Fearless audio adventurer Kris Needs casts his beady ear far and wide and picks out the latest delights for your listening pleasure
‘I Can’t Carry On’
Every Needs Must column in the 90s ended with a shout to Fat Cat Records, the amazing Covent Garden emporium that supplied us all with cutting edge electronic goodies. The shop’s spirit lives on its label, which launches its FCR offshoot with this killer from Preston DJ Paul Cottam. A rave veteran, he started creating a stir in 2009 by releasing untitled creations on white label before releasing a flurry of 12-inches for other labels. Cottam’s now produced the sort of magical techno classic that seems to come along once in a lifetime, but will be revered forever. After a bell-like loop sets up the mesmerising resonance, it’s joined by a spot-on old school vocal sample (“I can’t carry on like I used to!”) and one of those soaring sunrise synth lines so popular around 1992. This goes on for nearly 13 delirious minutes that will have your heart and melon doing cartwheels.
‘Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal’
Since first appearing back in the early 1970s with his collision between electric Miles, avant scrabbling and UK blues-rock, cult hero Terje Rypdal has released over two dozen albums that rewrite the possibilities of the electric guitar in their fearless genre-straddling. This collection of covers by 10 chomping-at-the-bit axe titans (including Jim O’Rourke and Bill Frisell) was put together by veteran American guitarist Henry Kaiser for Rypdal’s 70th birthday. With fabulous liner notes by David Fricke, the assembled cast, joined by Terje’s long-time keyboardist Stale Storloken, whip up a celebration of the great man’s stellar achievements in electronically-driven jazz. Sitting through the stratospheric cosmic joy-rides of ‘Over Birkerot’/‘Silver Birds Head For The Sun’ or ‘Chaser’ is like being caught in a flying saucer dog fight while riding a one-way roller-coaster to the stars.
Steve Bicknell was one of the heroes of the original Needs Must columns thanks to his legendary Lost parties and Cosmic label. A doggedly underground figure, his position as a seminal UK techno linchpin is often overlooked so it’s with great pleasure we welcome his new label 6dimensions and this colossal circuit belch from former teenage Lost regular Bobby James Pike. Lead track ‘Circuit Form’s [0.2]’ piles it on for 11 minutes of chattering tension driven by a synth that never stops on a groove that doesn’t drop. ‘Worry’ sounds like a short mixing tool clip from the same jam. Side B’s ‘Are You Even There Anymore’ thunders in on a bowel-quaking kick-bass peppered with radioactive chemical toilet overflow, shark-like turbo-stools and buttock-lancing acid rain. ‘Mathilda [Structure 1]’ rides a merciless bass gallop through electric storm clouds. British techno is alive and still world class.
For years, Fabrizio Rat traversed the two worlds of classical music (while studying at the academy in Turin) and acid house. Now based in Paris, he follows last year’s ‘La Machina’ EP for Optimo by bringing his two worlds together on an album for Arnaud Rebotini’s Blackstrobe label that’s entirely built on his prepared piano, 909 drum machine and 303. Sometimes reminiscent of a rampant African thumb piano, the prepared keyboard’s glacial rushes drape Rat’s basic acid house bedrock with an unearthly crystal resonance on tracks like the surging ‘Lupu’ and luminous ‘Michelangeli’, maybe sounding most effective when applied to the vole-on-the-bowl minimal structure of ‘Aimard’, turning up the acid on ‘Pollini’ or exploring the piano’s deepest recesses from icicle top to booming bottom on ‘Argerich’. By the closing shuffle loop of ‘Rubinstein’ he’s turned this avant-acid blueprint into a whole new style.
While American electronic music around them was mutating into appalling corporate EDM, Underground Resistance were forging a new style of inner city electro that took the music from Planet Rock down to subterranean bunkers of punk-style protest. Fresh from his recent ‘Dosing The Population’ set, Scotland’s foremost practitioner of machine-driven robo-carnage is back on Shipwrec with a five-track electro monster coursing with chaos, paranoia, anger and violent conveyor belt malfunctions on tracks such as ‘Day Of Rage’, deeply swelling string-drenched ‘Daisy Cutter’, self-explanatory ‘From Glasgow To Detroit’, graphic ‘Sticks & Stones’ and the title track where there really is a riot going on. Somehow he’s perfected this way of making his machines sound many times larger, older and more menacing than they really are. This is where the real industrial music can be found now.
The mighty Hubro strike again with the a third LP from guitarist-composer Stein Urheim and, in this case, the Cosmolodic Orchestra, who formed in 2016 for a Norwegian jazz festival and included luminaries such as trumpeter Per Jørgensen. Bolstered by singer Mari Kvien Brunvoll on samples and electronics, the music is impossible to pin down as tracks morph wraith-like between early 60s jazz through arcane psychedelic folk to American primitive guitar reveries, with influences from pioneering American guitarist John Fahey’s skeletal folk picking to audacious electronic experimentation. There’s much in here that bears repeated listening, like the deep-in-the-woods jazz bar shuffle of ‘Just Intonation Island’ goosing ‘Bitches Brew’ or the droning dream of ‘Letter From Walden Two’ swelling into early 70s prog-jazz horn riffs before Jaki Liebezeit leads them to a basement jazz club where the riffs loom again sporting Godzilla’s jock-strap.
‘DJ Beat That Shhh/ Move It, Work It’
As one of the original Chicago house legends, Mike Dunn is another long-time hero around these parts who’s kept at it since arriving in 1987 with ‘Dance You Mutha’ before releasing classics such as ‘Magic Feet’, ‘God Made Me Phunky’ and ‘Let It Be House’ (and let’s not forget 1989’s ‘Pussy Is Good’ as Bowel Movements). He also DJed with the legendary Ron Hardy, produced K-Alexi and Armando and invented hiphouse. Mike revives his much-loved MD X-Spress persona for ‘DJ Beat That Shhh’, a sublime slab of old school jacking hiphouse topped with shimmering electric keyboards and his floor-stoking ruminations. The flip’s ‘Move It, Work It’ reaches back to acid house’s earliest blueprints as its percolating, expertly-programmed beats are garnished with supremely moody Master C&J-style synth, 303-emblazoned underpants and simple vocal exhortations. Pure, undiluted acid house from the reigning godfather.
‘Now Is The Last Best Time’
The only way to fully grasp the dreadful effects of Alzheimer’s is when it strikes someone you know. In my case, Mott The Hoople’s late drummer Buffin, who I knew well in the 1970s, but obviously didn’t have a clue who I was when I last saw him in 2009. For his first solo album, Tim Mislock wanted to highlight the disease’s tumultuous impact after it struck his step-father. Tim creates a heart-breakingly beautiful ambient masterpiece, influenced by the emotional swell of Gavin Bryars’ ‘The Sinking Of The Titanic’ as guitars and strings unfurl in dense electric fog cloaking poignant melodies and ominous themes. The grainy pickings of ‘A Conception of Memory’ recall NYC guitar innovator Loren Connors before swirling into layered webs spun from their own organic interaction, including the jaw-hanging dream-rhythms of ‘Lovekin’. The year’s most emotional sonic masterpiece.
‘The Day We Discover Why’
(Fruits De Mer)
Having released a bunch of cassette LPs in the early 90s then lying low for 20 years before returning in 2014, Ramsgate duo Brian Vogt and Tony Osborne may be one of the best kept secrets in electronic music. Since then they’ve released countless numbers of CDRs. The wonderful Fruits De Mer have compiled 14 Suspirium tracks onto one disc. All ends of Suspirium’s panoramic spectrum are covered, including cosmic ambience (‘The Melting Point Of Light’), throbbing krautrock (‘Verbotenplatz’) and trouser-friendly techno (‘Schwerpunkt’), while the weightless symphony of ‘Krankheit’ eclipses any late period Tangerine Dream. There’s a subtle humour and eccentricity at play that lends soul to their exploits and makes further investigation of the pair’s garden of unearthly delights an attractive proposition. Happy snorkelling.