Second Circle returns with the follow up to Giuseppe Leonardi’s 2018 debut record ‘TBC’, recorded this year in Vienna, during lockdown.
"Reflecting an evolution in his musical output, the six tracks on ‘MenteMente’ incorporate a diverse mix of sounds and influences. The EP also includes collaborations with vocalist Fresh Princess, a young experimental dancer and vocalist from Ghana now based in Vienna. As well as spoken word from Georgian Art Theorist Lana Girkelidze who reads her favourite passages from Georgian poet Galaktion Tabidze’s poem ‘Qari qris’ - ????????? ??????-???? ????."
Dro Carey packs late summer heat on his debut album soaked in garage, house, Afrobeats, and frothy good times for the gang at Melbourne’s Soothsayer
Landing nearly 10 years after his crooked debut with TTT, Dro Carey appears to have matured gracefully, as evidenced in the soulfully puckered vocals and generally slick vibes laid on thick across ‘Nothing Is a Solo Project’.
Working with Rara Zulu, Beni Moun & Julietta, Alex A-Game, Rue, and Francesca Gonzales to emphasise the more classic nature of his productions and vice-versa, the album plays along the finest line between schmaltzy and soulful, and comes riddled with the characteristic ambient/electronica quirks that have long highlighted Carey’s music at the edges of mutant bass and weirdo club music. RIYL Space Dimension Controller, Falty DL, Synkro.
Alchemic sound messer Graham Lambkin blesses this amazing recorded to NYC’s exceptional Blank Forms Editions, following standout turn with Joe-Mc-Phee and accompanying the label’s reissue of his earliest works
Sounding every bit like wizard who lives in a bin and performs ritual experiments to magick up microcosms of life between the bin-juice and fag butts, Lambkin has our attention for this latest hypnagogic masterpiece of his. A riddle wrapped in an enigma, then crunched up, torn apart and threaded back together, it’s all typically his own confection of weasly folk strings, contact mic haptics, keys and geese and bears and whatever the fuck that just was.
If you know his stuff, one would know to expect the unexpected in a very low key, liminal way that pisses on logic and yet holds it together in quietly spectacular, peculiar form, as exemplified in this one. Approaching from the water, ’Softly Softly’ veers between plughole dynamics and folk strings that describe motorway-side cafes in slow motion, following overgrown and marshy routes of exploration that just get really odd and fragged out in a way you just can’t take your ears off, while your eyes may well be zonked.
Sling the maps or apps, and let Lambkin summon the between-world, seep into your subconscious, and be your guide to absolutely chuff knows where.
Suave as your life, Ambiance’s super rare spiritual jazz swerve is rescued from obscurity thanks to renowned digger Zaf at BBE - an impossible-to-find 1982 doozy weaving Afro, Latin, Brazilian vibes with really classy highlights on ‘Something Better’ with Monife Balewa’s soprano vox, plus killer berimbau and Brazilian percussion on the title tune, and an absolute gem in the omni-cool fusion of ’Eastwind’ tacking the finest breeze of lounge schmaltz and sexiness.
“Ambiance was the ‘nom de guerre’ of an ever-shifting jazz collective headed up by Nigeria-born, LA-tutored multi- instrumentalist, arranger, producer and photographer Daoud Abubakar Balewa.
Balewa studied composition and jazz improvisation at the feet of innovators such as Frank Mitchell (Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers), Jackie McLean (Blue Note) and other masters from the golden Blue Note era. Although he favoured alto, soprano and tenor, he was equally happy on flute, keyboards, and Latin and Brazilian percussion. What’s more, he had the knack of using musicians who were bold enough to welcome being part of such multi- faceted sessions: guitarist Jim Lum’s flexibility suits the theme of this album perfectly, as does prolific Japanese soul-jazz drummer Danny Yamamoto; the stunning Hawaiian pianist Kino Cornwell (Yamamoto’s colleague from funk-fusion supergroup Hiroshima); and the wonderful Jean Carn-like tones of Daoud’s wife, jazz vocalist Monife Balewa.
From the band’s reading of Joe Henderson’s modal masterpiece Black Narcissus, through the deep multicultural percussive jazz-dance workout that is the title track, and on to the three-octave vocal embellishments of Monife, on her own composition Something Better as well as on the Chick Correa fusion classic 500 Miles High, nothing here is generic, nothing taken for granted, nothing comfortable or predictable.
All of the half-dozen or so albums recorded and released by Daoud and Ambiance during just six years of frantic creativity between 1979 and 1986 are well worth seeking out, but in BBE Music’s opinion Into A New Journey is the pinnacle: spiritual jazz worthy of the very best practitioners of the genre, by an obscure group of ludicrously talented artists on a tiny, self- financed indie label with an equally tiny promo budget: that’s what great jazz is all about.”
Ceramic ocarinas meet Mick Karn-style fretless bass, synths and keys in this splendid turn from composer Oliver Leith on Matthew Herbert’s Accidental
Following a great EP by Abby Lee Tee on the label, Oliver Leith introduces himself to these pages with a warmly inviting collection crafted as the musical component of a collaboration with artist Michelle Ussher. Using the ceramic ocarinas (small ancient wind instruments) and shakers which accompanied paintings and tapestry from Michelle’s exhibition at Station Gallery, Australia, Leith conjures the balmiest atmospheres primed for slipping in with your trunks/bikini on and letting yourself bathe there all afternoon.
Trickly rhythmelodic patterns unfold in radiant webs and eddies across the EP’s six parts, invoking an air of dusk in the South Pacific or a Mediterranean island with ‘Manicure’, and letting the feeling sink in with the spongiform bass, slithering percussion and darting electronics of ‘Tiny Snake Eyes’, while ‘Hump’ recalls a sort of martian pygmy musick for moonlight dances, and ‘Dress Tail’ feels beamed in from other, imaginary dimensions where the whistling ’Stone Men’ exist and the exotica sirens of ‘Tongue In Ear’ attempt to seduce new age adventurers to their eerie Delia Derbyshire-like wavelength.
Vibrant, low key meditations on myriad synths, given as Joseph Steinbeck’s 2nd batch of solo recordings outside his work with everyone from Devendra Banhart to Charlotte Gainsbourg and Cate Le Bon
Naturally channelling a world of enchanted influences into his synth music, Steinbeck’s solo work combines lilting, rhythmelodic lines and pads in a lissom, light-hearted (but not lightweight) suite that links back to our ears, thru to Visible Cloaks and Jon Hassell to the Finnish psych-folk scene.
The album was first issued on his Full Bloom label and now via RVNG Intl., serving a quietly rustling and absorbing batch that induces the nicest psilocybin sensations with its mystic ripples of iridescent FM synthesis and gently insistent rhythms that wash over and thru the album. Among this week’s picks there’s hardly a more apt candidate for soundtracking mushy harvesting rambles, pickling yourself, as well as more wholesome activities in the natural world, or simply sporing your surroundings with a bit of ambient magick.
New York's Sharp Veins returns to UNO with this latest collection of bit-crushed bedroom pop "Armor Your Actions Up In Quest".
An uneven mix, it shifts from emo-esque videogame balladry to clubby noise-bient, vaporwave-adjacent powergrind and speedcore with echoing vocals tying everything together with a neon bow. Its a mix that speaks to the current generation of genre-freed producers who were brought up online with access to a rainbow of diverse sounds and now make records for Orange Milk or Hausu Mountain, and that's no bad thing.
Emosh electronic pop from Vancouver’s Baby Blue and Dviance channelling a techno sprite Grimes via t.A.T.u. and Eric Prydz
‘0Flash’ was first spotted to keener ears as an untitled cut towards the finale of Baby Blue’s Fact Mix 736 and now previews a flourishing relationship with Halcyon Veil. Like that mix, the song itself is an upfront banger built with gnarly distorted Reese and lip-sniffing trance top lines ideal for Friday night stomping and crying into your pot noodle as you struggle to remember the last time you were in a club.
Glittering 1st new album in 6 years from pioneering alt-dance-pop sorceress Maria Minerva; a beautifully strong reminder of her timeless, breezy way with ohrwurm hooks and lissom ambient house hybrids for her pals at 100% Silk.
Recorded in Hollywood, ‘Soft Power’ arrives nearly 10 years since Maria’s pivotal debut (‘Tallinn At Dawn’) with a blend of gauzy and seductively elegant songwriting that’s faithful to the pop urge that's behind all her work. Thankfully, a decade later she hasn’t felt a need to upend her production style, but there’s definitely a newfound, new agey textural depth and nuance to these new songs that feed into a naturally jaded iridescence alongside club-grooved arrangements that wrap themselves into your consciousness with preternatural ease.
In the time since her head-turning debut, its fair to say we can hear Maria’s MDMA-kissed disco-house style in music by everyone from Teresa Winter to Dua Lipa, and her latest sees her sashay deeper into an imaginary disco club-turned insightfully reflective hall of mirrors. From her nEuroMantic rave ballad ‘Every Single Thing That You Love’ to the smudged chords and sleekness of ’Summer Romance’, thru the BoC-do-pop anthem ‘I Could Be Your Best Friend’, to the proper 313 drive of ‘Down Low' and the lysergic lullaby ‘Ask Myself For A Reason’, she’s still pretty much on her own plane of dream club existentialism.
It’s all just dripping with nostalgia for a better future in the most heart-aching and hauntological way.
Squirming, wavy hybrids of dream-pop, photo-trance and late ‘80s house sleaze from Katie Rose & Shawn O’Sullivan’s lowkey duo, back to match your mood on Knekelhuis
Their follow-up to 2017’s ‘Disparate Elements’ feels to consolidate the varying strands of their sound with subtly mesmerising, fluid effect, drawing the most enchanted lines between turn-of-‘90s Goa, faded Balaeric fantasies and lo-fi dreamhouse with sort of tempered ecstasy that feels of the moment.
The intoxicating fumes of Katie’s vocal balance with owing, congealed bass in their masterful arabesque of an opener ‘Dense as Smoke’ - think Muslimgauze meets The Connection Machine - and ‘Array’ trades’ in a gorgeous style of gauzy lo-fi house that sounds like Maria Minerva on a spiritual trip to Goa. ‘Only In My Mind’ hits a sultry groove of knackeerd sleephouse, with Katie’s vocal switching between cold, gynoid and pop yearning, and ‘More Than Just a Dream’ perfectly wraps up their mix of etheric gauze and mutant acid house like some stray Chris & Cosey or Psychic TV joint.
Jonny L’s seminal, debut D&B LP, Sawtooth boomerangs back from ’97 on a 1st ever 2LP pressing, loaded with the all-time anthem Piper amid some of the sickest, teched-out steppers from the UK scene.
Perhaps symptomatic of ’17 rather than ’97 economics, this pressing is reduced from the original 5-plate set - which were very typical of ‘90s D&B albums and compilations - to a more efficient 2LP with negligible sacrifice to fidelity.
For anyone who grew up in the ‘90s with access to cable TV, Jonny L’s Piper, with its definitively late ‘90s promo video, was an unavoidable mainstay of MTV2’s advert-less hours of programming, beaming images of cyborgian ravers into the living room of impressionable minds around the UK and elsewhere. Fair to say those images and sounds left an indelible impression on listeners including us, and the likes of Powell, who cites Jonny L’s work on this record as a big influence.
While the deliciously slippy sound design of Piper makes for a clear standout, it’s not the only one, with the warehouse-ready weightless tech-step of Treading coming close behind, along with the nerve-riding, Reese-fuelled 2-step rolige of 2 of Us and the sidewinding swerver Obedience, and even a class spin on acid-electro with Detroit.
Ultimately, Sawtooth was one of those mad, hi-tech and deep forward ‘90s records that penetrated the mainstream conscience, irrevocably lodged in malleable young minds as a pivotal cultural artefact in a much cooler way than, say, Jonny L’s later work producing Victoria Beckham and Dane Bowers’ UKGuilty pleasure, Out Of Your Mind. A flashback to times when the link between underground and mainstream dance music was more fluid, right before NME and reams of other tosh stymied the momentum of rave music and apocryphally deemed white guys playing guitars and drums to be more relevant to the yoof. Fuck those guys for ever. Long live D&B, garage, UK dance music.
Mark Lanegan and his wife, Shelley Brien (Singrid Lund) pursue a gothic wave and washed-out techno muse in a deliciously cranky follow-up to Lanegan’s acclaimed ‘Downwelling’ LP with Not Waving last year. Featuring members of the Mark Lanegan Band including Martyn LeNoble (Porno For Pyros) on bass, the band play up to their passions for the gloomy rumination of PIL, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Sandwell District, Bauhaus and Joy Division across a perfectly unpredicted suite of Lynchian techno dirges and strung-out songwriting.
Named after the bird Lanegan and Brien kept seeing in their yard in Los Angeles while writing the songs, the EP's starkly affected craft is bound to surprise and enthral Lanegan’s legion followers (accumulated thru work with everyone from Screaming Trees to QOTSA) and likely to lend your listening space a ripe sort of LA vibe recalling everything from a fantasy of John Duncan jamming with Vatican Shadow, to the likeminded glumness of fellow husband/wife duo Tara & Mike Connelly’s Clay Rendering.
Scowling opener ’Come To The Shadow King’ epitomises the project’s brooding allure with nearly 9 minutes of driving dance and LeNoble’s skulking bass buried beneath gaunt organ pads, forming a dank bed for the vocals which are placed high in the mix but sink down, down into dread feeling and “bloodstained streets” described in the lyrics.
LeNoble’s snaking bass is also a crucial anchor to Lanegan’s more bruised vox in ‘Saturn Rising’, and perfectly underlines Shelley’s immaculate and evocative delivery in the darkroom rave feel of ’Shiva Danced Me Down’, before ‘Rising High Water’ carves back to Lanegan’s more typical aesthetic with an addictive dusky croon matched by a hazy, bluesy organ refrain that beautifully brings the album to rest.
Self-generating composition ‘abtasten_halten’ finds Frank Bretschneider’s austere yet playful rhythmic minimalism at its most inventive, turning the sound of two VU meter needles into endlessly fascinating permutations via software and synth modules; an ideal candidate if we’ve ever heard one for Jan Jelinek’s Faitiche label.
“Frank Bretschneider on abtasten_halten: "abtasten_halten (sample_hold) is a largely self-generating composition for a modular synthesizer system. Self-generating here means that as soon as a current flows, the various modules interact, but within limits set by the composer via the connections between the modules (patches): timing, tempo, timbres, dynamics. These conditions are kept variable to a certain extent or left to chance, so that the composition created is always similar but never the same. On the one hand, the use of random generators opens up possibilities that would not otherwise have been considered. On the other, it offers the fascination of the unfinished and the unique: totally unexpected musical events that you might hear only once. abtasten_halten combines my preferences for percussive music in general and electronic music in particular. Largely avoiding repetitive structures, the piece is more like a free improvisation, quiet and diffuse, but also extremely dense, in ever-changing contrasts and transformations.
The tone generators are two modified VU meters whose needles, driven by trigger impulses, create a simple one-bar pattern by hitting against a metal spring that is connected to a piezo element. The tempo is continuously varied over a period of about ten minutes by several mutually modulating LFOs, ranging from about 0.06 Hz up to the lower audio range of about 18Hz. The percussive sounds thus obtained are then passed through low-pass filters with moderate resonance and random frequency modulation to additionally color the sound. Further processing is then executed by an echo module whose tempo and repetitions are again determined by random parameters. Finally, the audio signal is occasionally enriched with reverb to add more spaciousness to the sound."
Brianna Price turned plenty of heads when, earlier in 2020, she swapped out her well-worn B.Traits moniker for the new title of Baby T.
"A change of name also signalled a departure from the booming techno-centred sound Price had been pedalling as B.Traits - she promised, all guns blazing, that Baby T was about 'hardcore junglist shit only'. The project's debut drop, an EP for Samurai Music entitled Portra, put that manifesto into action, running the gauntlet of darkside drum 'n' bass, ardcore soundsystem techno and dark ambient.
From the whip-crack electronic drums which usher in Baby T's second record I Against I it is apparent that we're in for another wild ride. Emerging here via Central Processing Unit, Price meets the CPU sound halfway on I Against I's A-side, delivering two super-snappy broken-beat electro joints which both have a malevolent, dystopian edge to them. The levels are high from the off, with opener 'I Wish' fronting nasty, high-wire machine-funk that draws its strength from the Bunker, Djax-Up-Beats and BPitch Control sounds. 'Acid Science', another helter-skelter melange of needling synths and vocal licks, follows. Though this track's title may promise acid, the snaking bassline refuses to lock fully into the perpetual-motion madness of a TB-303. Instead, Baby T chops the lick up to move in and out of the drums, an effect that has one thinking of Cardopusher.
'Estrogen Attitude', the tune which kicks off I Against I's second-half, is an even headier brew. The intro skulks and broods, a pulsing kick-drum and intermittent 303 whirring in a cavernous atmosphere. You get the sense that something is brewing, especially given that the tempo has increased to junglist speed. However, when the breakbeats do enter Baby T opts to lurk rather than strike, locking into the sort of murky drum 'n' bass roll that wouldn't sound out of place on the UVB-76 imprint. This is jungle to shadowbox to.
The vibe of 'Estrogen Attitude' is inverted on EP closer 'We Could Disappear'. Beginning with a grainy, mournful ambience that recalls Biosphere and Kevin Martin, the track gently unfurls with the introduction of synthetic strings and muted breakbeats. If 'Estrogen Attitude' was indebted to Metalheadz, there is plenty of Goldie's more grandiose soundscaping running through 'We Could Disappear'. At the end of the track, the atmospheres dissolve to leave only the hum of sub - both a reminder of the bassweight principles that drive the Baby T project, and also representative of how I Against I has progressively etherised itself across its four tracks.
Baby T's Central Processing Unit debut I Against I tackles dystopian electro, impressionistic drum 'n' bass and dark ambient, all while adhering to junglist principles. This is a brave new world for both the artist and the label.
RIYL: Metalheadz, Pessimist, Mutant Joe, Cardopusher, dgoHn"
Fade To Mind’s LA lynchpin trades in bolshy and bumping club reinforcements on his sophomore solo album starring vox by UNiiQU3 & Tre Oh Fie, Ghost, Semma ++
Toned between upfront bangers and sultry R&B downstrokes, ’Neurofire’ sees Kingdom’s knack for plucking out vocalists in strong effect, pairing a clutch of of up-and-coming singers with his deeply thugged out style of club and jeep ready production. It’s typically heavy on the bass, but also luxuriously spaced out and sleeker than ever, with stacks of finely layered FM-style synth pads and well oiled rhythmic touches underlining the vocalists.
To play faves, listen out for the perfectly balanced bubble and puckered R&B vox of ‘High Enough’ with Tiara Thomas, and the rude Jersey kicks of ‘Arch Slide’ with club commanding bars split between UNiiQU3 & Tre Oh Fie, or for slower lower vibes peep the grinding ‘DS8’ and ‘Yikes’ with Ghost, both recalling the spooked slink of Paul Marmota to these ears. Trust it’s all good stuff from the label that brought you Kelela and Leonce.
THE game-changing mixtape of the 2010s is finally re-pressed on vinyl and - for the first time - available as individual digital tracks via PAN, who’ve just made a lot of heads very happy.
Originally issued by the pivotal Hippos In Tanks in 2013, and self-released on vinyl in 2014 via her own website, Arca’s &&&&& has cast a strong, if cultish, influence over contemporary dance, pop, and electronic experiments during its life to date. Tiled from what are now disclosed as 14 individual components, its mazy mosaic of fractured ideas and curdled hooks blew our minds at a time when so much dance music was either going retro-vintage or, ahem, “future” garage, and would provide anyone listening with oodles of inspiration for new directions influenced by the Latinx and club cultural shifts pioneered by likes of Elysia Crampton (then E+E), Total Freedom, and TCF.
7 years after its debut release, &&&&& is still one of our all time percies. That sticky, diffractive flow between her convulsive ‘Knot’, the sighing gobs of ‘Harness’ and the spine tracing chorals of ‘Fossil’, and thru the melodic late ‘90s Ae/AFXisms of ‘Obelisk’ still burn. With hindsight it’s easy to hear this mixtape as a crucial bridge between her earliest rudeez on the two ‘Stretch’ volumes (which shockingly slipped most people’s attention at the time) and the way she would bloom in the following years, from production for FKA Twigs, Kayne and Björk, to her none more beguiling solo albums and holistic embrace of a mutant futurist a e s t h e t i c.
Stunning dream-pop/post-punk side from New Orleans’ MJ Guider, galvanising her shoegaze sound with industrial rhythms sounding out between Cocteau Twins, Tropic of Cancer and Seefeel in an amazing sophomore album for eternal dreamers at Kranky
Arriving four years after her ‘Precious Systems’, which benefitted beautifully from studio mixing rendered by Turk Dietrich and Josh Eustis ov NIN/Second Woman esteem, ’Sour Cherry Bell’ channels a more pronounced sense of southern Gothic mystique and late ‘80s industrial noir for Guider’s follow-up. We’re not certain who’s behind the mixing/mastering this time, but it certainly sounds like Second Woman’s spacious sensitivities come into play, perfectly suspending the vocals in endlessly diaphanous reverbs and giving special attention to the percussion and synths in an electronic/ambient-techno sense that’s seamlessly incorporated and feels like a subtle, but necessary update and mutation of its influences, rather than straightforward homage.
From the cavernous introduction of ‘Lowlight’ through to its supine closer ‘Petrechoria’, the album really comes alive with amplivication, tactfully enveloping the senses with sheets of processed guitar, or set against starkly booming drums in ‘The Steelyard’ and ‘FM Secure’ that conjure the steepest sense of dread, surely recalling Elizabeth Fraser and her amazing meeting with Seefeel’s Mark Clifford, while ‘Body Optics’ and ’Simulus’ feels like a gutted HTRK, and ‘Quiet Time’ could almost be mistaken for Tropic of Cancer, but that keening production is just something else.
Enchanted Mediterranean house suss from Jupiter Jax on his first album in five years, channelling dusky, cinematic noir and live instrumentation into discoid deep house influences - a lush nod to classic NYC Nu Grooves via Italian Dream-house and the kind of balmy new age synth lustre found in Echovolt’s reissues of ‘80s Greek gems
“The music of Maltese producer Rudi Agius aka Jupiter Jax has always felt as much defined by mood as movement, guided by the “specific melancholy” of specific melodies. His latest long-player skews even more cinematic, conjuring twilit gardens and crooked city streets, windswept and warped by memory: No Such Thing. Inspired by notions of escape and the unknown, and threaded with dexterous live instrumentation, the album treads vibrant hybrids of moonrise electronica, downtempo dream house, and Balearic breakbeat, brooding but breezy, a Mediterranean midnight of the mind.
Agius speaks of his songs in terms of intuition and inevitability, how and where they transport the listener. These twelve tracks slip between senses and spheres, interplanetary but placeless, noir glimpses of ghostly coastlines and reflective reveries. Flutes, trumpets, voices, and percussion contour his club designs with a tactile fluidity, jazz accents reflecting off rain-slicked marble harbors, the wakening dawn still worlds away.”
Pioneering synth sorcerer Suzanne Ciani celebrates over four decades of innovation with "a sonic voyage to the very heart of her beloved machine" in this utterly cosmic eight-part Buchla improvisation.
Ciani hardly needs any introduction; the influential synth pioneer has been contributing albums, soundtracks and sound effects for over forty years at this point and has shifted the global perception of electronic music multiple times. Her primary instrument has been the Buchla 200e synthesizer, and on "A Sonic Womb" she highlights her skill with a long-form improvisation split into eight parts.
Recorded in December 2019 in Barcelona, the piece was described by Ciani as ”an improvisation that I began using in the ’70s and continue to use now as raw material. Each performance based on this material has its own expression and one could liken it to jazz." We can't think of a more apt description, as Ciani contorts now-familiar sounds, exploring the farthest reaches of the instrument. There's little room for saccharine hauntology here, rather Ciani toys with pulsing rhythmic sequences, segments of tidal white noise and electric birdsong and and chiming gong-like pulses.
Required listening for anyone who's fiddled with patch cables in the last few years.
The new Sarah Davachi record is an 80 minute, 17 track double album meditation on impermanence and endings, framed by minimalistic organ études and careful harmonic layering. On two tracks the artist’s own vocals are also heard for the first time. This is the first release on the artist’s own label, Late Music.
Just as we thought Sarah Davachi couldn't tug our heartstrings any harder, she inaugurates her new label Late Music with "Cantus, Descant", a two LP set containing some of the wooziest, most affecting organ music we've heard to date. The entire album is an exploration of the unique, individual character of her instruments as she harnesses the power of various pipe organs in Canada, Europe and the USA as well as the electric organ, Mellotron and a handful of other elements. This gives the tracks an impossibly human feel as subtle tones wind and fall with elegance, and unpredictable grace. It's not even that Davachi is exactly attempting to center her work as anathema to a world fogged by emotionally empty scambient and bone-dry modular drone, but these tracks are so animated that it's hard not to feel awed by what's so often missing.
'The Pelican' is an early highlight, using the Mellotron's unmistakable tape loops to add a layer of Morricone-esque melancholy to the mix. Elsewhere, album centerpiece 'Play The Ghost' drowns echoing vocals in reverb, sounding like distant prog-gaze beamed in from another parallel timeline. "Cantus, Descant" is a special album, whisper soft but pointed and intentional. Sarah Davachi is among the most gifted composers operating right now and this album is a celebration of the old and the new that speaks assuredly to the complex simplicity of tone itself. We're floored.
Originally released on LP in an edition of 200 copies. (Kye 01) 2001.
"I made the basic recordings of Tim Goss's voice during a recent return trip to England. Despite some initial reservations Tim ended up giving an animated and robust reading, drawn exclusively from work of his own creation. These tapes were then transported back to Poughkeepsie, NY, where the project was teased to completion." (Original LP sleeve notes) Tim Goss: voice / text Graham Lambkin: synth / water / radio / collage.
Originally released in 2014 and available for one night only, this rare banger was pieced together using one second from each DAT in BJNilsen's tape archive. Industrial fuzz for EBM jerks.
On the Tapeworm label's fifth birthday at London's Cafe OTO on September 16, 2014, 25 copies of BJNilsen's "Release the DATs" were issued. Each inlay was hand-drawn with a special unique cover from SavX and for those that heard it, the release became a prized rarity. Now the rest of us can finally hear it too, as the 10-minute oddity has finally been made available digitally. BJNilsen crafted the chunky EBM banger using one second slices of every DAT tape from his extensive archive, and while that's hard to hear exactly (it is one second samples, after all, u don't get much outside of percussion) it makes for a good concept that's been executed excellently. Remastered by the man himself for the occasion, it's a curiosity that can sit alongside Gescom's "Minidisc" in the shrine to discarded technology.
Vatican Shadow commands his bleakest night-vision pads and craftiest Muslimgauze-style rhythms in this seriously prime volley for Pittsburgh’s 20 Buck Spin - unmissable for the fiends!
‘Persian Pillars Of The Gasoline Era’ sees Dominick Fernow back to strong form with six tracks inspired by recent Middle Eastern geopolitics and very much built in the image of latter period Bryn Jones aka Muslimgauze productions, but more than sufficiently distinguished by his transfixing arrangements.
The brooding VS synth glare is in deep and hypnotic effect and the drums programming is some of his deadliest, adapting the mood of the times and media rhetoric in a way that’s never glib or ironic and always with an emotional levity. ‘Rehearsing for the Attack’ is an instant VS classic, trading in rudely syncopated steppers drums and his finest sort of synth subterfuge, and likewise ‘uncontrollable oasis (Real life spy mystery ends with scientist hanged in Iran)’ leaves a heavy impression, while the plot only becomes more expansive, urgent with the closing section’s 10mins of intricate arps in ‘moving secret money’, and his trampling 12 min mission sequence ‘ayatollah ferocity’.
Nic Tasker’s AD 93 pick up the Blue series with slinky tekkers by Mucho Sueño, Sapphire Slows’ dream-pop, and atmospheric roller by Bas Dobberlaer and Martinou
Check for the chiffon vocals and glistening Japanese dream house mechanics of ‘Swirl’ from Tokyo’s Sapphire Slows, and the free-floating and effortless Latinate syncopation of ‘Heart of Glass’ by Mucho Sueño - one for the lip-smacking, gyr-eyeing points of the night.
Scuzzy beatdown industrial pop zingers shot from the hip of TVII Son from Kyiv’s emerging mutant industrial/techno rabble - big one for stans of Inga Copeland, Jay Glass Dubs and Teresa Winter!
Firing 9 backyard-forged bullets on the MIC (Music Inspires Change) label behind aces from LAPS and Lord Tusk, the Ukrainian outfit TVII Son land a crudely sophisticated sound square between their label mates, meting equal measures of basement party hustle and dank bedroom vibes in their eponymous debut.
Squashed and creased at the point where dancehall bump intersects industrial music and ambient-pop, ’TVII Son’ is a rudely easy going listen, flowing at hazy pace above trip hop and just shy of “party” proper, so we could just as easily imagine it’s tracks heating-up a session as cooling it down. As such there’s a hypnotic, play-it-again-quality looping from the blunted dembow lope of ‘Yalta’ to the decayed dancehall chrome of ‘Heart Ending’, with a hazy, rough city energy rippling from the rusty disco iridescence and droll vocal of ‘Out of Vogue’ to proper industrial disco jags in ‘Am I’, sick Low Jack-like ragga noise one ‘Iryna’, and absolute modern blues party gems like ’Simple Ends’ and the Equiknoxx-esque banger ‘Kilang’.
No messing, dead strong gear right here.
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!
Steeply absorbing solo debut of smoky free improvisation, reverberating between ECM-like jazz/classical and electro-acoustic dimensions for the ideal home of such enigmatic stuff; Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle.
‘Ashioto’ extends an immersive introduction to the solo work of Japanese drummer/percussionist/composer Tatsuhiro Yamamoto following a decade of collaborations with notables including Jim O’Rourke, Eiko Ishibashi, Phew, and Arve Henriksen. Fitting the rarified criteria of Black Truffle’s snuffling service, Yamamoto’s first dolo mission is riddled with the sort of oneiric magick we’ve come to expect from this label, dilating the mind’s eye from the pineal peal of gamelan to sweeping Jazz-fusion breaks and dead strung-out, end-of-rope jazz blues and ‘marish organ swells with a masterful narrative sleight of hand.
The devil lies in the detail of ‘Ashioto’, and in the way that Yamamoto transitions between distinct section via various strategies. In the first section his hypnotic and softly reverberant golden ripples of gamelan precipitate deeply sweeping but in-the-pocket breakbeat roil with subconscious stealth, almost comparable to a canny DJ transition. But the mood persistently shifts like a localised weather system, ultimately drawing in and overcast with a starkly autumnal appeal that he doubles down on the B-side, where the drums total recede to present a play of tonal ghosts slipping like laminal plasma with Daisuke Fujiwara’s oozing sax and coming to suggest a late night avant-garde sexiness that culminates into a beastly Lynchian nightmare with cataclysmic, feral noise recalling Gruppo via Jim O’Rourke. Magic.
Archie Marshall aka King Krule oscillates between channeling strung out jazz crooners and mucky denim wearing rockabillies on a long-come follow-up to his 2013 debut.
“One of the most celebrated figureheads on the independent British scene, Archy Marshall returns with the dense, sprawling “The OOZ”, the much anticipated follow up to his debut “Six Feet Beneath the Moon”. Drifting and seeping through the cracks of South London like the album title, King Krule casts an unflinching eye over his kingdom, transforming his observations of all the disorientation and heartbreak of his youth into piercing narratives and poetry that are both startlingly honest and brutally beautiful. With “The OOZ”, Marshall finally takes the crown as poet laureate for the dazed and confused generation, painting a bleak and sometimes harrowing picture of a rapidly splintering city.
“The OOZ” is released October 13th on XL Recordings, preceded by the raucous new single “Dum Surfer” as well as a brilliant Brother Willis directed video. This autumn also sees Marshall hitting the road for a worldwide tour this autumn
Where “Six Feet Beneath the Moon”, released in 2013, was a rigorous, rambling excavation of Marshall’s expansive body of work to date, “The OOZ” snaps into focus quickly and sharply, his modus operandi coming into view almost immediately. Over jazzy curlicues and guitars, the opener “Biscuit Town” sets out its stall irresistibly as Marshall sings about rapidly disintegrating romance and personal dissolution with acute, almost painful detail. These wrenching themes of self-annihilation and fraying relationships seem inextricably linked in Marshall’s eyes – once you lose yourself to someone else, you inevitably wind up losing yourself completely when they leave – and recur in other tracks. “Why’d you leave me? Because of my depression? You used to complete me but I guess I learnt a lesson” he spits on the roiling “Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)”, and, even layered with the warm vocals of Okay Kaya, “Slush Puppy” is an unsparing dissection of a couple with nothing left to give, like a Gainsbourg and Birkin ballad gone toxic. Elsewhere, things only get darker, as Marshall desperately tries to find safe harbor in the city he knows and loves, only to be thwarted constantly, as on “The Cadet Leaps” and first single “Czech One”. Not even the synthetic high of chemicals, as shown in “Emergency Blimp” and “A Slide In (New Drugs)”, can stanch the suffering.
Although seeming at first abstract, “The OOZ” as a title proves oddly fitting. There are references littered throughout about its physical manifestation, or as Marshall himself says, “about earwax and snot and bodily fluids and skin and stuff that just comes out of you on a day to day basis”. But it works on a more figurative level too, with the OOZ also representing the unknown depths or horizons the solitary mind can travel to, whether it’s sinking into the deep sea or soaring through the night sky. It may be messy, unwieldy, even unsightly, Marshall seems to say - but we need The OOZ in order to exist.”
‘Travelog’ was the third EP released by Mat Steel and Mark Fell as SND, arriving in 1999 just before the release of their influential debut album ‘Makesnd Cassette’ on the Mille Plateaux label.
Of the three EP reissues in the series, ‘Travelog’ contains the most developed and satisfying work from the pair, edging their reduced production palette into more fully-realised dimensions, colouring-in those instantly recognisable bass notes and isolated percussive elements with a slow, sublime trickle of melody. The 6 extra tracks included are indispensable - extending the original EP into an hour of mesmerising, slowly immersive rhythmic pulses that still sound pretty much unlike anything you’ll have heard before - a perfect bridge between House, Techno and UKG re-imagined within a stripped structure that should act as a masterclass for a new school of producers trying to balance-out rhythmic complexity with space.
The opening ‘A1’ encapsulates this asymmetry brilliantly, bare swing and shuffle riding chiming chords that add warmth and space to an already intoxicating blueprint, while A3 takes those same elements and sharpens them into a slow, undulating alignment bolstered by that immaculate mastering treatment from Rashad Becker. ‘B3’ takes things deeper - a slow percussive edit slowly drowned-out by a growling analogue drone, while the closing side joins the dots between this EP series and that trio of albums for Mille Plateaux that would soon establish SND as the most forward-thinking and still resolutely original producers from an otherwise largely-forgotten musical era.
Extended 70 minute reissue of the very first SND release dating back to 1998 - the original 5 tracks have been doubled in number with original, previously unreleased recordings from the same sessions, all fully remastered from DAT tapes by Rashad Becker at D&M. The original pressing has been unavailable since its original release over 20 years ago - containing super influential and forward minimalism bridging between the reductionism of Ikeda and the swing of early UKG
Mark Fell and Mat Steel formed SND in Sheffield in 1998. Tplay was their first self-released EP, produced in a limited run and housed in a sleeve adorned with nothing but a stamped phone number on the back. Their palette and minimalist aesthetic more or less fell inline with the emergent school of producers that would eventually find themselves as labelmates on the Mille Plateaux label and the monolithic Raster Noton (Ikeda, Pan Sonic, Alva Noto, Bretschneider) - but as opposed to the intricacies and overly-academic strictures that would occupy so many of their contemporaries over the following decade, in hindsight it’s easy to identify how SND uniquely managed to re-code the swing & shuffle of UK Garage and Two-Step within a new minimalist paradigm.
Although producers such as G-Man, Sterac, Jeff Mills and Rob Hood had been stripping bare Techno templates since the early 90’s, it wasn’t until later in the decade that dots where joined between movements in Techno and experimental electronic music. This was mostly a serious and contemplative movement - typified by the fetishisation of abstract forms on the one hand, and rigid, Teutonic movement on the other. But with the release of Tplay SND had created a sound that was unlike anything else made at the time. Although they were guided by minimalist principles, their productions were also driven by the momentum of a much more colourful type of urban music.
Simply put - there was no one else bridging gaps between the austere functions of European electronic music and London’s emergent two-step sound. Truth is - if you bought Ryoji Ikeda albums you were unlikely to have thought much of Artful Dodger - and yet SND made music that drew influence and parallels from both. Listening over 15 years later, it’s startling just how fresh and forward these productions sound, now bolstered by over 30 minutes of previously unheard recordings taken from the same sessions. At a time when some corners of club music are arguably more accepting than ever before of strange and challenging production styles, its incredible just how unique and inimitable SND’s sound still is, taking us full circle to current producers like Visionist, Mumdance and Rabit who look to challenge dancefloor conventions by using the same principle of reduction and innovation without neglecting the dance.
Mark Fell and Mat Steel’s second EP as SND was released in 1999, a year after their debut ‘Tplay’. It continued to explore their distinct, highly individual take on electronic minimalism, House and UK Garage stripped to its bare bones.
This extended reissue features the original 6 tracks of ’newtables’, plus 6 previously unheard recordings from the same sessions - all fully remastered by Rashad Becker from the original DAT tapes. The tracks more or less split themselves into three distinct categories: the first detailing the brilliant swing and shuffle of their reduced UKG mutations, with ’22’ in particular perfecting the balance between academic reduction and kinetic, feminine motion.
The second outlines a more linear approach utilising reduced House and Techno templates, while the last includes more experimental works such as the proper fwd bass-pulse arrangements on the previously unheard B2 and the frequency fxxckery of closing track D3. This excellent reissue and the series as a whole really is a massive eye-opener for anyone unfamiliar with this incredible, important early material.
After two feverishly received albums as King Krule, plus another low-key outing under his own name, the 25-year-old from Peckham in South London adds further depth and substance to his oeuvre with another wondrous long-player called ‘Man Alive!’. It arrives packed full of his trademark sonic ambition and compositional skill, as well as the now-familiar corrosive lyricism and lurid social observation.
"In an accompanying video, his first foray into directing, Archy Marshall’s long-time love of cinema seeps, pulling influences from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic The Passion of Joan of Arc while still creating a typically wry King Krule visual."
Crucial selection of raw, darkside early gqom from pioneering Durban trio Phelimuncasi, setting the gripping vocals of twins Makan Nana and Khera, and Malathon, to cranky technoid club engines by DJ Menzi, DJ Mp3, and DJ Scoturn, all showcased for first time outside South Africa on the ever vital Nyege Nyege Tapes. Unmissable for fans of dark, heavy dance music of all stripes!
For Phelimuncasi's overdue first international showcase NNT follow a number of excursions into this sound from DJ Menzi and Sleeping Buddha for sibling label Hakuna Kulala with a mix of vintage early works and banging new exclusives, including some produced as recently as 2019 in the downtime after the trio’s incendiary performance at the label’s annual festival. Alongside the gqom archaeology of Italian-based GqomOh! label, this lot forms a vital piece of the genre’s history, charting how the vocalists’ conversational, toasting style, itself rooted in local storytelling traditions and the intimidating rhythmic singing of the apartheid-era came to influence their sound, and ultimately set the course for Gqom to come.
Colloquially known as “taxi techno” in the Durban townships, Gqom is a staple sound at NNT’s annual festival in Jinja, Uganda and always brings the best moves out of the SA dancers (and everyone else for that matter). As recently revealed on his shocking ‘Impazamo’ tape for Hakuna Kulala, DJ Menzi is one of the scene’s wildcards, and his productions for Phelminancusi are a big highlight here, counting the heavy call and response lyrics, signature Zulu trills and hard clang of their ‘Private Party’ anthem, the Terminator-stare drones of ‘GQOM Venus Cemetary’ and the desiccated bones of ‘Umgido’ among the comp’s heaviest drops.
Racked up beside an infectious introduction to gone-but-not-forgotten producers, DJ Scoturn with the menacing bell hook and bouncing bars of ‘Umahlalela’, and the starkly martial snares of DJ Mp3’s ‘Sesi Gora’, which sounds like mutant dancehall dispatched via late ‘80s Chicago, this lot is surely more than your RDA of crucial dancefloor energy, and absolutely primed with dense cyberpunk atmospheres for skulking deserted inner cities and counting down to the apocalypse.
Slunky, floating house minimalism from Neinzer, testing a mix of subtly off kilter rhythmic mechanics and jazzy micro-dub touches recalling Villalobos and Sasu Ripatti
Curved neatly into the Where To Now? sound, Neinzer’s follow-up to turns on Whities/AD 93 and Yumé is neatly tailored with a London crispness and swagger, shifting elegantly from the icy keys and rolling syncopation of ‘Traum’a’ thru the ruder, sub-heavy gait of ’Nabi’, to a more strung-out and sun dazed sound in ‘Hebdamu’ with sweet licks of keys and guitar, and ‘Cause Pan Tact Insoluble’ shimmering like a vintage SND or Jan Jelinek number.
On a first new solo side in five years Chicago post-rock supremo and experimentalist Sam Prekop (The Sea And Cake) yields his sleekest, most entrancing modular kosmiche music in a melodic model shared with everyone from BV Dub to Ulrich Schnauss and Nathan Fake
Best known in the ‘90s for his jazz-leaning post-rock with Sea And Cake, a key part of the Chicago scene with likes of Tortoise and Jim O’Rourke, for the past decade Sam Prekop has been preoccupied with the quirks and quarks of modular synths and kosmiche music, inevitably leading to ‘Comma’, the most lustrous Lufthansa business class refinement of the sound he’s been developing since 2010’s ‘Pavilion’.
Etching arcing lines from original mountain-dwelling communal German rock, to its pastoral shades, and thru Chicago’s spirited junctures of jazz and experimental indie-pop (found nowadays on the amazing International Anthem Recording Company), and thru to bubbling Acidic house and heart-cupping choral ambient gems, Prekop’s timelessly natural feel for melody brings the soul out of his modular machines in a manner that allows for all the odd, buzzing artefacts and electrical hum that comes with it (is it?), generating thee cutest ambient-pop in ‘September Remember’, while his indie-pop clinamen really comes to the disco on ‘Wax Wing’ and ‘Park Line’, and you’ll find melancholy IDM levels worth of Ulrich Schnauss on ‘The New Last’.
A lovely bunch; timeless in simplicity, execution and effect.
On his first solo mission in 2 years, Parris pedals between stepping house and swanging ambient brokebeats in a lush new addition to his prized discography.
Leading on from last year’s tracky duel with Call Super, ‘Polychrome Swim’ sees Parris in wonderfully ebullient, buoyant mode, deftly throwing his weight with the Cooly G-esque UKF roller ‘Harajuku Girls’, before slipping into a sort of slipstream between DJ Python’s ambient dembow and late summer West London broken beats on ‘Yūrei’ and really opening up and out into arcing pads and thizzy breaks on the excellent ‘Aqua Serge’.
Jai and A. K. Paul's pop powershack wrap up their summer 2020 with songs by the siblings and their peers; Hira, Fabiana Palladino, Pen Pals, Ruthven.
Anup Paul’s creamy soul downstroke ‘Honest’ leads a fine set peeping production from Jai on Fabiana Palladino’s gauzy, grungy-to-flash Prince vibes in ‘Waiting’, plus some great choral cut-ups and strangely beastly sound design in ’Shadow Knight’ by Reinen, and the shatterproof falsetto of Ruthven on ‘Have You Decided?’. A nice reminder of the summer everyone will try to forget, then?
Bing & Ruth, the ever-evolving project helmed by New York composer David Moore, returns with an excellent new album.
David Moore's last couple of high-profile albums as Bing & Ruth - RVNG's "Tomorrow Was The Golden Age" and the 4AD-released "No Home Of The Mind" - both hinged around a small ensemble, with piano guiding the mood. "Species" takes a different approach, concentrating on the sound of the Farfisa electric organ, punctuated occasionally with clarinet and double bass.
It's the most arresting material we've heard yet from Moore - blissful and cinematic but restrained, never falling into the usual traps. Fans of Sarah Davachi and Kali Malone will have plenty to sink their teeth into here, but where Moore differs is with his willingness to never shy away from abject beauty. These melancholy portraits are achingly lovely at times, not minimal as such, but layered and dense without losing hold of the unique character of the organ. At times, "Species" almost sounds like a 70s prog record with most of the recording channels muted - drums, guitars and vocals vanish like ghosts but leave traces in the mind.
It's painfully evocative, and somehow ideal for long stretches spent indoors, dreaming of aborted futures and a wasted past.
Immaculate Prince vibes from A.K. Paul - bro to Jai and co-boss of Paul Institute - serving his 2nd solo single following production for Miguel and Everything Is Recorded.
Sounding like he’s just bubbled a bong and come out with it, ‘Be Honest’ hits slow and direct with aching Paisley Park style production in the future-proofed cybeR&B chords and slippy downstroke.
Originally released in 1982, Pascal Comelade's Sentimientos is one of the most elusive and sought after LPs in the French composer's vast catalogue. Recorded on a two-track Revox machine, the album is an eclectic series of brief pieces – only two of the twenty tracks exceed four minutes – showcasing his poetic imagination and impressive range.
"While much of Comelade's early work hints at many of the major electronic movements to come, Sentimientos remains earthbound and organic. Melodic fragments performed on piano, organ, plastic saxophone, vibes, guitar, toy piano, ukulele and synthesizer place Comelade's boundless creative spirit on display. It is telling that Comelade chooses to cover a Brian Eno tune not from the ambient pioneer's seminal Music For Airports, released just four years earlier, but rather the more traditional "Taking Tiger Mountain," here rendered to highlight the song's previously hidden hymn-like qualities.
Like fellow countryman Ghédalia Tazartès, there is something distinctly unclassifiable about Comelade's music. Undoubtedly, the two artists share a flair for the mischievous. Sentimientos is an unapologetically whimsical, frequently dizzying and loveably anarchic album of manic energy and radiant mystery – a perfect introduction to Comelade's singular musical mind."
Fluence is the brainchild and first release of sound artist / provocateur Pascal Comelade. Recorded in Montpellier, France in 1974-1975, the project consists of exploratory electronic pieces in the Fripp & Eno vernacular with a Kosmische tinge.
"A Few Reasons To Stay / A Few Reasons To Split," a title inspired by Swiss conceptual artist Urs Lüthi, features Comelade's kaleidoscopic arpeggios and Richard Pinhas' howling guitar, which variously resembles a dreamlike cello and ghostly human moans.
"Barcelona Tango's" off-kilter exotica with pocket trumpet and looping drum beats foreshadows Comelade's later work, which would create a stir in some avant-garde circles for his use of unorthodox instruments (plastic saxophone, toy piano, etc.).
On the side-long "Schizo," Comelade's electric organ with probing, Terry Riley-esque swooshes collides with Gabriel Ibanez's thick, reedy buzz – together forming a truly magical soundscape. These incendiary performances ably join the ranks of other dreamily cosmic, impressionistic guitar-and-synth masterworks like No Pussyfooting and The Serpent (In Quicksilver) as well as Conny Veit's work with Popol Vuh.
Originally released in 1975, Fluence offers a remarkable emotional and textural range – richly experimental and deeply progressive – that sounds at once timeless and strikingly contemporary."
From unknown to XL entity in the space of two records, Shamir's success story is being quickly written to catch up with his debut LP, 'Ratchet'. Hailing from Las Vegas and in possession of the sweetest, playful soul voice, Shamir Bailey debuted in 2014 with a unique treat in 'Northtown' produced by Nick Sylvester for the Godmode label. Working again with Sylvester for 'Ratchet', Shamir posits himself as a nu-skool disco-not-disco prince, backed with a selection of largely uptempo and light-footed grooves perfectly suited to his effortless, flighty tone. It's a summer record through-and-through, from the melting synths and seductive croon of his opening dedication to the hellish 'Vegas' to the flamboyant New York disco-house buzz of 'Head In The Clouds', taking in ruddy electro-bass and cowbells with the hip-house jam, 'On The Regular', alongside tactile slower moments in the elegant 'Demon' and teaser single, 'Darker'.
Baudelaire’s ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ set to stark solo keys, with skeletal, unadorned production by Susanna and Deathprod giving crystal clear focus to the vocals that really brings the poetry’s timeless, dark realism/fantasy to life with perfectly tempered, immersively minimalist but opulent style of musical dramaturgy and staging...
“Like much of Baudelaire’s work, Susanna’s music probes the limits of desire, and confronts the simultaneous wonder and meaningless of existence. He is often considered one of the first modern poets, whose urban observations frequently dipped into fantasy, sensuality, fevered imagings and eerie horror. Susanna’s selection of ten texts from his masterwork The Flowers of Evil (translated by Anthony Mortimer) cover the full spectrum of Baudelaire’s conflicted expression.
Here you’ll find a creepy cast of witches, pagans, wolves, perverts, thugs, ghosts, vampires and demons. The songs struggle with lust and saintliness, angels and demons, tenderness and sadism, and the relentless march of time, the destroyer. Beauty with an edge of strangeness. Sin as a swallowing abyss. In Susanna’s haunting settings and performance, the poetry of Baudelaire has found its ideal transmitter.”
David Toop illustrates the sound from the back of his eyelids in ‘Apparition Paintings’, accompanied by notables such as Áine O’Dwyer and Rie Nakajima to rustle int he undergrowth of Fourth World ambient, atomised jazz-fusion, and country-folk with curiously plasmic results subtly contrasting his recent ace, also for Lawrence English’s Room 40
“Maybe these titles, torn as they are from cinema screens and the pages of literature and philosophy, give a feeling of romantic or sexual love or some dark pool of nostalgia but that’s not it, or it could be if you want it for yourself but not for me, not now; for me it’s about the teeming proliferation of complex events in the world, their vivid, hyperreal intensity as this human life steps closer to its end and their sense of fading, like a mist that thins out to leave not a clear bright day but almost nothing of substance as all that beauty is crushed, burned, dug up, wiped out, to be replaced by banality, so it’s about a language of love and desire in which we speak openly to all the unknowns, the speculative, the ancestral, the forgotten, the different, the extinct, the unimaginably distant and vast, the incomprehensibly small and intimately close, the fast or the slow, as if as we spoke we were becalmed in a wooden galleon off the coast of Java, sleeping microscopically in soil of a thousand years hence, hearing the voice of a dead person from the rim of a vibrating cup, gliding backwards and weightless through the alleyways of a city unrecognisable yet heartbreaking in its poverty, speaking in conference with winged and amphibious beings, crouching in a cavern whose opening only reveals the spectre of many wonders now apprehended as memories of the skin, heard through cheekbones, nostrils, the crepitation as a neck turns, pains of the knee and thumb and some not yet fully understood sensation within the throat which suggests a way of comprehending that which is being lost of this magical place. All I desire is what already exists or once existed, now falling asleep outside the world.
Don’t ask me about genre or consistency. Who cares? Half the world is drowning; the other half is in flames. Each story is an animal, a plant, something you drink, a surface you touch, a faint line, some memory emanating from a cardboard box. “’Things’ in themselves are only events that for a while are monotonous,” wrote Carlo Rovelli in The Order of Time. Maybe sounds are melting ‘things’, tired of the monotonous real.
Apparition painting is the term used to describe a certain type of ancient Chinese painting of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In these works, often associated with Chan (Zen) teachings, the ink used to depict the subject was exceptionally pale, the background lacking in any detail. As Yukio Lippit has written: “This combination results in remarkably self-dissembling images that somehow compromise their own visibility. Apparition painting appears to capture its subjects in mid-fade, as if managing to preserve only a dimly translucent afterimage of a bygone entity.”
After a sterling turn with Donato Dozzy’s Spazio Disponibile, Grand River’s lush DX7 synth sound flows onto Editions Mego for a real cinematic dream sequence landing somewhere between The Chi Factory and Voices From The Lake
Expanding on the mix of sharply focussed, elegantly airborne arp structures and gauzy ambience in her debut LP ‘Pineapple’ (2018), Dutch-Italian composer Aimée Portioli dilates her sound with a rippling lysergic lushness wavering between quietly ecstatic and introspective on its follow-up ‘Blink a Few Times to Clear Your Eyes’.
Burbling up with ‘80s FM dream synths that race off in like a rushing Kara Lis Coverdale in ‘Side Lengths’, the trip vacillates more panoramic visions like ‘Mr. Speaker’ and the endlessly arcing pads of ‘Canopies’ darker transitional beauties such as ‘Equations for a Falling Body’, and renaissance regression pieces that recall Spencer Clark via Lovisoni / Messina in ‘Gold’, while the final section flourishes in the direction of 0PN’s cinematic winks to Tangerine Dream or the iridescent guitars of Manuel Göttsching.
Dead bonny Scots and Gaelic folk traditionals played faithful to form by Scottish folkie Alasdair Roberts. Done in a style inspired by a life of living haunted houses and traversing the Gaelic world researching its oral and musical history and sustaining folk traditions in a proper old skool role. Crack out your Arrans, stoke the hearth, and pour a dram for this one
“I am indebted to my piping friend Donald Lindsay for The Blythsome Bridal, The Braes of Tulliemet and The Smith’s a Gallant Fireman, while Chief O’Neill’s Favourite and The Flowers of Edinburgh were learnt from my fiddling friend Neil McDermott. The Blythsome Bridal is used as the melody to a comic lyric called ‘Fy Let Us A’ To The Bridal’ first published in 1706. The Braes of Tulliemet lie near the Perthshire town of Pitlochry. The Smith’s a Gallant Fireman is also known as ‘Carrick’s Rant’. Chief O’Neill was Francis O’Neill (1848-1936), who was born in County Cork, emigrated to the USA as a young man and eventually became chief of the Chicago Police from 1901 to 1905. The Flowers of Edinburgh was first published in James Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion around 1760. The guitars are fretted in the following positions as the tunes appear on the record: II, II, V, VII and V.
My family stayed in a haunted house in the village of Balquhidder for a very short while in the early 1980s after moving from Germany to Scotland. However, I only took to singing The Braes of Balquhidder very recently after hearing a recording of it sung by the late Tim Lyons. The Seasons was learnt from the singing of the late Aberdeen singer Lizzie Higgins, daughter of Jeannie Robertson. Edinburgh-based Ulsterman Cathal McConnell knows many fine songs, most of which are collected in his book/CD set I Have Travelled This Country. I learnt this version of The Curragh of Kildare from that source. The late Sheila Stewart of Rattray, near Blairgowrie, is the source of my version of False, False. I would be unable to attribute my singing of Roberts Burns’ The Silver Tassie to a single source, owing to its general popularity in Scotland. I am forever indebted to all the fine singers and musicians mentioned above, and to many others unmentioned, for passing on songs and tunes to me over the years.”
Master field recordist, author and sound theorist David Toop presents a poignant, deeply trippy tableaux inspired by Chinese ghost stories and including recordings of his grandpa’s memories of 1901, a blind street group in Chiang Mai, and Ornette Coleman in conversation - wonderfully transitory, metaphysical stuff of rare substance.
From David Toop: What are field recordings? “My memory is not what it used to be, David,” my grandfather, Syd Senior, said to me as we huddled round a fireplace in 1979. Thanks to a cassette tape I have the memory of his gradual loss of memory, hearing him speak of Queen Victoria’s funeral and the severity of patriotism back in those old days, 1901. Syd Senior is long dead, no longer part of the field of living relations but still within the field of memories that can be revived by technology, albeit an old one that squeaks like a mouse, hisses like a cat.
Where is the field? The field is populated by all the ravishing, painful, poignant, nondescript moments of remembered life. Field recordings forget, just as memories forget. My recording of Ornette Coleman forgets that he fell asleep as we were talking together. I sat quietly, waiting for him to wake; the tape machine continued its work, oblivious.
During lockdown, a warm spring day, I sat working in the garden. A small fox appeared close to me, started, retreated into the shelter of plants by my pond. I took a photo with my phone but when I looked at the image no fox was visible. Earlier that day I had been reading Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, a collection of short stories written by Pu Songling during the course of his life in the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century. In many of these tales, fox spirits inhabit the physical spaces of living humans in a variety of guises. Some are malicious; some benign. Their presence in the material world is wrong and yet accepted as either a temporary nuisance or a blessing that would later be regretted.
“All the memories are very incomplete,” said Annabel Nicolson during a conversation I recorded with her in the early 1990s. “It’s like trying to substantiate something that was important to us . . . When I was younger I thought that didn’t matter. I thought everything could be transient because people would always be creating more . . . when you get older it seems rather different because you realise many wonderful things have just vanished. Which in some ways doesn’t matter but it also means that they can’t be shared with anyone other than those who were there.”