Review: Battista, John Swing and EMG's first hook-up under the SPS moniker - the thrillingly hard-to-pigeonhole Sintomi Di Gravita 12" - was arguably one of 2014's most slept-on records. Here they join forces for round two, delivering another two tracks that neatly sidestep the accepted norms of house and techno. A-side "Movimento (Consico Mix)" is a wonky chunk of well-swung, jazz-flecked deep house, smothered in filters and tipsy chords. Flip for the Inconsico Mix of the same track, a brilliantly far-out fusion of odd electronics, glitchy rhythms, shimmering synths and bubbling found sounds. It's hardly dancefloor-centric, but it's certainly really, really good.
Review: Earthen Sea adds to the Kimochi Sound with a soulful examination of indistinct margins, suffused with dusky haze. It's a heady atmosphere and has a palpable heaviness throughout. Starting the record are the concrete reverberations of You Don't Never Know, followed by the murky ebb and flow of Fly. 13 Beat(less) is diffused ambience.
Shielding fittingly closes the record, and weaves Earthen Sea's many textures with intricate syncopation.
Review: Although the Lovers Rock label run by Daniel Martin McCormick - better known as Ital - has previously been an output for his own music, this year see the label expand operations with records from other artists. Although a future collaborative 12? between Ital and Mutual Dreaming's Aurora Halal has also been promised, the label first looks to the music of Earthen Sea, the musical project of San Francisco artist Jacob Long, who previously performed alongside Martin-McCormick as part of Mi Ami. Although Long played bass as part of Mi Ami, the Earthen Sea project - which has released a number of cassettes since 2003 - sees him utilise various electronic textures to create his own immersive style of ambient music, which takes both a rhythmic and beatless approach incorporating elements of dub techno, drone and minimalist composition.
Review: To accompany their re-release of East Wall's superb 1991 debut album, Silence, Dark Entries has decided to put out the Italian band's forgotten debut release, 1985 single "Eye of Glass". Tending towards the darker end of the Italo-disco spectrum, but blessed with typically cheery synthesizer melodies and skewed female vocals, it's a record that seems far more inspired by the earlier British new wave synth-pop movement than pleasing the clubs of Rome or Rimini. The vocal version is accompanied by a subtly different instrumental, which includes waves of warm synths and offers more prominence to the band's bubbly electronics, throbbing arpeggio bassline, and delay-laden drum machine hits.
Review: Early in the year, forthright lo-fi techno experimentalist Delroy Edwards released an eccentric, 22-track, download-only album called Rio Grande. Here, he makes some of the highlights of that set available on vinyl for the very first time. It's an intriguing and largely enjoyable affair throughout, with the sometime L.I.E.S man following the glassy-eyed, recorded-from-the-radio Balearic warmth of "When I Think" with the stripped-back, noise-laden jack-track "Sugar Shack". These kinds of juxtapositions continue throughout, as Edwards flits between sweet and tactile downtempo doodles (see "Rio Grande"), clattering proto jack-tracks ("Let It Rock!") and hissing 1980s deep house bliss (the woozy brilliance of EP closer "Wild Illusions").
Review: Felix K's Hidden Hawaii is now a staple of Berlin-style techno, but describing it as such doesn't really do the label its full justice. That's because this isn't just another bunch of relentless club tracks; instead, the label has always been careful to release material that is prone to opening one's mind and allowing the techno genre to broaden its general outlook. This year, Felix K himself, alongside frequent associate DB1, have been focussing heavily on their latest Elemnt moniker, and this new EP is the latest iteration of this project. Split from 1-4, each mix of "Water" offers something that's just out of reach, a blend of morphing, techno-reminiscent sounds that never quite manage to take a full shape, or dissolve into straight-edged dance music. The hollowness, and the kinetic energy within that, is what we've always loved about this fine imprint, and we urge you to find that same piece of inspiration.
Review: As part of Mura Oka, Louis Vial has already been spotted on the excellent Latency label as well as delivering a solo EP to Collapsing Market earlier this year. He once again dons his Eszaid cape on this release for the equally fine Meandyou stable, tapping into the labels predilection for obscure variations on the fringes of house and techno. "777,7" is especially captivating in its insistent cyclical minimalism, drilling straight for the subconscious, while "Eyeless Mannekin" sets adrift in aqueous climes for a proper floatation tank dub techno immersion. Using subtlety as a powerful tool, Eszaid ably matches up to the quality that has come before on Meandyou.
Review: Manchester's meandyou. collective take their time over releases, averaging just over a 12" per year. Here they kick off 2016 with another collaborative EP, full of drowsy deep house, crackling techno and tipsy, world-weary ambience. With label conspirator Herron otherwise engaged, it falls to Workshopper Even Tuell to kick things off with the slowly unfurling new age chords, blazed vocal samples and sparse-but-chunky deep house groove of "Boys Truth". Sul "Does It For Andy" on the creepy, discordant dark world ambient track of the same name, before Sensu brings back the beats on the hypnotic, experimental dubby techno shuffle of "Sigmon". Finally, Fabric lays back and lights something fragrant on the similarly dub techno influenced, metallic IDM-goes-ambient of "Pink Grid".
Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra, Op 34 (17:12)
Review: This recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Sergei Prokofiev's 1936 story and orchestral score Peter and the Wolf was recorded in 1977 and was originally released in 1978. The role of the narrator on the recording was initially offered to both Peter Ustinov and Alec Guinness who both turned it down, before David Bowie agreed to take on the role, supposedly as a Christmas present to his son. On the B-side is another equally as charming piece of recent classical history, Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra as narrated by Hugh Downs.
Review: Italo-disco digger Intergalactic Gary has described Silence, the 1991 debut album by largely overlooked synth-pop outfit East Wall, as a "timeless masterpiece" that boasts "unique atmospherics and pure emotion". Thanks to this re-mastered reissue from Dark Entries you can now judge for yourself. It's certainly a hugely entertaining collection of songs, all of which boast a killer combination of analogue drum machine grooves, sparkling synthesizers, and sassy vocals from East Wall's stylish front woman, Tiziana Wells. Interestingly, despite the album's '90s vintage, it all sounds like it was recorded in the mid 1980s. This is especially true of "Privacy", a thrusting chugger that is widely considered to be one of the heaviest tunes in the Italo-disco canon.
Review: Three years after the release of Adrift, Ebauche (aka Alex Leonard) returns with a beautiful new ambient LP. It is inspired by a strange disconnected dream during a long cross-country journey through Poland in the depths of winter in 2014. Mutable reflects the rhythms of that journey and the ethereal dreamscape which enveloped him.
Each track on Mutable pulsates and wraps around itself, gradually evolving its soundscape and encasing the listener in a deep and rewarding world. There is careful exploration of polyrhythmic variations within juxtaposed morphing drones bubbling out from stacks of synthesizers. The pieces are densely layered with fine detail, often only revealed on repeated listens, and are subtly backed by field recordings from locations around Poland.
Chwiac opens the album with scintillating polyrhythms and pulsating bass tones; continuously folding in on itself teasing elements in and out of our awareness. Zmienny evolves gently over its 11 minutes, voices skittering in the background whilst synths, horns and strings grow, waver, and vacillate. Rozwijac' is a lovingly constructed soundscape full of warmth and gentle tones which lull the listener to serenity as the album closes.
Each piece on the album is accompanied by a unique painting created by Polish artist Adrianna Snochowska. The paintings are 50 x 35 cm mixed media (texture & oil paint) on canvas. Adrianna spent many hours listening to the draft mixes whilst creating these paintings and moulded the texture effects to the sounds on each track.
Additionally, long-time producer Arovane has provided a remix of Chwiac which is included on the release. The remix picks up on Chwiac's pulsing polyrhythms and wraps them in layers of gritty distortion and subtle melodic nuances, underpinned by driving beats.
Review: Brussels-based Echo Collective is an extended crew of classically trained musicians helmed by Neil Leiter and Margaret Hermant. While they've been active for some time and worked on countless projects, Plays Amnesiac - a re-imagining of Radiohead's 2001 album of the same name - marks their full-length debut. It's an undeniably impressive collection, with Thom Yorke and company's glitchy, heavily electronic original songs re-cast as neo-classical pieces rich in arresting clarinet and oboe lines, jazzy live drums, cut-glass violins and gentle orchestration. Occasionally projects like this can feel a bit gimmicky, but Plays Amnesiac simply oozes class from start to finish. There are no cheesy gimmicks here, just sublime, classical-jazz fusion cuts that dance from the speakers like the soundtrack of a film we've yet to see.
Review: The ever reliable Macadam Mambo returns with the second opus of Eiger Drums: featuring more oddball grooves of the ambient/krautrock persuasion by Louis E Bola. He's one half of Lyonnaise outfit The Pilotwings in collaboration with musicians Geddes Hadden, Arthur Tempo, Akino Karma, Sound Of Duty Free & Pierre Mortimer-Dubation. A more dancefloor oriented album than the previous outing, reviving early new age/trance aesthetics with tribal influences. From the lo-slung weirdo folk of "The Sun", or "Astral Lights" with its exotic psych-drone aesthetic through to the steely slo-mo post punk of "Astral Lights" or the horror movie vibe of "The Moon" - be prepared to get weird on this one!
Review: El Deux is the Swiss electro-pop trio of Gutze Gautschi (guitar, vocals), Steno Onetz (bass), Martin Kraft (vocals, drum machine). Formed circa 1981 in Aarau by Gutze and Steno who played together in punk/New Wave band Fresh Color aka Frische Farbe featuring a pre-Yello Dieter Meier. Gutze's minimal electronic compositions did not fit the concept of Fresh Color, so they formed a new project with their live mixer, Martin Kraft, on vocals. The group was quite successful with many concerts, mainly in southern Germany and various TV appearances in Germany and abroad. Between April/September 1982 they recorded and mixed their debut album 'Nur Fur Madchen' in 15 days at Powerplay Studios, Zurich. The LP was released later that year on Gold Records. Influences at that time were of course the NDW "Neue Deutsche Welle'' movement and also from Gutze's time as a musician & guitarist since 1965. Their step up for recording was a Moog Prodigy, Korg Rhythm 55 (KR-55), Simmons Drums, Casiotone 202, Guitar and Bass. We've added a bonus track "Video King" that was originally released as a follow up single in 1984 before the group disbanded. All songs have been remastered by George Horn at Fantasy Studios. The record is housed in an exact replica of the original jacket and includes an insert with photos and lyrics.
Review: We've written before about the unique thrills provided by Moroccoan composer Abdou El Amari's obscure 1970s work, which combine electronic interpretations of North African and American funk rhythms, wild and wacky organ motifs, and copious amounts of tape delay. Belgian imprint Radio Martiko has already reissued two instalments of his infamous - and devilishly hard to find - Nuits De trilogy of albums, and here completes the set. "Nuits De Printemps" is dedicated to spring and therefore a little breezier and looser than its contemporaries, with a little more emphasis on live percussion amongst the synthesizers and drum machines. Predictably, it's an exotic and mind-altering treat from start to finish.
Review: It's hard to keep accurate tabs on Dark Entries this year, such is the rate at which the West Coast label is reissuing material and the range of music covered. This latest archival endeavour finds Josh Cheon's label once again tapping from the sizeable well marked Tom Ellard/Severed Heads, having previously reissued the Australian band's classic Dead Eyes Opened. This an altogether rarer proposition however, with 80s Cheesecake a rather special reissue of solo material Ellard committed to tape in the early '80s, specifically the self release 80s Cheesecake and Snappy Carrion. Some of the material has been collected for reissue before, most notably on Vinyl-On-Demand's exhaustive Adenoids 1977-1985 boxset, but this Dark Entries edition presents a more affordable insight into some music that still sounds way ahead of it's time some 30 years on.
Review: As one of the founding fathers of the ambient scene, any new beat-less missive from Brian Eno should be considered essential listening. It's years, though, since the ambient pioneer has put out something quite as mesmerizing as Reflection. As critics have pointed out, the single-track structure - think 54 minutes of mostly meditative bliss, with occasional darker moments, built around chiming notes that slowly shift and change shape as the piece progresses - recalls 1985's brilliant Thursday Afternoon. It feels more minimalist in outlook than other recent Eno projects, with the "generative" nature of the music (supplemented by an app that rearranges the music depending on the time of day you listen) recalling the musician's early academic approach. Either way, it's uttering beguiling.
Review: UK institution Warp Records unleashes the new album by Brian Eno, The Ship, his first solo record since 2012's Grammy-nominated LUX. Eno cleverly implemented three dimensional recording techniques which were then formed in two, interconnected parts. The album, according to Warp themselves "is almost as much musical novel as traditional album. Eno brings together beautiful songs, minimalist ambience, physical electronics omniscient narratives and technical innovation into a single, cinematic suite". The result is one of Brian Eno's most innovative ventures yet and certainly begs your attention.
Review: To tie in with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings, Brian Eno has decided to put out a new edition of his decidedly spacey 1983 ambient album "Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks", which started life as the soundtrack to a long-forgotten documentary about NASA's space program. The edition is rather special, not only because it contains a remastered version of the original set created by Eno, his brother Roger and regular collaborator Daniel Lanois, but also because it contains a second disc of previously unheard material. This is not old, though, but rather brand new recordings - described as "new interpretations of the film soundtrack" - made by the Lanois and the Eno brothers late last year in a similar style. In a word: essential.