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The best new albums this week

The albums that our writers recommend for your ears this week


Moebius – Solo Works (Bureau B)

It would take more than one compilation to provide a comprehensive overview of Dieter Moebius’ work. For one thing, he was a prolific collaborator from the early days of krautrock and kosmische, but equally he remained active in music until he died in 2015. Compared to some artists spanning the best part of 50 years, his discography isn’t quite as bloated as others, but every record sincerely counts. A potted history of his accomplishments takes in seminal bands Cluster and Harmonia, albums with Brian Eno, Conny Plank and many more besides, each one brimming with invention and inspiration at the frontier of electronic music expression.

Prior entries in Bureau B’s Kollektion series have looked at Moebius’ partner in Cluster and Harmonia, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, as well as the work of Cluster and Conrad Schnitzler, and now it’s the turn of Moebius and his solo output. His first solo record arrived in 1983 on Sky Records, in the midst of a period which yielded some of his finest works. Tonspuren was a thrilling twist on the Berlin-School sound centred around motorik sequences driving playful melodies, beautifully captured with the opening track on this compilation, ‘Rattenwiesel’. It’s sweet natured but also gritty in its finish, summing up the personality Moebius was able to supplant onto his explorations in synthesis.

Moebius’ next solo outing came in 1986 with the soundtrack to Blue Moon, a Berlin-set crime thriller more memorable for its music than the visuals. He demonstrated his range from the grungy, bubbling broth of ‘Hoffnungsschimmer’ to the plaintive theme of ‘Das Ende’, still toying with the sound he’d established earlier in the 80s while responding to the interpretive brief of a film soundtrack. From that point this compilation jumps ahead in time quite considerably to ‘The Tracker’, a work from the 1999 album Blotch which provides a fascinating insight into how a legacy artist responds to the changing times.

‘The Tracker’ is undoubtedly powered by modern technology, and you can even hear a little snatch of the choral sample made famous by Orbital’s ‘Belfast’ in the mix. The palette is subtly glitchy and crisply rendered, but there’s a persistent clang and staccato thrum which feels like a natural extension of Moebius’ early work. Even if it came seven years later, ‘Flag’ from the Nurton album moves with similar industrial impulses, and yet there’s still space for the cheeky synth figures darting in between the oppressive percussive patterns.

‘Markt’ also quivers with the quirks that you might have expected to hear on the Moebius & Plank album Rasterkraut Pasta, albeit sharing space with a plethora of hiccups and digital doodles. Its neighbouring track ‘Rast’ nods to the edgier end of the Moebius spectrum thanks to its snarling bass riff, but it feels as though in this period around 2009 Moebius was edging towards a busier modus operandi compared to the stark simplicity he was best known for. Ensuring you should never second-guess the direction of a musical innovator, 2011’s ‘Alaise’ slips into a hip-hop tempo swamp of synths with a curious funk tucked beneath the folds of freaked-out sonics.

The full spectrum of Moebius’ existence in musical form is reached with ‘Tiefenbahnen’, a piece from the posthumously released Musik Für Metropolis album which is in fact based around early Cluster drone masterpiece ‘Georgel’, embellished with a light-touch tapestry of clicks and pops. It’s an interesting move to sample oneself over a gap of more than 40 years, and perhaps Moebius was in a reflective mood as he worked in this project shortly before passing away. The overriding point, driven home by the locomotive pressure of the track’s final run, is that Moebius never lost his innovative spirit and distinctive artistic stamp. This compilation serves as a powerful reminder of that, no doubt illuminating many listeners to a lifetime of accomplished work beyond the early breakthroughs he was most famous for.  


Mystic AM – Cardamom & Laudanum (Astral Industries)

The thematic allure of Persia is a seductive muse, conjuring up aromatic scents, ancient opulence and a pervading sense of mystery. From a Western perspective it also carries a certain hope that transcends current geo-political strife, embracing the rich cultural heritage of the Middle East and its monumental influence on the development of civilisations. As well as being renowned for its thriving pre-revolution psych rock scene (spearheaded by the likes of Kourosh Yaghmaei), Iran’s music culture is a vibrant, many-sided thing which remains a fascinating area of investigation for diggers from around the world.

Astral Industries’ Ario Farahani is one such digger, and his extensive trips into the history of Persian music led to him cultivating a library of samples which began to take shape as an idea. Bringing frequent AI contributor Rod Modell into the mix, he set about sculpting a story that loosely hinges on a traveller stumbling on an intense metaphysical experience in an ancient caravanserai near Yazd. In setting the scene through description, Farahani leans in on the aforementioned allure of Persia, providing a context for a captivating slant on ambient music.

Cardamom & Laudanum is a smoky, submerged experience which works with Farahani’s source material in subliminal ways. Modell is of course adept at subtlety and depth, demonstrated through his extensive work in DeepChord amongst others, and he approaches the sonic mix on the album with an unerring patience which conjures up the vast desolation of the desert as much as the cosy, dimly lit enclaves of human refuge that break it up. Silken slithers of high frequencies fill the sky, and the tumble of percussion murmurs in the lower registers like undulating dunes. The overall effect is so evocative it feels as though you could inhale it deeply, the fumes entwining with your sensory perception to take you somewhere else far away and back in time. Of course, the album’s framing has a big part to play, but the hallmarks of Persian music are all there in the arrangements, delivered with a subdued beauty half-hidden by shadows.


Spice – Viv (Dais)

Featuring members of Creative Adult and Sabertooth Zombie, as well as being fronted by hardcore veteran Ross Ferrar of Ceremony, the band craft meticulous, thoughtful and deeply moving 90’s inspired grunge-pop, with cryptic lyricism delving into themes and topics of addiction, displacement and desire for self-betterment.

Following on from last year’s excellent ‘A Better Treatment’ 7″, the group’s sophomore effort, ‘Viv’, exudes further exploration into tried and tested formulas, sounds, vibes and compositions with evident desire to rediscover hidden nuance.

From the cathartic bombast of lead single, ‘Any Day Now’, to the hazy hum of ‘Bad Fade’, the melting pot of collective experience is paramount to what makes Spice stand out in a sea of imitators, drawing on musical and life lessons to conjure seemingly harmless fuzzed out gems that become all the more endearing and devastating with each repeat listen.

Lush interludes such as ‘Ashes In The Birdbath’ provide moments of muted, introspective respite whilst attempting to unpack the seemingly vulnerable yet simultaneously impenetrable musings Ferrar delivers with his gruff, weary, welcoming demeanour.

Several more high profile emo/punk/grunge/alternative rock releases will see praise and adoration over the remainder of this year, but few will be as powerful, understated, deserving or worthy as ‘Viv.’


Risco Connection – Risco Connection (Strut)

Rising in tandem through the 70s, disco and reggae weren’t always the most natural of bedfellows and there are plenty of iffy examples of crossover attempts that didn’t quite land. However, in the right hands it had the potential for real magic, and Joe Isaacs was one such visionary who knew how to fuse the best of both disciplines to make a mellow kind of dancefloor magic. Risco Connection came together after Isaacs left Jamaica for Canada in the late 60s. He left behind a monumental legacy as the in-house drummer for Studio 1, helping in no uncertain terms to initiate the shift from ska to rocksteady before reggae took over in the 70s.

It might well be this spirit of transition and experimentation that steered Isaacs to success when he pulled together the Risco Connection sessions at a small studio in Toronto, aiming for a sweet spot between disco and rocksteady and coming up trumps. Much of the material draws on some of the biggest disco classics of the era, from Diana Ross’ ‘It’s My House’ to Chic’s ‘Good Times’, but in Isaac’s hands they become bubbling, lilting funk jams with an instinctive shuffle that stretch out in blissful versions pitched perfectly for the warm-up to a long night dancing. The vocalists – largely independent singers such as Otis Gayle, Tobi Lark and Terry Hope more than step up to the musicianship too, delivering performances to rival the iconic originals while maintaining the sultry mood Risco Connection nailed so perfectly.


The Dickies – Stukas Over Disneyland (Cleopatra) 

The third full-length from punk heroes, The Dickies, came after a four-year gap in 1983, and is still noted for being one of, if not, their most energetic, pop-leaning projects.

‘Stukas Over Disneyland’ simply gave zero shits upon its release. Clocking in at barely 20 minutes, the record exudes a major penchant for catchy hooks that the band never flew as flagrant before or after. Just take one earful of opening smasher ‘Rosemary’, and the pop sensibilities and compositional chops become abundantly clear. While many refuse to admit it, sometimes it takes a punk band to understand the nuances of crafting direct, instantaneous pop music. 

Trust The Dickies to also intersperse such a short collection after a near half-decade gap with covers of The Quick’s ‘Pretty Please Me’, as well as a super sped up rendition of the Led Zeppelin hit, ‘Communication Breakdown’. 

This reissue also includes the Restless Records bonus tracks, but thankfully kept to the very end of the wax, as opposed to being interspliced into the original tracklist as was the case on the initial reissue. Arguably their most fun, flamboyant and definitely underrated work, there’s never been a more ample time to reconnect, rediscover or finally pay attention to the bizarre, beautiful shitshow that is ‘Stukas Over Disneyland’. 


Arp – New Pleasure (Mexican Summer)

New York-based producer Alexis Georgopoulos is not only a prolific source of releases but also one who has used a proliferation of different styles to express himself. Making a welcome return to Mexican Summer under his Arp moniker he delivers the second in the ZEBRA trilogy – volume one having appeared in the pre-pandemic days of 2018.

It’s been described as “the best 80s synth record you never heard”, which is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but the influence of the decade is clear if more through some of its more leftfield explorations than its totemic hits. ‘Eniko’, for example, has the kind of tight white funk of Japan or Dali’s Car, with a touch of the shiny, effects-heavy guitar of Robert Fripp. ‘Sponge’, meanwhile, is like a slow motion rendering of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’, with maybe a twist of Giorgio Moroder’s simple stardust sprinkled on top.

Elsewhere though, like the album’s closing moment ‘Cloud Storage’, Georgopoulos very much ploughs his own furrow, using warped synth noises to create a completely unique, amorphous soundscape. Assured, original and paying zero attention to the current infatuations of those around him, this is a properly addictive listen.


Wayfarer – World’s Blood (Century Media)

While the traditional black metal genre is intrinsically linked to its Scandinavian origins, the scene has expanded into a global entity over the past two decades, much to the chagrin of kvlt purists. It only makes sense then, that artists based in other parts of the world would draw inspiration from their surroundings when attempting to craft their own contributions.

Enter Colorado’s Wayfarer, a black metal Americana outfit who take equal influence from the likes of westerns, Cormac McCarthy, and Ennio Morricone, as they do Mayhem, Darkthrone or Gorgoroth. Recently leaving underground label Profound Lore to sign to the iconic Century Media records is an indicative sign of the credence the band’s momentum has garnered them since the release of 2020’s masterwork, ‘A Romance With Violence.’

With their new label home comes glossy gatefold reissues of both the previously mentioned fourth full-length, as well as its oppressive, beautiful predecessor, ‘World’s Blood’, which not only marked the arrival of current lead guitarist and vital component, Joey Truscelli, but would firmly establish the band as one of the most uniquely forward thinking in metal.

With familiar genre tropes such as tremolo picking, scorched howls and blast beat battering, merging with nuanced frontier soundscapes and desert-rusted atmosphere, epics like the near quarter-hour, ‘On Horseback They Carried Thunder’, or the immense, ‘The Dreaming Plain’, conjure silver screen thematic bedlam and an Americanised cinematic angle to the cavernous black metal sound that feels both starkly original and hypnotic in its malevolence.  


Rusty Santos – High Reality (Lo Recordings)

You may not know the name, but you will know his work. As a producer, Rusty Santos worked on Animal Collective’s 2005 breakthrough album ‘Sung Tongs’ and subsequently with Panda Bear and the likes of Aeriel Pink (pre Trump-supporting days), Holy Shit and TV On The Radio. He’s also been chipping away with his own projects, both solo and with his band The Present.

His first solo outing since 2006’s ‘Eternity Spans’, ‘High Reality’ is described by his people as “a fairground of eclectic, indie lo-fi gems”, which it very much is. In a statement that asks more questions than it answers, Santos says the record was “created from a place of necessity” following some involuntary hospital time “due to a psychotic break, which was brought on by tactics I faced by others in the music industry”.

The result is a fever dream of a record that mixes up minimal guitar, bass, drums and synths to maximal melodic effect. It’s an album that veers from the simple strumalong fragile-voiced ‘Apocalypses’ to the dramatic dub-flecked ‘Life Or Death’. The centrepiece though is ‘Kick Out The Spirit’, which builds from slight beginnings to an intense, squally, angst-fulled crescendo.

‘High Reality’ is the name Santos gave to the state of consciousness he was in “while detached from day-to-day reality during my crisis”. It all makes perfect sense when you hear it.


Michael Diamond – Third Culture (Vasuki Sound)

Hailed as a talent to watch by Gilles Peterson, Michael Diamond was born in India but grew up in the UK, with a foot in each tradition yet feeling somewhat of an outsider. Here, he launches his Vasuki Sound label with a seven track showcase for his resonant, very musical style.

In terms of components, this is very much an electronic music production. but there’s a whiff of jazz running throughout. ‘Exodus’, for instance, uses glitches and UK garage rhythms and ‘Emergences’ a shuffling broken beat groove, but the way the keys fall across the foundations in both cases is loose and free flowing enough to justify the J-word. That said, the directness and accessibility of the beats places it firmly in the groove market.

If you’re currently buzzing about Emma Jane Thackeray’s modernist revival of jazz, placing it in a hand of stylistic cards that can be played in any order or combination, then this is probably a great place to start looking for more. Diamond geezer!


This week’s reviewers – Oli Warwick, Ben Willmott,, Zach Buggy, Neil Mason.