Armed with just a decent pair of ears, Kris Needs serves up tunes galore for your listening pleasure
‘Reworked By Detroiters’
Detroit has been a city under siege for decades, its artists bonded by bunker defiance and unifying love of adopted son George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic line-ups he led in the city between the late 60s and 80s. Now credited with laying crucial foundations for electronic funk, hip hop, techno and liberated personal freedom, Funkadelic’s immortal legacy still looms large and is honoured by this superlative project in which original songs are reworked by subsequent Detroit generations, including Underground Resistance, Amp Fiddler, Marcellus Pittman, Anthony Shakir and Claude Young Jr. It’s frequently spine-tingling hearing these ingrained classics highlighted with such respect. One crowning peak manifesting in Moodymann’s epic ‘Sloppy Cosmic’ take on ‘Cosmic Slop’, the late Garry Shider’s heart-wrenching ghetto tragedy vocal still up-front over that haunted riff.
It’s good to see NYC’s experimental maverick attitude is alive and squirting anarchic electronic gold against the fire hydrants in Brooklyn’s hip new enclaves. Produced by multi-instrumentalist and electronic inventor Bradford Reed, Ohmslice’s debut album plants Jane LeCroy’s street poetry over bubbling cauldrons of electronic globules, robo-duck flatulence and arcane space noise. It beautifully conjures a New York answer to the first United States Of America album or Fifty Foot Hose half a century later, with similarly one-off machines put through a corrosive modern times ringer. Drummer Josh Matthews, brass legend Daniel Carter and Swans guitarist Bill Bronson join the B-movie planetscapes of ‘Ancient Friendship’, tumescent electronic detritus of ‘Gravity’ and jazz pulses of ‘Snow’, before ‘Ohm’s Awe’, a closing skyline hymn to the shiny new city, becomes a new electronic landmark.
‘Sounds Of The Unexpected: Weird & Wacky Instrumentals From Pop’s Final Frontiers’
There’s a poignant back story to this exemplary set of wigged-out instrumentals from a time when space, stars and planets provoked a wild gleam in the imagination that could only be painted in the studio through sonic invention and experimentation. For over 30 years, vinyl junkie Vicki Fox was part of the Ace Records family. She started this compilation before succumbing to cancer, leaving her partner Tony Berrington and honcho Roger Armstrong to bring home her vision with 24 rare and truly bonkers early 60s instrumentals. Most interesting are the alien instro-gabble of ‘Space Walk’ by San Francisco’s The Astros; George Martin posing as Ray Cathode for 1962’s ‘Waltz In Orbit’; Timmy Thomas pioneering the drum machine on 1972’s ‘Funky Me’ and The Tornados struggling to follow ‘Telstar’ with 1964’s ‘Hot Pot’. Have to say they’ve done Vicki proud.
‘Awakening The Past’
We recently welcomed the resurgence of veteran DJ/producer/promoter/label boss Steve Bicknell in the UK techno scene with his new 6dimensions label. For its fourth release, Steve rummages in the Comic Records archives for the ‘Lost Recordings’ series to emerge brandishing 1996 double-pack ‘Why? & For Whom?’ Back then the tracks were untitled, but have been named to fit 6dimensions’ more human ethos. Heard over 20 years later, ‘Physical Life’, ‘Natural Vibrations’ and ‘Fearing The Mind’s Fears’ still sound light years ahead. Steve’s raw instinctual minimalism inner funk was achieved through deft manipulation of percussive elements and subterranean bass frequencies. They’re joined by ‘Conscious Awakening’, a new track recorded in the same spirit, is a swarm of fuzzed-up malevolence punctuated by ITU ward panic signal glitch. Steve is going for the mind and creating the UK’s most vital electronic music label in the process.
Audiac is a duo consisting of singer Alexander Wiemer van Veen from Tübingen and Hamburg’s Niklas David, who released their debut album, ‘Thank You For Not Discussing The Outside World’ 14 years ago and were compared to Massive Attack and Portishead. Now they’re back with a second, again produced by Faust founder Hans Joachim-Irmler. Discounting the Klangbad website’s worrying assertion that “As a performer, Wiemer melts women’s hearts and makes men’s balls cramp to the size of hazelnuts”, the album is a frequently startling exercise in hot-wiring vocal/piano duets by any means necessary. Vocals turn into space choirs, showtune piano is glazed in autumnal synth strings and organs turned into distorted mirrors on tracks such as ‘Gospels Unreal’ and ‘People Going Places’. Every one of these 10 swooning missives is crying to be in a movie, preferably of the darkly romantic variety.
Since coming together in Bristol in 2005, James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas have been pushing out sonic envelopes and exploring creating sound in creative settings (anywhere from top art gallery to decommissioned nuclear power station or sprawling ruin). After releasing EPs and LPs on various labels, the duo signed to Chicago’s Thrill Jockey this year and released the formidable ‘Borders’ LP (described as Black Sabbath meets TG). Their latest EP uses techniques developed while recording the album combined with ritual repetition and microtonal embellishments, achieved by acoustic means only. Strangely recalling the atonal hypno-pulsings of no wave outfit Mars, the two chunks of title track hum aboard a malignant firewall of strings and depth-charge drums. The flip’s two versions of ‘Eye’ follow a less-is-more approach, one that that often happens with those who’ve taken their electrified actions to the outer limits.
NovaMute was launched in 1992 as techno arm of the venerable Mute Records. Nothing has been heard from the former home of Plastikman for over 10 years, but happily NovaMute is back, still pushing the electronic boat out judging by this three-tracker from a conservatory-educated music lecturer and event spokesman for Ableton Loop and Mutek. After the title track has re-enacted NovaMute’s original hard techno ethos with low-flying sonic booms and a trunks-munching electronic shark attack, Nicolas’s avant-garde leanings manifest in the shimmering dogfights and slow-mo pulses of ‘Truthful Hyperbole’ before ‘Fake News’ slaps down a disorienting beat that threatens to get its legs sliced off by a cosmic chainsaw as a classic 80s keyboard riff drops its keks. Claustrophobic, challenging and a great start to the welcome rebirth of NovaMute.
‘EPM Selected Vol 5’
This month’s download-only delight has to be the fifth volume drawn from the recent EPM Music EP archive. It’s a radioactive chamber pot spill that bristles with the cutting edge and kicks off with Esteban Adame’s transcendent ‘Descendants’ (his UR apprenticeship with Mad Mike flying beautifully in the Detroit strings) before carving a radiant path through the minimal surge of Italian duo Basic Frame’s ‘NKS’,. There’s the low-slung tweakage of British tech-vet Mark Broom’s ‘One Sound’, Francesco Terranova’s wilfully stripped-down ‘Terra 1’ and Ben Long’s impressionistic ‘Calling Broadsword’ (from his ‘Standing Alone’ LP). Don’t miss Floorplan (Robert and Lyric Hood) speaking in ‘French Kiss’-riffed tongues on the awesome ‘Ritual’ and House Of Black Lanterns evocatively fondling the creature from the black lagoon’s teabags on the sub-oceanic ‘Drown’. A scorching affirmation from this veteran UK electronic institution.
‘Joey Negro & Sean P Present The Best Of Disco Spectrum’
Ironically for a medium initially aimed at sparking human reactions, disco laid out electronic dance music’s future when drum machines and synths started replacing people in the studio in the late 70s. That evolutionary arc was beautifully charted between 1999 and 2001 when Joey Negro and Sean P unleashed the ‘Disco Spectrum’ compilations that catalysed disco’s ongoing revival. Now the pair have selected 21 highlights from the original sets, every spangled ejaculation, from the waspy synth melodies stacking Jo Boyer’s ‘Isabelle And The Rain’, to the fabulous synthetic wallop of Omni’s ‘Out Of My Hands’ is a winner. While Hi Voltage’s ‘Somewhere Beyond’, by renegade hustler Began Cekic and unsung disco pioneer Fred Zarr crystallised the 1982-vintage NYC disco and laid crucial foundations for the house revolution gathering on the horizon.