Review: Here's something of a rarity in the 21st century: a CD single. It comes courtesy of Osaka-based ambient/dub/digital reggae fusionist (and sometime Tapes collaborator) 7FO and guest vocalist NTsKi. In its original form "D'Ya Hear Me!" is opaque, loved-up and saucer-eyed, with NTsKi adding dewy-eyed vocals to a 7FO riddim that cannily joins the dots between dreamy ambient pop, lo-fi digital reggae and cheery electronica. 7FO's inventive, colourful and gleefully innocent-sounding backing track can be heard in full on the instrumental "Karaoke Version". Heavier digi-dub flavours are provided on the superbly out there and spacey Bim One Production remix, while the CVN rework re-imagines the track as an off-kilter chunk of cheery experimental pop.
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Stage 1)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Stage 2)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Stage 3)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Stage 4)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (extended Hypersleep Program 1 - Stasis Room)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (extended Hypersleep Program 2 - Cave)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (extended Hypersleep Program 3 - Rain)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (extended Hypersleep Program 4 - City At Night)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Reduction 1)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Reduction 2)
Stasis Sounds For Long-Distance Space Travel (Reduction 3)
Review: Earlier in the year, experienced ambient producers 36 and Zake released two different versions of the same album, "Stasis Sounds for Long Distance Space Travel", with the vinyl and cassette releases featuring totally different mixes. Happily, they've now decided to compile all of these contrasting takes on one limited-edition CD. It's well worth a listen, because in our opinion it's one of the best ambient albums of 2020 to date. The included tracks mix echoing sonic tones, drifting sound effects, drone-style aural textures, slow-burn electronic melodies, swelling, near neo-classical musical movements and the kind of immersive, sustained chords that were once the preserve of the late, great Pete Namlook.
Review: Ostgut Ton A-Ton completes their trilogy of compilations charting the early-to-mid-'90s ambient techno work of British producer Luke Slater under the 7th Plain alias. As with its predecessors, the eight included tracks offer a mixture of previously released fare from the project's heyday and music that's sat on dusty DAT tapes for well over two decades. Highlights come thick and fast, from the sun-bright sci-fi melodies, sustained ambient chords and bubbly acid lines of "Time Melts" and the Black Dog-ish shuffle of "Reality of Space", to the booming, club-ready "Lost", drowsy IDM cut "Think City" and the intergalactic, stretched-out bliss of brilliant closing cut "Seeing Sense".
Review: Since the dawn of the decade, A Winged Victory For The Sullen has delivered occasional albums for Erased Tapes that effortlessly blur the boundaries between ambient, electronic experimentalism and emotion-stirring neo-classical music. "The Undivided Five" marks their first appearance on mighty British independent Ninja Tune, and seems a little more grandiose in scale and ambition than some of their earlier outings. It was recorded in eight different studios around Europe, with the pair combining atmospheric orchestration and traditional instrumentation with occasional glimpses of modular electronics. It feels like a stunning soundtrack to a movie we've not yet seen - unsurprising given that they have previously composed a number of scores - and genuinely gets better with each successive spin.
Review: Presented in a limited run of 200 copies, "A Higher State Of Body & Mind" is the result of a one-off live performance by storied experimentalist (and Borft Records co-founder) Joachim Nordwall and Lebanese saxophonist Christine Abdelnour. It consists of a single, constantly evolving 41-minute piece in which Abdelnour adds subtle sax sounds and smoky, free-jazz style solos over Nordwall's mysterious, otherworldly electronics. With the Swedish veteran manipulating slate-grey drone sounds, moody aural textures and wayward electronic motifs, the resultant performance sounds like Mika Vainio jamming with one of jazz's more experimental horn players.
Review: Italian electro-acoustic expert and ambient composer Giulio Aldinucci has released some masterful music over the years, in the process delivering albums full of hybrid neo-classical/ambient soundscapes that often seem to look to religious music - or at least the sense of hearing it echoing around a cathedral - for inspiration. "Shard Of Different Times" continues this trend, with manipulated choral tones, reverb-laden church organs, swelling ambient chords and hissing white noise combining to create wall-of-sound pieces that do, indeed, sound like echoes from a bygone age. It's impressive stuff all told and reminded us a little of the 33-minute ambient version of Moby classic "Hymn".
Review: Spirits of the east converge from Russia and Romania for this fresh and inspired collaboration between Tess Conway and Radoslav Monrovani. Having forged respected names for themselves amid the fading shades of witch-house, both artists have merged influences & long established studio skills from afar to invoke dark energies, creating a theatre of menacing atmospheres and occult mystique. A multitude of live Instrumentation has been used in the production of this haunting offering including guitar, piano, kalimba, sampled Asian percussion, alongside an array of MIDI programmed, hardware synthesizers & processing. Adaptive Sonic Music was formed to coordinate final stages of production for this and further releases due in months to come.
Review: Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto's collaborative partnership reaches back to the turn of the century, when Noto was touring Japan and invited to rework some of Sakamoto's material. Since then, they've delivered a modest but important body of work via Raster-Noton and produced the soundtrack to major Hollywood film "The Revenant". In the wake of last year's "Glass" released on Noto's Noton label, this live album captures the duo in full flight at Sydney Opera House. Noto's immaculately sculpted tones and textures carve out space around Sakamoto's trademark delicate, lingering notes, resulting in an absorbing listening experience as emotionally engaging as it is technically astounding.
Review: It's rare that an electronic album is the biggest album of the year, or at least the most hyped. That's certainly the case with Syro, Richard D James first official release under his Aphex Twin moniker for some 13 years. So, is it in any good? For starters, it sounds like an Aphex Twin album. Listen through to the 12 tracks, and many of his familiar staples are present - the "Digeridoo" era rave breakbeats, the mangled synth-funk mash-ups, the intoxicating ambient-era melodies, the warped basslines and the skittish drill & bass style rhythms. There's madness, beauty and intensity in spades. In other words, it's an Aphex Twin album, and - as so many have pointed out since the album's release was announced - there's no-one else quite like Richard D James.