Clark “Unfurla”

07 Oct 2014 — Dave Power

I was first introduced to Clark in 2006 when I checked out Body Riddle from my local library. I was drawn to the cover and thought it was worth a shot. I’ve been into electronic music for a long time now and can sometimes guess by an album cover when an album consists of some variation of electronic music: intense new IDM, mesmerizing new minimal/ambient, or ecstasy-inducing EDM. In this case I was right, having found myself in the temporary possession of an amazing new IDM album. Sort of. IDM stands for “intelligent dance music” and the term has no real meaning anymore, if it ever did. In interviews Clark has said that the term doesn’t make much sense to him and has always thought of his music as techno. I listened to Body Riddle obsessively in 2006 and have since procured every one of his releases. About three weeks ago he released “Unfurla” and will be releasing his eighth full-length, self-titled Clark, on November 3rd.

“Unfurla” is thrust off of the starting line with an aggressive pulsing kick pattern and a frantic synth line. The throbbing beat and unapologetically persistent melody gives way to heavily reverbed piano for a matter of seconds only to spiral back into the same groove, most likely having drawn at least a small amount of influence from Aphex Twin (but what modern electronic musician hasn’t?) Near the middle of the track a deep reverberating synth bass echoes like a choir of Hans Zimmer-style french horns, trombones and tubas, gradually decaying after every burst. “Unfurla” is a relentless dance track, built and composed for the most exclusive of sweaty clubs. If it's any indication of what the new album will sound like, it will be the most dancehall/“techno” of all of his releases, possibly my personal favorite. On the Soundcloud page for the track Clark writes, “Music is like sculpture. It’s like trying to capture a moment of ultimate momentum, and distill it forever.”

Clark will be released on Warp Records on November 3.

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Running In The Fog “$ign$”

07 Oct 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

San Francisco-based Amanda Harper aka Running In The Fog has returned with a preview track from her upcoming album due from Unspeakable Records. "$ign$" displays an alluring flow, some kind of certainty over how to sing with, or through, the glistening synth and undulating beats. It differs slightly than the content found on Harper's freshman Silver EP: perhaps due to genuine artistic evolution, "$ign$" is more dancefloor-ish, driven, but somehow more enchanting. I liked this track from the moment it started, and you probably will too.

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Watch: UMA “Calm/Easy”

03 Oct 2014 — Johanne Swanson

I wanna know all about how your mind knows how to feel calm and easy. Did you try eating raw, maniacally pressing green juice, or doing a shit-ton of yoga? Maybe you surrounded yourself by beautiful things and popped some pills, but eventually found that the best plan of action was to get messy with a pile of Benjamins. These are at least our suggested strategies on the new video from Berlin's very own UMA, producer power couple Ella and Florian Zwietnig. Get a little blurry with their highly polished, perfect-pop-song sensibility and be sure to catch their dynamic live show on the remainder of their European dates. Here at NFOP, we're especially looking forward to tonight's performance at Kantine am Berghain with Florida's Hundred Waters

"Calm/Easy" is off UMA's debut self-titled album out last May on Austria's Seayou Records. They are currently in the midst of a European tour with the following dates remaining:

10/3 Berlin, GER - Kantine am Berghain
10/4 Ausberg, GER Augsburg - Soho Stage
10/6 Winterthur, SUI - Portier
10/8 Graz, AUT - Steirischer Herbst
10/9 Munich, GER - Milla
10/10 Bern, SUI - Dampfzentrale
10/11 Nürnberg, GER - USG 6

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Review: Sea Oleena “Shallow”

01 Oct 2014 — Sam Clark

Charlotte Loseth’s debut album has been years in the making. During a period of time outlined by the decline of Myspace and the advent of Soundcloud, the Montreal-based artist released two abbreviated efforts as Sea Oleena: a self-titled project in 2010 and 2011’s Sleeplessness. Both mini-albums were incredibly poignant, creating desolate landscapes from a small reserve of instruments and effects processors that slowly enveloped anyone on the receiving end. But despite the rapid-fire succession of her first two releases, Loseth has remained relatively dormant over the past three years, diligently crafting her wondrous full-length, Shallow.

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Upon immediate immersion, the basic constructs of the Sea Oleena sound don’t seem to have changed much on Shallow. The excellent opener “If I’m” finds Loseth singing over familiar delicate piano arpeggios bolstered by an ambient mixture of strings and feedback, with pulsating drums lightly fleshing out the rest of the space. A feeling of momentum isn’t anything particularly new in a Sea Oleena song, but its method of delivery feels decidedly fresh, an organic departure from the previous use of electronic and tabletop percussion. Often times, an artist’s externally perceived level of success is derived from their ability or willingness to incorporate new timbres into their winning formula, but Sea Oleena serves as a stark example of a project that benefits more so from a meticulous honing of a promising skill set.

Indeed, Loseth has continued to perfect her craft, paying more attention to production details than ever before. After the comparatively propelling first half of “If I’m” the album tapers off into a pool of molasses-thick reverb, submerging the listener for the next twenty minutes. Loseth showcases her comfort behind the piano and on a guitar, the latter prominently apparent on “Shades of Golden.” The echoes of her voice bounce off imaginary walls as she arpeggiates through a chord progression, her lyrics mournfully drawn out as they turn back and wait for the guitar’s delay to catch up.

It isn’t until the subsequent track that Loseth breaks from her catharsis, the grating string samples juxtaposing a defined tranquility. But that break is fleeting and the next four minutes of “Everyone With Eyes Closed” is spent combatting that jarring moment, resulting in one of the most dense offerings on Shallow. Vocals are layered judiciously, their melodic movement slowed considerably to make way for the myriad of melodies and countermelodies that exist in the guitar and various keyboards. The agitated strings seem to have the final word, but become subdued by the opening notes of “Vinton, LA”, the album’s penultimate effort.

In many ways “Vinton, LA” is Loseth’s magnum opus; the longest song by far on Shallow, it takes nearly every timbral and melodic idea presented thus far and distills it into an eleven-minute odyssey. A plaintive piano line dictates the song’s opening third, but gradually begins to add more weight, supplemented by heavier attacks, bowed strings, and layers upon layers of Loseth’s voice.  But that initial crescendo is a red herring, as are the two that follow. With no discernible climax, Loseth achieves a moment of raw and pure yearning, a simple emotion that is  nevertheless almost impossible for artists to extract.

At just seven tracks long, Shallow seems to end almost prematurely with “Paths”.  The song, with its ostinato arpeggios and swells of white noise, acts almost as a companion piece to “If I’m”, bringing the cohesive ideas explored throughout the album full circle. Though peaks and troughs of emotion can certainly be deciphered, the prevailing feel that washes over Sea Oleena continues to be one of placidity, a calming presence absolutely necessary for the hibernation-like behavior that often accompanies winter in the Northern Hemisphere. With Shallow, Charlotte Loseth has made good use of her time out from under the blogosphere’s eye, crafting a remarkably smooth and polished product that will undoubtedly be in constant rotation for the foreseeable future.

Watch: Born In Flamez “Polymorphous” (exclusive)

30 Sep 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Despite having been recently added to Berlin Current's illustrious roster, signifying the project as pushing the boundaries of the city's current musical landscape, not too much is known about the people behind Born In Flamez. Conceptualised as 'transhuman' and making arrangements for a post-gender future, Born In Flamez' utopian vision sits comfortably among projects like The Knife, Perera Elsewhere (who is featured on the EP), or, perhaps the most striking resemblance, Planningtorock. There's tangible evidence that there is a human ultimately responsible for the sounds we hear, but the point is, of course, that it shouldn't matter: all this could have come from someone, or indeed something, else instead. It just so happens that it didn't. The current physical embodiment of Born In Flamez, that particular person hiding behind a mask, is arbitrary, so to speak. Fittingly, "Polymorphous", the title track of BIF's debut EP, was allegedly conceived in the aftermath of a DJ gig at one of the highly notorious GEGEN events at Kit Kat Club, likely the closest thing to a post-human experience Berlin has to offer. Staying pointedly coherent, the visualisation of "Polymorphous" emphatically rejects notions of determinable human nature, resorting to abstract iterations of what could have once been evocative of objects found in a human world. Something strange to come.

The Polymorphous EP is due October 13 via UnReaL Audio. Pre-order the release's physical version – a limited edition etched glass pyramid, no less – now over here. Born In Flamez will be part of Berlin Current's delegation to MUTEK.MX in Mexico City from October 23 to 25.

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Review: Ellis Swan “I’ll Be Around”

24 Sep 2014 — Dalton Vogler

When it comes to learning more about the man behind the music, there’s not a whole lot we know regarding reclusive Chicago-based artist Ellis Swan. With the exception of a few Soundcloud plaudits and a brief feature from a local magazine, Swan has gotten pretty good at keeping his backstory from getting in the way of his music projects.

And to be fair, that’s where most of our attention should be focused. With his newest release, I’ll Be Around, Swan has constructed a beautiful, haunting album that borrows folk elements to create a uniquely “noir” sound. It’s a bedroom artist production, but only by name, as Swan’s mind-altering use of space transports you beyond an intimate setting.

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Relying primarily on a guitar and vocals, I’ll Be Around is a raw, emotional outpouring of fear and remorse, peppered with light storytelling to transition from track to track. In what could be considered the single from the album, “It Comes Tonight”, Swan’s sapped vocals and warbling delivery claw away at the listener. His fatigue becomes our fatigue, suggesting that it’s taking every ounce of strength to eke out the next verse.

On songs such as “Shooting Sparrows” or “Where the Road Ends”, his voice melds with the pervading static and gives off the impression that he’s on the verge of dissipating, as if the record will deteriorate in your ears before completion. It’s a rich, bizarrely pleasing sound that compels you to listen through, even if it aches to continue onward.

Though his self-described genre tag of “post-hillbilly” is what initially lured me into listening, the truth is that Ellis Swan’s LP is a decaying southern gothic world plucked straight from the mind of a displaced soul, a self-reflective odyssey that transports us into a long forgotten era. And it’s unlike anything else you’ll experience in music this year. 

I’ll Be Around is available for purchase here.

The Boy & Sister Alma “Lady Killer”

23 Sep 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

I introduced you guys to The Boy & Sister Alma last year. At the time, I found their EP to be hands down perfect for the atmosphere of the holiday season -- they even made a Christmas song. In hearing their new material, which bears some immaculate quality from pop heaven, I find once again that they've graciously generated sounds that speak to the season. Hailing from Helena, Montana, Lenny Eckhardt and Jennifer Murphy manage perfect pop structures and breathtaking melodies that are both cool and nostalgic, especially in the case of their new single, "Lady Killer," a part of Retro Promenade's Vox Populi 2 compilation. Adorned with lyrical cadence and some furtiveness concerning desire tucked safely away in melodic undercurrents, this track should be dealt with as if a message from the autumn that is about to hit, the falling forward, the pre-nostalgia that arrives before the actual autumn.


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Miracle Sweepstakes “Maker’s Script” (exclusive)

23 Sep 2014 — Henry Schiller

On “Maker’s Script”, NYC-based Miracle Sweepstakes straddle a fine line between the instrumental gobbledygook of Pere Ubu and the neurotic fortitude of a secret show in a Bushwick basement (with some of the bloodshot sci-fi of Piper at the Gates of Dawn thrown in for good measure). In spite of a heavy sonic presence, “Maker’s Script” is instrumentally austere. The weight of the track is borne mostly on one guitar part that refuses to reconcile itself to either assaultive rhythm or semi-prodigal spasms.

Around this wanders caustic drums, which reverse at one point, and bass as sharp and precise as anything on Remain in Light. There’s a palpable psych pop influence with the theremin, vibraphone, and vocals sounding like an incantation being recited in an ancient English field. A middle section of the song, where the drums go backwards, feels like a Beach Boys sample is subtly encroaching no-wave.

In the Alan Moore sense, “Maker’s Script” is a Swamp Thing of a track. Taken part by part it's easily identified by a range of psych-pop, post-punk and lo-fi influences, but taken as a whole the amalgamation is no longer recognizable as anything other than something before unheard of; so fine and delicate is this monster’s stitching. “Maker’s Script”, and it's Dr. Frankenstein, Miracle Sweepstakes, share superficial features with other well known acts (The Fall and Pere Ubu come to mind), but as a substance unto itself, it is something unique and fired with urgency.

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