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.
Following its initial release in 2006, John Beltran's Human Engine LP enjoys a proper digital release on Exceptional to reach out to contemporary listeners with his pastoral shades of shoegazing electronica. There's a lot of ground covered, from the live drums and languid guitars of "A Mind Blows Everyday" to the New Age techno chimes of "That Day In Monterey", but the constant remains Beltran's knack for ethereal atmospherics. There are some more energetic moments, such as the synth-pop leaning "Here & Now", while the many shorter vignettes broaden the palette of the record, but this is essentially a collection for those that like to recline.
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.
Radiation is not a typical Third Ear release, but Why Sheep aka Japanese producer Gaku Uchida has a long-standing relationship with the imprint, having released an album on Guy McCreery's label back in 2003. Both versions of "Radiation" favour experimental textures and extreme sonic diversions. Bluesy guitar shards are combined with bursts of noise and creaky effects on the first take, while the second version is just as warped. There, waves of spiky percussion and crashing drums provide the basis for jazzy licks and vocal chants. The remixes from Kare San Sui are less intense, with the first "Radiation" reduced to an atonal sound scapes and "A2" turned into a jazzy broken beat workout.
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!
Helge Tommervag aka Mind Over Midi has been making music probably since before you were born. The Norwegian native was famous for his raucous and uncompromising approach to techno in the '90s, but he's slowly moved towards less constrictive terrains. The always-wonderful Diametric label presents an ample collection of his new sound - one that's inherently deep and aqueous. In that sense, the synths feel loose and percussion is scarce if at all existent. There's a sense of transportation throughout the whole LP, where Tommervag's wailing atmospherics and pensive arrangement are worthy of a proper listen. No laptop speakers or ear-buds. Sit back, blast it loud and be off on your way to the cosmos. For fans of anything from Klaus Schulze to Aphex Twin.
This Glasgow-based, diametric imprint has focussed on releasing new music from forgotten electronic geniuses, but also unearthing old music which was probably a little too ahead of its time. Ophion fits into the former category but his dense and introspective sound collages are both timeless and impossible to categorise into one genre, certainly not IDM in any case. Sharing much of the hedonism that surrounded Aphex Twin's music, Ophion's sonic experiments feel original and unrestricted, where the artist flow from idea to idea with utter ease and freedom. "The Realm Of Slumber" sets things off with liquid synths and cavernous strands of FX trickery, whereas "Gorgon's Sound" moves towards more tranquil soundscapes, utilising both synthesised sounds and tiny flurries of field noise. "Millenia" is probably our choice cut, though, where thick walls of rhythmic polyphony meet prophetic vocals in the distance. It's a real journey and an EP which should be approached with an open-mind. Wonderful.
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...
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.