Beady Ear

Our fearless audio adventurer Kris Needs casts a beady ear over the whole wide musical world and picks out a raft of records for your listening pleasure

The Orb
‘The Cow Remixes – Sin In Space Pt 3

Since unveiling The Orb 38 years ago, Alex Paterson has doggedly stuck to his original mission, dispensing with trends and sleazy music biz sharks of the early years like he was emptying a chemical toilet in space. It was lovely seeing ‘Cow/Chill Out, World!’ elevating The Orb back to their rightful position as idiosyncratic pioneers. This EP sees four ‘COW’ pats given to remixers from the Vakant stable with fabulous results. Sweden’s The Field seizes a brief drum loop to turn ‘9 Elms Over River End’ into a dense, pulsating jungle river trip through sonic creepers and luminous melodies. Berlin’s Dave DK takes ‘4AM Exhale’ to the lysergic disco, building shimmering skyscrapers over a subtle kick. Midway a badger gets a stiffy and drops his keks. Sculpting ‘Fifth Dimensions’, Cologne’s Jorg Burger (Burger Industries/Modernist) stirs the sonic porridge over hypnotic slow-mo shuffle-beat. All told, oh what a beauty…

Lola Dutronic
‘Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead: The Sequel’

For years I’ve held Lola Dutronic as saviours of electronic pop thanks to a simple formula of sexy ghost vocals, lingering melodies, futuristic synth sheen and dark humour created by British ex-pat Richard Citroen recording the music in Toronto then sending it to Stephanie B in Düsseldorf to record her vocals. 2015’s ‘Lost In Translation’ was among that year’s best but three years earlier they had released ‘Everyone’s A Star’ as the last personal obsession of legendary Red Star label honcho Marty Thau, who saw the band continuing a legacy that flowed from 60s bubblegum through Suicide. ‘Everybody Loves When You Dead’ was one of the album’s highlights and has since become a cult favourite. In the light of 2016’s horrific death toll, the track has been given an affectionate upgrade to include Lemmy, Leonard Cohen, Prince, George Michael and Bowie. One play and it’s lodged in the brain for days, but where’s Alan Vega?

Black Arts Circus

Paul Rip is one of London’s original acid house pioneers, responsible for the seminal Clink Street parties in 1988. By 1992, he was running Plink Plonk Records with Mr C, one of the UK’s most reliable sources of house-inflected techno, as well as recording for the label as Krypto in Underground Science. After leaving the label in 1998, he explored multi-sensory art and electro acoustic music before forming Specimen Records in 2012, which continued the Plink Plonk ethos online. Now calling himself Black Arts Circus and celebrating a rare 12-inch, Paul still swims in the deep electronic waters running below Detroit as machine clouds of Carl Craig/Basic Channel textures swirl over the hypnotic groove for nearly nine minutes. ‘Motor Neuron’ reaches further into deep space, while dub reggae inflections creep into the heaving swells under the slower ‘Ether’. Massively worthy of support and essential for lovers of great classic techno in its purest form.

Khan From Finland
‘Nicht Nur Sex’

The Berlin label is marking 20 years of existence with a series of releases from its flagship artists, including Si Begg, T Rauschmere and C. Brotzmann. Getting the ball rolling is the enigmatic Khan From Finland, the Berlin veteran who’s also in Wild Style Lion, a guitar/electronic group with Kim Gordon and J Mascis. Here he uncorks a degenerate blend of electronically-tweaked vocal outings, including smoky laments (‘Alley Cat Said’), jockstrap swamp creepers (‘Khant Buy Me Love’), dubbed-out hedonist steam baths (‘To The Limit’) and sensual P-Funk hoodoo (‘Funky Dollar Bill’). The set goes on to forge new blends of spaced-up futuristic sex-disco that harks back to when Khan was running clubs in New York. A barking dog becomes a melodic tool on the slinky ‘H&M Freedom’ that comes during a midway stretch of dubbed-out hallucinogenic rumpo grooves that end up swinging like a caveman’s todger in 2001.

’20 Acid Clonk Greats’
(Eastville Vending)

Ekoplekz is no stranger to this column, having produced three seething, malodorous albums with Baron Mordant. After the bleak barbs of last year’s ‘Rook To TN34’, he’s off on another collaboration and something of a twisted acid house detour as he hooks up with Farmer Glitch (ex-Hacker Farm) at Yeovil’s burgeoning Eastville Project Space. The set presents extracts from a marathon jam session where rudimentary drum machine patterns ranging from slo-mo space-funk to pounding proto-house are bombarded with meteor showers of fizzing arcane machinery, extra-terrestrial depth charge belches, coruscating UR circuit terror and a 303 being stretched to its limits. There’s occasional hints of Phuture though heavy early Warp and industrial flavours afoot on eight tracks that display a refreshing take on the old jam session tradition turning up gold. Acid house: the next step.

Steve Stoll
‘New York Trax 04’
(New York Trax)

When I was doing the original incarnation of this column in the 90s, Steve Stoll led the pack toting the hard minimal onslaughts coming out of NYC’s burgeoning techno scene. Like the city then, his beats were tough and there was no place for unnecessary frills. Since then he’s built a formidable catalogue on NovaMute, Trax and his own Proper NYC label. Steve’s latest is a tour de force of brutal grooves honed through decades of experience into incendiary cruise missiles that could blow Trump’s wig off from 50 yards. The fun starts with ‘No Questions Please’, where a pile-driving analogue kick is slashed across the scrotum by arcing synth squalls before ‘She Rises Up’ roars in on a juddering sequencer wave being pelted with a hailstorm of high-rise synth-storms while ‘Train Of Thought’ cracks its concrete undertow with woozy synths. The set ends with the spectral Detroit-style string ghosts dancing around the skyscrapers of ‘Routine Activity Theory’.

Eivind Opsvik
‘Overseas V’

Jazz was a crucial yet overlooked element in New York’s post-punk movement. Norwegian bassist Eivind, who’s lived in the city for two decades, has been revisiting that incendiary time with an ethos that owes as much to Eno as Terje Rypdal since launching his ‘Overseas’ series in 2003. Using electronic production techniques to enhance the vibe, he drenches melodic themes with jazz and rock musicians. Only three of the album’s nine tracks exceed five minutes, with Eivind preferring short, sharp expansions that can be bolstered with drum machine and bass synth or end up transcendental in an after-hours basement. ‘Cozy Little Nightmare’ uses Duke Ellington as its leaping off point but fragments into starbursts of robust improvisation, while ‘Extraterrestrial Tantrum’ recalls Sun Ra’s galactic explorations as spaced strings hover over rich piano musings. A very welcome, fresh New York classic if you ask me.

Acid Pauli

Since debuting with a single called ‘Stock Fuck’ in 2005, Germany’s Martin Gretschmann, Acid Pauli, has been sculpting techno of a rare intricacy on a barrage of EPs. The follow-up to his debut album ‘Mst’ bristles with unusual textures and sudden samples from his extensive vaults designed to enhance his preordained mission to explore making grooves without a kick drum. It certainly never bends to crowd-pleasing club music, but isn’t determinedly ambient. There are grooves afoot on ‘Baris’ and ‘Ayam’, but derived from pulses with shades of Africa while ‘Majid’ is hallucinogenic future blues based around on an arcane slide guitar motif with whale scrotum bass and ‘Joan’ comes on like alien chamber jazz. Closing track ‘Jorge’ takes the combination of hand drums, bass and nagging stab and turns it upside down to create music that either sounds as old as the hills or the next step. At last it feels like there’s changes in the air.

Various Artists
‘Electro: Compiled By Joey Negro’
(Z )

When all’s said and done, electro beats the more traditionally-based synthpop when it came to pushing out electronic barriers and grabbing post-disco dancefloors with its audacious sexing up of Kraftwerk and cosmic funk. As it road-tested new analogue technology, electro knew no limits and laid blueprints for techno and all that followed. Such was its impact, electro’s formative years and supernova peak both happened at the same time between 1982 (when ‘Planet Rock’ opened the stargates) and 1985, when hip hop exploded and the house and techno it inspired got under way in Chicago and Detroit. Long-time supporter Joey Negro has done a stellar job roping together the milestones (Hashim, Tyrone Brunson, Grandmaster Flash, Newcleus) with obscurities and curios including The Pacman’s ‘I’m The Pacman’ and Divine Sounds’ sublime ‘What People Do For Money’. Utterly essential.

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