Review: Admas' debut album, Sons of Ethopia, is probably best known for "Kalatashew Waga", a polyrhythm-fuelled chunk of melodious synthesizer funk that was memorably remixed by Andras Fox back in 2015. Here, the in-demand album gets an official reissue for the first time since it first appeared on the obscure African Heritage Records label way back in 1984. The band's unique blend of styles and instruments - think synthesizer-heavy instrumental boogie, electronic Afro-beat, dewy-eyed AOR soul and cheery highlife - remains as alluring and surprising as ever. Given that original copies are almost impossible to find, this is a much-needed reissue.
Review: Luke Vibert is an ever green sonic inventor who can do whatever he pleases with sound. The latest in a long line of projects with Hypercolour and its associated labels is another gem: Rave Hop mixes up downtempo beats, hip hop and r&b with twisted electronics, rave and techno. It's something that could go horribly wrong in the hands of a lesser producer, but here the fusions are amazingly seamless. "No Competition" is a classic era boom bap tune with lush piano chords, "Styles" sounds like a reworked Slick Rick tune with huge breakbeats and "All Night" is as smooth as silk thanks to a buttery vocals and long legged drums that sink you in deep.
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: In 2018, the idea was introduced by Jeff Mills to address the lack of artistic collaborations within and from the city of Detroit/USA. The city had always been an engine of new innovative ideas related to music, art, dance, poetry and all other arts. It was thought of as a way to demonstrate the commonality people possess from various art forms and that by mixing ideas visions and perspectives together are might produce unexpected and often provocative results.
The project started when Mills reached out to one of Detroit Techno's founder and legendary DJ/Producer Eddie Fowlkes. Though the two are known and connected to Detroit Techno and knew each other for decades, they never worked together so the first few meetings and conversations were marked with finding all the common links that have built both of their careers. During this time, Mills wanted to find a third person for the project, one that was from Detroit, but not a musician. His idea and theory was that by engaging two other creative thinkers would most likely produce something unique as emotions would become linked together to find that common, but higher level. While browsing the web, Mills discovered a post that featured the Detroit-born poet Jessica Care Moore. Struck by her words and the energy she mastered to say them, Mills knew immediately that she would be the perfect artist to approach for this creative venture. As with most artists that grew up in Detroit, they immediately opened up the links in their past, present and future outlook. He presented the case and explained to her how he thought it might work. She liked the idea and agree to join.
THE CRYSTAL CITY IS ALIVE. (A phrase extracted from Moore's words), puts the Detroit, America and the World on notice. The alarm has sounded and it is now time to mobilize all creative units to the frontline.
Review: Jim Brooks, the artist formerly known as King of Woolworths, has delivered some of his best work since first donning The Advisory Circle alias in the mid-2000s. Arguably his greatest single album under the moniker - so far, at least - is "Ways of Seeing", an unashamedly synthesizer-heavy 2018 set produced in tribute to heavily electronic library music of the late 1970s and early '80s. As this tasty gold vinyl reissue proves, there's a definite "Open University meets Pages From Ceefax" feel to some of the material, but that's no bad thing. The key to the album's success is undoubtedly Brooks' ability to eke every last drop of emotion from his machines, combining spacey chords, ear-catching melodies, atmospheric electronic textures and lo-fi drum machine rhythms to uniformly impressive effect.
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: Few people have done as much to shape house music as Grammy winner Louie Vega. His next project finds him on an executive producer role as he assembles a crack team of world class musicians under the Elements of Life banner. With a sound inspired by greats like Stevie Wonder and Cymande, this fantastic record brims with musicality, joy and soul from front to back. The tracks are live sounding, richly percussive, sprinkled with Latin spice and various moods, grooves and tempos. For big hearted DJs and dancers, this is pure gold. Of course guests like Anane, Blaze and Lisa Fischer all help add their own special colour to the picture.
Review: Floridian modern soul band Rivage recorded just one single and a sole album during their early '80s heyday, and both are apparently amongst Athens of the North boss Euan Fryer's favourite records of all time. It makes sense then that he has decided to reissue their album, "Sittin' On It" - an ultra-rare affair from 1981 that is here presented for the first time with an alternative photo cover (apparently the band hated the original cover). There's plenty to get the juices flowing across the eight tracks, with our highlights including "Sha Na Na", a punchy call for "soul for the people" blessed with brilliant horn arrangements, the Clavinet-sporting disco-funk cheeriness of "I Need Your Love", the deliciously celebratory title track and sweet, flute-laden closer "Strung Out On Your Love".
Review: Reissues go one of two ways. Well, OK, maybe three. You're either left blown away by how fresh something sounds, reminded of a special moment in music history and how good an example a record is of that time capsule, or walk away wondering why you thought it was necessary to play, let alone buy, from this particular archive. As you'd hope, listening back to Slow Dive's seminal 'Just For A Day' fits into the second of those conclusions. Yes, soaring rock that seems to foster our dreams and fantasies in walls of power shoegaze does feel like a recollection rather than where we're at today. But my goodness do the epic arrangements and woozy artistry in the songcraft still sound as awesome, grandiose and yet personal as ever. One for the books, for sure.
Review: There's been plenty of online chatter about the confrontational title of Omar-S's latest full-length outing, and arguably not enough focus on the music itself (or the fact that the guest list contains Rick Wilhite, Norm Talley and OB Ignitt for that matter). This is unfortunate, because as usual Alex 'Omar' Smith has hit the spot. The six untitled tracks are impressively varied, with Smith effortlessly moving between 21st century P-funk (track one), cowbell-powered deep house funk (track 2), sparse and synth-heavy acid house hypnotism (track three), disco-house jack (track four), sub-heavy Detroit-meets-Sheffield minimalism (track five) and sunrise-ready dancefloor dreaminess (track six).
Review: Cutting to the chase in an attempt to avoid something cliched like 'what an honour it is to write something on a Joy Division album', it's astounding that 'Closer' has now passed the 40 year mark. Perhaps not as immediate and certainly less familiar to many compared with their 'Unknown Pleasures' debut, in many ways this serves the record well. It's an altogether more experimental beast in terms of song structures and ideas, and as such doesn't feel definitive of a moment but instead timeless. That said, this is still very much a case of perhaps the greatest post punk band of all time delivering a masterpiece difficult second LP, with audible hallmarks of act and era. From opener, 'Atrocity Exhibition', through the whispered and suppressed 'Heart & Soul' and onto the beguiling 'Decades', 'Closer' makes it painfully clear that had circumstances been less tragic Joy Division would likely have continued to deliver for many more years than fate allowed.
Review: Having sold out in record time a couple of months back, Phil Mison's latest album as Cantoma - an all-star affair featuring a wealth of guest vocalists and musicians - has been rapidly reissued, this time with a colour insert. Musically, "Into Daylight" is sweet and soft-focused, with the Balearic veteran prioritising seductively shuffling samba beats, dewy-eyed vocals, gentle melodies, dubby basslines and tactile instrumentation (think meandering trumpet solos, acoustic guitars, flutes, twinkling Rhodes solos and Pat Metheny style jazz guitar). It's the kind of album that warms you like a hug, soothing mind and body whilst providing enough slow-motion excitement to reward repeat listens.
Review: The world was very different in 1992, but some of the greatest musical moments from that year stand the test of time. Just take Polly Jean Harvey's staggering debut - the making of a musical icon and one of the era's finest examples of songwriting. It still sounds exceptional and its messages still resonate, lifting the woke-washed veil of our age in one fell swoop, laying bare the fact that many toxic attitudes prevail. It's rock music, but that's hardly the point. What matters isn't so much what's being played, but how and what's being said. Delivered with an air of Pixies and nod to Patti Smith, written in the wake of a relationship imploding, our introduction to Harvey remains vital as ever. A refusal to accept simplistic, patriarchal views of womanhood and femininity, or indeed simplistic patriarchal views of anything, the record's razor sharp observations, cunning wit and deft ability to reference but feel original is remarkable.
Review: Tin Machine II is the second and final studio album by Tin Machine. It was rebased in 1991 by Victory Music and marked the last time Bowie fronted and toured with the band. After this he focused on his solo career but the album quietly, in the background, continued to pick up fans, praise and an increasing reputation. It's often cited as one of the best lost albums of the last millennium and is packed with strong tracks that power along on big, angular guitars with Bowie's vocals soaring up top. This is the first time the record has been on vinyl since its initial rase and comes on limited edition coloured wax.
Street Dreams (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (2:12)
One More Time (3:10)
1989 (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (3:25)
Toulouse (feat Miguel Atwood Ferguson) (2:48)
Big Rick (3:29)
Save Me (feat Mach Hommy) (5:57)
Mr Wu (3:37)
Hold On (feat Lauren Faith) (3:12)
Early Prayer (5:02)
Review: Given that keyboardist and producer Kamaal Williams' 2018 debut album "The Return" was such a rip-roaring success critically and commercially, hopes are naturally sky-high for this delayed sequel. Happily, we can confirm that Williams has arguably excelled himself on "Wu Hen", once again blurring the boundaries between jazz-funk, seductive downtempo grooves, hazy space jazz, deep house influenced dancefloor workouts (see "Mr Wu", whose title references his other artistic alias, Henry Wu) and soft-focus soul - all with the assistance of an expanded line-up of guest musicians and vocalists. Perhaps the biggest impact is made by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, a composer whose string arrangements add an ear-catching new dimension to Williams work. Stunning stuff all told.
Review: Smoked-out Texan psych troupe Khruangbin have picked a pretty apt moment to release this recording of their live show at Villain, Brooklyn. For starters, it's summer 2020, and if it weren't for a global pandemic there's a good chance a few of us would be recovering from the night before to a late-afternoon, or better yet early-evening performance from this lot at some festival or other. Secondly, because of said health crisis, we're all starved of the unique qualities that come from a band playing in the flesh. Dinner is definitely served here, then, via generous helpings of Laura Lee's bass-laden grooves and gorgeous, intoxicatingly airy vocal delivery. First laid down in 2018, when Khruangbin were touring in support of their second album, while 'Con Todo El Mundo' provides the majority of musical moments here, really 'Live At Villain' is a self-contained record - an hour or so of the band's typically magical and engrossing stage stuff, captured for keeps.
Review: By the time he recorded "Brazilian Dorian Dream" in 1976, Brazilian composer, musician, producer and bandleader Manfedo Fest had already worked on countless bossa-nova, samba and jazz albums, both in the United States and his native Brazil. Yet the album, which Far Out has now reissued, is like nothing else he recorded before or after - and not just because it was based on "the principle of the modal diatonic scales of the Dorian mode". Musically, it's deliciously vibrant and colourful, combining elements of his native Brazilian samba and bossa-nova with Azymuth style jazz-funk, American jazz-fusion, and futuristic, then cutting edge synthesizer sounds. Above all, though, the album strikes a near perfect balance between funkiness and the sweet sunniness that defines some of the greatest Brazilian music.
Review: 'Mordechai is another blissed-out record from Texan party-chill-psyche trio Khruangbin. It's also among the outfit's most defined and driven, a smooth, sticky hot funk odyssey made for hazy afternoon soirees. Leader Laura Lee is, as ever, unfathomably siren-like on vocals, her bass grooves aiding the process of seduction no end. Even at the most upbeat and anthemic, 'Time (You and I)', it's hard not to feel woozy and intoxicated by the pared-back breaks and guitar lick combination. Dance floor ammo for sure, as is Pelota. Overall, though, it's an album best savoured slowly, allowing you to fully appreciate every lackadaisical moment of opiate goodness, with tracks such as 'Father Bird, Mother Bird', 'One To Remember' and 'Shida' summoning stunning sticky, heavy, deep atmospheres.
Review: This record is the first time PJ Harvey's demos for her 1992 debut album Dry have been put out on a standalone album. The rough edge nature of the recordings lends them plenty of extra rawness and character, meaning the low-slung guitar poems the artist serves up sound even more direct. As well as previously unseen photos by Maria Mochnacz, the record comes with brand new artwork, so is a real must for Harvey fans. This release marks the first in a planned series of reissues from UMC/Island and Beggars that will see all PJ Harvey's albums reissued with plenty more demos.
Peter Huntingdale - "Rocking You Eternally" (3:40)
Christine Lewin - "Juicy Fruit" (3:56)
Pure Silk - "Don't Let Love Get You Down" (4:24)
Al Charles - "Outstanding" (5:51)
Karen Dixon - "I Want To Be Free" (6:06)
George Posse - "Touch A Four Leaf Clover" (feat Toyin Adekale) (4:24)
Misses Misty - "Mellow Mellow Ride On" (8:39)
Trevor Hartley - "The Look In Your Eyes" (4:48)
Family Love - "Do Me Baby" (5:20)
Michael Prophet - "Body Fusion" (3:43)
Michael Gordon - "What You Won't Do For Love" (4:52)
Simplicity - "For The Love Of You" (5:35)
Review: Edinburgh's Athens Of The North label is endlessly flawless and this time around they pull together the special lovers rock covers they put out at the end of last year onto a superbly strong 12 track compilation. It arrives just in time for the warmer months and has been curated by Sam Don and overseen by label boss Euan Fryer. Standouts include Christine Lewin's lush take on the heavily sampled "Juicy Fruit" while the lo-fi bliss of Al Charles's "Outstanding" is another one to swell the heart and sooth the soul. For more sentimental moments check Family Love's "Do Me Baby." Overall, though, this is a must buy.