Tag Archive: Madvillian


What Kirsty’s Looking Forward to

Albums

Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – “Elements of Light” (Rough Trade) 11th January

Sonic Fiction favourite Pantha Du Prince (Hendrik Weber) has teamed up with Norwegian musicians The Bell Laboratory for a collaborative album, “Elements of Light”. The video previews below display the German techno producer and The Bell Laboratory creating an ambitious symphony of electronics, percussion and a special bell carillon, a three-tonne instrument consisting of fifty bronze bells.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Trailer 1 from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Trailer 2 from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

Apparat – “Krieg und Frieden” (Mute) 15th February

The electronic music producer returns with an album based on a German theatre production of Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace, directed by Sebastian Hartmann. Once Hartmann asked Apparat, born Sascha Ring, to contribute music to the project, the producer then spent four weeks working with a 30-piece ensemble in an empty factory alongside Apparat’s live band members Philipp Timm and Christoph Hartmann. After the piece’s final performance Ring, C. Hartmann and Timm transformed the soundtrack into a work for album release. Ring says of “Krieg und Frieden”, “It’s the first record ever that didn’t hurt at some point. It’s full of imperfection because it was made by humans.” He goes on to describe the album as “a bit of a weird record with not many beats and lots of drones.”

Grab the free ‘A Violent Sky’ now:

Function – “Incubation” (Ostgut Ton) 4th March

Nearly 20 years into Function’s career comes his solo debut album “Incubation” on the luminary Ostgut label.  As a member of Sandwell District and as a solo artist he is known for producing sleek, atmospheric techno, which he will explore further on his album, which was mastered by the respected engineer Tobias Freund. His goal,  “was to create something cinematic and heavy on imagery and emotion.” and  a “soundtrack.” The release was conceived as “one endless piece to be listened to straight through. So everything is connected and there are reoccurring themes throughout the album.” Listen to his beautiful ‘Inter’ below:

Ellen Allien – “LISm” (BPitch Control) March

Berlin icon Ellen Allien is due to release her seventh album “LISm” in March. The album is closely based on a soundtrack Allien wrote for the Drama per Musica dance recital performed in 2011 at Paris’ Spectacles Vivants Festival. She called on Bruno Pronsato to aid her with expanding the pieces and to co-produce “LISm”. As usual the album will be released through BPitch Control, the label she’s managed for over a decade.

Stream a medley of “LISm” below:

The Knife – “Shaking The Habitual” (Mute) 8th April

After seven years we will finally see the release of the Swedish brother-sister duo’s third studio album “Shaking The Habitual”. Their last was the flawless “Silent Shout” from 2006. In 2010 they released, “Tomorrow In A Year”, the collaborative album with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock that was written for an opera/performance piece based on the life and work of Charles Darwin. Both members have also released solo records under pseudonyms – Karin as the acclaimed Fever Ray and Olaf as Oni Ahyun. Light Asylum member Shannon Funchess has contributed to vocals to the album which will be released via Mute/Brille.

This video, which may or not be The Knife, leaked online could provide clues on what we can expect.

Listen to the title track from “Silent Shout” below:

Artists

Audion – Matthew Dear has hinted via Twitter that new material from his techno side project Audion could on the horizon this year. Listen to the classic ‘Mouth to Mouth’ below:

Answer Code Request – Patrick Gräser has this far released a handful of refreshingly varied, rolling techno 12″s on labels as Ostgut Ton, Marcel Dettmann’s MDR Records and Music Man. His “Main Mode” 12″ is an essential listen with other tracks of his included on Norman Nodge’s excellent “Berghain06” and Dettmann’s “Conducted” mix. Maybe in 2013 Answer Code Request will take the leap to producing a full length release.

Kompakt celebrates 20 Years

The esteemed German label will celebrate its 20th birthday in 2013 with a host of special events, including an extensive European tour, a documentary chronicling the rise of the label, a “fanzine” and re-issues. The best news yet is they of course will release new music throughout 2013. While there are no exact release dates, we can expect new albums from Justus Köhncke, Coma, The Field and Gui Boratto.

What Liam’s Looking Forward to

Albums

A$AP Rocky – “Long.Live.A$AP” 14th January

Having discovered A$AP Rocky through his “LiveLoveA$AP” (2010) I was looking to hearing his debut album and its finally coming out in just a weeks time after many delays. The album features top underground hip-hop producers such as Clams Casino, Hit Boy, A$AP Ty Beats, Soufein3000, Joey Fat Beats and Rocky himself and has already gained a Best New Music award from Pitchfork. “Long.Live.A$AP” promises to be one of the Albums of the Year 2013.

Jamie Lidell – “Jamie Lidell” 18th February

Jamie Lidell returns with his self titled fifth album in February 2013, pre release track “What A Shame” finds him returning to the electronic sound of his first two solo albums “Muddling Gear” (2000) and the brilliant “Multiply” (2005).

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Push the Sky Away” 18th February

The long awaited follow up to “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!” (2008) has got me excited due to its trailer and the Gaspar Noe directed video for first single ‘We Know Who U R’, a simple but highly effective song with a video to match. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album!!!

Low – “The Invisible Way” 18th March

In 2013 Low celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band, they will also release their 13th studio album. Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at Wilco’s Chicago studio, The Loft, the band visited the studio while on tour and decided to record with Tweedy after hearing his work on Mavis Staples “You Are Not Alone” (2010).

David Bowie – “The Next Day” March 2013

On Tuesday (8th January)  David Bowie announced his return with his 30th studio album and his first since 2003’s “Reality”. The first single from “The Next Day” is ‘Where Are We Now’ which harks back to the “Heroes” (1977) a Bowie classic. This has surprised many critics and fans alike as Bowie is generally perceived as a forward thinking artist. However, this overlooks much of Bowie’s output in the 90’s and 00’s which referenced his own back catalogue on numerous occasions. Producer Tony Visconti quickly aligned any fears of Bowie deserting his innovative roots describing the album as both “innovative” and “quite a rock album” continuing if people are looking for classic Bowie, they’ll find it on this album”.

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons to Die” early 2013

“Twelve Reasons to Die” is the result of an unlikely collaboration between producer and film score composer Adrian Younge (most famous for his work on the brilliant blaxploitation homage “Black Dynamite) and Wu Tang Clan MC Ghostface Killah. The album is executive produced by RZA (Wu Tang Clan) and comes with a comic book written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon of Ashcan Press.

Factory Floor – “Title TBA” 13th May

After a good two years of singles and build up it seems that the band will finally release their much anticipated début album in May 2013 on DFA records. The album will be preceded by the single ‘Fall Back’ eight and a half minutes of slow burning dance floor intensity.

YoungBlood Brass Band – “Pax Volumi” early 2013

The latest from the band is that they have completed their new album with a release planned for early in 2013, accompanied by an extensive world tour. I look forward to hearing this explosive bands combination of raw live jazz and hip-hop elements, been much missed since the brilliant “Is That A Riot?” (2006).

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – “Title TBA” Spring 2013

The band recently announced their new album would be out in the new year, more information as we get it.

Madvillain – “Title TBA” 2013

In a recent interview with Benji B on BBC Radio 1 Doom of Madvillain announced that the second album is almost done and he just has to finish off two songs and that if they’re finished on time the album could be out before the end of 2012. 2012 is now been and gone but the album is close to completion so hopefully it will be released before the year is out.

Artists

AlunaGeorge

AlunaGeorge’s music has been bouncing around the internet for around a year now and now the male-female duo are hotly tipped for success and finishing second in the BBC’s Sound of 2013 didn’t hurt their chances of going supernova this year. However, its their music and not polls that has me excited an combination on Timbaland and The Neptunes style beats, off kilter synths and R&B vocals instantly mark them out from the pack, while never forgetting about a hummable tune and killer hook. Their debut album “Body Music” comes out in June and I can’t wait for it. To read an interview with band on The Guardian’s website click here.

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth started out providing beats for cloud rap acts such as Attrakionz and Deniro Farrar until the release of his instrumental E.P. “Last Words” late in 2012 in which he expanded out into a skewed hip-hop, ambient and dance music hybrid. His main influences are Three 6 Mafia, Mannie Fresh, Hudson Mohawke, Aphex Twin and Ryuichi Sakamoto. I look forward to hearing more material from this promising young producer.

Joey Bada$$

18 year old Joey Bada$$ released his excellent debut mixtape “1999” which perfectly recreated late 90’s New York and catapulted Bada$$ and his PRO ERA crew into the spotlight. It also drew the attention of legendary hip-hop producer DJ Premier and the two will release a free on Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound next week.

Night Engine

Although originality isn’t their strong suit musically Night Engine do create exciting music and show the potential to develop into a great guitar pop band. They recall both Franz Ferdinand and Berlin era and early 80’s David Bowie and neither of those are bad artists to be a reminder of. Check out their debut single ‘Seventeen/Treat Me Like a Baby’ below and read more about the band here.

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

MF Doom – “Operation Doomsday” (Fondle ‘Em Records, 1999)

In April 2011 MF Doom’s Metal Face Records (in conjunction with Stones Throw Records) reissued the heralded underground hip-hop classic “Operation Doomsday”. In this month’s Classics Critiqued I will explore the reasons why I believe the album doesn’t deserve its seemingly unchallenged status as a ‘classic’ album. I will consider all the elements of the music including beats, production, lyrical content and Doom’s flow, I will also discuss the album’s legacy and influence on the current hip-hop generation.

Doom (Daniel Dumile – pronounced Doo-ma-lay) started his career in hip-hop in 1988 when he formed the group KMD with younger brother DJ Subroc and an MC called Rodan. At this point Doom was using the stage name Zev Love X. Rodan soon left the group and was replaced by an MC named Onyx the Birthstone Kid, in this incarnation the group signed to Elektra Records. The band released their debut album “Mr. Hood” in 1991 and their singles ‘Peachfuzz’ and ‘Who Me?’ received heavy video play on Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City. Everything seemed to be going well then in 1993 Subroc was killed by a car while crossing the Long Island expressway and in the same week the group were dropped by Elektra due to  controversial cover art of their second album “Black Bastards”.

In the aftermath Dumile retreated from the hip-hop scene suffering from disillusionment and depression and relocated from New York to Atlanta. Meanwhile, “Black Bastards” was doing the rounds as a bootleg and Doom’s star was rising on the underground hip-hop circuit. In 1997 Doom began free styling at open-mic events in Manhattan wearing a stocking over his head and developing his new persona MF Doom. The stocking became a mask: the ‘MF’ meaning Metal Face. Finally in 1999 he released his debut album “Operation Doomsday”. Initially the album didn’t cause much of a stir but with Fondle ‘Em Records bankrupcy its classic status seemed to grow due to its unavailability yet I challenge the idea that “Operation Doomsday” is a classic.

“Operation Doomsday” is not a bad album; it’s a very solid debut release from a rapper/producer that would go on to rightly dominate underground rap music in the ‘00s. However, there are a number of reasons it isn’t the classic album it held up as. Firstly the more I listen to it the more I’ve found myself feeling that it had all been done before and better. In the early ’90s, acts such as A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr produced similar albums of much higher quality. A Tribe Called Quest’s “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” (1990) and Gang Starr’s “Step In The Arena” (1991) are fine examples of jazz inspired hip-hop music. So it strikes me as strange that this album is so acclaimed, maybe it was simply good timing as hip-hop moved from one era to the next, “Operation Dommsday” provides critics with a neat link between them. Neither do I think it is Doom’s best album; that award should go to “Madvillainy” (2004), the result of his collaboration with producer/drummer Madlib though if we are just considering his solo albums then I would argue that “Vaudeville Villain” under his Viktor Vaughan alias  is better than “Operation Doomsday” on all fronts.

The Doom character isn’t as developed on “Operation Doomsday” and though this may be an unfair criticism as it’s his debut album, he had been performing as MF Doom for two years and had many years in the wilderness to devise and develop this character. The world that Doom attempts to create on “Operation Doomsday” is one that seems to have been created on the fly and the inconsistant lyrical content leaves the listener unsure of what Doom is driving at. This can cause much confusion as Doom introduces the listener to a whole universe of slang vocabulary and obscure reference points that at the time wasn’t just a Google search away and is still difficult to unravel today. The comic book character meshes better with the music of later Doom albums where he further developed his musical style into something that was truly his own.

The traditional song structures employed on “Operation Doomsday” are uninspiring compared to Doom’s later albums. Here he repeats verses where in the future he would just stop the track completely. Some tracks fade out then the backing track is brought back in for another 30-60 seconds, though this was a technique used to highlight the work of the producer it begins to grate after a few plays and doesn’t add anything to Doom’s compositions.

Despite the many holes I’ve found in the critical acclaim given to “Operation Doomsday”, its reissue last year saw many critics reinforcing the idea that it’s a classic album and rightly giving Doom credit as an influential artist whose music and lyrics have had profound effect on contemporary underground hip-hop. As Ian Cohen said in his Pitchfork review of the reissue, “The album goes a long way toward demonstrating Doom’s incalculable influence on some of the leading lights of current underground hip-hop: Lil’ B has dedicated an entire album to Doom, the lurching production style of Odd Future owes him a heavy debt (most obviously shown in “Odd Toddlers” flipping the same sample as 2004’s “One Beer”), and K.M.D.’s referential raps and playful yet incisive deconstructions of racial politics are a clear influence on Das Racist.” Cohen’s assessment perfectly sums up Doom and the legacy of “Operation Doomsday” and demonstrates this album is still very held in high regard by rock and hip-hop critics.

Listen to “Operation Doomsday” via Spotify – MF Doom – OPERATION: DOOMSDAY (Complete)

Please feel free to let me know your thoughts & opinions on “Operation Doomsday” in the comments section or via the Sonic Fiction Twitter.

New Artists

Unbalance

From Omsk, Russia, producer and DJ Unbalance was first introduced to me with his ‘The Russian Technothon’ mix, which incorporated tracks from Ben Klock, Norman Nodge, Marcel Dettmann, Lucy, O/V/R and DVS1 (also in this Sounds of 2012). Inspired greatly by Basic Channel and the Berlin sound, he has released three moist dub-techno untitled 12”s – Unbalance – Unbalance#1, a fourth is due soon, and several tracks on the Ukrainian Indeks Music and Sonntag Morgen. Describing his style as, “techno with different shades of moods, from deep atmospheric dub sound to pushy and aggressive groove, forcing [you] to feel different emotions [while] remaining in the framework of this techno music.”

DVS1

Though not a new artist, 2012 should see Minneapolis native DVS1 break through to wider acclaim like his mentor Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann. His DJ sets at Berghain have seen him mess with the Berlin sound by playing attention grabbing, mischievous techno. Signed to Klock’s Klockworks label, his popular ‘Floating’, ‘Running’ and ‘Searching’ tracks have also displayed his playfulness and the influence of house and techno on his work. Hopefully this year will see the release of a mix on Ostgut Ton and more EPs.

Conrad Van Orton

Conrad Van Orton (a character’s name taken from David Fincher’s ‘The Game’) is a producer from Rome who creates broken and dirty dub techno. His work, like doom-filled ‘Matyr’, has been released on the Italian label Sonntag Morgen and his own imprint CRS Recordings, the name of which is again from ‘The Game’.

Voices From The Lake

Duo Donato Dozzy and Neel release their album on the 31st Jan after their evocative EP “Silent Drop”. Signed to Prologue, a small German label, the two Italians use Voices From The Lake to explore ambient techno and their EP is filled with organic textures and fluid, hypnotic rhythms. Their self-titled album, which recreates and refines their live performance at a festival in the mountains of Japan, looks to expand and enhance this.

Voices from The Lake Feat. Donato Dozzy & Neel – Silent Drop EP

Items & Things

With news last year that Magda, Troy Pierce and Marc Houle had left Minus to dedicate more time to their rebooted Items & Things label and promising releases so far from Madato, Danny Benedettini, party-starters Click Box and Houle’s new album “Undercover” due in March (his first to not be released on Minus), 2012 will see the label grow stronger and continue to sign and release music from talent they love.

Young Hunting

Though not strictly a new act, they self-released their debut album “Attachment In A Children and The Subsequent Condition” in 2010, the Edinburgh duo (not to be confused with the L.A. band of the same name) have just released their first 12” “Night of the Burning”, due for digital release on the 23rd January, on Blackest Ever Black. The duo have landed favourable comparisons to industrial legends Coil, slot beautifully into the label’s gothic aesthetic alongside their peers Raime and share textual, atmospheric and rhythmic similarities with Shackleton. “Night of the Burning” shows great potential for this duo and the label promise more material is on the way.

Oliver Tank

Oliver Tank brings together the disparate worlds of electronica and classical instruments such as the violin in a subtle and inviting way. Many artists spring to mind while listening to Tank’s music including Boards of Canada and Apparat though none truly manage to describe what he is actually achieving. He also shows a taste for pop with his excellent cover of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Beautiful’ and injects real emotion into his combination of ‘serious’ genres. With all this going for him, Tank has a bright future ahead. Oliver Tank’s debut EP “Dreams” is out now via Bandcamp.

A$AP Rocky

The hype around A$AP Rocky has been building for quite some time and he’s graduated to a new level of fame since the release of his critically acclaimed mixtape “LiveLoveA$AP” in November. Since then A$AP Rocky has signed a record deal that will see him release a deluxe version of “LiveLoveA$AP” featuring production from up and coming producers Clams Casino, Spaceghostpurrp and Ty Beats and others with a debut album due later in 2012. With the attention he’s been getting and the team of ‘cloud rap’ star producers he is working with, A$AP Rocky will be dominating the headlines this year.

Doldrums

21 year old producer Airick Woodhead from Montreal creates a unique blend of contrasting genres and sounds that combines “Bollywood strings, electronic smears, strangulated samples, and rickety breakbeats” into a delightfully twisted charming racket. His debut EP on No Pain In Pop followed the release of his remix of ‘Chase The Tear’ by Portishead as its official b-side and features six brilliant nuggets of genre hopping genius. As his label notes, “his music is a reaction to the overhyping and plasticity of modern youth culture. Doldrums’ music reflects this societal change on a personal level, as a member of the last generation to remember life pre-internet and 24 hour status updates. His androgynous voice comes across mid-panic attack, floating in a sea of chopped up samples, disembodied vocals and tribal percussion.  Spearing between electro-hallucinogenic freak outs and languid nostalgia, his tracks somehow manage to elevate classic pop melodies above a sample saturated sound collage.”

Gabriel Bruce

The lugubrious voice of Gabriel Bruce is the first thing that strikes about his music and sounds like Matthew Dear on his “Black City” album or Nick Cave is his tender moments. Repeat listens reveal a skilled musician and arranger who can combine and balance the subtle and the hard hitting on his beautiful debut single ‘Sleep Paralysis’. This also featured a 50 page book on the subject written by Bruce. As the year continues let’s hope we hear more from this very promising new artist.

New Albums

For a full list of upcoming music releases check out our New Music releases page.

Matthew Dear – “Beams” – Described as “a turn towards the light”, following Dear’s 2010 album “Black City”, “Beams” has had a teaser in the shape of the “Headcage” EP, which mixes Dear’s low-register voice with upbeat rhythms. The album should be out in the spring.

The Knife – “title tba” – Typically for The Knife, their announcement that they were working on a new album was spare of detail so nothing else is known but, after waiting six years since “Silent Shout” was released, a new album should be released this year.

Loops Of Your Heart – “And Never Ending Nights” (30th Jan) After his career ascension with ‘”Looping State Of Mind”, The Field (Axel Willner) has created the side project Loops Of Your Heart. The first single ‘Neukölln’ trades The Field’s emotive sound for a more apparent krautrock/kosmiche musik style and points to the direction “And Never Ending Nights” will take.

Orcas – Orcas (Feb) – Rafael Anton Irisarri ( The Sight Below) has formed a new duo with Benoit Pioulard called Orcas. With an album due out in February, the artists combine traditional song writing with ambient music production. Included on “Orcas” will be their cover of Broadcast’s ‘Until Then’:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – tbc – No news on other than Karen O announcing the trio have been working on new music for release in 2012.

Errors – “Have Some Faith in Magic” (30th Jan) – The Scottish electro-post-rock band return, stream 1st single ‘Earthscore’ here. A big favourite here on Sonic Fiction hopefully this will be the year they break through properly and get their just rewards.

Julia Holter – “Ekstasis” (March 2012) – The second album from found sound artist Holter has become much antipated after her debut “Tragedy” did well in the end of year polls, will be interesting to see how see develops her unique sound.

Madvillain – (2012) – In a recent interview with Reverb Stones Throw’s Record head honcho Peanut Butter Wolf said the new album from Madlib and MF Doom is  “three-quarters done”, so hopefully this much anticapated album will be released at some point in 2012.

Congotronics vs Rockers (2012) – After watching the project’s rehearsals and performances unfold via the Congotronics vs Rockers blog the promise of an album of new material by the project is an exciting prospect.

The Avalanches (2012) – a recent tweet by Modular Records promised a new record by these Aussie sampler manglers as they finally follow-up to 2001’s “Since I Left You” album.

Spotify playlist:

Sonic Fiction’s Sound of 2012

Psychedelia: The Return

Disclaimer: This post is in no way attempting to suggest or create a new  musical genre or sub genre. It is intended to observe some of the, at times tenuous, links in a burgeoning network of new psychedelic artists.

After a decade in development 2009 saw an organically grown set of artists exploring new and different ways of creating psychedelic music reaching critical mass. While the mainstream music press bangs on about ‘nu gaze’ they have missed a much wider and larger development that has and still is producing amazing, mind expanding music.

So who and what am I talking about when I refer to new psychedelic music? There are three main strands of this phenomenon. The first is the noise scene of UK and North America  where wildly oscillating colourful music has become the predominant feature for the likes of Animal Collective (who’ve come a long way from their humble beginnings), Black Dice, Fuck Buttons, Holy Fuck and 8-bit legend Dan Deacon. Animal Collective are currently earning the most column inches but they were virtual unknowns prior to the 2007 release of ‘Strawberry Jam’, which coincidently is when the band hit upon a winning formula for their music. Both ‘Strawberry Jam’ and the commercially successful 2009 follow up ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ showcased Animal Collective’s great musical achievements and exposed people to their contemporaries.

This scene also demonstrates that the genre is a step forward. Unlike Britpop this resurgence isn’t a retrograde movement looking through rose tinted glasses back to the ‘60s heyday of guitar and organ based psychedelic music. The employment of synthesisers, sequencers, drum machines, games consoles, toys, guitar effects pedals and circuit bending (the modification of musical and non musical toys to create new sounds) creates a digitised, corrupted version of psychedelia that is more in tune with the modern world. Occasionally these acts write lyrics with a similarly naive hippy vibe but by and large artists have shunned this in favour of a more modern post-irony lyrical slant. Much of the noise scene even avoids the use of conventional vocals. Though Animal Collective have two singers they treat the vocals as another instrument or effect in their music, veering from the disturbing and distorted to the ethereal and dub-like. Most importantly in a genre where it is difficult to establish yourself as unique and vital, to outsiders at least, all these acts have managed to achieve this, whether through a long development period like Animal Collective, Black Dice and Dan Deacon or a seemingly quick time in the case  of Fuck Buttons and Holy Fuck.

The next strand is the UK electronic and indie scenes that in recent years have received an injection of psychedelic sound. The main artists include Clark, Four Tet, The Big Pink and Maps. Over the last few years these acts have all released albums that resonate with their own unique sounds. Four Tet’s (Kieran Hebden) fourth album ‘Everything Ecstatic’ in 2005 delved into the relatively untouched worlds of late ‘60s psychedelic jazz of Art Ensemble of Chicago and Alice Coltrane and Krautrock (a German form of progressive rock) whilst retaining Four Tet’s originality. Hebden was a huge hip-hop fan and the joy he took in deconstructing and reconstructing these genres into a new sonic tapestry is indicated in the album’s title. Around this time his remix work shifted focus in the same direction and he began a fruitful relationship with Stone Throw Records and producer Madlib. The Krautrock influence would also rear its head again albeit in a colder form on the ‘Ringer’ EP from 2008. The next crucial release in this chain was 2006’s ‘Body Riddle’ by Clark on Warp Records. Though not the most obvious psychedelic album I’ve discussed it nevertheless reveals its twisted, swirling and dark heart with repeated listens. Like ‘Everything Ecstatic’ it uses modern hip-hop and R&B rhythms and production techniques to create a dense, evolving collage of sound to the extent that it feels as if ‘Body Riddle’ is the flip side of ‘Everything Ecstatic’ but where Four Tet looks backwards for his core influences, Clark uses modern sounds and electronic influenced noise to communicate a near pitch black sound of emotional turmoil. In 2007 these artists were joined by Maps (James Chapman) who released his multi-layered synthesizer heavy debut album ‘We Can Create’ to critical acclaim. The album was purely electronic music balanced with pop melodies. His sound is the most commercial that I’ll discuss but even Chapman is grounded in indie roots. Maps’ new album ‘Turning the Mind’ (2009) is true psychedelia. It takes the textures from his debut and adds new colours to what had been a very blue sound. ‘Turning the Mind’ is vividly colourful; resonating with bright reds, yellows and oranges yet there is a dark undercurrent to the sound, which is spoiled occasionally by Chapman’s naive lyrics and the odd Pet Shop Boys melody.

The latest arrival in this scene is the most hyped of the so called nu gaze bands The Big Pink. They combine electronic beats, guitar and synth sounds that owe to the original shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cocteau Twins and their sound has much in common with Maps’ debut but employs guitars instead of synths. The Big Pink recorded their debut ‘A Brief History of Love’ at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York, stating that it helped create the vibe they wanted and ‘added a magic’ to it. Much like electronica and indie the noise scene is trying to forge a way forward instead of merely repeating past ideas and it has mostly succeeded in this aim in a time when this is near impossible.

The final strand is the underground hip-hop scene in the US andUK. The former is based around Stones Throw Records and Madlib and the latter helmed by Four Tet and Warp Records’ recent signing Hudson Mohawke. Though they are all different they have led to the creation of the first truly psychedelic hip-hop records and although the Beastie Boys and De La Soul had come close in 1989 with ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and ‘Three Feet and Rising’ and OutKast’s ‘Stankonia’ in 2002 was a brilliant tribute to classic Parliament/Funkadelic concept albums, Madlib is the first truly original psychedelic hip-hop producer. His name standing for Mind Altering Demented Lessons In Beats.

He is hugely prolific and flits between a vast array of black music genres but his work is always under the banner of hip-hop and almost always has a drugged feel. The high points of Madlib’s catalogue include the albums he released as Quasimoto  – ‘The Unseen’ and ‘The Further Adventures of Lord Quas’ in 2000 and 2005 and his work with MF Doom under the name Madvillian who released their debut ‘Madvilliany’ in 2004. He and Four Tet use hip-hop’s main weapon to create their unique sounds: the sampler. As Quasimoto Madlib created the weird vocal effects by slowing his beats down, recording vocals on top then replaying the vocals over the original beat. He also used his sampler and drum kit to create a disorienting dark world for MF Doom’s character Madvillain to live and breathe in for their album. This created a sound more akin to jazz or stoner rock music than traditional hip-hop. It was around the time of ‘Madvilliany’ that Madlib and Four Tet struck up a collaborative relationship and swapped remixes over the next year or so, many of which ended up on Four Tet’s ‘Remixes’ album. This then extended out into remixes of other Stone Throw artists and vice versa. Madlib has also worked under the guise of Yesterday’s New Quintet, in which he plays all four fictitious musicians and explores psychedelic jazz and incorporates influences from the Beasties Boys’ organic hip-hop and the atmospherics of Jamaican dub. With YNQ Madlib achieves his dual ambition of paying tribute to the styles of the past while being faithful to the progressive nature of jazz and his own innovative music.

Since signing to Warp Records Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke (Ross Birchard) has released the ‘Polyfolk Dance’ EP and debut album ‘Butter’. At first his sound was difficult to pin down but a little research revealed what made this strange brew. Mohawke grew up listening to soul and funk records and the rave tapes his cousin played and as a teenager he learnt the art of turntablism (becoming the youngest DMC UK champion at 15), which explains his unique sound that mashes together the luxuriousness of modern hip-hop, the day-glo noise of rave and found sounds and samples. ‘Butter’ is an apt title for a record that is so rich and textured yet has roughness indebted to the bass and found sounds and samples, lending the album an analogue feel evoking classic mid ‘70s Parliament/Funkadelic through a very modern filter. None of these three artists live in the same country but they have contributed to and influenced a new generation of hip-hop producers who can take these new ideas and twist them into varied shapes and sounds.

As stated earlier the music examined is not a retread of old psychedelic music genres but it would, however, be naive to suggest that these artists are rootless and are creating completely new music. There are three main components of influence, some of which interlink. The first is Krautrock or kosmiche music that originated in Germany in the late 1960s continuing throughout the ‘70s and up until the present day. Though many important Krautrock artists such as Kraftwerk, Neu!, Faust and Can have been canonised for their work the new breed of psychedelic artists also take their influences from the ambient organic work of Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Cluster and Harmonia.

Tangerine Dream emerge as the biggest influence and indeed achieved the biggest sound and sales at their height. Their authority is detectable in the music of Animal Collective, Holy Fuck, Dan Deacon, Maps and Four Tet. Their music, which is comparable to the dense texture and melodic styles used by their successors, allowed ‘sound patterns to build up slowly and blend into one another’. The classical and silver-toned guitar of Ash Ra Tempel and Neu! can be heard on records by Four Tet, Clark and Hudson Mohawke (though they probably aren’t a direct influence on Birchard’s work). Rhythms and harmonies employed by Can are mirrored in the work of Holy Fuck and Four Tet and are closely associated with Madlib’s style with Jaki  Liebezeit’s drum breaks been a constant source for sampling for hip-hop and dance music since the late ‘80s. The colder, pre-industrial ambient sounds of Cluster and Harmonia have also found their way into the corners of material by Maps and Four Tet’s ‘Ringer’.

The next influence is closely associated with the Krautrock and kosmiche music artists discussed. It is best described as ‘70s synth music, a rough generic term bringing together the music of Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Isao Tomita (Japanese synthesizer artist famous for his reinterpretation of Gustav Holst’s symphony ‘The Planets’), Klaus Schulze (Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel) and others. These artists and their music were musically ambitious, taking  Krautrock’s expansion of the potential of synthesizers to a symphonic level. Vangelis began his career in Greek prog rock band Aphrodite’s Child and, like Schulze, managed a smooth transition to a more symphonic sound; in Vangelis’ case, to successful soundtrack work which includes ‘Chariots of Fire’ and ‘Blade Runner’ (1982). Tomita and Jarre made similarly bold synth-led, reverb drenched sonic adventures. Tomita produced his own brand of synth music and was a successor to the classical reinterpretations by Walter/Wendy Carlos. Jarre successfully turned this music into a commercially successful sound and created huge visual shows to compliment this. In 1977 Jarre hit the charts with ‘Oxegene IV’ in a breakthrough year for synth music, which finally saw Kraftwerk infiltrate the mainstream and Donna Summer top the charts with the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’. This became the catalyst for Jarre’s burgeoning live extravaganzas and the proliferation of synth music worldwide in the following seven years.

Schulze represents a darker, more contemplative and less grandiose sound but no less layered. He came from what is now referred to as the Berlin School, an experimental selection of  Berlin-based artists determined to discover the very outer limits of what a synthesizer and music could do.

The multi layered, ambitious and synth heavy material of the acts listed above has had an influence on the similarly layered and luxurious sounds of Maps, particularly ‘Turning the Mind’, which explores interesting sonic and emotional depths, Four Tet, Holy Fuck, Hudson Mohawke, Fuck Buttons and Animal Collective.

The last strand of influence on new psychedelic music is the ‘90s shoegaze scene which featured the heavily processed guitar sounds of the recently reunited My Bloody Valentine (MBV), Slowdive, Ride and their predecessors the Jesus and Mary Chain (JMC) and Cocteau Twins. This scene varied from the feedback driven sound of MBV and JMC to the ethereal ruminative guitar sketches of the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie. The mainstream media have focussed on the ‘nu gaze’ scene but the influence of these acts has been evident for a while now. LCD Soundsystem covered ‘Slowdive’ by Slowdive in 2005; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s verbatim theft of JMC’s sound and image; and the constant comparisons of Jonsi of Sigur Ros’ vocal style with that of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. Although it was the reformation of My Bloody Valentine that really thrust the spotlight on those that were obviously influenced by shoegaze’s brand of guitar pedal  noise. This ‘nu gaze’ scene is led by The Big Pink, No Age, School of Seven Bells, Atlas Sound however many of these acts are merely derivative. The really interesting manifestations of the influence are mainly on the noise scene. Holy Fuck, Health, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon and Fuck Buttons all take something from shoegazing even when they’re not using guitars. Health are the most indebted to MBV and the other shoegaze bands but they have managed to create a more obtuse take on the original sound that has more common with noise’s roots than most shoegaze acts. The density of the music by Animal Collective and Dan Deacon has the feel of a less attack oriented version of MBV, JMC and Ride. You’re not being abused but there is enough edge that it’s not merely background music. As I mentioned in paragraph three, the use of vocals as another layer or instrument can be traced back to Liz Fraser’s vocal techniques and are present  or rather deeply buried in the music of Holy Fuck, Fuck Buttons, Animal Collective, Four Tet and Hudson Mohawke . The fetishisation of guitar pedals and their analogue sound is also evident in the sound of the modern psychedelic acts that I’ve discussed and is another tie to the original shoegaze bands.

Though all the artists I’ve discussed are in themselves unique and individual, this article demonstrates that the artists that influence them and the techniques used to achieve their sound interlink in various ways to show a broad landscape of sub genres and artists that make up a reinvigoration of psychedelic music. In a time where the majority of bands and artists struggle to free themselves from commercial pressure or the inevitable repeating of what they’ve been influenced by these artists are attempting individually and collectively to direct us forward and to expose us to experiences and music that we may not have heard or felt before.

The influence of Krautrock and synth music is keenly felt but unlike previous artists who have just taken on these influences e.g. Stereolab and Muse these artists have discovered ways of creating something of their own in the spirit of those who had gone before. Their influences all ploughed their own furrow and it is difficult not to fall under their shadow so I salute the work of the extraordinary artists who’ve taken the risk on making something even more adventurous and exploratory.

Here’s a Spotify playlist (HTTP links, then Spotify URL) so you can check out the bands mentioned in this post:

Psychedelia: The Return

Psychedelia: The Return

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