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Reviewed this week
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Remarkably, it's been 11 years since Leipzig-based minimal techno producer Marko Furstenberg released his debut album, Gesamtlaufzeit. While he's been pottering away releasing singles ever since, Ghosts from the Past marks a welcome return to the full-length format. Like its' predecessor, it delivers a range of smooth, warm, hypnotic and dub-influenced techno missives, high on tactile textures and low on crusty textures. The result is a set rippling with intoxicating grooves, soft-focus rhythms, fluttering chords and woozy late night electronics. Wisely, Furstenberg inserts a number of sublime downtempo interludes to break up the flow a little, with the beautiful "Piano" standing out.
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As the Houndstooth roster becomes increasingly diversified with age, so Call Super remains the label's brightest star. Responsible for inaugurating the Fabric-housed operation, J R Seaton has subsequently gone on to deliver some of their best 12" offerings and the time feels right for the Berlin-based producer to show his hand at full length albums. In contrast to the techno-focused approach of his Call Super 12"s, Suzi Ecto finds Seaton expanding on his palette with 11 tracks that veer wonderfully between moments of electronic poignancy and more thrusting fare. Spend some time with Suzi Ecto and you'll find it to be one of this year's most rewarding listens with new favourites emerging with each cycle - "Raindance" is the current fave here at Juno HQ.
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Swiss eccentric Robi Insinna seems to be having something of an identity crisis. This sixth solo full length is credited to both Headman - his now familiar alias for coursing, punk-funk influenced dancefloor attacks - and his given name. As if that wasn't enough to baffle the easily confused, 6 also includes contributions from an impressive array of guest bands, producers and vocalists, including Hiem's Bozzwell, Red Axes, Brassica and The Emperor Machine. Musically, it's business as usual, with the ten murky but stylish tracks variously fusing coldwave synths, punk-funk basslines, dub disco grooves, spiralling electronics and a smidgeon of acid house into wonky and entertaining new shapes.
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After winning hearts from critics and listeners alike with his two 2012 albums, Lee Gamble delivers a hotly anticipated follow-up for his spiritual home, Pan. The tone of Koch is similarly concerned with plush ambient tones and murky atmospherics, while the beats meander from techno thrust (as on "Motor System") via fractious weirdo house shuffle (see "Nueme") through to intricate broken beat minimalism (courtesy of "Voxel City Spirals"). These differences are bound together by the immersive tones that linger consistently over the album, giving rise to a release that should satisfy anyone craving more of the goodness that populated Diversion 1994-1996.
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The rapid rise of New Zealand artist FIS continues unabated with the inaugration of the Loopy imprint, showcasing a fresh set of productions that defy easy categorisation beyond fitting into the niche he has carved out for himself. "Speech Spirits" kicks things off with evil industrial tones and scrapes that swoop and tumble over a light sprinkling of beats, before "Knecht" continues into a pattering set of bongos and loping bass tones. Kassem Mosse then steps up for a remix of "Speech Spirits" that gives the German producer the chance to dart out into experimental territory to great effect, while Oren Ambarchi delivers a monstrous fourteen minute revision that becomes a kosmische-influenced journey of its own.
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After several years of pushing the boundaries of experimentation within music, Matthew Herbert pulled a curveball few were expecting when he elected to return to his house music roots and continue the series of Parts releases issued under his surname as far back as the mid '90s. Part 6 was a sublime way to mark this return (especially "My DJ") and Herbert looks to be inspired as Part 7 feels every bit as good. Lead track "Bumps" sees Herbert working with Rahel Debebe, vocalist for Accident act Hejira, and the results have a similar charm to some of Michachu's early material though a bit more polished, a bit less ramshackle. "Sucker" is a killer DJ tool that will confuse people in the best way possible, whilst "Get Strong" is a typically idiosyncratic Herbert production with very few elements utilised expertly. Closing track "Pretty Daddy" sounds like old Roots Manuva track "Son Of The Soil" remixed by Jamal Moss (this is a good thing).
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There was naturally much excitement when Aaron Jerome announced the forthcoming release of his second SBTRKT studio album, Wonder Where We Land. Before that drops, Jerome offers up another tasty teaser in the shape of "Look Away", an inspired collaboration with Chairlift vocalist Caroline Polachek. Her fragile, folksy vocals are the perfect foil for Jerome's imaginative musical backing - a kind of uneven fusion of grandiose jazz piano flourishes, spitting post-dubstep beats, immersive strings and foreboding electronic noises. Polachek's vocal is typically melancholic, which adds to the track's beautiful but intensely haunting feel. If his is the direction Jerome has chosen to take with Wonder Where We Land, it could be a great album.
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The Guillotine duo come from Brazil, but they make a noise more in keeping with the kind of grimy electronics one would expect to hear on Diagonal or Panzerkreuz. "Bastard Prince" starts the release with waves of droning noise before veering into a low-slung electro rhythm that stutters, belches and burps unpredictably. "Giant Steps" is even more unusual, a discordant mess of a track that sounds like an update of Test Dept or Foetus. Finally, the duo veers back towards a form of electronic dance on the title track. "Razor" is underpinned by dubby beats but it's the distorted sonic fog and jarring distortion that'll shatter nerves and synapses every time.
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Most recently seen on the Banyana EP for Japanese label Speed Of Sound, Damon Bell returns to his more regular home of Aybee's Deepblak label with the HIM EP, blending his influences in Afrobeat, bossa and batucada into some decidedly mechanical dance music. "Ezuku" sounds like vintage Jamal Moss without the excess grit, putting high pitched percussive textures together with subtle African rhythmic influences, while "Babylonian Spliffs" drags its sluggish bass and lolloping beats across the ground like a wounded animal. On the flip, "What" sees something a little straighter, but as hypnotically abstract as any recent Joey Anderson production, while "No Deuce No Dose (reprise)" sees a driving sequence of linear bleeps and trilling synth siren joined by some dramatically dystopian chords. Highly recommended!
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Bristol resident Sophia Loizou makes her debut appearance here for Astro:Dynamics, presenting an immersive exploration of sound design that teeters between tense moments of restraint and shocking blasts of guttural noise. "Uranium" sets the tone perfectly with its slow-release lead-in of mournful tones and a crushing finale of monolithic bass destruction. You're never far from some creative distortion here, through the fiery drones of "Archaea" and the scratchy space-transmission balladry of "Baptisia" to the thrumming factory processes at work in "Demansia", but through it all the grand scope of sound sources is what makes Chysalis such a gripping listen, sharing good company with the likes of Roly Porter in the cavernous halls of West Country noiseniks.
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Once again wiping the floor with all before her, Holly Herndon brings her uncompromising sound back to Rvng Intl with another exercise in vocal led experimentalism rich in wild dynamics and staggering sonic detail. Herndon is wise to place her voice at the front of the mix - from the core lyrics to the processed hums and haws, they give her a peerless sound. When it's worked into the mix with pinging and swelling hits of subby bass and glitchy percussion stretched across an epic narrative, it makes for another stunning slice of electronica that floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.
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As a founding father of the Kosmische movement which paved the way for Tangerine Dream, Cluster and the emergence of techno some years later, Conrad Schnitzler is always worthy of more attention. When you delve into this reissue on Further (originally dropped in 2011) it's quite shocking how contemporary the music is, from the urgent energy and looping rhythm of the arpeggios to the haunting, otherworldly melodics. It's material that could shock, stupefy and seduce a modern audience, so one can only imagine what it must have done to a crowd some 40 years ago. This is audible time travel of the highest order for any serious lover of electronic music.
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After Order Of Noise presented Vessel as a fearsome force within and without the Young Echo collective, Seb Gainsborough brings his foremost alias back for another bout of long-playing exploration, and this time he's crafted a wholly different sound from homemade instruments. The drums rattle and thud with a tacit live-ness, while the synths wail, groan and strain their way through grand and opulent sound scapes to chill the spine and un-nerve the soul. It's a masterfully well-sculpted record with moments of light bleeding into bottomless pits of murk, and it further establishes Vessel as a powerful force in forward-thrusting electronic music.
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Jacob Stoy's 2012 debut, Redenswart, marked him out as a producer to watch - a maker of atmospheric, off-kilter deep house music that eschewed genre staples in favour of far more intriguing and left-of-centre sounds. This belated follow-up is similarly impressive, delivering six varied cuts to move the head and the feet. There's much to admire, from the woozy synths, cute melodies and soft focus beats of "HIM" and wonky, lo-fi electronica of "HHM", to the intoxicated, Stereolab-goes-deep house swing of "CCFM" and decidedly creepy "OGM". The latter is impressively melancholic, with long, bittersweet chords and relentless cymbals riding rolling kick-drums and winding electronics.
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Nestled comfortably on his constant home of Erased Tapes, Rival Consoles imparts another collection of plush forays into warm, melodic synthesis for those who like their instrumental electronic music scuffed with a little earthly charm. With the same starry-eyed innocence that bursts out of Nathan Fake's music, tracks like "Helios" leap with great strokes of synth and upsurging drums, carefully running threads of live instrumentation into the fold through some canny processing. The progression of each track is a beautifully crafted story with pleasant surprises aplenty but always reaching a logical resolution, making for a thoroughly rounded and satisfying listening experience without losing that all important bite of intrigue.
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Given the expectancy hovering around a certain Cornish-rooted electronica artist making a comeback of sorts, it seems likely that Baron Mordant knew exactly what he was doing when teasing the source of this archival missive for Mordant Music as being a "nebulous collective with an analogue core" from "Cornwall 1992-1996". Whatever the case and whoever was responsible, it's a damn good thing that this expansive collection has been brought to light as it's quite magnificent. 22 tracks drenched in dour English tones and played out with a minimum of fiddly arrangements in favour of sustained ideas and hand-crafted magic to get any self-respecting electronica head giddy with excitement. Cue the lengthy online debates about who is responsible...
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Comprised of Kranky regulars Mark Nelson, Robert Donne and percussionist Steven Hess, Anjou make their debut on the esteemed Kranky imprint. The trio trade in a unique kind of ethereality, where tracks like "Specimen Question" take you far away into a melodic daze and bring you back to planet earth feeling shaken. Beautiful snippets of field recordings, enchanting voices and a little bit of hardware fuzz created by analogue machinery make up the album's core, and tracks like "Inclosed" feel both sparse and rich at the same time, a characteristic of all the tracks herein.
Exclusives
GUILLOTINE - National Razor (030303 Holland)
LEE GAMBLE - Koch (PAN)
VESSEL - Punish, Honey (Tri Angle)