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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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Perennial man-of-mystery Arandel returns with the belated follow-up to his acclaimed 2010 debut album In D, the title of which offered a cheeky nod to the work of Terry Riley and other American avant-garde composers. Like its predecessor, Solarispellis was composed entirely using his own instruments and analogue gear, with no MIDI, plug-ins or contemporary trickery. Flitting between unearthly ambience, bubbling themes for imaginary computer games and loose, high-minded tributes to American minimalism, it's a surprisingly wide-ranging set. While it's his love of modern classical music that inspired the more complex pieces, it's the electronic-only curiosities - like library music from another dimension - that impress the most.
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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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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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Vancouver-based video game music creator Scott Morgan - aka Loscil - comes through with his fifth LP for Kranky, and it's no surprise that it's another winner. Entitled Sea Island, the music aptly contains a rather aqueous approach to sound design thanks to its floaty, dense drones and walls of sonics. It's a purely meditative affair, and track like "In Threes" or "Sea Island Murders" share a common air of hedonism and trance in their arrangements, loosely held together by deep swirls of low-end and sporadic clicks. If you're into Fennesz or anything on Touch, then this one's for you.
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Osaka-born, experimental singer-songwriter Tujiko Noriko comes back to Editions Mego with yet another stunning LP of electronic improvisation and hedonistic chants. In her familiarly sparse and atmospheric style, My Ghost Comes Back is perfect for those meditative moments where time and space are forgotten and replaced by starry soundscapes and quirky melodies. It features nine wild and diverse tracks, including the lo-fi quasi-rap of "Land Next To Me" and the boogie-leaning vibes of "Minty You". All we can say is that Noriko has her own take on experimental music and it's refreshing as it is pleasant to both heart and soul.
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Steve Roden and Stephen Vitiello are old friends, having previously collaborated on live projects (a recording of a 2007 performance in Texas has been doing the rounds for some time). Here, the two sound designers and experimentalists join forces once more for their first studio collaboration. The Spaces Contained in Each is perhaps typical of each artist's solo work. Comprising of a single, 49-minute track, it melds ghostly ambience, electronic interference, occasional samples (a church bell here, footsteps there, delay-laden train noises drifting in and out of the mix) and droning textures to create a calming but occasionally unsettling collage. Beautifully designed and produced, with superb stereo panning, it's an immersive - if low-key - treat.
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Nimbes is the soundtrack to a 15-minute audio visual piece of the same name by filmmaker Joanie Lemercier and Emptyset's James Ginzburg. The music itself is a collaboration between Ginzburg and Yair Elazar Glotman, a Berlin-based sound artist who recently released an album on the Italian ambient label Glacial Movements. Subtle Emptyset snarls lurk in the background of the title-track, with rumbling double bass, cellos, plucked strings and dramatic drums taking up the foreground in a cinematic piece of sound design. Glotman provides his own version of "Nimbes" that's devoid of much bass, instead overcast atmospheres and blustery orchestral movements dominate. Eric Holm, who earlier this year released his debut album on Subtext, delivers a clanking, industrial remix, somehow adding even more tension to a record best described as foreboding.
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When it comes to fuzzy, noisy, off-the-wall techno sketches, Portland's Best Available Technology is up there with the likes of Container and the rest of the US' crunch-heads. He returns for London's left_blank with only his second EP and it's a five-track monster. From "Neon Razor Chain" and "Strobic", BAT uses his splinters of hardware distortion to construct a detailed arrangement and creates one hell of an ambience. Not all the tracks are tied to a 4/4 construction; "Jackal Code" is in fact a tripping, half-time track packed with BAT's familiar curls of distortion. Our favourite has to be the dubby, twisting groove that lays on "Digi Hex": It puts a real spin onto all that dub techno malarkey!
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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.
Exclusives
BEST AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGY - Neon Razor Chain (Left Blank)
JAMES GINZBURG/YAIR ELIZAR GLOTMAN - Nimbes (Subtext)
TUJIKO NORIKO - My Ghost Comes Back (Editions Mego)