Review: For their latest deep dive into the world of little-known electronic gorgeousness, Holland's Music From Memory crew has taken a trawl through the impeccable and largely overlooked catalogue of Japanese ambient musician Toshifumi Hinata. The essential "Broken Relief" draws on material recorded by the musician between 1985 and 87, joining the dots between gentle beat-scapes, inspired new age soundscapes, warm ambient explorations and glassy-eyed instrumentals rich in fluid fretless bass, twinkling pianos, shuffling rhythms and chords so tactile you might want to go to bed with them. It's an inspired set all told, with an impressive number of highlights. These include the evocative piano lament "Ikoku No Onna Tachi", the spacey ambient swirl of "Colored Air", and the undeniably Balearic grooves of "Atarashii Yuhbokumin".
Review: It's been a long time between drinks for Chris Korda, a transgender artist and activist whose last releases of note came on famed electroclash label International Deejay Gigolo way back in 2004. New album "Akoko Ajeji" is very much a surprise return to action, though its melodious, ear-pleasing and accessible blend of house and techno drums, digital synthesizer sounds and cheery post synth-pop refrains is both striking and hugely addictive. Korda's compositions offer subtle nods towards various vintage house and techno styles - particularly turn-of-the-90s deep house and early Chicago jack - but never sound anything less than thrillingly DIY productions giddily made in back rooms and bedrooms over the last decade and a half.
Review: Half journeyman, half David Lynch bar scene, all twisted crooner-dom, and at least a little tongue in cheek, Mike Patton & Jean Claude Vannier are aiming straight for the alternatives with this 12-strong collection of bizarre ballads and obscure odes that will appeal to rarer tastebuds. There's the spoken word and strummed guitars guiding us through the various parts of "A Schoolgirl's Day". The Sinatra-does-sarcasm of closer "Pink & Bleue", and the way "Hungry Ghost" aurally recalls "Everybody Knows" by Leonard Cohen. Truly unique stuff, despite its debt of gratitude to troubadour totems, counterculture rock and The Rat Pack, it's as rooted in the 21st Century as anything you'll hear today. The production process involved two creators in two different parts of the world, Patton and band in L.A., Vannier with a full orchestra in Vienna. Not that you can tell considering how complete the record feels.
Review: Considering their penchant for spinning yarns and the cinematographically-suited nature of much of their work, it's surprising "Days Of The Bagnold Summer" is only Belle & Sebastian's second shot at a movie score. The last was 2001's '"Storytelling", accompanying Todd Solondz's movie of the same name, and they certainly did a good job then. So, high expectations this time round. For those unfamiliar, their latest foray into the film world partners the directorial debut of Simon Bird, best known to many as one of "The Inbetweeners". The flick, an adaptation of Joff Winterhart's 2012 graphic novel, chronicles the life and times of a teenage metalhead and his single mother. The album perfectly accompanies but also contributes to that tale. Highly emotive instrumental tracks and classic B&S songs-proper, this OST is destined to go down well with the band's true believers.
Review: Few do funky soul jazz sessions as well as The New Mastersounds, who first formed in Leeds in 1999 and have gone on to be regulars at the Jazz Cafe as well as New Orleans' annual Jazz Fest. Late last year in Denver, the band linked up with vocalist Lamar Williams Jr (son of the late Allman Brothers bassist Lamar Williams) to record this high class album of soulful horns, live drums and heartfelt vocals, all finished off with percussion by Thievery Corporation's Jeff Franca. Digging deep into the history of funk while also looking to a new paradigm, "Shake It" is an album of feel-good emotions that make a lasting impression.
Review: Curiosities is the second album in the trilogy from in-demand New Zealand multi-instrumentalist and producer Lord Echo. Six years after initial release, this reissue sounds as vital as ever and is extra DJ-friendly given that it is spread across two slabs of wax. It covers plenty of ground from escapist tropical ambient to lovably lazy dubs via vivid disco-funk. Highlights come in the form of "Molten Lava" and its heart wrenching vocals and the gospel grooves of "The Creator Has A Master Plan". Winter might be fast approaching, but so long as you have sounds as warm and sunny as these around, summer will never feel too far away.
Review: Discerning diggers will know that an original copy of this funk soul gem from 1978 often fetch close to four figures. Initially released on a little known label in Mississippi, Acid Jazz now give it the proper reissue treatment. It is filled with passionate soul songs that stride forward with purpose and pride. "Let Me Be Your Lover" is the breakout single that will get most club plays, but the sliding hi hats and twangy bass of "Gonna Find A True Love" will also do plenty of damage. The version included here is slightly different to the single that was reissued earlier this year, but is well worthy of its inclusion.
Review: Described in the accompanying press release as "the halfway point between Bollywood and Balearic", Rupa Biswas' 1982 debut "Disco Jazz" has long been a favourite of dusty-fingered diggers with a healthy bank balance and a penchant for the quirky. All four tracks are cheery, charming and superior to many "Bollywood disco" records produced in the same period. The sunny disco-boogie of "Moja Bhari Moja" is followed on side A by the delightfully eccentric, bass-powered AOR-disco/funk-rock fusion of "East West Shuffle" and the effortlessly Balearic cheeriness of "Aaj Shanibar". Best of all, though, is the exotic and intoxicating flipside cut "Ayee Morshume Be-Reham Duniya" which expertly joins the dots between cosmic rock and Balearic disco grooves for 16 spellbinding minutes.
Ze Spirits Band - "Tucheza" (Esa extended mix) (5:00)
Nonku Phiri - "Sifo" (feat Dion Monti) (4:27)
Os Panteras - "Melo Do Anjo" (Outra edit) (4:54)
Pascal Latour - "Lague Yo" (Boulo edit) (5:58)
Masalo - "Yera" (feat Doussou Koulibaly) (6:24)
Esa - "Pantsula Traxx" (4:38)
Narchbeats - "Cheeks" (3:41)
DJ Spoko - "#Justsnares" (4:02)
Review: Inspired by his own experiences growing up in apartheid-era South Africa and his travels through music, Esa Williams has put together a compilation of contemporary electronic music from around the world. "Amandla: Music To The People" is well worth your attention and contains some genuine gems. Highlights come thick and fast throughout, from the percussive, chant-along sweatiness of Penny Penny's "Shilungu" and the loved-up, pitched-down dreaminess of Alaska's "Accuse (Instrumental)", to the sweet, life-affirming cheeriness of Os Panteras' "Melo Do Anjo (Outro Edit)" and the thrusting, Italo-disco style dancefloor masculinity of Masalo's "Yera". Esa's own late '80s style pitched-down South African house jam "Pantsula Traxx" is also superb.
Review: BBE's second trawl through late 20th century deep Japanese jazz is every bit as eye opening and essential as its predecessor, which caused many hearts to flutter when it was released 18 months ago. From start to finish, we're treated to a righteous range of largely little-known tunes, from the spiraling, sun-kissed spirituality of Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land's epic "Dragon Dance", and the funk-fuelled dancefloor jazz brilliance of Mabumi Yamaguchi Quartet's "Distant Thunder", to the smooth, snaking seductiveness of George Kawaguchi Big Four's "Vietnam" and the synthesizer jazz-funk insanity of Electro Keyboard Orchestra's "Mother Of The Future". A superb selection of genuinely off-kilter and life affirming Japanese gems that should be an essential purchase for both serious and casual jazz fans.
Review: The dusty-fingered diggers behind the BBE label have a reputation for unearthing obscure or unreleased gems, though we doubt that they've previously discovered anything quite as significant as this. Ebo Taylor, the undisputed king of Ghanaian "funky-highlife", recorded "Palaver" with his touring band way back in 1980, but for reasons the man himself can't even remember, Nigerian imprint Tabansi Records never got round to releasing it. That remains an odd decision, because "Palaver" shows Taylor at his very best, with the sax and trumpet-laden brilliance of "Make You No Mind" and the righteous, Afrobeat-influenced highlife brilliance of "Help Africa" being every bit as potent as the Ghanaian's most revered work.
Custom Made (feat Ayo The Yung Afrika Pyoneer) (6:31)
Review: Jungle Brown's much anticipated second album is finally here, and packed with collaborations with exciting peers like Sampa The Great, Fliptrix and Terri Walker. The trio of Ric Flo, MAEAR & Tony Bones are in fine form with their ever soulful hip hop taking subtle hints from grime, house and trap. "Keep It Movin" and Huami" are for golden era fans, while "Sometimes" flips the script with a tight, bumping house beat and buttery raps. "Custom Made" is a rhythmically inventive, richly layered track and is one of many highlights on a standout album.
Review: There has been plenty said about debutants L'Epee since their single "Dreams" turned heads back in spring. Combining the talents of Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre), French artist Emmanuelle Seigner, and polished-to-a-sheen pop outfit The Liminanas, it's one of the most refreshing (and French) things you're likely to hear all year. That's more of a reference to the cinematic feeling that defines the album, owing much to the femme fatale vocal delivery, rather than the language each line is sung in. At once evoking the smoky cool of Serge Gainsbourg and the opiate moods of The Velvet Underground, "Diabolique" feels born in a time when psychedelic experimentation and chart topping music weren't mutually exclusive. At once sophisticated and hedonistic, it's a sexy, sensual and overwhelmingly seductive effort everyone should turn themselves on to.
Superdiscount Presents Air - "Soldissimo" (Etienne De Crecy remix) (5:26)
Guts - "What Is Love" (3:47)
Alex Gopher - "The Child" (radio edit) (3:39)
Kazam - "Swag On" (2:13)
Flume - "Holdin On" (2:32)
Chinese Man - "I've Got That Tune" (4:08)
Deluxe - "Pony" (3:27)
Fakear - "Morning In Japan" (3:06)
Bonobo - "Terrapin" (4:40)
Nightmares On Wax - "Les Nuits" (radio edit) (3:31)
Review: Thanks to Massive Attack's recent anniversary reissue of their touchstone "Mezzanine" album, trip-hop is back in the headlines. While we don't expect a full-blown revival just yet, it's always worth dipping into the style and its hazy, dub-flecked and sample-heavy sound. This triple-disc genre retrospective from Wagram should be an essential listen for both confirmed trip-hop heads and newcomers alike. It contains plenty of well-known classics - see the contributions from I Monster, Tricky, Smith & Mighty, Kid Loco, Moby, Boards of Canada, Kruder and Doefmeister, Tosca and Nightmares on Wax, for starters - as well as under-appreciated underground hits and lesser-celebrated selections (Sabres of Paradise's remix of Red Snapper's "Hotflush" being the undoubted highlight).
Review: If there were still justice in the digital age, and artists really got what was owed to them exposure-wise, Alex Cameron would be a safe bet for leftfield pop sensation. A multi-faceted songwriter, his previous two albums took us through a horror show of horrible characters and their innermost thoughts, twin roads that have somehow veered onto another course altogether for "Miami Memory". Here a much friendlier face is donned. Nevertheless, opener "Stepdad" makes intentions clear, with uptempo keyboard lines invoking the emotional qualities of mid-80s Prince. "Far From Born Again" tells the story of a "her" who's making bad choices, and the potential fallout of that, set to a Bruce Springsteen-sounding chorus, the likes of which can be found again on "Divorce". Not holding back, but instead holding a light up to a different side of his personality, it's Cameron's most positive to date and his best.
Review: There's a stripped-down aesthetic to Chelsea Wolfe's return to the release schedule. It's not that 2017's "Hiss Spun", or "Abyss" two years earlier, were overblown. But here she pares things back to the essentials, with many tracks beginning on just vocals and a splash of acoustic guitar. The result shows off the raw talent at work, in turn offering a clear explanation of her enduring popularity. Despite the often minimalistic arrangements, "Birth Of Violence" is deceptively complex. Wolfe has explained it was inspired by exhaustion following perpetual tours and endless time on the road. You can certainly feel that. Her voice sounds as though it's hoping for hope, a change that feels almost out of reach but not unthinkable. It's a dark, desolate place at times, but in other moments packed with a determined energy and self-belief that things must always progress. Descriptions aside, believe us that this is completely unmissable.
Sly & Robbie - "Night Nurse" (feat Simply Red - radio mix) (3:45)
John Holt - "Police In Helicopter" (3:33)
Eek-a-mouse - "Ganja Smuggling" (3:46)
Don Carlos - "Rivers Of Babylon" (3:16)
Freddy McGregor - "Big Ship Sailing" (3:12)
Jacob Miller - "Tenement Yard" (2:33)
The Congos - "La La Bam-Bam" (3:50)
Alton Ellis - "I'm Still In Love" (4:22)
Dennis Brown - "Revolution" (4:15)
Errol Dunkley - "OK Fred" (2:55)
Groundation, Don Carlo & The Congos - "Jah Jah Know" (5:57)
Black Uhuru - "Sinsemilla" (5:14)
Ini Kamoze - "World A Music" (2:45)
Yelloman - "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng" (6:29)
Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Upsetters - "Soul Fire" (3:51)
Alborosie - "No Cocaine" (4:05)
Chaka Demus & Pliers - "Murder She Wrote" (4:04)
Review: Classics are classics for a reason, and this compilation champions them across two slabs of wax. All four sides are jam packed with firm reggae favourites from Bob Marley's stirring "Soul Rebel" to the buttery croons of Gregory Isaacs on "Babylon Too Rough". Mick Hucknall's inclusion will raise some eyebrows, but there is no denying his version of "Night Nurse" with Sly & Robbie has something going on. Smokers will delight in ganga odes from Eek-a-mouse and the lovable innocence of The Congos hit "La La Bam-Bam" will always have a place in anyone's affections.
Review: The Utopia Strong might be the most unlikely combination of musical elements imaginable. Coil's Michael J. York, Kavus Torabi of Gong note, the vocals of Miranda Sex Garden's Katharine Blake (albeit rendered almost unrecognisable), a modular synth and, snooker god Steve Davis. But those who know the cue-wielding deity's reputation as a techno, soul, funk, jazz and progressive rock aficionado will understand this one has been a long time coming. So, what do the results sound like? Well, a mixed bag, but all otherworldly and surreal. "Konta Chorus" marries the whirring of machine loops with trippy guitar reverberations, timeless string arpeggios and hypnotic wind sections. "Brainsurgeons 3", running close to 11-minutes, is an epic space-age marriage of techno and sci-fi. Meanwhile, the appropriately named "Moonchild" closes the album out on lengthy refrains of disharmony and subtle, nymph-ish lyrical whispers. A trip and a half.
Review: Electric Capablanca is a mystery artistic outfit who, on this evidence, are lovers of pastoral landscapes, innocent lullabies and day dreaming. This collection is a spellbinding one with clean, crisp synths and distant pads, soft focus arps and, in some cases, gentle IDM patterns all washing over you time and again. The music here is too detailed and meaningfully structured to be classed as ambient: it demands close attention and rewards it in kind, either with soul soothing and diffusive moods or more edgy drone tracks, amongst a range of other immersive styles.
Review: If you're new to the Alex Giannascoli's world then make yourself comfortable - chances are, like us, you'll be here for a while. There are so many tangents, threads and stylistic shifts of shape it's possible to dive into his back catalogue and spend years never getting bored. It's now far quicker to understand what we're talking about, though, thanks to his latest album. There are multiple personalities at play here than you'd think could be coherent, but coherent this record is. Opener "Walk Away" sounds like an overview of the whole thing - growing from desperate cry into a grandiose, captivating thing of real beauty via reversed-out backing track and looped lyrics. All very Beta Band. From there we're locked-in, through the shimmering melodies of "Taking" to "Sugar"'s deep, tense atmospheric crescendos and vocoders. Ending on the stunning brass-accented blues rock of "SugarHouse (Live)", it's as complete a record as you could ask for.