Blackest Ever Black's unwavering commitment to gracing 2014 with some of the most distinct sounds continues apace as their latest long player sees the return of William Bennett's Cut Hands project. Entitled Festival Of The Dead, this new album feels like the next logical progression in the Cut Hands sound, with the label describing it as "most potent distillation yet" of Bennett's "malign percussive energy". If you checked lead track "The Claw" which was made available to stream when BEB first announced the album, you will no doubt have an idea of what to expect but this relentless, bracing approach shown there is not the only card played by Bennett across the album. Indeed it's the moments where the sonics get twisted and chewed up (such as the suitably named "Parataxic Distortion") that prove most memorable.
Comprised of two brothers who worked on their music in relative solitude, Woo is one of those cult offerings in the unclassifiable junction between all kinds of music that Emotional Rescue thrives on reissuing. There is a very sweet natured soul murmuring away at the core of this remastered LP, but never does it feel saccharine (thanks no doubt to the resoundingly lo-fi nature of the production). With its dreamlike repetitive mantras and more fleeting, fluttering elements, there is something quite beguiling and meditative about the sound of Woo, whether in their more tangible acoustic guitar moments or their most light and airy synth jams, but what comes through the most is the overwhelming romance of the music.
Mark Van Hoen's legacy as Locust just can't be argued with, from the early days on Apollo through significant albums for Touch and more recently Editions Mego, and it's the latter that he returns to for this latest offering. It's the kind of romantic electronica that revels in melancholy and places composition in front of sound design. The piano that leads the way on "Shadows Cast By Planes" is testament to that, while the vibes and flute-like sounds that take centre stage in "Colonnades" too remain clean and controlled. If the cinematic bombast of Vangelis shot through with a British bitterness sounds appealing then After The Rain has much to offer.
Hailing from the Netherlands, Animal are a duo who produces soulful indie-tronica by "crushing refined synths with acoustic and electronic samples". And to think most people just play their instruments, how very passe. Intended to tell a story about the paradox between loneliness and light, the Lights EP contains four stunningly produced tracks: the eerie, Thomas Newman-esque piano lament of "Intro", the ghostly whispers of "Lights", the scattered, fuzzy shuffle of "Falling Down" and the enchanting, almost conventional, downtempo synth ballad of "Spotless Mind". Ice cool.
The long-dormant Danish trio is back with a new LP, their first since 2001. A lot has happened since then, but Anders Remmer, Thomas Knak and Jesper Skaaning have certainly not stopped making the very best electro and IDM. Morr Music have made sure that there is electro of every shape and size within, from the gentile waves of tracks like "Fair", to more moody beat sculptures like "Camphor". It's an electronic album that should be heard all together. We're glad to see these guys back, and we want more!
Boxcutter returns to his own Kinnego imprint with two dreamy departures... "Retina Grains" salutes jungle's softest sentiments. Big splashy cymbals and jazz-sprinkled keys, if you can image the results of a collaboration between Squarepusher and Bukem, you wouldn't be far off. "Travel By Dragonfly", meanwhile, is a much slower, strutting affair. The main focus on the majestic web of interwoven harp, string and wooden block elements, but the groove is carried by a solid hip-hop sentiment making it just as ideal for dancefloors as it is headphones.
The ever prolific Kevin Drumm is back on Editions Mego after his last outing on the label with the Relief single in 2012. Trouble is a long-form piece that deals in the most subtle harmonic tones, from barely audible sub drifts to distant cries of strings from his signature weapon of choice, the tabletop guitar. There are moments when the sound swells ominously, and progressively over the duration of nearly an hour the sound reshapes itself with glacial progress. Occasionally it falls away again, only to re-emerge in a marginally altered configuration, but over the slow-moving course of the album the subtle shifts are less significant than the overall swell of the piece as a single solid experience.
Editions Mego, one of our favourite electronic labels out there and one of the few game-changers around, drop another bomb-load of sonic artillery in the form of a collaborative EP by Stilluppsteypa, BJ Nilsen and Anla Courtis! Recorded between Berlin, Reykjavik and Buenos Aires, the tracks give the sensation of time space thanks to their aural freedom. "Aurora Australis", for example, sounds like the beginning of a storm, while "Fish Is God" paints a monstrous picture with its odd, mutated voices and freezing cold wall of sound. Stunning.
New to Sahko and releasing in general, Finnish band Modern Feelings are here to send your head spinning in a whirlwind of free jazz and noise. Their debut album was purportedly recorded along to an inspirational soundtrack of muzak, giving rise to this polar opposite melee of tumbledown drums, strangled guitars and every other possible sound source that can be thrown in the arrhythmic blender. Within this chaos comes a delicacy and dexterity that may be applied to each individual player on their own insular journey rather than the band as a cohesive whole, but somewhere in the mix something magic is created. With the noisier elements moving away from the band dynamic to a more electronic focus and then moving back to a more grounded instrumental foundation, there is quite a range of frequencies expressed on Modern Feelings, but they're unified in their power to confound.
As 2014 has rolled on, Powell's Diagonal label has really gathered a sense of momentum and direction with its succession of releases. With the Juno office stereo still in recovery from the most excellent Shit & Shine LP Powder Horn, this new double pronged noise sermon from the masterful Russell Haswell only adds to their impressive year. Comprised of two 10-minute tracks, Double A is at times as bracing as anything else from the Haswell canon, with the scratched, spasmodic improvised sonics of lead track "Foxy" potentially capable of scaring Richard D James back into hiding. "One Take Dub No Edit" is described by Diagonal as a "flashback to a vital time when futurist Latin freestyle and industrial funk were the dancer's choice" and is perhaps the closest concession to the dancefloor from Haswell yet.
Paranoia Department return to the incorrigible Entropy label with furious anger for the third instalment of their Metaphysical Hinterland Akt series - the very best in stripped beats mechanical, sci-fi acoustics. The movement is structured yet fluid, where tracks like "Incorporeality" create a dense layer of sound amid all the FX trickery and hollow drums. Think Shed but with an extra dosage of eeriness to it! Tasty.
Comprised of spare material from his recent Human Voice long player, Dntel offers a few more gems of emotive electro up to Leaving Records for a cassette and digital release that should fill his fans boots comfortably. "Enid" comes on in warm swathes with its gently pitch-bending synth lines and relaxed funk, while "Unease" inhabits a more hectic albeit beatless space made up of darting and whirring arpeggios moving at a peppy pace. There's more angular house styles at work on "Boredom" as it moves from paranoid rubber tone squeal to smooth pad and back again, and there's even something approaching footwork in the snagging groove of "Pepper Shake", proving that Dntel can nail a whole spread of styles and make them his own.
Drifting into earshot on Cleaning Tapes with this concise single of elegiac beauty, S Maharba brings a laconic indie twang to ambient electronic music that finds shoegaze string plucks drowning in hazy, distant processing amongst all kinds of fuzzy sonic artefacts. It's overall a warm and friendly experience, and it's well shaped out despite the large swathes of pads and drones, with "Memorial" in particular doing a fine job of cradling your ears with its dulcet tones. "For Someone" takes a more defined path with its carefully orchestrated melodic swells. There is a more oppressive feel to "Her Who Sang To Me", while "Michelle" works around a more discernible beat and something approaching a song structure, but still the detail makes the music soar.
Pat Mahoney and Dennis McNany's Museum of Love project has always been an enticing proposition. The duo's two singles to date, "Down South" and "Monotronic", tickled the fancy of all those with a penchant for wide-eyed, Balearic-leaning pop - all soft-focus electronics, shuffling rhythms and yearning vocals. This much-discussed debut album continues in a similar vein - albeit with a little more grittiness in places - with Mahoney doing his best Bryan Ferry impression over McNany's warm, loose and melodious production. It's a formula that guarantees great results, from the low-slung, disco-influenced shuffle of the trumpet-laden "The Who's Who Of Who Cares", to the classic DFA swagger of the raucous rock-out "The Large Glass".