Review: Kraftwerk's Ralf Hutter has more or less disowned the krautrock-inspired music he and the late Florian Schneider recorded pre "Autobahn". From that album (1974) onwards, they became the electronic futurists we know and love today; before that, they swum in more organic musical pastures, mixing rudimentary synthesizer and other electronic instruments with guitars, drums, flutes and electric organ. It's this sound that's captured on "Soest Live", a rare recording captured for WDR-TV in 1970. Accompanied by drummer Klaus Dinger, Hutter and Schneider offered up a mixture of arty, proto-ambient experimentalism, and surprisingly funky, groove-based krautrock epics that combine prototype Kraftwerk grooves with the organic sounds of flute, violin and organ.
Review: Whether offering up club-focused Motor City techno, futuristic tech-jazz, bubbly electronica or sofa-bound ambient compositions, John Beltran always wrings the maximum amount of beauty and soul from the machines he uses to make music. He's at it again on "The Season Series", an inspired album of picturesque electronic compositions on Delsin. Variously fusing swelling, almost classical chord sequences, stirring melodic refrains, effects-laden shoegaze guitars, effected vocal snippets and beats (when used) that touch on many of Beltran's main influences (think IDM and Detroit techno), Beltran has produced a simply stunning album that amply rewards those who give themselves in to its positive, emotion-rich charms.
Review: Toulouse Low Trax has always skirted on the fringes of wider recognition compared to some of his Salon Des Amateurs counterparts (think Lena Wilikens, Wolf Muller and Vladimir Ivkovic), but his legacy to date plots a fascinating course through underground and experimental electronic music with a kosmische bent. This 2012 album on Karaoke Kalk has been highly prized since its initial run first sold out, and it's great to see it being made available again as more people get hip to the incredible body of work behind this maverick auteur. The mood across Jeidem Fall is consistently moody and provocative, capturing the essence of Muslimgauze but replacing the explicit ethnic motifs with a murky abstraction of the Fourth World aesthetic, all tumbling percussion and un-placeable instrumental motifs.
Review: Fresh from an impressive outing on Lazare Hoche Records, rejuvenated duo Zoo Look pop up on E-Beamz with two righteous slabs of mystical peak-time goodness. A-side "Direct Contact" offers a near perfect blend of rugged, undulated acid lines, bustling hardcore-style breakbeats and shimmering, sci-fi inspired chords. While undeniably fresh sounding, there's no denying the early '90s rave influences at play. There's a similarly retro-futurist feel to flipside "Ravioli Ocean", a wonderfully glassy-eyed, sunrise-ready affair that smothers a driving beat in tactile chords, morning-fresh synthesizer flourishes and undulating piano lines that sent shivers up and down our spines.
Review: Finder Keepers is probably the most appropriately-named label to carry this collection of rare recordings by one of the foremost electronically-minded composers of the late-20th and early-21st centuries. Dating back to 1973, Ciani's 'Music For Denali' is a stunning example of sound design and, in album format, a series of arrangements that actually feel like a score looking for the movie. Or, more accurately, documentary. At the time the music was written, the aficionado was just starting out in the field of film composing via a non-fiction project about the first ever skier's descent down the tallest mountain in Alaska. As you might have guessed, the peak is Denali, and the soundtrack here entirely befitting for that scale. Combining her work as pioneering synthesist and revered pianist, it's an emotionally rousing story told through riveting movements.
Review: We welcome back extreme noise terror Cosmo Rhythmatic, the experimental offshoot from the Berlin-based Italians at Repitch. British luminary Shackleton is no stranger to the imprint, having appeared previously as as part of the trio Tunes Of Negation, but his latest offering entitled 'Primal Forms' sees him team up with Polish jazz clarinetist and co-curator of Tak Picture - Waclaw Zimpel. From droney exoticism morphing into hypnotic chiptune music on the 17 minute long title track, or the experimental folk of "Primal Drones" to the unholy, yet, not altogether unpleasant hybrid of bass, free jazz and classical minimalism on the final cut "Ruined Future".
Review: Russian has long been a world unto its own when it comes to electronic music. Often the sounds reflect what we think we know about the vast country and that is the case here on a blistering new 2 x 12" from Buttechno. "Xsaw" is a dense blizzard of white noise and buzz saw synths that gets you on edge. "The Big R" is fun of suspense and paranoia and "Sirenius" is mysterious synth melodies with arresting blasts of dystopian noise. There are plenty of other haunting and unsettling soundtracks, art noise sketches and bleak moments of musical cinema that are brilliantly beguiling.
Review: Robert Rental is an artist as influential as he is overlooked. An anchor of the early British DIY and post-punk scene, his name is most frequently uttered alongside illustrious collaborators such as Thomas Leer and Daniel Miller. Dark Entries and Optimo ally to illuminate some of Rental's early solo works with an expanded reissue of his debut 7" Paralysis /A.C.C.. Both labels have previously excavated Rental's catalog; we reissued the collaborative LP with Glenn Wallis in 2017, and Optimo released a collection of demos in 2018.
Review: Four years have passed since Jessy Lanza last offered-up an album, the Jeremy Greenspan co-produced leftfield space-pop masterpiece that was "Oh No". While plenty has changed in Lanza's working life since then - she now lives in New York and improvises more with "modular and semi-modular" synthesizers - her commitment to delivering a genuinely unique take on 21st century synth-pop remains. Those versed in the work of the Junior Boys will hear the hand of regular collaborator Jeremy Greenspan in the chords, melodies and synthesizer settings, but "All The Time" is undoubtedly Lanza's vision. Combining her usual glassy-eyed vocals and ear-pleasing, often melancholic synth-pop sounds with the colourful vibrancy of future R&B and grooves that subtly reference all manner of styles (dubstep included), it's most perfect underground pop album you'll hear all year.
Review: A record entitled 'Insane 80s Tracks From The Insane Label' was never going to be boring. Talk about living up to the name, Insane Music means an experimental cassette label from Belgium, managed by Alain Neffe and founded in 1981. He makes music as I Scream, and to put that into wider context his two tracks on this vinyl excursion are harsh distortions with distant bumbling rhythms, and relentless rolls of acid warble and snares the likes of which techno would kill for. That's far from that, though. Pseudo Code present the most accessible stuff here, and that comes in the form of a twisted child of post punk and garage synth pop, veering from the wonderfully bouncy and danceable 'Waiting For Zorro', to the runaway anxiety of 'Jesus!'. Bene Gesserit goes for what David Lynch might do with disco and garage rock, while Human Flesh present a staggeringly effective cacophony of brass refrains.
Your Pretty Mental Health Is Going To The Basement Of Health (5:54)
Ice Blink (3:27)
Review: What a strange, beguiling and fascinating world you step into with Triple Negative. Fans of the London experimental group will no doubt remember Precious Waste in Our Wake, a complex album that was as conceptual as it was coherent. They'll also be pleased to know 'God Bless The Death Drive' picks up exactly where the preceding LP left off, making it far more reassuring an experience than the macabre name suggests. Told through a veil of distortion, gravel and grit, like the etch-potted record unearthed in some forgotten cupboard, once we listen beneath the surface the mashing and splicing of ideas and genres starts to become apparent, although we're not always sure what's there. 'See It Slay It Sordid' is half-demented nursery rhyme half sweet electronica, 'Fine Cargo Lacquer' could be one of DNTL's blissful but disjointed bedroom recordings and 'Nag Head's Spoon' is rattling breakbeat trying to break through a thick layer of warped sound.
Transposition Reverberation Composition After Ussachevsky (6:57)
Looking For A Black Haired Girl (First The Future version) (3:24)
Review: In many ways the four tracks making up this release represent a micro-quadrilogy, or at least quartet of chapters that tell some of the story behind Clock DVA. A Sheffield-born industrial, post-punk and EBM band formed in 1978, which has gone through a number of iterations through to present day, while that description might imply intense drums and aggressive pacing, the reality is something very different. Nevertheless, the complex waves of grainy noise, sparse ambient moments and closing space-age keyboard and distorted public announcement arrangement reflect some of the most defining aspects of those genres. Beauty hidden beneath something coarse, unrefined and even abrasive surface clatter, the importance of silence as much as sound itself and an inherent desire not to conform, but instead break down barriers.
Review: Four Tet is back with a new album of shimmering wonderment on his own Text label. As ever, it's the way that Kieran Hebden tugs at the heart strings so artfully that makes him so well-loved, and he's not holding back one iota as "Sixteen Oceans" opens up with the ineffably pretty "School". There's some advanced garage ruminations on "Baby", classic ambience on "Harpsichord", and so the eclectic and extremely soul-cleansing vibes continue across three sides of wax. In addition to this wonderful new album, Hebden has also held back the fourth side for a bunch of locked grooves so satisfying you could get lost in them all day.
The Mothership (First version - Dungeon mix) (5:39)
The Sea Priestess (alternative mix) (13:32)
2nd Son Syndrome (Longer alternative mix) (3:20)
The Mothership & The Fatherland (Early mix) (20:24)
Review: This collection of rare recordings were first recorded as part of the legendary Prescription label's 1990's album series. They led to the Astral Disaster album, which was recorded during Halloween 1998 at the studios belonging to Iron Maiden and was known for having been a debtors prison back in Victorian times, with plenty of spooky chains, iron doors and manacles still left laying around. However, there was plenty of material that never made the cut for whatever reason. They are now presented here on The Astral Disaster Sessions, with all previously unreleased versions and alternate mixes included.
Review: For those that pay attention to these things, there's been plenty of talk on the margins about The Pilotwings, a young Lyonnaise duo whose first two EPs on Brothers From Different Mothers got tongues wagging. Here they step up to Macadam Mambo, delivering an EP nominally inspired by classic Chicago house, but with clear Japanese, African and classic electro influences. Analogue sounding, inventive and hard to accurately pigeonhole, Une Nuit Aux Boxboys is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining affair. Highlights are plentiful, from the twittering new age melodies and snappy percussion of "Le Stabisme De Richard" and exotic shuffle of "Cerisier", to the "Promised Land" bliss of the more obviously Chicago-influenced title track.
Review: Romare's third album is another exercise in finding the exact sweet spot where happy and sad collide. By now he is something or a master at it and here laces those sorts of sounds with a sense of spirituality, hints of disco, touches of identity and plenty of funk. These more serious influences come as a result of the artist becoming a father, but the album never grows too sentimental (though "Deliverance" sure is a nice adult lullaby.) Elsewhere there is slow acid on "High" and joyous, heartfelt melodic house on "Dreams." Versatile, emotional, dancey - what more could you want?
Review: Many critics have been quick to praise Arca's latest album (her fourth in total), highlighting the startling vibrancy and accessibility Barcelona-based Venezuelan's latest work. Where she was once renowned for wilfully challenging experimental sounds, "Kick I" combines her long-standing lo-fi noisenik instincts in ear-catching leftfield pop vocals, fiendishly heavy beats variously influenced by dancehall, reggaeton and Kuduro, sparkling bursts of kaleidoscopic synthesizer sounds, and bass beefier than a herd of highland cattle after a few months on industrial strength steroids. As a result, it's an album that beautifully balances ear-catching attractiveness with serious dancefloor grunt and just the right amount of experimental noise.
Review: When he launched the "Xerrox" series way back in 2007, Alva Noto intended it to run to five volumes. Here he presents the fourth volume, which largely eschews "external samples" of everyday sounds - the series was inspired by the idea of creating new musical motifs from "copies of copies" - in favour of greater warmth, emotion and musical dexterity. There's much to enjoy throughout, from the appealing, slow-burn haziness of deep ambient opener "Xerrox Kirlian" and the distinctly cinematic, Angelo Badalamenti-in-"Twin Peaks"-mode beauty of "Xerrox Voyage", to the Radiophonic Workshop style creepiness of "Xerrox Cosmos" and the melancholic, string-laden swell of "Xerrox Canaux".
Review: As anyone who copped his 2016 debut album as Nullptr will attest, Eddie Symons' brand of electro is audibly more far-sighted and otherworldly than his peers. Given that electro is by its very nature a futurist artistic form, that's high praise indeed. Symons is naturally in fine form on the aptly titled "Future World", his first album for much-loved Sheffield imprint Central Processing Unit. Full of bustling beats, bold analogue melodies, shimmering chords, squelchy bass and undulating acid lines, the set offers a well-judged balance between angular, forthright club cuts - many of which are in a similar sonic vein to Drexciya - and deeper, more melodious moments that reminded us a little of Gerard Hanson's work as Convexion and Boris Bunnik's Versalife releases.
Review: "In Rainbows", Radiohead's seventh album, finally gets a physical release! It's one thing downloading this landmark album, but to actually hold this is something special. Not only do you get increased sound quality, but you also get the amazing artwork from Stanley Donwood. This album includes "Nude", a live favourite for many years that was originally written during the "OK Computer" sessions. More minimal that their "Kid A" period, "In Rainbows" does something that very few albums have done - its sound is distinct from previous Radiohead albums, but is still clearly Radiohead. Hail to the kings, they are back on top form. Get this album while you can.