Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Yosi Horikawa - Vapor (2013)



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For fans of: Cornelius, Ametsub, The Books

"Yosi Horikawa likes to take his time between releases, which seems fitting for an artist whose music is highly contemplative. Listening to his music, it's easy to imagine Horikawa—who's based in Chiba, Japan—ruminating over every painstaking detail on the 16 songs that comprise Vapor, his first LP and the fourth official release in his catalog. Tracks like "Kingdom of Frogs" are teeming with minutiae; croaking and chirping amphibians, humming bugs, trickling bubbles, delicately plucked keys, crisp claps, pulsing low end, and deep drums are all part of the mix. Somehow, Horikawa creates whole environments of sound that seem to be at once vibrantly alive and digitally artificial.

Field recordings are a key component of Horikawa's work, and he often sculpts their many sonic elements into sturdy beats. For instance, on "Bump," the sound of waves slapping creates the backbone of a lurching rhythm. "Wandering" finds the sound of birds tweeting intersecting with complex, jangling percussion, and on "Letter," the scratches and tapping noises of a hand running a pencil across a page provide an infrastructure for hooting synth melodies and clattering drums. The various beats and song structures arise naturally and even though they've also been embellished with glittering synth melodies and wafts of pads and other audio effects, they evoke strong images—a boat being rowed through lapping waves, a highly animated forest, a concentrated scribe fervently composing a message.

Horikawa's ability to conjure potent imagery with his productions lends a cinematic quality to the songs, which in turn acts as a common thread between the 16 tracks. Vapor travels through a host of different genres: "Wandering" brings to mind the more adventurous end of UK dubstep, namely the rattling beats of Untold's rework of Ramadanman's "Revenue," while "Bump" toys with rocking trip-hop formats. Bubbling noises and pattering rainfall evolve into jittery footwork rhythms on "Splash" and "Starlings," and on "Stars," Horikawa ventures into downtempo jazz with galloping notes from an upright bass and melancholy piano chords. But regardless of what sounds Horikawa is mining, these explorations remain aesthetically linked by his highly visual, dramatic proclivities.

Vapor demonstrates not only Horikawa's versatility as an artist, but also his ability to retain a unique voice and compelling perspective no matter what form his music takes. It's a long album—one might be tempted to take a break around the halfway mark—but each track contains an intricate ecosystem of noises to marvel at." - Elissa Stolman

Greg Haines - Where We Were (2013)



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For fans of: Jon Hopkins, Pan•American, A Winged Victory For The Sullen

"After reading the press release of Where We Were and listening to the music for the first time, I was excited to find out that what I have here is actually Greg Haines’ most different and adventurous work to date. No commercial potential. Where We Were is the antithesis of mainstream music in 2013. It’s raw and impulsive rather than polished, calculated and forced; it’s erratic rather than predictable, and it reveals its allure gradually with each listening session instead of revealing it all at once. An album that rewards the attentive listener pursuing the indefinable. An array of mysterious electronic wizardry and acoustic glimmer fluctuates and rumbles, sounding like a broken transmission from another world, generating moments of euphoria—sometimes peaceful and carefree like floating in space watching a colorful nebula, at other times uplifting and wild like coronal rain. Always poignant and occasionally with a sense of darkness, Where We Were is a great example of what electronic music can be if done originally and creatively. It’s not a recording of a person just messing around aimlessly with some instruments, it’s a documentation of one man translating elusive moments of inspiration into sound.

Even though the flow of Where We Were is erratic, the album holds a sense of a journey. The eight tracks assemble something crystallized that is best taken in as a whole. The intensity with which the sound is manipulated is mind boosting and at times overwhelming. Ambient, techno, dub, electronica and classical music come to mind when listening to the music, but Where We Were doesn’t fall under any of those labels. It’s a strange beast composed of analog synths, old tape delays, piano, vibraphone, percussion and free, boundless approach. An intimate work that lets the listener interpret it in any way he or she wants." - Nocturnal Ghost

Ensemble Economique - Light That Comes, Light That Goes (2013)



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For fans of: Mark Van Hoen, Belong, Mordant Music

"Praise for Ensemble Economique‘s Light That Comes, Light That Goes from San Francisco’s aQuarius Records: Drugs. Hallucinations. Isolation. Death. Some pretty classic / heavy-as-fuck metaphors run through the work of Brian Pyle, the mad genius of Manilla Beach up in Humboldt County, California.

He’s been at it for a long time now, first knocking on our door with his homespun variations of floorcore psychedelia with the seemingly inactive collective Starving Weirdos; then, there was the fraternal act of nature jamming drones through RV Paintings; and Ensemble Economique is Pyle all by his lonesome, where he’s proven deft at density of sound laced with a nocturnal pop streak that could even warrant some Demdike witchy references.

Pyle‘s hypnotic structures are deceptively simple and proven emotively effective – a lilting layer of blown-out guitar drones cycling through elegiac melodies, another layer of electronic sequences, oceanic driftings, chanted vocalizations, rasps of bowed metals, maudlin church organ explorations, or thumming dial-tone samples, with crumbled film samples of what could be some Russian / French / Hong Kong noir film of some woman frantically whispering about some crime that may or may not have happened.

The individual tracks glide into a purposeful, cinematic song cycle narrative that begins with the thoroughly gloomy, portentous opening track ‘If You Need Help’ that is a real downer of an acid trip spent staring at a ghost ship sinking in the depths of the Pacific with sand, sea foam, and black rain kicking you in the face to make the sense of hopelessness all the more real.

Pyle links the two sides of the album with ‘Ksenia’ – a track split in half of percolating acidic electronic sequences girding those female vocal samples and guitar drones. By the end of the album, his delirious slow-motion take on ’80s bombast lifts the album’s weightiness with two drone-pop ballads of marching rhythms and radioluminescent hypno-melodies. Another mighty fine album from Brian Pyle!" - Roadburn

Genius of Time - Tuffa Trummor (2012)


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For fans of: Motor City Drum Ensemble, Levon Vincent, Move D

"unlike their last, ‘houston, we have a problem’, these two new genius of time efforts are unlikely to ever mark the standout moments of a night. but that’s not the point of them, they aren’t trying to be anthemic and nor do they cull any popular samples, instead they are two expertly embellished grooves designed to get you dancing. of course they’ll also get you feeling something, too, because the swedish duo have a knack for heartfelt hooks and pop accessibility, but all housed in underground aesthetics.

‘tuffa trummor med synth’ might not be a catchy title, but there is something wholly catchy about the wavering, underlapping groove on which it is built. there’s a subtle garage shuffle to it that’s heated with plenty of deft synth details, but most infectious of all is the coarse, oscillating synth line that wiggles and jiggles with an unashamed funk right in your face. on the flip, ‘tuffa trummor med roast’ is a little less settled, there’s a call and response action going on where a low down jack hammer sound bangs a few times, only to be answered by a more metallic tin pot clatter up top. a string-laced breakdown brings a moment of serene calm before the jiggering, undulating rhythms roll once more. there’s plenty of air and space around all that, though, with dusty synths and what sounds like a never ending vocal echo adding many more layers for you to get lost in. catchy in the least obvious way, picking a fav here is futile." - Teshno

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle - Perils From the Sea (2013)


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For fans of: Low, The Besnard Lakes, Bill Fay

"Perils from the Sea, a surprisingly absorbing collaboration between Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon frontman Mark Kozelek and Album Leaf mastermind Jimmy Lavelle, sounds exactly as one might imagine. Kozelek's richly detailed, impressionistic lyrics and laconic delivery, when paired with Lavelle's barebones bedroom electro-pop, are as engaging as they are impossibly lonesome, sounding on occasion like Kid A filtered through a Pacific Northwest skylight. Released on Kozelek's own Cobra Verde label and credited to Sun Kil Moon and The Album Leaf, the 10-track collection feels less like a product and more like an accidently overheard musical conversation between two of indie rock's most enigmatic personas. Opener "What Happened to My Brother," the track that initiated the project, is indicative of much of what is to follow, with Lavelle's minimalist, Postal Service-inspired, 8-bit sounding synth lines and antiquated drum machine patches falling effortlessly in step with Kozelek's evocative, Bay Area-inspired wordplay. At its best ("Baby in Death Can I Rest Next to Your Grave," "Here Come More Perils from the Sea," "Caroline," "Somehow the Wonder of Life Prevails"), Perils from the Sea skillfully bridges the gap between Kozelek's most recent offerings, which favored classical guitar and vocal over full-band arrangements, with the fuller sound of his Red House Painters and early Sun Kil Moon years, resulting in a listening experience that trades in the distant, narrative-driven opaqueness of Admiral Fell Promises and Among the Leaves for a newfound inclusivity that suits both parties." - AMG

Jenny Hval - Innocence Is Kinky (2013)


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For fans of: PJ Harvey, Carla Bozulich, Laurel Halo

"Jenny Hval’s previous, highly acclaimed Rune Grammofon album “Viscera” (2011), recorded with her own free rock trio, overflowed with intimate detail and surrealistic bodily imagery. The follow-up “Innocence Is Kinky” was produced in Bristol, England by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, who helped bring out the intimate qualities of her lyrics and sharpened her improvisational tendencies, weaving spellbinding new forms of intelligent, experimental pop with injections from mythology, theory and gender politics. You can also trace her no-holds-barred streams of consciousness and unorthodox subject matter back to earlier heroes such as Einstürzende Neubauten’s Blixa Bargeld (her title puns on their LP “Silence Is Sexy”), Patti Smith, Michael Gira, Nick Cave and Kate Bush." - Rune Grammofon

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Revival Hour - Scorpio Little Devil (2013)


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For fans of: Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens, The Flaming Lips

"Scorpio is an album that is continually digging. It wields a deep-rooted passion that's on hands and knees, sweating, and tunneling both sonically and lyrically, shaping itself as a wellspring in a drought-ridden indie landscape. Stith and Lapham have crafted a near flawless ten-track album that takes an experimental approach to older soul and pop music. The Revival Hour are certainly channeling a hip, nostalgic era of music, but not like most of their surf-rock, neo-doo-wop contemporaries. Instead, they've upended the dream-pop format with bubbling, soulful vocals, convoluted percussion, and shadowy guitar and synth that get past all the indie fluff and directly to the core of expression." - Buffablog

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Uusitalo - Vapaa Muurari Live (2000)


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For fans of: Ricardo Villalobos, Pole, Fluxion

"One of a rash of various projects produced by Vladislav Delay around the turn of the millennium, Vapaa Muurari is the first of his Uusitalo attributions, and it's yet another impressive musical excursion. Techno is clearly the modus operandi here (opposed to the house approach of Vocal City or the ambience of Entain), for the beats hit relatively hard and chug along in a more or less linear fashion. Still, this is a Delay production, so expect the usual sense of wooziness that often characterizes his rhythms and the gauzy haze that often envelopes his tracks at times. Another impressive release needless to say, Vapaa Muurari serves as yet more evidence that Delay is prolific and ambitious, in addition to being multi-talented, as he seems able to make amazing electronic music regardless of style." - AMG

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fire! Orchestra - Exit! (2013)


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For fans of: Mostly Other People Do the Killing, The Necks, Matana Roberts

"Fire! is where Mats Gustafsson (The Thing), Johan Berthling (Tape) and drummer Andreas Werliin (Wildbirds & Peacedrums) go to stretch their instrumental skills and collaborate with prestigious guests like Jim O’Rourke and Oren Ambarchi. Fire! Orchestra takes the project to the next level: a sonic behemoth comprising 28 members from Swedish jazz, improv and avant rock that should be unmanageable, but turns out to possess the elegance and lucidity of the righteous free jazz big bands of the past. Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra. Carla Bley’s “Escalator Over the Hill”. Centipede. Sun Ra’s “Space Is The Place”. Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood Of Breath. Freddie Hubbard & Ilhan Mimaroglu’s “Sing Me A Song Of Songmy”. All these classic landmarks come to mind as you listen to their monumental “Exit!”. “Exit!” was recorded in front of an over enthusiastic audience in January 2012 at the headquarters of Fylkingen, the legendary Stockholm avant garde music centre. But before you go thinking this is an impenetrable free jazz meltdown, listen again. “Exit!” follows in these mighty footprints, but it’s also an odyssey that takes its own route, with post-rock/krautrock diversions along the way. There is a way in to “Exit!”, and the way out is clearly signposted. Fire! is all about burning up tradition and blazing new paths and fresh approaches in improvised music – approaches informed equally by garage punk, electroacoustics and the noise of heavy industry. Throughout both long halves of “Exit!”, Mariam Wallentin (Wildbirds & Peacedrums) and Sofia Jernberg chant ritualistic lyrics written by Arnold de Boer of Dutch avant rock institution, The Ex. " - Rune Grammofon

Lusine - The Waiting Room (2013)


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For fans of: Luomo, Gudrun Gut, The Black Dog

"After taking a break from recording as Lusine to score the film projects Snow Angels, Linewatch, and The Sitter, Jeff Mcilwain returned to creating electronic music for Ghostly, for 2013's The Waiting Room. Whereas the albums prior to 2009's A Certain Distance had an understated ambient vibe, he goes for a bigger production on this outing, enlisting guest vocalists on five of the songs. On some numbers, he incorporates a clever trick, and processes the vocals so heavily that it takes the human element out of the singer's voice. Such is the case on the squishy dance beat of "Another Tomorrow," where Caitlin Sherman sounds like a robot singing through a vacuum. This little trick helps to make the radio songs like "By This Sound" fit into Lusine's digital realm and match his futuristic aesthetic. However, when Sarah Mcilwain sings on the Air-styled "Get the Message," or when Janelle Kienow lends her delicate voice to "Without a Plan," they do so cleanly and change the sound dramatically, in the way a remix might. These songs have more crossover potential and are likely influenced by Jeff Mcilwain's time working in studios for Hollywood executives. The rest of the album is more suited to the typical Ghostly fan, highlighted by instrumental beats with thumping kick drums, acidic basslines, and sparkling keyboard loops. It's fun to see him dip into a wider array of pop influences, and even the instrumentals vary from the usual IDM, minimal house, and ambient techno. "Stratus" is a rave ramp-up that runs about twice as fast as the downtempo "On Telegraph." Those looking for something more consistent should first check out the exceptional Serial Hodgepodge, but fans of the poppier side of Lusine will find this to be a nice counterpart to A Certain Distance." - AMG

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Machine - RedHead (2010)


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For fans of: Demdike Stare, Culoe De Song, Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, incredibly hypnotic trance inducing tribal house music. Big bouncy beats that'll get you locked in, drums to get your blood pumping, and spacey synths and strange sounds and samples to make you gaze in awe. All of it looped to no end and played with indulgently. It won't let me sit still, I don't want to sit still, this is great. I don't care if it's super repetitive, I have no idea how much time is going by when it's on. - Matthew Foster

"Matt Edwards goes by many names -- Matthew E, Rekid, Quiet Village, Sea Devils, Radio Slave -- and now you can also call him RedHead. Whereas under his various other guises he creates old-school acid house or electro-pop or disco, as RedHead he makes music that doesn't seem to care very much whether you're interested in dancing, though you can go ahead and try if you want to. "Continental Drift" is the most disinterested of the six very long tracks on this album; it sounds like a ship's mast creaking, with ocean waves, a ride cymbal, and a static but strangely urgent synth chord that sustains itself for the length of the track and, brilliantly, brings out the actual pitch of the creaking ship's mast. It's a very cool, but excessively long track. It's followed immediately by the funky, burbling groove of "Opening Ceremony (Fuse)," which is, oddly enough, saved from monotony by the sudden appearance of a Gregorian chant sample. "Leopard Skin" sounds like something Muslimgauze might have recorded after a visit to the Amazonian jungle; "Talking Dolls" blends an unassuming house beat with dubwise vocal snippets, and "Root People" blends a house beat with field recordings in a manner that brings to mind African Head Charge crossed with Jon Hassell. Only the grim and rather boring "Spell Bound" fails to cast much of a spell; everything else on this album is weirdly brilliant." - AMG

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hundred Waters - Hundred Waters (2012)


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For fans of: Dirty Projectors, The Books, Braids

Hundred Waters create a sound that is truly their own here. It's part pop, part folk, part experimental, and is largely electronic. They clearly know what they're doing when they mix electronics into the otherwise organic songs and it never comes off as amateurish. The singer has a very soft voice that's easy to get drawn into. The album definitely fits into modern indie music well, and is one of the more accomplished albums I've heard in a long time. - Matthew Foster

"It’s been a rough couple of years for bands tied to folk-tronica. The genre has become contemporary easy listening built to soundtrack an overpriced sushi dinner in a chic hotel restaurant, or perhaps music that gets drowned out by the roar of a Starbucks frother. Critical respect has been lagging, but a new bright spot has appeared in Hundred Waters.

The group’s self-titled album debut builds upon their EP by crafting a tapestry of 60′s British-inspired folk updated with contemporary electronic flourishes. On album opener “Sonnet”, it becomes clear that this is a band with a unified musical vision and a tightness akin to jazz musicians. On “Visitor”, vocalist Nicole Miglis’ breathy vocals wash over rippling synths before everything morphs into a percussion-heavy head banger, a word not typically associated with this style of loungy electronica, yet the Gainesville, FL sextet pull it off.

Hundred Waters is at its best when space is given for a song to breathe, as on album closer “Gather”. Stripped down to Miglis’ somber voice, piano, and cello, the result is haunting. Tranquil lullaby “Caverns” finds Miglis channeling Björk, delving into the depths of a cavern on a lazy boat ride, as drops of water trickle down from the stalactites. This close tie to nature continues on “Boreal” where Miglis moves everything to a forest scene.

There’s a glut of sound packed into most tracks, which works both for and against the band. While it makes for an interesting spin, it restricts the listener from completely engaging each track. The ADHD-like shifts peppered throughout illustrate the band’s incredible talent, but at times the erratic demonstations come across as a band flexing their musical muscle for the sake of it.

There’s a lot to love here despite its flaws, and the band stands to have a break out year – that is, if audiences can keep a patient ear. True song craft and musicianship is at work within Hundred Waters, and that warrants some serious attention." - COS

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lindstrøm - Six Cups of Rebel (2012)


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For fans of: Mark E, The Field, Oneohtrix Point Never

With intense funk and progressive interludes, this album is packed to brim with a heavy sound and a deep groove that carries through the whole album. Spacey synths and altered vocals fill out the tracks and keep my attention peaked. Lindstrøm's not making the same music he's made before, he's taking his space-disco into places it's never been and he's doing it with as much finesse as ever. If you can delve into the sugary layers here, you're in for a treat. It's the first great album of the year for me. - Matthew Foster

"Hans-Peter Lindstrøm is back with what's technically only his second "proper" solo album, and it is a feisty one. The unpredictable Norwegian producer seems to be taking some cues here from his labelmates (and sometime-remix cronies), the prog pranksters Mungolian Jet Set; Six Cups of Rebel is chock-full of the kind of bizarre, cartoonish, sci-fi lunacy and cheekily maximalist, gonzo musical odysseys they've made their stock-in-trade. In particular, the album is animated by a virtual armada of goofy, muppet-like voices -- most or all of which are Lindstrøm's own, tweaked and twisted in ways even the Knife might find extreme. It's certainly recognizable as the work of the same artist -- his sense of pacing, patient and playful in equal measure, remains as masterful as ever -- and features a unified, suite-like structure, but this is a far cry from the understated elegance and monumental minimalism of 2008's Where You Go I Go Too. It doesn't start out that way, however. The album opens in relative stillness and solemnity, with a single, spiraling organ figure gradually augmented by swelling, skyward organs, until the sudden rug pull of "De Javu" launches into demento disco mode for the next 20-odd minutes. Here's where the loopy vocal phantasmagoria really holds sway -- from the bluesman yowling "I can't get no release" to a curmudgeonly fellow muttering "All I want is a quiet place to live" to a chorus line of scatting space creatures demanding "What kind of magik do you do?" -- interwoven into a string of strutting mutant dance jams. The less vocally oriented second side embarks on a slippery arpeggio-thon that meanders like a prog-tinted jam session, featuring improvisatory drumming and oblique quotes from "Here Comes the Sun." It passes through the twitchy, zapping acid-funk of the title track en route to the glittery, expansive synthesizer fantasia of "Hina," which comes full circle with a swooning, celestial susurration of voices. It's the first time we feel a satisfying sense of prolonged suspension. The album is in a near-constant state of masterfully sustained harmonic and rhythmic tension. Just when you thought it couldn't possibly last, that swirling organ line reappears like a devilish deus ex machina, and sends the whole thing circling around again." - AMG

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Current 93 - Thunder Perfect Mind (1992)


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For fans of: Swans, Comus, Six Organs Of Admittance

It's both creepy and thoroughly interesting, part pastoral folk, part abstract experiment. The lyrical themes are far-reaching, and the music is subtly psychedelic, with chimes and flutes. Even though it doesn't grab me as quickly as a lot of music does, it excells at being transportive. - Matthew Foster

"Of course, the music on Thunder Perfect Mind is nothing less than essential, the first entry in David Tibet's masterful three-album run that also included the classics Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre and All The Pretty Little Horses. With TPM, David Tibet created his first highly personal tour de force, a sprawling double album that finally gelled all of Tibet's myriad influences - esoteric, lyrical and musical - and represented the very culmination of his promising, though uneven early career. Thunder Perfect Mind is that rare class of albums where every track is a highlight - the crisp medieval balladry and bizarre Gnostic cosmology that comprise "The Descent of Long Satan and Babylon," the melancholic funeral dirge of "A Song for Douglas After He's Dead," the atmospheric gloom of "A Sadness Song" and the swirling, spectral psychedelia of "All The Stars Are Dead Now." The collaborations on TPM are among Current 93's finest: Jhon Balance's vocals on "Rosy Star Tears From Heaven" pushes the track into the kind of Satanic fury previously only heard on Comus' First Utterance, and Bevis Frond's Nick Salomon contributes an electrifying third-eye guitar track to the side-long prophetic Blakean hallucinations of "Hitler as Kalki (SDM)." David Tibet and producer Steven Stapleton transform holophonic krautrocker Sand's skeletal "When The May Rain Comes" into a masterpiece of phased Euro-folk, evoking the wet cobblestones of a half-remembered old-world Berlin." - Jonathan Dean

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oneida - Happy New Year (2006)


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For fans of: Fly Pan Am, Liars, Six Organs of Admittance

Oneida are a band that have always been on the fringe of my attention, with sometimes captivating, but sometimes alienating noisey indie rock. With this one, I don't feel too detached from the music, and can really sink into the kroutrock-like grooves and enjoy what's here. They use a wide range of instruments, and successfully create a wide range of styles, from folk to blues, though always with a noisey, pschedelic, but also laid-back feel. You can tell that they're not using a million dollar studio, but it doesn't seem to hold them back at all, incorporating a bunch of electronics and effects. - Matthew Foster

"Reflecting the cyclical nature of earth and life itself, Oneida's eighth full-length album, Happy New Year, presents ideas of death and rebirth, and the continuity, and yet tenuousness, of existence. It's a poetic work of circling guitars and melodic phrases and vocal lines repeating and layered like monastic chants. The opener, "Distress," is comprised of a four-line phrase about the fleeting nature of beauty ("So fades the lovely blooming flower/Frail, smiling solace of an hour/So soon our transient comfort flies/And pleasure only blooms to die"), with modal harmonies and haunting, sparse background music, while the dark musings of "The Misfit" explore the notion of evil and perfidiousness, referencing perhaps the character in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." But the band isn't trying to present an image of hopelessness, of a hell, or even a limbo from which you can never escape. Rather, they seem to be exploring the realm of purgatory, where, though it may require a great deal of time and sacrifice, there is hope of redemption. Both "Up with People" and "History's Great Navigator's" offer suggestions for improvement ("Open your eyes, the things you see/Are determined by the height of the ground you seize" and "Cross your heart, hope to die/Calm your voice, set your eye/Turn your back and go," respectively) as the band grooves along with quick drums and purposeful noise; it's all very much planned, controlled, with Oneida, acting as Virgil, guiding listeners along. Though the screeches and rumblings that occur in some of the songs (though as an album, Happy New Year is much less hard than what the band has previously produced) may occasionally seem arbitrary, in fact everything is very tightly contained. The idea of messiness is only put there to add effect, not because Oneida are losing control of their message and their statement. The record may not promise happiness or salvation, but it does propose ideas that can be contemplated in the time between the winding melodies and riffs, and perhaps one day, we too, like the Pilgrim, can continue on alone." - AMG

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Necks - Mindset (2011)


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For fans of: Supersilent, Moritz von Oswald Trio, GAS

An awesome modern jazz album, it's very purcussive, but has piano chords landing here and there, a bass that pushes the tracks forward, and even some sound effects that really add to the thick atmosphere. There's somehow a lot going on, but also not much going on at the same time, it's full of sound, but also meditative. Excellent stuff! - Matthew Foster

"24 years and 16 albums into an estimable career, The Necks present two engrossing longform tracks, comprising their first major release since 2009s 'Silverwater'. On 'Mindset' Jazz, drone and electronic soundscaping coalesce into something far, far greater than the sum of their elements, creating a multi-tiered, organically shifting mass of piano, bass and drums knitted with subtle but crucial synthesis and FX to hypnotise and leave us frankly dazzled. The first of these two 20+ minute pieces 'Rum Jungle' is densely realised yet rendered with a minimalist vision, allowing each independent layer to swirl and swoon without friction in its own frequency space while still somehow managing to communicate freely with the other kinetic sections operating at idiosyncratic tempos. The effect is utterly magical, at once feeling fluidly improvised and highly organised in a manner achieved only by the most skilled, attuned musicians. In stark contrast, 'Daylights' is more richly textured, deploying filigree electronics around sparse, plangent keys and stalking bass recalling Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, but also following a steady evolutionary vector which could only come from three master musicians in synchrony. Warmly encouraged to fans of Carsten Nicolai, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Marclay." - Boomkat

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Winged Victory for the Sullen - A Winged Victory for the Sullen (2011)


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For fans of: Harold Budd, The Caretaker, Pan•American

One of the things that draws me to ambient music is its simple beauty, and like Harold Budd's music, this is filled with it, no noise, no strange effects, no loops. It sounds like it's just piano and strings, and I could imagine it fitting very well as a soundtrack to a silent outer space film, maybe just as well as Eno's Apollo. This must be one of the prettiest albums I've heard in a long time. - Matthew Foster

"Starting with the steady, contemplative piano and slight feedback on the opening "We Played Some Open Chords," A Winged Victory for the Sullen can't be called a barrel of laughs per se, but their song titles -- not to mention their band name -- suggest a knowing playfulness with the conventions of moodily beautiful 21st century drone/ambient. Given that the core members are composer Dustin O'Halloran and Stars of the Lid veteran Adam Wiltzie, it's little surprise that both those conventions, and how to work well beyond them, are within their grasp on this debut release. Much like some Stars of the Lid releases, the album and song names may verge on the wry, but without that context, something like the slow strings and feeling of suffused sorrow on the first part of "Requiem for the Static King," or the involving textures of "Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears" simply are what they are, and quite beautifully so at that. While the sonic connections to the members' past work are clear, so are the distinctions; if the duo is less about full-on beautiful drones than Stars of the Lid often were, there's a similar appreciation for the slowly unfolding and the calmly insular, touchstones ranging as far as George Winston as Eno ("A Symphony Pathetique," almost exclusively piano aside from some distant shading that appears a little more clearly toward the end, is arguably the extreme of this approach on the album, elegantly done every step of the way). Even with the titular or seeming snark brought to bear, the feeling often seems simply appropriate more than anything else -- "Minuet for a Cheap Piano" is almost just that, counting the extra layered tones in the background, while "All Farewells Are Sudden" doesn't close out the album on a quick, final note but a soft, string piece fade, a slow wheezing of tone and delay that's a conclusion and a half when it comes to wrapping things up with a gentle bow." - AMG

Saturday, October 1, 2011

John Heckle - The Second Son (2011)


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For fans of: Virgo Four, Mr. Fingers, Omar S

This is a classic sounding house album executed just about perfectly, with a ton of raw energy and a seductive blend of synths and naturally falling beats. It took me a while to sink into the sound, but once I did it hit me like a brick. The tracks "Inside Me" and "Red Defender" are both fantastic, and are sure to please fans of dance music new and old, house, techno, or electro. It's one of the years best and is highly recommended. - Matthew Foster

"John Heckle delivers a truly incredible album with 'The Second Son', a release which vividly marks him out as a true and distinctive talent in what can (at times) seem an increasingly bland and unoriginal musical form.

The ten tracks presented here come across as some sort of missing link in Chicago House history - what might have happened if the frenetic pace of developments of the late 80s and early 90s had been somewhat tempered and the considerable creative juices of the day had been allowed to swash around more freely. But that, as far as I am concerned, is what Jamal Moss's Mathematics Recordings was willed into existence for, to build upon that era's sounds, ideas, feelings, philosophy and approach, and in this artist and in this album I feel this mission has reached a milestone.

John takes those familiar feelings of classic early house and gives them his own kinda soul and energy. It all sounds familiar and brand spanking new at the same time, like you're rediscovering the intense joys of this music all over again. There is a naturalness to John's production and musicality that struck me as something like eternal Larry Heard meets classic Derrick May, served up through a Hieroglyphic Being style gritty aesthetic. And yet, his sound is very much his own distinct brand.

Whatever's going on here, this release puts a huge smile on my face and stirs something that first got stirred in me more than 17 years ago - so thanks for that Mr Heckle!!" - RonocNikcam

Sunday, September 11, 2011

David Thomas Broughton - Outbreeding (2011)


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For fans of: Sam Amidon, Bill Callahan, Antony & The Johnsons

His voice is very strong, and fortunately he chooses to make music that just about fully expresses it. Other than an acoustic guitar, he uses all kinds of manipulation techniques that seem to fold parts of songs in on themselves, or branch other parts out into nowhere, but it all fits perfectly. Then the songs themselves are full of witty lines about different personalities and situations that really catch my attention. It's a great set of songs that are both more heartfelt and more adventurous than most, outwardly conventional, but inwardly experimental. - Matthew Foster

"He sees resentment, guilt and loathing, we see folk-song brilliance

The more David Thomas Broughton tells you what an awful bastard he is, the less inclined you are to believe him. The maverick’s third album streamlines the sprawling electro-dashed folk of its predecessors into a dual-pronged thrust of debased beauty and elegant despair (“I am a perfect louse, I bleed the goodness from your body”, ‘Perfect Louse’), but it’s his electrifying croon that lends this its wealth of weary charms – ‘Apologies’ longs wistfully to “set your body on fire”, while ‘Joke’’s regrets of a rocky relationship are tinged with a poetic, silver-tongued optimism at once deplorable and discomfitingly familiar.

Bleeding excellence from every pore, self-loathing never felt so worthy." - NME

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Move D & Pete Namlook - III: The Retro Rocket (1999)


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For fans of: DeepChord, Drexciya, GAS

A very fine ambient techno release, with a great atmosphere, really nice sounds, a good flow, and lots of embellishments on the top. It definitely has a 90s techno sound, but doesn't suffer from being too dated. Synths guide spacey melodies through the electro rhythms and other machines quack and squeal as if alive. Superb stuff really. - Matthew Foster

"‘Remember the Days’ begins very quietly with sizzling drones then gentle synth pads. A rhythm starts to build and we get into a groove. Not in yer face but certainly infectious. Half way through a strange almost alien sounding lead line is used then as it disappears the rhythm is cranked up. It doesn’t try to be too clever but is superbly atmospheric, rhythmic and very accessible at the same time.

‘Schmock!’ starts off as another gently rhythmic number, rather trance inducing. This rhythm goes through a multitude of patterns though the basic sounds used remain fairly constant being a combination of bass, heavily processed ‘cracking’ snare and weird and wonderful hissing type noises. ‘Fur Friedrich, Oskar & Paul’ is beautifully atmospheric with a devastating, slow melodic motif. Very sorrowful somehow with simple rhythms added. It is only in the last minute and a half that the beat becomes prominent enough the challenge the melody.

‘Nite Out’ combines drum loops to produce a very hypnotic track with little detail added for the first three minutes. The lead then keeps playing the main theme and this too adds to the hypnotism. ‘Time to Go’ is the aptly titled short final number and really just acts as an atmospheric closer. If you are into Pete Namlook and the fax label in general you will probably like this as it fairly pleasant and trance inducing without any particularly weird or World Music moments that can sometimes be present on fax releases (and are not reviewed within our pages)." - SMD

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Various Artists - Cocoon Compilation K (2011)


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For fans of: DJ Koze, Levon Vincent, Ricardo Villalobos

Not much really needs to be said about this, it's just a really great collection of finely crafted hypnotic techno and house tracks. The compilation series caught my attention last year with the fantastic J issue, and I think it's becoming one of my favorite examples of the sleek and minimal European style of EDM. With a heavy sound and nice vocal snippets here and there, this really gets me grooving, and keeps me there for an hour and 20 minutes. The pricy colored vinyl box-set it's available as is a bit out of my price range right now, but I may just have to save up for something of such quality. - Matthew Foster

"The Cocoon Compilation K, being the longplay flagship in the Cocoon catalogue, adequately starts the second decade of the label with a musical imperative. But don't worry: even if the letter K has sometimes been misused as an indicator for the degree of hardness of some sonic noise in the past of the Tech-House scene, "K" is definitely the deepest survey of contemporary electronic dance music that has ever seen the light of day on Cocoon Recordings.

The beginning is performed by the 20-year-old Berliner David August, who was able to establish himself as one of the most promising talents in the capital's scene with releases on Diynamic and Stil Vor Talent. With its sensual and melancholic SloMo-Disco and a short Acid insert, "True Romance" sets a first massive musical exclamation mark. After this, it gets profoundly hypnotic, thanks to the Siberian singer and DJ/producer Nina Kraviz, who already caused a stir with her releases on Radioslave's Rekids label and with being the host of Moscow's Propaganda Club. Her dreamy vocals and the streamlined Deep House of "W-Bleu" are for sure something that Baby Ford would have been proud of, too.

Following these two Compilation newcomers is Alejandra Iglesias aka Dinky, who was already able to give her career a big kick start with the unforgettable "Acid in my fridge" seven years ago. "Luvin" indulges the senses with a darkly shimmering Disco-House-Pop draft and some subtle Goldfrapp reminiscenses, and has thus what it takes to become one of THE summer tracks 2011. The Berliner-by-choice Henrik Schwarz from the Inner Visions circle is then uncompromisingly setting the course more to the dancefloor with his mythic-percussive Dub-House runner "Now This Way", while the Far-Eastern-like, hypnotic reduction of the "Blue Storm" by Matt John – one of the most important artists on the Berlin in-label Bar 25 – irresistibly takes our collective consciousness to Floor #7 after that. And so, literally each track of this standard-setting acoustic treasure chest deserves a detailed appreciation.

The meeting of the two House modernists Christian Burkhardt & Einzelkind ("Icon") as well as Sascha Dive's Minimal-Ska-influenced "New Frontiers" show that the Rhein Main area is still good for some damn innovative tracks. Maetrik shines again with his dirty Soul-Tech ("Caught Between), and with the mean high-frequency Wild Pitch "The Thrust", the Greek-born Argy delivers the inofficial successor of his "Unreliable Virgin". Besides that, the Dutch Rush Hour shooting star Tom Trago continues the long-lasting history of Detroit-sounding relations with our neighbour country in a congenial way, using a quite percussive organ motif ("Fifth Fase"). The Mainz-resident Butch doesn't need an introduction anyway, at least since "No Worries" came out – with his siren-like Deephouse jewel "Antique", he could hardly be ignored this summer.

The compilation is completed by our two favourite Swedes Sebastian Mullaert and Marcus Henriksson aka Minilogue from Malmø. Three years after the phenomenal "Animals", their 16-minutes-track "Blessed" is without doubt the most sensual and melancholic title that the two have ever produced together, and this track is a more than dignified finale for an edition of the Cocoon Compilation that is hardly to be exceeded when it comes to acoustic perfection and artistic richness. You can't get any closer to the pulse of modern electronic music culture, in a little more than 100 minutes." - Cocoon Records

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ash Ra Tempel - Schwingungen (1972)


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For fans of: Brainticket, Can, Pink Floyd

It's a far out psychedelic space rock epic. The first two tracks are really great jams not unlike those of Brainticket or Can, with longing vocals that don't make much sense and all kinds of heavy loose grooves gliding along. The second side is mostly a more mellow track, with spacey drawn-out guitar sketches and ending with a build of drums and bass. It's a really nice example of the more spaced-out side of progressive rock, created with as much energy as anything. - Matthew Foster

"Ash Ra Tempel's second album featured the first of several personnel changes, Klaus Schulze having departed for other realms and replaced as a result by Wolfgang Muller. A few guest players surfaced here and there as well, with one John L. taking the lead vocals -- another difference from the self-titled debut, which was entirely instrumental. The general principle of side-long efforts continued, though the first half was split into two related songs, "Light" and "Darkness." "Light" itself sounded halfway between the zoned-out exploration of "Traummaschine" and bluesy jamming, a weird if not totally discordant combination that still manages to sound more out there than most bands of the time. Gottsching's fried solo, in particular, is great, sending the rest of the song out to silence that leads into "Darkness." Said song initially takes a far more minimal approach that bears even more resemblance to "Traummaschine," fading out almost entirely by the third minute before a full band performance (including Uli Popp on bongos and Matthais Wehler's sudden alto sax bursts) slowly builds into a frenetic jam. John L.'s vocals become echoed screams and yelps not far off from Damo Suzuki's approach in Can, and the overall performance is a perfect slice of Krautrock insanity, sudden swirls of flanging and even more on-the-edge solos from Gottsching and Wehler sending it over the top. "Suche & Liebe" takes up the entire second side, the performers this time around concentrating on the quiet but unsettling approach, Gottsching's massive soloing kept low in the mix but not so much that it doesn't freak out listeners. The song concludes on an almost conventionally pretty band jam, something that could almost be Meddle-era Pink Floyd, only with even a more haunting, alien air thanks to the wordless vocal keening." - AMG

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual (2008)


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For fans of: Animal Collective, Deerhoof, Hella

Listening to this is incredibly fun, and while the vocalist may not be the most "talented," the musicians are certainly adept, and the nonsense yelps and squeals are like the icing on the cake. It's full of complex rhythms and guitar breakdowns that make me think of bands like Hella or Battles, but it's the pure joy that they deliver that makes me want to come back for more. I could understand why this wouldn't be for everyone, but if you've got an adventurous spirit and don't mind a lack of song structure, this should be a treat to the ears, a candy-coated pineapple. - Matthew Foster

"The wild trill Molly Siegel lets loose at the beginning of "Beg Waves" lets listeners know that Ice Cream Spiritual! is unmistakably a Ponytail album, even if it's more neatly groomed than their debut was. Kamehameha introduced the band's highly concentrated, highly combustible noise-punk-pop in saturated outbursts; it sounded like someone threw a few mikes into the fray and then got out of the way of the band's blazing onslaughts. Ice Cream Spiritual! sounds much more produced and premeditated, and its songs are longer and maybe a touch more involved, but none of this halts Ponytail's sugar-buzz energy -- if anything, the album's clarity gives a better idea of just how big the band's sound can be than Kamehameha did. "Late for School"'s joyous guitar flurries and the noise-surf of "7 Souls" breeze by like lost songs from Ponytail's first album, but "G Shock" -- which features fancy fretwork that sounds like sped-up funk, massive drums, and Siegel's vocalizations (which sound a little like an avant-garde cheerleader cheering the rest of the band on to wilder and faster musical feats) -- swells up, explodes, and drifts away like a cloudburst. Ice Cream Spiritual!'s longer tracks push Ponytail closer to the expansive territory of bands like OOIOO, though Ponytail's music is still more rock-based. Once their songs pass the four-minute mark, their energy becomes hypnotic instead of spastic. "Celebrate the Body Electric" runs the spectrum of Ponytail's prettiest and noisiest sounds, but its shimmering guitars give it a desert rock trippiness; "Die Allman Bruder" channels, yes, the Allman Brothers via Sonic Youth and Deerhoof. At times, the album's extended jams get a bit wearing, but Ice Cream Spiritual! shows that Ponytail's music is still equal parts challenging, melodic, and fun." - AMG

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - The Coimbra Concert (2011)


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For fans of: Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Zs

This is a wild ride. They make a lot of noise, with the four members constantly adding to the jumbled mess of grooves and spontaneous interjections, not leaving much room for any soloing. It's like a jazz jam band. Despite its overall lack of form, they manage to come together at times with passages of bebop that are surprisingly fun. The musicianship is great, and they skillfully traverse many different styles of jazz and improvisational music. It's definitely one of the best modern jazz albums I've heard. - Matthew Foster

"Mostly Other People Do the Killing is proud to release their new live double-album on Clean Feed records. The two discs, made up of material culled from a three night stint at the Jazz ao Centro Festival in Coimbra, provide an excellent perspective on the way this quartet performs live. Unlike the previous four studio albums, all on Hot Cup Records, MOPDtK's live performances vary between short renditions of bassist Moppa Elliott's compositions, and sweeping suites encompassing many compositions. This free-association style of performing has developed over the seven years that the quartet has been performing and recording together.
The four members, Peter Evans, Jon Irabagon, Moppa Elliott, and Kevin Shea, have developed a style of performance in which each member is free to steer the group in any way they choose. The other members may or may not follow suit, creating a type of group interplay that often pits the individuals against each other. Within any given performance, an individual may try to cue a new composition, a return to the original melody, or other structural device, only to be vetoed, creating music that often features multiple chains of association simultaneously. In addition, the members of MOPDtK are not afraid to lay out and allow each other ample solo space." - Clean Feed

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Grauzone - Grauzone (1981)***


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For fans of: Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, Chris & Cosey, John Foxx

This album is incredible. It's definitely on the more rhythmic side of punk or new wave, so much so that it could easily be considered dance music. The first track "Film 2" might as well be a techno song. This album is so ahead of it's time, it's no wonder that there are only 100 ratings as I type this. I'd think that a band going out of their way to create something so "forward," with electronics mixed seamlessly with what you'd find in any punk album, would end up creating something a bit more difficult to get, but this album comes of to me as a darker version of what John Foxx was doing. It's in need of another reissue. - Matthew Foster

"The fact that Grauzone tried to find a new way of expression by stepping away from standard guitar-dominated punk but didn’t have unlimited musical abilities made them angry. That combined with an anger about a society that’s even more stagnant seemed to have created the atmosphere for the album.

A track like “Film 2” (with vocals so unobtrusive it could almost be called an instrumental) is minmal techno/electro/disco as well as postpunk/wave and even has a touch of dub.
The synth-arpeggio (don’t really hear a bass here) sounds threatening, the beat keeps going while some percussive hits and what sounds like a harmonica are like a horrorfilm version of Jamaica-sounds. Then that guitar joins like a keyboard-motif by John Carpenter, completing the song. And rhythmically it’s just damn tight. For that matter the track’s been played by famous cosmic Disco-DJ Baldelli back in the eighties by the way.
Not many bands would chose such a tune as an opener for their full length album...

Followed by the song “Schlachtet” – one of the three best tunes on the LP.
I listened to that song recently while the tv news were on. Comments about Hartz IV (state funded poverty in germany) combined with pictures of what I see around me everyday and then lines like “Die Kranken werden geschlachtet, die Welt wird gesund” (“The sick will be butchered, the world will be well”) left quite an impression.

“Hinter den Bergen” sounds like Dark Wave with a dubby touch (a bit similar to the effect Bauhaus achieved with “Bela Lugosi’s dead”).

“Kunstgewerbe” is another cool, short & minimalistic piece of electronic music.

“Der Weg zu zweit” always reminded me of Abwärts.

„In der Nacht“ is the very abstract end of the album. Again the vocals are mixed much in the background with reverb floating around the track." - DJ_Phoney