Heavy as your life, Kevin Richard Martin yields some of his most potent atmospheric work this side of last year's crushing King Midas Sound album 'Solitude' with an immersive 3hr+ payload of ambient drone meditations on his Intercranial Recordings - the last 3 volumes in this series.
‘Frequencies for Leaving Earth’ have become a reliable source of doomy succour that arguably matched the mood of the times over these past 6 months, finding Kevin Richard Martin effectively conjuring the kind of skin-crawling but opiated ambience that made the King Midas Sound album ’Solitude’ a modern classic. In place of Robinson’s aching voice, Martin’s atmospheres poetically say it all without saying it; deploying his decades of studio-as-instrument expertise in a manner that touches on so many reference points - from BoC to Deathprod, Grouper and Thomas Köner - but infused with his own, enervated but resilient spirit.
With this bumper set of 3 x tapes spanning over 3hrs of music, Martin more than doubles the project’s output and allows ample room for sinking in/synching to the glowering tonal shifts of his take on ambient mood music. For long time followers of Martin’s work, it’s as close as you’ll come to the strung-out feel of his ’90 illbient recordings, buy he here pushes the levels of barely-there sensuality to a sort of starkness and existential torpor that exceed anything in his catalogue.
It’s not all pure gloom, and the magick of Martin’s music lies in the way he can shift from sinking stomach feels to elusive glimmers of optimism, with each of the tape’s half hour sides playing out beautifully subtle tonal gradients that range from tracts of slow moving, shivering dark ambient to more diaphanous ambient noise topographies that each prove a master at work behind the controls.
Magnum opus-weight album from organist and electro-acoustic composer Anna von Hausswolff, debuting on Southern Lord with a masterwork of gothic classical beauty - a must check for fans of Alessandro Cortini, Kali Malone, Kara-Lis Coverdale
‘All Thoughts Fly’ was recorded at Gothenburg’s Örgryte New Church, Gothenburg and is heavily infused with the space’s atmospheric nuance, which only renders the theatric richness of Anna’s compositions at their most sumptuous, billowing and melodramatic. As her 6th album, it’s also her most confident and strikingly original, following the slow steady procession of her sides for Kning Disk, Touch and City Slang with her most sepulchral and steepled refinement of black metal atmospheres and sacred dirges pronounced with an apocalyptic classical grandeur and iconoclastic experimental daring.
“Notes on the recording process: The organ on All Thoughts Fly is situated in Gothenburg and is a Swedish replica of the Arp Schnitger organ in Germany. It is the largest organ tuned in Quarter-comma meantone temperament in the world. With it’s four manuals, one pedal and 54 stops, it was built as part of a ten-year research project reconstructing 17th Century North German organ building craft. The tuning temperament is an important detail to note here, as it deeply affects the sound and tuning, and thus radically changed the process of creating this album. Anna speaks of a pleasant surprise during recording, the organ's ability to create beautiful "pitching" notes through its stops and air supply system. She remarks “We took advantage of this so most of the pitching sounds and notes that you hear on the album comes from the mechanics of this organ, effects made entirely acoustically." The organ was recorded with two room mics for atmosphere and two pairs of close mics placed inside the organ to capture nuances and detail for further organ sound processing by Filip Leyman in his studio.”
Highest grade computer dance music from Kindohm, diffracting aspects of footwork, noise and hyper drill with a proper, warped futurist bent for Prague’s Gin&Platonic - a total must-check for fans of Æ, Mark Fell, Beatrice Dillon, Gábor Lázár, Gooooose.
Chasing up Mike Hodnick aka Kindohm’s superb ‘Meme Booth’ for Conditional - one of 2019’s best - the four tracks of ‘Deserted Reclaimed’ ‘fess up further results of his experiments with live-coding tekkers and the TidalCycles environment (Haskell). To varying degrees, all four cuts are thrillingly gut-wrenching in rhythm and tone, finding the keenest balance of screwface funk and edge-of-sanity psychomimesis, with a tangible, heart-punching soul that often evades the more obtuse IDMers, but Kindohm makes an absolute virtue of here.
The two ‘Deserted’ cuts are the nastiest, bearing his teeth with an acrid alacrity in the gurning atonal lunges and quiescent footwork of the first, and really shredding it up in a snake pit of metallic rhythms and piercing tones in the 2nd. By contrast the others are sweet, with the reticulated pirouettes and plonging tronics of ‘Reclaimed’ coming off like DJ Python coiled up with Autechre, and then the weightless, gyring torque and breathless pads of ‘2’ to leave us reeling in hyperspace.
Effing and blinding essential!
Birmingham’s legendary master of darkness Justin K Broadrick unleashes a tranche of demonic techno doom from his JK Flesh archive
Hospital Productions are being coy with the dates, simply calling them “older tracks”, but the material is grained with a detectably old skool vintage in that cold, brittle, but shatterproof style of Brum’s best, from Regis, Surgeon and Female to Mick Harris and that.
Conjuring the illest tension between dissociated drone atmospheres, skin-crawling textures, and primitivist urgency, they’re all strapped up and ready to boot off in a dark room with your mates, or by yourself for that matter, delivering some right brain rotting bludgeonry in ‘Two Dimensional’ and ‘Dissociation’, plus proper rictus coffin-door-jackers gear with ‘Is This Me’, and the doomcore skullduggery of ‘The Body Is Not Real’.
Dark and heavy nutters; you know what to do.
Includes one solo track by each artist and one collaboration track, as well as two new collaborative edits of salford electronics 'deconstruction' track.
NYC >> Salford connections back in effect on this half hour collaborative session. Head straight for "We Have Come To Bring Rain (Summer Solstice Terror)” a stylistic swerve which is basically the closest Dominick Fernow has come to channelling T++, all tumbling, staccato rhythms that remind us of those killer Dynamo 12”s on Din - properly strong gear.
"Armed Police Guard Revellers At Stonehenge” is more downbeat and moody - a sort of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement via John Carpenter night terror vibe, while the closing two versions of ‘Deconstruction’ are peak time rollers, classic Vatican Shadow style.
Cairo's 3Phaz fires a killer missive for our Documenting Sound series, following his crucial volleys of searing Mahraganat hard drum mutations for Cairo Concepts and 100copies, with appearances alongside Kareem Lotfy, DJ Haram, DJ Plead, EEK, Islam Chipsy and Zuli.
Over the course of 45 minutes 3phaz reconfigures his sound to rudely hypnotic levels that are slower, more screwed, salted with noise to taste. Inspired by themes of “introspection, mundane repetition, anxiety, and uncertainty” the results bristle with a glowering force, screwing electro-chaabi like something from a hazy late ‘90s Houston, while going over-easy on the distortion with an eye-wobbling crunch.
The tape’s title ‘Instant Dry Yeast’ is perhaps a good metaphor for the music’s coarsely ground and fundamental roughness, piling forth drily rising microtonal drones, mechanically reclaimed hardcore techno loops and jiggling chaabi drums that sound like an echo of Muslimgauze finally allowed to escape a battered FX unit, tipping the scales between militant snare rolls, dread bass and trippy tonal abstractions that recall adjacent actions from DJ Plead, 33EMYBW or Nazar, as much as the likes of 1127, Ain or Arca.
Qoso aligns your chakras with a killer half hour collage of tripped out dance music and downbeats spliced with self-help tutorials and new age simulacra.
Working somewhere in between the self-contained, mutant worlds of Krikor and Low Jack, fellow French producer Qoso shows a canny sleight of hand in his abstract narrative transitions between rugged rhythms and immersive atmospheres, presenting a rawly refined image of the styles on his last album ‘Printemps-été’ following the experimental techno blatz of last years 12” for TTT.
Strafing from ambient pads to fusions of footwork and daft YouTubers, lushly screwed jungle and Discovery Channel ephemera, it’s got a sort of modern day pulpy Quantum Leap quality to the timeline jump-cuts and more smudged vaporwavey passages, eventually fading into the sort of late ‘90s hiphop and warped-lense, mushie blue electronica referenced by DJ Python or Special Guest DJ/uon.
Laila Sakini dials in a deliciously mysterious round of smudged trip hop and spiritual jazz urges for our latest Documenting Sound edition. It's a properly yearning, nostalgic trip; sort of Blue Lines meets Laurie Anderson & Peter Gabriel’s future fantasies, and we're obsessed with it.
Like previous series contributor Jonnine, Sakini hails from the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne, where she wrote ‘Strada’ - an absorbing session of blunted loops and smeared samples naturally inspired by a DIY set-up and an understandable, unfulfilled urge to play - and be - outside.
Drawing on what’s to hand - Bass Clarinet, Saxophone, her brothers borrowed guitar and a bank of samples - Sakini channels her curfewed frustrations and a heavy sense of the blooz into a ruggedly hypnotic and lucid suite of tracks that ultimately helped her assuage a lockdown-induced malaise, offering up the resultant sensory properties for you, too.
Like many of us pushed to reflect on life during this cursed year, nostalgia seems to be a symptom we’re all prone to and which oozes out of ‘Strada’, providing a tangible sense of lust and memories shared (by coincidence or design) with fellow Australians Jonnine/HTRK and CS + Kreme. From the nightfall of chamber trip hop in ‘La Macchina (The Car Drive)’ to the weightless Blade Runner rave scene hallucination of ‘Fiorucci’, and the ponderous bassline of ‘Stephens Secret’, Laila totally taps into that vein of strung out Antipodean soul that we love so much, and could hardly be better summed up in the starry-eyed gaze of ‘Towards The Opaline Sky’.
If you’ve been privy to Laila’s ace ‘Figures’ tape with Lucy Van, or the eye watering ‘Vivienne’ LP earlier this year, expect similarly seductive work, edged with a poppier, closer-to-home feel and ultimately, heavier hit.
Manchester & UK club institution Swing Ting cap a decade of productions and parties with super sweet debut album ‘100 Dances’ - titled after their admirable tally of raves around the city since 2009.
Fronted by hyper-connector Balraj Samrai and accomplice Ruben Platt, the Swing Ting family spans vocalists, producers, toasters and DJs, many of whom appear in some form on ‘100 Dances’. Taking in early doors warm-up vibes, thru to peaktime steppers, all in the bright and never-aggy style they’ve made their own, the album speaks directly to the good times vibe that Swing Ting cultivated in every aspect of their output, always prizing positivity over nastiness (although their dances weren’t shy of rowdiness, now and then). It’s a dead sweet send off to one period in their rule, distilling the vibe to preserve it for future consumption.
Save for the blissed titular opener, it’s an entirely vocal-led affair, much like their dances. Trusty host Fox graces the ‘90s R&B hustle of ‘Coming Through’ alongside Evabee and [ K S R ], and Equiknoxx’s Shanique Marie lights up the head high bashment closer, ‘Give Thanks’, while Manchester legend Trigga voices the ruder bubble of ‘Swagger’, and Midlands don RTKal shares the mic with Poppy Roberts’ Lovescene on the romantic flex of ‘Feel It’. But perhaps our favourites are the low key burn of ‘Drama’ featuring near-ASMR levels of soulful chills from Thai-Chi Rose’s, or the exceedingly deft touch of ‘Like You Know’ with Dublin’s Gemma Dunleavy.
Since they started up in a sweaty basement in 2008, and nearly ended this writer’s days with a toppling speaker cab in a Chinese karaoke bar in 2009, Swing Ting have long held an admirable line between Manchester’s UK urban heritage and and up-to-the-second waves from Africa, the Caribbean, and the US in a way that’s entirely, humbly inclusive, not exclusive: a lesson that can be learned by too many new promoters who take, take, take and rarely give back as much as these guys.
A seriously deep and heavy mix of ’96-’98 techstep meticulously sequenced and blended by Logos to cover the key strain of D&B at its late ‘90s zenith.
Following Raime’s mission deep in the jungle on ‘If This Is A Dream I Don’t Ever Want Wake Up’ earlier this year, Logos shifts the ‘nuum-bar to ’96-’98 for 90 minutes of the tightest, nastiest techstep by key architects of the style which dominated the best UK raves around 20 years ago. This sound is a proper formative touchstone for us so the DJ had to be totally on it: Logos was a natural selection - we’ve heard him rinse this sound out before and it’s very clear to hear techstep is a strong influence on his productions - but even still, his mix has knocked it clean out of the warehouse.
From the era of computer virus to the age of corona virus, OG late ‘90s Techstep appeal has only gained with age like the best vintage, and Logos’ Reel Torque Vol. 19 is a masterclass in the style: perfectly pressure gauged and methodically laid out in a way that highlights how its unparalleled mix of High Black Secret Technology, rave art and autist engineering physics laid the template for so much technoid, syncopated UK body music in its wake; from El-B’s dark garage experiments to proto-dubstep, thru a whole wave of new D&B disciples and mutants such as Pessimist or AYA, to the rolling industrial tekkers of Regis, and on an international scale from T++ to Peder Mannerfelt, and the rollicking experiments of Slikback and 33EMYBW.
Trust this mix is the absolute lick, serving the choice cuts of this era with nano-tight mixing and pacing that properly does them justice placing them in ideal context primed for home raving workouts in lieu of a club or warehouse for the foreseeable.
Polish sisters Mentos Gulgendo channel a mix of Diamanda Galas and someone undergoing spirit possession during the Middle Ages, cocking a snook at more po-faced organ music with 6 tracks of absurd, nagging, devilish rhythms and piercing tones for Slip. Mad and v good this.
Using the Unitra Estrada 207 AR organ, which appears to be popular in, or at least native to, Poland, as well as their own voices the pair fit in well with the spectrum of neuro-diverse sounds found on Slip, the UK’s bastion and safe house for modern avant outliers.
To avoid confusion, which is likely with this one, the sisters state: “Mentos Gulgendo shares its name with a fictional philosopher and author of the “harmless lunatics” theory, which states our universe has been created by the representatives of the cosmic madhouse. The madhouse’s representatives used the finest and most subtle electromagnetic waves to weave a field of transcendental beauty penetrating the structure of each other. The field expanded, invading the solid structures of rationality and therefore transforming the traditional form of identity into a liquid, unsustainable fat.”
If we’re to make any sense of it for you, the music resembles the more psychotomimetic ends of Paul DeMarinis and Carl Stone, only slanted with a more penetrative, animystic power that may send you fleeing or loopy in ‘Gromokulis’, while the avant-operatic-folk miniature ‘Usoronka’ only intensifies matters, beside the alien morse chatter of ‘Gila’ and pickled pirouettes of ‘Bariszbatu’ in a way that you won’t find on 99.99% of the organ music in circulation right now.
Killer mixtape from 67’s DJ and UK drill don Bempah, supplying up-to-the-second selections for Felix Hall’s Chrome label following the label’s 7” reissue of Edison Electric’s hugely influential Acid Hall productions.
Repping for South London, Bempah is the DJ for UK drill pioneers 67, and his monthly NTS show Scary Things regularly ranks amongst the station’s most popular programmes. While UK drill first emerged in the mid ’10s as Albion’s offshoot of the Southside Chicago style coined by Chief Keef and Yung Chop at the start of the last decade, its London cousin has evolved into a closely related but distinct genre of its own in recent years. It’s the real sound of the roads, reclaiming the idea of “UK rap” from dodgy 8 Mile style ciphers and stodgy beats to a formula of razor sharp rhythms, glyding bass, and bars about gully life in London that (perhaps predictably) have parts of the mainstream UK media clutching their handbags in horror, while the wider music media have typically been caught napping on one of theee major movements of the last few years.
Bempah’s ‘Drill Mix Vol.1’ arrives in a long tradition of dialogue between US and UK rap, with the original American style now evolving in its UK translation with traces of grime and Afrobeats, leading its London-accented spin to be adopted by the likes of Pop Smoke (R.I.P.) and to lesser/greater extents Drake. Bempah’s exclusive picks and fluid mixing prove why he’s a crucial catalyst in the scene; sequencing both UK and US voices and toggling the pressure gauge from industrialized to spaced-out and paranoia, skulking vibes surely familiar to anyone who lives in UK inner cities, or the scene’s ever growing number of online observers. With drill already infiltrating the charts as major labels scramble to get a piece of the pie, trust this tape is full of the prime, uncut crud you won’t hear on commercial radio any time soon. Fair to say that UK drill could hardly be a more apt, unflinching soundtrack to the pure worries of modern life.
The time had come, Angel Olsen realized in the fading summer of 2018, to take her new songs out of the house. Olsen’s 2016 marvel, My Woman, had been a career breakthrough, but it catalyzed a period of personal tumult, too: a painful breakup, an uneasy recovery, an inadequate reckoning.
"At home in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Olsen penned songs that finally grappled with these troubles, particularly love—how forever is too much to promise, how relationships can lock us into static versions of ourselves, how you can go through hell just to make someone else happy. These heartsore explorations shape Whole New Mess, Olsen’s first solo album since her 2012 debut and an emotional portrait so intimate and vulnerable you can hear her find meaning in these crises in real-time.
At least nine of the eleven songs on Whole New Mess should sound familiar to anyone who has heard All Mirrors, Olsen’s grand 2019 masterpiece that earned high honors on prestigious year-end lists and glossy spreads in stylish magazines. “Lark,” “Summer,” “Chance”—they are all here, at least in some skeletal form and with slightly different titles. But these are not the demos for All Mirrors. Instead, Whole New Mess is its own record with its own immovable mood, with Olsen working through her open wounds and raw nerves with just a few guitars and some microphones, isolated in a century-old church in the Pacific Northwest. If the lavish orchestral arrangements and cinematic scope of All Mirrors are the sound of Olsen preparing her scars for the wider world to see, Whole New Mess is the sound of her first figuring out their shape, making sense for herself of these injuries.
Considered alongside All Mirrors, Whole New Mess is a poignant and pointed reminder that songs are more than mere collections of words, chords, and even melodies. They are webs of moods and moments and ideas, qualities that can change from one month to the next and can say just as much as the perfect progression or an exquisite chord. In that sense, these 11 songs—solitary, frank, and unflinching examinations of what it’s like to love, lose, and survive—are entirely new. This is the sound of Angel Olsen, sorting through the kind of trouble we’ve all known, as if just for herself and whoever else needs it."
Laura Cannell makes a remarkable debut appearance as Hunteress with a suite of synth-pop, moonlit torchsongs and kosmische folk-pop chorales recorded at home in Suffolk, England, where she swapped her typical recorder and violin in favour of synths and vocals for a stunning, properly surprising entry to our Documenting Sound series. If yr feeling anything from Nite Jewel to Chromatics, Teresa Winter to Julia Holter, this one's for you.
Best known as a freely improvising instrumentalist, Laura’s work - both solo and in collaboration with everyone from Rhodri Davies to Mark Fell and Polly Wright - is a regular source of wonder to our ears. Her 2019 album with Polly Wright, ’Sing As The Crow Flies’ was one of that year’s most charming discoveries, introducing Laura’s vocals for the first time in a suite of duets that channelled lost and forgotten voices of women from Norfolk’s rural sprawl and historic marshlands. Now recording as Hunteress, Laura’s vocals really come into their own on ‘The Unshackling’, playing off and around a newfound electronic palette that uncompromisingly expresses her sense of the ancient and arcane in a plaintive yet life-affirming and present manner that’s key to her music’s unique appeal.
Inspired by her nascent singing exercises in an Essex church with her friend, journalist and broadcaster Jennifer Lucy Allan, and further galvanised by her experience working with Polly Wright, Laura’s voice blossoms in remarkable and unpredictable ways across the 10 songs of ‘The Unshackling’. As fate would have it, we catch Laura at a real turning point, taking our commission to document her thoughts and feelings as the cue to conjure a mix of quietly spellbinding slow synth dervishes and achingly raw, crepuscular hymns.
Interwoven with perfectly unpolished moments of panoramic beauty and a penetratively dark sense of mystery, the results are, we’re sure many of you will agree, pretty breathtaking - a rare source of heartfelt spiritual succour in these times.
Ooooosh! Pirate radio recordings made in Bristol between the late ‘80s to early ‘00s - the latest tape from Death Is Not The End, issued as part of the cherry-picked Blowing Up The Workshop series. It's a fucking goodun..
Celebrated for their archival dives into historic musical blindspots of the past 100 years, Death Is Not The End this time focus closer to home (and within our lifetimes) with what they describe as "A trip across the frequencies of Bristol's pirate radio stations via cut-ups of broadcasts, taken from the late 1980s to the early 2000s ~ also a love-letter to my childhood, an audio document of the years I spent growing up in the city.”
Traversing the dial from raucous soundclash recordings to Blues Dance soul, and taking in mighty blasts of jungle, wafts of warbling Indian music, and, of course, a f*ckload of dub and dancehall, its all spliced with a mix of heartrendingly sweet and hilarious radio phone ins and jingles = supremely heavy vibes.
Regis and Ann Margaret Hogan channel the weight of the world in a gorgeous and multi-layered salon suite made with electronics, Wurlitzer organ, shortwave radio signals, bells and Hogan’s baby grand Piano, recorded earlier this year for our Documenting Sound series.
The exquisite misery of ‘Reversing Into Tomorrow’ proceeds with quietly heart clutching keys, organ and bleary atmospheric ennui dialled in from Karl O’Connor and Annie Hogan’s respective homes in the Wirral and London. Regis, always a way with words, looks at this time period this way "I’m at my mom’s, drinking all day and on the Dole… it’s 1986 all over again”. It’s droll, but the music here is anything but - there’s an underlying hope to the wandering wistfulness and obtuse angles we're thrown into.
Worthy of both Karl and Annie's repertoire - having worked with everyone from Nick Cave and Marc Almond to Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Four, Lydia Lunch and Deux Filles over a stellar 40 year arc - ‘Reversing Into Tomorrow’ witnesses Annie's Kawai baby grand, ‘60s Wurlwitzer organ, Glockenspiel and bells coalesce with the subtle presence of Karl’s grouchy and impending atmospheres. Unfurling at a conversational pace that’s prone to erupt with strong feelings, the pair keep the vibe skilfully tempered via a timeless choice of weaponry, which places their work in a sort of perpetual interzone of sozzled melancholy with a strong sense of the unreal.
After blink ’n miss drops by Jonnine and D.K, Good Morning Tapes pulse out a hypnotic mixtape throwback to late ‘80s Goa via Belgium and the Balearics from Full Circle; the edit-based lark from French producers Alexis Le-Tan and Joakim.
Just like Vladimir Ivkovic, this lot play Goa trance at 33-not-45rpm (hence their recent 12" for Ivkovic's Offen label) - and that trick has spiralled into an ace string of 12” edits and now this fully fledged mixtape of screwed early trance and churning ambient dub grooves. Spotters will have a lot of fun pitch-correcting the cuts in their head to work out the ID’s, but if you’re not a pedant then just let yrself be swept up in Full Circle’s humid, sticky flow, which provides an escape route for all disco sloths who’ve grown bored of boogie edits, and a very tasty proposition for original trance dancers without the legs for 140bpm+.
For 82 minutes let Full Circle be your shamans for a sand-trampling trip flowing from glistening acid dub to slurred early trance, hazy wafts of stadium-sized dance pop and prayers to the chill out room gods sequenced to a sort of tantric gurner’s perfection.
Far reaching comp/collage/mixtape featuring over 100 minutes of previously unheard material from the extended Ecstatic family including Jay Glass Dubs, Dean Hurley, Abul Mogard, Maxwell Streling, The Head Technician aka Pye Corner Audio, Maria Spivak, Serpente, Not Waving and many others, including some unknown/anonymous contributions from the far side.
’Zero Is More Than Nothing’ was conceived by Ecstatic as a communal project to alleviate the looming depression triggered by events this year. In response to a request to make a tune in less than a week, his mates - and their mates - supplied a spectrum of haunting, restless, and heart-punching compositions that perhaps live up to the maxim that times of crisis precipitate vital art, resulting in a properly engrossing cross-section of emotional electronic music in the wide-reaching aesthetic that Ecstatic have made their own in recent years.
From Not Waving’s own cosmic synth thought bubbles to Lynch collaborator Dean Hurley’s ‘80s atmospheric builders, the Coil-esque chamber string arrangements of Maxwell Sterling and Ecstatic co-founder Sam Willis’ Primitive World, the compilation is mixed with seamless finesse in the style of a crafty story-telling, peaking the contrasts and mutual conclusions between myriad tales from the twilight zone.
Practically the whole label roster are involved, both offering material and roping pals into the fray, which explains the welcome appearances of Violeta Azevedo, Felisha Ledesma & Angelo Harmsworth, Functionário and Elle a.o., alongside regular aces such as Novo Line and Head Technician (Pye Corner Audio) up in it, with a murmurating energy swaying between introspective, astral-minded and by the end a more searing selection that gives way to ambient stasis in a knowing metaphor for our collective states of mind this year.
Feelings are empathetically high on this one.
Lynch protégé and Twin Peaks sound designer Dean Hurley coaxes an incredible puzzlebox of atmospheres and mood pieces in a killer contribution to our Documenting Sound series, perhaps its most cinematic and neon-lit instalment thus far. It sounds like a smudged and overdubbed copy of the BoC Maxima tape, with added iridescence.
Across almost 40 minutes we transition from aerosolised synths to romantic chromatics, thru to NWW-style severed rhythms and fading glimmers of hope, ‘Concrete Feather’ epitomises Hurley’s prized knack for nuanced instrumental story-telling in the finest and most engrossing style we could imagine. Against the backdrop of the Hollywood film industry that has primed us for as long as we can all remember, the music spans a panorama of lush, mirage-like choral pads and starry flickers thru to gloaming nightmare sequences and screwed drums, while touching on some of the dankest synth tones this side of his ‘Anthology Resource’ volumes or indeed his soundtrack work for Twin Peaks: The Return. It’s full of dread and a slowly unfolding sense of tragedy.
“Having a regular practice of recording is probably the single most important element to my craft. It’s a way of dropping indiscriminate mile markers while constantly moving forward in time without ability to pause. Over the years, working for David Lynch taught me a great deal about this and the concept and importance of experimentation. I’ve found myself clinging to those lessons during this time and using them as tools for both productivity and balance. His notion of experimentation is a simple one, yet incredibly profound. It was one of the very first words I heard him say during our initial meeting, and I never stopped hearing the term daily over the subsequent 13 years working together. An ‘experiment’ can provide a legitimate mental back-entrance into the act of creation. It can position an approach toward discovery as opposed to effort, and eliminate the thought that one needs to ‘will’ something into existence. It also aids in calming the judgmental side of a brain from stepping on/interfering with expression…after all, experiments are not about success or failure, they’re simply about learning. In the Lynch school of thought, multiple experiments then become firewood…and with firewood, one can not only build but actually sustain a fire…even turn it into a multiple-acre blaze or more.
The practice of daily experimentation really creates your own dictionary of sounds and ideas. In a sense you’re always documenting the time you’re moving through, so when you reach for raw material to make something larger, it’s deeply reflective of where you’ve been, what you’ve been through and who you are. Recorded sound to me is a lot like growth rings in a tree: it is residual moments in time etched onto a medium. As soon as that distinct moment has passed, it’s recording exists as a partial reflection to learn from. This current moment in time will be an interesting one to look back upon. For me, it has no doubt been this craft of practice that has provided the anchor.”
Dean Hurley, Spring 2020
Akira Rabelais revels in confusion and introspection through a bizarre, brilliant, hour-long transition from shredded rap to room recordings, spoken word and solemn ambient stasis, recorded at home in Chicago for our Documenting Sound series and throwing us through a hyperreal wormhole.
Rabelais’ Argeïphontes Lyre software (also used by Terre Thaemlitz, Biosphere and others) has long created an elevated sense of mystery to much of his work - from his incredible re-contextualisation of Hildegard von Bingen’s 12th century mysticism on Spellewauerynsherde, to a classic re-imagining of Harold Budd’s ‘Avalon Sutra’ commissioned by David Sylvian for his Samadhisound label back in 2004. For ‘Context In The Moment’, however, the mood is altogether more humid and slippery.
Initially erupting in fractal rash of grime, rap, club and soul cuts that sound like browser tabs bleeding into one, the mood soon settles into a more curious, cryptically unsettling vibe with wafts of piano drifting up from the street haze into an audiobook reading of Borges’ magic realist classic The Library of Babel intermingling with sounds wafting into Rabelais’ world; life, slowed down.
The b-side is an altogether different beast, throwing us into the Hollywood Hills, all under-the-surface tension and barely-there atmospherics in a simmering, Lynchian vein that could also be a Burial piece slowed 900% with its scattered, sleepy strings and dispossessed strums. The outside world ceases to exist, instead the gaze turns inwards; transfixed on stillness and the sudden flash of the unknown.
No doubt about it, 2020 has produced the strangest vintage.
The second volume of Kevin Martin's 'Frequencies for Leaving Earth’ series is a 10 track / 50 minute ascent into airless frequencies written for mellotron and sub bass and making repeated use of Shepard tones for an elevated sense of weightlessness and disorientation. The Tarkovsky references are even more apt for this one, highly recommended for Solaris/Stalker freaks as well as anyone into the music of Iancu Dumitrescu, Ligeti or Harry Bertoia’s sculptural Sonambience.
Martin’s credentials go far beyond his best known work as The Bug, his discography extends deep into myriad projects and collaborations that date as far back as the late 80’s, he’s been a player, a writer, a compiler and a vocal enthusiast for a vast array of genres and underground movements for as long as we can remember, and his intersection with what’s now lazily termed ‘Ambient’ dates at least as far as his work with Experimental Audio Research, on the mighty (and still, somehow, little known) 'The Köner Experiment’ in 1997.
'Frequencies for Leaving Earth Vol? ?2’ follows the pulsing, slo-mo pacing of the first with a more petrified formation, rendered in monochromatic shades that are austere and discomforting. Martin references Techno Animal’s ‘Re-entry’ as a direct antecedent, as well as his full length ’Sirens’ which was released on Lawrence English Room40 label last year - both in the vein of ambient detachment Martin is fast becoming known for, although for our money you can easily imagine Roger Robinson’s instantly recognisable drawl riding over 'Escape Velocity’, making us think of King Midas Sound’s peerlessly creepy ‘Solitude’.
Sean Canty and Andy Votel explore new territory within the realms of broken music, mechanical composition, spoken-word and noise collage with the help of multi disciplinary artist and longtime cohort Rick Myers, feeding Pre-Cert's gothic ambience into more unnerving corridors. We’re very here for it.
Myers is Votel's longest running collaborator (and co-author of his very first releases in the mid-90’s) and alongside Sean Canty the trio find a genuine and naturalistic plain to create some of the collective's most bizarre and beautiful installations yet. Devised fast and loose via cassette overdubs between Manchester and Massachusetts, and further expanding the syncopated vocal work found in Myers' very limited "Obstacle #69: Sentences In A Magnetic Field" from 2019, the two longform pieces that make-up this release are narrated by Myers in a way that sounds like a forlorn John Cooper Clarke riding some abstracted, unheard and unfathomable b-cinematic sound design.
Inspiring an ongoing practice of automatic non-musical sound composition while drawing long term influences from lesser known sound-art projects, such as Milan Grygar's Acoustic Drawings in Prague or Hungarian sound poet Katalin Ladik, and Swiss-German mainstay Dieter Roth, this first soundset reduces the trios reactions with dense and elongated results, piloting this ongoing series under the name HUMAN ENGINEERING. This limited cassette release, housed in artwork based on Myers personal work, proceeds an upcoming vinyl project under the same name, while providing a welcome addition to each members catalogue via Pre-Cert, Popular Mechanics, Demdike Stare, Cacophonic and Rick's own printed work for Primary Information in America, Neives in Zurich and his own Northampton MA based Editions Muta forgery.
All out styles-upon-styles from Tom Boogizm, running 3hrs from Greek concrète to road rap, digi dub and shite that’s yet to be named, on the latest Shotta shot.
Meter-oblivious and mad in the head, ‘Devil on the Cross’ follows Boogizm’s rags around South African house, UK drill, and dancehall with a far more open agenda this time. Titled after his favourite book - by Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo, who wrote it on toilet tish in prison and published when he got out - ‘Devil on the cross’ was recorded during the tribulations of lockdown to lay out a sprawling, polytonal and multi-metric mix mapping the breadth of Boogizm’s collection.
Expect to hear everything from serpentine drums to obscure ’80s Greek concrète, oblique grime, new age nose flutes, mystic synth dissonance and up-to-the-second rave bullets from each corner of the globe, all put together with punkish hyperactivity and attention to detail in-the-mix. Ya know what we’re on about if any of Tom’s previous tapes sit on your shelf.
Félicia Atkinson synchs her feelings into a watercolour suite of solo keys, voice and field recordings on her gorgeous recording for our Documenting Sound series, 40 minutes of new music that we wager will take your breath away.
Félicia was undertaking an artistic residency in La Becque when the plague took hold in Europe at the start of 2020. Stationed with her husband and young child in the small artistic community near Geneva, she wrote us this “imaginary garden” of music dedicated to anyone in pain or isolation. The result is a ponderous mix of slow but searching keys, windswept sax, room recordings (you can hear every creak of Félicia’s chair, her breath on the microphone, birds outside) and sensitively detached but intimate electronic touches that she intended to mirror the solace she came to find and provide a place for reflection for anyone in need. Hands up most of us, then?!
A defining feature of Félicia’s music is a sense of liminality - of existing between worlds - and this is quite apparent on ‘Echo’. Working from a wooden chalet surrounded by gardens, and particularly one inspired by Derek Jarman’s in Dungeness (created in the years after he learned he had AIDS), Félicia acts as a transducer for quiet energies and the worries of a world where, as she puts it; “basic things… suddenly seemed so crucial and vast; health, disease, plants, nature, solitude, family, people, fear, calm….”.
Across six pieces spanning almost 40 minutes, Félicia describes a slow but fleeting passage of time between pruned pieces of sound poetry, uncanny concrete abstractions and broader parts of ambient jazz that recall the vulnerability and fragility of Terre Thaemlitz’s solo piano expressions with her own sort of tactility and blurry ambiguity, especially the 13 minute ‘Lillies’.
It’s a proper salve for the soul, we tell ya, a beautiful distraction from the incessant oddness out there
Almost an hour of heart-stopping location recordings made by Lawrence English in Queensland, Australia in the aftermath of a summer of intense bushfires and just as the lockdown started to re-shape lives globally earlier this year. These are technically brilliant and emotionally pregnant recordings from “The Zone”, a place we find ourselves in right now, where we just might still have time to reshape the world around us if we pause to acknowledge and address our own actions.
“Sometimes, we need to stop (everything) if we are going to start to realise new ways of being in this world. Field Recordings from The Zone is a contemplation of this proposition. The title is a nod to the speculative fiction of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky; their text a perfect parallel to appreciate the uncertainties of what may lie ahead. It is also a study of the world in these moments of radical public action. The work seeks to recognise that to take our acquired methodologies, knowledge and habituated lives forward without examination reduces the possible futures that splinter infinitely before us.
We are already in The Zone even if we refuse (or fail) to recognise it. It is a place that bares marks of familiarity but maintains a restless psychogeography that can shift without warning. Ecopolitical terraforming becomes ever more plausible. The unknown (and in some cases the unknowable) haunt this place like ecstatic spectres, inviting our investigation, our curiosity and ultimately demanding our intellect. These months have been just a glimpse of the relentless dynamism that will be our lives going forward into the next millennium. This dynamism requires radical positions of thought, of generosity, of optimism and of course, radical listening, as the world’s whispers rise in amplitude.
P.S. (June 2020) And then, it was from this quiet that so many voices rose up in unison, calling together to work against systematic racism in our respective countries. If ever a sound could be as beautifully compelling as the quiet, then surely this harmonised unity is it."
Lawrence English, 2020
Kevin Martin mints his new Intercranial Recordings label with the first volume in the 'Frequencies for Leaving Earth' trilogy, now available on a limited tape run after first appearing on download formats earlier this summer. These are ice cold and precise exercises in minimalism, adapting the tempo and aesthetic of doom metal but with an electronic palette that’s both tripped-out and isolated, highly recommended if yr into Tarkovsky, Thomas Köner, Tod Dockstader, GAS.
Martin’s credentials go far beyond his best known work as The Bug, his discography extends deep into myriad projects and collaborations that date as far back as the late 80’s, he’s been a player, a writer, a compiler and a vocal enthusiast for a vast array of genres and underground movements for as long as we can remember, and his intersection with what’s now lazily termed ‘Ambient’ dates at least as far as his work with Experimental Audio Research, on the mighty (and still, somehow, little known) 'The Köner Experiment’ in 1997.
'Frequencies for Leaving Earth Vol? ?1’ pursues the kind of minimalism that we find most rewarding; there are no new age tropes or environmental recordings anywhere to be seen - instead it’s all cold tones and pulsing subs worthy of the Eduard Artemyev comparisons. Martin describes these pieces as sounding like "extremely slo-mo jazz” which is astute - the pace and progression here could almost be Bohren & der Club of Gore stripped of brass and rhythm, just leaving a drone, strobes and smoke - exactly our kinda scene.
It’s a proper madness this one, a fantasy travelogue stitching home recordings, spoken word and dismantled tunes like some hallucinogenic mixtape; part audio diary, part YouTube session taking in fairytale folk musics, iMessage notifications and gothic horror that will make you question... stuff. It's the sound of Mark Leckey at home on May 19th 2020, and it’s f#cking ace. He’s a Turner prize winner tho, what did u expect?
So yeah. probably best to approach this one cold. Except for maybe this:
"In the Age before These Times I’d been reading lots of folklore about Fairies, and Changelings and the like. At the same time I’d watch all these shows with my young daughter which revolved around magic and myth: enchanted realms, unicorns, mermaids, trolls etc. That I could instantaneously conjure up these shows on various devices made them appear even more magical. In my head these two worlds began to converge; the contemporary magic of consumerism, embodied within a rainbow unicorn, and an older mindset that could transact between the mundane and the supernatural. When the lockdown began this sense of the modern and medieval co-existing grew and grew, along with the belief that all the streaming services served as a protective magic from the encroaching dark age.
Come the pestilence I had the kids, online magic and a hard drive full of stuff I’d collected for O Magic Power of Bleakness, things that I wanted to emulate, that sonically suggested the sensations I was looking for, sounds and music that evoked Childhood and Consumerism, Fairies and Trauma, Hauntings and Concrete. More than these concepts though what I really I wanted was it to sound like someone totally lost and confused with the ongoing mystification of reality. An actuality where a Great Worm could reasonably appear on my news feed app as the Moon turns to Iron.
We draw the magic cap down over eyes and ears as a make-believe there are no monsters. KARL MARX"
Mark Leckey, May 2020
Absorbingly intriguing album of avant-electronics, from pop to computer music - really strong Mondoj this one.
“more eaze is the nom de plume of Austin, TX mainstay mari maurice, a roving experimentalist who’s explored an astoundingly diverse range of sounds, from drone and computer music to avant-pop and beyond. claire rousay is a San Antonio, TX-based percussionist/composer/sound artist who uses physical objects and their potential sounds as a way to explore queerness, human physicality, and self perception. Together—through a suite of deeply personal aural collages—two of Texas’ most vital and vibrant sonic searchers beg the eternal question: If I Don't Let Myself Be Happy Now Then When?
Although only their debut album together, If I Don’t Let Myself… reveals a profound and fruitful relationship between mari and claire. But the symphonic symbiosis goes even deeper still. Outside of musical breakthroughs, the pair helped each other conquer intensely personal changes, with both mari and claire transitioning and coming out as trans.
As mari explains, “to me this record is very much about this process of becoming—trying to reach something and getting there but sometimes not being quite where you want to be but at least getting closer. It’s about feeling alternately empowered and insecure socially as you transition and trying to cope with these conflicting emotions.”
Musically, the album showcases startlingly sincere sets of serrated but sedative situational music. A-side epic “Drunk” is a sprawling but taut rove of aural duality. Passages of exquisite elegance subtly clash with shimmering shards of sound. “Pre-op” is a poised and pensive piece of solemn reflection, harrowingly honest and delivered with clarity and composure, while “Post-op” closes out the set in a wholly uplifting and optimistic flair.
If I Don't Let Myself Be Happy Now Then When? is ultimately about coping during the respective transitioning phase in both of their lives, obliquely blissful and fraught with freedom.”
Utterly absorbing new tape from Berlin’s Perila (aka artist, DJ, and radio.syg.ma co-founder Sasha Zakharenko) for LA’s Motion Ward, following the psychosexual intimacy of her exceptional 2019 debut for sferic and a cassette with TTT.
Lodging alongside uon and Brown Irvin on the Cali imprint, ‘Rust 22’ imparts its message by atmospheric inference rather than the more literal grip evoked by Nat Marcus and Inger Wold Lund’s vocals in Perila’s previous side, ‘Irer Dent’, which was surely among the most memorable of 2019. Save for some extra subtle, glossolalic murmurs, the session focusses on the Berlin-based Russian artist’s gift for conjuring a sense of ambient modernism that’s clearly steeped in classic vibes, yet doesn’t feel beholden to them, and neatly identifies her music amid a growing and boundary-shifting new field of atmospheric music operators.
The tape presents a 21 minute blissed smudge backed with a trio of studio cuts that share a feel a similar feel for sylvan synth strokes and hallucinogenic depth perception. That long cut is a reel beauty, conducting a subliminal transition from blue, subaquatic tones to shimmering chimes and a siltier sort of submariner’s melancholy, before concluding with an optimistic flourish in ‘Ripple22’. Her other three cuts, meanwhile, seep out of the edges to occupy a fuller soundfield, beautifully massaging tranquil new age influences with a more uncertain, underlying, textural anxiety in ‘Transient’, while ‘Distant’ sounds as though she’s turned location recordings of a metalworks into soft focus lushness, and the bass rhythms of ‘Perpetual’ move ever forward with a physics-defying dreaminess that’s hard to describe but a total pleasure to undergo.
We hardly need to emphasise it but this one’s a doozy.
Talk about cashing in eh? lol. Death Is Not The End celebrate our impending apocalypse in style with this properly life-affirming collection of 1930s to ’50s Greek Rebetika. Life-affirming cos it speaks to the daily trials and tribulations and heartache that are more or less on pause right now - so we’re living vicariously through it, and it’s making everything seem normal for a minute. Anyway, proper boss this one.
Greek Rebetika is an often dark, melancholy style of folk/pop music that spread from the docks of Athens to a Greek diaspora across the world in the early 20th century. As the label correctly classify, these “songs of sorrow, poverty, loss and general end of this god forsaken planet” still resonate nearly a 100 years later due to their relative simplicity, which has future proofed their melodies and unmistakeable feel for generations to come.
The famous Markos Vamvakaris appears on this set with the sarkily jolly but exasperated sound of ‘Those Who Are Rich’, and Stelios Kazantzidis contributes two highlights with the lamenting cadence of ‘Bleed Bleed’ and ‘The Leaves Fall From Branches’, while we’re also rapt with the pipes of Yiota Lydia’s ‘Badworld’, the coy strings of ‘I Want to Enjoy the World’ by Elli Sofroniou, and the ventricle-jangling riffs of ‘I Ached in My Heart’ by Marika Ninou.
Absolutely fire showcase of St. Lucia’s Kuduro Soca or “Dennery Segment” sound, a local style notorious for slack lyrics and its hi-NRG pace, here served up spicy as fuck by one of the Caribbean island’s premiere DJs for Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Tapes.
Packing pure heat from the town of Dennery in St. Lucia’s Mabouya Valley, DJ Chengz’ mixtape extends an unmissable introduction to Dennery Segment, a fast and grimy offshoot of the Angola “Hard ass” style of Kuduro that’s been banned in the region for its blend of salacious lyrics and rave-inciting rhythms. Also incorporating strong influence from Zouk and Lucian drums, Dennery Segment is a super strong example of punkishly road level party music from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora that highlights the pronounced, technoid Portuguese accent dominating global dancefloor dialogues right now.
Catching 67’ of rudely stripped down drum loops and hooks locked with MCs chatting sexually charged filth in Kwéyòl (Saint Lucian Creole), the mix arguably recalls the energy of Carnival as much as the grime and Soca that went into UKF, and bristles with the electric rawness of early Marfox and classic Príncipe. But the defining feature is really the raunchy lyrical content, working in a long tradition of XXX-rated Soca styles but with a bang up-to-the-second sense of economy and directness touching on everything from alcohol problems to “Sex like spaghetti”, and galvanised by the jabbing, gruffly rhythmelodic urgency of the productions.
Little known beyond the region, perhaps aside from diaspora carnivals in US and EU, the infectious percolations of Dennery Segment are bound to incite fervent reactions with all discerning dancers and listeners who love it as rugged and rawly stylish as it comes. DJ Chengz’ expertly selected and blended mixtape is the ideal entry point to Kuduro’s latest mutation for anyone with hips and ears attuned to thrilling new music from the tropics.
Following the remarkable gothic pop excavations of her recent ‘Birthmarks’ album, Hilary Woods provides the 7th instalment in our Documenting Sound series, recorded in County Galway earlier this year and conjuring a claustrophobic and fractious fever-dream somewhere between suffocating Lynchian interior and Deathprod’s astral/metaphysical gateway.
Woods’ backstory is by now well known, she was the bassist for JJ72 while still a teenager, left the band in 2003 to study film and literature and eventually returned to music solo, culminating in that incredible ‘Birthmarks’ album earlier this year, co-produced with Lasse Marhaug and for our money one of the most brutally beautiful albums we’ve heard in a long time.
The three pieces on this tape were made in the weeks just after that album was released - right at the cusp of lockdown - and reveal an artist coming to grips with the minutiae of everyday existence. Quiet field recordings are drowned out by anxious drones; immense, shuddering bass rumbles approach on the horizon, a vision of bowed strings circles above like a swarm of insects you can’t see - intensifying and curdling until there’s a complete loss of vision, all that’s left is quiet dread.
On the closing piece, the gaze turn inwards. The incessant mechanism of a polaroid camera provides spatial fuckery. Hilary’s voice is there for the first time as well, but it's only right at the end - in the closing moments - that she lets you hear what she has to say.
New on Shelter Press; endless* piano and tape loop variations by Australian composer and multi-disciplinary artist, Lisa Lerkenfeldt; "An unfolding fantasy through the field of time.” (*not literally endless, like, 40 mins).
We know, we know, "ambient" piano music has been lacking gas since long before Spotify-sponsored neo-bourgeois chill-out terror cells got anywhere near The BBC Proms, but hear us out. Influenced by key-gaze OG and prominent Cocteau Twins collaborator Harold Budd, Aussie composer Lisa Lerkenfeldt offers here an ivory hued fever dream - an endless piano and tape loop variation for isolated states.
"A Liquor Of Daisies" was written for three pianos, suggested as a proposal for "multiple players and machines" and dedicated to a plant: Melbourne's Xerochrysum Viscosum, the everlasting daisy. And while not much happens in almost forty minutes, it offers a much-needed glacial foil to the rapid-fire news cycle and infinite doomscroll. Slow, saturated piano tones gently toss and turn, marinating in their own hazy reverb trails. The duration and repetition pinpoints a feeling of anti-social distance and of reflection and meditation as the world contorts itself around us. Radical softness? Sure. Fans of Akira Rabelais' frosty "Eisoptrophobia" should investigate immediately.
Kevin Drumm takes us to the precipice of loss and melancholy on this stark 8th instalment in our Documenting Sound series. Fuelled by feelings of saudade and isolation, Drumm takes the concept of field recordings to a different place; asking someone else to record their life - so that he can re-construct.
On one side: Drumm recording at home, on his own. ‘Double the room’, because there should be someone there with him, a close family member. It’s a field recording of that space; processed, alien, isolated, like trying to tune a shortwave radio - there is life somewhere, but too much interference to find it.
On the other: 'The Better Space’, the place where that family member is, somewhere Drumm can’t be. Here, he’s asked them to make a recording for him, so he can take part in it for a moment. There is more colour and warmth, fragility - but viewed from afar. A sound like a cymbal offers metre, a measure of time, fleeting and endless. Right at the end, a weight is lifted. Strings waft from a distance, tiny movements, breathing, no words.
Multidisciplinary NYC artist Gavilán Rayna Russom launches her own label Voluminous Arts, dedicated to highlight electronic and experimental artists whose work challenges fixed categories of genre and categorization.
"Her aim is to create a platform for multidisciplinary work and events. The inaugural release being her second solo album as Gavilán Rayna Russom 'Secret Passage', following up last years 'The Envoy, an homage to the East Side Rail Tunnel in Providence, Rhode Island, and the friendships she made there."
Kelman Duran gives up the sixth volume in our Documenting Sound series with half an hour of spectral, humid and downbeat dembow, recorded in Peckham last month and hugely recommended if yr into DJ Python’s epic Mas Amable album, Florentino, Burial.
Infused with the same enigmatic elements that have permeated even the most uptempo cuts on his two excellent albums 1804 KIDS and 13th Month, the 9 tracks here flow from his by-now trademarked style of bumping and morose world-building; danceable cuts lost in contemplation, high on atmospherics but still swinging.
The fast production style suits him; these tracks are shorter and less wrought then pretty much anything you’ll find on his last album; where edits so often function as optimisations for the dance, here - for obvious reasons - they take on a more ghostly and solitary quality.
It all comes to a head on the closing edit of ‘die here’ - surely the most doe-eyed, sticky and beautiful thing in all his catalogue.
Composed, performed & mixed by Heather Leigh "at home with the window open” in Glasgow, the fifth release in our Documenting Sound series is a shocking half hour of music; a 13 track opus that is, by any measure, nothing short of a modernist folk masterpiece. Recorded quickly and instinctively in April this year and described by David Keenan as sounding like "a cross between Meredith Monk, DOME and A Guy Called Gerald", it continues to reveal new dimensions with every listen.
Heather Leigh is a musical polymath in the truest sense of the word; primarily known as an influential practitioner of pedal steel guitar, her work is impossible to pigeonhole - all-over-the-place in the best way, from collaborations with Peter Brötzmann and Shackleton to a properly mind-bending duo of albums for Stephen O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ and Editions Mego - hers is a sound that’s both highly sensual and aesthetically aggressive, beautiful and fearless, always exploratory.
Played on pedal steel guitar, synthesiser and cuatro, and featuring Heather Leigh’s voice throughout, the songs here capture a sense of physical longing wrapped up in a boundless creative energy. What started out as hours of diaristic recordings quickly became honed and crafted into powerful and highly memorable songs - vast in scope and depth of feeling. It’s hard to fathom that these 13 songs were made on the hoof, they capture that most elusive of artistic qualities - a compulsion to evolve.
Working on this series has been a real eye-opener for us, a thought experiment turned real - what happens when an established artist is asked to produce material quickly and without much pre-planning or afterthought? The answer, so often, has been an immense pleasure to behold. But this one, this one’s unreal.
A collection of Jamaican doo wop & R&B records taken from the late 50s and early 60s.
"These records represent a period in which soundsystems were just starting to dominate the island, with Duke Reid and Sir Coxsone stepping up their rivalry by beginning to make and release their own records rather than rely on US imports for use in their dances.
Many of these records are definitely more-or-less imitations of the American records, as the uniquely Jamaican ska sound was yet to take hold - however many of the future stars of ska, rocksteady and reggae were beginning to cut their teeth in the industry on these records, incl. Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Harriott, Alton Ellis and more, and they provide a unique view into the fledgling independent record industry culture in Jamaica that would prove to be unbelievably proflific and unparalleled for an island of it's size."
Andy Votel, Sean Canty and Doug Shipton re-convene for a fourth Popular Mechanics volume, once again reaching into the deepest recesses of the Demdike x Finders Keepers x Dead-Cert hive mind for a completely engrossing, lights-down session.
Volume 4 is perhaps the most unsettling and uncanny in the series so far, mirroring the latter stages of The Caretaker’s 'Everywhere At The End Of Time’ series with what sounds like a trace echo of disembodied choral voices floating in and out of field recordings and found sounds coalescing in ghostly formation.
As per usual, we’re not gonna attempt to guess any of the included material, except to say that to us it sounds like deepest drone, concrète and sound art deployed at an almost imperceptible BPM, with diffused obscurities merging into foley, industrial and phantasmagoric atmospheres and the kind of multi-layered chicanery this lot have become so effortlessly good at piecing together.
This is music far-removed from the eerie shenanigans you’d associate with Italian Library records, instead we’re in ice-cold isolationist mode, a sound more inline with Thomas Köner or Iancu Dumitrescu then Egisto Macchi or Alessandro Alessandroni, which - all things considered - is precisely where we wanna be right now.
Original badboy DJ Tom Boogizm turns out a silky smooth and hypnotic mix of South African Kwaito - the slicker precedent to Gqom - as the 4th mix on his unmissable Shotta Tapes series.
’Sgbengu inombolo yokuqala’ translates from Zulu as ’Number one thug’, a nickname bestowed upon Tom by crowds in the townships he toured over a pair of three-week stints during 2015-2016, where he established a mean local reputation for his DJing and smoking skills, and where all the tunes in this killer mix come from. His skills and selections surely passed muster with the demanding crowds in Soweto’s Rockerfella club, where he endured a baptism by fire, playing on 1210’s with the pitch locked off at +4, but managed to hold it down and earn the enviable nickname and pick up the slow style of dancefloor pressure caught on this tape.
For the Kwaito layman or anyone who wasn’t listening when it broke thru into UK circles around 10 years ago thanks to Night Slugs et al, Kwaito is the slow (usually around 110bpm) deep house-compatible bridge between SA’s ‘80s bubblegum flavours and current Gqom styles. It’s still massively popular in the shebeens, yard parties and after-hours spots of SA townships such as Mafeking where Tom also played, driving between townships on long car journeys soaking up the local radio and swerving the tourist experience to properly immerse in the local culture.
More recently Kwaito has been highlighted in reissues from the likes of the Afro-synth label and comps on Strut, but you can trust that Tom cuts layers deeper into tunes rarely heard beyond the borders of the Southern hemisphere’s most populous country. You’ll have to shake him down for a tracklist, but if you copped any of the previous Shotta Tapes you’ll well know this one is practically essential, too.
Sleep and weep, peops!
ZULI heat-synchs us into the sound of Cairo as spring transitioned into summer 2020 with a killer, fractious mesh of field recordings, queasily compressed electronics and frayed rhythms taped and edited for our ongoing Documenting Sound series.
Collaged from original music and incidental sound, ‘One’ vacillates bursts of rugged drums with pangs of melodic intimacy and the humid cacophony of everyday Cairo. It extends an immersive invitation to Zuli’s soundworld with results that steer the styles of his widely acclaimed ‘Terminal’ album in and out of the box, framing a unique, between-the-scenes perspective on 2020’s shared experience.
The two long, improvised pieces transport listeners into Ghazoly’s noisy flat / home studio in two subtly differing ways. On the first side ‘Alo?’ rasping junglist and syrup riddms unfurl alongside heatsick ambient sonics and slivers of outside sounds - dogs yapping, street chatter, an after-hours party at the orphanage across the road - and a recording of the artist calling into a Covid19 helpline on a shitty internet connection.
The B-side is a room recording, candidly capturing the artist at home with the windows open, programming fractious percussive shards and filtered electronics against the ever present environment of the world around him. It’s evocative and inspiring work, lending credence to the notion that sometimes recording on the hoof, tapping into quick instinct - and without too much afterthought - can bring out intangible qualities in the most interesting artists.
“Both sides are collages of original music, field recordings and improvised, single-take jam sessions with field samples of everyday Cairo-cacophony under curfew. For side B I placed a field recorder by the window of my studio while jamming so that the music and street sounds were recorded simultaneously. The music on this side isn’t entirely in the spotlight, but rather part of the environment.” ZULI, May 2020
Stunning introspection session from the enigmatic DJ Fusiller aka Jo Tanz, fresh for Low Jack’s impeccable Gravats imprint and a perfect showcase of the label’s wide arc of interests and influences. It reminds us of those classic Les Disques du Crépuscule comps, where you’d find Wim Mertens sitting uneasily next to The Durutti Column, Arthur Russell, Niblock and Eno, except here focussed entirely on music made in France, brilliantly opening up a gateway to unknown pleasures.
Tanz is an intriguing figure in the current French noise scene, running mega cult DIY label Tanzprocesz, as well as working with Ghédalia Tazartès and Èlg in the Reines D’angleterre trio. For 'Sacrilège Vénération Vol.1’ he assembles what he describes as "music for blurry emotions” using a bevvy of techniques he lists as “arbitrary overlays, lazer beams, failed somersaults, cheeky cuts, hectoliters of red wine and freewheel tributes”.
The result is, somehow, one of the best mixtapes we’ve heard in f*cking time, weaving a tapestry of intimate but aggressive sounds taking in everything from chanson to bursts of noise, ice cold drones and fizzing crackles, morose piano and shoegaze bullets, all following a unique and fuzzy logic you’ll want to untangle over repeat listens - trust us.
It’s one of those mixtapes that not only makes you obsess over finding every piece of music included, but also ignites a thirst for discovery - we ain't talking algorithmic nonsense here - but you know, spending time researching/looking for that one record, diving thru wormholes, ending up somewhere you didn’t quite expect.
Ulla’s recordings of phone conversations and wildlife diffuse into the most vaporous and unsettling ambient dub textures on the third in our Documenting Sound series, recorded over the last few weeks in Philadelphia and recalling Sam Kidel’s ‘Disruptive Muzak’, DJ Lostboi’s ambient hymnals and Vladislav Delay’s Chain Reaction pearls.
Pieced together from airspun recordings made in Philadelphia during spring 2020, ’inside means inside me’ holds a subtle mirror to the new world’s psychic ambiance of existential, slowburn dread. Prizing the sensitively insightful, lower case manner that made Ulla’s recent 'Tumbling Towards A Wall’ album so memorable, here the sound is more poignant, the dissociative flux used to perhaps more therapeutic effect for an ephemeral reading of the times.
In the first half, Ulla makes a subtly heartbreaking use of crackling phone calls and dub stabs, but embedded in the music’s weft they take on an unsettling resolution that’s hard to place. On the flip, more entwined conversations snag in the breeze with location recordings and scudding hypnagogic washes with a signature low key movement that keep you feeling swaddled but uneasy until the end.
Parisian label Collapsing Market follow Nkisi’s deadly 'Destruction of Power’ tape with a new one from Finland’s Emma DJ, a fusion of bone-dry drum machine spasms and greyscale soundscaping perfectly in line with Finland’s brutalist lineage and a big one if yr into classic Bunker, Unit Moebius, Nkisi, Traxx, Ron Morelli, BFDM, Teams Shadetek + Doyobi, Autechre's Radio Mix...
Emma DJ is a Paris-based Finnish producer, founder of the city's Fusion mes Couilles club night with appearances on Brice Coudert’ Lavibe imprint, Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. and now Collapsing Market. Interestingly, the included postcard features an original photograph by Seana Gavin (taken at the Exodus rave, Luton, in 1999), a London based artist who’s been documenting the Spiral Tribe parties from 1993 until 2003, spending long periods of time travelling in friends’ mobile homes in convoy with the sound systems, attending raves and parties in France, Spain, Holland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
Spiral Tribe's connection to the music here is sort of tangential, Emma DJ deploys most of his productions at 100bpm on a squashed/industrial tip with a sound that can be traced back to Geins't Naït's late 80’s/early 90’s curveballs and straight through to the roughshod Parisian aesthetic typified by L.I.E.S. and Low Jack’s Editions Gravats crew.
We reckon it’ll be up yr rue if yr into Gescom or the whole Bunker/Traxx axis…Tipped!
One of the most striking releases of the last couple of years, ‘Kwaidan’ is a spellbindingly curious study in the “lost" art of Japanese ghost story-telling and horror folklore, marking the sublime first release on Singapore’s bijou Evening Chants imprint. It's now finally available on vinyl for the first time.
Inspired by living in Kyoto for the past two years, ‘Kwaidan’ - a form of Japanese ghost story - is focussed on musically crafting a form of “Japanese Mood”, or Meitei. Taking this word as his moniker, Meitei becomes his subject in a pointed effort to revive or at least keep this artform alive, using a combination of frayed, enigmatic backdrops to tactfully limn a specific mood.
The delicate approach and febrile, shapeshifting results recall to our ears the subtly suggestive sound sets of Sugai Ken as much as Jan Jelinek at his dreamiest, conjuring winding passages of crackle and shimmering subaquatic chords, finding beauty lurking in the low key and peripheral, spectral and metaphysical realms.
Two years in the making, Ahwar (Arabic for marshlands) is an otherworldly record, not unlike an abstract mythological story-tale.
"Opening with the mangled and filtered vocals of the album's lead track Afqid Adh-Dhakira (I Lose Memory) like an alien dream, the drones of a bowed double bass lead us into a drum groove that lays the groundwork for El Shazly's sultry and captivating presence, singing: "(I am) coming, from a time far away. Going, escaping. Alone in the wilderness".The Arabic prose lingers over interjections of slap-back delayed guitar twangs and an avant-garde arrangement of dissonant winds, horns and seemingly random drum fills, ending with an eerie soundscape that wouldn't feel out of place in a Giallo classic.
A daring and potent statement that sets the foundations over which the rest of the album can unravel. Composed, written and produced by El Shazly herself in collaboration with The Dwarfs of East Agouza's Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi on co-composition and arrangement duties, the album was crafted across two continents, between Canada and Egypt, and features the crème of Montreal's contemporary-classical and improvised music scene, most of whom aremembers of Shalabi's own Land of Kush ensemble. In between El Shazly's five original tracks, we are treated to an abstract coverversion of Sayyid Darwish's classic Ana 'Ishiqt (I Once Loved). El Shazly's haunting vocal floats over broken Kalimba and Harp arpeggios which slowly intertwine with a free, bowed double bass improv to nestle within the breaks between Younes Al-Qadhi's early 20th century verses of love and betrayal.
More than that, it is difficult to really describe, but imagine the worlds of Nico, Björk and Annette Peacock with the Arabic language as their mother tongue, re-approached through acoustic avant-jazz harmony and re-constructed with a dash of Kamilya Jubran's modern styling of Arabic maqam and you may be somewhere close. Recorded and delicately mixed through miles of analogue cabling by Thierry Amar at Hotel2Tango and mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering in Montreal, the album is adorned with the surrealist artwork of Egyptian artist Marwan El-Gamal and designed with custom typography by Egyptian designer Valerie Arif . All editions come with dual-language booklets featuring the lyrics in Arabic with English translation by Nariman Youssef."
Breakcore survivor Istari Lasterfahrer follows Christoph de Babalon’s lead onto Hamburg’s V I S imprint with a 60 minute production mix of spring heeled yardcore and dub noise experiments, yassss.
Celebrating 20 years of his productions via his Sozialistischer Plattenbau label and many others, Hamburg’s Istari Lasterfahrer has pushed a punkish take on jungle that lands squarely in the breakcore bracket of madness. Like his now label-mate Christoph de Babalon, Lasterfahrer was part of the original c8.com posse of underground labels in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, with a sound that erred towards the more playful ends of DJ Scud and indeed De Babalon, essentially dicing with elements of early jungle but in a noisier and snottier squat party style, as heard on this tape with added emphasis on the noise and freaky experimentation.
This stuff delivers a nostalgic cosh to the frontal cortex, catapulting us back to a strange run of time when it was hard to find proper old skool jungle and hardcore (as opposed to ubiquitous 2-step D&B) and producers such as Lasterfahrer stepped in to plug a gap in the market and give us something nutty to dance to. Across this 60 minute tape he cycles thru all the pranging amens, gabbercore onslaughts and rave madness you could hope for, but persistently breaking up the rufige with mercurial detours into dungeon synth, radiophonic electronics and sampled cartoon/movie dialogue to keep ravers right on their toes.