About a year ago, we introduced the Berlin-based artist Born In Flamez, a deliberately amorphous, intangible entity signifying a musical project that emphatically rejects any notions of both genre or gender. Born In Flamez' debut EP Polymorphous was, accordingly, hard to grasp and impossible to define. Floating freely between hints of grime, a very local flavour of stone-cold techno, and some of the more gloomy corners of otherwise surprisingly accessible pop, Polymorphous spelled out the conditions of possibility of a future that, if slightly dystopian, may help overcome the reality of the patriarchy that defines our present. With such a concept, the EP almost naturally functions as the blueprint for the imaginations and projections of other, like-minded artists, which makes the release of the forthcoming remix EP seem almost inevitable.
CYPHR, Paula Temple, She's Drunk, and Anika all re-interpret BIF's tracks, thereby creating their very own version of a trans- or even post-human tomorrow. Of all the tunes on the EP, however, it is Aïsha Devi's riveting, haunting remix of the rather quiet and pensive Polymorphous closing track "Easier Like That", which captivated us the most. Fresh off her own, excellent debut LP Of Matter and Spirit, the Swiss-Nepalese producer thoroughly deconstructs the original, turning it into a disruptive intervention that offers an almost epiphanic dramaturgy. Take a listen below.
There is, of course, something about German artists and gloomy, at times stodgy works that seems almost all too intimately connected. Think lonesome wanderers standing on rocks staring into the clouds below, or something along those lines. Even translation will fail you: 'Schwermut', the most Teutonic of all sentiments, finds only an approximate equivalent in 'wistfulness', and is miles away from 'melancholia', more dismal, more inescapable, yet more hopeful at the same time. Thomas Bücker's Bersarin Quartett embodies such Schwermut. Slow and pondering, Bücker's compositions create gently unfurling sculptures that may stare into the clouds without getting lost in dull sadness. Instead of relying on cheap effects, the cinematic arrangements on the artist's third LP III remain suitably complex and subtle. Take album standout "Jeder Gedanke umsonst gedacht" [Every thought a thought in vain] with its sprawling yet reluctant strings, hinting at life's hardships without ever willing to give in.
Originally from Dublin, Michael Orange relocated to Quebec for two years. At the beginning of 2015, Orange released his debut record The Skeletal System under his artist name Feather Beds. Only a few short months after its release he is now releasing a new EP, Ah Stop. Written in the depths of a sub-zero Canadian winter, the EP has a contrasting glowing feel. Opening with the sleepy “El Manx”, the EP’s four songs comprise looped instrumentation, treated vocals and muffled textures, which reverberate like old memories. There’s a warmth in the swell and restraint of “Manx”, while the closing song “Drat” echoes the soft keyboard melody of its opener alongside audio clips of old-school television. With only a few months since his debut record, Ah Stop shows a more concentrated electronic sound set to feature on his second album scheduled for 2016.
Night Trap are an electronic duo based in Dublin made of Jill Daly and Ciarán Smith. They formed their band over a mutual love of synth music of the ‘80s such as Kraftwerk, Oppenhemier Analysis and the music of Vince Clark. Their approach does not attempt to replicate what was great about that period in electronic music; instead, the pair emulates the wistful vitality of the era’s music. Over a stuttering beat and sharing vocals, their new single “Someone Like You” yearns for a new love: “Is there someone else around that’s just like you?” It’s sweeping dose of electronic pop about a desire to find new love without having moved on from a former relationship.
What makes abstract music beautiful? Take Savant's "Using Words," opening track from the Artificial Dance LP, out September 4th on RVNG Intl. The bright keys and guitar feedback strown throughout the song give the seven minute sonic wallpaper a sense of pleasant curiosity. If they were taken away, we'd be left with the darkly comical, Morricone-esque pieces of some kind melody. The pieces would equate to ongoing, gentle inquisition, but with a harder, more gutter punk exterior.
This likening may seem laughable when learning about the leader behind the work. Seattleite Kerry Leimer, long-time avantgardist and label runner, is hardly gutter punk. Highly intelligent, auteurist, rhythmic enthusiast is more like it, although Seattle always has but grunchy edge to it. In any case, Leimer's imprint, Palace of Lights, offers at least 168 full hours of soundtrack to your life. It could be private, ambient and abstract listening while at work in your cubicle, feeding a guilty pleasure for insane music in a world made of pretend sensibility. It is on POL's homepage that we learn that Artificial Dance is a re-edition from Savant's original, self-titled POL release, one briefer, shyer, less heady. A Period of Review is where RVNG first got involved with Leimer, and it differs from Artificial Dance in several ways, one being that there's a lot more tracks on the former release. Secondly, A Period of Review is a lot more muzak-y, melody-centric, and, well 1970s-feeling, whether it in its entirety is a product from that era or not. In the RVNG shop you can order a POL CD bundle which features three K.Leimer ambient releases and Marc Barreca's Tremble, an album which Textura says "takes mere seconds for it to swell into the robust form it will assume for its duration.... a word like organic is less applicable than geologic, given the immense tectonic force with which its material convulses."
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Having said that, how does DJ Shadow's unique type of turntablism slip into the picture? "Indifference" is comprised mostly of shreds of steel guitar drone and intentionally-stale bass, plus big beats that march forth with a dialectical message. "The Neo-Realist" is all about the lyrical sample and its being relentlessly warped He shouts about Jesus, societal privilege, and wearing no mask, at which point the speakers - or shouter - sounds like David Byrne. If you listen to the track in headphones, you can hear the impressive and rather delicious amount of obscure frequency reached by happenstantial audio manipulation. There's also a myriad of well-employed pan pervading the entire album.
"Shadow In Deceit" is where Faith No More steps to take a little Caribbean holiday with us. Uplifting, shimmering guitar in whatever key that the guitarists from Broken Social Scene used a lot delivers a warm, wholesomely content smile upon our faces. The feisty down beat is slightly faster than the chimes and other percussive bits that are bouncing around inside this moving truck of an album, which may testify for the fact that contributing artists picked up instruments they do not possess fluency with, as per Leimer's vision, and that, moreover, may elucidate the album's pervasive feeling of curiosity: what is this thing, and why are people obsessed with it? Bang, strum, clap, boom.
When "Heart Of Stillness" begins, I realize that I could respond in both freeform and detail to every song on Artificial Dance, suffice to say that, apart from the (slightly lampooing) spirit of wonder and fascination, wildness is what really pervades the album. A pure yet manicured, improvistional, This Heat-like safari through the innards of a car tape player that saw its action only in the late 80s and earlier 90s. So, to return to our question from the offset, I believe the answer is tenacity: in order to keep the human experience mysterious, labyrinthal, and oftentimes maddening, it must continue to be interpreted as such, frenetically. Persistence inevitably leads to triumph, I believe.
Aritificial Dance has been remastered and is out on RVNG Intl. September 4th. You can snatch it here.
One must rifle through something in order to reach Helen's The Original Faces full-in beauty, and it isn't distortion. The barricade between the album's heavenliness and our ears may or may not result from being over-familiar with Liz Harris' modus operandi; experiencing her vocal-puddling grandeur under a different guise partially informs this suspected barrier. The structural rock and friendly shoegaze, not to mention the application of a tambourine, distances us from longing, pleading, predictable, addictive Grouper. The Original Faces lacks any type of lull or shrugging shoulders. Executed in twelve short tracks, the band knows exactly what they want to accomplish and does it most succinctly. Be that as it may, I had a strange memory lapse in learning about the release. I thought to myself, "Oh, of course this is coming out, and that's great, and it feels deja-vu-y, and of course it's shoegazy, and there's a song called 'Allison,' which is probably a Slowdive cover."
It's not; it's an original "Allison," and it's absolutely lovely. Throughout the album, lyrical layers accumulate and chantey with Jed Bindeman's hi-hat-heavy drums and Scott Simmon's slowly progressive electric guitar. "Dying All The Time" is a tight-knit snare, floor tom, and ride tapestry, one that digs and digs and digs through seemingly impassable surfaces. The tension and focus lifts every time Harris reenters, no matter the track. Finished in only thirty-three minutes, one might feel as if something has quickly washed over them, like an unnoticed storm that alters the temperature. Hit play again, and focus more. Find something to grab on to, such as the lingering vocals at the end of "Violet."
Harris' indecipherable lyrics leave us fulfilled. The project is unique, and some Grouper fans likely rejoice in her appearance in a shoegaze band. The sound of Helen, on the other hand, is heavily habitual. If such is the case, how does the project still feel anomalous, a forces which satiates and calms someone who has been suffering from musical frustration? Gorgeous though it is, something about the album is fleeting, unavailable for grasping fully. Some people certainly love and prefer music like that.
Helen's freshman full-length will be out on September 4 on Kranky. You can check out their 7" from 2013, whose tracks will likewise appear on The Original Faces.
Auscultation, in case you didn't know, is the name of technology used for listening to internal organs. The stethoscope is the best known and most timeless form of such technology. Not to comically liken recent Portland transplant Joel Shanahan's more cuddly project to stethscopic techno, "Promise You'll Haunt Me" is indeed a gentle harkening to what is up with the heart, whether it is that of the artist's or our own. The coating of analog film on the top layer of the album only briefly feels like the cold shock of the metal ring around the horn of a doctor's stethoscope. If you're accustomed to analog fuzz with house beats, this tape is your home. By the time lonesome-sounding "Drop Off" plays, the listening experience has evolved into a source of comfortable reflection via aurality. Each track is a soothing, melodic jam representative of Shanahan's particular craft, attention to detail, and willingness to do inner-work, which tends to be vaguely muzak-y, yet persistently enjoyable. Such qualities are found in the sounds of both Auscultation and his other moniker, Golden Donna.
What has made London blog/label No Pain In Pop so important in the past years is not so much the fact that mastermind Tom King has impeccable taste and the right ear to predict what the world the Internet wants to listen to tomorrow; others surely have that ability, too. No, it's rather that King somehow knows how to look at places no one else seems to even have access to. In this sense, the title of NPIP's ongoing series of compilations – The Bedroom Club – is anything but arbitrary. The new talent showcased here is almost exclusively composed of artists who indeed seem most comfortable in the reclusive semi-anonymity of their bedrooms; the music produced is not exactly depressed, but there's a certain noirish feel to almost all of it. A sentiment that of course has quite a tradition at NPIP, with a past roster including A Grave With No Name, Echo Lake, and of course Forest Swords. The compilation series' third edition is by no means an exception to this rule. The six tracks are slow, careful and intimate, exuding a gloomy atmosphere. This is music that not only seems to be made in isolation, but just as much made for it. For rainy Sundays after long club nights perhaps, when there's really nowhere else to go. The press release tells us accordingly:
Liverpool producer Jon Davies aka Kepla is one of those highly talented bedroom producers that I would likely never have got to know were it not for NPIP; and his track "Ordinant 6" is the prototypical Bedroom Club contribution. Informed by both noise and fading rave memories, the track only reluctantly unfolds over the course of five minutes. Largely rejecting discernible structure, it implies distant troubles, an effect that is beautifully augmented by the accompanying video with its abstract frames and occasional, disconcerting interruptions hinting at other things that might be going on here. We're premiering the video below.
The Bedroom Club III is out August 21. Pre-order the compilation on vinyl now over here.
Kepla will support William Basinski on his UK tour in September:
Tues 15 Sept - Cafe Oto, London
Weds 16 Sept - Islington Mill, Salford
Thurs 17 Sept - The Kazimier, Liverpool