With a big old bucket and a shiny audio shovel, Kris Needs heads off in search of some lesser-spotted waxed wonders
No apologies for leading with the second deluxe missive on Jono “Kumo” Podmore’s reactivated Psychomat label. The promise of the last releases, ‘Miss Slipper’, is seismically built on with this enigmatic second release. ‘Stendec’ was the last word broadcast in Morse code from Star Dust, the plane that mysteriously disappeared en route to Santiago in 1947 and became engulfed in UFO theories. This new EP matches that sense of mystery with a heartfelt, even spiritual vocal that quivers and emotes after introductory chant as the glistening backdrop swells with eastern-tinged melodies. The ‘Vocal Mix’ is an electronic dream take on an a capella version, peppered with extreme stretches, bends and vocoder abuse. The B-side flaunts Jono’s nine-minute ‘Kumo Mix’; unashamed banging techno that kicks like a buffalo and swells into an analogue meteor shower. Like ‘Miss Slipper’ this will also be destined for future collectors’ status.
Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of those untouchable 90s deep house massages from Strictly Rhythm and Nu Groove. This month’s download-only allowance marks Vancouver veteran Jay Tripwire’s third outing for Viva, edging in on hefty meat-and-two-veg kick before warm piano remoulds one of those haunting Strictly Rhythm motifs, joined by synthesised sax, high string and burbling acid. Todd Omotani’s Super Laser Beam Remix adds a skittering hi-hat shaker shuffle before a ghostly house groove kicks up (with little girl shouts adding to the alien ambience). ‘Origin Of Infinity’ burrows deeper and deliriously spacier with sepulchral keys and hissing of flying saucer turbines blowing the jockstrap off a passing vole. ‘Amongst The Birch’ cranks up the 303 to mutter and chomp against a firewall of swooshing noises and bulging marimba tones. Two further Jay treatments of the latter complete a fiercely creative package.
‘Mara I/Mara II’
Naming themselves after a Norwegian glacier, sound architect Nikolai von Sallwitz (aka Taprikk Sweezee) and experimental artist Alsen Rau (one half of Germany’s On+Brr aka Scheich In China) team up on two albums recorded in remote Scandinavian solitude on customised arcane analogue gear. The unique sound achieved by the duo is down to their refashioning of drum computers and synth boxes using and various effects and devices of their own creation, sometimes recording to tape and feeding the music back into their set-up to add further to its luminescent alien minimalism. With tracks named after the locations where they were recorded, Esmark have produced an epic soundtrack of electronically manipulated exploration. It can sound pure as the driven snow or like the giant woods monster snuck by one night and laid a radioactive loaf on their sonic doorstep.
‘All The Keys Are Here’
Apollo was launched in the early 90s as R&S’s lighter alternative to the intestine-bashing hardcore techno belching from the mothership label. It’s good to see it still presenting innovative sounds of a gentler hue with this meditatively insidious four-tracker from Sebastian Mullaert of Minologue. He fits the Apollo creed like a silken glove as he uncorks glistening electric piano ripples over muted acid and discreet beats on the opening ‘Every Moment, I Am’. Each track began life as a piano improvisation at his forest studio informed by the Zen spirituality that bathes each track in a tangible state of calm. The set continues with the tone-washed ‘Earth Blossom’, sonorous alien bubblebath ‘Visitor’s Path’ and gloriously orchestral ‘Wings Of Remembrance’. Mesmerising, hypnotic and spirit-soothing.
Little Death Machine
This brilliantly-named south London art rock trio formed in 2012 and self-released two singles before signing with Bath-based indie Glasstone. The outcome was a single called ‘Pale’ and multi-media EP ‘Dreaming In Monochrome’. Released on their own 17 Records label, ‘Midnight Blue’ is one half of a two-single audio-visual project that’s been trailered supporting names including Psychic TV, Slaves and God Damn. Minus the visuals the song stands out for their hugely-resonant synthesised bass pulse and jagged sonic uprisings that underpin the intense vocals and shouty chorus. This lot are interesting and showing healthy signs of striving for something beyond the norm both onstage and in the studio. We await their album with interest.
If it sometimes seems like half the world’s electronic producers have moved to Berlin, the amount of astonishingly good tackle beaming out of the city can’t be denied. Pascal moved there in 2013 and, with half a dozen singles on labels including his own Constant Variables, has emerged with a hard-edged techno style that elevates this four-tracker. There’s a distinct 90s feel to the brisk bleeps and robust Y-front detonation of opening salvo ‘Motion Blur’, which beautifully swallow dives into a crowd-slaughtering “It’s melon-losing time” drop transmuted through lustrous pads. ‘Stutter’ uncorks hippo scrotum kick carnage before ‘Timelapse’ illustrates Pascal’s deft balance between subtlety and mayhem, its beats sending out colossal, sparking shockwaves that think nothing of brandishing the massive penis of Alfie Noakes. ‘Strobe’ reactivates the time-honoured nuclear kick boom with lethally-hypnotic consequences. Fabulous.
Over in Belgium, Dany Rodriguez pursues last year’s sublime ‘Galaxies Compared’ outing with a spanking new set on his RMR label. One of the 10 year-plus veteran’s major skills is injecting his productions with emotional wallop and evocative non-dancefloor themes. The album starts with the ‘Natural Symphony’ and closes with the atmospheric foray into Detroit-style strings of ‘December’ as once forged by Jeff Mills and UR. Between those he whips up varying degrees of dancefloor pressure on tracks such as stripped-down ‘Texture’, jazz-inflected ‘D Funk’, the stride-scorching title track and self-explanatory ‘Acid Tribute’. While ‘Tell Me When You Are Ready’ fondles an electro codpiece, ‘Deep Morning’ provides the ultimate sunrise symphony and ‘Oscilo 8’ is one of those eccentric marvels, again showing Dany as one of our more inventive electronic foragers.
‘Chimeras In The Matrix ‘
Samo is a new label from New York City that explores the deeper, darker sides of electronic music. Its first EP comes from Pixlife (NYC underground veteran Sean Dack, one half of Ghost Cop). The ominous ‘Omega Block’ commences with booming kick bass splattered with abrasive keyboards and bolstered with microscopic precision, upping the pressure through glistening icicles hung from the synth riffs. Bristol-born Berlin resident Antoni Maiovvi injects fly swatter percussion and drones to create a dank warehouse belter. The title track glides in on glacial sequences punctuated by curling bison flatulence stabs and 303 tucked in its shorts to build a tense web of synthesised assault. Tronik Youth (a familiar name from Berlin’s Nein label) refashions the track with beefy chug, crooning machines and ruined city skyline sounds. Very promising label already.
‘Influences Volume 2’
After being spotted dazzling at a Sao Paolo club by DJ Bryan Gee in 1998, Marky was brought to London, where he shot to the frontline of the drum ’n’ bass scene and international fame. His first volume of ‘Influences’ appeared in 2008 and is now joined by a second, equally diverse selection, which traverses Brit-soul drum ‘n’ bass (Roni Size, Influx Datum), tasty 80s synthpop (The Armed Gang) and obscurities such as Lars Bartkhun’s lush ‘Karate Samba’. It’s reassuring to find a healthy brace of box-pushing acid house classics here too, including Phortune’s ‘String Free’, Maurice’s ‘This Is Acid’, Jack Frost And The Circle Jerks’ ‘Clap Me’ plus, on a techno tip, Dave Angel’s ‘Rotation’ and Galaxy 2 Galaxy’s gorgeous ‘Timeline’.