With a diverse sound established off some fine drops on Critical, Warm Communications and Blu Mar Ten Music, its little surprise that Stray's 2013 Matchsticks bow on Exit proved so damn popular with the D&B heads. A return to Exit is most welcome then, and the four tracks on this Chatterbox EP demonstrate Jonathan Fogel's getting to the point where his productions as Stray are becoming untouchable! "Award Tour" is perhaps the straightest cut here, little to do with the Tribe classic of the same name but a righteous dancefloor stepper in its own right and Stray takes it in some interesting directions from here. "Eazy Boy" is marauding, bass heavy hip hop replete with massacred pitched vocals, whilst the deftly edited, classic jungle vibes of the title track ensure it's possibly the highlight of this release. You can easily visualise D Bridge pulling for the final track "Fragile" so it's little surprise to hear he's already been supporting this release along with the likes of Om Unit and Machine Drum.
Our favourite bassboy Fantastic Mr Fox returns to London's Black Acre label with a superb head-nodding two-tracker. With releases on some of the UK's most respected dance imprints, including the ever-impressive Hemlock Recordings, Mr Fox has his own way of doing things - rough, glitchy house-tinged bombs coated in a thick layer of London grime. "On My Own" features the sensual vocals of Denai Moore over a slow and sparse arrangement of kicks and grizzly low-end. It's an end of the night kind of tune, a meditative sway of beats and licks to lift your mind and soul. "Broke" is somewhat more geared-up and ripe for the swaggerin' - nutty 808 cowbells ride incessantly over chopped vocal samples and stumbling kick-drums. Stick that one in the dance and see what happens...
Along with Raime, Dalhous are one of the few constant acts on the ever shifting Blackest Ever Black. Originally debuting on the label as Young Hunting in 2011, the duo of Marc Dall and Alex Ander moved from a soundtrack-inspired sound to a more fractured, sample-based electronic palette when they re-emerged as Dalhous at the tail end of 2012. After delivering a fine and rather under-appreciated debut album last year, Dalhous now return with Visibility Is A Trap, and it's seemingly the solo concern of Dall now. Featuring four new originals written and produced by Dall that reflect his "continued interest in the language and imagery of self-help, R.D. Laing and the anti-psychiatry movement", this EP shows a further progression in the Dalhous sound. Karl O'Connor returns for one of his irregular BEB appearances with a Regis remix of "He Was Human And Belonged With Humans" from last year's aforementioned LP.
Even by the standards of celebrated experimentalist Jan Jelinek, this is a fabulously enticing project. It sees Jelinek don his Farben guise to remodel, rework and remix the work of similarly leftfield sound collage artist Dennis Busch, AKA James Din A4. The resultant 10 tracks are as intriguing and entertaining as you'd expect, with Jelinek putting his own sludgy 4/4 twist and wonky electronic stamp on Busch's dense field recordings and glitchy concoctions. Highlights come thick and fast, from the organ-laden off-kilter swing of "Kader Dolls" and chiming oddness of "Powerbaum", to the smack-jazz soundscape of "Rettung" and hypnotic, experimental techno bump of "Krieghelm Hundewasser".
After making a splash with a release on Granholme, Kloke is back to deliver more of that off-kilter deep business for the ever-strengthening Styles Upon Styles crew. "Deep City" heads up the release with an engrossing audio bath of pads, brushed beats and aquatic creatures, before the release takes a turn into ever more winsome pastures. The focus is very much on washed out, tape-frayed sonics, with a healthy dose of mysticism woven into the languid beats and haunting synths, but it's not all completely ambient. "Flood" lays down a chunkier line in drum patterns and arpeggios, while "Unlearning" nestles itself in a dystopian half-step grime conflux that comes off sounding unique and utterly beguiling.
Breaking out of his musical (comfort) zone and touring schedule as one half of Kompakt Records stars Walls, a deeper side to Alessio Natalizia's music oeuvre was shown on the excellent Not Waving debut, Umwelt, before then going on to compile the killer "Mutazione" compilation of Italian New Wave 1980-1988 for Strut Records. Spanning 9 tracks Human Capabilities takes the sound of Umwelt and the subsequent super limited cassette only "reinterpretations" of Redacted and mixes harder percussive tracks alongside explorations of melody through ambient pieces. On titles Mathematical Man, Double Blind and Defensive Function, industrial and kosmische percussion is pushed to the fore, while Power Source Above Beam Line is the closest thing to a club track Alessio has produced outside of Walls. However, it's the more melodic Future Rain, Etosha Pan Aderci and the closing Satie homage, Conscious/Subliminal that a new side to the project can be heard. Having been named after a This Heat song, Not Waving is developing beyond that to go as far as the album title suggests.
Shooting the footwork blueprint into the ether, DJ Diamond returns to his world-beating 2011 LP Flight Muzik with this extended Japanese release that features additional offcuts from his time spent working with Planet Mu. While the appeal of footwork and juke in the UK has largely been for the futuristic qualities of the drum patterns and tempos, Diamond's approach truly builds on this potential by shearing away the necessary danceability of the music to wind up with a bugged out electronica that shimmers with the kind of production flair you might expect of Prefuse 73 working at hyped up tempos. With some choice tracks from the Bangs & Works compilations included here, there's plenty for the DJ Diamond completists to be digging into on this re-release.
Brett Naucke, otherwise known as Catholic Tapes boss or Face Worker in his less docile moods, is simply a great electronic artist form the States and it's no wonder that Spectrum Spools, the label renowned for picking up on people like Container and more recently reissuing the Aquaplano Sessions by Donato Dozzy and Neel, have picked him up for an LP. We wouldn't really call it noise but it's not exactly ambient, rather, a beautiful eight tracks of sonic experimentation. "Luau" is one of our favourites, with its glitchy shreds of sound skipping hastily into a rickety groove, but the whole damn work is outstanding and works gorgeously as a whole piece of music. Spectrum Spools have done it again - class!
Given the artists assembled to rework Blondes when their debut album was released two years ago, it's unsurprising that this EP of remixes is of a similarly high standard. Of particular interest is Huerco S's version of "Wire", which delivers a clanking, murky, industrial and frankly chilling ten-minute trip into fuzzy techno territory. Almost as impressive are the versions of the same track by Function (deep, spacey techno) and Claro Intelecto, who surprises by delivering an intricate, organic-sounding rub full of winding chords and melancholic intent. As if that lot wasn't enough, there's also a great deep house-meets-dub house revision of "Swisher" by Simian Mobile Disco.
Pink Skull have released on some of the US' most cutting-edge labels, including Throne Of Blood and Rvng Int'l, and this latest LP on Metal Postcard is both daring and inherently different. It may be a cliche to say so, but Pink Skull's devious soundscapes are truly bizarre in the best sense of the word. Conceptualising the release around a mixed pool of flavours, the artist manages to convey an organic feeling, both in sound and texture. "Vanilla", for example, is dense and fluttering, whereas "Orange" is more rigid in structure and sounds like the soundtrack to one of the Alien films. In a sense, this feels like musical synaesthesia, where Pink Skull translates the tastes of the world into tones and melodies. Utterly compelling and warmly recommended...