Review: Since the dawn of the decade, A Winged Victory For The Sullen has delivered occasional albums for Erased Tapes that effortlessly blur the boundaries between ambient, electronic experimentalism and emotion-stirring neo-classical music. "The Undivided Five" marks their first appearance on mighty British independent Ninja Tune, and as a result seems a little more grandiose in scale and ambition than some of their earlier outings. It was recorded in eight different studios around Europe, with the pair combining atmospheric orchestration and traditional instrumentation with occasional glimpses of modular electronics. It feels like a stunning soundtrack to a movie we've not yet seen - unsurprising given that they have previously composed a number of scores - and genuinely gets better with each successive spin.
Review: 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.
Review: Fans of A/V pioneer Amon Tobin were thrilled when he broke a three-year silence with an exclusive Record Store Day release of Dark Jovian last month. However not everyone was able to get their hands on the luxuriantly packed double vinyl set, so now a digital version has surfaced to keep everybody happy. It's a stunning five-track cosmic soundtrack inspired by Tobin's obsession with space exploration movies and an attempt 'to interpret a sense of scale, like moving towards impossibly giant objects and planets turning'. Also included are haunting reworks by Lee Gamble, Logos and Eprom!
Review: Future beats, bass, grime and cinematic sound design all combine and mutate on this new offering from Iranian British producer Ash Koosha, his second full length. There's some hyper-speed glitch and breaks after the warped intro. The future beats of "Feather" or "Fool Moon" are noisy yet ethereal at the same time and its glitchy mirco-sampling will mess with your head. "Biutiful" with its mesmerising chime melody hypnotises beautifully until that epic beat comes in gloriously. "Shah" sounds like a liquid drum and bass record by LTJ Bukem played on the wrong speed.
Review: London's corpulent Ninja Tune returns with a follow-up from Lee Bannon, another LP in a similarly washed out and ambient-heavy guise. Pattern Of Excel is positively abstract the whole way through, where watery shades of drone meet sparse bleeps and glitchy sonics. Many of the tracks within contain an almost free jazz feel to them - check "Good/Swimmer" and "Artificial Stasis" - making the whole album a long a complex journey into electro-acoustic treatment and experimentation. This is one you want on during a session of heavy meditation. Vast, wild and recommended.
Review: Beat Spacek aka Steve Spacek is a man who has seen it all and done it all. Well, not quite all because this latest project is quite possibly his best in recent years. Having worked with artists as diverse as J Dilla and dBridge, his sound is characterised by a hugely varied conglomeration of styles and influences, but also methods. For instance, we've been told that this LP is made up exclusively of sounds generated from iPhone and iPad apps, so it's easy to see the man's versatility and openness to new sonic territories. "Modern Streets" itself is an intricate cocktail of ideas, incorporating remnants of drum & bass, digital dancehall and curb-side poetry. The whole LP is a daring and successful view into Spacek's multifaceted mind as a musician. Recommended.
Review: The Glue EP by Irish power duo features two new tracks embodying the same dramatic and evocative vibes from their recent, highly acclaimed self titled album. The title track here unashamedly explores rave nostalgia, with its tough breakbeats, euphoric chord progressions and gated vocal samples taking you all the way back to '92. "Metro" uses phased acid house style drum patterns with roaring rave synth leads on this slow burning but heavily building dancefloor destroyer. Finally "DLR" soundtracks those divine moments of truth loved up in the chill-out tent, with this emotive ambient house cut with a nice tint of 303 acid for good measure that's reminiscent of classics by Orbital et al.
Review: The long awaited, self titled debut album from Irish power duo Bicep is the perfect summation of their career to date. Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson have created a singular and unique album, founded on the blueprint of classic house, techno, electro and Italo disco: but all the time bearing their unique signature. The duo felt that UK institution Ninja Tune was a perfect fit for them and gave them the total freedom to express themselves artistically, describing the label's broad scope that has, in turn, helped them to thrive. They display a strong technicality and a desire to experiment, but still with a melodic touch which runs throughout the entire record. It is this approach to creativity which has allowed Bicep to establish a unique position in the industry, in the face of a crowded global dance stage.
Review: It's common knowledge at this point that Bicep really is a generational talent when it comes to production. The impact of 'Glue' was off the scale and it's clear to see he has no intention of slowing down as we dive into another monumental single, this time taking the title of 'Atlas'. As ever, we witness pure melodic mastery as we are greeted by an array of spacey, emotional pad textures floating around the background, whilst popping arpeggios and shuffling drum beats breathe effortlessly across the front of the mix. When this is then coupled with pulsating sub lines and stunning vocal switches drenched in luscious big room reverb units, we sure are in for an absolute treat.
Review: Since first finding fame as an integral member of the Def Jux crew in the late '90s/early 2000s, Blockhead - AKA NYC-based producer James Simon - has contributed three albums of heavyweight beat science to the vast Ninja Tune catalogue. This fourth full-length for Coldcut's long-running imprint sees him in fine form, offering a typically chunky selection of sample-heavy beatscapes. Musically, it's flexible, overlaying his usual solid beats with elements of folk-rock, grungy indie, jazz, blues, film soundtracks, country, B-music and dreamy pop. The resultant fusions are thoroughly enjoyable, offering a kaleidoscopic mix of pscyh-hop heaviness, hazy trip-hop revivalism and jaunty, floor-friendy rhythms.