Sound Goggles

Our fearless audio adventurer Kris Needs lowers his sound goggles and embarks on a low-level sortie across a curious musical landscape keeping his eyes peeled for recorded marvels along the way

Not Waving

Originally released in a limited edition of 100 gold tapes in 2013, the follow-up to Alessio Natalizia’s (aka Not Waving) solo debut ‘Animals’ has been remastered by Matt Colton in an edition of 500 LPs. Initial impression when the first of the eight tracks starts its grainy, night-stalking crawl is the scorched strata explored by John Carpenter in the 1970s. It’s all atmosphere and ominous drones before melodies rise over juddering, synthetic pulses, with primal techno an occasional undertow at times (which sometimes recalls Jeff Mills in cinematic mode). Alessio’s visions are like sonic paintings of 21st century urban ruins, industrial Cold War unease or hallucinogenic reverie, crucially forged on analogue tackle. A fitting soundtrack for today’s embattled socio-political landscape and a most seismically inspirational artefact.

Tom Arthurs/ Isambard Khroustaliov
‘Vaucanson’s Muse’
(Not Applicable)

Foremost British experimental trumpet titan Tom Arthurs currently leads two trios, but has played with a welter of major figures in improvisational music. This great looking LP, realised through a Kickstarter campaign, with evocative notes by David Toop and original cover art by Will Alsop, sees him hooking up with electronic musician Isambard Khroustaliov (aka Sam Britton from Leverton Fox and Icarus). The album’s concept and inspiration is a duck robot invented by pioneering experimentalist Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739 (a story in itself, but it could flap, eat and poop, even if it couldn’t quack). Over eight tracks, the pair explore the interaction between Tom’s trumpet and Isambard’s spiky, scrabbling electronic creaks, squirts and washes. The question arises why one track is called ‘Grace Jones’, but it’s perfect for those craving arcane curios and totally free music.

‘Love Songs’
(Ninja Tune)

Hosing down a wallaby’s testicles, Archie Fairhurst, aka Romare, explores different aspects of that old devil called love on the follow-up to his acclaimed ‘Projections’ debut album, although the concept continues the romance and rumpo themes of his ‘Love Songs: Part One’ EP. There’s a hint of Moby in the way he takes vocal clips from old blues records, although the backdrops are designed in accordance with the mood he’s chasing, whether bedroom seduction or back alley rumpo. Tracks such as ‘Je T’aime’, ‘All Night’’ and ‘L.U.V.’ present skeletal takes on early 80s New York boogie, while the best track ‘Who Loves You?’ is a thong-busting aural knob implant with its ESG bassline and flies buzzing around its loincloth. ‘Don’t Stop’ sounds like a geriatric hippo on the bog until the noir mood takes over before ‘New Love’ gets into David Lynch territory with rich organ and finger-clicks. An adventurous delight.

‘She Thought She Would Last Forever’

One of the most evocative sounds of the 70s came when names such as Giorgio Moroder or John Carpenter laid stately mid-tempo rhythms along which slithered tension-stoking synthesised bass. An atmospheric topping was overlaid to stoke the mood or, through the slightest tinge of melody, create a mini-masterwork. You could say the same of the headily intoxicating second album by Harold Boue, who adds dismembered vocals, minor chords and techno beats to broaden the distinctive style heard on 2013’s ‘Break Of Lights’ debut album. The cinematic excursions reach their apogee on the 10-minute walk through the impenetrable woods that is ‘Spazieren’, but every track is a fabulous example of how electronic music’s early groundbreaking forms can be mixed and matched with techno’s hidden pulses to make something new and futuristic. And ‘Seascape’ is pure Pink Floyd.

Leyden Jars
‘Heat Death’
(Mordant Music)

Mordant continues its ongoing mission to fire out potent missives of audacious, pungent allure with this little beauty from the Hackney basement duo that’s been out a little while, but is well worth a soak (The credits read Natalie Williams – basement and Mark Courtney – light). Tracks such as ‘7am, 30°’, ‘Embers’ and ‘Scorch Song’ evoke TG (another famous Hackney-dwelling outfit) as they scrape, crackle and gloop like a zombie chicken trying to bury his radioactive eggs in a tramp’s pants. ‘Foreground/Background’ brushes the crumbs of coagulating drones and frequencies, setting up a worthy anti-hipster resistance movement in the process. ‘Entanglement Achieved At Room Temperature’ introduces a haunted vocal into the percolating cauldron to monumental effect. I don’t normally entertain internet-only releases, but this will liven up the laptop.

‘The Untold Way’

Frankfurt’s Sascha Borchardt, aka Monoloc, continues to blend techno and ambient forms with his love of old films and use of field recordings to sculpt the bleakly compelling visions on this, his second album. After setting the mood with the beatless ‘Revive’, the coruscating, ghostly textures of the title track let a pounding kick hammer at the door, but never lets it in as other-worldly melodies fly around the room and finally coerce into a spectral space motif. So it continues, through ornately fashioned dreamscapes including the ethereal ‘Lowa’, dark sprinkles of ‘Michigan Lights’, minimal flick of ‘Momentum’ and damage-vamping ‘Cloning Society’. ‘Ground Disorder’ brings this evocative movie of an album to a close showing how today’s most exciting electronic innovators can be like a new breed of film director. If this compelling album is anything to go by, they are light years ahead already.

Various Artists
‘We Know How To Boogie’

After the first wave of disco was dispelled by ongoing musical trends and vinyl-incinerating meatheads at a sports stadium, the most celebratory sound of the 70s girded its loins, embraced new technology and forged a fresh strain called boogie. It’s marvelous compilations like this latest set from BBE that keep it alive as the music’s seemingly bottomless pit continues revealing luminous gems of the genre. The funk was still alive and well in outings such as T.B. Funk’s ‘Free Blow’ and Living Colour’s ‘Plastic People’, but its horns and groin-humping bass were joined by grooving synths, hyperactive drum machines and starbursts of cosmic wind, bridging the gap between disco and house music. The synth-bass growling under Together Band’s ‘You Can’t Run From Love’ is another example of the recently-deceased Bernie Worrell’s colossal impact on electronically-generated dance music. Sheer bliss 80s-style.

‘Dilation Remixes’

Several years ago, Erol Sarp and Lukas Vogel committed themselves to making music solely with the grand piano, using 20 self-constructed hammers and studio technology to twist the results into luxurious beds of muted techno and ambient floatation. After the success of the ‘Dilation’ album, they handed four tracks over to remixers to stretch their creative gonads. New York’s Falty DL turns ‘Newton’s Cradle’ into a fluttering mid-tempo pillow fight overlaid with soft-focus melodic clouds, rippling pianos and house riff mutants. Phillip Otterbach, aka Grand Optimist, turns ‘Studie V’ into a bubbling, shapeshifter peppered with Orb-style speech bites. 2nd Drop’s DjRUM uses ‘Prologue’ to concoct a throbbing stealth forager, bringing spoken declarations over its hallucinogenic desert wanderings. Lastly, 1080p’s Portable Sunsets turns ‘Neon’ into a lush deep house canter with lazy bloke vocals.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
‘Skeleton Tree’
(Bad Seed Ltd)

What’s Nick Cave, the world’s most enigmatic, compelling singer-songwriter, doing in ES? You may well ask, going on his past savage gothic masterworks, but Cave’s latest set, so terribly interrupted during its inception by the death of his teenage son Arthur after he fell off a Brighton cliff, is a masterclass in using electronic washes and atmospheres in modern recording. Anyone who’s heard the evocative soundtracks created by Cave and chief conspirator Warren Ellis will know how they have evolved from piano-violin instrumentals to gauzy, electronically underscored pieces that can sit with anything else in these pages. From the opening ‘Jesus Alone’, as Cave starts to deal with his unimaginable grief, the music billows, crackles and sears, deploying drum loops on ‘Anthrocene’ or scorched earth drones on ‘Magneto’. A work of monstrous, terrible beauty.

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