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Reviewed this week
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It would be fair to called Joined Ends, Oliver Thomas Johnson's second album under his familiar Dorian Concept alias, "long-promised". It was being touted for release back in 2011, soon after he signed with Ninja Tune. Interestingly, it's a very different beast to his 2009 debut album, When Planets Explode, and the club-friendly singles that followed. A veritable technicolour blast of warm chords, shimmering synthesizer melodies, dream-pop vocals and skittering low-end rhythms, Joined Ends ripples with unfussy positivity. It's far from a straightforward set - Johnson is too imaginative a producer for that - but it certainly has a singular vision. It may not be the album we were expecting, but it's an impressive set nonetheless.
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Blackest Ever Black's unwavering commitment to gracing 2014 with some of the most distinct sounds continues apace as their latest long player sees the return of William Bennett's Cut Hands project. Entitled Festival Of The Dead, this new album feels like the next logical progression in the Cut Hands sound, with the label describing it as "most potent distillation yet" of Bennett's "malign percussive energy". If you checked lead track "The Claw" which was made available to stream when BEB first announced the album, you will no doubt have an idea of what to expect but this relentless, bracing approach shown there is not the only card played by Bennett across the album. Indeed it's the moments where the sonics get twisted and chewed up (such as the suitably named "Parataxic Distortion") that prove most memorable.
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Comprised of two brothers who worked on their music in relative solitude, Woo is one of those cult offerings in the unclassifiable junction between all kinds of music that Emotional Rescue thrives on reissuing. There is a very sweet natured soul murmuring away at the core of this remastered LP, but never does it feel saccharine (thanks no doubt to the resoundingly lo-fi nature of the production). With its dreamlike repetitive mantras and more fleeting, fluttering elements, there is something quite beguiling and meditative about the sound of Woo, whether in their more tangible acoustic guitar moments or their most light and airy synth jams, but what comes through the most is the overwhelming romance of the music.
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After the meteoric impact of his self-released singles and spots on Hessle Audio, Power Vacuum and Bleep, the electronic music world has been waiting patiently for TJ Hertz to step up and share a wider vista of his sound world. This debut LP for PAN does not disappoint, channelling the electronica quality of his most crushing club music and giving it a chance to roam that bit more freely. The beats still hit hard on the likes of "Ratchet", but that's not their only purpose. With sound design and general production fireworks at the forefront, whether you can dance to this or not is unimportant; what matters is how completely edge-of-your-seat thrilling it is to listen to, from every space age sweep to each grubby reverb impulse. We always knew he had it in him, and Objekt has more than delivered on that promise.
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Hailing from the Netherlands, Animal are a duo who produces soulful indie-tronica by "crushing refined synths with acoustic and electronic samples". And to think most people just play their instruments, how very passe. Intended to tell a story about the paradox between loneliness and light, the Lights EP contains four stunningly produced tracks: the eerie, Thomas Newman-esque piano lament of "Intro", the ghostly whispers of "Lights", the scattered, fuzzy shuffle of "Falling Down" and the enchanting, almost conventional, downtempo synth ballad of "Spotless Mind". Ice cool.
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Finally, a reissue of Boards Of Canada's seminal Hi Scores LP from 1996! Along with the likes of Aphex Twin, LFO and Squarepusher, Boards of Canada have helped to define how we see electronic music today, and Hi Scores is arguably their most complete when it comes to the dancefloor. The title track is a twisted, floaty bundle of breaks and beats, but it doesn't end there. Tracks like "Nlogax" are inherently Detroitian in nature thanks to the bleepy drum machines; all we can say is that if you haven't gripped this album yet, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to cop it now.
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Boxcutter returns to his own Kinnego imprint with two dreamy departures... "Retina Grains" salutes jungle's softest sentiments. Big splashy cymbals and jazz-sprinkled keys, if you can image the results of a collaboration between Squarepusher and Bukem, you wouldn't be far off. "Travel By Dragonfly", meanwhile, is a much slower, strutting affair. The main focus on the majestic web of interwoven harp, string and wooden block elements, but the groove is carried by a solid hip-hop sentiment making it just as ideal for dancefloors as it is headphones.
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New to Sahko and releasing in general, Finnish band Modern Feelings are here to send your head spinning in a whirlwind of free jazz and noise. Their debut album was purportedly recorded along to an inspirational soundtrack of muzak, giving rise to this polar opposite melee of tumbledown drums, strangled guitars and every other possible sound source that can be thrown in the arrhythmic blender. Within this chaos comes a delicacy and dexterity that may be applied to each individual player on their own insular journey rather than the band as a cohesive whole, but somewhere in the mix something magic is created. With the noisier elements moving away from the band dynamic to a more electronic focus and then moving back to a more grounded instrumental foundation, there is quite a range of frequencies expressed on Modern Feelings, but they're unified in their power to confound.
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The long-dormant Danish trio is back with a new LP, their first since 2001. A lot has happened since then, but Anders Remmer, Thomas Knak and Jesper Skaaning have certainly not stopped making the very best electro and IDM. Morr Music have made sure that there is electro of every shape and size within, from the gentile waves of tracks like "Fair", to more moody beat sculptures like "Camphor". It's an electronic album that should be heard all together. We're glad to see these guys back, and we want more!
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Comprised of spare material from his recent Human Voice long player, Dntel offers a few more gems of emotive electro up to Leaving Records for a cassette and digital release that should fill his fans boots comfortably. "Enid" comes on in warm swathes with its gently pitch-bending synth lines and relaxed funk, while "Unease" inhabits a more hectic albeit beatless space made up of darting and whirring arpeggios moving at a peppy pace. There's more angular house styles at work on "Boredom" as it moves from paranoid rubber tone squeal to smooth pad and back again, and there's even something approaching footwork in the snagging groove of "Pepper Shake", proving that Dntel can nail a whole spread of styles and make them his own.
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Drifting into earshot on Cleaning Tapes with this concise single of elegiac beauty, S Maharba brings a laconic indie twang to ambient electronic music that finds shoegaze string plucks drowning in hazy, distant processing amongst all kinds of fuzzy sonic artefacts. It's overall a warm and friendly experience, and it's well shaped out despite the large swathes of pads and drones, with "Memorial" in particular doing a fine job of cradling your ears with its dulcet tones. "For Someone" takes a more defined path with its carefully orchestrated melodic swells. There is a more oppressive feel to "Her Who Sang To Me", while "Michelle" works around a more discernible beat and something approaching a song structure, but still the detail makes the music soar.