CD // £9.99
Truly EPIC debut album from unavoidable Drag/Witch-House protagonists, Salem – quite easily the years most exhilarating listen. Since 2008 this trio have been spiking the sewers of pop with prescribed doses of scarily prescient ghettogothic crunk on Acephalé and Merok records, inventing one of the most spellbinding modern genres in the process. They’re a tiding of ghoulish pop magpies, accepting of all that is good and grimy about ubiquitous mainstream saturation and robosexual R’n’B, absorbing and filtering their most unheimlich elements and enhancing them with a blank-eyed Shoegaze aesthetic, wickedly exaggerating and distorting their features until they leer back with overwhelming intensity, simultaneously creating one of the most oppressing and liberated sounds you’ve heard in years. Their vision and influence has spawned a coven of scattered, yet like-minded operators in Hype Williams, Balam Acab and oOoOO among others, finding kindred spirits in the affective potential of chopped and screwed rap and classic 4AD feelings, cutting past any ironic bullsh*t to acutely fulfill the needs of a generation searching for viscerally psyched, tactile “experiences”. Following a tiny handful of 7″s, ‘King Night’ is their defining statement, eleven tracks of devastating, slo-mo MPC drum fills worthy of Araab Music, fused to nuclear synth bursts delivered with an achingly blank insouciance, all smeared in acetone-wet MDMA and left to degrade in a Michigan basement until it’s nerves are permanently polarised, fluctuating between extreme, saccharine euphoria and melancholy misanthropy. Inside you’ll find the revamped 808-rolling genius of ‘Redlights’ from their ‘Yes, I Smoke Crack’ debut 7″, the slow nosebleed beauty of ‘Traxx’, sounding like Seefeel on a codeine overdose, next to the narco-saturated E and E-esque synth saturation of ‘Sick’, and the supremely uncomfortable MBV intensity of ‘Release Of The Boar’. Every time we come back to this album we uncover yet more bewitching, peripheral “what the f*ck was that?!” moments, like where the rhythm seems to slip out of place in ‘Frost’, (but did it?) or wondering what the hell the drawling rap of “I Can’t Feel It/ I Can’t Feeeel Sh*t” in ‘Trapdoor’ is all about. ‘King Night’ defines the intangibly elusive, illusive, and yet omnipresent contradictions of contemporary pop culture and we can’t recommend it any higher. Serious contender for album of the year.
| COMMIX / VARIOUS|
Re:Call To Mind
JUNGLE / DRUM & BASS
CD // £7.99
Absolutely crucial remix album of Commix tracks from Burial, dBridge, Instra:mental, Kassem Mosse, Marcel Dettmann, Underground Resistance, A Made Up Sound and more!!! It was probably over two years ago when that infamous 2-min clip of the Burial remix appeared on Bailey’s 1Xtra show, causing moody fanboys and fangirls the world over to shed a tear in the light of their macbook screens. Finally we get the full six minute version of ‘Be True’, every bit the Burial classic and more than enough reason to make an investment. In case you’re a picky f**ker (which you should be) the rest of the album is grade A gear, from the fluid suspension of Instra:mental’s ‘Japanese Electronics’ remix, through the Mala-ish mix of ‘How You Gonna Feel’ from Pangaea to Kassem Mosse’s stunning version of ‘Strictly’ with its classic Goldie sample rewired to a squashed techno template. A delicious dub-house cut from Sigha and standardly solid techno ructions from Marcel Dettmann and UR’s sinister acid rub of ‘Satellite Song’ finish a heavyweight set. ESSENTIAL!
| MARK MCGUIRE (EMERALDS)|
Living With Yourself
CD // £11.99
Emeralds member Mark McGuire presents his heart-melting solo album for Editions Mego. Mark is no stranger to solo releases, he’s got about 800 gazillion of them on tiny tape and CDr labels including his co-run Wagon Tapes and Gneiss Things besides a tonne others. He’s also worked with Daniel “Oneohtrix” Lopatin as Skyramps, but for all we’ve heard ‘ ‘Living With Yourself’ is surely his most accomplished excursion yet. Taking inspiration from early friendships, family and “the problems that inevitably develop through years of knowing someone” McGuire’s compositions tenderly unfurl nostalgic scapes of Göttsching-like guitar forms and bubbling synths with that endless ability to capture elusive, fleeting moments of bliss like the best of his work with Emeralds. His knack for blending acoustic guitar signatures with magical synths is conducted with the keenest sleight of hand, not deceptively so, but more like an illusion of blissed misdirection, contrasting and melding textures and harmonic qualities to create unpredictable crux points that’ll leave you beaming inside. He dispenses this formula to sublime effect on tracks like opener ‘The Vast Structure Of Recollection’ and the achingly affective ‘Two Different People’, delivering acute hits of romantic yearning and ponderous wonderment with a beautifully instinctive nature. Possibly most gorgeous of all is ‘Clear The Cobwebs’, paring down the synths for a largely solo guitar delight with a flourish of electrcity in the final throes, and furthest from anything we’ve heard previously is ‘Brothers (For Matt)’, a ten minute closer floating from tape collage to Shoegaze thrash with a meditative kosmische finalé. There’s an intimate personality and existentialist optimism to ‘Living With Yourself’ which we reckon will really take hold after a few listens. Highly Recommended.
| SUN ARAW|
Off Duty + Boat Trip
CD // £11.99
Awesome double header from the modern psych craftsman Cameron Stallone aka Sun Araw; three new tracks recorded earlier in 2010, and the ‘Boat Trip’ from way back when (er…2008). ‘Off Duty’ is essentially the down time after ‘On Patrol’, deeds done and kicking back with the biggest, most potent zoot you’ve been bothered to make in a while. ‘Last Chance’ makes a visceral entrance with cataclysmic starburst noise subsiding to reveal the slouchiest, loping psyche-dub rhythm vocals hollering from 20 metres away… or is he right next to you, no bother, i’m high and this sounds f*cking cool (i’m not really, y’know, i’m just getting into it maan). Next ‘Midnight Locker’ evens the keel, centred on droning, down-pitched melodica played by Augustus Pablo from his submarine in the bathroom over bowel-quaking subs heard from the basement, while all kinda FX gremlins gate samples from the other rooms of this freakin’ haunted house. ‘Deep Temple’ finishes the ‘Off Duty’ trip with an eleven minute visit to the attic, where we find a shrine to Terry Riley amidst a hydroponic skunk farm and lie down to the sound of a thousand unremembered dreams, caught in ecstatic suspension between a furious axe solo and a the sound of Jackie Mittoo dribbling on his Wurlitzer. Messy in the best possible way. Finally ‘Boat Trip’ is like some mystical steppers excursion to the Bermuda triangle, booming Wolf Eyes tracks over a ten foot stack into the fog over a placid sea before ‘Canopy’ hits a remote island and sits down to chew peyote with the natives. Or something. ESSENTIAL!
| ANBB (ALVA NOTO & BLIXA BARGELD)|
CD // £13.49
Having nicely set up the release of this album with their Ret Marut Handshake EP a few months back, Alva Noto and Blixa Bargeld (of Einsturzende Neubauten fame) deliver a set that exceeds all expectations. One of the most strikingly obvious comparisons to arise from that first batch of material was the Alan Vega/Pan Sonic collaboration, yet Mimikry goes much further than combining the established aesthetics of its constituent parts and creates something that actually feels very new. Carried over from the EP you’ll find ‘Ret Marut Handshake’, ‘I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground’, the Harry Nilsson cover ‘One’ and an extended version of ‘Bernsteinzimmer’, but it’s the all-new material that tends to impress the most. Ten-minuter opener ‘Fall’ is a fairly challenging starting point, introducing the album with an artificially elongated wheeze/scream that develops into an almost unbearable cacophony that suddenly recedes to reveal hovering sub-frequencies, fractured electronics and heavily layered and manipulated vocal takes from Bargeld. The mutating soundscape proves to be both emotionally engaging and quite brilliantly complex, at times referencing the glitch vs. piano dynamics of Alva Noto’s Ryuichi Sakamoto collaboration. After this tour de force of an opener the album starts to find a more solid rhythmic groove with ‘Once Again’, on which Bargeld sounds like Current 93’s David Tibet encoded as a computer virus. Splendid stuff. Mimikry is also one of the more sonically liberated Alva Noto releases, finding Carsten Nicolai experimenting with more freely melodic content that embraces conventional notions of song in a far more wholehearted fashion than you might have expected. A piece such as ‘Bernsteinzimmer’ really underlines this, embracing a wonderful string arrangement that somehow doesn’t feel out of place alongside the more uncompromising, surging electronics you’ll hear elsewhere. Indeed, fans of Nicolai’s remarkable beat constructions will be overjoyed to hear the furious, detailed arrangement of ‘Berghain’ (which seems to neatly incorporate some of Einsturzende Neubauten’s familiar scrap metal percussion tactics), while the crunchy, distorted and finely filtered beats of the title track really hit the mark too, grinding out an imposing bassline to frame Bargeld’s always captivating vocal. A brilliant meeting of two of Germany’s most restlessly experimental artists, Mimikry comes heartily recommended.
The Caliph’s Tea Party
BEATS / DOWNTEMPO / BOOGIE
CD // £10.49
Mark Pritchard, Oneohtrix Point Never, Broadcast and The Focus Group, and Dem Hunger, among others, are invited to remix one of 2010s most unique albums, ‘A Sufi And A Killer’ by GonjaSufi. Between his distinctive vocals and the superb instrumentals from Flying Lotus, Mainframe and Gaslamp Killer, this is some prime source material which the appointed remixers treat with due care and reverent attention. Most interesting to our ears is the sublime OPN mix, sweetly blending acoustic guitar with pastoral synth chords and a flock of stray seagulls before mutilating Gonja in a matrix of FX to make him croak like a wizened old android. It’s not what you’d expect and all the better for it! Broadcast & The Focus Group also make a magical pairing on ‘The Caliph’s Tea Party’ remix, countering the eastern mysticism of the original with a peculiar, vintage sense of English psychedelia which unfolds into stately baroque motifs and finely layered shellac textures. Dem Hunger also makes a memorable appearance with his ‘Bowel Blood’ remix of ‘SuzieQ’, taking license to mulch the original to a fractal display of unpredictable, smudged and screwed psychedelics. The Hezus remix is great too, taking a hazy kinda ’60s garage/surf approach and the Jeremiah Jae mix remakes ‘Kobwebz’ as an unstable display of timestretched oddness. Needless to say, this album is very good.
| CLUSTER & FARNBAUER|
Live In Vienna 1980
2CD // £14.49
Magnificent reissue of this tape obscurity from 1980, Cluster’s eighth album (the first of three live LPs) originally released on the YHR label (which was curated by Pump’s David Elliott), also including archival material never before issued on CD. With so much stuff from this era coming to the surface recently it’s sometimes easy to get blasé about it all, but this is one you really ought to give your fullest attention to. As the title says, this was recorded live in Vienna in 1980 at the Wiener Festwochen Alternativ, replete with all the ferric static, atmospheric noise and inherent hazy gremlins you’ve grown to adore about these artefacts. But that’s by-the-by, as the music within is of the most seductive teutonic avant-garde variety, featuring six tracks of free-roaming and intuitive kosmiche improvisations, both highly experimental and engrossing to the core. ‘Service’ draws us in with a tentative display of arcing synthesizers and ominous gong tones before the unusual addition of Joshi Farnbauer beautifully meshes his percussion into their vast sonorous scapes, gradually evolving into a stunning 30 minute improv session. The effect is so compelling you can almost hear the audience collectively holding their breath, waiting for the next spurt of ideas or plume of discordant synth signaling the next phase. Two shorter tracks, the disturbing ‘Kurz’ and its martial typewriter rhythm follow into the more classical ‘Piano’, presumably conducted by Roedelius, completing the first disc. The second disc opens with an overheard exclamation of “Schiese!” and into the controlled urgency of ‘Drums’, winding unsteady and explorative drum patterns around a bobbling synthesizer until the two copulate like the genesis of Techno, EBM and all that, happening right before your ears. This track is nothing short of genuinely mindblowing! In the longer 25-minute centre-piece ‘Metalle’, the trio are joined by more percussionists, the mysteriously monikered Jürs and Rapnik, as the ensemble expands to embark on a mystical trip full of shuddering Faustian sheet metal, unpredictable percussive quirks and epic synthesizer shapes morphing and coagulating like some mechanized astral jazz trip. Again, Rodelius closes the show with the contrast of his fluid piano sequences, joined by tender, spidery percussion tingling like the hairs on the back of my neck right now. This album is a bona fide stunner, ESSENTIAL.
| VARIOUS / YEAR ZERO|
Bustin’ Out 1983: New Wave To New Beat Volume 3
SYNTHWAVE / ELECTRO
CD // £10.99
Volume 3 of this commendable compilation series joining the dots between New Wave and New Beat with some exceedingly prime selections from New Order, Front 242, Xmal Deutschland, Anne Clark, John Carpenter and more. As with the previous installments, they find a special blend of well known and obscure cuts from a pivotal era in electronic music. The highlights here run deep and thick, from the dystopian urban ennui of Anne Clark’s New Wave anthem ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’, to the seminal EBM of The Neon Judgement’s ‘Fashion Party’ – which is massively influential on the likes of Adult, Jamal Moss and Alden Tyrell, respectively. John Carpenter’s ‘The End (Sound Version)’ is nothing short of an electro/synthwave blueprint, again inspiring hundreds, if not thousands of successive artists, and then we get two sides of the rock/pop dance dichotomy, with Front 242’s Industrial classic ‘Take One’ and New Order’s sublime ‘Your Silent Face’. On the more obscure tip, Koto’s ‘Chinese Revenge’ is an absolute peach, as is the 12″ ‘Qual’ remix from 4AD’s Xmal Deutschland, primed for the most discerning goth discos around. Oh aye, and there’s also total standards like Laid Back’s ‘White Horse’ and Cocteau Twins’ ‘Sugar Hiccup’, but we’re guessing you know those well already. Basically, we gotta give this a massive thumbs up!
| CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE|
Strumming Music (for Piano, Harpsichord & Strings)
HOME LISTENING / MODERN CLASSICAL / AMBIENT
3CD // £14.99
Charlemagne Palestine’s ‘Strumming Music’ is universally regarded as his best-known composition and considered a masterpiece of the 20th Century Avant-Garde. Sub Rosa have compiled three versions over three discs, Charlemagne’s original ‘Strumming For Bösendorfer’ (1974), Betsy Freeman’s performance ‘Strumming For Harpsichord’ (1977), and ‘Strumming For Strings’ (1977) organised at SF Conservatory by John Adams, together with a 16-page booklet by Ingram Marshall. The original piece features Palestine forcefully playing two notes in rapid alternation for over 45 minutes on a nine-foot Viennese Bösendorfer Imperiale Grande piano with the sustain pedal depressed for the entire duration. The notes gradually expand into clusters and as the piece grows the piano slowly detunes, building spine tingling harmonics and eliciting a variety of rarely heard spectral timbres and high overtones which could really only be captured with an instrument of this calibre, and by a musician of such magnitude. The ritualistic effect is intensely astounding, in the most visceral, mesmerizing and physical sense of the word, capturing your attention from the first note and exponentially increasing it over the duration with the most sublime and somnambulistic grace. We could not recommend this set any higher. Life affirming stuff.