Stefan Jós “Inside Voices” (exclusive)

15 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Stefan Jós is one of the many guises of Southern Californa producer Devon Hansen, currently calling Montréal home, whose other project Lotide left us thoroughly enchanted with Moonless, a cassette released in 2013 on London outlet Astro:Dynamics. Things You Left Behind, Hansen's latest upcoming work, isn't the first offering as Stefan Jós. Last year, the moniker appeared already on We Live Here, a compelling split with NFOP favourite Austin Cesear on Opal Tapes. This time around however, the project's direction seems to have shifted. Still minimal and based on noise, the arrangements are less contemplative than before, openly aiming at the dancefloor. EP lead track "Inside Voices", premiered below, is a case in point: built around straightforward 4/4 kicks, the track unfolds into a glacial, rigid piece of techno.

Things You Left Behind is set to be the first 12" released by Japanese imprint flau's new subdivision raum. It will be out February 25. Pre-order now over here.

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NFOP Presents: unhappybirthday

14 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

"Curiously nostalgic and comforting" is what we thought about the music of Hamburg outfit unhappybirthday when premiering their wonderful tune "Keanu" back in September, and even though the winter so far has either felt like an inapproriate extension of late fall or an eerily premature spring, there's certainly the need for more coziness in Berlin. Rather fittingly, the three musicians refer to their music as 'raincoat pop', so we urge you to leave your umbrella at home and join us at Kreuzberg's Monarch next Wednesday, January 21, to watch the trio perform more warm and fuzzy lo-fi tunes to solace your dreary winter heart.

Presented by No Fear Of Pop, the show starts at 9pm and is 8 Euros unless you send us an email to submissions@nofearofpop.net with the subject "unhappy" before Monday, 12pm CET, to get the chance to win 1x2 guest list spots for the event.

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Review: Disappears “Irreal”

13 Jan 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

There are few labels that have successfully curated an artist roster that abridges the rather wide and sensitive gap between quality electronic music and rock. If we were to say that said gap has at all narrowed in the last ten years, we could quite naturally thank Kranky. Chicago's novel, "going nowhere slow" label exemplifies that the key to such strenuous effort isn't only through recognizing how avant-garde and ambient are genres more agreeable for those with guitar and drum ears; it also argues curation, how a consistent aesthetic and resilient, unwavering self-definition can win the hearts of others. Consistency creates feelings of safeness and trustfulness for just about anybody. For example, the Kranky website hasn't changed, ever, and that very quality has afforded some of us plans for long-term fandom. Kranky also somehow embodies the unqiue personality combination of solemnness plus funny. Above all, Kranky in its subtle ways advocates a genuine emphasis on sound itself, love of sound. It broadcasts that listening is an artform within musicianship, a talent bullied and overrun by proactive instrument playing. Can't a musician be a musician by his or her style of listening, sans guitar and/or synth collection?

Disappears' upcoming fifth Kranky release, Irreal, accents the inveterate label in a new way, and excavates big observations about Kranky as a whole. Though a rock band drawing strongly on psychedelic soundscapes and gospel spokenword, who have toured and collaborated with Steve Shelley, Disappears have tapped into a vein that travels from rock and indie toward electronic music and listening advocacy, without turning to synths and drum machines, or dance music. This feels executed mostly by Irreal's foregrounding of the drum kit, triggered, layered, and edited at a different if not later stage of making the record. By placing the effect-heavy drums prominently, as much so as vocals, we experience more of a pro-sound album, not overrun by rock motifs and traditional instrument assembly. Guitars are undoubtedly present, however working as if physically behind the drum kit. They assist in completing and stregnthening the, or any drum kit's nearly infinite range of frequency and particular type of solemness and thunderous emotionality. On Irreal, these traits are even more so unleashed, unlimited, and explosive, staring straight at you, in the face.

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Having sung this praise, Irreal uncomfortably pageants a type of violence and begruded existential yearning. While screaming and heaviness aren't unusual for Disappears, the despondent key signatures are. Furthermore, lyrics like "I want to remember" repeatedly stated as relentless yet calculated instruments smash their way through to supremacy altogether discontent the listener, making she or he likewise itch and eventually grovel for solutions to rudimentary unfairnesses. Incomplete sentences and general unknowns also evoke this fury. There are interludes and windows of mild prettiness, such as the end of "Another Thought," where a washed-over, Sting-like crooning soothes the fire at hand; nonetheless, later tracks like "Mist Rites" and "Navigating the Void" leave no room for invigoration, positivity, or redemption, which seems to be so desired here, since the start of the album. As "Navigating" limps on, a very arid form of solace slides in before the guitar feedback subdues the drum levels and begins drowning the album.

What is the anger for? Is this a band singing ill-praise for the recognized superfluity of standard rock band set up? Is it more personal than political? The message is perhaps deliberately unclear.

Several aspects of Irreal remind me of later Wire, This Heat, and struggling-to-grow-up Sonic Youth, all of which are quite militant, droning, and somewhat clean. These bands are surely not only celebrated by Disappears, but also the whole of Kranky and most of their various artists. My critical question about this album has to do with label coherency, like what was being rambled about at the top of the review: how do violent sounds, song structure and refined post-rock presentation work so well next to a plethora of celebrated ambient artists? In other words, how can Kranky have abrasive pieces right next to neo-classical ones in their catalog? How is it that ambience and aggression work so well into each other, that death metal lifers make exceptions for electronica only when it comes to ambient? No matter the feasible answers, Kranky is certainly arriving at a more ethereal stage in their career where a paradox like the one between violence and tranquility can make sense and even be patched up, and Irreal is a vtial part of that arrival, not to mention a fascinating evolutionary step for Disappears.

Look into pre-ordering here. Album to be released January 19th.

Stream: Dreampeter “Snakes Eating Snakes | side A” (exclusive)

12 Jan 2015 — Johanne Swanson

Snakes Eating Snakes is the first full-length from Dreampeter, a duo composed of Peter Wiley (Pascäal) and Matt Gilles (llloyd), that was quietly released January 1 of this new year. Despite that discretion, it is flawless in execution by virtue of debut from Ways Inner Pass, a cassette label founded cross-continentally by Wiley and Gilles of Austin, TX, and Berlin's own Cory Levinson (Kohwi). Our blog-conscious readers may recognize these three from the now defunct Zen Tapes, a music blog they were involved in while attending the University of Michigan, or their current participation in the Portals community. Ways Inner Pass' strength is in concept, combining the humble physicality of a cassette release with that which only translates online; Snakes Eating Snakes is paired with a mini-site that ebbs and flows differently with each visit while the record plays on loop (the horizontal symbols on the right side of the page indicate which track you've entered upon.)

Musically, Wiley and Gilles have created a piece that is sparse and lush where it demands. There is a clear sense of melody in their whirrs, sputters and audio samples of friends talking, water flowing, chimes in the wind. This ambience is greatly appreciated at a time when drone all too frequently correlates with aggressive noise. According to Dreampeter, the release is "a reflective statement on the peculiar stasis of hometowns, a remark on the perpetual alienation and dilapidation of old residences...a conversation between the specters of the past and the reality of today." Thusly, Snakes Eating Snakes

Snakes Eating Snakes is out now on Ways Inner Pass. Order a copy of the hand silkscreened cassette here, Blue Lace Agate healing stone included, and be sure to spend some time with the digital mini-site

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Broshuda & Giganta “Gardens”

07 Jan 2015 — Richard Greenan

Gardens, gardens, gardens! They're all here in this intriguing and beautifully packaged tape comp, out on London imprint videogamemusic. Sprouting from a track mutually-tended by Broshuda and Giganta, Gardens Volume One comprises two sides of re-mulchings from an array of ferric luminaries.

We kick off with the lead-lined window box of AL-90, before sidling towards Beatrice Dillon's rustly, playful "Sapwood". The curation here – in typical vgm style – is pretty flawless, and the variety quite joyful. HOLOVR's acidy, squelchy-verdant patch is another highlight, as is the whirling patter of newcomer Devon Loch. Too many names to mention, really. 

Gardens seems to be the perfect celebration of a burgeoning scene - an international group of tape beat manipulators more interested in collaborating or pushing boundaries than stardom. The wobbly, purple tape inlay deserves its own mention - designed by Broshuda himself and printed beautifully on riso. Grab a copy here.

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Jam Money “Aroma Of Snow”

30 Dec 2014 — Richard Greenan

Boutique British label Spillage Fete come up trumps with this magical 12" by Jam Money. Stephen McRobbie of The Pastels opines it would've made a fine release on his ace Geographic imprint, and Blowing Stones certainly has a meandering, rustic charm that outreaches the provincial setting of village greens and bake-offs.

Here are songs that clank into life like some sort of benign, clockwork machinery, emitting distorted epigrams of guitar and synth fed forwards and backwards through a 4-track at various speeds. There's an apologetic-sounding clarinet. There's a wobbly chime thing. It is immensely comforting.

Get Blowing Stones here.

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Watch: Cult Club “All The People”

29 Dec 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

This Berlin pop duo have their archetypes down. As member Laslo Antal approached me with the observation that their aesthetic fits the NFOP one, he was absolutely right; however, theirs is an appreciation for the 80s not unfamiliar to NFOP, but still a somewhat aloof visitor, wholeheartedly welcomed. Singer Sally Jørgensen's vocal range rings perfectly true to that of Siouxsie Sioux, and Laslo Antal bestows a Duran Duran album cover sleekness. Well, they both do. "All The People" has a cool and calm fretless bass line, a David Sylvian-esque, dreamlike delectability and art pop collectedness. There is furthermore mastery over subtle accents and nostalgic melody of a superiorly agreeable sort. The video is simple and intellectually affordable, yet still something you may enjoy viewing several times. Antal's visual assemblage of the two members posing and playing with the stop motion process comes across a bit as a fashion show, yet demonstrates the artists' refined style applied to their music. Isn't that how pop works?

Cult Club will release their debut EP in the new year. Expect to see more words lauding this music in the coming months.

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Stream: Wellness “Wellness” (exclusive)

17 Dec 2014 — Lukas Dubro

The fascinating aspect of Alexander Winkelmann is that he seems to be in neverending metamorphosis. You can never be certain about what to expect of him-- only that it's gonna be different every time. Take for instance his live shows: One time he flips over the stage playing all kinds of instruments and gadgets over loud and dancy beats, next time he sits in the dark with a friend playing ambient guitar music over field recordings from the Chilean jungle.

Recordings from the Berlin-based artist are pretty much the same. His first, Das neue Album, was an acoustic guitar album. Winkelmann's voice and a guitar were recorded with nothing more then his laptop's internal mic. On his next, Das neuere Album, Winkelmann showed his experimental side, adding all kinds of instruments and deconstructing classical song structures. He continued down this lane, improving his production and adding more and more energy to it. His untitled EP has been the most energetic up to date and the ending point of what developed since. The link between all of his output is the attitude: punk gestures meeting an impressive artistic intellectuality. Winkelmann likes to play with quotes, and there always seems to be a false bottom, a deeper sense to them.

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For his latest album, Winkelmann has again changed the sound. Not only did he get himself a new name-- Alexander Winkelmann is from now on known as Wellness-- the production is much more elaborate, the arrangements more dense, and the whole vibe more serious (even though the playfulness is still there). One of the main reasons for this development is due to producer Dawn Mok aka Yule FM aka Lood Mahamoti's involvement. The signature of Dawn Mok's work is completely unique sound exploration. Each of his albums have a original sound that marry different genres with self-modulated digital synths. It's exactly this approach that nourishes the sound of Wellness. It seems like the perfect match: Two artists with a unconventional approach to music create an album with countless layers. Together they introduce hardcore beats, drones and heavy rock guitars to the universe of Alexander Winkelmann, while keeping the key elements like machine produced voice samples and (un peu caché) Winkelmann's unique way of singing.

All the same, Winkelmann is not the only Berlin artist skinning himself permanently. Two other prominent musicians are Winkelmann's producer himself, Dawn Mok, and performance artist Meghan Edwards aka Miss M.E. Since coming across Dawn Mok, he has had three different band projects, each with a completely different style. While Yule FM combined Adrian Orange-driven guitar music with autotune and hip hop beats, Lood Mahamoti was a hyperactive rap album with a lot of soul. Currently, with Dawn Mok, he mixes experimental pop music with deep industrial sounds. Dawn Mok also features Kathy Kwon, who contributes not only her beautiful voice to the dark soundscapes. Each of these projects sound more than convincing. Within two years, he has created more good music than many other artist do within their entire career. The same goes for Miss Edwards: It began with finding some pretty precious lo-fi bedroom tunes with a lot of 80's in it, but by the first show I attended, she had transformed into Julee Cruise, playing dreamy dark guitar music. Most recently, she teamed up with Berlin DJ Moonwheel to play a gothy Fever Ray-inspired set with a ghostly dance performance. What is true for Winkelmann and Dawn Mok is true for her; each version of Miss M.E is breathtaking.

One might ask, What's going on with these people? Why be inconsistant with your talent? Why not try at least to promote your most successful project a bit? Maybe some call it impatience, but I think it more accurately aligns with a hunger to explore that drives these artists to change over and over again. What they do reflects the transient possibilities and of the internet and a real place like Berlin colliding. They are searching and do not accept compromises or commit themselves to business strategies. Even though you have to be quick to catch up with them and take time to trace back their work, it is more than worth it to keep on eye on all three of these artists.

Listen to Wellness' debut self-titled album here.