Our intrepid audio explorer Kris Needs dons his flying hat, lowers his sound goggles and embarks on a flight of fancy, hoovering up a bunch of wild musical shizz along the way
‘Wins The World Cup’
From the early 70s, for about a decade, the most audaciously brain-scorching, outer limits-stretching electronic trailblazing was being forged in the lawless studios of Jamaica in the name of dub. The reissue programme currently under way from seminal London label Greensleeves is reviving many classics of the era, such as this mind-melting nugget produced by Henry “Junjo” Lawes in 1982, when themed dub collections were all the rage. Inside the hilariously garish packaging, the beats are monolithic, with bass heavy enough to empty the bowels of the nearest hippo and mixing desk trickery so extreme that vocals are shredded like a tramp’s underpants at dawn. There’s more of the same era-invoking nuggets on further reissues gems such as ‘The Evil Curse Of The Vampires’, ‘Encounters Pac-Man’ and ‘Space Invaders’.
Since his debut on Dave Clarke’s Magnetic North label in the early 90s, Chile-born UK-bred Cristian Vogel has ploughed deeper, more evocative furrows than many producers and, with this often astounding follow-up to 2014’s ‘Polyphonic Beings’, deserves to be held up as a fearlessly innovative talent. Tracks such as ‘Hold’, ‘Snowcrunch’ and ‘Vessels’ swarm and swirl with rich layers and textures, underpinned by thudding Godzilla-bowel dub heaves. The astonishing ‘Telemorphosis’ crackles with gauzy static, achieving Cristian’s goal of foraging in strata previously mined by extreme dub or musique concrète foragers. There’s the spectral vocal manipulations of ‘Barefoot Agnete’, before ‘The Merman’s Dream’ pokes its snorkel into the kind of fathomless oceanscape where Drexciya perches on a neighbouring chemical toilet.
‘Complete Anthology 79–83’
German multimedia artist Michael Winter conceived XYNN in the late 70s using music, lights, film and theatrics to enhance his songs. He released three albums (1980’s ‘Dreams About Reality’, 1981’s ‘Computed Man’ and 1983’s ‘Lost In Space’), which are now roped together in a fabulous double disc set that displays him as a lost talent in the story of unusual electronic pop. There are echoes of Bowie, Roxy, Numan and Gabriel, but his personality shines sufficiently to justify his own lofty place in the pantheon. As Winter says in the notes, “what was once avant-garde is now pop music”, and titles such as ‘The Lonely Electron’, ‘Radioactive Raindrops’ and ‘Isolated Brain’ show where his ethos was at. Hopefully the outside world has caught up by now.
Having released a string of pube-strafing singles for labels such as Kombination Research, Bush and MB Elektronics, this Belgian producer has started his own RMR label and uncorks his first full album. As the title suggests there’s a spacey element to his sound, getting under way with the juddering meteor shower of star-sailing opening salvo ‘D’story’, twinkling minimal techno of ‘Voyager’ and UR-recalling title track. ‘November’ charts an eerier, deeper flight path with icy tones and a chance stumbling into ancient heavenly loincloths floating in space. Even when he’s mining Detroit’s timeless techno seams, as on the Jeff Mills-cantering ‘Labyrinth’, Rodriguez flies his own flag as one to watch in a field that needs records like this to stoke its engine and keep exploring fresh galaxies.
‘House Of Eternal Return: Soundscapes’
The House of Eternal Return is a permanent interactive, multimedia art installation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, run by the Meow Wolf collective, which can run to 135 artists. There are three sets of music created for the installations, all getting resissued alongside this initial collection, which features mainstays David Last, Mi, Brian Mayhall and Feathericci on a gamut of Paradise Garage electronic boogie, sleazy house and cheeky electro. The second set, ‘Arcade Soundtracks: Wiggy’s Plasma Plex’ was the score for a pop art video game arcade that reached back to the gloriously garish electro-funk of the 80s, while the third offering, ‘House of Eternal Return: Soundscapes Vol. 2’, continues drawing from the same technicolour well that splashed all over the first volume. Mind-expanding retro-referencing fun rarely sounds so energised.
‘In The Tepid Shine We Breathe’
This young London-based composer/DJ first appeared with his debut EP on Amirali’s Dark Matters label last year, which is now consolidated by this three-track flower-bomb that adds the gossamer vocals of Darker (aka Jenna Whelan) to the title tune’s ever-morphing aural ectoplasm. Redshape’s remix amps the bass up to rhino scrotum dimensions and homes in on the vocal for a woozily hallucinogenic stretch, until the beat breaks in with a rowdy hi-hat and sturdy acid riff. The snappily entitled ‘There Must Be Chaos Within You To Give Birth To A Shining Star’ starts with rain recordings and initially suspends beats to stoke its resonating frequencies, until the metallic latrine kick scuttles in midway and accentuates the rich, gliding melodies unfolding above. By now, it’s recalling late 90s Orb, which is no bad thing.
‘Atom Brain Monster-Rock’
In every column, I try to whack in the kind of mind-frying psychedelic monster electricity was invented for. Former Spacemen 3 drummer Sterling Roswell has been at the forefront of the UK space-rock scene for years, releasing one of its major masterworks with 2014’s ‘The Call of the Cosmos’ album. This single sees him beaming up his alien transmissions from the heart of his psychedelic hoodoo cauldron. Here he whips up a sinister rattling voodoo pulse lashed with extreme resonating guitar twangs, Sky Saxon-like vocals (he once recorded with the legendary late Seeds singer) and, on the toupée-savaging dub, upping the electronic frequencies into a register only ghosts can hear. This is the sound of genuine British psychedelic cosmic studio abuse.
‘Compiled & mixed by Larry Heard, aka Mr Fingers’
Larry Heard is one of the most overlooked giants of electronic music. Although he made his name with a spine-tingling string of groundbreaking house landmarks as Mr Fingers, he long ago started forging ahead into creating keyboard ice sculptures that birthed a new kind of electronic jazz. It’s a masterstroke by Rebirth label boss Daniele “Shield” Contrini to ask Larry to compile and mix this celebration of the renowned Italian label’s 10 years at the cutting edge of dance music. And Heard rises to the occasion, drawing in selections from names including Bocca Grande, Rennie Foster, Robert Owens, Freaks, Tevo Howard, NUfrequency, James Teej and Agoria, ending with a translucent bonus Mr Fingers track called ‘Winterflower’. Coming in a sleeve designed by legendary Kraftwerk artist Emil Schult, this one is really a cut above.
Back in the early 90s, I had a band called Secret Knowledge featuring American singer Wonder and a host of collaborators. Andrew Weatherall had just started his Sabres Of Paradise label and, after he put out our Alan Vega-sampling ‘Ooh Baby’ track, I set about trying to create a monstrous collision between Giorgio Moroder in his Donna Summer prime and Billie Holiday at her desperate best. The track, an 11-minute epic, came to fruition thanks to the crack Sabres team of Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns. Bedrock’s John Digweed has always been a champion of the song, so it’s nice to see it appearing again on his label with a sparkling new remix by himself and Nick Muir, plus the original and the ‘Out Of Our Brains On The 5.15’ mix knocked up by David Holmes and Ashley Beedle.