Review: There's a pleasing contradiction at the heart of James Blake's new album, the much discussed "Assume Form". Lyrically, it's a weighty affair, with Blake musing on mental health and other serious issues. His distinctively emotive delivery remains heart aching and poignant, making each of Blake's utterances sound like they're shot through with genuine sadness. Yet musically, "Assume Form" is surprisingly chipper by the artist's usual downbeat standards, offering a blend of chunky R&B beats, swirling strings, memorable piano lines, crystalline melodies and glassy electronics. It's this fusion of darkness and light that makes it such a rewarding listen, and arguably Blake's most well rounded LP to date.
Review: Staggeringly, "What A Mess!" marks Pepe Bradock's first full-length excursion for over two decades. As you might expect, it's unusual in the extreme, with inspirations including a "special diplomatic elephant" and a sound shaped via "a few mundane terms, picked randomly, then coupled with frequencies chosen in a spontaneous way for their presupposed properties or synchonicities". Musically, the LP stretches one continuous suite of title-less tracks over two sides of vinyl, with Bradock cannily combing far-out ambient sounds, deep space electronics, off-kilter rhythms, layered spoken word snippets, mind-altering lo-fi bass and deliciously weird experimental electronics. It's akin to the sort of fuzzy, out-there sample collage you'd get on a Tolouse Low Trax mix tape, but that's no bad thing. In fact, it's a very good thing indeed.
The Twenty Second Step As Well As The Tenth (5:06)
The Gates Made Plain (7:25)
Review: Back in 2014, RVNG Intl. released "Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Volume 1", a compilation of pioneering early 1980s electronic music by composer and producer Craig Leon. Five years on, they're finally releasing a follow up - and this time the music is brand spanking new. Leon, with assistance from vocalist Cassell Webb, recorded the showcased music between 2015 and 2018. It explores similar sonic territory to the artist's celebrated early work, offering up an atmospheric, synthesizer-driven fusion of ambient, modern classical, New York minimalism, Radio Workshop style electronic experimentalism and new age soundscapes. The set more than lives up to its grandiose title, offering up atmospheric, extra-terrestrial musical movements that sound like they've been beamed down from a galaxy far, far away.
Review: Under the SolarX alias, Roman Belavkin was one of the leading lights of the Russian IDM scene in the mid-to-late '90s, though very few copies of his cassette and CD releases ever made it in to record stores outside the former Soviet Union. Furthermore, this is the first ever reissue of Belavkin's 1997 sophomore set, "X-Rated", an album that remains a firm favourite in the Russian electronic underground. There's much to admire throughout, with Belavkin effortlessly joining the dots between the skittish, angular rhythms of Autechre, Rephlex-esque "Braindance", Aphex Twin style ambient, early Squarepusher-esque "drill and bass" business and hypnotic ambient techno.
Review: Shogun duo Technicolour and Komatic cut their third album to deluxe wax comprising two white 12"s and two coloured 10"s... And it sounds every bit as good as it looks. Soulful yet varied in its scope and range, it's the most confident and clearest LP the duo have given us so far as it ranges from the darker, gnarlier minimal twists of "True Believer" to the more signature flourishing orchestration of cuts like "Weightless (feat Lucy Kitchen)" and naked introspection such as "The Nightfall (feat Jono McCleery)". And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Potential drum & bass album of the year.