catherine Lamb’s duo piece for quarter tone bass flute and double bass encourages listeners to dwell on the moment, here performed by Rebecca Lane (quarter tone bass flute) and Jon Heilbron (double bass), with recording by Adam Asnan at Andreaskirche, Berlin in 2019.
It’s a piece that only reveals its message with durational, immersed listening in order to inhabit and process its extra subtle shifts from timbre to pitch. The work appears to require the pairing to converse in etheric, sustained drones that hold to a soft, wavering tension, but mainly operating around lower end frequencies in a way that doesn’t demand attention but rather seduces it like dreamily mellow sirens on a rock that we, as listeners, circle from a distance.
The sound follows in spirals drawing us closer in but somehow keeping the its gauzy smear of tones at arms length in the most beautifully elusive, hypnagogic terms. Trust there are no snags or hypnic jerk moments, just a steady orbit without resolution that leave us floating and strangely calmed.
Ivkovic & Smagghe are bang on the nose with a personal love note to ’90s-‘00s electronica rounding up cheap bin gems from I-F, Cylob, The Back Dog, Funckarma, Seefeel and many more from a hazy, inspirational era
Depending your age and location in the late ‘90s, the terms electronica and IDM probably have shifting meaning to every listener. Vladimir Ivkovic and Ivan Smagghe both worked in record shops during this phase and their proximity to the good stuff is evident across ‘A Future Of Nostalgia’, with 12 tracks that exemplify the cross-section of shoegaze/ambient/acid/electro/breaks which emerged from the more unconventional artists of that pivotal era. Trust it’s not intended as any sort of comprehensive survey, but more a personal mixtape style selection, highlighting classic and rarities they look back upon most fondly, surely turning up more than a few obscurities that will have bypassed even the most ardent connoisseurs and owners of moth eaten Warp t-shirts.
It’s been amusing to see a wave of insatiable all-night (and day) house types digging this sound in recent years, so the timing of ‘A Future of Nostalgia’ could hardly be more apt for anyone diversifying their bonds beyond the usual grooves, just as the original tunes would have appealed to a motley cross-section of, as they put it “pop kids getting through to the dancefloor via Aphex Twin and nerdy house heads dissolving their four to the floor into the futuristic world of Warp compilations” back in the day.
If you’re looking for highlights, tip-of-tongue obscurities such as Zugzwang’s lilting beauty ‘Euphonic’ and Marcia Blaine School For Girls’ folksy whirligig are right up there for the lip-smacking daytime dancers, while Move D and co’s I.F. turn for Fax is tipped for couch-inclined gouch-outs along with Replicant’s kosmiche arp trip ‘Analiz’, Abfahrt Hinwil’s ‘Tech 7’ is prime MDMA trigger material, and Marco Passarani’s ‘Ixora’ flings us right back to far more innocent, wide-eyed times.
Spacious, Pan Sonic-adjacent minimalism on NOTON from Italian producer Saele Valese. Like Sleeparchive or Alva Noto trapped in an abandoned underground factory - a vibe, basically.
If you've ever fancied icy minimal techno at half speed with a bit of gothic horror thrown in, "IVIC" is the album for you. It basically sound slike like a 45RPM Container 12" banged down to 33, with Deathprod slung in and out periodically.
The tracks were written over a five-year period and recorded live to DAT in attempt to sidestep the possibility of revising the final recordings, so everything feels quite tactile, despite it being sparse. The beats are fairly static for the most part, but echo with menace - it almost sounds as if everything was recorded in the hull of a shipping container. Cinematic would be a good descriptor, sure, but really this is a power electronics record with a different soundset...
For the past couple of years the Disciples label has been exploring the early tape archives of Warren Defever aka His Name Is Alive, a wealth of home recordings that he amassed whilst growing up in suburban Michigan, prior to signing to 4AD in the late 1980s.
"These records have charted the development of their sound over 3 roughly chronological volumes - All The Mirrors In The House in 2019, Return To Never in 2020, and we're now bringing the trilogy to a close early in the new year with third and final volume, Hope Is A Candle.
This 4CD boxset that anthologises the whole series. A disc for each album in the trilogy, plus a bonus disc which collects together the best tracks from a series of mail order cassette companion volumes that Defever compiled to go alongside each LP - 6Teen OK, Return Versions and Ghost Tape EXP, and a 36 page book."