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The Chi Factory – The Bamboo Recordings

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When discussing his original concept for ambient, Brian Eno has always emphasised not only the evocative, atmospheric nature of the music itself, but its relationship with the environment. Eno’s primary concern was, according to interviews, the relationship between the music and the space in which it is listened to. Over the years, many musicians and producers have interpreted this slightly differently, using field recordings to intrinsically link studio-based recordings with the places and spaces that initially inspired them.

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NHK yx Koyxen – Doom Steppy Reverb

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Diagonal has never really been the place for techno, but by bending, warping and crunching the genre out of shape it can fit; like a parallelogram bashed to shape a nonagon. It’s these broken remnants and off cuts from the misfitting pieces that Diagonal celebrates, with Kohei Matsunaga, whose music as NHK yx Koyxen has always managed skirt the edges between what’s considered functional for the dancefloor and totally leftfield, delivering the label its most concentrated album of ‘club music’ yet.

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Vakula – Cyclicality Between Procyon And Gomeisa

Ukrainian producer Vakula first touched-down with his 2008 Hohol E.P on Uzuri, incorporating rhythmic tribal textures with traditional club sounds. Since then he’s continued to develop a brand of house and techno framed within the warming, ephemeral comfort of experimental music. His first full-length album, You’ve Never been to Konotop (Selected Works 2009-2012), showcased some excellent wide-ranging oddities, with the subsequent album continuing to make ranges into interesting territory. What I’ve felt lacking from the previous albums is a consistent narrative, rather opting to present a collection of tracks that don’t necessarily add up to a complete whole. The same can be said for his most recent release on Dekmantel, Cyclicality between Procyon & Gomeisa, a record that fails to maintain any continuity but still demonstrates an inherent musicianship from a talented producer.

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The 7th Plain – Chronicles 1

The Orb, Higher Intelligence Agency and Mixmaster Morris are usually reeled off whenever the phrase ‘90s ambient techno’ enters a conversation. This is as it should be as those artists contributed greatly to the emergence of that sound. However, one name that should always be part of that grouping is Luke Slater. It is hard to comprehend that around the time that he was releasing the white-knuckle intensity of records like X-Tront Volume 2 or In From the Night, the UK producer was also making wonderfully introspective electronic music as The 7th Plain.

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Equiknoxx – Bird Sound Power

From an outside perspective any genre can seem constrained by its formulas. A sardonic passer-by would claim house beats all sound the same, ambient is a generic mush of lift music and all metal is the same old dirge of screaming vocals and distorted guitars. Dancehall is no different, with plenty of familiar tropes that producers adhere to – after all, what would musical trends be without some kind of common stylistic approach? I have to profess that I am no authority on dancehall, but I know that unmistakable offbeat drum machine groove when I hear it.

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The Head Technician – Zones

Following on from Abul Mogard’s stunning Works collection, Ecstatic delivers another unexpected project.  Martin Jenkins is better known for his prolific ambient / experimental work as Pye Corner Audio and has delivered ten albums under this name in the past six years. Now he turns his attention to a new project, The Head Technician, and Zones is its first release.

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Dices + AEM Rhythm Cascade – Thoughtstream

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There’s something about the labels that come out of Glasgow. Diverse though they may be, the likes of Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, Tabernacle, All Caps, hell even Optimo and Numbers, are all bound together by a similar penchant for meaningful presentation and an assured conviction in the music they release. In other words, they’re all ‘proper’ labels, with an aesthetic you want to sign up to in a declaration of fandom, for no other reason than the fantastic job they make of being a label. 12th Isle comes along at a time when music from Scotland’s cultural capital garners respect like never before, and it immediately projects that same self-assured quality that makes you fill out another entry on your over-subscribed mental watch list for releases the label bosses haven’t even begun to imagine yet.

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Ma Spaventi – Isola Sommersa

Ma Spaventi comes from the same Amsterdam hub that has spawned labels like Delsin and MOS as well as a myriad of sub-labels and offshoot projects. There is no shortage of deep techno coming from these Dutch labels and through his mastering work, Spaventi is further invested in this scene. As a producer, he faces the major challenge of having to differentiate himself in a crowded field.

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Proto – Vitamin Tracs

Some music is so delicate it requires you to turn the volume up considerably, just so it can fill the space where something bolder or more brash might have been playing before. It’s interesting considering this when listening to Proto’s Vitamin Tracs, a collection of six tracks primarily aimed for cassette consumption. It’s a mini-album of clean, subtle, looping shapes for the most part, not least on Side A, and as such one imagines the mechanics of the format will inevitably become part of the music as a tape copy wears itself out.

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SFV Acid – DOep & Jazzchamber

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Perhaps it’s the warmer weather tuning the mind towards such moods, but at the moment it feels like there is a strong current of truly lovely, danceable electronic music drifting out of studios the world over at the moment. The Mood Hut crew and Acting Press posse know where it’s at on the smooth scale, while those SUED characters can be dab hands at keeping things sensual, and it’s an interesting phenomenon to observe. In the realms of house (and other such rhythmically straight-forward styles), plush melodic content and an overall sense of warmth in music can often be a byword for bland lounge-ready muzak set to a beat.

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Michal Turtle – Phantoms of Dreamland

Another summer, another impeccable interpretation of the season from the increasingly masterful and ever-more distinct Music from Memory. The auteur this time is Michal Turtle, a Croydon-born musician and producer who spent the heart of the 1980s making subtle, enlightened music. The label unleashed Turtle’s Are you Psychic? earlier this year – I don’t know about you, but the ‘do bright lights bother you?’ whispered in a spooked-out domestic daze on the title has stayed with me ever since. Now here comes a full retrospective of his 1980s tracks which really does sound fresh.

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Tempelhof & Gigi Masin – Tsuki

Three years ago, few bar a handful of dedicated crate-diggers knew anything about the music of Gigi Masin. The artistic rebirth of the Italian new age/ambient pioneer has been a joy to behold, and has thus far taken in a string of timely reissues, a superb career retrospective, and the Gausian Curve project, alongside Jonny Nash and Young Marco.

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In Aeternam Vale – Pink Flamingos

As part of the French cold wave movement in the early-‘80s, In Aeternam Vale cultivated a particular sound, with their transgressive minimal synth experiments considered by some as ‘proto-techno’. Initially a group, Laurent Prot soon took full control over the project in 1985 and after long period of dormancy his career was revived again by Minimal Wave boss Veronica Vasicka only a few years ago. This brought forth a new dimension of his sound that’s still steeped in strict analogue traditions that he helped innovate, while clearly having a knack for contemporary aesthetics. Still staring to the future like he did as a young Lyonnaise punk some three decades prior.

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Steven Julien – Fallen

Given that he made his first appearance under the FunkinEven alias way back in 2009, Steven Julien’s debut album has been a long time coming. Of course, he’s hardly been slacking in the seven years since, releasing a string of 12” singles for Eglo and Apron – the latter a label he founded back in 2011 – that has seen him develop a trademark style that puts hardware manipulation, vintage synthesizers and spontaneous composition centre stage. Once Julien found his musical voice, there’s been a confidence, immediacy and percussive looseness about his material that’s rarely less than alluring.

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Objekt – Kern Vol. 3

A common theme for any review of a new commercially-released mix CD is to berate/mourn the viability of the format in an age where near infinite online variants are freely available. Objekt’s mix for Tresor’s irregular Kern series, however, reaffirms just how middling a lot of these online podcasts can be, exposing the lack of effort that goes into them and how we take that for granted.

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DJ Qu – Conjure

Always existing on the edge of convention, Ramon Quezada continues to be an artist that confounds with his singular vision. His musical identity has been forged on being stoutly unusual, and yet there’s something so very instinctual about his work that enables it to speak to all kinds of dancers. It’s fair to say that, whether in his lighter or heavier moments, there is an innate physicality powering the music that makes its way on to a 12”, but equally he has the depth and imagination to reach beyond when the situation demands it.

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JTC – JTC

Tadd Mullinix wasn’t joking when he told Juno Plus that the Bopside label would be “a vehicle for me to offer my art exactly in the way that I would deliver it”. Following on from a second Charles Manier album as well as an experimental LP under his own name, Bopside now presents a self-titled JTC set from Mullinix. In the past, the JTC pseudonym had been home to some of Mullinix’s finest releases, including Take Them Off for Creme Jak and the brilliant, brooding Like No One album for Spectral. Both of those acid-heavy releases appeared over eight years ago.

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Black Merlin – Hipnotik Tradisi

Throughout his career, Black Merlin man George Thompson has been welded to the dancefloor potential of percussive hypnotism. Since the rubbery, gently blissful positivity of his debut 12” on Bird Scarer back in 2013, Thompson has applied his repetitious, slowly unfurling template to a variety of styles. Yet while his solo releases have touched on pitched-down cosmic disco, synthesizer-led krautrock, EBM, bleak new wave and, most recently, pulse-quickening clandestine techno (see last year’s fine excursion on SORN), his love of drawn-out atmospheres and locked-in grooves has remained a constant. Like many fine producers, he’s been able to reinvent his sound almost at will, while maintaining a constant thread throughout his work.

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Brain Machine – Peaks

It’s a great time to be part of a synth-led group. There is, in electronic music, a prevalence for artists to be lone wolves, betrothed to the inner sanctum of their studios and generally better off working on their own, but since the upwards trend of hardware kicked back in with gusto it’s easier to envisage that classic band dynamic in the sexy blinking lights of sequencers and matted knots of quarter-inch jack cables. In terms of collaborative live performance, a bunch of screen-glare victims ignoring each other while jockeying laptops on stage just never seemed that convincing, no matter how worthy the process and sonic performance may have been.

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Dan Lissvik – Midnight

When former Studio man Dan Lissvik released his first solo material following the band’s break-up, he still seemed in mourning for their passing. Although 2014’s Meditation arrived two years after he officially parted ways with Studio partner Rasmus Hagg, it felt like a heartfelt tribute to a 10-year partnership gone awry. It opened with “An Ode To Studio” (complete with tear-jerking pianos), before sauntering through tracks that felt like they could have formed part of the duo’s brilliant – and critically acclaimed – 2006 debut album, West Coast. The band’s trademarks – glistening electric and acoustic guitars, languid dub basslines, freshly baked textures, space disco synths and krautrock style rhythmic hypnotism – were all present and correct. It was great, of course, but he’d clearly not moved on.

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