Review: Three years after delivering a stunning debut album that cemented their position as this century's finest fusionists of Middle Eastern music and analogue electronic music, Acid Arab return with a sophomore set that's every bit as impressive. The basic ingredients remain the same - think Arabic vocals, instrumentation and percussion mixed with heavy drum machine rhythms, raw electronics and mind-altering TB-303 motifs - though the resultant tracks arguably draw on a wider range of electronic music influences. So as well as nods towards acid house and techno, the album also contains throbbing, dancefloor-centric workouts informed by EBM, Italo-disco, new wave, synth-pop and industrial. It's a subtle switch-up, but one wholly in keeping with the French quartet's distinctive vision.
Review: Given that it's called "Coloured" and appears on shocking pink vinyl, you'd expect Adam Longman Parker's debut album as Afriqua to be a decidedly vibrant and kaleidoscopic affair. It is, of course, with Longman Parker offering up tracks that mix tropical-sounding electronics, glassy-eyed synthesizer motifs, processed vocal sounds and evocative musical flourishes with jaunty, interesting rhythms that neatly sidestep conventional genre rules. It's a mixture that makes for hugely enjoyable listening, with highlights coming thick and fast. These include - though are by no means limited to - the densely layered dancefloor cheekiness of "Shout", the minimalist ambient bliss of "Noir", the hypnotic, intergalactic oddness of "Native Sun" and the bubbly club warmth of "Jumpteenth".
Review: A new album from Sam Shepherd AKA Floating Points is always cause for celebration, but even by his standards "Crush" is rather special. Largely eschewing the ambient jazz soundscape shuffle of 2017's "Reflections - Mojave Desert", it sees the Shepherd showcase his musical dexterity in stunning fashion via cuts that wrap shimmering neo-classical strings around what sound like modular electronics and rhythms that variously touch on broken beat, off-kilter experimental D&B and Autechre-style IDM. Of course there are ambient and experimental soundscapes showcased, but it's the fact that the album contains a swathe of formidably dancefloor-focused cuts in the style that first made him standout that pleases us most. Highlights include recent single "LesAlpx", the dreamy "Anasickmodular" and the "People's Potential" style deep house intricacy of "Last Bloom".
Review: The late Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson's second studio album from 2004 is one ambient-influenced classical piece that makes use of the same phrase throughout but, for technical reasons, is divided into four parts. It features a host of musical instruments, from tubas, horns, organs and trumpets to glockenspiel and bass. It's a masterpiece in minimalism and repetition, of non-linear music that traps you in the here and now, and it is a beautiful place to be when you listen to the whole album in one immersive sitting.
Review: Local Talk hits the rather significant catalogue number of 100 with a forward thinking EP that stays true to its MO over the last few years. It finds MLiR aka Modern Life Is Rubbish joined by Arnau Obiols to serve up a brace of brilliant tunes that blur the lines between a myriad different dance styles. "Lajbans" is a playful, fun tune with tooting arps and cosmic melodies all married to a chugging beat that Todd Terje would be proud of. The Bellaterra dub on the flip reworks it with plenty of space echo, knob twirling effects and sci-fi atmospheres. A tidy little package.
Review: A Lou Rebecca full length has been on the cards for a while and now it lands a year after her breakout and self-titled "Lou" EP. The Austin-based Parisian synth-pop singer makes music that is nuanced with romanticism and driven by soft but decisive drum patterns that make you want to bop. There are vibrant songs with contemporary sensibilities, rich pop nuggets and darker tacks like "Break It Apart" but it is when Lou is at her most happy and outgoing that she sounds best for our money. Check the lovely, harmonically smooth ditty that is "Desire" for proof.
Review: Russia's Gost Zvuk label has long been a firm favourite here in the Juno office. Their glitchy, mysterious, futuristic music always makes for intriguing listening and now they celebrate five fantastic years with a compilation featuring a host of closely associated talents old and new. The bumper triple vinyl collection features paranoid experimental ambient that draws to mind covert spying operations, mangled machine music like INFX's "Damaged +dn", haunting modulated synth soundscapes from OL and skeletal techno rhythms that rewire your brain like Erofeev's "11bng". It all makes for a genuinely fresh and original collection of hugely provocative music.
Review: Vic Mars spent many years in Nagoya, Japan, and it shows in the delicate beauty of his compositions. Fusing understated elegance with the lilting folk traditions of the British Isles, his music is equal parts pastoral and ethereal. Following plenty of previous appearances on boutique London label Clay Pipe, he returns with "Inner Roads & Outer Paths", a thoroughly calming sojourn through fingerpicked guitar refrains, plaintive piano and plenty more instrumentation besides. There's a subtle tint of processing that lends an otherworldly edge to the ambience Mars is imparting - a truly soul-nourishing departure from the intensity of the modern age.
Review: Almost five years has passed since now legendary Japanese producer Susumu Yokota passed away. Lo Recordings, who worked with the experimental electronica, techno and ambient artist over a number of years, have decided to mark the occasion by releasing a posthumous album made up of recently discovered - and previously unreleased - Yokota recordings made around the same time as 2002 set "The Boy and the Tree". While there has been a little post-production work by label founder Jon Tye, those familiar with Yokota's work wouldn't be able to tell. Otherworldly, imaginative and hugely emotional in tone, the ten included tracks flit between neo-classical inspired Japanese minimalism, pastoral soundscapes, gentle new age aural dreams and the kind of hushed, life-affirming ambient works that were once Yokota's trademark.