Tag Archive: Nils Frahm

Kirsty’s reviews

Disappointment of the month

Monoloc – Drift (CLR)

“Drift”’s arrangement recalls late ‘90s crossover dance/rock acts like The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy or Death In Vegas whose rock audience-friendly albums were divided into ‘we’re trying hard to be deep and meaningful’ tracks filled with soulful vocals or film dialogue, minor key mid-tempo ‘emotional’ pieces and tacky wave-your-hands-in-the-air bangers; all amounting to the aural equivalent of weak tea. Similarly “Drift” suffers from pathetic tameness too when it should be injecting listeners with Red Bull and vodka, the choice of drink for anyone who wants to dance for 60 hours while being pummelled by techno. Its alternation between minor and major keys, use of monotone vocals and pacing does nothing to shake off these unflattering comparisons and very little justifies “Drift”’s 52 minute length. Techno tracks like ‘Try’ and ‘About’ should thump and grind but the production on “Drift” has oddly sucked the air out; bass drums are squashed, synths sound meek and the compression has flattened all tone and colour. ‘It’s Mine’ featuring Daniel Wilde and the two other vocal tracks take their cue from “Violator” era Depeche Mode. It’s pretty convincing despite being flat and one-dimensional. Their classic singles, like ‘Personal Jesus’ or ‘Enjoy The Silence’, sit in a rock-pop-industrial techno triangle, which ‘It’s Mine’ tries to emulate but unlike ‘Personal Jesus’ it simply isn’t a good, catchy song that people will be able to sing 20 years from now. Elsewhere ‘Try’ screams of unadventurous filler for a DJ set and someone who uses gospel vocals in a dance track has to come up with a fresh take; ‘Pblc’ isn’t this song. Listeners who want exciting, vibrant techno ought to drop “Drift” and spin Shed’s “The Killer” or anything on the Prologue and Ostgut Ton labels.

Marcel Dettmann – Range (Ostgut Ton)

In this last year Marcel Dettmann has received criticism for a lack of musical range but the ‘Range’ EP shows that though the scale of his material is narrow his resolute, glorious techno still contains many shades within their concrete canvas; 50 shades of grey so to speak. Swirling atmospherics introduce the EP’s title track as an unsettling drum pattern ploughs through sullen, foreboding terrain. The pulsing bass drum on ‘Iso’ only just holds the track together as a dense assortment of spiky and hissing sounds ring out and dissipate above cavernous and unsettling held chords. It feels like it’s on the brink of collapse and reaching out from the depths of this instability comes ‘Push’’s barely discernible pitched down voice intoning variations on the track’s title above a rhythmic dry-hump made up of deep bass thuds, whooshing hats and skittering percussion; a standout. Final track ‘Allies’, which was an important inclusion in Ben Klock’s recent, wonderful “Fabric 66”, is an excellent example of Dettmann’s skill. Essentially a single harmonically-rich chord repeats infinitely while razorblade hi-hats and jacking snares alter every single bar. As with most of his unforgiving slabs of techno, he builds and builds the pressure to almost uncomfortable levels without gifting the listener with any real sense of climax or release. Like Dettmann’s previous EPs “Translation” and “Landscape”, “Range” will still be a favourite on dancefloors twelve months from now.

Release of the month

Sigha – Living With Ghosts (Hotflush)

After a bundle of 12”s for Scuba’s Hotflush label Berlin-based, UK-born DJ and producer Sigha (James Shaw) delivers his debut album “Living With Ghosts”. The album’s twelve perfectly balanced techno and ambient productions fuse his love of classic techno with the genre’s contemporary sound that is owned by Germany’s capital and over the course of “Living With Ghosts” Sigha shifts between brooding subterranean techno soundscapes and fluid emotive strokes. Album opener ‘Mirror’ slowly introduces the listener to the show with an unhurried sketch of quietly grinding austere noise until the second track ‘Ascension’ kicks in with a throbbing techno beat that almost suffocates its undulating synth. The addition of subtle changes to the rhythm and percussion in the final third takes the track close to breakbeat territory. For the last 30 seconds the drums suddenly drop out to a soft drone that acts as a palette cleanser; refreshing the listener for ‘Puritan’’s 6:40 minutes of a wonderfully unrelenting, thudding 4/4 groove and gossamer synths. A highlight is ‘Scene Couple’, its wet licks of acid rise and swells with force yet feel restrained and intricately textured; a track that will be killer on dancefloors for months to come. Sigha cleverly uses two tracks, ‘Suspension’ and ‘Delicate’, to allow the listener to come up for air, making it even more potent when they are thrown into the techno waves again. Their carefully weaved layers envelop in silky ambience; adding an extra stunning dimension to the release. Hypnotic beats punctuate an enthralling windswept soundscape in the nine minute ʻTranslateʼ. The elegant ‘Aokigahara’ rounds off  the album in a ten minute beatless wall of foggy ambience that swathes and soothes the listener. Like this summer’s “The Killer” by Shed, “Living With Ghosts” is a techno record that contains countless moments of experimentation, depth, subtlety and exhilaration across a format that can be the downfall for many producers who are used to delivering 12”s.“Living With Ghosts”, with its commitment to the motifs of UK and Berlin techno, is a skilfully paced, cohesive, complex and compelling album.

Liam’s reviews

Offshore – “Bakehaus” (Big Dada)

The debut mini album from Glaswegian beat maker Offshore starts as it means to go on with ‘Breeze’s ascending synth melody and twitching hi-hat pattern taking centre stage before the main beat drops it’s the simple musicality of this intro track that marks this release and Offshore himself out from the current electronic music crowd.  The trend continues with the surging synth bass of the house-like ‘Fraser’ though again there’s Offshore’s unique twist as he’s add his own synthetic guitar parts and plinking piano to stunning effect.  The next two tracks ‘Life’s Too’ and ‘Venom’ ratchet up the melodic elements and we hear for the first time the child-like playfulness that runs through Offshore’s music. Melody continues to dominate on the excellent ‘Downer’ with its Peter and the Wolf-like string melody and on ‘Black Bun’ with its pedal steel melody and suitable woody sounding beats. Melody isn’t the only thing that Offshore excels at as he keeps the listener on their toes with a selection of beats that runs from the classic (‘Back Wynd’s electro hip-hop beat) to modern dance beats (‘Venom’). On ‘Long Now’ and album closer ‘Downer 2’ Offshore shows his gentler side and adds yet more diversity to this impressive release. The future looks bright for Offshore who already looks like he could overtake his more famous contemporaries Rustie and Hudson Mohawke.

Container – “LP” (2) (Spectrum Spools)

Container’s second album is more a refinement of the sound of his first album than a greater department from his debut. Both albums overall sounds subscribed to the model of analogue driven noise-techno that Container was pioneering just a year ago. The difference between the materials on the two releases is subtle. While the new album isn’t a ferocious as his debut it shows that Container is far from a one trick pony with the broken and busted up breakbeat of ‘Paralyzed’ being one of the highlights of album. In fact, it’s only brilliant closer ‘Refract’ that sticks rigidly to the techno grid, the others allowed to be more rhythmical free. The creepy and twisted vocal samples that were used on the first album’s ‘Protrusion’ and ‘Rattler’ are a dominant and expertly utilised across the whole of “LP 2”. Though “LP 2” maybe slighter than its predecessor but from the opening bippty-boppity drums of ‘Dripping’ via Acid arpeggio and four to the floor bass drum of ‘Perforate’ right through to the blur of electronic drums and descending synth effects of ‘Refract’  it has enough noisy energy to satisfy fans of both noise music and techno.

Zombie Zombie – “Rituels D’Un Nouveau Monde” (Versatile)

“Rituels D’Un Nouveau Monde” is the second full length album by French electro duo Zombie Zombie, the album sees the duo consolidating and refining the sound established on their debut album “Land of Renegades” (2009) and their mini album of John Carpenter reinterpretations “Zombie Zombie plays…” (2010). The album is bookended by the cinematic electro of ‘The Wisdom Of Stones (Do You Believe In..?)’ and ‘Black Paradise’ which offset clanky electronic drums with acoustic drums and percussion and atmospherics and synth sounds that could only be influenced by the aforementioned Carpenter. ‘Illuminations’ takes on a four to the floor rhythm though this is still offset by percussion and synthesizers that could be included on a classic film score. ‘Rocket #9’ continues to ups the dancefloor ante going up out with catchy vocal refrain and acid inspired synth lines before a saxophone takes the track to its delirious climax. ‘Watch The World From A Plane’ begins with a lone synth melody growing in complexity until it reaches analogue synth nirvana part way through and stays there until its conclusion. “Rituels D’Un Nouveau Monde” demonstrates that Zombie Zombie continue to develop with each new release refining and improving their potent formula and even throwing in the odd surprise e.g. the saxophone on ‘Illuminations’ and ‘ Rocket #9’. All lovers of electro and synth based soundtrack music should definitely check this out.

Nils Frahm – “Screws” (Erased Tapes)

On his new album “Screws” Nils Frahm has turned an accident that resulted in a damaged thumb for the experimental pianist into a triumph. He ended up with four screws inside his thumb and dealt with it the only way he knew how to, by playing his piano. The result is nine intimate piano pieces, so intimate in fact that you can hear Frahms shifting position on his stool and the bits of metal that rattle around in his prepared piano. It’s as if you’re in the room with him while he plays these minimal and yet emotional varied pieces. The album opens with ‘You’ which manages to somehow to sound both bright and poignant at the same time, like the sound of cautious optimism. ‘Do’ changes things up with a sparser arrangement and more bass notes before ‘Re’ turns things on their head with its lilting melody floats through the air as if barely touched by human hands and recalls Tchaikovsky. ‘Mi’ is a harder and dissonant piece that features long overtones and mismatched notes. ‘Fa’ is sad and pensive, while ‘Sol’ takes things a step further feeling both dark and desolate. The lightness returns with ‘La’ which gentle bass undertow gives the track gravity and purpose at the same time. ‘Si’ contrasts heavy chords with a light and air melody complimented by a stately feel. Finally the albums concludes with ‘Me’ with its steady stream of notes regular interrupted by extended pauses, the silence is almost deafening even in these minimalist music surroundings. With “Screws” Frahms adds another stunning album to an already impressive and expressive back catalogue. For emotive music of the highest order look no further.

Holly Herndon – “Movement” (RVNG INTL)

“Movement” is the excellent debut album from Holly Herndon an artist whose been compared to Laurel Halo. While there are similarities between the two (they both produce experimental and techno music based around heavily processed vocals) Herndon is no copyist as this album proves. While Halo usually coats her vocals in luxurious reverb and reaches for a warm sound, Herndon prefers to create mostly abstract layers of vocals. Abstract to the point where it’s hard to tell what’s Herndon’s vocal and what’s a synth sound, Herndon also focus on harder and colder more digitalized sounds. Opener ‘Terminal’ is a case in point it’s hissing and snorting slivers of sound send a shiver down the spine while as drawing the listener in. With ‘Fade’ the album switches into its twitchy techno mode, its unpredictable drum machine pattern, slippery synth bass and warped arpeggio help it stand out from the crowd. ‘Breathe’ returns us to the experimental sound of ‘Terminal’ centring on Herndon’s nervous inhaling and exhaling, shaky effects and an occasional synth chord, it’s highly effective and “exquisitely horrifying”. ‘Movement’ is another twitchy techno number with reverse vocals and a shifting rhythm pattern that’s simultaneously exciting and disorienting for the listener. The album’s sparse finale ‘Dilato’ uses a slow synth pad (or is it heavily processed vocals) and Herndon’s lead vocal to create an effect that recalls a Muslim prayer, though there’s a subtle digital feel to the track.

Hello Skinny – “Hello Skinny” (Slowfoot)

The eponymous debut album from Hello Skinny aka Tom Skinner is one of this year best debut albums and effortlessly blends genres and acoustic and electronic sounds. The album explores a very modern form of psychedelic music folding into its mix dub bass and FX, jazz saxophone, clarinet and drums, splash of colourful synth and electronic beats that owe a debt to both hip-hop and the more organic end of electronica. This blend is presented from the off with opener ‘Aquarius’ which is based around an electronic rhythm track, bubbling synth bass and a sonar synth effects before later in the track there joined by acoustic jazz drums and dub delay. The title track takes things down a notch with a downtempo feel complimented by a submerged dub bass and a clarinet melody that recalls Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and in the second half of the track there’s a great twisted saxophone solo the first of a few spread across the album. The album continues in a similar vein throughout switching between more upbeat material similar to ‘Aquarius’ and more downtempo and reflective tracks similar to the title track. ‘Me and My Lady’ is the one exception to this rule playing out like a classic cowboy film theme or a dub version of one of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Upsetter’s cowboy themed reggae tracks. “Hello Skinny” is an understated but engaging and enthralling listen, can’t wait to hear what Skinner comes up with next.

Peaking Lights – “Lucifer In Dub” (Weird World)

“Lucifer In Dub” does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a dub album of Peaking Lights “Lucifer” album which has been a Sonic Fiction favourite this year. “Lucifer In Dub” acts very much as a flip side to “Lucifer” whereas the parent album reduced the amount of dub effects to a zero and pushed the dub bass lines right back in the mix, this album pushes all that to the fore and adds a healthy amount of dirt to the previous clean pop production. The album opens with ‘Cosmick Dub’ which revolves around a rolling bass guitar riff, heavy electronic drums and organ covered in lashings of dub delay. Then there’s the tropical sounding melody of the delightful ‘My Heart Dubs 4 U’ and album highlight ‘Beautiful Dub’ where a guitar riff, organ chords and female vocals float high above tough dub bass and electronic drums to stunning effect. The band changes tack on ‘Live Dub’ with its pounding synth bass line, swan diving guitar that sounds like a police car siren and double time beats. The use of double time beats is repeated on closer ‘Midnight Dub’ and I’m not totally convinced it, though it does show a potential new direction which Peaking Lights can experiment with and refine. Overall, “Lucifer In Dub” is a superb addition to the Peaking Lights back catalogue and in time could prove to be their best album yet.

Big Boi – “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” (Mercury)

“Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” is an ambitious and highly emotive album, one that fuses together 80’s funk, new wave and ambient synth textures with Big Boi’s trademark Dirty South hip-hop style. It is in short Big Boi’s pop album and rivals fellow OutKast member Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” as the finest pop entry in their respective back catalogues. This is the album that I thought I’d be hearing from Andre 3000 when he got around to making his debut solo album but Big Boi has beaten him to the punch. I’d go as far that is the most emotional raw and broad hip-hop since Kanye West released “808s and Heartbreak” (2008). It’s difficult to single out highlights on an album where quality level never drops from start to finish, this could be an overcooked and busy affair with seventeen tracks and many more collaborators but Big Boi and his opulent backing tracks gel with everything single contributor. Whether it’s the swarming strings of ‘The Thickets’, the 100% electro fest that is ‘Thom Pettie’ or the lush 80’s funk come-on’s of closer ‘She Said Ok’ it all just works even when it shouldn’t. Big Boi recently proclaimed his love of Kate Bush’s music and this influence runs through the whole album informing its lush synthetic and acoustic textures and arrangements. Prince is another 80’s pop star whose influence is a regular feature on the album and it’s no bad thing even on the out-and-out cheese fests of ‘Raspberries’, ‘Descending’ and ‘She Said Ok’, the influence is always present on 80’s funk numbers ‘Apple of my Eye’ and ‘Higher Res’. I didn’t think I’d be writing this but with “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” Big Boi might have just trumped his debut solo album“Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty” (2010).

Top Release of the Month

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


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

Kirsty’s Recommendations

2nd November

Monoloc – Drift (CLR)

Born and raised in Frankfurt, Monoloc started his production career in 2001 and by 2010 he had been snapped up by Chris Liebing’s CLR label. Two years later he is preparing to release his debut album “Drift” in November. According to the press release, the CLR family was instrumental in shaping the sound of the record: Chris Liebing assisted in the mixing process, Brian Sanhaji, a label affiliate, mastered the album and Daniel Wilde, another CLR signee, lends vocals on three of the “Drifts”‘s tracks. Listeners should expect grooving, atmospherically rich pieces of techno with dreamy, retro-inspired touches.

13th November

Ital – Dream On (Planet Mu)

His second album this year, Ital’s “Dream On” will be released on Planet Mu. The Brooklyn-based artist has over the past two years reinvented himself as a house and tech2no producer with a steady stream of EPs on labels like Not Not Fun and its clubbier subsidiary, 100% Silk. As with his five-track debut “Hive Mind” from earlier this year, “Dream On”‘s track list is skimpier than is normally expected from a full-length—seven tracks this time—though it’s reportedly “much more substantial” than “Hive Mind”.

19th November

Sigha – Living With Ghosts (Hotflush Recordings)

Sigha is an English techno artist with a soft spot for swathes of ambient textures. Inspired, in part, by his recent relocation to Berlin his debut album “Living With Ghosts” will be out on Scuba’s Hotflush Recordings, the same label that released his debut EP in 2009 and most of his records since then. “Living With Ghosts” shows his understated approach to techno continuing to develop while mixed in with swathes of enveloping ambience. Stream Sigha’s track ‘Self Improvement’ to get a taste of what to expect:

Liam’s Recommendations

5th November 2012

Offshore – “Bakehaus” (Big Dada)

The debut album from Offshore aka Ewan Robertson comes with much expectation after the producer has built a reputation as the successor to fellow Scottish electronic music producer Rustie and Hudson Mohawke. Robertson stands apart from his contemporaries by both uses a wider range of emotional triggers and taking from genres outside of electronic music such as post-punk and hip-hop. This mini album is well worth through investigation.

12th November 2012

Hello Skinny – “Hello Skinny” (Slow Foot)

Hello Skinny is a new project from Matthew Herbert and Mulatu Astatke drummer Tom Skinner. His debut album is bring released this October on Slowfoot Records and he has track on the new Brownswood compilation from Giles Peterson’s label of the same name. Hello Skinny mixes up live instrumentation with samples and genres such as jazz, dub and hip-hop into a heady brew. Check out Hello Skinny’s “Smash & Grab” mixtape here for a taste of what’s to come.

Holly Herndon – “Movement” (RVNG INTL)

The debut album from Herndon sits somewhere between the world of Berlin techno (she was a DJ in the German capital for five years) and experimental music Mills College (a liberal arts college in California). Herndon separates herself from other artists in these respective fields with her extensive use of her own heavily processed vocals, these often become so abstract its hard to tell what’s a synth sound and what’s Herndon’s voice. Herndon is a perfectly fit for RVNG INTL who also straddle the experimental music and dance music worlds.

19th November

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons to Die” (Soul Temple)

“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.

19th November 2012

Raime – “Quarter Turns Over A Living Line” (Blackest Ever Black)

After the release of critically acclaimed 12″s and an EP Raime are preparing to release their debut album featuring seven brand new tracks, the sees the band moving away from sampled based music to an approach dominated by live instrumentation and heavy processing. Their dark sound combines elements from jungle, industrial and gothic post-punk music and this album promises to be truly bewitching.

26th November 2012

Container – “LP” (Spectrum Spools)

Container follows up last year’s impressive noise-techno album “LP” with another album also entitled “LP”. Spectrum Spools press release says the album keeps “… the classic Container sound..in tact” but “this album offers a look into a previously closed door in the Container sound world. LP, like its predecessor LP, is recorded in mono and its cuts right down the middle of your skull, and doesn’t float around in imaginary room, these new tracks are immediate and heavy.” Sounds like a release we’ll be enjoying on Sonic Fiction.

Zombie Zombie – “Rituels D’un Nouveau Monde” (Versatile)

French horror film music obsessives Zombie Zombie return with their second album of original material. First single “Rocket Number Nine” is electro par excellence  and promises great things for the album. 

3rd December

Nils Frahm – “Screws” (Erased Tapes)

The new album from experimental pianist Nils Frahm came about through an unfortunate accident that saw him fall from a bunk bed and break his thumb. Four screws were surgically placed inside his thumb leaving him with 9 playing fingers. Frahm decided to deal with this injury the only way he knew how by playing his piano and this resulted in the 9 intimate piano tracks that make up “Screws”.

10th December 2012

Big Boi – “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours”

Big Boi is excitedly tweeting about progress on this new album and its seems that the follow up his great 2010 album “Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” isn’t far away. He recently said it features collaborations with UKG, Kid Cudi and man of the moment Big K.R.I.T. Check out first single “Gossip” here and view the artwork here.

17th December 2012

Missy Elliott – ‘The Block Party’

After overcoming her health problems Timbaland now claims that this album could finally be released in 2012. In meantime Missy Elliott has announced the release of two new singles ‘9th Inning’ and ‘Triple Threat’ this coming weekend (Saturday 1st September & Sunday 2nd September), this is the surest sign yet that “The Block Party” is finally on its way!!!

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.

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