Review: For their latest deep dive into the world of little-known electronic gorgeousness, Holland's Music From Memory crew has taken a trawl through the impeccable and largely overlooked catalogue of Japanese ambient musician Toshifumi Hinata. The essential "Broken Relief" draws on material recorded by the musician between 1985 and 87, joining the dots between gentle beat-scapes, inspired new age soundscapes, warm ambient explorations and glassy-eyed instrumentals rich in fluid fretless bass, twinkling pianos, shuffling rhythms and chords so tactile you might want to go to bed with them. It's an inspired set all told, with an impressive number of highlights. These include the evocative piano lament "Ikoku No Onna Tachi", the spacey ambient swirl of "Colored Air", and the undeniably Balearic grooves of "Atarashii Yuhbokumin".
Review: Funk Night Records were quick to snap up some newly recorded material from Philly psych band Grimace Federation as soon as they heard it, and for good reason. These tracks were recorded during a weekend in a session with producer John McEntire and manage to sound raw and distorted yet seductive. "Dotsero" echoes the magic of Adrian Younge with its big horns and stirring soul, while "Starspots" is a more expansive track, with nebulous chords, busy drum playing and plenty of jazz elements making it a real cosmic voyage.
Review: There's much to enjoy about the output of the Kimochi label, not least the bespoke, spray-painted sleeves and their habit of releasing only the deepest, most hypnotic electronic music. Their latest must-have release is another super-limited affair that drifts lazily between ultra-deep cuts shot through with dub-wise rhythms, atmospheric shoegaze motifs, echoing ambient chords and beats straight out of the early '90s ambient techno playbook. It's utterly gorgeous and deliciously hazy, with slow-burn melodies and undulating electronics slowly rising above reverb-laden chords, warm basslines and occasionally skittish rhythms. There's something particularly special about the locked-in drums and hypnotic bassline of "Elljus", but the ambient soundscapes "Heden" and "Inland" are also superb.
Review: It's been a long time between drinks for Chris Korda, a transgender artist and activist whose last releases of note came on famed electroclash label International Deejay Gigolo way back in 2004. New album "Akoko Ajeji" is very much a surprise return to action, though its melodious, ear-pleasing and accessible blend of house and techno drums, digital synthesizer sounds and cheery post synth-pop refrains is both striking and hugely addictive. Korda's compositions offer subtle nods towards various vintage house and techno styles - particularly turn-of-the-90s deep house and early Chicago jack - but never sound anything less than thrillingly DIY productions giddily made in back rooms and bedrooms over the last decade and a half.
Ze Spirits Band - "Tucheza" (Esa extended mix) (5:00)
Nonku Phiri - "Sifo" (feat Dion Monti) (4:27)
Os Panteras - "Melo Do Anjo" (Outra edit) (4:54)
Pascal Latour - "Lague Yo" (Boulo edit) (5:58)
Masalo - "Yera" (feat Doussou Koulibaly) (6:24)
Esa - "Pantsula Traxx" (4:38)
Narchbeats - "Cheeks" (3:41)
DJ Spoko - "#Justsnares" (4:02)
Review: Inspired by his own experiences growing up in apartheid-era South Africa and his travels through music, Esa Williams has put together a compilation of contemporary electronic music from around the world. "Amandla: Music To The People" is well worth your attention and contains some genuine gems. Highlights come thick and fast throughout, from the percussive, chant-along sweatiness of Penny Penny's "Shilungu" and the loved-up, pitched-down dreaminess of Alaska's "Accuse (Instrumental)", to the sweet, life-affirming cheeriness of Os Panteras' "Melo Do Anjo (Outro Edit)" and the thrusting, Italo-disco style dancefloor masculinity of Masalo's "Yera". Esa's own late '80s style pitched-down South African house jam "Pantsula Traxx" is also superb.
Review: Described in the accompanying press release as "the halfway point between Bollywood and Balearic", Rupa Biswas' 1982 debut "Disco Jazz" has long been a favourite of dusty-fingered diggers with a healthy bank balance and a penchant for the quirky. All four tracks are cheery, charming and superior to many "Bollywood disco" records produced in the same period. The sunny disco-boogie of "Moja Bhari Moja" is followed on side A by the delightfully eccentric, bass-powered AOR-disco/funk-rock fusion of "East West Shuffle" and the effortlessly Balearic cheeriness of "Aaj Shanibar". Best of all, though, is the exotic and intoxicating flipside cut "Ayee Morshume Be-Reham Duniya" which expertly joins the dots between cosmic rock and Balearic disco grooves for 16 spellbinding minutes.
Review: Half journeyman, half David Lynch bar scene, all twisted crooner-dom, and at least a little tongue in cheek, Mike Patton & Jean Claude Vannier are aiming straight for the alternatives with this 12-strong collection of bizarre ballads and obscure odes that will appeal to rarer tastebuds. There's the spoken word and strummed guitars guiding us through the various parts of "A Schoolgirl's Day". The Sinatra-does-sarcasm of closer "Pink & Bleue", and the way "Hungry Ghost" aurally recalls "Everybody Knows" by Leonard Cohen. Truly unique stuff, despite its debt of gratitude to troubadour totems, counterculture rock and The Rat Pack, it's as rooted in the 21st Century as anything you'll hear today. The production process involved two creators in two different parts of the world, Patton and band in L.A., Vannier with a full orchestra in Vienna. Not that you can tell considering how complete the record feels.
Review: Blue Feather were a truly blue-eyed funk outfit from the Netherlands who had a prolific run in the 80s with two albums and a string of club singles to their name. "Let's Funk Tonight" was surely one of their bigger hits, and it sounds resplendent with a fresh master and the full extended version spread out across the A side here. Offering something new for the modern market, Best call upon Faze Action to flesh out this reissue with a killer dub of the track that treads softly but funks deep, just like a good dub should.
Review: Considering their penchant for spinning yarns and the cinematographically-suited nature of much of their work, it's surprising "Days Of The Bagnold Summer" is only Belle & Sebastian's second shot at a movie score. The last was 2001's '"Storytelling", accompanying Todd Solondz's movie of the same name, and they certainly did a good job then. So, high expectations this time round. For those unfamiliar, their latest foray into the film world partners the directorial debut of Simon Bird, best known to many as one of "The Inbetweeners". The flick, an adaptation of Joff Winterhart's 2012 graphic novel, chronicles the life and times of a teenage metalhead and his single mother. The album perfectly accompanies but also contributes to that tale. Highly emotive instrumental tracks and classic B&S songs-proper, this OST is destined to go down well with the band's true believers.
Review: Curiosities is the second album in the trilogy from in-demand New Zealand multi-instrumentalist and producer Lord Echo. Six years after initial release, this reissue sounds as vital as ever and is extra DJ-friendly given that it is spread across two slabs of wax. It covers plenty of ground from escapist tropical ambient to lovably lazy dubs via vivid disco-funk. Highlights come in the form of "Molten Lava" and its heart wrenching vocals and the gospel grooves of "The Creator Has A Master Plan". Winter might be fast approaching, but so long as you have sounds as warm and sunny as these around, summer will never feel too far away.
This Love Is Magic (feat Chanel - Soul Rockers mix) (3:48)
When It Rains (feat Cleveland Jones) (4:39)
Review: It would be fair to say that Dee "Kejam" Majek (real name Oladisun Majekodunmi) is something of a veteran, with the Nigeria-born writer, musician and label owner producing his first released music way back in the early 1980s. This double seven-inch single marks his debut for Izipho Soul, and his first release of any sort since 2016 debut album "Majek". There's much to admire throughout, from the slick '80s soul warmth of Lisa Taylor collaborations "Can You Feel The Love" and "My Only Love" - the latter featuring a slight two-step soul feel - to the electrofunk-influenced R&B shuffle of Chanel hook-up "This Love Is Magic (Soul Rockers Mix)" and the toasty, dewy-eyed goodness of "When It Rains", which features lovely lead vocals from Cleveland Jones.
Review: It seems so obvious you wonder why it doesn't happen more often: Stefano Torossi's "Feelings" album from 2000 was made up of track titles that convey certain situations and emotions that he masterfully reflects in the music. This new double 7" includes the highlights, such as the racing jazz and trumpet stabs of "Running Fast," the sustained and uneasy chords of "Fearing Much" and "Feeling Tense," which is actually a pretty lush bit of smooth jazz. "Walking In The Dark" rounds off the double pack with playful guitars and luxuriant synths that are pure soundtrack goodness. Ace.
Review: The last ten years have seen no shortage of bands with their delay pedals set to stun intent on capturing an aura of dreamlike radiance. Yet Texas 'pop-noir' troupe Cigarettes After Sex are no ordinary shoegazers, for a variety of reasons - frontman Greg Gonzalez' androgynous and dulcet tones may be part of the appeal, yet moreover it's the quality of the songwriting here, which never falls prey to the style-over-substance traps of their peers. Indeed, this debut is more than enough to justify the considerable hype around this outfit, being a collection of ditties as sultry as they are atmopsheric.
Review: Few do funky soul jazz sessions as well as The New Mastersounds, who first formed in Leeds in 1999 and have gone on to be regulars at the Jazz Cafe as well as New Orleans' annual Jazz Fest. Late last year in Denver, the band linked up with vocalist Lamar Williams Jr (son of the late Allman Brothers bassist Lamar Williams) to record this high class album of soulful horns, live drums and heartfelt vocals, all finished off with percussion by Thievery Corporation's Jeff Franca. Digging deep into the history of funk while also looking to a new paradigm, "Shake It" is an album of feel-good emotions that make a lasting impression.
Review: Best just keep coming with the Italo heat, once again tapping into that golden year of 1984. Funky Family was a one-shot studio project that left a much-vaunted record in its wake. The visionary nature of "Funk Is On" is impossible to ignore - from the noirish mood to the physical thrust of the arpeggios, the diva vocals and tough 4/4 groove, this is house music in all but name. Whether you want the vocal cut or the instrumental, Best have you covered - either is going to set the dancefloor alight.
Review: It's always a treat to spot Edward donning his Desert Sky guise for another trip into the hinterland of minimal techno, where expression reigns free and all kinds of sound sources tumble into a truly exotic mix. On this album for PAL SL, all bets are off as we get whisked down a mysterious and meandering path where organic and electronic matter merge in the shadows, all strapped to subliminal but pronounced grooves that make this some of the most potent, intriguing club material in circulation right now. Buy the ticket, take the ride and dance out under that Desert Sky.
Review: Don't believe everything you read - the fifth Bat For Lashes album confirms this girl (or woman) found herself musically and thematically some time ago, freeing up creative energy to explore new approaches to deliver her often mournful, always heartfelt songs inspired by personal crises and private longings. On this outing there's more than a hint of 1980s pop evident in the mix. Shades of Prince ("Feel For You"), Madonna ("So Good"), Bowie's Berlin days and electro-era Gary Numan (the stunning, infectious instrumental "Vampires") cast the record in a nostalgia that suits the sense of yearning that always seems to pervade Natasha Khan's work. Simply name-checking reference points is lazy and unfair, though. This is an incredible collection of tracks moulded in the artist's own image - bold, beautiful and instantly captivating. Then again, it would be surprising if anyone had expected anything less.
Review: The Utopia Strong might be the most unlikely combination of musical elements imaginable. Coil's Michael J. York, Kavus Torabi of Gong note, the vocals of Miranda Sex Garden's Katharine Blake (albeit rendered almost unrecognisable), a modular synth and, snooker god Steve Davis. But those who know the cue-wielding deity's reputation as a techno, soul, funk, jazz and progressive rock aficionado will understand this one has been a long time coming. So, what do the results sound like? Well, a mixed bag, but all otherworldly and surreal. "Konta Chorus" marries the whirring of machine loops with trippy guitar reverberations, timeless string arpeggios and hypnotic wind sections. "Brainsurgeons 3", running close to 11-minutes, is an epic space-age marriage of techno and sci-fi. Meanwhile, the appropriately named "Moonchild" closes the album out on lengthy refrains of disharmony and subtle, nymph-ish lyrical whispers. A trip and a half.
One More Round (86 House mix By Frankie Knuckles) (8:10)
Walkman (86 House mix By Brett Wilcots) (7:17)
Review: Best turn their attention to that sweet mid 80s spot when the petri dish of party music was shaken up between disco, boogie, Italo and the emergent house sound from Chicago. Claudio Simonetti was a titan of the Italian groove, but his monster jam as Kasso, "One More Round", reached the stratosphere when Windy City godfather Frankie Knuckles gave the track his Midas touch. No more justification is needed for this pressing, but don't overlook the flip which finds 80s remix supremo Brett Wilcots taking on "Walkman" and whipping up a boogie frenzy of the highest order.
Review: The dusty-fingered diggers behind the BBE label have a reputation for unearthing obscure or unreleased gems, though we doubt that they've previously discovered anything quite as significant as this. Ebo Taylor, the undisputed king of Ghanaian "funky-highlife", recorded "Palaver" with his touring band way back in 1980, but for reasons the man himself can't even remember, Nigerian imprint Tabansi Records never got round to releasing it. That remains an odd decision, because "Palaver" shows Taylor at his very best, with the sax and trumpet-laden brilliance of "Make You No Mind" and the righteous, Afrobeat-influenced highlife brilliance of "Help Africa" being every bit as potent as the Ghanaian's most revered work.
Superdiscount Presents Air - "Soldissimo" (Etienne De Crecy remix) (5:26)
Guts - "What Is Love" (3:47)
Alex Gopher - "The Child" (radio edit) (3:39)
Kazam - "Swag On" (2:13)
Flume - "Holdin On" (2:32)
Chinese Man - "I've Got That Tune" (4:08)
Deluxe - "Pony" (3:27)
Fakear - "Morning In Japan" (3:06)
Bonobo - "Terrapin" (4:40)
Nightmares On Wax - "Les Nuits" (radio edit) (3:31)
Review: Thanks to Massive Attack's recent anniversary reissue of their touchstone "Mezzanine" album, trip-hop is back in the headlines. While we don't expect a full-blown revival just yet, it's always worth dipping into the style and its hazy, dub-flecked and sample-heavy sound. This triple-disc genre retrospective from Wagram should be an essential listen for both confirmed trip-hop heads and newcomers alike. It contains plenty of well-known classics - see the contributions from I Monster, Tricky, Smith & Mighty, Kid Loco, Moby, Boards of Canada, Kruder and Doefmeister, Tosca and Nightmares on Wax, for starters - as well as under-appreciated underground hits and lesser-celebrated selections (Sabres of Paradise's remix of Red Snapper's "Hotflush" being the undoubted highlight).
Review: Discerning diggers will know that an original copy of this funk soul gem from 1978 often fetch close to four figures. Initially released on a little known label in Mississippi, Acid Jazz now give it the proper reissue treatment. It is filled with passionate soul songs that stride forward with purpose and pride. "Let Me Be Your Lover" is the breakout single that will get most club plays, but the sliding hi hats and twangy bass of "Gonna Find A True Love" will also do plenty of damage. The version included here is slightly different to the single that was reissued earlier this year, but is well worthy of its inclusion.
Review: 213 was something of a supergroup formed in America's west coast soul scene. Powerhouses such as Bill Meyers, Guy Thomas and Neil Stubenhaus were all involved in the making of this album from 1981, which never actually saw the light of day at the time, but is now presented for the first time by Norwegian record label Preservation. It's sentimental material for lazy Sunday mornings, with emotive vocals backed by soaring strings and uplifting chords. There are more reflective moments like "Good Friends" next to swaying singings like "Ohio" and together they add up to a smooth listen.
Curimao (Sons Onomatopaicos E Folk Da Guine) (6:48)
Solito (Solo De Balaue) (4:29)
Danado Cantador (Balaue, Orquestra E Declamacao) (A Fagner) (4:46)
Review: For the first in a series of must-have reissues of obscure Brazilian treats, Optimo Music and Selva Discos have joined forces to offer up a new pressing of Fernando Falcao's superb 1981 debut, "Memoria Das Aguas". The eight-track set has long been considered something of a slept-on and hard-to-find classic, with Falcao conjuring up an octet of tracks that brilliantly join the dots between neo-classical movements, dreamy, percussion-led soundscapes (see the sublime "Amanhecer Tabajara (A Alceu Valenca)"), spiraling big band Afro-Brazilian jazz ("Ladeira Dos Inocentes"), intoxicating classical-jazz fusion ("Revoada") and experimental, beat-free sound collages ("Mercado"). In a word: exceptional.