Review: Three years on from the release of her acclaimed debut album, "Epoch Sinus", on Hotflush, Sophie Schnell once more dons the PYUR alias for a follow-up on Subtext. The Bristol-based experimental label says that the set explores Schnell's fascination with "the space between life and death"; it's certainly an unearthly, unsettling and occasionally hallucinatory affair that fuses neo-classical style musical elements (strings, operatic vocals) with evocative electronic motifs, crunchy IDM style drums and cutting-edge production techniques. It's a genuinely unique and mind-altering affair, but one that thrills and excites at every turn. A triumph!
Metal Banshee ( Mad Professor Mix One) (CD2: Mezzanine Mad Professor)
Angel (Angel Dust)
Teardrop (Mazaruni dub One)
Inertia Creeps (Floating On dubwise)
Risingson (Setting Sun dub Two)
Exchange (Mountain Steppers dub)
Wire (Leaping dub)
Group Four (Security Forces dub)
Review: Two decades have passed since Massive Attack signaled a new stage in their career with the dark, paranoid and claustrophobic brilliance of "Mezzanine", their third studio album. Given the current global political climate, it arguably sounds even more relevant 20 years after it first hit stores. This time round, the re-mastered original set comes accompanied by something none of us have heard before: Mad Professor's complete dub translation, which was slated for release around the turn of the Millennium but for one reason or another never came out. Like his take on "No Protection", it's an inspired set of revisions that takes 3D and Daddy G's dense and red-eyed originals into wild new bass-heavy places. Even if you own the original version already, it's well worth picking up this special edition just for that alone.
Review: Since he's such a prolific collaborator and creator of bands, it's easy to overlook the fact that Will Holland hasn't released a solo album as Quantic for almost five years. "Atlantic Oscillations", then, is a welcome return - particularly since Tru Thoughts boss Robert Luis thinks it's Holland's "most cohesive and intricate album to date". It's certainly a strong collection, with Holland wrangling multiple styles, tempos and musical influences to create cuts that defy easy categorization. While there are downtempo moments, "Atlantic Oscillations" includes more bona-fide club cuts then he's delivered in recent years, with sun-kissed disco cut "September Blues", Cuban disco-funk workout "Atlantic Oscillations" and Afro-Latin house bumper "Motivic Retrograde" standing out.
Review: Black Sands, the eagerly anticipated fourth album from Simon Green AKA Bonobo, is no revolutionary change from his signature sound but does come with perhaps even more subtlety and complexity than his previous offerings. Having constantly instilled a degree of integrity and value back into chill out music following the influx of Cafe Del Mar and Coffeeshop compilations, Green once again displays a musicianship that sets him apart as a true artist and producer amongst a sea of downtempo and chillout DJs. His undeniably clear understanding of composition and arrangement of live instruments has enabled Green to make an album that reaches out through diverse styles, taking influence and inspiration from wherever possible. On Black Sands, Green delves into electronic music and bass more than he did across Animal Magic, Dial "M" For Monkey or Days To Come but does so with enough subtlety and finesse to refrain from causing a radical shift in his product. Tracks like "Kiara," "We Could Forever" and "All In Forms" all utilise beats and bass in a more contemporary outlook than we are used to with Bonobo. Of course the instrumental feel is still there for all to see. Title track "Black Sands" takes this position for almost seven minutes of a horn infused waltz whereas "Kong" assumes the traditional soul-jazz Bonobo take and "Animals" lets delicate drum patterns guide us through pleasing tempo shifts. The instrumental vibe is highlighted further in the album's approach to vocals. Unlike his last album, Days To Come which was littered with vocals, Black Sands houses only three tracks that contain vocals. The breathy vocals of Andreya Triana complete tracks like "Stay the Same" and "The Keeper" turning them in more traditional songs. Black Sands is another loving crafted offering that uses orchestral arrangements but this time merged with more of a dance aesthetic. As he continues to make chillout more credible in his experimental way, it's no wonder that Bonobo is one of the biggest artists to come from the excellent Ninja Tune.
Brian Auger's Oblivion Express - "Foolish Girl" (feat Alex Ligertwood)
The New Mastersounds - "Tantalus"
The Getup - "Hush"
Orquesta Akokan - "Mambo Rapidito"
Gizelle Smith - "Scared Of Something"
Menagerie - "Spiral"
Review: Craig Charles' annual "Funk & Soul Club" compilations are fast becoming as much of a Christmas tradition as turkey, dodgy decorations and ill-advised snogs at office parties. As with its predecessor, this sixth volume does a good job in showcasing the best in modern funk, soul, Afrobeat and heavy Latin jams, with a few stone cold classics thrown in (see the Mighty Ryeders' peerless "Evil Vibrations"). Look out for deep and heavy funk gems from the Bamboos, the New Mastersounds and Lance Ferguson's Rare Groove Spectrum, some suitably smooth fare from Courtney Pine and Omar, a scintillating, salsa-focused cover of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" by Scotland's Grupo Magnetico, and a dash of dancefloor goodness from funk breaks scene stalwarts Smoove and Turrell.
Review: Last year, D&B heavyweights Serum, Voltage and Bladerunner joined forces to deliver two rave inspired EPs of heavyweight club jams under the Kings Of The Rollers alias. Here the experienced trio offers up its eponymous debut album, an unashamedly heavyweight affair packed to the rafters with punchy rollers, mind-mangling tech-step tear-outs and gargantuan future D&B anthems. It's a little more varied than their DJ-friendly EPs, with the pandemonium-inducing smashers being joined by a variety of vocal numbers (see the Inja-sporting "M-O-V-E", grandiose "The Sky Is Falling" featuring Lydia Plain and thrillingly weighty MC Bassman hook-up "Rockers") and occasional forays into jazzier and more melodious territory. Yet for all the subtle variety and surprise diversions, it's the sheer club-ready heaviness of the whole thing that really sets the pulse racing.
Review: "Ma Fleur" is the first full studio album by Jason Swinscoe's Cinematic Orchestra since 2002's "Everyday". The record was written as the soundtrack to a specially commissioned screenplay for an imagined film (which may or may not be made). Shortly after finishing "Everyday", a piece of music which achieved great critical and commercial success, Jason Swinscoe relocated from East London to Paris. Here he began work on the instrumentals which would form the basis of his new record - more moods than finished tracks, a series of sketches or diagrams of directions to follow. Having completed a rough version by early 2005, he gave this to a friend who disappeared for three weeks and came back with short story scripts in which each scene represented a story of a different time in life, expressing the emotions which underpin the journey from birth to death. Jason then took this and worked some more on the tracks, and in turn gave this back to his scriptwriter, the two aspects of the project developing alongside one another. Gradually, Swinscoe recruited suitable vocalists for the atmospheres and themes he wanted to deal with. The remarkable Fontella Bass, who is now sadly in frail health, is the woman behind both legendary soul number "Rescue Me" as well as some of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's finest moments, had worked on "Everyday" and was an obvious choice to voice the parts of the elderly protagonist that Swinscoe envisaged. Mercury-nominated Lou Rhodes is not only a fantastic singer but a young mother and so perfect for the "mid-life" singer. The as-yet unheralded Patrick Watson, a remarkable vocalist from Montreal, became the youngest of the trio.
Review: On their third album, Tiger & Woods have decided to flip the script a little, paying tribute to Italy's remote, rural clubs of the early 1980s. To do this, they've sampled up a wealth of material from Rome's boogie-inspired, Italo-disco era Full Time and Goodymusic labels and turned it into slow motion and mid-tempo gold. As a result, the album's eight tracks are altogether more sun-kissed and Balearic in feel than their electrofunk-inspired club jams of old, though this is no bad thing. In fact, there's an argument to suggest that "AOD" (it stands for Adult Oriented Dance apparently) is their most enjoyable and listenable album to date, with less reliance on heavyweight loop jams and more intricate musical touches. However you spin it, "AOD" is a glassy-eyed, loved up triumph.
Malaria! - "Your Turn To Run (I Will Be Your Only One)"
Ausserhalb - "Zeitzelle"
Die Haut - "Der Karibische Western"
Aus Lauter Liebe - "Pingelig"
Mania D - "Track 4"
ExKurs - "Fakten"
Christiane F - "Wunderbar" (JD Twitch edit)
Sprung Aus Den Wolken - "Dub & Die"
P1/E - "Up And Above/Up & Above Dub"
Franz Erlmeier & Fritz Kostler - "Offnen Sie Mal Ihre Tasche"
Populare Mechanik - "Scharfer Schnitt (No 1)"
Andreas Dorau - "Fred Vom Jupiter"
Weltklang - "Veb Heimat"
Stefan Bloser - "Voyager One"
Matthias Schuster - "An Rah Robeel"
Review: When it comes to compilation making there's probably no two safer names in the art than Strut Records and Optimo's JD Twitch (and maybe the one Trevor Jackson too). This time around though, surprise surprise, Twitch collides a choice selection of oddball rarities and mythical classics from Germany's original post-punk and DIY scene, and in the process gives the behemoth Vinyl-on-demand label a dashing run for its money. There's a staggering amount of music to be discovered here that will send your mind running down one of Berlin's dank strasses or a Dresden ditch, but after hearing tracks like "Your Turn To Run" by Malaria! or Twitch's own edit of Christiane F "Wunderbar" you may be left wondering why you've been listening to Talking Heads and "Eisbear" this whole time.
Review: Thanks to an upsurge in interest in zouk, the synthesizer-heavy tropical style that emerged from the French Antilles in the early 1980s, reissues of superb but hard to find gems from the style's original heyday are becoming increasingly popular. This one from Strut Records is a peach. Originally released in 1988, "Las Pale" is the sole album from Feeling Kreyol, a female trio from Guadeloupe assembled and produced by local studio buffs Darius Denon and Frankie Brumier. It remains a brilliantly effervescent and colourful set, with the trio adding strong and attractive to distinctively tropical drum machine rhythms, shimmering synths, kaleidoscopic melodies and jangling guitars. In other words, it's a giddy blast of electronic tropical brilliance. Don't sleep.
Sex Murder Party (feat Jamie Principle & Zebra Katz)
She's My Collar (feat Kali Uchis)
The Elephant (interlude)
Halleujah Money (feat Benjamin Clementine)
We Got The Power (Version 2:18:482) (feat Jehnny Beth)
Review: 17 years on from the release of their infamous debut album, Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn's "virtual band" returns with a fifth full-length. This time round, they're rather angry, delivering a set that lyrically muses on everything from wars in the Middle East, the alt-right and racism, to mental illness, the Internet echo chamber and, most peculiarly of all, the importance of soul to Essex suburbanites in the 1980s. As usual, it's a thrill-a-minute mesh of musical styles and intermingling ideas, with a cast list of supporting characters that includes Chicago original Jamie Principle, De La Soul, Grace Jones, Jean-Michel Jarre, Mavis Staples and, most bizarrely given his history with Albarn, Noel Gallagher. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Review: Five years have passed since Andrew Bayer made a big impression with his silky second album, "If I Were You, I'd Never Leave". While informed by his progressive house and Washington D.C techno roots, it was a largely downtempo and laidback affair that suited sofa-bound listening sessions more than sweaty club sets. This belated follow-up takes a similarly head-in-the-clouds approach, serving up a sensual selection of sweet songs that variously touch on Balearic two-step (the glistening "Open End Resource"), post-dubstep pop ("Hold On To You", the deliciously bass-heavy "Immortal Lover"), sweeping, hands-aloft trip-hop anthems ("Love You More") and melodius, radio-friendly dancefloor workouts ("Your Eyes", "End Of All Things").
Toast To Our Differences (feat Shungudzo, Protoje & Hak Baker)
Let Me Live (with Major Lazer - feat Anne-Marie & Mr Eazi)
Dark Clouds (feat Jess Glynne & Chronixx)
Walk Alone (feat Tom Walker)
Thula Ungakhlai (feat Ladysmith Black Mambazo)
These Days (feat Jess Glynne, Macklemore & Dan Caplen)
Sun Comes Up (feat James Arthur)
1 By 1 (feat RAYE & Maleek Berry)
Last Time (feat Raphaella)
No Pain (feat Maverick Sabre, Kojey Radical & Kabaka Pyramid)
Scared Of Love (feat Ray Blk & Stefflon Don)
Summer Love (with Rita Ora)
They Don't Care About Us (feat Maverick Sabre & YEBBA)
Do You Remember (feat Kevin Garrett)
Leave It For Tomorrow (feat Elli Ingram)
Adrenaline (feat OLIVIA)
Review: Rudimental's third full-length, "Toast To Our Differences", was originally slated for release back in September, but ended up being delayed. So was it worth the wait? It's certainly a colourful, vibrant and expansive affair, with the quartet drawing on a far wider palette of influences than were evident on their previous albums. Check, for example, the title track's glistening, South African style tropical pop, the piano-powered cheeriness of "These Days", the soaring power pop of previous single "Sun Comes Up" and the auto-tune heavy EDM-house stomp of "Scared of Love". Given their superstar status, it's unsurprising to see an impressive cast list of guests and collaborators - Major Lazer, Rita Ora and Ladysmith Black Mambazo included - while this "Deluxe Edition" includes a trio of extra tracks.
Review: This first album on Kode9's deeply-respected Hyperdub label comes from the mysterious Burial, who carves out a sound which sends the dormant slinky syncopations of UK garage, via radio interference, into a padded cell of cushioned, muffled bass, passing through clouds of Pole's dense crackle dub en route. 'Burial' - the album - explores a tangential, parallel dimension of the growing dubstep ouevre, using sounds set in a near-future South London submerged underwater. You can never tell if the crackle is the burning static off pirate radio transmissions, or the tropical downpour of the city outside, taking its loud-quiet aesthetic neither from the latest digital glitch software nor a mere nostalgia for vinyl's intrinsic physicality. In their sometimes suffocating melancholy, most of these tracks seem to yearn for drowned lovers, as haunted echoed voices breeze in and out, on roads to and from other times. The smouldering desire of 'Distant Lights' is cooled only by the percussive ice-sharp slicing of blades and jets of hot air blowing from the bass. Listen also for a fleeting appearance from Hyperdub's resident vocalist, the Spaceape, unravelling his cryptobiography. 'Burial' is a renegade signal from other frequencies, a tidal wave of seductive low-impact noise submerging all but the crispest syncopations, and is well on course to be universally welcomed as the standard-bearer for creative vision built upon the grime and dubstep blueprint.
Thundercat - "King Of The Hill" (feat BADBADNOTGOOD)
Lapalux - "Opilio"
Ross From Friends - "Squaz"
Georgia Anne Muldrow - "Myrrh Song"
Dorian Concept - "Eigendynamik"
Louis Cole - "Thinking"
Iglooghost - "Yellow Gum"
WOKE - "The Lavishments Of Light Looking" (feat George Clinton)
PBDY - "Bring Me Down" (feat Salami Rose Joe Louis)
Jeremiah Jae - "Black Salt"
Flying Lotus - "Ain't No Coming Back" (feat Busdriver)
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson - "Kazaru"
Taylor Graves - "Goku"
Little Snake - "Delusions"
Strangeloop - "Beautiful Undertow"
Mono/Poly - "Funkzilla" (feat Seven Davis Jr)
Teebs - "Birthday Beat"
Moire - "Lisbon"
Locust Toybox - "Otravine"
Review: Anniversary compilations tend to fall into one of two camps, with labels either offering up a straight retrospective or a collection of previously unheard material. "Brainfeeder X", the tenth anniversary set from Flying Lotus' eclectic and experimental imprint, delivers the best of both worlds. Disc one tells the story so far, joining the dots between ambient, jazz, instrumental hip-hop, distorted techno and wonky house via cuts by the likes of Martyn, Daedelus, Taylor McFerrin, Thundercat and DJ Paypal. Disc two, meanwhile, showcases exclusive, unheard material, with highlights including the dream-time soul of Thundercat and BADBADNOTGOOD's "King of the Hill", the sunrise-ready deep house of Ross From Friends, the madcap IDM rush of Dorian Concept and the high-octane jazz-rap madness of Flying Lotus and Busdriver's "Ain't No Coming Back".
Review: Ty Segall, one of the leading lights and most hard-working artists of America's west coast garage scene, perfectly balances quality and quantity with 'Freedom's Goblin', his tenth studio album under his own name (include his live records, aliases and collaborations, and the total body of work effectively doubles). Having seemingly ditched the songwriting rules he had set himself on previous albums, 'Freedom's Goblin' sees Ty Segall at his most explosive and full-throttle, inventively exploring the many avenues of sub-genres of rock and psychedelia. Consisting of 19 ironclad songs that clock in at nearly eighty minutes, this is an expansive and exhilarating album that never becomes tiring. The wild combination of flawless production (co-engineered by the legendary Nirvana producer Steve Albini) and Segall's balance of raw power and melodic sensibility, makes 'Freedom's Goblin' another astoundingly high-calibre addition to an already colossal catalogue.
Review: Since leaving his hardcore metal drummer past behind, Olafur Arnalds has gone on to become one of the most lauded composers and producers of his generation, balancing experimental work that blends neo-classical movements with most rock and abstract electronics, with acclaimed work for film and television. Re:member is the Icelander's first album since working on the Broadchurch soundtrack and undeniably his most high profile release to date. It's also fiendishly cutting edge, utilizing specially created software to trigger new sequences (as well as randomized electronic feedback) on two pianos chained to his primary instrument. These elements, naturally mixed with strings, live percussion and the multi-instrumentalist's own considered electronics, combine to create a mesmerizing and thoroughly absorbing album.
Review: Since releasing his first Floating Points record back in 2009, Sam Shepherd has constantly surprised. Predictably, he's done it again with Reflections: Mojave Desert, an album created from impromptu recordings of his live band made during a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. Inspired by their surroundings and the natural environment, Shepherd's ensemble have created a five-track set - and accompanying Super 8 film, shot and edited by the band's traveling visual artist - that's as atmospheric as anything the producer has released to date. While a unique proposition with its own distinctive vibe, the tracks variously touch on ambient, new age, spiritual jazz, woozy electronica, post-rock and the kind of Stockhausen-inspired experimentalism explored on Ragnar Grippe's recently reissued "Sand".
Review: Since their widely lauded 2015 debut 'A Dream Outside', London based four-piece Gengahr have devoted a significant amount of time touring and working on 'Where Wildness Grows' a follow-up that stridently meets expectations. Their music builds on UK indie of the early-mid noughties, with doses of a contemporary psych-pop aesthetic. The songwriting here is ambitious and broad, tracks going from breezy sun-flecked pop, to Maccabees-esque epics, to reverberating soundscapes, to stark angular guitars over almost funk grooves. It's clear just how much time and care the band have put into the record, with every song showcasing their intricate writing, layering and structures. 'Where Wildness Grows' is a lush and urgent sophomore record, and a giant leap forward for the band.
Review: When Fernando Corona's era-defining debut album "Martes" in 2002 it managed to gain plaudits and accolades from almost every end of the cultural spectrum, appearing at the top of numerous end-of-year lists and even managing to get a slot on BBC2's revered/mocked (delete were applicable) Late Review programme. Of course, it was never going to be an easy album to follow, so it's reassuring to see that Murcof's sound has folded itself inwardly instead of attempting to straddle altogether different sounds. Taking orchestral structures and incorporating layers of thrumming instrumentation and mournful strings to top it all off, Murcof has sculpted a sound which is immediately recognisable as his own despite consisting of a well worn selection-box of elements. Instilling songs such as "Recuerdos" and "Rios" with the kind of grandstanding scope that normally require 10,000 strings and your local rent-a-philharmonic, Corona can seemingly conjure a tarnished grandeur from a muted collection of elements that include razor edged beats, lazy horns and crackling backwashes. Clinical but earthy, 'Remembranza' is a fiercely assured album which will enrapture his existing fans whilst winning over those new to his sound. Highly Recommended.
Review: Earlier this year, Italian electronica veterans Fabrizio and Marco D'Arcangelo returned to action with a 12" on Happy Skull that marked their first new material for three years. We're told there's more to come, but here they revisit their past, delivering a compilation that includes their sought-after 1996 debut EP for Rephlex in its entirety, plus two fresh cuts (opener "Main Theme" and closer "Wane (Reprise)" and a swathe of tracks recorded in the late '90s for an aborted follow-up to their lauded first 12". Heavily influenced by Aphex Twin, industrial techno, twisted ambient and what would later become known as "Braindance", the material remains breathlessly imaginative and otherworldly all these years on. If anything, it's a master class in cutting edge electronica.
Review: Since defining the band's hybrid rock-rave sound with 1994's "Music For The Jilted Generation" and 1997's "The Fat of the Land", Prodigy main man Liam Howlett has largely stuck to his guns. He is, after all, incredibly good at what he does, and the formula has given us a string of bombastic, full-throttle singles and albums that have lasted the test of time. "No Tourists", Howlett and company's first full-length in three years, offers plenty of trademark festival-friendly workouts, hard-wired dancefloor smashers and fuzzy, all-action cuts. Judged on these terms, it's a triumph. Fans of the band's trademark brand of slamming sonic hedonism will love it.