Review: After a string of EPs on labels like Important Records and PAN, it was inevitable Japan's Kouhei Matsunaga and Toshio Munehiro would end up on the Powell's Diagonal imprint - now a nest of the coldest in experimental, industrio-techno. There's a bit of everything on here, from the broken, percolating percussion of "218"; the gorgeous bassline supporting "845", and the freaky pseudo-acid of "Whispering Gallery". To finish things off, both literally and not, "234" is a noisy, shattered and uber distorted cut, whereas "The Spiral Of Babel" is a rolling, fast-paced drum shuffle fitting of any sci-fi flick. An excellent EP and a fine addition to the Diagonal dynasty.
Wrangler - "He's A Liquid" (feat Gazelle Twin) (4:16)
Hannah Peel - "Tidal Wave" (3:45)
LoneLady - "030" (3:46)
The Soft Moon - "No-One Driving" (2:43)
Xeno & Oaklander - "He's A Liquid" (3:21)
Review: While it has perhaps been slightly lost in the depths of time, and in the vastness of the ambient ocean, John Foxx's Metamatic label is a cornerstone of British leftfield and electronica. Since the late 1990s the label has released a steady and impressive selection of material that never truly fits into one genre or under one roof. This new collaborative EP is everything that UK electronic music is about, with five exploratory slices of machine noise that simply make perfect sense. Wrangler's "He's A Liquid", for instance, takes a mechanical industrial groove and spreads it over tight sci-fi sonics; Hannah Peel's "Tidal Wave" satisfies the pop fans with a slow and chimerical heart-stopper; "030" by LoneLady is a violin-led bundle of percussion and desolate vocal strips. The B-side flexes more muscle thanks to the head-banging pseudo trance of "No-One Driving" by The Soft Moon, followed by Xeno and Oaklander's nastier, more break-driven version of "He's A Liquid".
Review: Originally from the Black Country (the glottal rich manor of Walsall to be exact...), John Twells is now based up north in Manchester - from where he runs his Type imprint and casts out dark, yet never suffocating, compositions under the Xela pseudonym. Having recorded silicon-rinsed soundtracks alongside Gabriel Morley as Yasume, Twells is best known for his work released under the Xela appellation. Showing an astonishing evolution in sound from early releases such as 'For Frosty Mornings & Summer Nights' and 'Tangled Wool', through to the ink-blot atmospherics of 'The Dead Sea', what originated in the clinical environs of Digitalis was gradually eroded by thickly hued instrumentation and sublime arrangements - with Twells incorporating a vast palate of sounds and influences that retains sharp and piquant flavour despite the rich ingredients. Featuring a fantastically macabre set of illustrated cover art from Matthew Woodson (www.ghostco.org), 'The Dead Sea' is Xela's ode to all things maritime - with the album's thematic thread detailing a doomed ocean voyage that meets an abrupt end amongst a swarm of malignant zombies. Drawing on the work of 1970's horror directors (Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and George Romero et al.) and their respective soundtracks, 'The Dead Sea' pays a considerable debt to the likes of Goblin or Fabio Frizzi - albeit frayed with a bloodied disposition that reveals a love of Earth, Circle and Wolf Eyes. Nowhere near as oppressive as this description could have you believe, Xela also exposes a deep seam of kaleidoscopic folk amongst his collection, with generous nods going to the freewheeling antics of labels such as Fonal and The Jewelled Antler Collective. Opening through the lace-curtained drone of 'The Gate', Xela manages to be both wilfully obtuse yet unremittingly focussed - as a cold-water batch of foggy soundscapes briefly parts to reveal some insistent percussion. Next up are the heat-haze melodies of 'Linseed' and its tender coalition of acoustic shards and mealy rhythms, before a Victorian music box is exposed to some virulently thrumming necromancy for the startling 'Drunk On Salt Water'. From here Xela continues to coax both light and dark from a palate of instruments he's accrued whilst travelling the globe, ranging in style from the throbbing Theramin-heavy electronics of 'Creeping Flesh' and the tarnished grandeur of 'Savage Ritual', through to the seething distortion of 'Humid At Dusk' and nervous shimmer of 'Briefly Seen'. Horrifically good!
Review: Synthesizer and drum machine obsessive Xosar (AKA producer Sheela Rahman) has enjoyed a productive few years, building a formidable reputation via releases on Rush Hour, L.I.E.S and Creme Organization. Here she delivers her first full-length for Opal Tapes' occasional vinyl offshoot, Black Opal. It's perhaps a little less colourful and synthesizer-heavy than previous excursions, instead focusing on dark, fuzzy, heavily percussive takes on acid house and techno. Of course, there are curious interludes - see the wonky industrial IDM of "Prophylaxis" and the beatless synth madness of "Gnome Circle" - but it's the more floor-friendly excursions (and most profoundly the bleak and intense "Hades Gates") that really stand out.
Review: More south Salento homeboys represent on Robert Crash's New Boy Shit Trax imprint; this time in the form of local stalwart Marco Erroi; the man behind the legendary Squat Party events (with Beppe Vivaz) and the Common Series label. Unpredictable as ever, Erroi presents four oddball grooves that defy categorisation but are pretty awesome in their own right. Starting out with the slo-mo, lo-fi techno of "I'm Just Getting' Fired Up", there's then some seriously tunnelling acid deconstruction on "Radio Interference" that'll really get you travelling without moving! On the flip, the title track presents an ensemble of rusty and dusted down drum machines working in perfect mayhem together. Finally "I Want You Back" is an odd recording from a wasted Sunday morning from way back, with some disco oddity playing in the background.
Review: Glasgow based 12th Isle present some experimental cinema sonics by Vladimir Karpov. Electroacoustic research practice and shadowy wind instruments come together to form this unique interpretation of the mythical city of gold. Utilising rare, half forgotten Soviet era synthesisers, Karpov creates immersive soundscapes under the name XYR. The Formanta mini keytar and the Alisa 1377 lend Karpov's music strange, seldom heard atmospheres which the St. Petersburg native then combines with field recordings, toy percussion and wood flute to further build upon his utopian narratives. Part concept album, part nod to Popol Vuh, his attempt to channel the thematics of the ancient tale of the Muisca people through his modest home studio.