Reviewed this week
Berlin retro electronics from synth geniuses Thorsten Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss. Synthwaves pays homage to the masters of the past, yet feels fresh and enchanting. Rich, neon-lit patterns are modulated and mutated with precision into several post cosmic sounds to drift to. During two intense weeks in the capital, Quaeschning and Schnauss (both students of the great, late maestro Edgar Froese) are said to have locked themselves in a studio full of vintage synthesizers, analogue sequencers and drum machines and here are the impressive results. These tracks are so evocative and life affirming as you'd expect given the credentials of these producers: in particular the dreampop and nu-gaze prince Schnauss' contribution. As with the finest Tangerine Dream soundtracks, it's the kind of music that paints vivid pictures on the canvas of the listeners mind.
Here's a glorious selection of 12 bright and sun-drenched moments destined to be heard daily at the world's coolest beach clubs this summer and inevitably soundtracking a million gorgeous sunsets in Ibiza. This edition features exclusives aplenty. There are two album-only tracks; Tommy Awards gets an Ambient remix from Balearic's Jim Breese. Then The Madrigal blasts off with 'Ride To The Moon,' a completely unique track that's refreshing to hear. Three tracks were previously unavailable digitally, including the debut from Nancy Noise, Olefonken's spacey remix of Hubbabubbaklubb, and Steve Cobby's tropical-jazz remix of Penelope Antena's Tradewinds. Other highlights include Cantoma's 'Abando,' plus an incredible, modern interpretation of the 80's classic Southern Freeez from Paul Murphy. BALEARIC 3 captures the ineffable spirit of Ibiza - perfectly accompanying that unique moment when the golden sun meets the gleaming sea. It's destined to be a classic, go-to album you'll reach for again and again.
Sebastopol's been MIA since 2012, the year in which the electronic nomad released the sublime Hello All Stations, This Is Zero. Given the artist's mysterious behaviours, it's difficult to tell whether he (or she!) has released under any other aliases or projects. However, what we can say is that this new EP, Assassin, has just reminded us of why we dug that debut so damn much. "Assassin" itself is a little masterpiece, a tune which rides at a techno pace but that feels so much deeper and explorative than that; its warm, bubbling glow of a bassline pushes on like a pulse. Mannequin boss Alessandro Adriani reworks the original into a much more sombre, glacial kind of affair, which is absolutely effective and yet still overshadowed by the original. "Manethon" bleeps its minimal slew over a fluid drum machine beat, leaving Privacy enough space to transform it into a grungier, more broken EBM sort of belter.
Seth Haley begun has career as Com Truise with a bang, releasing two superb albums on Ghostly International in as many years. Curiously, it's taken him five years to conjur up album number three, the typically spacey, melodious and intergalactic Iteration. As you'd expect, his usual musical reference points - Vangelis's Blade Runner soundtrack, early synth-wave, skewed lo-fi boogie, late night radio instrumentals - are all still much in evidence, as his is passion for dusty old synthesizers, cheap drum machines and ear-pleasing melodies. In effect, it's business as usual, though when the music is this cheery, tuneful and atmospheric, it would be churlish to complain.
After blowing us all away with a delightful misfit of a debut for the Domestica label, the Cult Club collective return to the imprint with yet more of their mild-mannered coldwaves for the current generation. Taking inspiration from the best of the synth pop era, this lot provide everything you need to hit maximum levels of neo romantic nostalgia, and it all stats with the house-centric vibes of "All The People", a tune that reminds us of New Order's early experiments. However, it doesn't start and end there; these eight tracks are a perfectly balanced voyage across the more danceable end of the post-punk spectrum, and they'll no doubt please more than one category of digger.
After an uncompromising set of EPs for the justifiably hyped Ancient Monarchy label, which helped to take the imprint out of the deep underground and into the mainstream, Soundman Chronicles' DJ Parris lands on London's mighty Hemlock to deliver yet more of his impressionistic take on house and techno. What we love about this guy is that we never know what we're gonna get from him, and these three tunes are a perfect example of that: "Your Kiss Is Sour" is made up of rotating synth echoes that flutter in and out of heavy bass pulses whereas, on the flip, "Flowering In Threes" adds a little house sensitivity to a similarly aqueous range of atmospherics, while "My Beautiful Fantasy" offers the oddball of the lot, or rather, the one tune that will surely get the heads nodding their head up and down thanks to that dub-leaning bass riding in its underbelly. Yes, Parris. And yes to Ancient Monarchy for stepping into the digital zone.



Tadd Mullinix returns to his more experimental Charles Manier guise and follows up 2015's demonstrative sophomore American Manier with another politically galvanised trip into the darker, starker, fringe-frolicking pastures of electronica. Coated in his own artwork and burning with fusions such as a fuzzy kraut stew of "Lions Of Rojava", the swampy, insistent 99 percenter "Truest Coffer" the experience gradually builds in momentum and shape as we hit the final floor-focused throes where impenetrable weaves of molten machine funk entwine and tangle with uncompromised hypnotica. Another stern statement from the man like Cotton.
Bruno Pronsato's excellence and singularity within the minimal techno reign has undoubtedly help him to carve a particular niche for himself. While he used to be closely associated to the likes of Marc Houle, Gaiser and the resto of the Minus wave, the free-spirited artist has dwelt more on the experimental and freeform shade of electronic music in recent years. This new LP on Foom, a great new indie specializing in all things left of field, is named US Drag for reasons which become more and more apparent as its 9 tunes take shape. Very much danceable and handy for a DJ wanting to break the set up with something a bit special, it is still an album that will have to be enjoyed with an open mind. Like a good glass of wine, its ultra minimalistic waves of glitchy beats and loose bass folds are a delight and bring in a breath fo fresh air. We recommend it fully.
Umfang's spellbinding performances have clearly won favour with Ninja Tune sub-label Technicolour as Light is based on material derived from her live sets. The US producer weaves a tantalising, hypnotic web of sound that veers in form and intensity from the ambient textures of "Full 1" and "Path" into the tough, minimal techno of "Weight" and "Where is She". "Pop" sees her drop a robotic, bleep workout, but Umfang impresses most when she embraces musicality. In particular, the woozy Rhodes on "Full 2" is a thing of inestimable beauty and she applies this aesthetic to great effect on the title track's bubbling groove.
The Invisible Inc label is still up there among our choice label of the last year or so, and that's because there isn't one release - whether disco or leftfield - that we haven't enjoyed thoroughly. We love labels like this. Labels which don't pidgeon-hole themselves in any genres or subgenres and, instead, retain a single-minded thread across all the different styles of music that they offer. The Komodo Kolektif debuts here with a mighty little three-tracker, starting with the oddball, tropical house slant of "Night Of The Leyak", which falls neatly into the comparatively looser and more daring amalgamation of sounds heard on "Binaural Bintaro". "Djakarta 3001" is the perfect way to bring this total TIP of an EP to a close - wondrous synth bleeps flutter longingly over a dubby tribal percussion that makes for the perfect opening tool. Recommended!!
Well, what can we say? Floating Points lands on the Juno HQ charts with something new and special, a step in a provocative new direction for the long-time house and nu-jazz icon. Deeply stirring and reflective, "Kelso Dunes" sees the London producer and DJ gravitate towards the more experimental side of the equation; while he's never strayed too far from the left of field, this particular tune is his most accomplished take on free jazz, and serves to finally showcase his skills at crafting the same sort of music as he plays out on turntables, week in and week out. With a cavernous edge to the atmospherics circling the instruments, Floating Points comes through with a special moment of magic - one that doesn't need a B-side to support it.
After a cracking debut over a year ago, the wondrous shade of Jilk once again falls over the Project Mooncircle imprint, this time guided by an even more bleak set of sounds and textures. Entitled Joy In The End, the LP opens with a startling set of drones which swiftly morph and build into something a lot more concrete. The thing is, there is no one genre which shapes this LP; it's made up of a many different components and styles which are housed and tamed beautifully by Jilk. Soft drum machine beats, meandering ambient soundscapes and placid voices make for a deeply pleasing listen which bursts into life with each new listen.
When he's not busy producing ear-shaking industrial techno or corrupted house bangers, Paris' Low Jack appears under his birth name, Philippe Hallais. While this is technically a debut under his real name, we've already gotten a taste of what the talented producer can offer beyond the dancefloor. This album, An American Hero, comes through on Andy Stott's sublime Modern Love and we feel that there couldn't be a better match on our charts this week. Although the large part of these tunes would scare most normal people off any dance piste, there is something unmistakably club-minded about it; the choice of sonics and atmospherics is most certainly on the experimental side of the spectrum, but there is a noticeable movement and pulse-like beat at its foundations. For instance, the likes of "Everything (Good)" or "Angela (Square)" burst out of the speakers with a mind-bending vortex of sounds that somehow find their own kinetic energy and pull you in to a subtle groove. Compared to most left field or ambient albums out there, Hallais has made sure to keep you locked and excited for the whole damn thing. Recommended. Warmly.
Bookworms' new LP Appropriation Loops (A Love Story) explores appropriation of music and culture throughout time. Borrowing ideas from modern classical, jazz, minimal techno and granular synthesis, he taps into the feedback loop of contemporary art. Real name Nicholas Dawson, the New York City based producer's been producing music under the Bookworms moniker since 2012. His early work appeared on the Ron Morelli's L.I.E.S. and currently he runs a party and label called Confused House. The party is notable for its focus on hardware techno from NYC and abroad. The label has released collaborative records from Bookworms and his L.I.E.S. cohort Steve Summers. Like William Basinski's tape loops morphing over time, appropriation loops are recurrent, fluctuant feedback loops in popular and unpopular culture. Rae Sremmund talks about how they're the new black rock stars with guitars in 2016's "Black Beatles", but The Beatles appropriated black American rhythm and blues music from the American South to begin with. Kraftwerk's mechanic interpretation of Motown hits of 60s and 70s Detroit was later echoed by Detroit techno producers who subsequently put the funk back in it and made it more minimal. Detroit techno, for one, could never have been without the device of appropriation... but the device is often misused. People want to know where their chicken comes from (free range, grass fed, no antibiotics) but they don't want to know where their music comes from. Where does it come from? Trace the appropriation loops to find out.
Outcast Oddity is part of the Lobster Theremin network, but don't expect the kind of raw and noisy techno that the London organisation is best known for. Instead, on his debut album, label owner Engyn focuses on a more reflective, experimental sound. "Please Let Me" and "Nephal" are dreamy, lo-fi electronic jams that float wispily - but that's not to suggest that Glenwood is home-listening mush. Even on the lo-tempo "No Break in the Clouds" there is a raw machine feeling, while "FArr Irma" and "Moth & Light" are slinky, minimal house cuts. Engyn even embraces techno on "One Circle" and "Stones Near Water", but again it is musical, melodic and slightly melancholic. It's a triumph of the understated over the forceful.



Those with a passion for drone textures and off-kilter ambient recordings should already be familiar with the work of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. The New York-based Californian multi-instrumentalist has spent the last decade sauntering between labels, releasing a string of well-regarded albums in the process. On The Echoing Green is his second full-length for Mexican Summer. It sees him expertly blurring the boundaries between drone, ambient and dub techno, presenting a range of cuts that flit between clandestine moodiness, sparkling beauty and mood-enhancing bliss. Check, for example, the shoegaze-influenced brilliance of "Echoing Green" and "Tenderness", the distorted, intergalactic noise of "Vulgar Latin" and the layered field recordings of "Door To Night".
Usually seen gallivanting on labels like Leaf, the Swedish duo Roll The Dice launch their own enterprise The New Black with a rampant, charmingly leftfield album by the name of Born To Ruin. In fact, it would be fair to say that this LP ticks off pretty much every genre or influence that interests us; slices of industrial rain shower all sorts of Balearic beats that manage to make their way closer to dancefloor momentum as the LP progresses and morphs. Moreover, this is something that works both as stand-alone tunes, and on its own as a singular album of electronics.
Exclusives
ROLL THE DICE - Born To Ruin (The New Black)
KOMODO KOLEKTIF - Sumantras (Invisible Inc)
PARRIS - Your Kiss Is Sour EP (Hemlock Recordings)