Our fearless audio adventurer Kris Needs casts a beady ear over a bumper harvest of recorded marvels, and all for your listening pleasure
‘Let The Church EP’
Last year’s ES interview with Robert Hood captured the devoutly religious man who revolutionised techno happily relocated from Detroit to Alabama, and, accompanied by daughter Lyric, determined to up his game spreading the gospel through merciless techno. Hood’s religion is the old-time kind whose unfettered euphoria at services can dwarf any dance club. This blistering EP bottles that buzz with his trademark grooves, starting with the title track’s surging subterranean bass and deftly-controlled pressure cooker drum onslaught, punctuated by gospel holler-loop. ‘Made Up In My Mind’ is a heaving pulser overlaid with booming piano samples and testifying lady. Hood’s remix of ‘He Can Save You’ plants a fiery preacher over a flickering glitcher that churns uninterrupted for eight delirious minutes. Finally, Lyric takes ‘Never Grow Old’ to the modern dancefloors with rave breaks, woozy keys and vocal bites.
‘Symbolic Use Of Light’
First time on physical record for the Brooklyn-based DJ/producer who co-founded New York’s Discowoman crew and is resident at the Technofeminism club. Although many would consider their first album an auspicious task, Umfang created hers, as she always does, live and spontaneous, using a couple of Boss DR 202s, an xOxbOx and Korg synth. Basically, the punk ethos applied to electronics, using machines to let out a cathartic emotional blast from whatever mood happens to be grabbing her at the time. The album’s bare, but relentlessly gripping set of innovative analogue outbursts range from the translucent techno-throb of ‘Weight’ and street-stalking acid of ‘Where Is She’ to groin-level pulsations of the title track. This music could have been created in a Detroit bunker 30 years ago, but is happening now and it’s typically syphoned your way via Ninja Tune.
Building an obvious but largely untrod bridge between techno’s black American birthplace and African roots music, this amazing album came about after US DJ/producer Chief Boima found a YouTube video of blind-from-birth Sierra Leonian thumb pianist Sorie Kondi. He was so knocked out by the instrument, he set its rippling melodies over his beats and released them on bootleg. After Sorie’s manager got in touch, Boima made it to Africa to tour and record with Sorie, resulting in a whole album and monumental ancient-new sound. While Sorie sings his lyrics decrying child prostitution and poverty, Boima lets the thumb piano (also called a kondi) weave translucent hill streams of melody; a surprisingly natural fit for the house music pulsing beneath. World music has taken a battering over the years from western rock star dilettantes, but this ultimately joyful set goes way beyond any flippant dabbling.
Intriguing, evocative and utterly unique stuff continues to rain in from Scandinavia. Appearing on the Oslo-based Rune Grammofon label, trumpeter Arve hooks up again with long-time partners sonic manipulator Jan Bang and synth man Erik Honore. The trio have previously played together on 2004’s much-acclaimed ‘Chiaroscuro, Cartography’ for ECM and 2013’s ‘Places Of Worship’. This time they are joined by ECM-associated guitarist Eivind Aarset for a stunning chamber music-like approach. Slow, atmospheric, winding and elemental, the players conjure an ethereal flow of subtle electronic swells and Arve’s horns, rising to a unison peak on ‘Demarcation Live’. The album goes out with a traditional ancient Norwegian song sung by Anna Maria Friman of Trio Medieval, beautifully bringing down the curtain on this month’s most evocatively time-stopping set.
Presenting a different side of Norwegian culture, Bjarki and Johnny Chrome Silver welcome new singing Stian Gjevik, aka EOD (of Rephlex and WeMe fame) to their Bbbbbb imprint (I don’t know how you pronounce it either). This happened after Icelander Bjarki discovered him on Soundcloud, got in touch and found he had a vast library of unreleased tackle dating back to 2002. Fresh and crystalline like a snowy mountain skyline in the sun, the title track sees Stian floating his resolutely analogue keyboard wriggles over a snow-funk rattle before ‘Evenhark’ takes off on a heavenly glide over broken beats. ‘Swarm’ sets the drum machine to hyperactive overdrive before sinister clouds of something evil start circling like UR’s classic killer bees track of the same name. ‘Elcaset Testgroove’ takes the set out on glacial electro-funk, analogue flatulence and blissful strings. Unbelievably it’s all created without a PC.
‘The 7 Year Anniversary EP’
Amid these new European sounds it’s reassuring to find Chicago-style acid house alive and kicking in its purest form over 30 years since it erupted. Marking her Dame-Music’s 35th release and seventh birthday, French Berlin-based DJ-producer Bloody Mary invited a gaggle of stalwarts and new marauders to celebrate the label’s raw, analogue manifesto. For ‘Shonen Jump’ the Analogue Cops set up a charging groove over which a malevolent 303 snarls and synthetic strings forge classic house melodies. Next, Mary is joined by Milton ‘Alien Rain’ Bradley for a mean, chomping 303s-at-dawn showdown called ‘Tales From Space’. Finally, Chicago veteran Boo Williams, one of the city’s loudest flag-wavers for the last 20 years, whips up the side-long ‘Animation’, which begins wild pitch before layers of luminous synth-lines start manifesting and morphing into something of an epic electronic masterpiece.
Timothy “Heretic” Clerkin
‘Serenade EP ‘
This does make me feel a bit old as now acid house is getting the kind of nostalgic revisit previously given to punk, psychedelia or synthpop. Over a hoary breakbeat chugs a time-honoured rave riff as some speech sample about the dangers of acid house parties and drugs is stretched like a condom over a ham sandwich. Despite sporting fashionable Hoxton hipster 1930s ‘tache and hat, Clerkin displays a more individual side on ‘Recursive’, which invokes early 90s progressive acid whoopee with well-behaved 303, chiming Orbital chords and Leftfield-style eastern horn sample. ‘Execute’ is even better, still low-fi but splattering its primal Chicago house beat with an early morning acid pebble-dash at the back of the bowl. Pure early 90s losing it delirium. The EP is completed by Marlon Hoffstadt’s ‘Recursive’ remix soaping the vole with acid and scrotum-crushing kick action.
‘I Was Warned About People Like Us’
After three years away from his Avatism persona, Thomas Fereiro of CW/A returns to Vakant with a magisterial triumph of supercharged creativity and depth. The title track gets underway with a bare clomping kick gradually swathed in mournful strings, ringing tech-tones, subtly manipulated breakbeats and extra dimensions of jungle alarm bells and spectral space chicken droppings. ‘Self Control’ continues the 90s feel by uncorking hefty breaks under Thomas’s trademark ethereal melodic fragments. ‘Gunmetal Grey’ batters a reinforced kick tattoo with what sounds like a barely controllable 50-foot-wide length of industrial strength live cable to create an awesome monster-snake of tremendous power. ‘Too Patient To Wait’ is another heavyweight marvel that takes the Tornados to the 21st century in a leather jockstrap. Electronic body music as rewritten for today.
‘Panthalassa: Dream Music Of The Once And Future Ocean’
A founding member of New York’s experimental Ghost Ensemble, accordionist Ben Richter’s latest chamber music mission is to capture deep oceanic moods by exploring microtonality via drones and textures. It starts with three movements of ‘Panthalassa’ built around his overdubbed prepared accordion. All hover around 15 minutes and they suspend all rules to see how far pure sound can float and how colossal it can grow out of such a traditional instrument. ‘Farther Reaches’ brings in the Ostravska Banda as a mammoth jazz orchestra, unfurling behemoth drones and huge swells like a blue whale is floating slowly by. ‘Crytobiosis’ sees Ben conjuring unearthly magic using electronics while ‘I Am The Wind’ is like being stuck in a gale at 50,000 fathoms. A supremely fathomless soundtrack for another dream world where even rabbits wear snorkels.