Auclair “Second Signal (Semaphore Remixes)” (exclusive)

02 Dec 2014 — Richard Greenan

In September London-based singer and producer Auclair offered up a beguiling set of electro-psych pop swirlers entitled Semaphore. Calling on a gifted roster of artists and buddies, she now presents Second Signal – four mirror versions, deformed, pepped up or lugubriously stretched out to form a weird echo of the original quartet.

Second Signal has the pleasing sequencing pattern of catchy / weird / catchy / weird. Shape Worship recalibrates the spiralling prog of 'Mersea Mersea Me' with dense, fidgety grooves and globules of bass undulation. Italian headspace master Sebastian Palomar promptly flings us from this solar system into the inky deep, Auclair's crushed and obliterated vocal a wail of existential horror or ecstasy.

Taking on 'Here Come The Planes', Toby Gale scrubs it clean as a whistle before festooning with springy, wayward bleeps and gorgeously wonky keys. Finally, the great Anna Meredith completely rebuilds the closer, draping Auclair's voice in bafflingly elasticated chords and creaking, ravey arpeggios. The whole thing is quite bizarre and brilliant.

Second Signal will be released as a free download on Dec 8 via Kit Records. You can stream it below.

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Stream: Mongo Skato “I Don’t Give It” (exclusive)

01 Dec 2014 — Henning Lahmann

The press release nails it: New Zealand outsider producer Mongo Skato's debut I Don't Give It is arriving "virtually completely out of nowhere". And indeed: of all the things we hadn't really anticipated would happen this year (there are a few), this super hi-energy piece of AHDH techno certainly comes as a surprise – we've never come across this name, and we hadn't sincerely dealt with the possibility of this heavy yet euphoric footwork/jack-induced dancefloor bastard to emerge from the other side of the planet either. Sure enough, it might have to do with the fact that Mongo Skato's label's mastermind Richard MacFarlane is, though nowadays based in Vancouver, a Kiwi himself, so there might be some actual insight involved that we lack. However, I Don't Give It should be received as a refreshment in any place. The cover art might hint at techno's gritty late 80s/early 90s beginnings, but even though the producer clearly isn't ashamed to reveal his influences, every single of the eight tracks on the tape makes sure to avoid getting stuck in stale retromania. Playful 4/4 galore, if there's one release we want you to give your little sister for Christmas, let it be this one. Stream the release in full exclusively below.

I Don't Give It is out tomorrow, December 2, via 1080p.

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Sleep Thieves “You Want The Night”

01 Dec 2014 — Andrew Darley

You Want The Night is the first full-length album by the Irish synthpop outfit Sleep Thieves. Since their initial EP release in 2009, the band have taken their time to develop their style and identity. Their debut album confidently slinks in with sultry synthesizers on its opener "City of Hearts". Exploring the excitement and loneliness of living in a city, lead singer Sorcha Brennan gazes “I wanted not to be lonely but still alone” before its wistful chorus arrives. She commands focus as the album shifts between several moods, from the shadowy world of the title track to "Sparks", a song that could sit amongs a classic John Hughes soundtrack. The bewitching heart of the record is "Through A Sea". Opening with sparse synths, the song laments a lover who fled. After two ominous minutes it takes an unexpected turn as beats start to stutter in and steers it into full force dance-pop. The trio appear to have an experimental approach to songwriting that is simultaneously rooted in a love for melodies, like the unforgettable bassline of "French Kiss". For their first album, Sleep Thieves have crafted sensual and brooding electronic pop with lyrics that encapsulate the sprawling feelings of our inner worlds.

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Stream: Katie Rush “Law of Attraction” EP (exclusive)

26 Nov 2014 — Johanne Swanson

I have an early memory of asking my seventh grade English teacher, my favorite teacher, if he listened to Madonna while he was growing up in the 80s. She was my hero and I spent most mornings getting ready for school pantomiming The Immaculate Collection in front of the mirror. Reluctantly he told me no, that everything about her seemed sort of-- I kid you not, he used the word icky-- back then. It crushed me and then fueled some fire because I knew in the most innocent part of my heart that Madonna was truly great; she was someone that I, a thirteen year-old Catholic school choir girl, still wanted to be. Yes, if Madonna expressing all of that feminine desire rolling around in a wedding dress at the MTV Video Music Awards was icky, then I wanted to be icky. Icky, or maybe just threatening to a grown man.

Enter Law of Attraction, the debut EP from Katie Rush aka Katie Wagner with production by Sam Mehran (Test Icicles, Outer Limitz) and Zak Mering (Raw Thrills, Greatest Hits). Wagner is our pop star, someone we want to be and are becoming, as she demands space (cosmic or otherwise) and in turn discovers self. This is the soundtrack to our coming-of-age drama. On the neon shining four tracks Wagner writes, “I hope that people feel what I feel when I hear and sing the songs, making them feel riveted and want to just groove hard to life's possibilities!” 

Law of Attraction is out now on GUNK TV. Stream the EP in full below. 

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Devotional Music For Invisible Cities

26 Nov 2014 — Richard Greenan

With their aphorism "music with stories to tell", Dramatic Records have presented music from a variety of oddballs over the years - coffee-addled, corporate nutjobs, duplicitous Czech entrepreneurs, misty-eyed anthropologists and unhinged swimming gurus (?!).

Their latest offering, then, seems conspicuously devoid of protagonist and accompanying backstory. Even the title of the album is hollow. Does Invisible Cities point to the Calvino book of the same name, itself an exercise in styles of the imaginable? The artwork, too, is laced with baffling cyphers, Escher-esque false turns and never-ending staircases...

Musically, "Love Of Pleasure Is All" is warming, unplaceable, devotional - the end credits of a civilisation-building dynasty, or murmurs from a nightclub in the middle of some Final Fantasy VII desert.

Invisible Cities is out soon on Dramatic Records.

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Design A Wave “International Journey of Synthetic Emotion”

24 Nov 2014 — Richard Greenan

For around three years Chloe Frieda has wooed electronic music aficionados with her weekly show on NTS Radio – a special blend of calming voice and downright odd sounds. She's now putting those excellent ears to further good use, as her Alien Jams project evolves label-wards, purveying the dark, weird underside of English music.

AJ01, oMMM's Parallel Lines Converge, resembled a mournful, hopelessly distorted SOS message from another dimension. Frieda now points the telescope earthwards – or, more specifically, towards the dancefloor – to reveal London producer Design A Wave's International Journey of Synthetic Emotion.

In this engrossing first cut, the Rush Hour and Alter veteran makes you wait – coaxing an array of serpentine, bubbling synths and softly padding chords before flinging us forward through a decidedly groovy wormhole. Quite hard to not press repeat on this one.

Design A Wave's International Journey of Synthetic Emotion is out on Dec 1st via Alien Jams.

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Review: Golden Diskó Ship “Invisible Bonfire”

20 Nov 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

The world of Golden Diskó Ship can be summed up by using the following two terms: krautrock mo-town. Berlin's Theresa Stroetges has busied herself as a "one-girl orchestra" for several years, which has landed her a spot on Berlin's CTM Current program, and earned her recognition from Joachim Irmler, keyboardist of Faust, who released Stroetges' last album on his label Klangbad. For her reveling new full-length, Invisible Bonfire, Stroetges has taken to Zürich's Spezialmaterial, and will release the work on LP and CD November 25th.

Invisible begins with the track "These Thoughts Will Never Take Shape," which is like an intro inside of an intro inside of an intro (if you listening to it enough - the track bears a lot of jammy meandering, so it's like it never fully arrives). The skipping-rocks old school beat commences a familiar and endearing style momentarily met by lovesick, clean lyrics: "you keep changing your mind, but I believe you every time," which kind of also sound like "you keep changing your mind and I will leave you every time." Then suddenly, the lyrics are crunched into ringing distortion, an effect that promises a journey through experimental design and cheerful exploration of pop archetypes. Interchangeability, no-rush-ethics, and fluttering emulations are widely available throughout the album. The title of the opening song alone grants some insight as to how GDS is all about enjoying a thought, love story, or mood that never takes finalized shape; instead, it's all about being present with the journey and watching evolution take place, so much so that, when you arrive at whatever destination, it feels off-putting. Stroetges prefers the company of motion rather than the harsh solidity of a Standort.

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"Fake Horse" isn't the only track to bear more eastern rhythmic work. Further into the album, "Little Stream" is a non-lyrical, ciruclar anthem, bolstered by interesting and accessible layers. "Movie Theatre" is a somewhat belligerent, boxy track, one that reminds me of early Désormais or aMute. It puts forth a more solemn mood with some super subtle ambience. As the determined, taking-control-back beat enters, so do the cartoony effects on top of Stroetges' mantra. The song fades out in a most exhausted, ready-to-sleep way, then "Snowflake Helicopter" begins, which is the most krautrockish song on the album. The guitar work is masterful and sweet. The swirling whistles and whimsical melody stimulate a childlike part of the imagination, and I can envision a little girl in the back of the car cheering this selection on and later having a memory of it being her favorite song that her parents played for her when she was young. I was sure that I'd heard this track before, but I can't place it: I feel like I might've heard it played by a DJ once upon a time at O'Tannenbaum on Sonnenallee, or maybe my friend Soren, who personally introduced me to Stroetges, played it for me, narrating, "this is Theresa's new music." No matter the factual truth, this song has that archetypal, cozy quality, that sweet familiarity. GDS is indeed very genial music, even if impressively experimental and at times deliberately twisted.

"New Year/Under The Wave" is a dualistic piece, one festooned with seaside greyness and damp winds. The unclassifiable bird-like sound makes me think of a cinematic scene where a tired and contemplative young adult saunters around an abandoned carousel. As the nude down beat takes prominence, so does another mantra, indiscernible, and what is actually being said doesn't matter. The atmosphere and frigidness of this song work to make it my personal favorite on the album; however, it still contains some kind of amount of sweetness. Perhaps that is the vital ingredient to what sets GDS' sound aside as unique: experimental, ruthless, overcast, sweet.

Stroetges applies sweet, comfortable electric guitar to all of her tracks; further, she harnesses a simple yet compelling lyrical style that is repetitive, alliterative, and musically refraining: every song is a grey summer sunset score. The guitar progressions serve as main chorus melodies in the flavor of driving-down-the-highway krautrock. The unadulterated ingredients are ring distortion, classic electric guitar, at least one non-musical sample, and mo-town mantras. The perfect example of this claim can be found among the final moments of the album, where, after guitar and vocals fade away, we hear spinning fuzz and an antique voice talking about lack of interest in dying, a certain disinclination rather than fear of arriving at the final destination. Therewith, the album terminates.

Keep your eyes out for GDS performances at CTM's Berlin Current, Ausland, and on Boiler Room. Invisible Bonfire is out November 25h on Spezialmaterial.

Stream: Matte Wood “s/t” EP (exclusive)

18 Nov 2014 — Parker Bruce

Cascine are wrapping up their strongest year as a label to date with Matte Wood's self-titled EP, out on the label's digital counterpart CSCN. Matte Wood or James Jano (from Detroit, now a Brooklynite) usually drums in well-known indie pop group Widowspeak. This EP here, though, is about as far as one can get from Widowspeak. First track "Olive Oil" buzzes, radiates, and glows, and the single "YKNO" glugs and clomps assuredly. The EP is wholly engulfing, pattering and pulsing hither and thither, never dashing too far off, always circling back around, calling to mind Coyote Clean Up's equally engrossing 2013 release 2 HOT 2 WAIT. Matte Wood has made a piece of total submersion, total immersion, and complete diversion. With a hint of quiet voraciousness. Just the way we like our music here at No Fear of Pop. It's out now. Take a listen below.

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