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Darren Cunningham has grand plans for AZD, his latest album. He wants to develop a live performance of the long player that will morph into "the first translucent, non-soluble communication sound pill synergised through impressionistic interpretations of technological equipment". In the meantime, his listeners are presented with a dizzying array of experimental techno. Opening with the pointillist blips of "Nimbus" and the stepping Terrence Dixon-esque techno of "Untitled 7" and "Blue Window", the album moves from the understated into the grainy house grooves of "Fantasynth" and "Runner"- which sound like Detroit's MGUN. Cunningham is, like this US fellow peer, a restless creative mind, and AZD then shifts into the bassy "Cyn", before moving back to techno with the grainy loops of "X22rme". It might not yet have evolved into the communication sound pill that its author envisaged, but AZD is more advanced than most techno albums.
On the back of Kompakt's expansive retrospective of his work under the Gas alias, the essential Box, Wolfgang Voigt has decided to deliver a new album - his first for 17 years. Predictably, Narkopop is as cinematic, widescreen and densely layered as anything the German ambient producer has done to date. Over 11 spellbinding tracks, Voigt blends field recordings and droning electronics with sweeping, almost orchestral movements, swirling melodic cycles, and occasional forays into rhythmic hypnotism. The result is a collection of "wall of sound" ambient compositions that does a terrific job tiptoeing the fine lines between both grandiosity and intimacy, and joy and pain. In a word: essential.
Paper Recordings comes through with the absolute goods; a compilation that many true-school house heads wound dream of, especially to own it on digital formats. This is the Northern Disco Lights compilation, a total treasure chest of Scandinavian house jams that are going for serious amounts of money on the second-hand market. In short, this is your chance to own these beauties and mould them into your sets. Inside, you'll find timeless tunes from the likes of the great Bjorn Torske, Doc L Junior, and even the dearly missed Erot with the stone-cold classic "Song For Annie". But, there's more; Biosphere appears with that inimitable drone flair, and even Todd Terje features proudly, as per usual. An absolutely essential release. Warmly recommended.
Since Optimo Music founder JD Twitch is a walking encyclopedia of weird and wonderful music from around the globe, it's unsurprising that the label's occasional compilations are little less than essential. Miracle Steps: Music From The Fourth World - named in honour of John Hassell's description of ambient music - is another must-have from the Glaswegian stable. Featuring music made over the last three decades, it draws together trippy new age, droning experimentalism, electro-acoustic soundscapes, meandering synthesizer workouts, tropical-tinged bliss, and even the odd bit of spiritual jazz (Larry Chernicoff's wild "Woodstock"). In other words, it's the kind of ambient compilation you'd expect from someone who takes a widescreen approach to music, and who laughs in the face of genre pigeonholing.
London-based electronic duo Patten released their second album for Warp in 2016 entitled ? which served up some interesting takes on the modern electro sound. Taken from the same album is the track "Sonne" which in its original format was fierce and full frontal with its precision beats plus restrained bass pulsations. However, the Hotflush affiliated Travis Stewart aka Machinedrum delivers a much more splintered and angular take on the track here, which will have you equally impressed.
Jamie Tiller and Tako's Music From Memory now present Gaussian Curve's second album entitled The Distance. Comprised of Amsterdam's 'Young' Marco Sterk on machines, Melody As Truth boss Johnny Nash on guitar and Italian ambient hero Gigi Masin on synths. The trio follow up 2014's wonderful Clouds LP with more dreamy and ethereal balearica ("Suspended Motion") by way of vague kosmic rock flourishes ("T.O.R.") and bluesy tones like on the lush "Last Breath". Much like its predecessor, the album had been recorded in a mere few days in Sterk's studio near the city's infamous Red Light District and this opus could potentially be held in such high regard by critics too. It's a superb effort from start to finish and highly recommended.
There hasn't been one Black Acre release that we haven't been digging over the last year and, in fact, we wholeheartedly believe that the label has grown stronger and more mature as it's progressed through the years. Their on an African tip at the moment, and newcomer Nan Kola sounds like he'll be sticking around for a while. "Bayefal", the original cut, is a bubbling, zesty punch of tribal percussion leading the EP with just the right sort of energy, and its surrounding vocal chanting makes it all the more impressionistic. The remixes concern the "Malumz" tune, and they come from Tribute To Gqom Oh!, who drops to the most far left of field with a disjointed drum pattern, followed by Citizen Boy's harder, more half-step approach, and finally by the Formation Boyz version, a bizarre but irrefutably seductive mass of drunken beats and vocals that are just on the right side of sinister.
Shifted's label is usually known for its tough, linear techno, so Emblematic Ruin is a release with a difference. The stage name for Irish producer Andre Gough, Verge leads the listener into a world where grayscale noise and atonal guitars prevail. "Conduit" and "Thorri" resound to slow motion beats and moody guitar chords, while on "Spleen" and "Deluge", Gough leaves the notion of following conventional compositions at the studio door as bursts of white noise and feedback merge together to form a blurry, indistinct whole. That said, one of the strengths of "Ruin" is the fact that Gough never veers into gratuitous experimentation and both "Hinterland" and "Suspension" are wonderfully emotive, guitar-laden soundtrack pieces.
Center is Tobias Freund's third studio album for Ostgut and its title provides a good indication of where its author is at. It veers in style from the dense electro of "Cr 24" to the experimental abstractions of "Autopoiesis" and "Single Minded" and ominous dark ambient compositions like "In Between". There is more dance floor friendly techno tracks such as "Blind Mass", but it is not like Freund makes conventional music and both "Mass" and "Syndrome" resound to stepping rhythms, layered textures and insistent percussion. This has a lot to do with Freund's background as a studio engineer and his perfectionist approach, and it feels like every note, tone and frequency on Center has been carefully, expertly calculated.
Russia's Victor Kiktenko travels under the Module One banner, and we think that is an absolutely fitting name for the sort of cold but effective electronic music that he produces. When he's not busy churning out dub-filtered techno, we hear him delving into the more impressionistic and open-minded world of ambient and drone, which is where we find him with this latest album, Hometown. Out on Berlin's Fauxpas Musik, the LP exclusively showcases the artist's deeper thoughts, and we have to say that it doesn't really get more pensive and meditative than this. From "Flight" through to "Dixi" and onto the likes of "Radiance" there are continuous peaks and troths, where Module One unleashes subtle beats and soulful compositions at free will, making this much, much more than the typically solitary listening experiences that come with drone albums. TIP!
Featuring dialogue by Oscar nominated actress of the silver screen Joan Lorring, Norwegian ambient legend Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere presents two atmospheric and moody excursions into the deep. The man behind such seminal releases like 1997's Sub Strata LP presents "Black Mesa": a deep and mesmerising IDM cut interspersed with samples from the 1936 film The Pertrified Forest. Then we have got the brooding ambient house epic "Turned To Stone" with its breathtaking strings arrangement supported by hypnotic synth textures and chilled beats. Jenssen never fails to impress over his 30 year career and this fine EP is no exception.
Mr Yo So hails from Poland and makes his way to Father & Son Records & Tapes for a solo EP having previously appeared on Maciek Sienkiewicz's label as part of a compilation two years ago. Mr Yo So's sound is a wide-ranging technicolour wonderland laden with expressive synths and ever-evolving compositional heft that draws on a wide range of influences to make a very distinctive end result. "Freetual" works around digi-dub motifs and warm lead lines, while "The Road To The Forest" comes on like a neo-classical composition. "Delicious" has a noirish 70s funk tone at its core, and "Louis I Know (Part II)" takes a slow and smooth approach. There's never a dull moment on Delicious, that's for certain.
Second Woman are an American duo comprised of Josh Eustis, who was formerly of Chicago electronica outfit Telefon Tel Aviv and now a touring member of the Downwards affiliated Tropic Of Cancer with sound designer Turk Dietrich. Together they delivered one of 2016's finest moments on their debut self titled album for Spectrum Spools. Their live audio/visual performance also being one of the highlights of 2016's Berlin Atonal festival. Their second album S/V follows in suit, using innovative software synthesis techniques inspired by ASMR sensations, by way of jagged and angular beat experiments, which in particular call to mind the work of Mark Fell under his SND alias. High fidelity adventures in modern electronica on offer here and well worthy of your attention.
Exclusives
GAUSSIAN CURVE - The Distance (Music From Memory) - exclusive 24-04-2017
SECOND WOMAN - S/W (Spectrum Spools)
GAS (WOLFGANG VOIGT) - Narkopop (Kompakt Germany)