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Sam Kidel – Disruptive Muzak

During the late 1940s and early ‘50s, America’s Muzak Corporation established a program known as “Stimulus Progression”. Rather creepily, this existed to develop music designed to alter behaviour, be it enticing shoppers into longer, slower browsing sessions, or making factory workers more productive. While the “Stimulus Progression” program was abandoned decades ago, its’ principles continue to drive the development of piped mood music.

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Trux – Trux

It’s hard enough keeping up with latest developments of your umpteen favourite artists and labels and collectives and scenes and sub genres and so forth, without even batting an eyelid at the more ambiguous or downright anonymous entrants into the great unending modern music surge. A casual pause for thought about the amount of hot new shit by first time artists coming out on little known labels is enough to send a devoted music lover into a mouth-frothing frenzy, haunted by the thought of that cult pressing being snapped up by perma-connected internet seekers, soon to be an ultra-rare classic of rarified perfection.

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Various Artists – Compassion Crew Presents… Compassion Cuts, Tapes & Acetates

In an age when finding obscure music is easier than ever before, you have to admire those who go that extra mile to unearth hidden gems. In theory, anyone with an Internet connection, disposable income and enough time on their hands could discover long overlooked “buried treasure”, but very few then take the time and effort to track down the music’s creators in order to license and re-issue these forgotten releases. Congratulations, then, must go to Irish DJ, producer and record collector Compassion Crew, an artist whose previous releases for Running Back, Dolly and Horn Wax outlined an eccentric, atmospheric and left-of-centre approach to house and techno productions.

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Omar-S – The Best

There is no doubt that Omar-S has had a transformative effect on Detroit’s scene and by default the global electronic music landscape. His FXHE label has supported and nurtured new house music talent like Kyle Hall, Marcellus Pittman, Kai Alce and O B Ignitt while also providing an outlet for his own distinctive sound. Most impressively, he has achieved all of this without the benefit of PR campaigns or by persistently whoring his wares on social media. Instead, he reaches out to fans and DJs alike, selling both vinyl and digital through the FXHE website. He also benefits from that most authentic technique that few are capable of – and simply lets his music do the talking.

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Disco Mantras – Disco Mantras Vol. 1

Over the last 12 months, Vancouver’s Mood Hut collective has subtly begun to shift its musical focus. Famously, the label’s runaway was built on delivering dusty, undeniably baked music that drew influence from early analogue deep house, vintage new age music, and the morning after pulse of early ‘90s ambient house. It was a refreshing approach, but rather unsurprisingly has inspired a raft of imitators.Their answer was to widen their approach.

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MGUN – Gentium

After a flurry of releases during 2012 and 2013, Manuel ‘MGUN’ Gonzales took a few steps back. The US producer’s last material was out on Don’t Be Afraid in 2014 and he didn’t put out any records last year. This silence could be due to concerns about burning out, but it could also be in preparation for the release of Gentium, his debut album.

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Dorisburg – Irrbloss

‘Irrbloss’ is Swedish for the natural phenomenon known in English as a will-o’-the-wisp, a ghostly light that hovers over swampland. Heavily referenced in folklore, it was thought to be a fairy or undeparted soul acting as a fickle beacon for travellers, leading them to safety or to a murky demise. In a recent interview, Dorisburg said, “I am attracted to that which lies on the border between the beautiful and the unknown.” His music is located in this liminal space where beauty is inextricable from danger. The folkloric slant hints at the undercurrents of mysticism in his sound.

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Kettel – Wingtip

Despite a bulging back catalogue stuffed full of melodious electronic treats, IDM veteran Reimer “Kettel” Eising has struggled for wider recognition. While this may be a reflection of the obscurity of the labels he’s released on – one 7” on Planet Mu aside, he’s largely worked with imprints run by friends from the Dutch electro scene, such as Sending Orbs and Djax-Up-Bitch – it’s still a little surprising given the undoubted quality of his material.

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Dalhous – The Composite Moods Collection Vol.1: House Number 44

Dalhous pair Marc Dall and Alex Ander have been quite the fascinating outfit ever since that The Night of the Burning EP released as Young Hunting in 2011, whose horror-soaked difficult dance contributed so aptly to the aura around Blackest Ever Black as the label sewed the seeds of its mystique. Their sophisticated and uncategorisable electronics seem to hinge on an odd and very alluring combination of aesthetics: abstract yet narrative, theatrical yet introverted, they’re goths but they’re minimalists, they’re punks and they’re aristocrats. Closer in vein to their Lost, Discarded or Simply Forgotten demos heard recently on tap, Composite Moods Collection Vol.1 inaugurates a new series and confirms Dalhous as sonic investigators of the complexities of the self.

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Alessandro Adriani – Montagne Trasparenti

Alessandro Adriani may not be a household name, but he is the brains behind the Mannequin label, an outlet that has done arguably more than any other to unearth obscure wave and industrial music, often with an Italian focus. While other reissue labels dance across a multiplicity of emotions from the same time period, Mannequin’s default setting appears to rest on the gloomy, morbid and melancholic, witnesses its unearthing of releases like Bourbonese Qualk’s eponymous album and Decadence’s “On and On” –  one of the most tragic pieces of music ever recorded.

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Matt Karmil – IDLE033  

Since he emerged as a solo producer in 2013, Matt Karmil has proved difficult to pin down. Within just two years of operation he was responsible for shimmering deep house on International Records, a summery festival anthem on Beats in Space and an album of textured minimal grooves for PNN. In 2015 he turned to darker strains of the 4/4 spectrum, with a string of bass-heavy techno releases for Studio Barnhus and Idle Hands. While it’s never clear where Karmil is going next, what has marked his output to date is an attention to the minutiae of texture and an enviably consistent quality.

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Various Artists – My Love Is Underground Volume 2

There’s more to the art of crate digging than simply hunting down obscure, ultra-rare gems, or even spending half of your monthly salary on a single dusty old 12”. Ask many seasoned diggers, and they’ll tell you that they get just as much satisfaction from discovering overlooked gems, peculiar B-sides or little-championed remixes – especially if you’ve picked up the record in question at a bargain price.

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Secret Boyfriend – Memory Care Unit

When Blackest Ever Black reissued the limited Secret Boyfriend cassette This Is Always Where You’ve Lived back in 2013, it spread the work of Carrboro, North Carolina native Ryan Martin to a much larger audience beyond his vast yet sporadic cassette releases. In conversation with Jane ‘Pharmakon’ Chardiet a couple of years ago, Martin confessed that he usually just dubs his own tapes, and “very sheepishly gives music to people.. but it feels hard to put that sort of attention behind your own project”. His notorious low key label, Hot Releases, is that modern rarity; the epitome of underground music in the digital age. Primarily mail order on limited run formats by similar lo-fi, 4 track indie acts, its nonchalant attitude towards self-promotion and public image is reflected by a rarely maintained social media presence; their Tumblr page hasn’t recorded an update in over a year.

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Woo – Awaawaa

There are numerous reasons for the recent revival of interest in cult British fusionists Woo – not least for their uniquely broad palette of influences and the hard to pigeonhole nature of their material – but the duo’s willingness to open their archives to interested labels has undoubtedly played a part. Until Drag City Records reissued their 1989 sophomore set It’s Cosy Inside back in 2012 (closely followed a year later by an Emotional Response repress of their infamously hard-to-find 1982 debut, Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong), the Wimbledon-raised Ives brothers were only of interest to a handful of in-the-know collectors.

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Sophia Loizou – Singulacra

There’s a growing contingent of noise and drone-focused artists in Bristol’s music scene, from Subtext-affiliated characters such as Emptyset, Roly Porter and Paul Jebanasam through to Dot Product, O$MV$M and more besides. Sophia Loizou seemed to emerge out of nowhere back in 2014 when she joined this rising pool of producers with her debut release Chrysalis on Astro:Dynamics. Of course the strong reputation that label has made for itself helped foster some attention on the six-track album, but in many ways it took on a life of its own for anyone that listened. That Loizou had emerged with no previous track record made it all the more compelling; another drone filled album in a field full of drone filled albums, yet empowered with a stirring emotional heft and an ability to wield devastating amounts of low end.

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Gifted & Blessed – Emotional Topography

There are two ways to deal with artistic frustration and restlessness. The first, more often associated with those who have achieved a high level of commercial success, is to grudgingly continue on the same path, doing the same thing to satisfy industry demands and continue earning a comfortable living. The second is to expand your artistic horizons, trying your hand at different things in order to fully satisfy your creative urges.

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Various Artists – So Low (compiled by JD Twitch)

Before techno and house exploded in Glasgow under the stewardship of the club night Pure, one its residents, Keith ‘JD Twitch’ McIvor, was playing industrial and new wave records to an unappreciative audience. Fast forward three decades and much has changed. Having provided the four to the floor groundwork through his long residency at Pure, McIvor courted a more diverse sound at Glasgow institution Optimo (Espacio) alongside JG Wilkes and continues to curate left of centre music, from the past and present, under the Optimo name.

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Prins Thomas – Principe Del Norte

Prins Thomas has never seemed the reactionary type, preferring to plough his own furrow and, perhaps inadvertently, set the agenda. Even so, it could be argued that Principe Del Norte, his fourth solo full length, has been shaped more by current events on electronic music’s margins than his previous excursions. As a prolific record collector, digger and open-minded DJ – as was so sweetly proved by last year’s delicious three-disc mix-up, Paradise Goulash – the veteran Norwegian producer will no doubt have noticed the recent upsurge in interest in music that pays tribute to the early ‘90s ambient and “intelligent techno” boom.

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The Frozen Autumn – Time Is Just a Memory

Maybe the title is true and time really is just a memory; look at what time has done for The Frozen Autumn. Their debut album Pale Awakening had a song on it billed as “This Time (‘80s Song)”. It’s been on my playlists since I first got my hands on the album circa 1999, and I remember at this time thinking, ‘isn’t it all rather eighties-sounding?’ More than twenty years later, Dark Entries – a label largely devoted to unearthing the ‘80s underground – presses The Frozen Autumn onto vinyl, just like all of the ‘80s songs’ it has mastered and committed to wax over the years. As Diego Merletto sings, an epiphanic twinkle in his voice: ‘shadows coming back!’

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Nu Guinea – The Tony Allen Experiments: Afrobeat Makers Series Vol. 3

Since first emerging in 2014, Neapolitan duo Nu Guinea has been developing a trademark sound that pays due tribute to Italian dance music’s celebrated fringes. Both their eponymous debut 12”, and last year’s similarly assured follow-up, the World EP, drew inspiration from both the Afro-Cosmic sound developed by Daniele Baldelli and Beppe Loda, and the dreamier, deeper end of Italian house during the style’s boom period in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Listen to the handful of tracks they’ve released to date, and you’ll not only hear subtle audio references to the wide-eyed, sunrise grooves of Mr Marvin and Morenas, or for that matter the African percussion which Baldelli and Loda held so dear, but also the kinds of records played in the Cosmic Club – pitched-down jazz-funk, hazy dub, saucer-eyed disco, quirky soundtrack fare and 1970s synthesizer epics.

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