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Reviewed this week
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On 2012's Luxury Problems, Andy Stott delivered his most rewarding work yet - an impeccable exploration of the twin attractions of lightness and darkness that was near impossible to pigeonhole. Faith In Strangers, that album's belated follow-up, is similarly minded. Peppered with audible references to his many inspirations - field recordings, found sounds, dub techno, IDM, ambient, post-dubstep and trip-hop, in particular - it's a set that quietly drifts between sludgy dreaminess and pin-sharp late night horror. As such, it's an inspired set, with Stott's use of odd instrumentation and the evocative vocals of Alison Skidmore significantly enhancing the experience.
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Earlier this year Houndstooth regulars Akkord released the HTH020 EP, in which the duo took their bass-heavy sound to darker, more industrial places. It's something explored more explicitly on this remix package, which may well have two of the year's most radical tracks revisions. Tri Angle artist The Haxan Cloak delivers the epic 10-minute "Cloud of Witness" remix, taking elements from all four of the original Akkord EP's tracks, and turning them into an unclassifiable behemoth of bass, drone and strobing beats. Vatican Shadow's take on "Greyscale" and "Typeface" is a little more conventional, but nevertheless turns the two tracks into a powerful piece of techno that would demolish a dance floor in the right setting.
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Having already proved himself as a producer to watch with releases on Mr Mitch's Gobstopper Records and Visionist's Lost Codes label, Bloom comes through with this beast of an EP on Crazylegs. Hydraulics is about as apt a title as could be applied to these four tracks, each of which sound like a an orgy of mechanical pistons and grime percussion. Those into the recent work of Mumdance will be right at home here; "Cold Grip", the paranoid siren alerts of "The Menagerie", stripped-back laser and drums combo of "Dark Light" and terrified human breaths and sliced-up synths of "Vessel" come together to make up one of the most downright enjoyable grime releases of the year.
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San Francisco-based artist Brogan Betley has kept quiet over the last few years, but here is returns with a debut LP for Leaving Records - one of the selected labels under the Stones Throw distribution umbrella. Bentley's sound is a dense sonic massage, where intricate soundscapes weave between sunken vocals and spectral electronics. There's a whopping 12 tracks in total, but this LP is meant to be heard in its full form and not as separate pieces. The movement and circularity between each segment is spectacular, and the more beat-led tunes like "Last Light" are beautifully surrounded by the ambience of "No Less" or "The Wolf".
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Berlin duo Duct Tape like to embellish of the truth a little (one of them's called Batsauce), claiming to have both been born on a moon of Saturn. It's also stated that their music is informed by their intergalactic travels! All interesting stuff, considering that the other member, Wynton Kelly Stevenson, is the offspring of the late great (and earth-based) musician Rudy Stevenson. Less We Can features 16 tracks cut from long jams on "cheap 80s keyboards, guitar pedals, a beat machine, a bass guitar, and a cheap microphone", resulting in a suitably spacey listen.
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The music Venezuelan artist Alejandro Ghersi makes as Arca first came to the fore via UNO, the New York label who issued a trio of compelling releases in 2012. Arca's brand of glossy, high grade beat experimentation has seen him go on to work with Kanye West and FKA Twigs as well as release on venerated US indie Hippos In Tanks. An album deal with Mute may seem unexpected yet the UK label have a long and proud tradition of challenging conventions. Entitled Xen, Mute have described the 15 track set as full of "mercurial forms, fluxing unpredictably from smooth to spiked to sweet" and you wont get much of an idea from the soundclips. If you were charmed by the FKA Twigs set this is an album that will get your serotonin bubbling.
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Daniel Lopatin's Software label gives us another intriguing debut album in the shape of Tallesen's Stills Lit Through. The work of Cayman Johnson, a producer and visual artist from New York State's Hudson Valley area who makes what Software describes as "enigmatic, sensual world-building music." As Stills Lit Through demonstrates, it's an apt description. Johnson's woozy, '80s-referencing style has a lot in common with label owner Lopatin's early music as Oneohtrix Point never, though his mix of fractured pop and clipped, futuristic beats sound like Washed Out being put into a mixer with Pearson Sound. Very good stuff once again from the Software camp.
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Swaggering out of the cassette-based hinterland, Angel 1 has already issued forth a selection of choice tapes over the past couple of years, fusing together many a disparate electronic style into a surprisingly cohesive whole. So it is as the mysterious artist possibly known as Colin Fields steps up to 1080p with this wild seven-track ride through scattershot ideas and reference points. There are moments of synth-rich calm with a vintage twist, while elsewhere you may get suckerpunched by splats of jungle breaks wrenched into heavy thudding half-step. The ideas dart around the mix, produced with a charming starkness that seems at odds with the murk of most cassette output, and it makes for a standout release.
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Otherwise known as Norwegian visual and conceptual artist Lars Holdhus, TCF is one of the artists at the forefront of the collision between club genres and more algorhythmic electronic music. An artist interested in code and cryptography, his track titles seem like indecipherable, impersonal numerical strings, and much of his sounds - which chop vocals and stretch found sounds to infinity - sit on the colder side of the electronic divide. However, there's also a great deal of humanity contained in each of the seven tracks here, with the kind of richly emotive synth work you might expect to hear from Oneohtrix Point Never put through the lens of trance music. Possibly the best record to have come from the Liberation Technologies stable to date.