Lucy Railton/154/Sarah Hennies/Mary Jane Leach/Eliane Radigue
“Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties – all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion – these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated” – David Foster Wallace
The philosopher Alain De Botton has suggested that we live in an era of loneliness, an age where disconnection has a direct correlation to contemporary literary aspiration. De Botton argues that we all feel we may have a novel, an autobiography, a biography, a travelogue, a blog, buried within us somewhere, just waiting to be exhumed: the fifteen fame filled minutes of the fanzine writer!
De Botton surmises that we write ostensibly because we have no one close that will listen to us. We record our thoughts, messages in cyber-bottles, and cast them into the virtual oceans of the world wide web, because we are lonely. Stranded, on the desert island of the cult of the individual. We write because no one is listening, they are all too busy with their own individual pursuits to take the time to embrace our obsessions.
In terms of my own writing, I find resonance in De Botton’s theory. I founded trakMARX in my mid-thirties, estranged from the vibrant cultural scenes of my formative years, already entrenched in love and marriage, like a horse and carriage. In retrospect, the musical connectivity that had been so important in sustaining my relationship with my then-partner had already begun to wane. Our tastes, once so collective, had begun to wend their own inevitable ways. My refusal to mellow felt like a statement of intent: I would not be going gentle into that good night. I felt the time fly, I felt the time crawl, like an insect, up the walls. The speed of the sound of loneliness.
Lucy Railton – ‘Paradise 94′ (Modern Love):
“We could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace” – Bill Hicks
This came at me out of nowhere. I’d heard the name, I knew of the association to Beatrice Dillon, but I had no preconceptions. No expectations. The sleeve shone from the pages of Boomkat, as records invariably do, on a daily basis. To be fair, they all look beatific, framed on the page, shining like distant galaxies, seemingly within reach, but a financial transaction and a postal journey away, exquisite works of art, demanding to be owned. As I listened to the snippets of sound available, I became immediately enraptured. Lifted up. Before long, I was on YouTube, considering ‘Pinnevik’, intently:
Within the space of this clip, the purchase had been made. I spent the ensuing evening on tenterhooks, awaiting the midnight hour, when I could redeem the download portion of my order, and begin my relationship with ‘Paradise 94′. The clock finally struck the appointed hour, the bytes began their flow down the wire. A river unafraid of becoming the sea. My first listen was thus shrouded by the weight of the previous day, as I forged a pathway into the new dawn. Despite the fatigue, I knew instinctively that I had found something idiosyncratic.
Lucy Railton, cellist, composer, performer, experimentalist, collaborator, electroacoustic artist, alongside the aforementioned Beatrice Dillon, has enhanced the work of Russell Haswell, Ensemble Plus Minus, and the London Sinfionetta. ‘Paradise 94′ is her debut solo album. A graduate of London’s Royal Academy Of Music, Railton has been keeping her solo powder dry since 2008. During this time she has amassed a wealth of archival work, location-specific material and studio recordings that have been sewn together here with care to create the tapestry of sound that is ‘Paradise 94′. Capturing abrasive aspects of industrialisation amidst passages of seduction and allure, Railton has assembled a spectrum of sound that fascinates as it beguiles. The immediacy of these recordings transcend their collaged presentation. The album’s 34-minutes slip by in a heartbeat. There’s a synchronicity with the space being explored elsewhere in this column by Sarah Hennies. The album reaches its emotional payload with ‘For JR’, an oasis of melody within a desert of dissonance, before gliding out on the looped glissandi of closer ‘Fortified Up’. I’ve reached a plateau in the elevation of my appreciation of the potential of sound with ‘Paradise 94′. Nestling amongst a palate of artists that include Beatrice Dillon, Sarah Davachi, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Sarah Hennies and Mary Jane Leach, Lucy Railton acts as a portal of possibility in a universe of conformity. Space: the final frontier.
154 – ‘Wherever You Go I Will Follow’ (Boomkat Editions):
14-years after his influential debut as 154, 2004’s exemplary ‘Strike’ (Delsin/NWAQ), Jochem Peteri returns with a post-everything symphony of stunning emotional import. Recorded in response to the birth of his second child, this a record that exudes a love of creation, celebrating the gift of life through passionate simplicity. Underpinned by two sporadic bass notes, the osmosis of digital and analogue elements eddy around the mix in a somnambulistic ritual that evokes the tidal movement of waves lapping on sun drenched beaches. Intensely sensual, spiritually liberating, meditative, ‘Wherever You Go’ condenses 8-minutes into relative seconds, only for ‘I Will Follow’ to expand the theme across a further 10-minutes plus. A sense of emerging into the light pervades, an aural depiction of something we’ve all experienced: our entrance into this world. ‘Wherever You Go I Will Follow’ is therefore a genuine born again moment:
Sarah Hennies – ‘Embedded Environments’ (Blume Editions):
Recorded in the bowels of Silo City, Buffalo, NY (above), ‘Embedded Environments’ marks Hennies’ debut for electronic/electroacoustic label, Blume Editions. Exploring similar natural reverberations to that of Áine O’Dwyer‘s investigations in Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s tunnel with ‘Gallarais’ (Mie), Hennies experiments over two sides here with a brace of compositions: ‘Foragers’ and ‘Embedded Environments’.
‘Foragers’ rumbles from the speakers, a rolling thunder revue that’s barely there, yet strangely ominous, nonetheless. Auspicious without recourse to either shamanic suggestion or hippy-dippy implication, the congruence betwixt created and atmospheric happenstance beats at the heart of this inherent duality. Silence fills the gaps: silence as instrument, silence as voice. ‘Embedded Environments’ is raucous by comparison, a heady clatter of rhythmic insistence, chasing shapes as they shift across graffitied concrete, colliding in space and time. In terms of psychogeographic and socio-political sonics, Hennies is challenging the norms and values of avant approaches with this astonishing, breathtaking record. Wrapped in gold dressing, enhanced by the trademark Blume obi, pressed to gold wax, the only thing that spoils this phenomenal package is the shocking proof-reading that reduces Bradford Bailey‘s (The Hum) sleeve notes to frankly amateur status.
Mary Jane Leach – ‘Pipe Dreams’ (Blume Editions):
Our second featured Blume Editions release has been biding its time in the pending pile since the death of last year. Resplendent in its deep purple jacket, obi and purple wax, ‘Pipe Dreams’ represents somewhat of a second coming for American composer, Mary Jane Leach. Recorded at St. Peter’s in Köln, Germany, during 1989, ‘Pipe Dreams’ is coupled with ‘4BC’, from 1984. A compositional pioneer of NYC’s Downtown avant-garde since the ’70s, Leach has released but two previous outings in all this time, and, astoundingly, ‘Pipe Dreams’ is her first ever solo vinyl release. A contemporary of luminaries such as Julius Eastman, Arthur Russell, Arnold Dreyblatt, Ellen Fullman, Philip Corner, Daniel Goode, and Peter Zummo, Leach is herself enjoying an artistic rebirth with ‘Pipe Dreams’.
‘Pipe Dreams’ itself could be seen as a precursor to Áine O’Dwyer‘s ‘Music For Church Cleaners Vol. I & II’ (Mie). Leach effectively forms a close personal relationship with the space in which she’s creating, the notes from St. Peter’s pipe organ cavort across the airwaves in a state of perpetual flux. ‘Pipe Dreams’ brings serenity to the party, invoking reverie, massaging aspiration, sewing seeds of hope where the weeds of despair have run rampant. Ultimately, the 23-minutes of ‘Pipe Dreams’ are a profoundly cathartic experience, exorcising negativity through being here now. Meditative sonic immersion, psychoacoustic healing at its finest. ‘4BC’, meanwhile, is a piece composed for four bass clarinets, a drone masterclass that snaps at the heels of Tony Conrad, John Cale, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.
Elaine Radique – ‘Feedback Works – 1969-1970’/’Vice Versa, Etc. 1970′ (Alga Marghen)
Originally released as a double package, both of these albums are available once again in new editions from Alga Marghen as separate entities. As a neophyte to the art of Elaine Radique, my introduction to her body of work has been revelatory. A student of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry at RTF’s Studio d’Essai in the 1950s, the birthplace of musique concrète, Radigue’s oeuvre has largely only come to the attention of a contemporary audience over the last ten years. With the aid of an ARP 2500 synthesizer, the tones created on this brace of astonishing records involved the manipulation of feedback loops, pitch-shifted to forge microtonal harmonies and ultrasonic frequencies radically different from those emitted under normal circumstances. A young mother at the time of recording, Radique worked at night while her children were asleep, bringing a profoundly nocturnal ambience to the recordings. When you consider that the approaches developed here almost 50-years ago are still emerging contemporarily in works such as Kevin Drumm‘s recent ‘Inexplicable Hours’ (Sonoris), Elaine Radique’s burgeoning reputation as a pioneering legend of experimental sound creation is entirely justified and ancient.
“He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying, that’s the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the terrorism part” – Michel Foucault on Jacques Derrida
Philosophy helps us to make the future seem different from the past, by providing new means of description for social or political events. In surreality, nothing really changes. Philosophers redescribe situations, objects, events and trends in partially neologistic jargon, in the hope of inciting people to adopt and extend said jargon. Redescription, rather than argument, is seemingly the only appropriate method of criticizing an existing vocabulary.
Philosophers are not the only ones at it, post-Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov, the hypernormalisation of redescription is endemic across the culture of capitalist surrealism. The Foucault quote above could easily refer to the divisive ramblings of any given Conservative representative. None of it makes any ideological sense, most of it makes no literal sense, and a great deal of it makes little grammatical sense either. The nonchalance with which this disinformation is delivered only serves to add insult to injury. They are sneering at us, we know it, yet still we do nothing.
Over the course of the past month, the right wing UK mainstream press have rabidly upped the ante in their relentless bid to culturally assassinate Jeremy Corbyn. Terms such as Kafkaesque, Orwellian and dystopian begin to take on new connotations with every bulletin. Hidden in plain sight. No one seems to blink an eyelid at these narratives full of holes. We just stare right through them, and order another latte. It’s getting harder by the day to discern reality from surreality, news from fake news, human beings from automatons. When they kick at your front door, how you going to come?
Rebellious Jukebox, yeah!
Musicality remains the only bone fide route of escape from all this madness. The pressure sounds of dropping the volume of consistency in these pages challenges all concepts of continuity. A fresh formation, a dubwise intervention, contemplation for the nation. Rewind. Start all over again.
Killer roots 12″, repressed with a repro sleeve/label of the original issue. Heavyweight vocals, roots rhythms, early eighties magnificence with added extra dub not on the original 12″:
Reconfigured for your rewind renewal, 6-tracks culled from Rolando & Jerry‘s three Wackie’s albums, neatly corralled into one all-killer-no-filler EP. Housed in a hand silkscreened disco jacket: wicked rhythms, strident horns, essential instrumental dubwise selection.
Absolutely dominant plate, recorded at Bullwackies studio just weeks apart from Horace Andy’s ‘Dance Hall Style’ (see below), two of the greatest vocal reggae LPs of all time:
Throughout an illustrious thirty-year recording career, Horace Andy‘s unmistakable falsetto has lit up just three albums of indisputable greatness: ‘Skylarking’ (Studio One); ‘In The Light’ (Hungry Town), and ‘Dance Hall Style’ (Wackies) – by some considerable distance, this writer’s personal favourite of the triumvirate.
Tom van Zeytveld AKA Phuture-T is well known to followers of hard-edged dubwise jungle, from his stellar releases on labels including Alphacut, 45Seven, and Eastern Promise Audio. In a landscape of similar-sounding steppers, Zeytveld reveals his Emperor T alias on his first outing for ZamZam Sounds, bringing a welcome experimental sensibility to the worldwide steppers arena, while keeping sound system priorities and dancefloor imperatives firmly on the agenda.
An absolute winner from the SKRS INTL camp for Ancient Monarchy, the ‘Paradise Magic Traxx Mobile Sound & Lighting’ EP arrives in the wake of their ‘RunComeTest’ EP (BokehVersions), with a wicked, red-eyed smudge of digi-dub dancehall on a Lovers Rock and R&B slant. Seekers International, in all the formats, one of the finest posses operating in a dubwise style on the planet right now. Indispensable.
‘Flower Of Sulphur’ (Thrill Jockey) is the singular creation of three improvisational luminaries: multi-instrumentalist YoshimiO (Boredoms, OOIOO, SAICOBAB); avant-garde percussionist Susie Ibarra, and audio artist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (Lichens). The trio convened on a stage for the first time in New York City, in December 2016, for a celebration of exquisite sound through exceptional performance, in a magnificent display of their collectively remarkable talents. Recorded at Roulette in Brooklyn in front of a live audience, ‘Flower of Sulphur’ is a transcendent suite of continuous improvisation, exploring the relationships between each artist and their individual instrument, and, in turn, their relationships with each other. The album captures the trio each playing their principal instruments, with no specific goal, other than the pure exploration of the space in that moment. The hour-long instillation builds to a captivating crescendo, elegantly fusing immersive layers, rewarding the listener with a gloriously emotive experience. The trio hope to conduct additional live performances throughout 2018.
CV and JAB/Zin Taylor’s ‘Thoughts Of A Dot As It Travels A Surface’ (Shelter Press) is an astounding work of ambient genius. A totally immersive experience. Every aspect of this stunning release beckons the listener inwards, embracing the ear and the imagination with its omnipresent sense of sanctity. Meditative in its somnambulant wanderings, profound in the imagery it conjures, CV and JAB lead us on a journey into sound. Oscillating wildly through a dubbed-out topography of field recordings, found sounds, dislocated voices and abstract string swells, our journey is interrupted from time to time by hefty analogue bottom-end, regulalrly punctuated with expressively sumptuous piano interludes. Where are they taking us? Nobody knows. It’s not about the destination, just enjoy this trip. And it is a trip.
A culmination of collaborations and combined studio sessions, Young Echo drop the long player of a very young year with their self-titled second double platter, loads with 24-cuts of prime collectivity.The Young Echo collective currently stands at 11-members: Jabu, Vessel, Kahn, Neek, Ishan Sound, Ossia, Manonmars, Bogues, Rider Shafique, Chester Giles and Jasmine. Collaboratively they have fashioned the strongest statement to emerge from Bristol Sound since the heady days of yore. Detuned soundsystem stylings; love songs swaying in hacked up ambience; skeletal dancehall; microphone technique; dread electronics; outsider pop: all this, and more.
Vladimir Ivkovic’s always reliable Offen Music presents this quality, long-lost album by Mitar Suboti, a.k.a Suba, the legendary Serbian producer who moved to Brazil in the ‘90s after making amazing, cinematic records as Rex Ilusivii, and who sadly died in 1999 when on the cusp of becoming one of Brazil’s most prominent producers. It may have taken over 20 years, but ‘Wayang’ now finally finds its audience.
Fire!/Christoph De Babalon/Carlos Maria Trindade and Nuno Canavarro/Ameel Brecht/Kuniyuki Takahashi/Kinlaw/Leslie Winer and Jay Glass Dubs/Golpea Tu Cerebro
“Neoliberalism represents a highly efficient, indeed an intelligent, system for exploiting freedom. Everything that belongs to practices and expressive forms of liberty – emotion, play and communication – comes to be exploited. It is inefficient to exploit people against their will. Allo-exploitation yields scant returns. Only when freedom is exploited are returns maximized.” – Byung-Chul Han – ‘Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power’ (Verso Books)
“The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation”, so spoke Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the inventor of the Panopticon, a building intrinsically designed to maximise surveillance potential for the monitoring of those striving within. If he were alive today, I’d wager that Bentham would be genuinely appalled that a government with such a poor record on animal rights has so successfully subverted his model, forgoing the interests of ‘the many’ for the high interest accounts of ‘the few’, to develop a system in which inmate has become their own monitor: ultimately, their own jailor. Bentham’s utilitarian ethics doubtless rattle in their grave, stoked by later observations from Michel Foucault et al. that place the locus of right-wing policy solely on the outcomes (consequences) of choosing one action/policy over other actions/policies. Freedom is now measured by its relationship to unfreedom.
A text as essential to the average critical thinker as Mark Fisher‘s ‘Capitalist Realism’ (Zero Books), ‘Pyshopolitics’ delineates our current cultural surreality: a system that empowers us as individuals to exploit ourselves beyond the wildest dreams of traditional capitalist expectation. Big Data crunches the locus of control into the shape of a giant games console: shrinking the volume of virtual autonomy; unstitching the seams of connectivity; tearing the fabric of society to shreds. This contemporary crisis of freedom is the technological triumph of unfreedom, an age of dislocation celebrated endlessly in the newsfeeds of the disaffected, as they compete for the ever-decreasing attention-span of a rapidly-deminishing consensus. Amongst these ruins, we are compelled to search for rays of hope, radiant, shimmering, descending through the decimated roof of a shelter suddenly unfit for human habitation. A new generation will inevitably crawl from the wreckage, hopefully one who have educated themselves above and beyond the limited syllabus parameters of the Russell Group. It’s time to dumb-up. Time to educate, to agitate, to organise.
An incendiary soundtrack to a pivotal year, then, begins with one of the essential elements: Fire! The cleansing properties of the rapid oxidisation of any given material through the exothermic chemical process of combustion releases heat and light, Nordic trio Fire! bring the noise. Formed in 2009, Mats Gustafsson (sax), Johan Berthling (bass) and Andreas Werlin (drums) begin 2018 with their sixth full-length, ‘The Hands’ (Rune Grammofon). Billed by Rune Grammofon themselves as the band’s finest work to date, initial observations on the part of this listener concur that this is indeed no idle boast. ‘The Hands’ is expansive, yet remains conversely Fire!’s most concise effort to date. Clocking in at 37-minutes, it’s 8-minutes-or-so short of your average Fire! LP. That’s important. The brevity employed this time out has increased both clarity and diction, giving the record an improved traction that was at times absent from predecessor, ‘She Sleeps, She Sleeps’. ‘The Hands’, therefore, is a return to the potential exhibited by 2013’s ‘(Without Noticing)’, in short a stunning return to form. The titular opener establishes an intensity that deliberately wanes across both sides, towards the relative delicacy of the record’s closing title, ‘I Guard Her To Rest. Declaring Silence’. Having swayed my allegiance from trio to Fire! Orchestra these past couple of years, it’s a refreshingly optimistic start to 2018 that sees my loyalties swing back in favour of the trio, once again. The introduction of a handful of sampled spoken word interludes and the ominous presence of electronic device lurking amongst the shadows bring a new industrial menace to ‘The Hand’, and its a subtle inflection that scores large on the atmosphere front, priming me suitably for their Cafe Oto show in February. ‘The Hands’ is the first trakMARX mandatory release of this virgin year.
I was initially introduced to the music of Christoph De Babalon by John Peel, back in the late 90s. Peel was a fervent advocate of the Teutonic techno that birthed ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It’ (CFET), reissued this month on double clear wax, as a brand-spanking-new remaster. Deconstructing the 20-odd years since its initial release with its rebirth presence, this is a record that could have been recorded yesterday. Welding the progressive elements of jungle to the somnambulist tendencies of ambience is no mean feat, but it’s one that ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It’ pulls off with the kind of arrogance only found at pivotal moments in the arc of an artist’s career path. Although Da Babalon has continued to make valid artistic statements throughout the ensuing two decades, none have eclipsed this release, in terms of genre classicism. Recorded as the utopian fervour of rave culture had begun to eat itself, Da Babalon was committed to shining an altogether darker light onto the manufactured happiness that altered states of consciousness beget. The Berlin scene that informed this record was far more radical than the UK scene that inspired it, in every sense, with a parallel political sensibility that was never present in the UK. This is a record that demands its place in the here and now; a record that soundtracks the desolation of collapsing buildings, both old and new. Da Babalon re-emerges from the miasma as visionary sound-poet, get down and pay homage to the arrogance of his youth.
A more recent discovery has been Barcelona-based Urpa I Musell, a label born out of Discos Paradiso, a Barca record shop of note. The label’s mission is to make the music they love available to everyone, regardless of genre or era, and if that music happens to be local, then said love increases exponentially. Urpa I Musell’s second release is a collaboration originally released back in 1991, by Carlos Maria Trindade and Nuno Canavarro. ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ has enjoyed cult status in Portugal since its reevaluation in the noughties, and is considered a seminal record in the evolution of Portuguese electronic music, by luminaries such as Jim O’Rourke. Both artists were notable on the 1980s Portuguese pop-rock scene, Trindade with Corpo Diplomático and Heróis do Mar, and Canavarro with Street Kids and Delfins. ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ was recorded in the first six months of 1990, with each artist being credited for one side each, although both artists worked collaboratively on the recording as a whole. In terms of style and content, ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ sits comfortably alongside the work of Roberto Aglieri, Paolo Modugno, Pep Llopis and Alessandro Alessandro, recordings that has swelled my library from labels of similar intent these past 12-months: Archeo Recordings, Freedom To Spend and Transversales Disques. Blending electronica with traditional instruments, interspersed with evocative spoken word samples, ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ paints a vivid canvas of alchemical mystery, pushing envelopes and challenging boundaries, considering the era it was created in. In many ways, ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ can be heard as a sonic travelogue, a series of thirteen postcards that could have been mailed from anywhere around the Mediterranean. Its a joy to listen to, from beginning to end, one that grows in stature with every listen. A record to treasure from a label to love.
Every once in a while, a guitar player comes along who redefines your personal relationship with the instrument, and its eternal, exquisite potential. Last year, for me, it was Raphael Roginski, this year has dug it’s claws in early with Ameel Brecht‘s ‘Polygraph Heartbeat’ (Kraak). A member of the extraordinary Belgian avant-drone troupe, Razen, Brecht strikes out here alone, with his solo debut long player. Compared to the haunting sonic sorcery of Razen’s incredible 2017 release, ‘The Xvoto Reels’ (three: four records), ‘Polygraph Heartbeat’ is a relatively simple affair: just Brecht, a steel resonator, a resonator mandolin, and nine variations on a thematic air of awkward consummate beauty. Meditative, studious, ornate in clarity of tone, Brecht’s compositions reek of purity of essence. Silence expertly separates resonating timbres, creating gaps that allow phrases to exhale, breathlessly, as they wend their way deep into your heart. Executed with a deftness that enchants as it defines, ‘Polygraph Heartbeat’ sent me into a dervish whirl of emotional commitment at the drop of a busker’s hat.
Following last year’s exposure to Hiroshi Yoshimura‘s ‘Music For Nine Post Cards’ (Empire Of Signs), my interest in Japanese electronic music has been growing. Imagine my joy, then, when I stumbled across Kuniyuki Takahashi‘s ‘Early Tape Works – 1986-1993 Vol.1’ (Music From Memory), a new compilation that corners the developmental period of what Takahashi himself refers to as his ‘new oriental sound’. Exposure to the brave new sounds of Japanese clubland circa 1986 inspired Takahashi’s initial experimental explorations into minimal ambient house, shaped by a cosmic jazz sensibility, informed by a searching agenda of progression. An ever-growing arsenal of contemporary Roland, Casio, Korg, Boss, Foster and Yamaha analogue equipment provided a rich palate for Takahashi’s mannerist sonic canvases. These recordings were all captured in the artist’s home studio in Saporro over a period of seven years, allowing us to witness the evolution of a sound that continues to mutate to this day. 2017’s ‘Newwave Project’ (Mule Musiq) stands as contemporary testament to Takahashi’s longevity as an artist, and this stunning collection allows us to gaze longingly back in time, to where it all began.
Bristol, a city with a rich musical heritage, built on the solid core economy of sound system culture. From Ye Olde Punk Rock days of Revolver Records to the post-punk chicanery of The Pop Group and Pigbag; from The Wild Bunch and Smith And Mighty to Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead, Bristol’s evolution as a musical centre of excellence has been linear, much like the park at the heart of Temple Meads Quay. Owing much to the inspiration of such precedents are NoCorner and Bokeh Versions. NoCorner’s bid for world domination continues apace with Kinlaw‘s 6-track cassette, ‘Corfe’, a genre-surfing examination of the intersectionality at the heart of the underground hardcore continuum. Grime, jungle, dubstep, breakbeat and irregular waveforms are mangled up into dissonant vistas of unconventional topography.
Meanwhile, Bokeh Versions maintain the pressure with Leslie Winer And Jay Glass Dubs monstrously monotone ‘Your Mom’s Favourite Eazy-E Song’, a 6-track 12″ that pretty much defies classification. Former beauty queen Winer crossed over into avant electronica way back in 1990, with the legendary ‘Witch’. The cognoscenti responded, dubbing her the ‘Grandmother Of Trip-Hop’. Over the course of 32-minutes here, Winer drawls her husky poetic licence across Dubs roughshod riddims in an avalanche of word association. Constructed electronically by virtual exchange, oscillating down the wires between France and Athens, Greece: “I don’t care what you call it, as long as the program works”.
And finally, we end this month’s soundtrack with a compilation: ‘Golpea Tu Cerebro’ (Insane Muzak), the first ever vinyl compilation dedicated to the unknown-yet-fascinating Spanish underground cassette scene of the 1980s. Translating as ‘Shake Your Brain’, the complication’s title works as both cue and clue to the experience of listening to its contents at volume through headphones. Back in the day, with few resources but unlimited imaginations, Spanish youngsters began recording their interpretations of industrial, experimental and electronic music, at home in their bedrooms, on cassettes. Influenced by DIY, Futurism, Dada, and the early Industrial landscape of Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse, Nurse With Wound, S.P.K. and Cabaret Voltaire, eyes were opened and minds blown by an underground network of groundbreaking radio shows, fanzines (Cloruro Sónico, Necronomicon, Particular Motors, Syntorama, El Papel de la Merienda) and mail order outlets, distributing the industrial revolution in vinyl and cassette forms. Capturing the individualism, sense of alienation, and active opposition to mainstream culture of these one-man operations, small collectives and scenes, underground tape labels began springing up all over the country: ä.d.n, El Consumo Del Miedo, Auxilio de Cientos, S.T.I., Obreros del Sonido, Toracic Tapes, 3EM. Cassettes were produced in obscenely limited numbers, exchanged by post amongst contemporaries, compiled and distributed through international tape exchange networks, escaping into the wider European continental ether and beyond by a form of cultural osmosis. ‘Golpea Tu Cerebro’ gathers the myths and legends created by the likes of LA OTRA CARA DE UN JARDÍN, COMANDO BRUNO, LÍNEA TÁCTICA. FRANCISCO LÓPEZ, UVEGRAF, ÉTICA MAKINAL, L’AKSTREMAUNÇIÓ, NEO ZELANDA, SEPTIEMBRE NEGRO, TÉCNICA MATERIAL, FÍSODO 13.4, EL ENTERRADOR ENTERRADO, 1985, ZUMBI-2, BRIGADA NADIE and more, to assemble this exemplary boxset of primitive harsh noise, dark electronics, wild tape manipulation, electroacoustic noise, and general homemade weirdness.
Jasss/Felicia Atkinson/Wilted Woman/Kara-Lis Coverdale/Teresa Winter/Maxwell Stirling/Shinichi Atobe
“In short, the true courage is to admit that the light at the end of the tunnel is most likely the headlights of another train approaching us from the opposite direction” – Slavoj Žižek
This courage of hopelessness defined a year that began badly, then got worse. As Ali Smith states in the first line of ‘Autumn’ (Penguin): “It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times”. Must I count the ways? With my generation entering our own metaphorical autumn, the death of Mark Fisher symbolised not only the extinguishing of the light at the end of that tunnel, but also the derailment of the train. Inevitably, his passing hauntologically informed the unfolding year: the ghost of ideology past; the ghost of ideology present; the ghost of ideology future; reality as surreality; the stalking horses of parliamentary pantomime, hunting disadvantage in packs. Shock doctrines mocked, media moguls warped public perceptions, minority railed against minority, whilst division cheered from the benches, hiding in plain sight.
“And I’m up while the dawn is breaking/Even though my heart is aching/I should be drinking a toast to absent friends/Instead of these comedians” – Elvis Costello
With academia seemingly under attack, it was left to the comedians to gather the commentariat slack. It’s amazing what you can get away with in the name of satire, until you’re eventually decommissioned, quietly. Stewart Lee and Frankie Boyle lead the line here in the UK, as the case for Doug Stanhope for president of the USA grew in stature, tweet by tweet. The threat of book burnings superseded library closures, plans to eradicate the past in a bid to stop us learning from history’s mistakes unfolded in Whitehall. Henry VIII powers lay in wait, the post-war statute book trembling in their shadow, a Queen before the gallows. The language of oppression chiselled away at the bust of the national consciousness, the constant drip-drip of a tap desperately in need of a new philosophical washer. Swathes of a demographic once united through Two Tone now found themselves estranged by Brexit. As Comrade Corbyn tightened his grip on power, the elite merely sharpened their pens, polishing their ceremonial swords. The unacceptable face of freedom. We will never allow you to govern.
2017 will go down in whatever purports to be history in whatever is left of the future as the year of ‘knowing someone in this life that loves with a passion called hate’ (Paul Weller). Those who once considered themselves the enemy within, now turn on the enemy without. 2017: The Year Homelessness Broke. With only the cult of the individual to keep us warm at night, a mere six degrees of separation between us and the concrete beneath the beach, we grope for our devices the moment we regain consciousness, to reconnect to the matrix, in this age of dislocation. There is no atonement in a landscape shaped by injustice. We are complicit in our estrangement from ourselves, our families, our history, our culture, our future. Condemned to repeat, to collude, at best unknowingly, at worse complicity. The fine art of sufficing for a generation born of rebellion, raised on unqualified success, ascended to hierarchal heaven, to gaze down, ultimately alone.
As is traditional at this time of the year, it has become a populist pastime to construct lists. The age of the internet has elevated individual opinion to whatever platform it can ill afford. The cult of the music journalist nothing but a quaint footnote in the dyslexic body of critical mass. That pile of moulding magazines in the attic of cultural oblivion. The relativity of subjectivity, a conceit that cannot exist, neither theoretically, or in practice. The notion that an assessment based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes or opinions, can exist or possess specified characteristics only in comparison to something else, is by no means absolute. There is, therefore, no universal truth, only a patchwork quilt of relative truths. There have been times, back in the past, where I would have scoured these co-called lists, searching for failings on the part of my own assessment processes, vacuums of disconnectedness in my personal hall of records. In our failings we become losers, as losers we live outside of margins. These days, the exhaustive nature of listdom renders the assessment process ever-more unapproachable. Who do we talk to when a body’s in trouble?
Accepting, then, that there is no ‘album of the year’ is a fiercely liberating process. Forgiving the sin of elitism through original singularity is akin to emancipation. To me, every record I’m listening to at that moment in time is by definition the greatest record ever made. Music is the very art of being here now. Transcending judgemental perspectives instilled in us by arbiters of taste, elevating engagement beyond consumption. Upwards, towards atomic oneness: a universe of untold possibility. In the past, we’ve produced our own lists. I’m not going to lie to you, or deny our history. We’ve even emulated dead heroes with Festive Fifties. This year, instead, we’ve merely posted the artwork to our favourite albums, as of 17/12/17. Some of these records we’ve written about in the preceding twelve columns of 2017, some of them we may well feature in future columns of 2018. No names, no pack drill. If you’re intrigued, do your homework. Reinvest a little of that old magical mystery into the anodyne process of year-end assessment.
Meanwhile, back at the plot, these are records I have fallen in love with whilst conducting my own limited assessment of other people’s lists, plus a few that got overlooked from the piles that litter the killing floor of the tMx bunker. As I’ve opined above, there are very few in the way of authoritative voices out there in the post-everything ether, thus I’ve collated this anything-but-concise anti-list using mainly my ears and my sociological imagination, from labels I love, and distributors I trust:
Jasss – ‘Weightless’ (iDeal Recordings): “I wanted to love someone . . . I wanted to love someone more than I love you”. So begins ‘Every Single Fish In The Pond’, the opening cut from Silvia Jiménez Alvarez (aka Jasss) debut long player for iDeal Recordings. As soon as I heard those words, I was gripped. They encapsulated exactly where both my head and my heart were at, the precise moment I first heard them. That connection launched a voyage of discovery into Jasss’ universe of dark jazz, African and South American rhythms, punk and hardcore attitude, industrial bleakness, dub space and experimental electronic topography. ‘Weightless’ is filmic in scope, an abstract wide-screen sonic epic of oscillating frequencies warped at the analogue altar of Santiago de Compostela. A record that resonates through the engulfing darkness of my winter solitude. ‘Weightless’ takes back control of the power of electronics from the bedroom fascists to instil beauty and rhythmic dexterity through femininity.
Félicia Atkinson – ‘Hand In Hand’ (Shelter Press): Seemingly impenetrable on first listen, the whispering intimacy of ‘Hand In Hand’ took me some time to fully embrace. I read the reams of plaudits with interest, hugely impressed, but didn’t fully succumb until very late in the year. For a while, the more I listened, the further away true love wandered away into the distance. Fascinated by the tones and the drones, the meandering and the bubbling, I persisted, but still the spoken words kept me at arm’s length, deep into the night. Eventually, the damn broke, early one evening, at the heart of winter, snow piled outside my door, my heart slighted, faltering, in need of both spiritual and ethereal sustenance, I finally found the courage to pledge my love to Felicia Atkinson. Once committed, the intimacy that at first scared me quickly became the connectivity that ensnared me. There has been no other record in 2018 that I have worked so hard to love.
Wilted Woman – ‘Home Listener’ (Alien Jams): Operating somewhere in the glitch-ridden middle ground between Beatrice Dillon and Karen Gwyer, Berlin-based Wilted Woman (aka Eel Burn) synthesises sinister bleeps and weirdly graceful tones that capture both the sweat of the dance floor and the relative comfort of the living room on this 5-track EP. Acidic analogue squiggles dart in and out of the staggering rhythms in a seance of apparitional manifestation, reimagining parity between mind and body. Arpeggiating particles accelerate on an elliptical orbit, returning in ovular fashion. ‘Bubbling Again’ is at the centre of this universe, epitomising the playfulness at the heart of ‘Home Listener’.
Kara-Lis Coverdale – ‘Grafts’ (Boomkat Editions): ‘Grafts’ is one of those records, one that invades your heart from first listen, and then forces the rest of your being to pay attention at gunpoint. Delivered in 3-short movements over twenty-three minutes, Kara-Lis Coverdale has captured the breadth of her art in bottomless depth in one sitting with this release. In tune with much of the 70s Italian experimentalism I’ve been immersed in for much of this year, ‘Grafts’ transcends such antecedents to soar above almost everything I’ve heard in 2017. There’s a wonderful immediacy here, a sense of deja-vu that envelopes from the first note: short enough in the moment to repeat ad finitum, long enough at its deepest point to imagine that it could continue into eternity without protest. Each movement is subtly different, building towards a crescendo of understated majesty that inspires both reflection and subsequent resolution. Sometimes it may indeed seem like everything in life is prone to let us down, but at the seismic centre of ‘Grafts’, an embryonic, strangely fetal embrace assures us that this music will never break its bond of attachment with the listener.
Teresa Winter – ‘Untitled Death’ (The Death Of Rave): From the mushrooms that adorn the sleeve of Teresa Winter’s vinyl debut for The Death Of Rave, to the broken electronica at its core, ‘Untitled Death’ is a portable psilocybin festival heading Wales-ward for Devil’s Bridge, sometime back at the dawn of the 80s. Imagine a psychedelic reinvention of Kluster, high on euphoric recall, beguiling yet knowing in its shapeshifting elasticity. Over the course of 6-pieces in the space of 32-minutes, Winter warms the frozen ventricles of any given broken heart, defrosting the imagination, reigniting the intrigue, refuelling the impetus for continued sonic exploration. The latest addition to my here and now, ‘Untitled Death’ forges a path of possibility that has remained overgrown since the cessation of psychoactive substance ingestion. As a pre-teen, the auricular sorcery of Page and Plant could achieve such mind-expansion alone, it’s reassuring to rediscover these pathways once again through the auditory hallucinations of Teresa Winter.
Maxwell Stirling – ‘Hollywood Medieval’ (The Death Of Rave): Son of erstwhile post-punk iconoclast and leader of Ludus, Linder Sterling, Maxwell maintains the familial tradition of challenging convention with his debut vinyl outing, ‘Hollywood Medieval’. Composed in response to his tenure working as a nursery nurse in support of his studies at UCLA in the early 2010s, the record delves into the contradictions posed by the extremes of wealth and poverty at the heart of LA’s fiscal elite through synthesiser abuse. Sterling pushes the envelopes of every constituent particle in seven flavours during a packed thirty-six minutes. Fault lines open up like San Andreas at the high end of the Richter Scale to reconfigure in unrecognisable alignments. ‘Hollywood Medieval’ is the kind of record I could imagine Mark Fisher writing about at length. From the visual stimulus of Linder’s artwork to the sophisticated compositional art at the epicentre of the music, Maxwell Stirling has created a work of great value that will echo outward into a future, far beyond this place in time.
Shinichi Atobe – ‘From The Heart, It’s A Start, A Work Of Art’ (DDS): Complied from three retooled undercarriages nearly two decades old, plus four new explorations freshly minted in a sympathetic guise, ‘From The Heart, It’s a Start, A Work Of Art’ is precisely that. From the sublime minimalism of ‘Regret’ to the metronomic static crackle of ‘First Plate 3′, this seven track EP ranks amongst Atobe’s finest work. House music all night long.
And finally, trakMARX will continue to exist moving forwards into 2018, despite a million reservations. There may be server transfers sometime early in the new year, which may affect transmission temporarily at some stage. We will keep you posted in this regard via the Facebook page (link in masthead). Thanks for reading in 2017, wishing each and every one of you everything you hope for in the coming year!
Graziano Mandozzi/Pauline Anna Strom/Alexandra Atnif/Musique Ambiante Francaise Vol. 1/Roberto Aglieri/Sandro Mussida/Equiknoxx/Sounds Of Sisso/Nihiloxica
As integrated societies fragment, both internal and external forces drive communities and families apart, smashed beneath the perpetual wheels of industry. In this virtual panopticon, the spectacle intensifies, through the pedantic drizzle of symbolic violence, arcing from the mainframe, like sparks falling from an angle grinder. An accumulation of situations ordinarily avoided by previous generations have become unavoidable in the halogen-headlight-glare of the obligatory Audi A4 estate self-preservation culture of 21st century western obsession. Torn asunder, the frayed familial ties that once bound us now flutter like ribbons tied to the branches of sacred trees, rustling in the idiot winds of trade disagreements and infidelity. The dissolution of my marriage was one such statistic in this sorry catalogue of social dysfunction. As always, in these sordid tales of adult betrayal, it’s the children who ultimately suffer.
And, so it came to pass, back in the winter of 2003/2004, driven from my family home, into a caravan, to nurse a liver that had ceased to expel toxins, I began the long walk towards recovery, and, away from the extended family I had grown to love so dearly since 1979. One of the great tragedies of said divorce was the loss of my relationship with my nephew, George. In the first picture I have of me taken with George, I’m 18-years old, wearing my faded blue Fiorucci sweatshirt, emblazoned with an iron-on-stencil that came free with initial copies of the Au Pairs’ ‘Playing With Another Sex’. My hair is blonde, grown-out spikes, crimped and hair-spayed to attention. George is a babe in arms, we were framed by the back doorway of his parent’s house, on the cusp of a shared lifetime of mutual musical wonderment.
Across the next 25-years, we developed a relationship resolutely founded on musical curiosity. I mentored George through wave after wave of musical shenanigans, comings and goings, as genre tides rose and genre tides fell, the eternal sea: through punk; post-punk; reggae; ska; folk; world music; hip-hop; acid house; jungle; alt.country; Americana; Britpop; black metal; doom metal; et al. George had an insatiable appetite for new sounds, and I’d compile cassettes for him endlessly, recommendation after recommendation. During these years, trips to Wiltshire, and later, Devon, would always include jamming sessions and performances for the rest of the family, and, before long, George far-exceeded my meagre talents as a guitarist. In those days, I was known as Uncle Punk, and my fretboard abilities as a humble strummer were rapidly eclipsed by George’s nimble fretwork. I can still recall the glee with which he first played me his take on Davey Graham’s ‘Anji’, a tune I still can’t play to this day.
As is often the case, it took death to reconcile us. The passing of my ex-mother-in-law this November brought the extended family back together once more for her funeral. As I arrived in the church, I spied George at the front, the first time we’d set eyes on each other in nigh-on 14-years. The surge of emotion was overpowering, a hug brought me to tears, a quarter of a century’s mutual love and admiration reconnected instantly. At the wake, we scrambled to fit 14-year’s worth of news into a couple of hours of conversation, the bond between us seemingly intact. I was simply thrilled to be reminded of the countless cassettes I’d compiled, and the resonance they held in George’s memories. This palate of impeccable taste I’d influenced, possibly even shaped, this cultural exchange. The magic of the peer to peer relationship; the exchange of sacral information; the reciprocity of connectivity; this passion for sound. We recalled individual songs, collective themes, scenes and dreams, each one of them powerful enough to change the world forever at the time, or so it seemed back then.
I was flawed when George told me that he’d been reading trakMARX throughout our estrangement. I’d genuinely never considered that angle for a moment. He even suggested it was time to resurrect ‘Cowboy Mouth’, the precursor of tMx, a hard copy zine that lasted one whole issue, indebted to Dave Henderson’s ‘Happenstance’. It was the first time I’d thought of ‘No Depression’-era alt.country in two decades: momentarily, I became disorientated, drowning in the history of my own musical journey, as long-forgotten obsessions flashed before my watery eyes. We’ve been communicating regularly since the funeral, and George has invited me and my daughters down to Exeter in the spring. George has played in many bands over the years of our estrangement, including stints in a major doom metal band that saw him tread the boards to audiences exceeding anything I achieved in my time. He’s got a functional home studio set-up, and we’ve agreed to work together on some material I’ve had lying round for a couple of years, and some stuff George has been working on. In this age of dislocation, stories of reconnection and families overcoming dysfunction are stories of hope: an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes. Both this month’s column and its selections are dedicated to the musical imagination of George Birch:
Graziano Mandozzi – ‘Masada’ (Holywax):
Mandozzi’s epic score to Hans Kresnik’s 1977 ballet, ‘Masada’, operates in similar soundtrack-boundary-annihilation territory to that of Bernard Parmegiani’s ‘Rock’ (Transversales Disques), explored in detail in last month’s column. The experience of ground being broken by the interpretive tools of jazz action, Milesian bad-ass-funk, experimental electronica and the liberal sprinkling of psychedelic shapeshiftery renders this intriguing disc from Geneva-based psych monkeys, Holywax Records, as a grail worthy of the label’s moniker. Remastered and tinkered to the sonic peak of perfection by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios in London, ‘Masada’ is a journey into sound that will leave you exhausted but satiated.
Pauline Anna Strom – ‘Trans-Millenia Music’ (ReRVNG):
ReRVNG, the paramilitary reissue-wing of NYC-based RVNG, has spent the past 6-years establishing a reputation of some repute in the discipline of shedding light into darkened corners. With a catalogue blessed by luminaries such as Harald Grosskopf, Craig Leon, K. Leimer, Ariel Kalma, and Anna Homler, the addition of this carefully curated compilation from San Fransican ambient legend, Pauline Anna Strom, is cause for some celeberation. Blind from birth, following complications relating to the premature nature of her entry into this world, Strom’s acute sensitivity to sound invigorated her with an incredible ability to create her own universe aurally, from her own home, between 1982 and 1988, using a Tascam 4-track recorder and a modest arsenal of analogue synthesizers. Immensely spiritual and deeply zen, immersion within the boundless confines of Strom’s universe is literally akin to the art of being here now. The connectivity of universal atomic bonds link the listener to the epitome of existence itself, providing an experiential reciprocal exchange that emphasises our commonality as sentient beings. Healer, spirit guide, Reiki master and composer, Strom’s belated canonisation is long overdue, and ‘Trans-Millenia Music’ stretches our flimsy concepts of time and space beyond the relative towards the cosmic. Magnificently packaged, pressed onto two sides of shimmering orange sunburst wax, this incredible release is not only one of the highlights of the year, but possibly of the decade thus far as a whole.
Alexandra Atnif – ‘Rhythmic Brutalism Vol. 1/Vol. 2′ (EM Records):
Following a string of limited self-released cassettes stretching back to 2015, Romanian sound artist Alexandra Atnif collates her back catalogue with this two-volume collection on Japanese label, Em Records. Inspired by the brutalist architecture that informs the urban landscape of her native lands, Atnif’s unapologetic approach to sound constructs imposing edifices to the former glories of the Communist experiment. Through the power of relatively accessible analogue technology, she has crafted a monolithic niche within the contemporary electronic music milieu. The sound of rust oxidising in the damp atmosphere of the mist of the tears of the proletariat. The sound of concrete infested with pyrites, silica and mica, constantly mutating in the harsh environment of sub-zero temperatures. The sound of oligarchs screaming digitally as they are torn limb from limb by the righteous masses. The crackles of their subsequent pyres oscillate through the mix in distorted collapse, as failed ideology burns in front of our ears. Informed on the one hand by the school of radical experimentalism of the 1970s: Throbbing Gristle, Nocturnal Emissions, Cabaret Voltaire, and on the other by more recent adherents of the discipline: Autechre, Prurient, Vatican Shadow, Atnif demonstrates the art of progression through both time and space across this brace of indispensable volumes.
V/A – ‘Musique Ambiante Francaise Vol. 1′ (Tigersushi):
Triple-vinyl compilation on Paris-based Tigersushi captures the zeitgeist at the heart of the French beatless community. Purpose built around Apollo Noir’s ‘Inspiring Images & Visual Power. Chosen With Love & Dedication’ and Glass’ ‘Heart’, the original concept of a split-45 eventually evolved into the 18-track, 2-hour-13-minute opus you read about here. In an amazing display of synchronicity, these 18-initially disparate sources coalesce in wondrous amalgamation, both consolidating and affiliating individual contributors in a synthesis far greater than the project’s curators could ever have imagined at the outset. Doffing berets in the general direction of antecedent Pierres, Schaeffer and Henry, volume two is reportedly already in the pipeline, suggesting in some senses a glorious accident turned brilliant mistake.
Roberto Aglieri – ‘Ragapadani’ (Archeo Recordings):
Florence-based Archeo Recordings delivers its second mandatory double-wax-bundle of the year, following sharply on the heels of Paolo Modugno’s ‘Brise D’Automne’. Again, the format is familiar: a double album, one disc on coloured wax (this time silver marble, as opposed to gold for Modugno), a second on black vinyl, in an edition of 100-copies. Forming an orderly queue behind the likes of Franco Battiato, Giusto Pio, Roberto Musci,Telaio Magnetico, Zeit, Lino Capra Vaccina, Claudio Rocchi, N.A.D.M.A., and Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, Aglieri is the latest in the long line of Italian composers to have their work disentombed from the 20th century and resurrected in the collective consciousness of the contemporary imagination. Originally released back in 1987, ‘Ragapadani’ does not come with a biography of its creator over-laden with detail. A flautist with a penchant for musical therapy, Aglieri espoused the healing properties of sound in taking the listener to hitherto undiscovered realms of acceptance through arpeggiation. This is music that demands to be inhabited, not simply heard. I would urge you to move beyond cliched new-age/hippy slights in approaching ‘Ragapadani’. Go in with an open mind and leave with a new perspective.
Sandro Mussida – ‘Ventuno Costellazioni Invisibili’ (Metrica):
Composed for violin, flute, clarinet, electric guitar, piano, percussion, and computers, and staffed by an ensemble consisting of Enrico Gabrielli, Yoko Morimyo, Susanne Satz, Alessandra Novaga, Giulio Patara, Sebastiano De Gennaro, Giovanni Isgrò, ‘Ventuno Costellazioni Invisibili’ sees London-based Italian Mussida expand the lineage of tradition in terms of Italian progressive instrumentalism outlined in the Aglieri review above. Experimenting with pitch, tone, speed and triangulation, Mussida approaches the art of classical deconstruction with elegance and restraint. Beautifully realised and sumptuously packaged, every aspect of this release symbolises Mussida’s unshakeable belief in the resonance of his creative process. Sonorous yet sparse, orotund yet minimalist, Mussida stands shoulder to shoulder with fellow countryman Giulio Aldinucci in keeping the home fires of constant redefinition across the spectrum of experimental Italian composition burning brightly.
Equiknoxx – ‘Cólon Man’ (DDS):
Following their hugely acclaimed compilation of earlier work, ‘Bird Sound Power’ (DDS, 2016), Jamaica’s Equiknoxx Music (Gavin Blair aka Gavsborg and Jordan Chung aka Time Cow) finally drop their long-player-proper in the form of ‘Cólon Man’ (DDS). The record’s title eludes to a Jamaican folk song, ‘Colon Man-A-Come’, celebrating the return to the island from Cólon of one of the 100,000 or so Jamaicans who built the Panama Canal. He left the island as a humble labourer, but returns with a certain swagger, a brass watch chain, and a zoot suit: “One, two, three, four, Colon man a-come (x 3)/Wid him brass chain a-lick him belly pam pam pam/Ask him what the time is him look upon the sun (x 3)/Wid him brass chain a-lick him belly pam pam pam/Zoot suit, eye glass, ‘Merican a come (x 3)/Wid him brass chain a-lick him belly pam pam pam/So fast him leave the island so quickly him come back (x 3)/Wid him brass chain a-lick him belly pam pam pam”. Recorded between December 2016 and June 2017, ‘Colón Man’ is a eminently more focussed and vivid affair than its predecessor. Melody is used sparingly in an abstract manner, reconfiguring original sources, spliced through effect and desk, evolving beyond parameter into something unrecognisable. Addis Pablo’s melodica, synth hooks, acidic grinds, doorbells, birdcalls, tin cans, chorales, bleeps, gongs, pinball machines, all are superimposed over mutated dancehall riddims as progressive as anything to emanate from Jamaica in years.
V/A – ‘Sounds Of Sisso’ (Nyege Nyege Tapes):
“For the past 15-years the Tanzanian megalopolis of Dar Es Salaam has had one of the most exciting underground electronic music scenes in East Africa. A constellation of micro-scenes from Mchiriku, Sebene and Segere all the way to its latest mutation of Singeli that finally after years of lurking in the underground has exploded into the mainstream and taken over Bongo Flava as the music of choice amongst Tanzania’s youth. Born in the sprawling working class neighborhoods of Tandale and Manzese, Singeli’s signature sound consists of fast paced frantic loops interlocking with each other, with influences from Zanzibars Tarab music all the way to South African afro-house coupled with MCs who often spit satirical lyrics about the challenges facing Tanzania’s youth, from police corruption to the complications of dating girls when you are broke. If there is one studio that stands out amongst the hundreds that dot Dar es Salaam’s musical landscape it is Sisso Records. Centered around producers; Bwax, Sisso, Bampa Pana and Yung Keyz Morento and Mc’s Dogo Niga and Makavelli, they were early pioneers of the Singeli sound. Whilst some Singeli artists have begun fusing their music with more traditional Tanzanian hip hop, Sisso have remained uncompromising in their sound: always raw, fast, with a punk DIY aesthetic that can at times verge on Noise and Gabber, to produce a spell binding music that is like no other Sound System culture in the region” – Nyege Nyege Tapes
Man, this shit is raw. I’ve only just unearthed this scene, and hastily snagged myself a copy of Boomkat’s 300-copy double-vinyl-coloured-wax repressing of this original Nyege Nyege Tapes cassette release. Alongside the Equiknoxx jam above, and the Nihiloxica tape below, ‘Sounds Of Sisso’ is a filling of quality in a sandwich of innovation. I won’t even attempt to qualify beyond the quote above from horse’s mouth, I simply do not yet possess either the understanding or the prerequisite vocabulary to do justice to this gargantuan release, beyond express both my total fascination and eternal gratitude to Nyege Nyege Tapes and the artists of Sisso for shining a sun’s worth of illumination onto the repressive darkness of my English winter.
Nihiloxica – ‘S/T’ (Nyege Nyege Tapes):
Again, there are no words presently, the last seven days have been a new voyage of discovery inspired by Nyege Nyege Tapes, and in my current incarnation as total novice, I am loathed to attempt anything other than quotation: “After leaving us reeling with the electrifying Sounds of Sisso compilation, Nyege Nyege Tapes introduce a scintillating and darker take on traditional Bugandan drumming with Nihiloxica’s debut battery of percussion and stark synth work. Revolving around seven percussionists plus one kit drum and a synth, their eponymous debut is a deeply grounded but sparking session recorded in single takes at Boutiq Studios in Kampala, Uganda, between 26-29th August, 2017.”