Audio Shovel

With audio shovel in hand, Kris Needs wanders the musical landscape to bring you a bunch of waxed wonders that shouldn’t be allowed to stray too far from your ears

Sun Ra
‘Singles: The Definitive 45s Collection, Vol.1’
(Strut )

Rarely does a week go by without Sun Ra’s galaxy of recordings gaining a sparkling new satellite. Following their previous stellar sets, Strut have trumped everyone again with this, the first of two collections documenting the singles Ra released throughout his career. The first disc covers the early 50s cosmic recitations, recordings he made with vocal groups the Nu Sounds and The Cosmic Rays and the space bop 45s released on Saturn. The next two discs see our fearless leader deploying his trailblazing arsenal of electronic keyboards (including electric celeste on galactic ghetto poem ‘The Bridge’), closing with an ailing Ra revisiting opening poem ‘I Am The Instrument’ after his stroke in 1990. We owe much to this remarkable visionary, who wasn’t fully appreciated before he left our lowly planet, but this is a richly-endowed way to start catching up.

Hieroglyphic Being
‘This Isn’t Your Typical 90s Era Techno/IDM Revisionist View’

By pure coincidence, Chicago’s Jamal Moss, aka Hieroglyphic Being, is one of Sun Ra’s foremost earthly emissaries. He follows his planet-vaulting ‘The Disco’s Of Imhotep’ album (one of the year’s best) with a fearsome 12-inch that sees him homage the Windy City’s 90s acid house pioneers. Entitled ‘This Isn’t Your Typical 90s Era Techno’, he isn’t kidding, as anything Jamal uncorks is inextricably laced with the restless, ever-questing spirit that surges through the grooves. ‘This Is 4 The Rave Bangers’ sees him manipulating a hoover noise over pattering acid drums and distant whistles. As the track progresses, the gathering reverb signals a climax of twisted, celestial swirls. ‘HOME 95’ is a lighter jigsaw of beautifully-deployed beats and claps over which Mayday-style synths flicker and cavort, resulting in an optimistic hymn for the modern age. So glad he’s out there.

Geir Sundstøl
‘Langen Ro’

Norwegian guitarist and arcane instrument enthusiast Sundstøl follows his debut ‘Furulund’ LP with eight imaginary movie excursions captured with his group in an Oslo church. The microscopically glazed sounds they whisk out of the ether on the shimmering title track and ‘Gråtaslager’ (based on an old Norwegian folk tune) conjure a form of mood music that echoes the experiments of the original American Primitive guitarists, while ‘Los’ presents an aural curly wurly of spectral stringed instruments floating in space. Most intriguing is Geir’s take on Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Tony’s Theme’ from ‘Scarface’. Imagine the venerable composer’s trademark melodies fed through an ethereal guitar blender. Sundstøl calls his symphonic space blues “underwater music” but there’s something deeper going on here that’ll need more than a snorkel to navigate.

(Factor City)

Sometimes you just need some good old fashioned techno. The role of clubbing in the evolution of electronic music can never be over-emphasised. This was where disco grooves cut their teeth on analogue machines and sprouted the wings that countless numbers still fly on. Undo is Barcelona’s Gabriel Berlanga, long-time resident at Spain’s Razzmatazz nights. His third album is a compelling outing into bollocks-in-a-hammock techno with fresh attitude and an 80s-synth twist in its rectum. It sets out its stall with the title track’s fuzzed-up mutant groove topped with circle jerking gerbils and his whispery vocals, the malevolent turbo-shorts demolition of ‘Interferencias’ and toupee-goosing ‘Acid Prophet’. But there’s more to Undo than exotic floor fodder, as shown on the juddering Moroder trouser pulses of ‘The Aptist’ and, euphoric dawn holler of ‘Sunmachine’ and the sexy incantation of ‘Computer Friends’.

‘Tough Enough’
(Lost & Found)

One of the bright new stars in Berlin’s venerable techno constellation, VONDA7 has already built a name for hypnotic, Detroit-inflected DJ sets and the hefty productions and remixes she’s turned in for Alex Niggemann and Guy Gerber’s labels, among others. Making her debut on Guy J’s Lost & Found imprint, she sets up a metronomic early hours groove that shakes the acid hen house, blows its chemical toilet sky high and achieves delirious heads-down carnage through her precise but instinctual use of trusty electronic battle weapons. Along with its lethal riff-percussion interplay, the track’s big system killer punch comes with its climax-stoking vocal starbursts, stretched to kill. Overleaf, Pig & Dan bake a volatile remix cake distinguished by celestial new stringy salvos and erupting guinea fowl pantaloons. This could be the one to bust her loose and definitely a name to watch.

‘Delusions Of Grandeur: B-Sides’
(Hardkiss Music)

San Francisco’s Hardkiss brothers epitomised everything that was great in 90s progressive house before it was buggered into today’s unlistenable EDM. The three tracks here were originally B-sides of the singles that appeared on 1995’s ‘Delusions Of Grandeur’ album. The stratospherically epic ‘Raincry (Submerged)’, from 1993, caught the late Scott Hardkiss in his element as God Within, his breaks adorned with the exotic tribal vocal sample that melted a thousand hearts. It could make you cry then and still does now. ‘3 Moods In A Gurple Parden’ is Robbie Hardkiss’ Latin-flavoured remix of brother Gavin’s ‘3 Nudes In A Purple Garden’, his first single as Hawke. Robbie’s remixing again on his ‘Steal From The Rich’ version of God Within’s ‘The Phoenix’, pumping it up with fantastic Washington go-go groove power. Be thankful this unearthly magic is in the air again (and my battered originals can be retired!).

Fujiya & Miyagi
‘EP 2’
(Impossible Objects Of Desire)

As reported back in April, motorik four-piece Fujiya & Miyagi are releasing their album ‘Chugging’ in the form of three, limited 12-inch EPs. Recorded at Northbrook College, Sussex, EP2 has appeared, focussing its attention on subtly motoring electronic pop while amping up their innate feeling of dancing over the world’s burnt-out wreckage in spangled loin cloths. There seems to be an even greater mid-period Can influence afoot, notably on ‘Outstripping (The Speed Of Light)’ and ‘R.S.I.’ with deadpan vocals draping themselves over cruising backdrops of fuzz guitars, soaring synths and electronic detritus. ‘Swoon’ gets into spectral space washes and also a certain kind of wind-blown 80s stadium synth-rock. The spirited closing monologue of ‘Extended Dance Mix’ becomes the most attention-grabbing item here as it mentions Columbo and arthritis (two subjects close to my heart). We await EP3 with great interest…

Avalon Emerson
‘Narcissus In Retrograde’
(Spectral Sound)

Unforgivably, I knew bugger all about this fast-rising producer until she pinned me to the wall of the hutch with the unpredictably delicious mischief and sonic fuckery of her latest EP. Hailing from the Arizona desert via San Francisco and now residing in Berlin, Avalon’s trademark sound is episodic and unfolding, which means opening track ‘Natural Impasse’ starts like a glacial Burrell Brothers house track on Nu Groove before navigating percolating minimal beats using chunky rhino-bollock bass grunts and gnarled synth motifs. ‘Dystopian Daddy’ deploys some desert space over which flutter NY synth birds and muted acid (taking care to avoid the razor-like hi-hats). ‘Why Does It Hurt’ goes deeper and darker into scary darkness, Avalon treating her own vocal for added boost. Finally, ‘Groundwater’ cooks up a bubbling cauldron of snapping crawfish tackle and aerial acid dogfights.

Solemn Embrace

Arne Weinberg may sound like a New York showbiz lawyer, but the man actually hails from Glasgow, where he runs experimental electronic and dark ambient drone label Cromlech with a mission to inject some slow-burning reality into a world obsessed with social media. As a long-time convert to the joys of life without Facebook, I totally take his point, which he chooses to make very insidiously using the unsettling moods and textures that unfurl in the Arc project he conducts concurrently with his Valanx mothership. Tracks such as the ominous ‘Babylon’, creaking ‘Hung By The Wings Of Wonder’ and ‘Transformed Spirit Of A Fragile Identity’ roll out like slow-mo black clouds threatened by distant but life-threatening electric storms; all swelling moods and textures (and all achieved using a Eurorack modular synth). It’s cold out there but this album is a great way of putting the brakes on time for an hour or so.

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