Tag Archive: Ekoplekz


1.       Julia Holter –“Ekstasis” (RVNG INTL)

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It was obvious at the time of release that with “Ekstasis” Julia Holter had created something special and the album was made Release of the Month for March and then topped my “Top Ten Albums of the Year… so far” in June. Little has changed since then and while there has been some serious competition nothing has matched Holter in the Alternative category.

The first thing that struck me about “Ekstasis” is the brightness of its sound, gone is the shadowy and foggy atmosphere’s of last year’s excellent “Tragedy” replaced by a sharp and incisive production job to revival today’s most intelligent pop stars. Ok, so Holter’s not going to be the next million selling pop star but this album’s production is almost the opposite of “Tragedy”’s. Then there’s the effortless feel of a lot of the music, despite many of the tracks being over 6 minutes in length. There’s no feeling of over indulgence even when a saxophone rears its head on ‘Four Gardens’ and ‘This Is Ekstasis’ everything here earns its place and makes sense within the context of the songs. It would be tempting to compare Holter to her many contemporaries within the hypnogogic pop genre especially her friend and collaborator Nite Jewel. Though her use of delay and reverb create similar feelings/images the musical content aims instead to transport the listener further back than the 1980s and into the ancient world which Holter is so interested in. With “Ekstasis” Holter has created her own sound world that seems to subtle reference pre-existing sounds/genres and rhythms without ever sounding directly like anything you’ve previously heard. An artist who can switch with ease between different sounds and sections without breaking a sweat or alienating the listener, Holter is an artist with a bright and long future ahead of her.

2.       Matthew Dear – “Beams” (Ghostly International)

Matthew Dear returns with his fifth album under his own name and “Beams” is another great work from an artist who has consistently delivered the good over the years. “Beams” differs from Dear’s previous solo albums as its not produced by him but Van Rivers and the Subliminal Kid, most famous for their work with Fever Ray and Blonde Redhead, of which Dear is a fan. The album combines the dark sounds of Dear’s last album “Black City” and the Talking Heads influenced techno-pop of his masterpiece “Asa Breed”. Due to his superior production and song writing skills Dear makes combining these two different but not unconnected sounds seem like child’s play and the result is an effortless feel throughout the album.  The album begins with the singles ‘Her Fantasy’ and ‘Earthforms’ the former a tropical sounding techno pop track of the highest quality the latter Dear self described “ deepest delve into a straight rock song”. The album swiftly moves on to another tropical sounding track in ‘Headcage’ the groove led title track of Dear’s EP from January this year. Two more upbeat groove based tracks in ‘Fighting is Futile’ and the Talking Heads influenced ‘Up and Out’ whizz by and give up the more electronically inclined second half of the album. This starts with the Surging synth bass line and techno beat ‘Overtime’ that are barely contained by speakers. ‘Get the Rhyme Right’ returns to similar territory to ‘Earthforms’ but with the emphasis on twisted synths and distorted guitars that smother the drums and bass in their electric filth! Things get more sparse and down tempo on ‘Ahead of Myself’ with Dear’s breathy vocals given minimal synth and drum machine backing. Then album enters the home coming straight with ‘Do The Right Thing’ a song that starts with just a bubbling and bouncing groove topped with lo-fi simple melody but steadily and sublty develops into a full and rounded track thanks to Dear’s masterful arranging. He finishes the album with the one-two punch of ‘Shake Me’ a dark torch song that recalls Depeche Mode of their most moody and magnificent and ‘Temptation’ a slow burner that repays the listeners patience tenfold! All in all “Beams” is a great album from an artist well into his career showing that he can still learn and keep the listen guessing  and satisfied even after all this time.

3.       Orcas – “Orcas” (Morr Music)

The debut album from this Seattle duo leaves me lost for words, one of those albums that are difficult to describe without selling it short. However, I will endeavour to paint a picture of this heartbreakingly beautiful music. The dominate sounds are plaintive piano, twanging to ethereal guitars and vocals and various crackles, hums and heavily processed electronic sounds. These simple elements are manipulated to create different textures, atmospheres and emotions across nine tracks. Though the duo have created a sound of their own there are some influences/inspirations suggested by the music including Peter Broderick & Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie’s soundtrack work, the noise abstract pop of Broadcast (who are covered on the album) and indirectly reminds me of the latest Oneohtrix Point Never album “Replica”. All this is held together by the songwriting touches that are subtly weaved throughout the album helping this album raise above more generic ambient and experimental music releases.

4.       Raime – “Quarter Turns on the Living Line” (Blackest Ever Black)

On their debut album “Quarter Turns on the Living Line” Raime have thrown down the gauntlet to all artists currently working on electronic and experimental music, “up your game before it’s too late.” Though it wasn’t the duo’s intention the album sounds like the soundtrack to an unreleased film, subtly referencing John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” score or repositioning Ennio Morricone’s work to an industrial post-apocalyptic world. The duo expand on the critically acclaimed 12”s by adding emotional depth and a more organic sound via the use of field recordings, foley samples and acoustic instrumentation such as guitar, violins and cellos. Whereas the 12”s focused strongly on the duo’s jungle and industrial influences they broaden their range here to include post-rock, the doom metal of Sunn O))) and Earth and of course those previously mentioned soundtracks. The duo also manage to maintain a balance between the dark, heavy sounds and lighter, brighter sounds; another progression from the earlier 12”s. Raime have produced one of the debut albums of year, one that leaves many more established acts in the shade. Long may these soundscapes shapers continue to reign supreme.

5.       King Felix – “Spring EP” (Liberation Technologies)

The “Spring EP” picks up where Laurel Halo left off with the “Hour Logic EP” last summer, though she has some tricks up her sleeve and the music is a lot harder to pin down. Here the rhythms wiggle and squirm restless and constantly shifting not settling into a smooth groove, this is one of the things that makes the EP so exciting you’re never quite sure what’s coming next. The first three tracks are all a variation on the same theme, Halo is so inventive within this limitation that the listener is never bored by the central theme. Halo carves out her own style while referencing the glory years of early Nineties Detroit techno. The other crucial difference between this EP and “Hour Logic” is that whereas many of the tracks on the previous EP sound submerged beneath water this is Halo least veiled work to date; she lets the tracks reveal themselves and breathe all the elements able to exhibit themselves equally. The “Spring EP” is a fantastic addition to Halo’s discography.

6.       Ekoplekz – “Westerleigh Works EP’ (Perc Trax)

Back in January this EP was marketed as Ekoplekz’s first venture into dance floor territory and listening to it you can hear why. However, Ekoplekz still keeps his trademark sounds front and centre but he uses space more effectively and percussive sounds and deep bass provide the forward motion needed in techno music. Of the three originals ‘Ekoplatz’ sounds most like his previous material while being underpinned by techno bass and percussion, the other two ‘Narco Samba’ and ‘Xylem Teardrops’ are more stripped and danceable, while Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire) remix of ‘Ekoplatz’ follows a similar template but adds electronic woodblocks, more structural dynamics and some of Kirk’s own idiosyncratic dub sounds. A highly recommended release for those into the darker side of dance music.

7.       Blondes – “Blondes” (RVNG INTL)

Blondes self titled debut album is one that hard to do justice to without its sounding like a repetitive bore-fest, which it is far from. The duo fit into both the modern dance music camp alongside the likes of The Field, Gui Boratto and other Kompakt techno alumni and alongside current ambient and hynagogic pop acts such as Laurel Halo, Teengirl Fantasy and Rene Hell amongst others. Blondes manage to fuse these two opposites together in way that plays to the strengths of both, you never feel the dance elements are getting bogged down by the atmospherics or that the atmospherics are dominated by the dance elements. The duo encompass a range of emotions across the album from the brighter tracks like ‘Gold’ and ‘Amber’ to the dark and subdued ‘Pleasure via drowned Kraftwerkian synth work on ‘Business’ and foggy tension of ‘Water’. One of the album’s strength is that despite the amount of recycling there is (every second track is a re-versioning of the previous track) the variety on show is impressive as is the duo’s ability to keep the listener engaged and excited by these same/similar elements. At the time of release I said the following of “Blondes” “Blondes have not only created a contender for Debut Album of the Year but an early contender for the Album of the Year itself”, as you can see the album has stood the test of time.

8.       Neneh Cherry and The Thing – “The Cherry Thing” (Smalltown Supersound)

When it was originally announced that Neneh Cherry and Swedish jazz trio The Thing would be releasing an album full of reinterpreted versions of songs in a range of genres from post-punk to hip-hop via jazz itself, the collaboration didn’t make sense to me. However, after a little internet research and hearing two tracks from the album my mind was changed and I got quite excited about the prospect of this album. It didn’t let me down either with The Thing more restrained than they usually are and Cherry on dazzling form on vocals. The album opens with a version of Cherry’s ‘Cashback’ (one of two originals on the album) featuring fantastic twangy double bass, a drum break and counterpoint sax playing off her melodious lead vocal. Things get striped back on a twinkling vibraphone heavy version of Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’ before a return to a more aggressive tone with the drum and double bass assault of ‘Too Tough To Die’ (Martina Topley Bird). ‘Sudden Movement’ is the other original this time written by Mats Gustafsson of The Thing, a dark and dusty yet up beat jazz number. The tempo slows again for Madvillain’s ‘Accordion’ with Cherry trying a half sung half rapped vocal over twangy double bass and subtle arching sax. There are also two nods to Cherry’s father Don (a famous jazz musician, The Thing take their name from one of his songs) the first is by Don himself the ghostly and experimental ‘Golden Heart’ the other is a track original by jazz innovator Ornette Coleman whom Don Cherry complete his jazz apprenticeship with, this track is a sparse finish to a busy and fiery album full of passion and heat. Recommended to fans of the unexpectedly enjoyable!!!

9.       Drokk – “Music Inspired by Mega City One” (Invada)

It’s hard to describe this album without overusing the words analogue synth(s) but here goes. The album uses just one synth as its primary mode of composition but Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and BBC composer Ben Salisbury manage to make limitation the mother of invention creating everything from intense drone heavy soundscapes to arpeggio led tracks via more delicate and reflective moments. In many ways the album bears comparison with this year’s other imaginary soundtrack album “Themes for an Imaginary Film” by Symmetry and though it’s not as ambitious as Symmetry’s album its equal as satisfying a listen. Drawing on many classic synth soundtrack staples such as John Carpenter, Vangelis, Walter/Wendy Carlos and with hints of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and other T.V. music from the 70’s and 80’s. However, repeat plays reveal this isn’t an album that merely imitates and pays homage but is an equal to those great synth soundtrack composers, the album throbs with the tension of a Carpenter score, while Vangelis arpeggios abound and experimental sounds that the Radiophonic Workshop and Walter/Wendy Carlos are thrown in at the appropriate moment and to keep the listener guessing. If Symmetry’s album is the Hollywood blockbuster then “Drokk…” is a homemade marvel and all the better for it.

10.     Peaking Lights – “Lucifer” (Weird World)

“Lucifer” showcases a more immediate version of their sound from previous foggy lo-fi releases. In fact along with Julia Holter’s “Ekstatis” this album proves that lo-fi home recordings can have a clarity and immediacy without sacrificing the grit that made them attractive in the first place. “Lucifer” acts a cooling balm or cool stream water leaping at your feet instead of the more humid and clammy sound of 2011 brilliant “936”, though it’s a little unfair to directly compare those two albums “Lucifer” demonstrates the duo ability to subtle evolve their sound while still using the same basic sound set. Maybe the biggest difference musical is that Peaking Lights have chosen to create more up tempo track this time round compared with leisurely to sluggish pace of previous work, this seems to run in tandem with their new clearer and more immediate sound. The best examples of this are the funk strut of ‘Dream Beat’, the pumping bass and purposeful drum beat of ‘Live Love’ and its darker musical twin ‘Midnight (in the Valley of the Shadows)’. Peaking Lights also add some new elements to the album such as marimba on ‘Moonrise’, piano on ‘Beautiful Son’ and an Oriental melody on ‘Live Love’, that it would e great to hear more of future releases. All in all I’d through recommend “Lucifer” to Peaking Lights fans, those who are curious about the duo or those whose interest is piqued by this write up, it’s well worth investigating.

Kirsty’s Reviews

Disappointment of the month

Michael Mayer – “Mantasy” (Kompakt)

Michael Mayer’s “Mantasy” opens with ‘Sully’ a panoramic, ambient track whose romantic feel utilises chimes, circling textures and floating strings. However this is a lone standout in an otherwise disappointing album. The central tracks ‘Baumhaus’, ‘Rudi Was A Punk’ and ‘Voigt Kampff Test’ pass by without providing interest for a listener and are utterly forgettable. ‘Baumhaus’ is an irritating mix of Disney birdsong, harps and woodwind that sounds like an inadvertent parody of the soundtrack music Mayer was inspired by. The title tracks fair’s no better, its Italo disco rhythm, spiky bass line and simplistic, cloying synth melody is again annoying in its unadventurous and overly repetitive nature. The track is close to insulting by its inclusion on a commercial album. Other tracks are not worth commenting on such is their deficiency in imagination, charm, emotion or energy. “Mantasy” is so indistinct and beige that after ten tracks this listener has being bled dry trying to like it or find something complimentary to say.

Dino Sabatini – “Shaman’s Path” (Prologue)

Dino Sabatini’s album “Shaman’s Path” is a ten track expedition through his ‘personal interpretation of the sounds of Africa’. Consisting of entrancing drum patterns and slow-moving hypnotic textures that are firmly rooted in the basis of deep, atmospheric techno “Shaman’s Path” isn’t a club-orientated album. Throughout the release, Sabatini deploys an atavistic and at times sensual mood.  Drum smacks sound like skin being slapped and entrancing melodies unfold on rolling bass lines. Propulsive, dubby loops and mysterious atmospheres combine with rough textures, thickly layered wooden percussion and syncopated bass drums. The sinister album opener ‘Soul Capture’ sounds like a subterranean cave exploration, the primal cries on the minimal ‘Ritual’ create an unsettling, claustrophobic feeling while the droning, reverberating techno of ‘Parallel Perception’ and ‘Totem’ recall Scuba’s work. The heavy processing of metallic scrapes and rattling beats in ‘White Witch’ are underpinned by creative use of African percussion that stretches far beyond simply throwing Djembe samples over a house loop. While “Shaman’s Path” is presented as Sabatini’s version of the continent’s sounds do not think of it as a safari or a flight over the Sahara. Sabatini takes us into an Africa at nightfall, an environment that is dense and almost suffocating with humidity. The album’s beautifully sequenced tracks possess a thoughtful, experimental character and the album’s focused style creates a cohesiveness collection and a seriousness that makes each track, each detail feel more profound. Little changes in the album’s fixed narrative with hypnotic atmospheres only counteracted by Sabatini’s extraordinary sound design. It is an album listeners have to concentrate on and allow it to envelope the room but if you follow the “Shaman’s Path” it will go the distance.

Release of the Month

Norman Nodge – Berghain 06 (Ostgut Ton)

Perhaps the most reserved member of the Ostgut Ton/Berghain unit is Norman Nodge, who considers himself a family man foremost, a lawyer second and DJ last. Since 2005 Norman has played the Berghain floor monthly and has several releases on fellow Berghain DJ Marcel Dettmann’s MDR label and on Ostgut Ton. Nodge’s style often combines classic Detroit and UK techno with Chicago house and touches of avant-garde or ambient sounds, which infuse his mixes with cleverly contrasting softer and harder shades. It’s not surprising that “Berghain 06”, which was recorded live in the eponymous building, is constructed on these many elements. The renowned Jeff Mills’ ‘Keeping Of The Kept’ sits alongside the work of younger producers like Patrick Gräser (Answer Code Request) and the secretive Birds Two Cage. Gräser’s ‘From Foreign Territories’ is one of three exclusive unreleased tracks on this mix; the others coming courtesy of the aforementioned Birds Two Cage and Mark Broom. Nodge stretches the typically cold concrete and sandpaper textures of the Berghain sound to include lighter tracks in the form of Architectural’s ‘Looking Ahead’ and a warm Mokira remix by the always popular Redshape. With arguably the most varied track listing for a Berghain mix yet, Nodge is convincing in his courage to try new combinations. The listener is taken from the mellow beginnings of ‘Gase’ by Birds Two Cage whose warm ambient washes are followed by a percussive battering from Oni Ayhun. “Berghain 06” then kicks into gear with Patrick Gräser’s ‘From Foreign Territories’. Its relentless, determined beats and see-sawing beeps crank up the pressure until it reaches a peak time explosion with Hauntologists, Staffan Linzatti and the Jeff Mills track weaving into the mix. Next are the dark but jacking beats of Silent Servant’s scratchy ‘Untitled A1’ and a Planetary Assault Systems remix for The Nighttripper. Architectural’s ‘Looking Ahead’ moves the mix into a rich, darkly atmospheric direction; perfect for Norman Nodge’s DJ style. Mark Broom’s exclusive track ‘Vault 5’ is a techno workout to push heart rates up. ‘New York Minds’ by Tim Taylor & DJ Slip lightens the mood with a touch of rap vocals underneath a pulsing electro beat. Nodge continues to move into a playfully hypnotic territory. A squelchy El Gato #9 track picks up the pace while a flying Radioactive Man cut reconnects the listener with the blissful start of “Berghain 06”.  The final track, Legowelt’s incredible remix of “Rainy Day Juno Jam” by Xosar gives the mix that little bit of something extra and beautiful to close the chapter.

Liam’s Reviews

Disappointment of the Month

Sinkane – “Mars” (DFA)

The debut album by Sinkane kicks off with the delicious wah-wah funky guitar, shuffling hi-hats, walking bass line and high and air vocals of ‘Runnin’ a superb pop nugget to open “Mars” with. The quality stays high for ‘Jeeper Creeper’ with its Afrobeat guitar melody, subtle hand percussion, and bass guitar which underpin psychedelic synths and guitar chords that echo out with long delays creating a hypnotic effect. However, Sinkane takes his first misstep on ‘Lady C’mon’ with heavy use of Vocoder spoiling the lush backing track. ‘Makin’ Time’ is worse with Vocoder and cheesy lead guitar and saxophone, spoiling a well put together lush back tracking. Things pick up again with the funky African tinged guitar of ‘Warm Spell’ and jungle atmospheres and great horns of ‘Love Sick’. Things go awry again on the title track which can only be described as a jazz nightmare. The album finishes with its longest and most meditative track ‘Caprundi’. Though there are some tracks on “Mars” such as ‘Runnin’ a majority of the album feels like a disappointment, however it will be interesting to see Sinkane develop in the future.

Peter Broderick – “These Walls of Mine” (Erased Tapes)

The latest album from Peter Broderick is his most ambitious yet and it doesn’t fail to impress. Broderick augments his usual instrumentation of piano, violin, guitar, bass and drums with full utilisation of studio technology, especially with relation to his vocals. This playful experimentation is what makes Broderick stand out instead of sounding like yet another singer-songwriter and he never sacrifices a good tune for the sake of this experimenting. The album opens with ‘Inside Out There’s distant delayed vocal and guitar loop before Broderick’s lead vocals and harmonies enter. He adds violins and melting synth riff around 2 minutes in to enrich the track. The single ‘I’ve Tried’ use all of the tools in Broderick’s box expertly employing echoing drums, subtle bass guitar, reverberate vocals, a synth pad and in the latter half of the track his trademark violin. Next up is the minimal ‘Proposed Solution to the Mystery of Soul’ which simple features Broderick singing over his own humming, occasional percussion and watery sounds, it’s an uncomplicated but brilliantly effective track. Things step up a notch on ‘When I Blank I Blank’ with its deep funk bass and rhythm guitar and hip-hop beat, a new style for Broderick that he tackles with aplomb. On the next on two tracks Broderick gets creative the first ‘These Walls of Mine I’ is a spoken word track, ‘These Wall of Mine II’ adds busy piano, violin and hip-hop with Broderick reciting the same lyrics again, a nice trick that works a treat. The next track ‘I Do This’ uses the two vocal techniques speaking over the verses section and singing the chorus’. Overall “These Walls of Mine” is Broderick most ambitious album yet and it may prove to be his best yet with some time to fully process its complex and diverse songs. For it recalls Jamie Lidell’s “Compass” (2010) an album full of similarly complex and diverse yet accessible songs that experimented within the constraints of popular music. If you’re already a fan of Broderick’s work you’ll find plenty to satisfy you here, if you’re not it then try “www.itstartshear.com” from earlier this year, which combines Broderick’s trademark sound with the beginnings of ideas that are expand upon on this release.

Black Moth Super Rainbow – “Cobra Juicy” (Rad Cult)

“Cobra Juicy” is Black Moth Super Rainbow’s (BMSR) fifth studio album and their first to be self released. Initially much of the album sounds like the band’s previous material, but repeat plays reveals the subtle differences. In fact, the opener and single ‘Windshield Smasher’ opens with a glam rock beat a first for the band before corroded guitar stabs, then vocodered reverb heavy lead vocals and light synth arpeggio kick off the song proper. ‘Like A Sundae’ recalls the band’s poppier moments with its summery vibes. The dirty guitar stabs return for ‘Hairspray Heart’ accompanied by the band’s trademark Vocoder and head nodding hip-hop beats. ‘Psychic Love Damage’ and ‘We Burn’ introduce country guitar to the band’s sound blending it with down beat drums, analogue synth and light use of Vocoder. ‘Gangs in the Garden’ improves on the BMSR template with funky synth bass, ghostly melodies and a head nodding hip-hop beat. ‘The Healing Power of Nothing’ and ‘Dreamsicle Bomb’ create a more minimal and echo variation on BMSR template before ‘I Think I’m Evil’ returns the band to distorted lo-fi hip-hop territory. The albums close out with the ghostly synth and soar away chorus of ‘Blurring My Day’ (surly a future single) and the Flaming Lips inspired sweeping synthetic pop of ‘Spraypaint’. All-in-all BMSR have delivered another great album full of surreal, horror influenced lo-fi pop.

The Herbaliser – “There Were Seven” (Department H)

The Herbaliser return with their first album in four years and the band are back on form after the solid but unspectacular “Same As It Never Was” (2008). On that album it seemed as if the band was trying to evolve their sound into a more commercial soul inspired direction. However, now they return to their classic cinematic funk and hip-hop sound while also finding ways of moving it forward. As early as the opening track ‘Return of the Seven’ fuzz guitar is the first new element to introduce itself, the band then sprinkle this sound liberal across the albums remaining tracks. Next up is ‘The Lost Boy’ a down tempo smoky jazz number that reminds me of ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ the title track of band’s brilliant 2002 album. ‘Welcome to Extravagence’ shows the band’s next evolution with its lush, ripping distorted guitar swoops, heavy beats, dub delay and siren. It’s the first time the band have attempted a dub track and it’s 100% successful even adding the band’s signature cinematic sounds and modern production. ‘Mother Dove’ picks up where ‘Welcome to Extravagence’ finishes take with it the lush, ripping distorted guitar swoops and slowly adding in a string section its quickly followed beat box beats and a strong lead violin line. Later in the track twanging guitars, another layer of drums and combative synth bass up the tension. The final twist comes when the track breaks down to acidic synth, piano, drums and vocal sample before a theremin melody and the guitars return leading the string lead outro. Next up is ‘Zero Hill’ the first of three upbeat hip-hop tracks featuring Canadian rap duo Twin Peaks. Next up is ‘Take ‘Em On’ a classic piece of Herbaliser chase music with flighty flute and honky and skronking brass taking the lead. There are a few more tracks in the classic Herbaliser style – the emotive synths, deep space bass and cutting scratches of ‘Setting Up’, ‘What You Asked For’s cinematic stylings and ‘Move As One’ with its desolate guitar chords, wobbling organ, pumping bass, break bat and French melody, all recall vintage Herbaliser moments. There’s one final evolutionary move by the band and it’s the duo of horror film referencing tracks ‘March of the Dead Things’ and ‘Deep in the Woods’. Overall “There Were Seven” is a stunning addition to the Herbaliser’s back catalogue, the band show they both move forward and deliver tracks in their classic style maintaining a balance that keeps everyone happy.

Ekoplekz – “Intrusive Incidentalz Vol.2” (Punch Drunk)

“Intrusive Incidentalz Vol.2” picks where last year’s “Vol.1” had left with much experimental and delay drenched analogue synth textures bouncing around your stereo. However, there are subtle changes in the sound employed on that previous edition. In fact, subtle is the key word here with Ekoplekz using subtler sounds and a lot less of his trademark scathing synth sounds than usual. He allows the tracks to breath, there are more spaces between the delay and a return to the melodies that were much more prominent on his first album “Memowreckz”. ‘Trubshaw Test’ with its ascending synth melody underpinned by a descending bass line and ‘Effluvia’ with its bell like melody, hissy shifting synth sounds and sparse dub effects are both great examples of this more melodic approach. On both ‘Ultra Warble’ and ‘‘Abyss Ababa’ Ekoplekz threatens to add a four to the floor rhythm that both tracks are calling out for but at the last moment he just lets the momentum peter out, which is disappointing as the build up feels great but the pay off never comes. In a less competitive month “Intrusive Instrumentals Vol.2” would have been a Release of the Month, but instead this album has to settle for a well deserved joint third with Daphni.

Daphni – “Jiaolong” (Jiaolong)

“Jiaolong” is the debut album from Caribou aka Dan Snaith side project Daphni and is firmly ensconced on the dance floor. However, this isn’t a generic house record attempted by someone trying their luck at the genre. For start with the last Caribou album “Swim” Snaith attempted to make “liquid dance music” and for the most part succeed too. Plus, in a recent interview with FACT magazine revealed that he’d been clubbing and enjoying dance music since his teenage years back in Toronto. One of the tracks on the album ‘Ahora’ every sounds like something from “Swim” remixed by a DJ. The rest of the album separates itself from Caribou releases with a strong Afrobeat influence that’s applied directly on ‘Ne Noya’ and implied throughout the album, the album has a lighter and bouncier sound than Caribou has and feels supple and fluid throughout with bags of energy and grooves aplenty. Analogue synths and drum machines dominated every track and are expertly employed, giving every track a warm and dynamic feel. Highlights from the album include ‘Yes, I Know’ with its pumping house beat, driving, resonant acid synth bass, soulful vocal sample and up tempo horns, ‘Ne Noya (Daphni Mix)’ with its live drums and Afrobeat vibes, ‘Ye Ye’s buzzing synth bass, rattling hi-hats, bell-like melody and unpredictable and the irresistibly funky groove of ‘Springs’, though the remaining tracks are very good and will no doubt grow on listeners over time. “Jiaolong” is one of Snaith’s finest albums to date in a serious impressive back catalogue and gives strong competition to Blondes and Matthew Dear for the top dance music album of 2012.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” (Constellation)

Before I begin this review properly I should say that though I’ve admired Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s music since I first heard of them back in 1998, I’ve only heard a few of their songs and therefore can’t compare this album to their back catalogue.

The first album in ten years by Godspeed You! Black Emperor opens with the epic “Mladic” a 20 minute track that achieves more in its first half than most band’s achieve over a whole career. Its begins with feedback and a slowly looping spoken word sample then a guitar melody enters quickly followed by a violin and thumming bass, the song steadily gains in intensity the violin playing long held notes that simmer at the top of the mix, soon joined by out of tune and off beat guitar notes that act as a counterpart. Around 3 minutes 30 seconds in an acoustic guitar emerges providing a solid rhythm for the track. Again the track builds in intensity, with electric guitar ratcheting things up another notch. The drums finally kick in at 7 minutes and 30 seconds an almost Arabic guitar riff leading the way. This riff becomes gothic and sparser around 12 minutes in with the drums pounding and clattering away in the background. There’s a apocalyptic feeling break down at 13 minutes, before a drone begins at 16 mins with violins spiralling and guitar see-sawing above it. The track finally ends with harmonised guitar feedback and random clomping percussion. Second track ‘Their Helicopters Sing’ is a multi layered six and a half minute drone track utilises hissing noise, deep bass, agitated violin, wet guitar harmonics and what sounds like bag pipes to create a constantly shifting soundscape. ‘We Drifted Like Worried Fire’ is another 20 minute epic which starts with ghostly violin drone and melody before a third dreamy violin part takes the track to another level before giving way to a melodic guitar line and simple bass part. A minute later the drums come in bringing with them a sparse vibraphone melody, slow shifting noise guitar and finally a long arching violin melody. These ascend and build tension until a brief break down at eight and a half minutes. The second half of the song begins with a shift from intense guitar to the return of the violin this time back by orchestral sounding drums and percussion, at fourteen minutes this changes to a marching beat with cello and violin dominating distant shards of discordant guitar. Then at fifteen minutes the song suddenly backs free with guitar and violin leading a surge that continues (apart from a brief breakdown) to the songs climax five minutes later. The final track ‘Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable’ begins with long ascending drone that is slowly added to by what could a processed guitar or synth, this then gives way to crusty guitar chords and feedback that grow to a immense peak through the middle section of the song. A slow analogue synth drone takes the album to its conclusion. While I can’t compare this album to Godspeed’s earlier work I feel it’s safe to say they haven’t lost anything in the last decade and this album would stand next their first three. It’s a shame more band’s aren’t as ambitious and breath taking as Godspeed.

Top Release of the Month

Flying Lotus – “Until the Quiet Comes” (Warp)

The much anticipated new album by Flying Lotus starts as it means to go on with subtle shuffling beats of ‘All In’ with bells and chimes that lead the way harmonically and melodically. These elements become the glue that holds together this elemental, organic and sophisticated release from the highly regard Flying Lotus. For much of his career he has balanced ghetto fabulous beats, drum ‘n’ bass/UK Bass music undertow with his families’ roots in jazz and spiritual music and this continues on “Until the Quiet Comes”. However, it’s the cool jazz and calm spiritual music that is the dominate force whereas previously it had played second fiddle to the glitches, electronic breaks and huge bass rumble of the current music scene. Not that the modern glitches and deep penetrating bass lines and beats are absent, they just play a subtler supporting role with the exception of the ‘Sultan’s Request’ and its thick, brittle digital sounding synth bass, which gets twice as heavy in the second half of the track. The album also sees Flying Lotus utilising vocal samples and guest vocalists much more effectively, a particularly good example is Thom Yorke’s contribution to ‘Electric Candyman’ in which Yorke’s vocals are expertly and sparingly used, whereas they appeared anonymous on “…and the world laughs with you” from “Cosmogramma” (2010). “Until the Quiet Comes” initially feels like it might greater longevity than “Cosmogramma”, which though it really hit home on the first couple listens, its impact dulled over time. It was also a busy and demanding listen, whereas space is utilised throughout “Until the Quiet Comes”, which allows the listener to “fixate on any one sound and extract feeling from it.” Time will tell if this feeling becomes reality but one thing’s for sure Flying Lotus has delivered a more than worthy follow up to what often viewed as his masterpiece.

Kirsty’s Recommendations

2nd – vinyl / 16th – CD/digital

Dino Sabatini – Shaman’s Path (Prologue)

Dino Sabatini, whose name is on Prologue’s first 12” release, always delivers the German label’s audio aesthetic: deep, hypnotic, atmospheric and mind-driven. His album “Shaman’s Path” is his personal interpretation of the sounds of Africa. The release will be distributed by WordandSound. The CD is continuous track mix. The vinyl will include only the club oriented tracks from “Shaman’s Path” and the complete digital album contains all of the individual tracks. Stream the entire album courtesy of Prologue’s Bandcamp here:

15th October

Ben Klock “Fabric 66”

Klock is invariably introduced as a Berghain resident, having been a core member of the family surrounding the Berlin club since it opened in 2004. Along with like-minded artist Marcel Dettmann, he played a big part in shaping the signature sound of Berghain’s downstairs room: galloping, uncompromising techno, often delivered in stretches of eight hours or more.

“Fabric 66″ shows a slightly different side of Klock. “I didn’t want to include any of my ‘hits’ from my sets this time,” he says. “The idea is more that you have something to discover when you listen.” By interspersing straight techno tracks from the likes of Truncate, James Ruskin, Berghain brother Marcel Dettmann and DVS1 with understated selections from Trevino, Burial and Alva Noto, Klock shows the range that exists within his own style.

22nd October

Michael Mayer – “Mantasy” (Kompakt)

“Mantasy” is the second full-length from Köln DJ and producer Michael Mayer. His previous album, “Touch”, was put together in a matter of weeks and, with the benefit of hindsight, Mayer is displeased with its quick production so he is treating “Mantasy” as “the first one.” Aside from a steady stream of remixes, his last set of original productions was in 2007 with the “SuperMayer” album alongside Superpitcher. On the subject of the album’s sound Mayer says “Mantasy” “clearly reflects the gazillions of sounds I’m listening to in private, especially my love for soundtracks or soundtrack-like music.” Listen to the pre-release track ‘Good Times’, featuring Whomadewho’s vocalist Jeppe Kjellberg, here.

Berghain 06 – Norman Nodge (Ostgut Ton)

Perhaps the most reserved member of the Ostgut/Berghain unit is Norman Nodge, who considers himself a family man foremost, a lawyer second and DJ last. This month he will release the sixth installment in the impressive Berghain mix series. His years of experience show in his sets which tend to offset current techno with industrially-tinged ’90s releases (plus ambient, atmospheric techno or whatever else suits the mood). For someone accustomed to four-hour sets, Nodge crams a lot of variety into “Berghain 06”, coursing through experimental bits from Oni Ayhun to Jeff Mills, Silent Servant and recent cuts from Legowelt, Architectural and Ctrls (one half of Northern Structures). As with all installments in the “Berghain” and “Panorama Bar” series, “Berghain 06” features a handful of exclusive tracks that will be released on a 12″, due out on the same day as the mix. These come from Mark Broom and Patrick Gräser (aka Answer Code Request).

Liam’s Recommendations

1st October

Flying Lotus – “Until the Quiet Comes” (Warp)

“Until the Quiet Comes” features guest vocalists and musicians Erykah Badu, Thom Yorke, Thundercat, Niki Randa, Laura Darlington and Johnny Greenwood. Initial listens suggest a more sophisticated sound that balances both the organic and elemental with modern production and bass driven rhythms. FlyLo may well have delivered something as good as 2010’s “Cosmogramma” which made Sonic Fiction’s Album of the Year 2010. For more information on album including track listing and tour dates click here.

6th October 2012

Ekoplekz – “Instrusive Incidentalz” Vol.2″(Punch Drunk)

Ekoplekz returns to Punch Drunk the label that made his name for the follow to “Instrusive Incidentalz Vol.1” (2011). The label describes the release as “the concluding part of Ekoplekz’s collection of dark, oppressive atmospheres and violently unstable interludes, inspired by childhood memories of terrifying electronic soundtrack music from the 1970s. Developed through studio improvisation and channelling a sense of dread informed by the social, economic and political climate of life in 2012, Ekoplekz has delivered some of his finest, most vivid work to date.” For the tracklisting of “Instrusive Incidentalz Vol.2” click here.

8th October

Daphni – “Jiaolong” (Jiaolong)

Daphni is a recently activated side project of Caribou aka Dan Snaith, an outlet for his dance floor inspired ideas. The album comes off the back of a series of critically acclaimed singles and remixes and FACT magazine have already gone as far as to say “Dan Snaith has made classic albums before as Caribou, but his first full-length under Daphni, his dancefloor alias, looks like it could end up his very best yet”.

The Herbaliser – “There Were Seven” (Department H)

Hip-hop and cinematic funk duo the Herbaliser release their seventh studio album on their own Department H label this October. The duo’s recently releases showcased a cleaner and more streamlined commercial sound but earlier this year they hinted that they were keen to return to their earlier sound and sample based working method. The album also features Canadian rap duo Twin Peaks who recently toured with The Herbaliser’s full band line-up. This is act that constantly delivers and so this is a much anticipated release for me.

15th October

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” (Constellation)

The new Godspeed album is their first for a decade and since reforming for live dates back in 2010. According to the press release it will pick up where the band left off with “Yanqui U.X.O.” back in 2002, as much of the material was first worked on shortly after the release of that album. The album features two extended tracks (around 22  minutes each) from 2002, joined by two drone pieces that are six and a half minutes in length. Whatever it sounds like its exciting to have Godspeed back!!

22nd October

Black Moth Super Rainbow – “Cobra Juicy” (Rad Cult)

The new album from by the masters of lo-fi electronic beat heavy psychedelia Black Moth Super Rainbow is ready to be released as the band passed their target on Kickstarter. Aswell as the usual formats the band will release the album in the form of a back lite latex mask with the album and associated music and videos on USB stick that acts as a tooth in the mask’s mouth.

Sinkane – “Mars”(DFA)

The latest signing to DFA Records Sudanese born New York based Sinkane made a new for himself as a touring instrumentalist with Yeasayer, Caribou and Of Montreal and now releases his debut solo album. “Mars” features collaborations with Twin Shadow, Yeasayer’s Ira Wolf Tuton, Roberto Lange of Helado Negro, Oliver Chapoy (Shai Hulud, Warm Ghost), Afrobeat band Nomo, and Stutzmcgee.

31st October

A$AP Rocky – “LongLiveA$AP” (Polo Grounds Music/RCA)

The highly anticipated and much delayed debut album by the MC who showed so much potential last year on the “LiveLoveA$AP” mixtape. Production comes from Clams Casino, Hit Boy, A$AP Ty Beats, Soufein3000, Joey Fat Beats and Rocky himself.

Kirsty’s Reviews

Disappointment of the month

Albert Swarm – Wake (Ceremony Recordings)

“Wake”, the debut album of the Finnish producer Pietu Arvola, meanders and rolls on without direction. It is stagnant and, bar the closing song “Moths and Moth Catchers”, devoid of anything remotely memorable. All seven tracks follow the same arrangement: it begins in an infancy stage where unnameable sounds drift and float then elements are slowly added and expanded until reaching a plateau for the final minute or so then it comes to an end. Everything sits in the same frequency range, leaving little space for the songs to breathe and settle. This sounds less like a stylistic choice of a suffocating atmosphere and more of flattening  over-compression. Except for sections of ‘A Dream That Glistened’ and ‘Moths and Moth Catchers’ there is a lack of melody, a hollow void where something enticing should be. Sadly the only thing that even comes close to the emotion found in the strangely operatic and heart-wrenching ‘Familialities’ from Swarm’s “Held” EP from 2011 is ‘Moths and Moth Catchers’, which utilises a chordal structure to  underpin, and emphasise, a much longed-for melody. This last song is the point where “Wake” finally comes alive and makes a play for the listener’s attention.

Barker & Baumecker – “Transsektoral” (Ostgut Ton)

Sam Barker and Andreas Baumecker’s debut album is purposed to travel the spectrum of electronic music. Both established figures within Berlin’s techno family, Barker is known for co-running the Leisure System nights and his razor-edged electronics as Voltek. Baumecker, meanwhile has headed up the record label Freundinnen and worked as a resident DJ and booking agent for Berghain. Having previously collaborated on 2010’s “Candyflip” and the notable “A Murder of Crows” EP in March, “Transsektoral” collates 11 new tracks from the pair. Ranging in tempo and texture, the album pushes a sleek but rough sound injected with contemporary and past techno with a dose of IDM/electronica dynamics.

A track like the chilling, buzzing ‘Crows’ seems to build in reverse and, as with the rest of the album, feels like a polished jam, taking unexpected twists and turns that sound like a result of spur-of-the-moment decisions. Silvery spurts of ambient music can be found in the twinkling, bubbling tracks ‘Sektor’ and ‘Tranq’. Disciples of Ostgut Ton’s techno arsenal will be at home in the awesomely punishing shunt of ‘Buttcracker’ and ‘Silo.’ “Transsektoral isn’t without flaws: ‘No Body’’s uninspired ghostly garage feels three years old and the finale ‘Spur’ tips the scales of sentimental into a cloying syrup. Yet the dark and skippy ‘Schlang Bang’, ‘Trafo’’s hyperkinetic race and the aforementioned standouts create the kind of well-paced experience that lends itself to a DJ set. Their debut may not be flawless but it does come close. With its infectious sense of fun and masterfully undercooked programming “Transsektoral” finds the sweet spot between old-school dance music energy and the modern techno aesthetic.

Steffi – “Shraper” EP (Ostgut Ton)

Steffi’s 12″ for Ostgut Ton reveals three tough, energetic tracks to add to her collection of evolving productions. After the many intimate house and techno moments on her debut album “Yours & Mine”, Steffi provides further flashes of her fine techno sound for “Shraper”. The eponymous first track (A-side) combines a simple yet effective driving beat and scraping, scratching percussion with a whomping bass line and a thin, yawning synth line to hypnotic effect, cranking the energy levels right up. The string version of the second (B-side) track ‘Tank’ is a ride around Panorama Bar with a mellow mood created by a deeper bass, bouncing metallic hats and a bell pattern added underneath a silkier version of the synth melody from the opening track. The Beat version of ‘Tank’ builds and builds with fewer elements namely a demanding bass drum, fast16th hats and percussion, a neat DJ tool to bring any dance floor together.

Release of the month

John Tejada – “The Predicting Machine” (Kompakt)

On his eighth solo album, John Tejada shows his enduring acclaim is entirely deserved thanks to his singular variety of smart melodic house and techno. ‘The Predicting Machine’ cycles through ten tracks that effortlessly and elegantly weave lean electronics and pounding, yet sparse, beats and emotive melodies. On last year’s “Parabolas”, he restricted himself to a narrow palette of sounds, perhaps as a way to highlight his expertise with detail, but on “The Predicting Machine”, his second consecutive release for Kompakt, Tejada runs wild, excitedly and purposefully pulling sounds from an assorted catalogue of eras and styles and it is this wide-eyed enthusiasm that makes him and Kompakt such a perfect match. “The Predicting Machine” covers a lot of ground yet perfectly summarises Tejada’s deeply focused approach to music making.  Opener ‘Orbiter’ sculpts bleeping hooks and thick fogs out of its aquatic groove.  The knowingly titled ‘A Familiar Mood’ returns the listener to the percolating tech house that made Tejada’s name. ‘An Ounce of Perception’ introduces a limber, Kompakt schaffel-inspired rhythm then descends into a 7 minute long gleaming melody, which leads the listener into spiraling arpeggios on ‘Winter Skies’.

A moment of sheer magic occurs when the opening bars of the anthemic tech-house track ‘The Function And The Form’ begin. Its fizzing melody and growling bassline lifts “The Predicting Machine” up a level. The vintage beat and the incredible, rich modular synth textures surrounding it play out joyously. The sparkling arpeggios that kick in at around the 2:30 minute mark are a masterful touch. Following the track is the ‘90s jacking cut ‘Stabilizer’. ‘Horizon to Horizon’ possesses a wet, elastic rhythm underneath a near classical arrangement. The soothing closer ‘When All Around Is Madness’ chimes with effervescent clouds of synths. When it comes to effortlessly and beautifully conveying emotion in music no one gets close to John Tejada’s finely tuned melodies or his instinctive musicality. Every one of his tracks is an inviting and wondrous soundscape filled with luxurious and elegant detail. “The Predicting Machine” will see a high ranking position in the end of the year charts on Sonic Fiction.

Liam’s Reviews

Disappointment of the Month

Nick Edwards – “Plekzationz” (Editions Mego)

“Plekzationz” is Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz’s first release on Edition Mego the legendary Austrian experimental electronic music label and his first since 1994 under his own name. The album is made up of 4 long form tracks all around 15 or 16 minutes in length, this is in stark contrast to Edwards other work as Ekoplekz which generally short to average songs lengths and this has always seemed suitable for the noisy and intense natural of the music. In fact, oddly enough the first two tracks ‘Chance Meets Causality Uptown’ and ‘No Escape From ‘79’ feel like three Ekoplekz tracks that have been loosely joined together, the join between the tracks show through and I think these tracks should have been 6 separate 5 minute tracks rather than two 15 minute tracks. The album takes a turn for the worst on track three ‘Inside the Analogue Continuum’ which struggles to separate itself from the other tracks on the album and indeed much of Ekoplekz back catalogue and doesn’t really get going almost seven minutes in when a bass drum and rhythmic noises give it a sluggish forward momentum. The surprisingly use of a drum ‘n’ bass break at the end gives the track a belated shot of energy but it’s too little too late for the worst track of Edwards impressive career to date. The album final track ‘A Pendent’s Progress’ however turns the tide with its slimy acid fried delayed synth slivers, dub siren and metallic percussion that reverberates out with a long tail. The track is classic Ekoplekz just stretched out over 15 minutes, in the second half more instrumentation is added and the gets busier and denser with a great feel that seals the deal. Unfortunately “Plekzationz” is a flawed release and fails to match the brilliance of Ekoplekz back catalogue. Though ‘A Pendent’s Progress’ is well worth downloading via Boomkat.

Sun Araw – “The Inner Treaty” (Sun Ark/Drag City)

“The Inner Treaty” picks up where last year “Ancient Romans” left off for Sun Araw. Like “Ancient Romans” this is patchy album on which Sun Araw tries to expand his basic palette with very mixed results. The first half of album is the most frustrating as tumbling electronic drum patterns and busy percussion fight for attention amongst the wah-wah guitar and synths which veer from stabby to psychedelic. ‘Like Wine’s disparate elements briefly coalesces into a hypnotic engaging loop but then everything falls apart again and the song ends. The second half of the album isn’t much of an improvement, though with ‘Treaty’ Sun Araw keeps things simple in the drums and percussion department with the other instruments given space to breathe and development organically. The organic, psychedelic synth that comes in around 2 minutes is an inspired touch and off sets the other instruments perfectly. However, after this great example of what he does best Sun Araw undoes his good work with ‘The Summum’ the fastest and densest track of his career to date and that left me completely cold. The album closes with ‘And I’ another disappointment that features 80’s electro synth bass, dubbed out guitar and drums backing Sun Araw’s vocals. I’ve been a big fan of Sun Araw for two and a half years now but feel he’s really failed to deliver an album that comes close to any of his first four albums, yes there are good tracks on both “Ancient Romans” and ‘Treaty’ from this album. But I feel this is an artist who has run out of effective ways to develop his once distinctive sound.

The XX – “Coexist” (Young Turks)

“Coexist” is the long awaited second album from the XX the quietly unique band that first emerged back in 2010. Much has been made of the ever sparser sound employed on “Coexist” and though there’s no doubt that there are a certainly a few tracks that bare this out, I think there are other interesting developments. Firstly there a few tracks (‘Angels’, ‘Chained and ‘Sunset’) that feel rushed where the music might have felt urgent in the past. This gives the feel that the band is either bored of their previous slow style or uncertain of how good their songs are. I feel it maybe the latter as even after a few plays the songs don’t stick in my head as much as those on the XX’s self titled debut album and though Jamie XX tries out some new effects and production techniques at times they feel distracting rather than complimentary to the music or vocalists. ‘Reunion’ and ‘Swept Away’ seem like missteps into ambient house influenced dancefloor tracks that are an ill fit for the vocals and lyrical content of the songs. The album is by no means a complete failure and my own misgivings could well be endearing traits for others. I think hardcore fans of the XX will find much to love but others may find that the hype doesn’t match up to the reality for “Coexist”.

Animal Collective – “Centipide Hz” (Domino)

The new album from Animal Collective is a significant departure from their previous album “Merriweather Post Pavillion” (Sonic Fiction’s Album of the Year 2009) whereas that album was sampled based and entirely electronic with slow to mid paced songs, “Centipide Hz” enschews this to become Animal Collective most ‘rock’ record to date. With Panda Bear back on the drum stool that album kicks off with ‘Moon Jock’ a stomping, crashing, intense combination of drums, guitar, off kilter vocals and Geologist’s out of this world effects. The album continues with the lighter but no less disorienting “Today’s Supernatural” the album’s obvious single the angular sound of which owes something to the band’s 2007 album “Strawberry Jam”. For the next track ‘Rosie Oh’ the pace drop for the first time and the track recalls a warped version of the Beach Boys, if they lived under the sea instead of surfing on it. This same sonic blueprint is employed again on ‘Pulleys’. The upbeat rhythms, crashing drums and guitars are back on ‘Applesauce’ joined by warped synths for a potential future single due to its catchy chorus. The bucolic and organic sounding ‘Wide Eyed’ recalls XTC in their prime and is Deakin’s first songwriting credit for the band, featuring the man himself on lead vocals and promising much for future contributions. “Father Time” floats in out if synth fog and static sounding Hawaii in a psychedelic heat haze. Panda Bear’s big moments comes with “New Town Burnout” with its pattering electronic drums, hornets nests of spiky guitar drone and a stop-start lead vocal from the man himself, the song is one of strongest melodical and harmonic on the album and bares the most relation to those on “Merriweather Post Pavillion”. After the nutty synth sounds of ‘Monkey Riches’ and epic video game soundtrack music of ‘Mercury Man’ the band settles into the home striaght the aforementioned under water pop of ‘Pulleys’ and the stomping, splashing start-stop rhythms and padding percussion of finale ‘Amanita’. Overall “Centipide Hz” is a hard album to define with the band covering a lot of ground over its 50 minute plus length, oddly it also feels longer and more meandering then the much slower “Merriweather Post Pavillion”. In fact, though there are some great indivdual moments on “Centipide Hz” its doesn’t feel like it convinces as an album. Animal Collective have always managed to complete coherent and conceptually strong albums in the past but here only tenourous links are made using radio static and fictional indents, which fail to tie the whole album together. All-in-all Animal Collective reach some real highs worthy of their reputation but can’t replete it over the whole of ‘Centipide Hz’.

Clark – “Fantasm Planes” (Warp)

The “Fantasm Planes” E.P. picks up where Clark new album “Iradelphic” left off; in fact three of its tracks are reworkings of tracks on “Iradelphic”. The E.P. kicks off with the first of three new tracks ‘Fantasm Planes’ which matches a flute melody with dancehall beat and thick analogue synths lines. Next up is the first of the three reworks ‘Henderson Swooping’ with its picked acoustic guitar and moon boot sized dancehall drums. ‘Com Re-Touch/Pocket for Jack’ takes the original ‘Com Touch’ synth melodies but brings down the tempo and back them with heavy drums before a new guitar line and synth and drum backing drop in for the second half of the track. The third and final reworking is ‘Secret Slow Show’ featuring the vocals of Martina Topley-Bird backed by acoustic guitar, tumbling drums before the track is complete turned on its head for the final quarter of the track with distorted acidic electronic drums kicking in. The remaining two tracks on the E.P. are brief instrumentals ‘Brigitte’ with its slow moving metallic synths and misty psychedelic vocals and ‘Dove in Flames’ an organic and minimalistic synth instrumental. Overall Clark’s delivered another superb release and worthy companion piece to the excellent “Iradelphic”.

Gaslamp Killer – “Breakthrough” (Brainfeeder/Ninja Tune)

The debut album of DJ and Brainfeeder signee The Gaslamp Killer is an instrumental hip-hop triumph that instantly recalls classic DJ Shadow and Dan the Automator and contemporaries like horror-core hip-hop duo Gangrene (aka the Alchemist and Oh No). The album mixes The Gaslamp Killer’s love of Turkish melodies, psychedelic rock and dread filled synth atmospherics backed by acoustic hip-hop beats and breaks. It’s a heady brew but the Gaslamp Killer utilises his DJ skills to perfectly balance.  In less skilled or knowledgeable hands this could have turned into an unappealingly sonic stew. He also expertly manages the contributions of the many collaborators that include Gonjasufi, Computer Jay, Mophono, Adrian Younge, MRR, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Daedelus and fellow Brainfeeder signing Samiyam. An exciting thread of tension runs throughout “Breakthrough” with little let up in the nerve shredding strings and dread-filled organ and synths. It’s difficult to pick out individual highlights as the quality doesn’t drop across the whole album and it feels like it was made as a piece, almost like a DJ set with each track of equal importance. “Breakthrough” is another stellar release from the Brainfeeder/Ninja Tune axis and the Gaslamp Killer deserves to be as highly praised as a producer as he is as a DJ.

Deefhoof – “Breakup Song” (ATP)

On their 13th album Deerhoof have succeeded in converting themselves into a alternative rock party band. Though the band could never been accused of slacking in the rhythm department, they’ve gone all out here to create an album that keeps you moving while still providing melodies and hooks aplenty and emotional content to stop the album becoming a vapid collection of indie dance tracks. In fact, the band are so convincing as a party band that tracks like ‘The Trouble with Candyhands’, ‘Flower’ and ‘Theres That Grin’ could easily be mistaken for edgy Cuban/funk/hip-hop jams. There’s not a duff moment to be found on this every track is solid gold pop nugget, not a note or beat is wasted and your dripping with sweat by the end of this half hour work out!!!

Cat Power – “Sun” (Matador)

The new album from Cat Power instantly separates itself from here previous releases due to the strident and confident style in which it’s performed. Cat Power has never been an artist who you’d associate with the word confident, she has always hidden within her music, shying away from the spotlight. But on “Sun” she has no fear, she strong despite all the personal problems she’s been through since her last album “The Greatest” (2006). The album’s production (Cat Power produced it herself and the album was mixed by Phillippe Zdar of Cassius fame) and use of electronic drums and synthesizers also marks it out too. The album starts as it means to go on with the strident drums and chiming guitars ‘Cherokee’, this swiftly followed by the deceptively titled ‘Sun’ with it foggy synths and dark atmospheric guitar strums the perfect backing for Cat Power. Next up is the swaggering single ‘Ruin’ with its funky, driving chorus full of cutting guitar and lizard like bass and drums, it’s the track with most pronounced Zdar influence. Speaking of production both ‘3,6,9’ and ‘Always on my Own’ are the most impressive display of Cat Power’s production abilities with great layering and interplay between her own multi tracked and panned vocals. The mid section of the album from ‘3,6,9’ to ‘Manhattan’ drop back to Cat Power’s more typical slower tempos but the atmospherics and beats add something not heard on previous Cat Power albums, she isn’t retreating to her comfort zone, she’s developing her trademark sound. The remaining provide a great ending trio with ‘Silent Machines’ kicking things off with a thumping electronic bass drum and gliding guitar riff, followed by the epic but never wasteful ‘Nothin’ But Time’ which features Iggy Pop intoning deep, dark backing vocals from 5 minutes in. The album lands its final blow with the bruising and dark ‘Peace and Love’. From start to finish “Sun” is an astounding return from artist whose every release is further evidence that she deserves exposure to a far greater audience.

Release of the Month

Kid Koala – “12 Bit Blues” (Ninja Tune)

The latest album from the prolific Kid Koala takes a basic concept, expands on it and executes it to perfection. That concept is an album built around samples from old blues records put together using his trusty turntables and newly acquired Emu SP 1200 sampler. When I heard about this concept my initial thoughts were that this might be an overly dour album but Kid Koala proves me wrong with an album packed with hip-hop bangers that blow the cobwebs away!! Chirping synth and a vocal sample that says “the kids in rare form tonight” kick off the album before stride piano and boom-bap hip-hip beats enter to start off ‘1 bit blues’ properly, these elements turn out one of running themes throughout the album. But Kid Koala keeps the interest going with blistering guitar riff, analogue synth swiggles, sci-fi effects and a huge array of expertly deployed vocal samples. The highlights on the album range from the aforementioned opener, ‘4 bit blues’ where a down tempo hip-hop beat backs pitched down slurring vocal samples, heavy bass, brass and stride piano, ‘7 bit blues’ with its head nodding beat raucous guitar licks and subtle scratching and ‘8 bit blues (Chicago to NY to LA)’ with its expertly scratched vocal samples, neck breaking hip-hop beats and huge horns stabs. Kid Koala’s major achievement with “12 Bit Blues” is marrying modern sound elements such as the synths and the SP 1200 sampler beats with samples that date from close to a hundred years ago. As usual Kid Koala uses his turntables subtle to make the samples his own and add a modern rhythmic edge to his tracks. “12 Bit Blues” is a superb album that matches his career high “Carpel Tunnel Syndrome” and “Some of my Best Friends are DJs” track for track!!!

Kirsty’s Recommendations

3rd September

Albert Swarm – “Wake” (Ceremony)

The Finnish producer released his ornamental debut EP “Held” last August on the Brooklyn-based Ceremony Recordings.  While Swarm’s sound leaned more towards ambient on that release, his debut album “Wake” will see his music taking a dark turn that is driven by percussive elements and bass lines. The press release promises a “momentous shift towards dark, meditative techno.” All seven tracks on Wake are previously unreleased. Listen to the first single  ‘Moths & Moth Catchers’ below.

10th September

Barker & Baumecker – “Transsektoral” (Ostgut Ton)

This collaboration between Sam Barker (aka Voltek) and Andreas Baumecker, sees two experimentalists stitching together elements sliced from dub, techno, glitch and ambient to create a debut album that is being released on the lauded Ostgut Ton label. The duo have collaborated before on this year’s “Candyflip” and “Murder of Crows” EPs for Ostgut Ton. Barker has releases on Tresor, while Baumecker ran the record labels Freund and Freundinnen. The pair are closely linked with Berghain, the Berlin techno Mecca from which Ostgut Ton is run. Barker runs a night there called Leisure System and Baumecker is a resident DJ. Their ambition with “Transsektoral”, a press release claims, was “to travel across the entire electronic music spectrum… reflecting different iterations of techno from all angles.” The non-album track ‘Analogical’ offered a healthy dose of grinding, hissing machine sounds, which indicates the direction “Transsektoral” will take.  The debut will be available on CD and vinyl on 10th September.  ‘Analogical’ can be downloaded for free on their Soundcloud page.

John Tejada – “The Predicting Machine” (Kompakt)

One of the most accomplished producers in electronic music today is releasing “The Predicting Machine” on Kompakt. As with its predecessor, “Parabolas”, the album will contain “a carefully arranged body of work exhibiting stunning amounts of musicality while dauntlessly delving into the depths of its own sound.” As an architect of story arcs within tracks, John Tejada builds on the smallest of surfaces, finding grandness in every detail and every track of Tejada’s sends the listener on a drive through landscapes and synthesised spectacles. This album is one to be very excited by. The wonderful first two singles ‘The Function And The Form’ and ‘Radio Channel’ can be streamed below.

Liam Recommendations

3rd September

Animal Collective – “Centipede Hz” (Domino)

The follow-up to “Merriweather Post Pavillion” Sonic Fiction’s Album of the  Year 2009, comes on the back of a lengthy break for the group in which they’ve released solo albums and the “ODDSAC” “audio-visual” album. The album will see the band abandoning the sampled based, purely electronic sound of “Merriweather Post Pavillion” in favour of tracks that came together from the band jamming together in their rehearsal space. This was the result of the band deciding to all move back to Baltimore to write the album something the band hadn’t done for a several years. Much is expected of this long awaited and highly anticipated album, can the band deliver?

Cat Power- “Sun” (Matador)

The first new studio album from Cat Power since the critically acclaimed “The Greatest” (2006). In a surprising move the album is producer by Phillipe Zdar of Cassius, Cat Power has said of the album “You have a huge responsibility with the things you’re trying to create to do your best… There’s pressure – not from critics or anything like that, but to do something that means something in your heart. And you wanna do it the way you wanna do it … I wanted to prove that I could depend on myself, musically, because I hadn’t been playing guitar or piano in like five years and… it was just this feeling that you’re not growing if you’re not doing something creative”.

Deerhoof – “Breakup Song” (ATP)

The prolific Deerhoof return with an new album just eighteen mouths after the last one. The album is their eleventh and is described by drummer and songwriter Greg Saunier as “…a sensational record of Cuban-flavored party-noise-energy music. We called it Breakup Song, but don’t expect a bunch of Grammy-baiting sob stories, OK? In Deerhoof’s thesaurus, freedom’s just another word for feeling good again and raising hell and getting away with it. Stick with us and the bad guys with guns will never catch up.”

Nick Edwards (aka Ekoplekz) – “Plekzationz” (Editions Mego)

Confusingly the man known as Ekoplekz has decided to release this new album under his own name but keep the theme that runs many of his album and song titles – inserting Eko or Plekz and z’s instead of s into the  titles. The album features four long form tracks and has been described by FACT magazine as “a lo-fi affair, recorded on a four track and nodding to classic dub and grotty No Wave.” Of course there will be more Ekoplekz releases in the meantime so keep checking back.

10th September

The XX – “Coexist” (XL/Young Turks)

The XX return with their second album two years after the slow burning success of their self titled debut album. Much has changed in the time between the two albums, many of bands songs became T.V. dramas and advert staples and Jamie XX has been busy remixing, producing solo material and spending his weekend’s DJing all over the world. Like, Animal Collective there’s a lot expected of “Coexist” unlike Animal Collective, the XX don’t have the years of development and experience to fall back. Will “Coexist” live up to the high expectations of fans and media alike?

17th September

Kid Koala – “12 Bit Blues” (Ninja Tune)

A year on from the brilliant “Space Cadet” album/comic book OST and comic book the Canadian turntablist follows it up with an album which uses the classic SP1200 sampler as it main musical weapon of choice and used it to create a warped version of the blues. Initial physical copies come with a cardboard hand-powered turntable kit.

Sun Araw – “The Inner Treaty” (Sun Ark/Drag City)

The ever prolific Sun Araw follow up last year hit-and-miss “Ancient Romans” with new album “The Inner Treaty” prerelease track “Like Wine” promises an album that plays more to Sun Araw’s strengths but details about the album are non existent, so we’ll have to wait and see. One things for sure Sun Araw always delivers a hand of brilliant tracks per album.

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