Tag Archive: King Felix

Releases we missed in March and April

Rkss – “Basement EP” (self-released)

 Available on Bandcamp –  http://rkss.bandcamp.com/

With exciting artists like Lucy and Skudge growing in stature, the space available for experimental techno producers to inhabit continually expands. The self-released “Basement” EP by Rkss, a young producer from Berlin, was unexpectedly released on 18th April. The title track from his debut EP barely contains a cavernous bass line that growls underneath clattering percussion and a deep, thumping bass drum, it makes for a seriously dark techno track. Following ‘Basement’ are two lighter and melodic cuts but the title track is a true stand-out and a strong introduction to a fledgling career.

Finally found a stream of the Quakers album, check out what I (Liam, Sonic Fiction editor) thought of it below:

Quakers – “Quakers” (Stones Throw Records)

Geoff Barrow’s hip-hop side project delivers a slap in the face to the majority of underground hip-hop acts out there. They achieve this simply by returning to what a majority of 90’s hip-hop music so good, a raw sound that begins together analogue synth bass-line, stabs of brass, guitar and strings, deep piano chords and plinking lead lines and a host of MCs keeping it punchy on these all too brief tracks. For the majority of the second half of the album the beats slow down and there’s a more atmospheric and emotive vibe that recalls both movie soundtracks and classic Wu-Tang Clan tracks. The other great about this project is that the recruitment of MCs was on-line via the posting of downloadable demos that MCs could rhyme over and then send back to Barrow, DJ Katalyst and 7STU7 for their consideration. There’s too much material and too many highlights to pick out particular tracks for analysis and that would miss the point of album that’s centred around a concept and should be played as whole piece as it every track links into the next and has something to offer every hip-hop fan.

Biggest Disappointment of the Month

Spiritualized – “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light” (Double Six Records)

The new album from Spiritualized is slightly disappointing, feeling rather earthbound (though I guess that could also apply to 2008’s “Songs In A&E”) compared Jason Pierce’s finest moments. The songs just don’t have astral glide that they had before feeling stranded on earth, held firmly in place. In a recent interview Pierce revealed he’d been very ill during the recording and mixing of album, the medication often leaving him feeling like he didn’t know what he was doing. This may go some way to explaining the feeling I’ve described, I do feel for Pierce as this has impacted on what could have been another solid enter in his back catalogue. It’s not all doom and gloom though closer ‘So Long You Pretty Thing’ has a couple of surprises mainly a twanging banjo as lead instrument and that it manages a rousing ending that had eluded so many tracks before it. ‘Get What You Deserve’ comes close to capturing the psychedelic magic of previous records and ‘Hey Jane’ adds a motorik twist to the typical Pierce formula. So down but not out, let’s hope the Spiritualized record is a return to form.

oOoOO – “Our Loving Is Hurting Us” (Tri Angle Records)

The new EP from oOoOO is another disappointment showing no real progression in his sound in the 18 months or so since his debut self titled EP. What’s worse is that none of the tracks come close to measuring up to the haunting and affecting tracks that stayed with the listener long after the music had finished playing. This EP has none of that, feeling like a detached retread, in fact the tracks within EP sound too similar to each other and it all becomes an amorphous and anonymous whole. oOoOO’s peers such as Balam Acab and Toro Y Moi have subtly evolved and improved their sound since their debut releases but “Our Loving Is Hurting Us” just plumps for the same old same old, a shame as oOoOO had shown so much potential.

Santigold – “Master of my Make-Believe” (Atlantic Records)

The new album from Santigold is a mixed bag, on the one hand she’s overcome the biggest problem with her debut album – that it was too clean and grossy, lacking the grit of her demos but on the other hand a lot of ‘Master of my Make-Believe’ sounds the same. Here Santi calls on a lot of the same elements distorted electronic drums, glassy synths and huge pop chorus and though there’s nothing wrong with this is isolation over the course of the album each repetition dulls the formula. As a consequence of this the highlights are mostly the tracks that deviate from the formula in some way though ‘God From The Machine’ and ‘Go’ are great new wave and electro inspired pop tracks in their own right. The other highlights include the strings and splashy breakbeat, post-punk guitar and delayed reggae piano of ‘Disparate Youth’, the sombre ‘This Isn’t Our Parade’ and the clattering party starter that is ‘Big Mouth’. It’s odd that the formulaic songs actually feature some very strong melodies and hooks and are well written songs that just need a different set of sounds. “Master of my Make-Believe” reaches for cutting edge pop record and gets halfway there. Maybe next time Santigold can learn to produce a fully formed set of songs that aren’t full of generic sounds.

Mohn – “Mohn” (Kompakt)

Kompakt boss and techno pioneer Wolfgang Voit and fellow German minimalist Jörg Burger continue their long friendship with Mohn, a new project that comes with a self-titled album. Synchronising the styles of the two artists, the self-titled album barely contains nine tracks that sound like an aural representation of a Casper David Friedrich painting: barren landscapes and colossal, other-worldly forces of nature erupting or the sound of the unnamed apocalypse that dominates Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This is most apparent on ‘Schwarzer Schwan’, which begins with a ghostly synth and an immense bass drum that thunders under a delayed, drifting melody. The intensity rises as a second synth melody comes in and out of view. Male and Female voices enter singing held notes all the while that heavily reverbed bass drum thunders. Others are moments of fragility and beauty; any abrasive edges have been erased. Neatly sitting alongside GAS (Voigt) is ‘Ambientöt’, thanks to the long reverb tails that seep out into soft, sparkling atmospherics meanwhile ‘Saturn’ evolves into a track of delicate percussion and textures that flutter like a bird’s wings, recalling Cluster’s “Sowiesoso”. Flickers of the style of techno Voigt and Burger bred can be heard in the sensual, slowly unfolding ‘Seqtor 88’ or ‘Ebertplatz 2020’, a wonderful decelerated ambient/techno track with a beautiful synth part that drifts in and out, gradually building to an intense yet sombre climax; full of atmosphere and emotional resonance. On the haunting and unearthly ‘Wiegenlied (lullaby), the listener is brought back to an uneasy sense of dystopia: a lone cavernous bass drum signals the album’s end, it is a final death-knell of a human-inhabited world and the beginning of a post-human one. Added together, “Mohn” couldn’t be anything other than a Kompakt release – possessing fleeting tension strong enough to upset the glistening ambient clouds and expansive minimalism.

Battles – “Dross Glop” (Warp)

Battles have put together a remix album that achieves two simultaneously acting as both a companion piece to “Gloss Drop” and expanding on its core musical themes. Four of the remixes (by Gui Boratto, The Field, Silent Servant and Kangding Ray) taken the implied techno influence on Battles sound and make it explicit, elsewhere the Caribbean influences are played on and with by Gang Gang Dance, Hudson Mohawke and EYE (of the Boredoms). The two hip-hop reworks by The Alchemist and Shabazz Palaces manage the balance act of incorporating much of the originals melodic material while creating whole new grooves and atmospheres underneath them. The only real disappointment is Pat Mahoney and Dennis McNany’s dull and predictable disco remix of ‘My Machines’. Despite these many different generic strands ‘Dross Glop’ hangs together as cohesive work highlighting the strength of the Battles originals and suggesting new directions for the band.

Olafur Arnalds & Nils Frahms – “Stare” 10″ (Erased Tapes)

This exclusive Record Store Day 10” (also available for download via Boomkat) features three great new ambient based tracks from Erased Tapes main stays Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm with a guest lot from Frahm’s collaborator Anne Muller on ‘B1’. All the tracks are long form and so develop slowly across their entire lengths keep the listener on their toes while never disturbing the ambient quality of the music. ‘A1’ combines a gentle analogue synth arpeggio with perfectly poised processed piano eventually revealing a watery processed under belly. ‘A2’ is the most sparse of the three tracks with plenty of space for its ambient synth and reverb heavy guitar melody to roam in before breaking down to a single mournful synth part for its final quarter. ‘B1’ has a misleading beginning in which an uptempo arpeggio prods the listener but halfway through the tempo and atmosphere change to dark and dank the opposite of what’s come before. If you didn’t get a copy on Record Store Day we’d highly recommend buying the download via Boomkat.

Clark’s new album “Iradelphic” occupies similar sonic territory as the music put out by the Ghost Box label, especially the most recent album by The Belbury Poly, so it seems appropriate that Ghost Box co-founder Julian House produced the artwork for the album. The album combines folk elements such as acoustic guitars, double bass, acoustic drums and strings with synth drones, arpeggios, electronic drums and percussion and psychedelic effects. The icing on the cake is the vocals of Martina Topley-Bird who provides vocals on ‘Broken Kite Footage’, ‘The Pining Part 2’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Open’. The album divides itself into two song types of track more song based and more drone based soundtrack music/palette cleansers and Clark switches effortlessly between the two showing his diversity as an artist. Another string to his bow is that even the song based material features unexpected twists and turns to keep the listener on their toes. With “Iradelphic” Clark confirms himself as deserving of a place among Warp’s most vaulted artists, his varied career to date has rarely seen a drop in quality, he is the equal of Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada.

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. I won’t pretend to be an expert on techno but it seems to me that Halo has carved 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 and whets the appetite ahead of her debut album out in May.

Orcas – “Orcas” (Morr Music)

Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) and Benoit Pioulard’s (aka Thomas Meluch) new collaboration as “Orcas” blends sad, twinkling pop songs with shuddering masses of electronic sounds; a fusion of song-writing with ambient minimalism that stands somewhere between the piano-based modern compositions of Peter Broderick, the Field’s highly emotive techno and GAS’ subdued beats and stately atmospheres. ‘Pallor Cedes’ sets the tone of the self-titled album with rising and falling drones and a clipped guitar rhythm sitting under softly picked acoustic guitar and Pioulard’s aching repetition of the phrase “like coming up for air”. “Arrow Drawn”’s clever use of vocal double tracking and harmonies slowly seep into the listener’s ears as quiet acoustic guitar and piano merge into “Standard Error”’s floating loop of sighs. Calling to mind GAS and Irisarri’s work as The Sight Below is “Carrion”, an unhurriedly evolving hymn that encompasses a distant beat, echoed piano parts, an irregular guitar chord and Pioulard’s gauze-covered sad-eyed voice. A standout is their sublime, glacial cover of Broadcast’s ‘Until Then’, a poignant tribute to the untimely passing of singer Trish Keenan. Continuing “Orcas” use of piano, the track is built on a close-mic’d delicately played piano which frames Pioulard’s reflective vocals. Dark tones that lurk beneath the surface surge to the fore three minutes in compacting everything under coarse static until a sudden drop back to a solo piano, making for an emotionally charged song. Across the album Benoit Pioulard’s vocals glide along amid quiet piano and guitar notes and backing textures that rise and fall in gentle interplay, vinyl crackle and natural reverb adding an important touch of atmosphere. “Orcas” is a beautiful dignified album that summons a sense of space, understated progression and immense depths.

Top Release of the Month

Claro Intelecto – “Reform Club” (Delsin)

“Reform Club” sits in a foggy haze; it is full of serene melodies and reflective emotion. As well as being warmer than Claro Intelecto’s previous releases “Neurofibro” and “Metanarrative”, the album is both comforting and inviting while deeply tender and rich. Its production is thick and meaty. The nine tracks sit together in a cleverly unified way; avoiding homogeneity – a result meticulous compositions and the freedom Claro Intelecto’s new label Delsin has offered. Opener ‘Reformed’ matches ‘Voyeurism’ (from the “Second Blood” EP) in pace and style. Metronomic hi-hats push the tempo to 120 BPM (‘Reformed’ is the fastest of the nine tracks) while a bouncing bass line and snatches of strings top a driving bass drum. A standout is the next track ‘Blind Side’, which sounds like a Basic Channel track for this decade: a deep bass drum pushes forward a mysterious melody that is submerged under churning dub-techno percussive elements and metallic slivers of hi-hats. ‘Still Here’ takes the tempo down to 96 BPM. Reverbed percussion sits upfront, striking the listener and melancholic, dreamy strings are embraced by the bass drum; a theme through the album is the depth and warmth in the low end frequencies.  Legato emphatic strings provide a contrast to the flashes of acidic arpeggios on ‘It’s Getting Late’ while a submerged bass drum thumps. ‘Second Blood’, the title track from the wonderful “Second Blood” EP released earlier this year, sits in the album perfectly. Static, a vast low end, sparkling hats and serene, emotionally resonant pads and strings provides one of “Reform Club”’s most affecting moments. The beautiful, fluttering synth that appears at 3:25 in “Night Of The Maniac” is something to behold as it flickers above sonorous beats and a dark melody that is set against a counterpoint bass line. Album closer ‘Quiet Life’ features piano and fluctuating sheer pads to form a delicate, touching conclusion.

Some Releases we missed in March

Unfortunately we were unable to listen to some of the releases we recommend for March those releases are Mi Ami’ “Decade” album, the self titled début albums from Geoff Barrow (Portishead) side project Quakers and Voices From The Lake plus King Felix (aka Laurel Halo) “Spring EP”, which I believe may have been put back to the 9th April. But now its time to discuss both a release we missed out of our recommendations and then are recommendations. Let us know what you think of the releases we talk about in the comments or via our Twitter.

Andrew Bird – “Break It Yourself” (Bella Union)

Though this is the first Andrew Bird album I’ve listen to properly I’d always been intrigued by his music since seeing him supporting The Handsome Family in the early ‘00s. I was prompted to check out “Break It Yourself” after enjoying his brilliant contribution to the “Congotronics vs. Rockers” compilation from 2010. The first that struck me about the album was it aesthetic similarities to his Bella Union label mate Peter Broderick both share a love of creating unique sonic married with traditional song writing and play violin though Bird utilises his in many more ways than Broderick. On repeat plays I noticed the album divides into three distinctive types of song one is the more country influenced songs, the next the indie rock tracks (the most disappointing category lacking the imagination and lightness of touch evident elsewhere) and the soundscape based epics/interludes. The highlights of the first type include the strummed acoustic guitar, shape shocks of violin, shuffling beats of ‘Danse Carribe’, the unpredictable ‘Give It Away’ and the sparse ‘Lusitania’. The second type features the album few let downs including ‘Eyeoneye’ which I’m perplexed as to how this song has gained so much acclaim and attention to maybe the single but it’s the worst song on the album. Many of the soundscapes appear towards the end of the album creating a natural climax the best of these is the epic ‘A Hole in the Ocean Floor’ which I’m lost for words to describe though Pitchfork got pretty close with “majestic” “fever dream”. Overall “Break It Yourself” is an excellent addition to Bird’s highly acclaimed back catalogue.

Biggest Disappointment of the Month

Breton – “Other People’s Problems” (FatCat)

The biggest disappointment of the month is the debut album from London based collective Breton, who Sonic Fiction first tipped for big things back in 2011. Breton combine post-punk sounds and aesthetics and sounds with those Dubstep and Electro over the course of their previous three EP’s had produced mixed results but I still had high hopes for this album. However, the album fails on all fronts lacking in both melody and imagination, on paper (and the earlier releases) the combination of sounds is exciting but the problem is that the sounds are generic rather than mould breaking and the unique combination doesn’t make up for this. This is compounded by the singer’s flat and monotonous vocals which quickly grate as the album progresses through it first few tracks. I’m not some who demands that singers/vocalists are able to sing five octaves above middle C, in fact some of my favourite singers struggle to hold a note at all. But Breton’s singer doesn’t have the vocal personality to make up for his lack of singing ability. Breton could be so much more, a Cabaret Voltaire for the 21st Century (they work in both music and video) but they fall well short on this album.

Grinderman – “Grinderman 2 RMX” (Mute)

Last year’s “Grinderman 2” album was one of the biggest disappoints of 2011, the band’s debut album had reignited Nick Cave with its complete abandonment of his usual writing methods and the effect was felt on the next Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album “Dig, Lazarus, Dig” the second album was set-up to repeat the trick. However, what we got was a lot of lumpen and unsubtle music that seemed to fall victim to the clichés the debut had avoided. This new remix album goes some way to right the wrongs of “Grinderman 2”. The highlights including Nick Zinner’s remix of ‘Bellringer Blues’, Barry Adamson’s cinematic take on ‘Palaces of Montezuma’, Cat’s Eyes version of ‘When My Baby Comes’ (featuring a fantastic shoegaze inspired second half), Factory Floor noisy dancefloor take on ‘Evil’ and the bass heavy version of ‘Heathen Child’ by Andrew Weatherall all share a subtle the original lacked while also delivering the visceral punch the track demand. There are a few interesting remixes that caught me out, I wasn’t expecting Josh Homme to deliver such a dynamic and ethereal version of ‘Mickey Mouse…’ here re-titled ‘Mickey Bloody Mouse’ or the yearning violin and noir country stylings of Six Toes and Matt Berninger intriguing take on ‘Evil’ all of which expand the emotional and sonic palette of the original. There are a few tracks that complete miss the mark too UNKLE produce a dull dirge for their version of ‘Worm Tamer’ (‘Hyper Worm Tamer’), A Place to Bury Strangers & Micheal Cliffe unconvincingly tack on cosmic synths to ‘Worm Tamer’ & ‘Evil’ respectively and Robert Fripp adds unnecessary fret-wank to ‘Super Heathen Child’. Grinderman’s swansong does have some great tracks that make-up for the disappointment of “Grinderman 2” but it’s still a 60/40 split that doesn’t fully convince.

Yeti Lane – “The Echo Show” (Sonic Cathedral)

I only heard of Yeti Lane after reading a review of ‘The Echo Show’ in Uncut magazine so I can’t comment on the progress they’ve made on their second album. However. I can say that it’s an album that lives up to the hype of the positive reviews it’s been receiving. The duo strike a balance between the space-rock of Spacemen 3 and the dream-pop of the likes of the Cocteau Twins, while their synth sounds recall krautrock acts like Harmonia. The album bursts into life with a wall of feedback guitar riffs and synths that set the tone perfectly. The album continues into the warm and more spacious with the focus on electronic sounds though they are offset by twanging guitars. This is followed by the first of four interludes which acts as segues or palette cleansers and help glue the album together. ‘Logic Winds’ (8-bit video game style synth and guitar chime in harmony) and ‘Alba’ (slowly unfurling cosmic dream pop) demonstrate Yeti Lane’s ability to keep things interesting. The album ends with the Twinkling synth arpeggios, twanging guitars, churning synths and hurricane of guitar effects outro of ‘Faded Spectrum’ and the gentle fourth interlude that round out the album perfectly.

Carter Tutti Void – “Transverse” (Mute)

This live collaboration brings together Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle/Chris & Cosey/Carter Tutti fame with one of their direct descendents Nik Colk Void from dance floor noiseniks Factory Floor. Unsurprisingly the overall sound is raw and chaotic featuring no post-production touches, however this adds to the appeal rather than decreasing it. Carter provides most of the rhythmic sounds via a selection of drum machines, Korg Monotron micro synth and various effects devices, its Tutti and Void who provide most the harmonic and melodic content, though the sound rarely touches on conventional harmonic or melodic sounds/ideas. They provide these sounds through another Korg Monotron, laptop with various pieces of software and heavily processed guitar, Void even uses a drum and violin bow to create sounds and textures with her guitar. In a recent interview with FACT magazine Carter observed that “You can sense on the recording how we got into the groove, so to speak. We began to lock together more, and figure out what we were doing as the set progressed” and is the feeling you get across the four long form tracks. The grooves improve, the interaction between the sounds seems more responsive and the trio know when one of them should drop out/play more gently to let the others shine. By the last track ‘V4’ the trio are locked a hypnotic groove which pulls the listener in and keeps them locked in even in the tracks most chaotic moments. Overall the album is a great success and while fitting into the lineage of Carter and Tutti’s career. It’s also a unique document in its own right that demonstrates what can be achieved by experiment electronic music created in a short time with a few choices piece of gear. It’d great to hear these three work together again live or in the studio and even better if the other two members of Factory Floor were involved.

Mirrroring – “Foreign Body” (Kranky)

Mirrroring is a collaboration that was bound to happen sooner or later between Liz Harris aka Grouper and Jesy Fortino aka Tiny Vipers whose individual styles are so obviously complimentary it was only a matter of time before they worked together.  “Foreign Body” is the breathtakingly beautiful result of said collaboration and brings together the transparent drones of Harris’s songs with the picked acoustic guitars and soft vocals of Fortino. Their sound is both gentle and yet thoroughly engaging, it may be lighter than much drone music but it isn’t light-weight. The dynamics employed across the album are one of the most striking things about it and demonstrate these are skilled artists able to exercise control while never strangling the life and emotion from a musical idea. The two best examples of this are ‘Cliffs’ which builds to a peak at the halfway stage before repeating an even better version of the song for its second half and ‘Mine’ which starts with a simple drone and acoustic guitar combination builds to a peak and then gradually twists itself into ever more complex shapes. It’s difficult to find the words to describe this astonishing album, it has to be heard to be believed.

Thee Satisfaction – “awE naturalE” (Sub Pop)

In “awE naturalE” Thee Satisfaction have delivered an energetic album filled tracks that both provide amply bounce need for a hip-hop jam but also manages to subtly subvert both traditional methods of creating sounds and challenge the overly simple ‘soulful’ vocals used so liberally in hip-hop music. It refreshing to hear an act pushing the limits of hip-hop while still managing to make music that moves your body. The fact that these tracks are stuffed to the gills with soulful vocals, jazzy tunes and an expressive emotional palette makes an engaging and entertaining listen. The half an hour run time demands that the album be played again immediately and is the album is equal satisfying and reveals more of its charms with each repeat listen. Never out staying their welcome and yet able to go distance on the longer tracks Thee Satisfaction will be a welcome addition to your music collection.

Various Artists – “Stellate 1” (Stroboscopic Artefacts)

Stroboscopic Artefacts’ signifier is dark, abrasive and heady techno and “Stellate 1”, the first of a new series of conceptual releases, features Lucy, Borful Tang, Perc and Kevin Gorman who contribute two tracks each.  Fitting for Stroboscopic Artefacts’ brutal minimalist sonic and visual aesthetics, this is dark, uncompromising music made up of the deep textures and emotive, immersive atmospheres that typically sit underneath deep bass drums. Lucy’s opening tracks ‘Estragon’ and ‘Vladimir’ are brief, delicate pieces of melodic ambient music. Borful Tang’s two contributions are sinister noise excursions while Perc’s desolate ‘Paris’ and ‘Molineux’ twists swells and grainy textures into bleak soundscapes. Kevin Gorman’s ‘Frequency Phase’ in three parts delivers a melodic phrase played through a delay that builds on itself again and again. As the processing swallow the tune, it produces elegant tones that surpass the seemingly simple use of effects. “Stellate 1” promised to be an intellectual release that would tap into the places where electronic music began and by delivering eight unique and accomplished tracks from some of the leading names in present techno, this new series justifies and fulfils its aim and existence; creating anticipation for the next instalment.

Symmetry – “Themes for an Imaginary Film” (Republic of Music)

On ‘Themes for an Imaginary Film” Symmetry aka Johnny Jewel and cohort Nat Walker (of Chromatics and Desire) cover a huge range of emotional and musical ground utilising banks of synths, drum machines, guitar, piano, orchestral percussion, Bassoon, Cello and Viola. Despite the vast array of moods and instruments on show the duo create a cohesive and impressive album that wastes non of its 2 hour running time. Though some of material and sounds used recall Johnny Jewel’s many other projects there much evidence of his application of more compositional techniques found film scores and he weaves this into this ambitious album with aplomb. From the song titles to some the sounds selected the album screams film score however this no mere pastiche, more a humble doffing of the cap to the many great score composers that have gone before. In addition to this is the fantastic sound design which ranges from lush, warm and beautiful through to cold, spiky and dissonant, Symmetry and their equipment can feel you with dread, put a smile on your face and everything in between. “Themes for an Imaginary Film” is an amazing achievement that could have so easily failed to live in to its ambition but instead goes above and beyond simply being a tribute to soundtrack music as it captivates and thrills the listener in equal measure. Two hours of instrumental music (with the exception of the last track) won’t be for everyone but it’ll be worth it for those who stick with this incredible album.

Top Release of the Month

Julia Holter – “Ekstasis” (RVNG INTL)

The first thing that strikes me about the new album by Julia Holter 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 combines the elemental, experimental and electric with the ancient (sounding), accessible and acoustic. 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.

Recommendations for March

Julia Holter – “Ekstasis” 5th March (RVNG ITNL Records)

Holter follows up last year’s excellent “Tragedy” with an album that preview tracks suggest it trades the shadowy and foggy atmospheres of “Tragedy”  for a bright production that reveals her musicality and skill in writing catchy yet innovative melodies. Released  through RVNG ITNL the same label as last month’s brilliant album by Blondes this promises to be just as good.

Yeti Lane – “The Echo Show” 5th March (Sonic Cathedral)

Yeti Lane’s second album sits perfectly between the repetitive drone based rock music of Spacemen 3 and shoegazers such as Ride and My Bloody Valentine and a poppier version of the music of synth pioneers like Jean Michel Jarre, all underpinned by motorik rhythms inspired by Neu! Sounds like a great combination!!!

Grinderman – “Grinderman 2 RMX” 12th March (Mute Records)

Last year’s “Grinderman 2” album was one of the biggest disappointments for me. However, this remix album sounds promising with contributions from amoungst others Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s), UNKLE, Andrew Weatherall, Factory Floor and Barry Adamson.

Symmetry – “Themes for an Imaginary Film” 12th March (Republic of Music Records)

Originally released in January via iTunes this album from Johnny Jewel (The Chromatics/Glass Candy) features music original destined for the soundtrack to last years hit film “Drive”. However, the studio overruled director Nicholas Winding Refn and leading man Ryan Gosling and went with the experienced Cliff Martinez. Undettered Jewel simply sequenced the material into this epic and ambitious piece of work.

Various Artists – “Stellate 1” 15th March (Digital only)  (Stroboscopic Artefacts)

The Stellate Series is a new project for the Stroboscopic Artefacts label that takes a conceptual approach to curation. In their words, “Stellate 1 taps into the place where electronic music-making began. It delves into a liminal Post-War atmosphere where the very fabric of society was being completely re-thought and composers dug into dissonance to explore the essence of ‘making it new’.” Each of the Stellate Series will bring together two tracks by four artists who fall within Stroboscopic Artefacts’ brutal minimalist sonic and visual aesthetics. SASTE001 comprises the visions of Lucy, Borful Tang, Perc and Kevin Gorman. Fitting for the label, this is dark, uncompromising music made up of deep textures and rumbling bass lines and emotive and immersive soundscapes with brooding atmospheres.

Voices From The Lake –“Voices From The Lake” 12th March (UK)  (Prologue)

Voices From The Lake is a project by Italian DJ/producers Donato Dozzy and Neel. Following on from last year’s beautiful, calm “Silent Drop” EP, the self-titled album extends and deepens their ambient techno explorations with an emphasis on the ‘techno’ component.  Listening to the preview tracks from “Voices From The Lake” is an immersive experience, as the textured beats and unhurried rhythms have a deeply hypnotic effect with a natural progression and flow. The sounds develop and unfold at their own pace, creating a potent sense of tranquillity. Album opener ‘Iyo’ imposes scattered hats and delayed percussion against a humid backdrop. Its synth drones leads us into the next track ‘Vega’, which introduces a 4/4 bass drum underneath a soothing synth pad and layers of tiny hits of percussion. Rhythm, texture and atmosphere are the key components of this album, creating an enveloping physical presence that asks for intense concentration; a meditative state of listening. Using ambient techno’s characteristically sparse elements, Donato Dozzy and Neel have created a unique album that proves the art of creating an after-hours LP is still strong.

King Felix – “Spring EP” 19th March (Mute/ Liberation Technologies Records)

Back in January Mute Records announced the launch of a sub label called Liberation Technologies and its first release was to be an E.P. by Laurel Halo under the moniker King Felix. Rory Gibb of The Quietus described the E.P.’s sound as featuring “hazy melodies and club-driven percussion are a little reminiscent of the saturated tones of classic Detroit techno and electro, and far more dance floor driven than anything she’s done before. However, their very fluid approach to rhythm feels rather more modern, bringing to mind everything from the manic patter of Chicago footwork to the submerged disco of labels like Hippos In Tanks (who released “Hour Logic”) and Not Not Fun. The “Spring EP” will be released on 12″ vinyl and digital download.

Mi Ami – “Decades” 19th March (100% Silk Records)

We’ve bearly got to grips with Ital’s “Hive Mind” and Daniel Martin McCormack is at it again as part of duo Mi Ami with their third album “Decades”. The band have always combined post-punk and dance music influences and pre-release track ‘Time of Love’ shows that this continues with a particularly strong dub influence. You can listen to ‘Time of Love’ here.

Mirrroring – “Foreign Body” 19th March (Kranky Records)

Mirrorring is a collaborative project featuring Liz Harris aka Grouper and Jesy Fortino aka Tiny Vipers, it seems that the two parts of this project come from similar background to the members of A Winged Victory for the Sullen e.g. one members makes ambient music and the other modern classical  music. As A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s album impressed us so much last year, we look forward to hearing this.

Breton – “Other People’s Problems” 26th March 2012 (Fat Cat Records)

Following on from the 3 EPs they’ve released in the past 12 months Breton are releasing their début album. The band blend dubstep and post-punk influences into a potent and creative combination.

Carter Tutti Void – “Transverse” 26th March (Mute Records)

A unique collaboration between Chris Carter, Cosy Fanni Tutti (ex-Throbbing Gristle) and Nik Void from Factory Floor, created especially for the legendary Short Circuit  festival presented by Mute records at the Roundhouse, London in 2011. The tracks were prepared in the studio and then performed and recorded live in front of an audience. Outside of the trio, these recordings were unheard prior to the festival and the popularity of the performance left many being turned away at the door.

Quakers “Quakers” 26th March 2012 (Stones Throw Records)

Despite his comments in 2011 that a Portishead album was a long way off Geoff Barrow looks like having a busy 2012. In addition to running his Invada label, there’s a new Beak> album due and this from a 35 strong hip-hip collective featuring Barrow, Portishead studio engineer Stuart Matthews and the Australian DJ Katalyst. Guest rappers include Dead Prez, Prince Po and Aloe Blacc.

Thee Satisfaction – “awE naturalE” 26th March (Sub Pop)

Thee Satisfaction are an avant soul duo who featured on Shabazz Palaces album “Black Up” last year. They release their début album on Sub Pop in March, check out “Queens” here for a taste of whats to come.

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