Reviewed this week
Berlin retro electronics from synth geniuses Thorsten Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss. Synthwaves pays homage to the masters of the past, yet feels fresh and enchanting. Rich, neon-lit patterns are modulated and mutated with precision into several post cosmic sounds to drift to. During two intense weeks in the capital, Quaeschning and Schnauss (both students of the great, late maestro Edgar Froese) are said to have locked themselves in a studio full of vintage synthesizers, analogue sequencers and drum machines and here are the impressive results. These tracks are so evocative and life affirming as you'd expect given the credentials of these producers: in particular the dreampop and nu-gaze prince Schnauss' contribution. As with the finest Tangerine Dream soundtracks, it's the kind of music that paints vivid pictures on the canvas of the listeners mind.
Last year, Mat Chiavaroli popped up on Quintessentials with his first EP since 2012, a collection of tasty deep house cuts titled Swan. It turns out that the well-received EP was merely a taster for No Stranger To Madness, a debut album almost six years in the making. While there occasional downtempo moments - see the Balearic ambience of opener "Introduzione", gentle beatdown grooves of "Storia Losca" and smoky R&B shuffle of P-Lok hook-up "Latexxxnite Enemy" - for the most part the material is groovy and club-ready, with Chiavaroli drawing on all manner of classic U.S deep house tropes. Highlights include the sun-kissed jazziness of "Whoja Vu" and the Chez Damier style goodness of "Jeep Ridaz".
Here's a glorious selection of 12 bright and sun-drenched moments destined to be heard daily at the world's coolest beach clubs this summer and inevitably soundtracking a million gorgeous sunsets in Ibiza. This edition features exclusives aplenty. There are two album-only tracks; Tommy Awards gets an Ambient remix from Balearic's Jim Breese. Then The Madrigal blasts off with 'Ride To The Moon,' a completely unique track that's refreshing to hear. Three tracks were previously unavailable digitally, including the debut from Nancy Noise, Olefonken's spacey remix of Hubbabubbaklubb, and Steve Cobby's tropical-jazz remix of Penelope Antena's Tradewinds. Other highlights include Cantoma's 'Abando,' plus an incredible, modern interpretation of the 80's classic Southern Freeez from Paul Murphy. BALEARIC 3 captures the ineffable spirit of Ibiza - perfectly accompanying that unique moment when the golden sun meets the gleaming sea. It's destined to be a classic, go-to album you'll reach for again and again.
Irishman Peter Power has become quite a well known figure in Berlin since moving there several years ago and has been one of the figures behind some of the city's now legendary haunts like Kleine Reise (RIP) and the successful Loftus Hall/Bertrams: which has had a great run thus far too. Now the man behind the Ufordia imprint returns with his second outing on Thomas Von Party's Multi Culti, which itself has also made the move to the German capital. Power delves deep into the exotic here, borrowing heavily from African music and getting very atmospheric and esoteric in the process. The life affirming raindance of "Adama Waro" (original mix) is certainly geared for some moments of truth on the dancefloor. Equally spiritual is the traditional percussion based journey of "Mori Baka" (original mix). There's some great remixes by label manager Dreems and Bucharest duo Khidja: the latter's contributions which shine the most, particularly on their balearica infused/Second Summer of Love sounding remix of "Dansakoni".
Over the course of the last decade, dub-soaked musical fusionist Lord Echo has delivered a string of fine releases, including two top-notch albums. Given his fine track record, it's perhaps unsurprising that Soundway has snapped up the Kiwi producer's third full-length excursion, Harmonies. It features contributions from a posse of guest collaborators - Tony Laing of Fat Freddy's Drop and regular studio buddy Mara TK included - and giddily infuses reggae and rocksteady with disco, Afro-soul, Afro-funk, Afro-beat, spiritual jazz and, more surprisingly, techno. It's a hugely vibrant and entertaining set, all told, offering a good balance between dancefloor vibrations and more laidback concoctions.
Worlds collide as the iconic Penguin Cafe and Japanese producer Cornelius join forces for this four-track Umbrella EP. The pair crossed paths in 2012 when Penguin Cafe were touring in Japan and Cornelius' band Saryu Saryu supported them in Tokyo. Since then they decided to seize the opportunity to work together and have reworked and reimagined existing tracks of their own, alongside two new Penguin Cafe songs. penguin Cafe was founded by Arthur Jeffes in 2009, bringing together a diverse and disparate group of musicians from the likes of Suede, Gorillaz and Razorlight, initially to perform his father Simon Jeffes' legacy of world renowned Penguin Cafe Orchestra music, ten years after his untimely death in 1997. Arthur, a composer in his own right, quickly began to create new and unique genre-defying music, with the spellbinding philosophy of the Penguin Cafe always in his mind. The project has evolved into something at the hands of Arthur who utilises many different instruments and influences including elements of African, Venezuelan, Brazilian, bluegrass, classical, avant-garde and minimalist music.
Two Journeys ("Mar Y Tierra"/"Welcome Woodi") by Feathered Sun which is comprised of Berlin legends Acid Pauli, Christopher Schwarzwalder,, NU and the inimitable Raz Ohara. Bringing to mind shores of a deep blue sea, mountain tops with blinding hats and wrapped up greenery in recurring patterns. Three places, two journeys, heavenly lit in gentle warmth by the Feathered Sun. A collaboration of impressive beauty and beautiful impressions. They take us, you, me, Luise by the hand to paint a picture of shifting shapes and scenery.
Denmark's Kenneth Bager is a pioneer and record hunter in addition to label owner of Music For Dreams. Through his legendary Club Coma and subsequent stints on Danish National Radio, he has been on air for four decades promoting dance music. The label started out as a lounge/chill-out label but has since evolved into an entity with no musical boundaries. Bager has also organised the Music For Dreams Festival, in addition to his residency at Cafe Mambo in Ibiza: where 13 Music For Dreams Sunday Events were being held thus far. On the label's latest compilation, Music For Mindfulness, there's so much great music and it's hard to pick just a few highlights, but here goes: Copenhagen local The Swan And The Lake's "Clouds Over Osterbro" is absolutely lush and dreamy, Bager himself delivers an ambient instrumental mix of Ruf Dug's "Dominica!", while pianist Troels Hammer makes several appearances here, but "Cold Hawaii" is his finest moment.
The Invisible Inc label is still up there among our choice label of the last year or so, and that's because there isn't one release - whether disco or leftfield - that we haven't enjoyed thoroughly. We love labels like this. Labels which don't pidgeon-hole themselves in any genres or subgenres and, instead, retain a single-minded thread across all the different styles of music that they offer. The Komodo Kolektif debuts here with a mighty little three-tracker, starting with the oddball, tropical house slant of "Night Of The Leyak", which falls neatly into the comparatively looser and more daring amalgamation of sounds heard on "Binaural Bintaro". "Djakarta 3001" is the perfect way to bring this total TIP of an EP to a close - wondrous synth bleeps flutter longingly over a dubby tribal percussion that makes for the perfect opening tool. Recommended!!
Emanating from late 80s Belgium, and originally released by seminal New Beat label Antler Records, here we have a welcome re-release of Chayell's 1987 classic "Beach", courtesy of Isle Of Jura. The tune has aged like a fine wine - a brooding slo-mo dark groove gives way to melancholic tropical synths and raunchy dialogue. For those that like the Miami-Vice-drug-bust-music element more, there's a dubby spaced out version on the digital flipside in shape of "Tropic". From the legendary Boccaccio nightclub to the Balearic Isles, this tune was a classic then and still is now.
The solo project of multi-instrumentalist and producer Joe Acheson, Hidden Orchestra's third album "Dawn Chorus" is centred on a collection of birdsong and other field recordings made around the UK and further afield. These ten tracks not only feature recordings made from around the world, but various international instruments too, including harp, glockenspiel, Turkish mey, clarinet and cello. The album's release was recently teased with the remarkable "Still" and now we have nine more haunting and evocative cinematics fusions of sparse drones, rolling and loose drums and melancholic instrumentation and of course, those harmonious birds.
The Swan & The Lake is the solo project of Danish musician Emil Svane Breum, who appears again for Kenneth Bager's brilliant Music For Dreams imprint. Fans of modern ambient by the likes of Nil Frahm and The Erased Tapes family of artists will be all over this guy's sound. Starting off with the deep/jazzy lounge chillout business of the title track, the lush soundscape inflected with classical undertones on "Wake Up" is a real treat and then closing out the EP with "Soft Brainfreeze" which features Line Emilie Hougaard. This ambient remix is a rich tapestry of elements not limited to evocative strings, sultry Rhodes piano, dreamy xylophones and all captured in one breathtaking arrangement.
Californian Scott's Gilmore's debut is reminiscent of pre 'Moon Safari' Air according to International Feel, run by electronic music scene veteran Mark Barrott. A wonderful concoction of yard sale instrumentation, Walker Brothers style guitar, offbeat refrains and self made synthesizers. This was created with a truly different sense of perspective, from a musician seeming to exist outside of time and the scene. It's a travelogue of the timeless and gently obscure, a bunch of rarities all in one place, at one time, woven together with an accomplished sense of harmony, counterpoint and vision. A beautiful album from start to finish.
S-tone Inc. returns with Superbacana and contains four tracks with a funky Brazilian flavour. Inspired by the Black Rio sound that represents the encounter between samba and American soul funk music since the '70s. The title track is a mid-tempo jam that could be considered 'soul: brazuca style' but with a modern touch. That one features the spaced-out vocals of Toco, Paola Silva and Luzia Dvorek. Fabrizio Bernasconi also plays a fantastic groovy solo on Fender Rhodes too. There's also a handy dub version of this track with an outstanding Marquinho Baboo performance on percussion. Then "Zona Norte" with Paola Silva on backing vocals is a funky-disco jam and as the title suggests: it names all the main quarters of the north side of Rio de Janeiro and is a perfect example of the Brazilian attitude to disco-funk. "Zuzu" closes the record and is inspired by Guimaraes' disco groove. Featuring 4Maree: a vocal ensemble from Sao Paulo that includes Bruno Morais and Kika with Toco and Luzia Dvorek. Bass, guitar and Wurlitzer are all performed by Stefano Tirone, who's also responsible for this EP's recording and production process and is the writer with Toco of the three tracks
In the wake of the abortive cults of the Supreme Being and the Goddess of Reason, nationalism in its multifarious guises - from Bonaparte's Caesarism to the gamut of national socialisms - came to the fore as the necessary but increasingly inadequate ideology of the State (whether the State of private and monopolistic capitalism or the State of capitalism in its socialized form). Indeed, the fall of Napoleon marked the end of any prospect of reinstituting a unitary myth founded on empire, on the prestige of arms or on the mystique of territorial power. Three mesmerising dark ambient house journeys here, courtesy of the mysterious Lore Society on the equally enigmatic Folk Kraft. And then a right curveball in the form of the addictive electro-disco groover "Sun Through Trees".
It's time for Marseilles label Beat Is Murder to present their new label and its first release comes courtesy of Lithuanian duo Roedeers (Nein/Sulk magic). The slow burning indie dance shenanigans of "Choco" features some nasty warbling bass frequencies over its exotic drums that reach near tribal moments: it will appeal to fans of the Multi Culti or Correspondant sound. Parisian minimal house hero Traumer (Desolat/Gettraum) steps up for a surprising remix contribution, which is just as brilliant as expected. Deep and trippy afterhours shenanigans on the Ricardo Villalobos tip to be enjoyed here. Second offering "Shaker" is a slo-mo EBM journey for dark and smoky neon-lit discotheque frequented by neo-goths. The remix up next by Markus Gibb (Rocktothebeat) is a dark journey track on the tech house tip, that's as atmospheric and esoteric as you like it: will appeal more to fans of the Crosstown Rebels or Einmusik sound.
Presenting the new solo album from Aussie singer Penelope Trappes, who many may know as the one half of New York City duo The Golden Filter. In 2016, Trappes rented out a small piano studio in East London for the year and set out to write an introspective ambient album. Inspired by the likes of This Mortal Coil and Scott Walker, she limited the instrumentation to an acoustic piano and effects, which left spaces between where she could expose a lot of emotional vulnerabilities about herself and those she held close. Writing lullabies about being a mother in a dystopian world, with pensive words about swimming against the tide as a female artist in the current musical landscape, she felt free to divulge untold truths that she had never felt comfortable talking about within her music before. For Trappes, this was a truly liberating and empowering process and it certainly is all on display on this marvellous opus.
Gary Caruth's Sad City project has progressively attracted ever more praise, not least since his Shapes In Formation album landed last year. Straddling purest ambient and abstract rhythmical electronica with a unique approach that is all his own, Caruth is returning to Emotional Rescue with a 10" that revisits three of the tracks from Shapes In Formation and magnifies them as the longer form versions they originally were. "Music Removed" was a particularly strong track on the album, and this new extended version lets the pneumatic percussion and soulful vocal croon bleed together in the most captivating of ways. "Patterns" sounds even more elegant in its pagan ambient finery with a longer run time, and "Vexillations" flits between poised static and cascading chimes with the deft touch that has come to define the Sad City sound.
Emotional Response delivers a mini-album of ambient-equatorial enlightenment by Australia's mysterious Tropical Hi-Fi. The final record from an artist appearing on the label's SchleiBen series, this also points to the future. Based somewhere in the far flung Northern Territories, the music of Hi-Fi's pre-incarnation Electric Egypt was first discovered via the note-worthy airwaves of L.A's outstanding Dublab radio station. As the wonderfully diverse internet shows and project's dense, hip-hop inspired collages came to fruition with 2012's Exotica release, a dual awareness and sporadic contact was maintained whenever a signal could be established with Hi-Fi base camp. As the SchleiBen series was formed, the studio-DJ-cut-up-mix of Oceanic Mythology was warmly received as an inspired counterpoint to the dense offering from Don't DJ. These first real solo recordings from the Hi-Fi crew - whoever he/she/they maybe - moves on from the cut'n'paste of Electric Egypt to seek a meditative vision. Ambient, balearic and field recordings are all part of a drifting tropical flavour that encompasses the listener. Music truly inspired by it's surroundings, this is not some music journal, flying in to sample a life and it's sounds, but the real, living entity and it can be heard deep across the 8 short pieces. None is more typified than Tahiti Blue, where fellow traveller Mike Cooper layers his ubiquitous steel blues over simple, lilting drums. Enjoy.
American songstress Dani Siciliano is house pioneer Matthew Herbert's longtime collaborator, wife and muse. In 2016, she released her self titled album which was co-produced by Gael Rakotondrabe on French imprint Circus Company. Here come some remixes from the album. David Okumu from Austrian band The Invisible hands in a fine rendition of "Sincerely" that goes minimal-pop by way of electronica, Sturm & Drang give "Gone Are Those Days" a deep and slinky tech house remix and finally the Bay Area prankster Dave Aju gives the track another go: his version going for some some dark minimal house flavour that's well suited to the afterhours.
Top Labels
Music For Dreams US
Wax N Soul Germany
K7 Germany
Eighteenth Street Lounge Music US