Tag Archive: Jeff Mills


Kirsty’s Reviews

Release of the Month

Apparat – “Krieg Und Frieden” (Music For Theatre) (Mute)

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Sebastian Hartmann’s theatre production of War and Peace (Krieg und Frieden); commissioned by the German arts festival Ruhrfestspiele featured a specially composed score by renowned electronic artist Sascha Ring, aka Apparat, using a minimal ensemble of orchestra parts (cello, violin), voice and synthesizers. Apparat and two members of his live band, Philipp Timm and Christoph Hartmann, spent four weeks constructing and condensing the essence rather than the narrative of Tolstoy’s detailed depiction of Napoleon’s ill-fated 1812 invasion of Russia. The score was then adapted for this recorded version.

“Krieg und Frieden” begins with a stirring blast of noise that bleeds into track two’s set piece: a weeping cello that stands on a bed of flowing atmospheres, widening the electronic panoramic view until it sounds like a brewing storm of static and resonating strings. The mostly instrumental collection is occasionally punctuated by Apparat’s frail and mournful voice, underlining the prevailing mood of desperation.  Pitched high, Ring’s voice repeats the phrase “deserted holes, deserted eyes, deserted souls, deserted lives”, on the percussive ‘Light On’ and aches forlornly beneath piano and percussion the colourful and outstanding ‘A Violent Sky’, which breaks through the chaos with a clear tone. ‘Austerlitz’, the site of one Napoleon’s greatest victories is depicted in War And Peace as the first challenge to face the aristocratic characters. Apparat’s rendering of the events begins with haunted scraping sounds and a low rumble that swells into a theatrical wave of dread and sombre melody.  There are two versions of the “Kreig und Frieden” theme. Both are beautiful and emotive, with the Pizzicato’ version taking on a classical form of plucked harp and violin whilst the second is stripped back and centres on the delicate sounds of a child’s wind-up music box and glorious violin. ‘Tod’ (meaning death in German) is filled with disturbing fuzzy atmospheres and reverberating guitar that simultaneously returns thematically to the start of “Krieg und Frieden” while being a fulfilling conclusion.

Apparat achieves a composition that although loyal to War and Peace’s thematic core doesn’t require the listener to have prior knowledge of the book to enjoy and absorb “Kreig und Frieden”’s poignant beauty. In doing so he has overcome a potentially off putting record by focusing on emotional strength rather than a strict narrative interpretation of his source material. A listener’s attention is held from track to track because each one plays with emotion, moods and passion, pushing and pulling you into different areas while as a whole everything blends and flows together seamlessly. It is a testament to the creator who for years has given his audience many releases to get excited about and with “Krieg und Frieden”, Apparat has created another breath-taking addition to his name.

Listen to ‘A Violent Sky’ below

Function – Incubation (Ostgut Ton)

Function (Dave Sumner), a member of highly regarded techno collective Sandwell District, which also includes the nebulous cast of Regis, Female and Silent Servant, presents his hugely anticipated debut album “Incubation” after 10+ years of releasing acclaimed 12”s. In 2010, Sandwell District released the brilliant “Feed-Forward”.

Opening “Incubation” is ‘Voiceprint’, a large scale vista of gyrating ambience and delicate beats filled with delayed percussion, tense droning bass line, effected snatches of vocals and a gorgeous twinkling motif. For the final 30 seconds it drops vertically into a surging, unsettling bass drone and a chilling rattling sound which leads into the nasty scraping sounds of ‘Against the Wall’. It recalls elements of classic techno with its unrelenting hi-hat patterns skipping over a resonant bass line as sweaty beats smack against a cavernous concrete wall. ‘Counterpoint’ is a Jeff Mills-indebted sci-fi soundtrack of fast legato synths, wheezing minor key synths and beatless, slow moving atmospherics. The use of suppressed vocals embellishes the undercurrent of tension, a common thread throughout “Incubation”. Fifth track ‘Incubation (Ritual)’ is filled with elegant, held A#m synth chords sliding through a thudding bass line giving a cleansing feel and a sense of lightness that balances the mysterious tension of previous tracks. A personal favourite since its first appearance in 2011 on Function’s “Ember” release for Sandwell District is the expansive and evocative ‘Inter’. Bright, delicate A# major synth chords glide above a bass drum that feels like the track’s beating heart. A beautiful synth melody, mirrored by a warm bass line, lifts the track to a greater level as crystalline cymbals wash through like waves.

‘Voiceprint (Reprise)’ is the meat of the album. Gasps of reverberant vocals ring out above shuffling percussion and pounding bass drum as a light cool-toned synth melody sings its way through the track. Claves echo infinitely, this small percussion instrument has never before sounded so foreboding. The rhythms give the impression of ceaselessness, feeling as if it’s moving in circles rather than pushing forward. The listener feels almost weightless, suspended by rotating claustrophobic atmospherics as the track dissipates under vaporous melodies. The final two tracks, while sufficient, don’t add anything to the album’s whole and dilute the impact of ‘Voiceprint (Reprise)’. Disappointingly, the last piece ‘Gradient I’ isn’t special enough to finalise “Incubation” so the album does drift off in the listener’s memory.

As would be expected from veteran producer Tobias Freund, ‘Incubation’ is extremely well crafted with exceptional clarity and depth of sound. It feels full of space both texturally and technically. Showing Sumner’s wealth of experience is his use of keys, D minor and major, A minor, A# minor and major, and nuanced textures and tones that cleverly link each track together and instil “Incubation” with unity. Sumner has eloquently communicated his aim to create “one endless piece to be listened to straight through … so everything is connected and there are reoccurring themes throughout the album.”

Objekt / Cosmin TRG – The Green Series 002 (Bleep)

The second release in Bleep’s The Green Series is the pairing of Objekt and Cosmin TRG, who each delivers a slice of exhilarating, thundering techno, mastered at Berlin’s renowned Dubplates and Mastering. A reverberating bass drum creates the scene for Objekt’s ‘Shuttered’ as heavy percussion locks into a flowing groove above. A searing pad snakes in the background while snatches of low voices and high-pitched delayed noises interplay to disturbing effect. A thin, high synth builds momentum until dropping dramatically into ‘Shuttered’’s main groove with the new addition of a complex interchange of heavy duty percussion and light gasps of noise. Cosmin TRG’s ‘Auster’ begins with a thunderous low end that kicks in the chest, scratching percussion and ticking hi hat layer. A thick bass line and bluish synth motif double each other with the melody line rising in intensity. Zapping effects and wheezing, hollow noises. Its belligerent, thrilling pace and sheer force of bass frequencies confronts the listener. This couple of killer techno tracks from two producers known for their unwavering high quality output is well worth checking out.

Liam’s Reviews

Disappointment of the Month

Atoms for Peace – “AMOK” (XL)

Atoms for Peace’s debut album has been marketed as that of a supergroup, one that came into being after Thom Yorke put together a band to tour his solo album “The Eraser” (2006), however the resulting album “Amok” often sounds more like another Yorke solo album. This a little disappointing as the many tracks that had been circulating on internet promise and interviews promised a project that represented all the group’s members. The dynamics of many of the aforementioned tracks are also very similar, which I immediately found overly repetitive and grating. The much discussed afrobeat influences only crop up on two tracks the brilliant opener ‘Before Your Very Eyes…’ and ‘Stuck Together Pieces’ which boasts the album’s tightest beat and some great slinky bass guitar. I would have liked have more afrobeat inspired tracks as these were among the highlights of “Amok”. Other highlights include ‘Judge Jury Executioner’ with its funky but understated bass line underpins click and clacking electronic drums and Yorke’s moaning reverb heavy harmonies before an acoustic guitar and his lead vocals leap into view and push the track onwards into the verse and chorus sections. The single ‘Default’ and ‘Ingenue’ are also good tracks but also suffer from sounding like Yorke solo tracks. All-in-all “Amok” is a disappointment after much hype had surrounded the band and their purposed direction.

Inc. – “No World” (4AD)

“No World” is the debut album from Inc. two R&B session musicians who decided to give it a go themselves. 4AD signing the duo makes sense as they match the Timbaland and Justin Timberlake beats and production with guitars, pianos and other sounds that recall the labels most famous acts e.g. Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil. These combination positions the duo alongside another up-and-coming R&B duo AlunaGeorge though Inc. definitely use their R&B expertise to create an authentic sound. The album opens with the sparse R&B beat and alien bloopy synth melody of ‘The Place’ recalling classic Missy Elliott tracks. The reverberate picked electric guitar of ‘Black Wings’ is the first sign of the classic 4AD influences and also features a great chorus that recalls 90’s Prince. Next up, ‘Lifetime’ with its double time beat and heavily reverbed synth atmosphere topped off with a Timberlake style vocals shows off the duo’s vocal variety. ‘Five Days’ is another early highlight with its insistent beat, deep bass line and resonate synth lead dovetailing nicely with the soft and subtle male vocals. Later on with get another twist on the Inc. formula with ‘Desert Rose (War Preyer)’ and it warped guitar, distant reverberate drums and whispered vocals somewhere between Prince, Timberlake and D’Angelo. With “No World” Inc. have created a debut album that both demonstrates their vast experience in R&B and shows they can twisted the genre into new shapes. “No World” is an accomplished piece of work from an act well worth checking out.

Lapalux – “Nostalchic” (Brainfeeder)

The debut album from Lapalux fits into the genre of glitch-hop but also separates its self from the serious and technical genre by taking its cues from glitch-hop heavy weight Prefuse 73 and another contemporary producer Teebs. Those producers both manage to create music oozes charm and are melodic in nature; this is why “Nostalchic” is a joy to listen to. Throughout the album the atmospherics synths utilised often recall Oneohtrix Point Never but Lapalux is no rip off artist blending these synths with pitched shifted vocal samples, alien saxophone, cutting hip-hop beats and soaring female vocals. The album opens with the gooey synths and pretty melodic figure of ‘IAMSYS (Tape Intro)’ before swiftly moving onto the album’s first single ‘Guuurl’ with it’s splashing synth pads, reverberate melody and twisted vocodered vocals producing the feeling of a summer evening spent on the beach with the sea lapping at your feet. ‘Kelly Brook’ sees a sparser take on the Lapalux sound before the introduction of guest vocalist Jenna Andrews on ‘One Thing’ on which she’s surrounded by curving synths sounds. ‘Swallowing Smoke’ shows that Lapalux can handle house music to changing to a four to the floor beat to back its rich synth pad and glassy synth arpeggio. Lapalux shows off his variety again on ‘Without You’ a torch song featuring the dark and smoky vocals of Kerry Leatham backed by a minimal synth pad and hip-hop beat. ‘Straight Over My Head’ brilliantly combines dub effects with production that recalls early Kanye West and ‘Dance’ takes a spindly synth melody and boxy beat and matches them with the vocals of Astrid Williamson whose pitch shifted to the point where she sounds like Anthony from Anthony and the Johnsons. ‘The Dead Sea’ and ‘Walking Words’ both recall classic Prefuse 73 but with a smoother sound and with the melodies front and centre and the album closes with ‘O.E.A. (Tape Outro)’ a reprising of the opener with Kerry Leatham on vocals. All-in-all “Nostalchic” doesn’t disappoint and is an excellent debut album from an artist who deserves the widest recognition possible!

Foals – “Holy Fire” (Warner Bros)

“Holy Fire” is both Foals funkiest and most rock album to date. The funk grooves comes from the band themselves while the huge rock production job comes from working with Flood and Alan Moulder who’ve created huge sounding rock records for the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins amongst others. It seems as though the band have loosen up too, they no longer disrupt the rhythmic flow or off set their melodies with odd notes and this makes for stronger chorus that surge out of the speakers. Usually I’d find this a negative thing but on “Holy Fire” it allows Foals to embrace a pop sound that they pull off with aplomb. Maybe on their next album they can experiment with a mixture of their melodic and rhythmic approaches to date. Atmosphere and space are also key to the album’s sound as Flood and Moulder create tones and texture for the new emotional space that the band explores across “Holy Fire” e.g. ‘My Number’ bitter declaration of romantic independence where  previously the band sought eternal partnerships. The band’s usual instrumentation of drums, bass, synth and guitars expanded on “Holy Fire” to included vibraphone, marimba, strings, cowbell and a lot of other percussion instruments adding more variety of texture and rhythmic interplay than any previous Foals release. Foals have come a long way since their initial singles first caused a stir back in 2007 and with this album they’ve delivered music once lives up the reputation they’ve gained in the international music press. Where they could so easily have slipped into hollow epic rock parody they’ve expertly found they can balance catchy melodies, atmospherics, grooves and emotional depth, this album comes highly recommended.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Push the Sky Away” (Mute)

On their fourteenth album deliver both their most tender and most salacious album since “The Boatman’s Call” (1997). The album begins with the gently echoing marimba and a deep slow moving bass pulse of ‘We No Who U R’ Cave sings with authority and combines well with female backing vocals and the whine of Warren Ellis’ violin. There’s a slight change of tone on ‘Wide Lovely Eyes’ with nervy guitar dominating Cave’s sleazy tale. The tempo is upped on ‘Water’s Edge’ a chugging bass figure dominates before Ellis’s violin and Cave’s vocals command your attention, stuttering drums join in as the track progresses bringing with sporadic piano riffs.  The epic sweep of single ‘Jubilee Street’ provides the album’s centrepiece starting with just a simple beat and sparse guitar melody then track evolves bringing in a beautiful swell of strings around two minutes in before an acoustic rhythm guitar, treated backing vocals and Ellis’ whining violin join the fray. The song is perfectly paced and balanced building the epic feel as the song progresses. ‘Finishing Jubilee Street’ more or less where its name sake left on off a creepy picked guitar/violin melody starts the song off before slinky guitar echoes out sporadically, the drums plot a simple beat and a female backing singer joins Cave, a recurring motif throughout the album. All in all Cave and his Bad Seeds have created an album of 9 ballads that both utilise classic Cave traits and open up new avenues for him to explore.

Release of the Month

Jamie Lidell – “Jamie Lidell” (Warp)

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Jamie Lidell’s new self titled album may just be his best yet. It’s packed from start to finish with tracks that are suffered to gills with funk. This is however no ordinary funk, Lidell has never been one to do things the usual way, the high point of his career prior to this album was “Multiply” (2005) a collection that combined classic soul and funk chops with the forward thinking electronic glitches and edits of his label Warp. The first single from this album ‘What a Shame’ certainly promised a repeat of this direction, with its stretched grainy vocals and chopped up drums and though these and other similar sounds crop up throughout the album it’s definitely a funk album, just a freaky funk album! The album opens with the Gliding pitching synths and hard hitting drums and probing funk synth bass of ‘I’m Selfish’. It’s followed  by the huge pop of ‘Big Love’ its comes on like 80’s Prince with neon synths. ‘Do Yourself A Faver’ starts off with Thick synth bass and ghost delayed synth melody before evolving into a slice of classic George Clinton electro-funk! ‘why_ya_why’ updates New Orleans funk for the 21st century with stride piano is combined with crunching, head nodding beat and squelchy synths and some excellent horn blasts, the lines between organic and electronic are blurred. ‘So Cold’ and ‘Don’t You Love Me’ stand out from the rest of album with the former offering up Icy lead synth and pad open but contrast it with the huge rush of the chorus, the later is slower number with 80’s ballad stylings which picks up the pace and reintroduces the funk elements around halfway through. Its genuinely hard to fault Lidell on an album that superb from start to finish, a true funk masterclass.

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.

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