Saturday, 29 February 2020

Floating Points ‎– Crush (2019)

Style: Bass Music, Deep House, Experimental, Future Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Ninja Tune, Beat Records

Tracklist
01.   Falaise
02.   Last Bloom
03.   Anasickmodular
04.   Requiem For Cs70 And Strings
05.   Karakul
06.   LesAlpx
07.   Bias
08.   Environments
09.   Birth
10.   Sea-Watch
11.   Apoptose, Pt. 1
12.   Apoptose, Pt. 2

Credits:
Mastered By – Matthew Colton
Written-By, Arranged By, Recorded By – Sam Shepherd

 The second album from Floating Points – Manchester-born producer Sam Shepherd – is immediately visceral. Shepherd is a neuroscientist, and his sound has often been more cerebral and delicate than that of his UK electronic music peers (he first emerged at the peak of dubstep and breakbeat). His 2015 debut Elaenia was met with much critical acclaim, and this follow-up retains Shepherd’s intricate exploration, while pushing his sonics to a new realm of intensity. The opening track Falaise swims with familiarly warm orchestral sounds, yet Crush as a whole crescendos into moments of bleeps and whirring that invoke a disarming anxiety. 
The album’s title, says Shepherd, is not to do with a romantic yearning, but with the helplessness of contemporary inevitabilities: climate change and self-serving politics. His signature cosmic lightness is often married here with weightier sounds: the urgent UK bass on LesAlpx; the slowburning elegance of Karakul juxtaposed with dissonant glitches; Bias pairs lithe garage beats with an eerie melody. Beautifully crafted, Crush unsettles with its quiet, fervent chaos bubbling beneath its surface. 
Tara Joshi / The Guardian

The Comet Is Coming ‎– Afterlife (2019)

Style: Fusion, Contemporary Jazz, Psychedelic Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Impulse!

Tracklist:
1.   All That Mathers Is The Moments
2.   The Softness Of The Present
3.   The Afterlife
4.   Lifeforce Part I
5.   Lifeforce Part II
6.   The Seven Planetary Heavens

Credits:
Written-By – King Shabaka
Written-By, Producer – Betamax, Danalogue

Arriving just nine months after the London trio’s mould-breaking Trust in the Life Force, and recorded at the same time, there were fears this “companion piece” would prove a mere add-on. In reality The Afterlife has its own, distinct mood, often gentler and more sombre than the techno attack of Life Force and the better for it. 
Still, there are ferocious moments in the interplay between Shabaka Hutchings’s saxophone, the synth squalls of Dan Leavers and the mutating beats of drummer Max Hallett. Lifeforce Pt II yokes an edgy sax riff to a growling electronic backdrop for a blast into a sci-fi future. All That Matters Is the Moments arrives in a clatter of reggae drums and poet Joshua Idehen proclaiming “the earth has cracked, the mountains popped”, his dystopian visons grounded in south London cityscapes. 
By contrast, The Softness of the Present is warm and reflective, The Seven Planetary Heavens a lyrical glide through the cosmos. The mood is as often melancholic as apocalyptic, as if mourning a fractured planet. The trio remain in a tradition of avant gardists such as Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane and Can, but totally of the now. One of 2019’s best. 
Neil Spencer / The Guardian

Friday, 28 February 2020

Gina X Performance ‎– Nice Mover (1978)

Style: Synth-pop, Disco, New Wave
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: EMI, LTM, Electrola

Tracklist:
01.   Nice Mover
02.   No G.D.M.
03.   Plastic Surprise Box
04.   Casablanca
05.   Be A Boy
06.   Exhibitionism
07.   Black Sheep
08.   Tropical Comic Strip
09.   No G.D.M. (Berlin 1992 Mix)
10.   Nice Mover (7" Edit)
11.   No G.D.M. (7" Edit)
12.   Homage A B.B.

Credits:
Drums – Laslo Czigany
Keyboards – Zeus B. Held
Programmed By (Additional Synthesizer) – Martin Homberg
Programmed By (Synthesizer Programming) – Heinz Trewer
Vocal, Backing Vocals – 'Big Brother'
Vocals, Concept By] – Gina Kikoine
Written-By – Gina Kikoine, Zeus B. Held
Producer – Martin Homberg, Zeus B. Held

If some say that time exists as a flat circle, consider it as a vinyl record. Each rotation generates new sounds built upon the ones established in earlier spins, a creation of novel melodies formed from those before them. Musical history acts in much the same way, where sonic techniques and trends reappear at different intervals of time. A resurgence in disco and ‘90s-tinged R&B demonstrates this phenomenon in 2019. Genres circle back around like chokers and rom-coms. In the 40 years since its release, the sound of Nice Mover resurfaces every so often across a strange range of artists. 
While circling around a vintage record and clothing store in the Netherlands, the cover of Gina X Performance’s Nice Mover caught my eye. Its confident yet playful stare resembled those of Grace Jones and Annie Lennox, both self-assuredly androgynous and sexual. It was enough to bring me to purchase the record, though I knew nothing of the group beforehand. At the time, I wondered if this gap in my knowledge constituted a major musical grievance. I’ve since found that it in fact is a gap, though through little fault of my own. Dedicated sonic historians might know of them, but my own research suggests that Gina X Performance exists as a small footnote in the grand timeline of music history. 
The German group consisted of vocalists Gina Kikoine and Ralph Morgenstern, producer Zeus B. Held and drummer Lazlo Czigany, with Hinrich Sickenberger later joining the group in the ‘80s. Over the course of their less-than-a-decade formation, they released four albums total, though their debut remains their most famous release. That said, I think it deserves a bit more love. Not only does it still play well, but Nice Mover sounds both like its contemporaries and those who followed. 
At only eight tracks, the album plays through in a little over a half hour. Held’s synthesized production conjures a tasteful club atmosphere around Kikoine, who sings and writes with a deliberate extravagance. The sophistication and indulgence work in tandem to form an excellently eccentric mix of synth pop, disco and R&B. By track two, I knew I’d found my throwback contender for Song of the Summer in “No G.D.M.,” its celebration of queerness a perfect find for the start of Pride Month: “You are perfect, you are sheer/ If you are a red-haired queer” is not a sentiment to question. 
Listening to this and the rest of Nice Mover elicits remembrances of other acts with much higher profiles. “Exhibitionism” contains hints of the Knife’s weirdness, Vendredi sur Mer’s spoken-word disco and Daft Punk’s digitized vocals. Kikoine’s enunciation comes across as ridiculously campy, but honestly, no native English speaker can ever criticize another person’s aptitude for the English language, as the majority of the world speaks it for our convenience. On “Black Sheep,” you detect the exaggerated intonation of Björk, with the same proud peculiarity as well. Nice Mover, unapologetic in its moments of queerness or dissonance, captivates listeners with this brashness. It works for thinking as much as it does dancing, a fabulous pairing for a retrospective look. 
In a season where LGBTQ culture lies on the forefront of many peoples’ minds, discovering Gina X Performance felt like an appropriate moment of fate for me. On top of expanding my knowledge of past musicians, Nice Mover introduced me to another remarkably brave figure from queer history. Like the synthesizers, it’s just another reason why this album makes me dance.
Micj Jacobs / Spectrum Culture

30/70 ‎– Fluid Motion (2019)

Style: Neo Soul, Broken Beat, Future Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Rhythm Section International

Tracklist:
A1.   Brunswick Hustle
A2.   Addicted
A3.   Fluid Motion
A4.   N.Y.P
A5.   Tempted
A6.   Reprise
B1.   Echoplex
B2.   Backfoot
B3.   Crystal Hills
B4.   Impermanence
B5.   Push And Pull
B6.   Flowers

Credits:
Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Josh Kelly
Backing Vocals – Abbey Howlett, Danika Smith, Jace XL, Rara Zulu
Congas, Percussion – Javier Fredes
Drums – Ziggy Zeitgeist
Fender Rhodes, Organ – Jarrod Chase
Producer, Bass – Horatio Luna
Producer, Guitar, Korg MS10, Electric Piano (Rhodes) – Tom Mansfield
Synth (Juno 106, Prophet 600), Backing Vocals – Tiaryn Griggs

Recently, something unexpected has been going on in Melbourne. The foreign, American genre of neo-soul and all of its psychedelic and jazzy tendencies has been picked up by the locals and built upon to the point of being something a little different – think less R&B, more future funk. Things like this happen; music can be adopted and relocated like a plant, no one knowing where its roots are going to take. What’s surprising is that the seemingly isolated trend in Melbourne grew to become especially popular in the UK. It wasn’t long before a London label, Rhythm Section International, began to notice and eventually signed the most promising talent from the burgeoning scene. 
30/70 is not the biggest or the most important band to be signed to Rhythm Section, but they are the first proper band. That gives them something most of the other artists lack, where established label mates like Hiatus Kaiyote draw equal inspiration from UK club beats, 30/70Badu-led Soulquarians jam session. On their best tracks here, that comparison is hard to ignore.

As a collective, they have steadily grown throughout their career, with a constantly shifting set of players; the five mainstays seem to revolve around Allysha Joy, Ziggy Zeitgeist, Henry Hicks, Tom Mansfield & Jarrod Chase. As their debut Cold Radish Coma (2015) caught the attention of the Melbourne press, they began to develop a reputation around their home town, but it wasn’t until 2017’s Elevate that they became recognisable throughout Australia. Now with this year’s Fluid Motion, they have a world tour under their belt and are making a case for themselves outside of both Melbourne and their adopted London. 
Fluid Motion is not dissimilar enough to dissuade longterm fans but on the opening track, “Brunswick Hustle”, the band demonstrates just how far they’ve come, contributing a fully realised thumping introduction and making a case for the band they could be. But 30/70 has never been about colossal dance jams, or even the funkiness of “Brunswick Hustle”, 30/70 is focused on the aftermath. 
As the opener fades out and “Addicted” begins, you realise the party’s over, and while everyone’s coming down and waiting for the sun to come up, your wits are finally starting to come back to you. “Addicted” is lucid, representative of the band as a whole, and that feeling of oncoming sobriety. Sax runs come in and out, Joy’s singing is expressive yet non-confrontational and the song meanders along in a way that evokes effortlessness instead of listlessness. 
The mood continues with “Fluid Motion”, that track having some interesting percussive and great little vocal affectations but eventually bringing the vibe down to an even mellower place, even when the tempo keeps building. Similarly, the restless “N.Y.P.” begins with a great Frank Ocean-esque break down before building into an anxiety-laced crescendo. It’s these moments where the band explores their esoteric jams and keeps everything fairly loose. Elsewhere on the album, 30/70 tries to craft big poppy singles to relatively diminishing returns. “Tempted” and “Backfoot” are repetitious and catchy but seem limp when accompanied by their analogue instrumental arrangements, and confusing when considering their club influenced label mates.

The two shortest songs here, “Reprise” and “Echoplex” offer two competing palette cleansers: while “Reprise” feels more like an unneeded extra, something that could easily have been cut off the 13 track album, “Echoplex” uses its place as a vocal-less interlude to let the band shine and give more resonance to Joy’s voice when it chimes back in on “Backfoot”. The best songs on Fluid Motion however, come in at the end. “Crystal Hills” is a breakbeat-inspired instrumental that is propulsive enough to carry two and a half minutes of minimal airport-running music. “Push and Pull” and “Flowers” offer the greatest artistic leap forward for the collective, providing tight memorable hooks that more than any other song here, necessitate repeated listens. 
Talent is no doubt present on Fluid Motion, in fact it can be frustratingly hard to ignore. Maybe it’s the nature of a collective, a feeling of too many cooks that causes a project like this to feel somewhat unrestrained. Maybe that’s the point, either way, although their third outing is undoubtedly their strongest yet, the experiments still yield a few too many misses. Those moments when the entire band is on the same wavelength and the songs feel inhumanely precise, are hard to do, but on Fluid Motion, 30/70 has figured it out. If they can keep that momentum going into their fourth album there will be a lot to look forward to.
Mac Lockett / sungenre

Red Snapper ‎– Our Aim Is To Satisfy Red Snapper (2000)

Style: Leftfield, Future Jazz, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Matador, Warp Records

Tracklist:
01.   Keeping Pigs Together
02.   Some Kind Of Kink
03.   Shellback
04.   Don't Go Nowhere
05.   The Rake
06.   The Rough And The Quick
07.   Bussing
08.   I Stole Your Car
09.   Alaska Street
10.   Belladonna
11.   They're Hanging Me Tonight

Credits:
Double Bass, Electric Bass – Ali Friend
Drums, Turntables – Richard Thair
Guitar, Keyboards – David Ayers
Mixed By – Hugo Nicolson, Red Snapper
Producer – Hugo Nicolson, Red Snapper
Written-By – Friend, Ayers, Thair

Thursday, 27 February 2020

This Heat ‎– Out Of Cold Storage (2006)

Style: Art Rock, Avantgarde, Experimental
Format: BOX SET CD
Label: This Is 

This Heat 
1-01.   Testcard
1-02.   Horizontal Hold
1-03.   Not Waving
1-04.   Water
1-05.   Twilight Furniture
1-06.   24 Track Loop
1-07.   Diet Of Worms
1-08.   Music Like Escaping Gas
1-09.   Rainforest
1-10.   The Fall Of Saigon
1-11.   Testcard


Deceit

2-01.   Sleep
2-02.   Paper Hats
2-03.   Triumph
2-04.   S.P.Q.R.
2-05.   Cenotaph
2-06.   Shrinkwrap
2-07.   Radio Prague
2-08.   Makeshift Swahili
2-09.   Independence
2-10.   A New Kind Of Water
2-11.   Hi Baku Shyo


Health And Efficiency 

3-01.   Health And Efficiency
3-02.   Graphic/Varispeed (45rpm)


Made Available

4-01.   Horizontal Hold
4-02.   Not Waving
4-03.   The Fall Of Saigon
4-04.   Rimp Romp Ramp
4-05.   Makeshift
4-06.   Sitting
4-07.   Basement Boy
4-08.   Slither

Repeat

5-01.   Repeat
5-02.   Metal
5-03.   Graphic/Varispeed (33rpm)


Live 80/81

6-01.   Horizontal Hold
6-02.   Paper Hats
6-03.   S.P.Q.R.
6-04.   Triumph
6-05.   Aerial Photography
6-06.   The Rough With The Smooth
6-07.   Makeshift Swahili
6-08.   Music Like Escaping Gas
6-09.   A New Kind Of Water
6-10.   Twilight Furniture
6-11.   Health And Efficiency


Credits:
Guitar, Clarinet, Viola, Voice, Tape, Loops – Charles Bullen
Keyboards, Guitar, Bass, Voice, Tape, Drums, Loops, Organ – Gareth Williams
Percussion, Keyboards, Voice, Tape, Bass, Guitar, Drums, Loops, Kazoo, Melodica – Charles Hayward
Producer – Anthony Moore, David Cunningham, This Heat
Written-By – This Heat

This Heat were born in the years immediately preceding punk rock. Severe young men Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward were making things go pish-ding-whoosh on London’s free-improvising circuit and had links to the waning days of Canterbury’s whimsical and conceptual prog rock scene. So though punk riled them up-- as it riled up many under-30s lurking in the corners of London in the summer of 1976-- it’s unsurprising that what they produced in response sounds little like the Clash. They hooked up with “non-musician” Gareth Williams and took up in an abandoned meat locker dubbed Cold Storage. Like Can in their castle or Faust in their farmhouse, This Heat recorded endlessly at Cold Storage, editing the results down into (semi-) coherent chunks. 
What This Heat produced there is a remarkable body of work, even in the context of creative abundance that was British post-punk. Hayward sang in a keening voice with audible debts to Robert Wyatt, but without the former Soft Machine leader's warmth and sentimentality. This Heat’s astringent combination of tape loops, coruscating sheet metal guitar, Krautrock-inspired groove, improvised noise, and Reagan/Thatcher-era political despair felt frigid to the touch. Listening today you can almost hear Cold Storage’s rusted pipes and crackled, mottled porcelain as captured in this new box set’s black-and-white photographs. 
Out of Cold Storage contains the complete works of This Heat, along with a disc of live recordings and an informative booklet where the surviving members (Williams passed away in 2001) dissect their discography. It’s a sumptuously packaged, limited-edition, mail-order release, and since most of the material has long been available only as bootlegs or on mp3, the sound quality of these remasters is an obvious improvement.

Here are some much-hated rock critic words that are impossible to avoid when talking about This Heat: angular, spiky, jagged, shards, atonal. The brittle, scrabbling, squawking, scraping qualities of This Heat’s music come partially out of the band’s background in free improvisation. At the same time, the reversed voices and tea kettle ambience of a track like Deceit’s “Shrinkwrap” find kin in the rusty, industrial Ohio dada of Pere Ubu tracks like “The Book is on the Table”-- crude sound art with the implied violence of rock music. 
And This Heat did rock. They were rarely funky, and Cold Storage feels as far from the Mississippi delta as Conny Plank’s studio in Cologne. But “SPRQ” is as triumphant a rock song as any post-punk band ever wrote-- just two awkward chords ringing out stadium-sized. And live-- evidenced on the slightly murky sounding Live 80/81 but especially on Made Available, the disc of sessions they recorded for John Peel’s radio show-- they were a snarling, metallic machine. 
Recorded from 1976 to 1978 and released the following year, This Heat is the sound of three avant-gardeners getting to grips with the mud and clay of rock. The album opens and closes with radio interference; Williams’ organ sounds like he’s playing it with his elbows. Much of it eschews songform entirely, drifting freely and unmoored. When it doesn’t-- as on “Not Waving”-- Hayward’s voice emerges from the mist of organs on like headlamps in fog with only a tidal clang to anchor the music. But then there’s a track like “Horizontal Hold”, thrashing like a prog rock power trio of cavemen. 
“24 Track Loop” feeds a chunk of Hayward’s drumming into a harmonizer and what it spits out sounds, as many have pointed out, strangely like the pitchshifted drums of jungle nearly two decades later. It also sounds more than a bit like Miles Davis’ On the Corner. Indeed, the whole album twitches with the same urban dread as OTC, a creeping turn-of-the-decade horror-- the Cold War on the brink of nuclear meltdown, economic breakdown, conservatism (or outright fascism) on the rise, consumer complacency-- that found its most harrowing expression in This Heat’s second album. 
Twenty-five years after its release Deceit feels more relevant than ever-- and not just because our national policy makers are currently playing chicken with Iran and its nuclear capabilities. More of a song suite than its predecessor, the album opens with “Sleep”, a nursery rhyme set to undulating reversed tape loops that envisions a society “cocooned in a routine of food” and hypnotized by television. “Cenotaph” twists a Civil War era standard, lamenting that “a kiss won’t mean goodbye/ When Johnny comes marching home.” When I first heard the album, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the song felt almost unbearably poignant. Now that more than 2,500 American soldiers and uncountable Middle Easterners have died in the current Iraq war, it has only grown sadder. 
This Heat’s most expressly political record, Deceit contains references to Triumph of the Will, conflates Nazi rallies with the Roman Empire, and includes a song where the lyrics are simply a recitation of the American Declaration of Independence. It is a bleak, black record, and unlike other efforts of the time by PiL or Joy Division, there’s little redemption to be found in the run out grooves, very little light at the end of the tunnel. Its final track is called “Hi Baku Shyo”; its subtitle is “Suffer Bomb Disease”. And while we’re not dancing on the post-nuclear cinder just yet, one can’t help but feel that Deceit was re-released at precisely the right time. 
Health and Efficiency is This Heat’s masterpiece. The title track is, in a complete turn of events for these doommongers, a hymn to the restorative powers of sunshine, and their most traditionally rocking song, at least until it veers off into an extended instrumental slalom with some of Hayward’s most intricate (and violent) drumming. “It seemed to be a quite radical idea to be healthy, happy, acknowledging the sun,” Hayward says in the liner notes. “We’ve all got the same bodies; it’s international.” The B-side, “Graphic/Varispeed”, is an extended experiment in tape loops and studio manipulation, as you might have guessed from the title. 
The title track of Repeat is an extended take on the sound of “24 Track Loop”, re-edited in 1992. It’s 20 minutes of rhythm, a cycle of drums, handclaps, buzzing drones, and sharp jumpcuts that may be the band’s most Can and Miles-like moment. “Metal” is 23 minutes of murky metallic percussion, like a field recording of a drunken Asian drum troupe or a blacksmith’s shop, and “Graphic/Varispeed” makes a return appearance. Anyone who hears it will probably toss that new Liars album. There’s also Made Available, the aforementioned Peel Sessions disc, which contains versions of This Heat-era tracks that best their album versions. Live 80/81 is the most inessential disc here, like most live recordings for fans only. 
A few months ago, I griped in a Pitchfork review of A Certain Ratio that the renewed interest in post-punk had sent labels scraping the barrel for “lost masterpieces.” I’d be fibbing, to say nothing of backsliding, if I claimed that the average listener needs every disc in Welcome to Cold Storage at the low, low asking price of nearly 100 of your hard-earned dollars. (This Heat is currently available as a standalone disc, with the others apparently to follow.) But anyone with the slightest interest in post-punk should shelve those plans to invest in the Konk reissue or the Definitive Medium Medium, fork over the seemingly high asking price, and wait the interminable length for ReR to mail it to you.
Jess Harvell / Pitchfork

Alpha ‎– Come From Heaven (1997)

Style: Downtempo, Trip Hop, Neo Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Virgin, Melankolic

Tracklist:
01.   My Things
02.   Rain
03.   Sometime Later
04.   Delaney
05.   Hazeldub
06.   Slim
07.   Come From Heaven
08.   Back
09.   Nyquil
10.   Apple Orange
11.   With
12.   Firefly
13.   Somewhere Not Here

Credits:
Mixed By – Andy Bradfield
Producer – Alpha
Vocals – Helen White, Martin Barnard, Wendy Stubbs
Written-By – Jenks, Dingley, White, Barnard, Stubbs

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Tom Nehls ‎– I Always Catch The Third Second Of A Yellow Light (1973)

Genre: Rock, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: TLN,

Tracklist:
01.   No People In The Forest
02.   Words Can't Explain
03.   Clean Air
04.   The Underwater Symphony
05.   All I Need
06.   Reminiscing
07.   Hot Wind
08.   Dawn In The Park
09.   Your Death
10. Black Forest 11. Sky Paintings 12. Whilst Drivingst 13. Goober And The Garter Snake / You Don't Need A Compass Or A Watch To Know Where You Are 14. Starting To Wonder 15. Every Day Night

Credits:
Acoustic Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Percussion – Richard Baillargeon
Banjo – Peter Krieger
Drums, Timpani – Brett Forberg
Flute – Stephanie Marlin
Guitar, Piano, Bells, Synthesizer – Tom Nehls
Lead Vocals, Bass, Noises – Craig Gudmundson
Piano, Organ – Dave Sletten
Tambourine – Pete Masters
Written-By – Tom Nehls
Producer – Tom Nehls

Morphine ‎– Yes (1995)

Style: Alternative Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Rykodisc, Festival Records, Music World

Tracklist:
01.   Honey White
02.   Scratch
03.   Radar
04.   Whisper
05.   Yes
06.   All Your Way
07.   Super Sex
08.   I Had My Chance
09.   The Jury
10.   Sharks
11.   Free Love
12.   Gone For Good

Credits:
Baritone Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Dana Colley
Bass (2-string Slide), Vocals – Mark Sandman
Drums – Billy Conway
Producer – Mark Sandman, Paul Q. Kolderie

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Vanishing Twin ‎– The Age Of Immunology (2019)

Style: Leftfield, Psychedelic, Indie Pop, Avantgarde
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Fire Records

Tracklist:
01.   KRK (At Home In Strange Places)
02.   Wise Children
03.   Cryonic Suspension May Save Your Life
04.   You Are Not An Island
05.   The Age Of Immunology
06.   Magician's Success
07.   Planète Sauvage
08.   Backstroke
09.   Invisible World
10.   Language Is A City (Let Me Out!)

Credits:
Producer – Cathy Lucas
Recorded By – Malcom Catto, Syd Kemp, Vanishing Twin
Performer – Cathy Lucas, Elliott Arndt, Phil MFU, Susumu Mukai, Valentina Magaletti

Almost a year ago, Vanishing Twin released a cassette called Magic & Machines, a set of spacious improvisational works recorded in one take in an old mill in Sudbury. The group sought to isolate themselves and engage in a deep listening/group therapy exercise, working quietly as to respect their host’s request to keep the volume down late at night. The result was something quite visceral, a sonic transcription of the group intuitively playing with one another’s strengths and ideas while also unfolding a ghostly substructure for their ensuing musical efforts. 
On their new album, The Age of Immunology, the group hasn’t really switched up their sound, but instead has expanded the fabled lore encompassed in their body of work. Though only a couple of songs on the new album were born out of the aforementioned Sudbury sessions, the overarching result seems to highlight the group’s strengthened bond with each other and their vision. Vanishing Twin is a large group, blending together a range of backgrounds, languages, tastes and influences. However, they’ve surpassed the unease that can come in tow with a large group setting of any kind and instead have conceived a sort of hive mind, producing a celestial work spun from a plane of existence of their own surreal, science fiction-tinged creation.

The album acts as a surreal utopian odyssey, relishing in the atmosphere of each haunt, winding seamlessly from one sparkling setting to the next. Opener ‘KRK (At Home In Strange Places)’ is a galloping lounge jazz romp, dotted with bird chirps and an exotic drum beat, all while suggesting that something is slightly off-kilter with each appearance of Cathy Lucas’s glitchy findings, “At home, in strange places”. ‘Cryonic Suspension May Save Your Life’ builds a sense of anxiety with a tense marching rhythm from the group’s percussionist Val Magaletti and ever-swelling layers of strings, remaining all tangled up before releasing into a buoyant groove grounded by Lucas’s velvety commentary on an otherworldly scene. 
Fantastical scenes aside, The Age of Immunology also advocates for the idea of a “pluralist dream”, aiming to unite all people and disassemble the structures that fuel fear of the different or unknown. Multiple members’ speaking voices make appearances on the album, often in their native tongues, gently gliding you through scenes of starry-eyed sincerity. On ‘The Age of Immunology’ and ‘Invisible World’, new voices weave into the mix over some of the more mellow instrumentals the album offers. ‘Invisible World’ appears on the back end of the album, cooling off from the tenacious rhythm of ‘Backstroke’ with blissed out strings, space-age synth flourishes, and a firm voice announcing, “Right now, all around you / The invisible world calls”. Each instance of the members’ vocal appearances serve as a guiding commentary for what realm you’re entering next. It’s a bit soothing really, like the gentle musical interludes that punctuate the chapters of a children’s book on tape. 
Each song title and their respective lyrics is a bit cryptic, hinting at a broader futurist or cultish tale. However, the group never pushes any rigid narrative or social commentary. Each facet of Vanishing Twin’s work is crafted with an inherent playfulness, never reeking of self-seriousness or a push for a commercialized group “brand”. Sure, the idea of a psychedelic group jovially embracing the idea of a boundaryless world could induce an eyeroll from some, but the group has become adept at honing a tongue-in-cheek tone, inviting you into a magical dimension that’s just for play. 
Though many have hailed the group as a successor to the psych-pop legacies of Broadcast or Stereolab, Vanishing Twin are one of the most original and exciting acts of the moment, deserving of their own spotlight for effortlessly weaving their style through multiple mediums. The Age of Immunology finds the group tightening some bolts and adding depth to their mythology, and it’s really quite a treat. The album is an escapist dream, blending fantasy with philosophy and silliness with high art. With The Age of Immunology, Vanishing Twin have established themselves as diplomats of their own fantastic planet and it’s high time we meet them there.
Anna Rahkonen / The Quietus

Caribou ‎– Swim (2010)

Style: Electro, Experimental, Folk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: City Slang, Cooperative Music, Merge Records

Tracklist:
1.   Odessa
2.   Sun
3.   Kaili
4.   Found Out
5.   Bowls
6.   Leave House
7.   Hannibal
8.   Lalibela
9.   Jamelia

Credits:
Mastered By – George Graves
Written-By, Producer – Dan Snaith

Monday, 24 February 2020

Osamu Kitajima ‎– Dragon King (1981)

Style: Fusion, Jazz-Funk, Contemporary Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Everland Psych, Arista, Alfa Records

Tracklist:
A1.   Hot Strings Invasion 津軽攻め
A2.   Lake Spirit 湖心
A3.   Say You Will セイ・ユー・ウィル
A4.   Share My Love シェア・マイ・ラブ
B1.   Dragon King 竜王
B2.   Willow Pattern 柳模様
B3.   Yamamé 山女

Credits:
Arranged By (Rhythm Arrangements) – Osamu Kitajima
Arranged By (String & Rhythm Arrangements) – Richard Evan
Engineer – Larry Hirsch
Executive-Producer – Kuni Murai, Sho Kawazao
Producer – Osamu Kitajima, Richard Evans

Duke Ellington • Charlie Mingus • Max Roach ‎– Money Jungle (1962)

Genre: Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Blue Note, United Artists Jazz

Tracklist:
1.   Money Jungle
2.   Le Fleurs Africaines (African Flower)
3.   Very Special
4.   Warm Valley
5.   Wig Wise
6.   Caravan
7.   Solitude

Credits:
Bass – Charlie Mingus
Drums – Max Roach
Piano – Duke Ellington
Producer – Alan Douglas
Written-By – D. Ellington

Duke Ellington surprised the jazz world in 1962 with his historic trio session featuring Charles Mingus and Max Roach. Not in a mood to simply rework older compositions, the bulk of the LP focused on music he wrote specifically for the session. "Money Jungle" is a thunderous opener, a blues that might be classified somewhere between post-bop and avant-garde. The gem of the date is the fragile, somewhat haunting ballad "Fleurette Africaine," where Mingus' floating bassline and Roach's understated drumming add to the mystique of an Ellington work that has slowly been gathering steam among jazz musicians as a piece worth exploring more often. "Very Special" is a jaunty upbeat blues, while the angular, descending line of "Wig Wise" also proves to be quite catchy. Ellington also revisits "Warm Valley" (a lovely ballad indelibly associated with Johnny Hodges) and an almost meditative "Solitude." Thunderous percussion and wild basslines complement a wilder-than-usual approach to "Caravan." Every jazz fan should own a copy of this sensational recording session.
Ken Dryden / AllMusic

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Vanishing Twin ‎– Choose Your Own Adventure (2016)

Style: Leftfield, Psychedelic, Indie Pop, Avantgarde
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Soundway

Tracklist:
1.   Vanishing Twin Syndrome
2.   Telescope
3.   Floating Heart
4.   Eggs
5.   Under The Water
6.   The Conservation Of Energy
7.   Choose Your Own Adventure
8.   Truth Is Boring
9.   It Sends My Heart Into A Spin

Credits:
Guitar – Coral Kindred-Boothby
Cello – Yehan Jehan
Clarinet – Demian Castellanos
Bass – Coral Kindred-Boothby
Harp – Pamela Martinez
Producer – Cathy Lucas, Malcolm Catto
Written-By, Performer – Vanishing Twin
Vanishing Twin – Cathy Lucas, Elliott Arndt, Phil M.F.U., Susumu Mukai, Valentina Magaletti

Under the name Orlando, former member of Fanfarlo Cathy Lucas put together a couple of albums on her own Association for the Re-Alignment of Magnetic Dust (or RAM) label. Her last recording under that name – 2015’s Play Time: Music For Video Games, a split album alongside Tomaga – was a heady combination of retro 60’s pop and electronic, sometimes chiptune bleeps designed to soundtrack fictional worlds and imagined expeditions. 
Since then, she’s pulled together quite an outfit. Former bandmate Valentina Magaletti (also of Tomaga, Neon Neon), Susumu Mukai (better known as primitive electronic producer Zongamin and sometime member of Floating Points), Phil M.F.U. (Man From Uranus, Broadcast) and film-maker and visual artist Elliott Arndt have all joined her cause. Together, they have produced Choose Your Own Adventure, a record that continues to capture the adventurous essence of Orlando, but under an entirely different moniker: Vanishing Twin. 
This new name references the process of foetal resorption, which occurs when a foetus in a multiple pregnancy dies in utero. It happens in about one in every eight multi-foetal pregnancies but, in many cases, the phenomena is not even known to expectant mothers. In a strangely spiritual way, the foetus never completely dies. It’s often partially, sometimes even completely, absorbed by its twin. When they were just a cluster of cells, this is exactly what happened to Lucas’s sibling. As such, Choose Your Own Adventure recounts the mythology surrounding Lucas’s lost twin, following her on various imagined escapades. 
It’s safe to say, then, that this is an album with its starting point in some pretty hefty ideas. Lucas herself claims that the album surrounds “big ideas about birth, death, eggs and evolution,” and to an extent that’s true: ‘Eggs’ is built upon constant loops of sound, mirroring the shape of ova. Lucas asks “if you are chosen, what will you be?” querying the randomness of the process. Opener ‘Vanishing Twin Syndrome’ addresses her sibling, with the realisation that – after absorption – she “must share this world with you”. 
However, Choose Your Own Adventure isn’t exactly a tightly structured conceptual record. Instead, the major focus is on the effects of osmosis of a totally different nature: the absorption of sounds. A recent mix curated by the band (amusingly titled Cryptic Waffles) took in everything from jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and noise rockers Shit and Shine to bossa nova singer Astrud Gilberto and the arkestral innovation of Sun Ra. It’s therefore unsurprising that this is a record that completely defies genre, refusing to be pigeonholed. The mythos of the vanishing twin’s adventures becomes a conceit designed to allow the band to be incredibly playful with their music. If one thing defines this album, it’s the band’s desire to pick and choose sounds like magpies, stitching various influences together. 
The album is bookended with some of the more obvious arkestral influences. The aforementioned ‘Vanishing Twin Syndrome’ combines swathes of percussion alongside funk guitars before descending into a cosmic blend of reverberating bleeps in its latter half. Closer ‘It Sends My Heart Into A Spin,’ meanwhile, extensively utilises exotic drum beats. In-between these two points, pretty much any style is fair game. The lilting, guitar-driven ‘Telescope’ is about as close as the album gets to a quintessential pop song, albeit a very 60s one lightly peppered with off-the-wall library sounds. Elliott Arndt’s flute constantly reappears throughout the album, providing the distinctive motif on ‘The Conservation of Life’ and evoking a distinctly British image of the pastoral. By complete contrast, ‘Under The Water’ is something of a pastiche of jazz skits, lightly brushed hi-hats competing against sounds that could have been taken straight from the Radiophonic Workshop. 
Considering how widely Vanishing Twin cast the net, and that Lucas’s warm voice is the really the only constant thread, it’s remarkable how well each track flows as a unified whole. The gentle pop of ‘Telescope’ shouldn’t work sitting next to the dramatic drum rolls of ‘Floating Heart,’ and neither should the free-form, 10-minute voyage of ‘Truth Is Boring’ be comfortable alongside the tighter structures of the title track. But they do. 
That’s because Vanishing Twin lay their cards on the table before you’ve even pressed play. As its title suggests, Choose Your Own Adventure challenges the listener to explore a realm of sounds and sonic influences few would think about putting together. Should you wish to accept that challenge, it’s a heady voyage across time and space that surprises at every turn.
Eugenie Johnson / The Quietus

Juana Molina ‎– Tres Cosas (2004)

Genre: Electronic, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Domino, La Musica Iberoamericana

Tracklist:
01.   No Es Tan Cierto
02.   El Cristal
03.   Sálvese Quién Pueda
04.   iUh!
05.   Tres Cosas
06.   Yo Sé Que
07.   Isabel
08.   Zamba Corta
09.   Sólo Su Voz
10.   Cúrame
11.   Filter Taps
12.   El Progreso
13.   Insensible

Credits:
Composed By, Recorded By, Producer, Mixed By – Juana Molina

In a past life that came to a close sometime around 1996, Buenos Aires' Juana Molina was a well-known comedienne and television host, something akin to Argentina's Tracey Ullman, or say, Carol Burnett. It was a role she dutifully fulfilled for almost seven years before succumbing to a twerk of conscience and retreating to Los Angeles in the hopes of starting again, this time as a musician. 
Tres Cosas is Molina's third full-length since she abandoned television outright in the mid-90s, but her past as a successful comedian still clings closely to her brand. The obvious reason for that is because it's a compelling backstory in its own right, the kind of anecdote that journalists and publicists don't easily forget. But in the context of her work as a musician, the dogged funnylady characterizations begin to make even more sense; modest, meandering and resoundingly uncommercial, Molina's is just not the kind of music you would anticipate from a former star of any kind. 
Conceived as a bare-bones response to 2000's comparatively elaborate Segundo, Tres Cosas consists of breathy, wafer-thin Argentinean folk that occasionally flirts with the vanguard. Excepting the underwater synth piece "Filter Taps" and the gonzo pitch-wheel bonanza of "Yo Se Que", everything here hinges on Molina's nimble voice and a guitar, and yet it'd be misleading to stop at calling it acoustic music.

Part of Molina's appeal-- and this is what's getting her namechecked by more than just the world music set-- lies in the way her songs incorporate subtle additions like xylophones, strings, synths, loops and ambient washes without ever changing shape. One gets the sense from tracks such as "No Es Tan Cierto" (which slyly sneaks a xylophone and some sparse percussion behind its opening guitar motif) and the beautiful "Curame" (a three-shades blend of guitars, keys and vocals) that she's seeing the spaces in her songs and arranging them to match. The end result is a record of mixed materials that still sounds natural; a far cry from some of folk music's more hamfisted attempts at acoustic/electronic collusion. 
Because Molina's compositions tend to be guided by stream of consciousness, sing-songy word trails, some of them need lots of time to fully take root; others-- like the clumsy "El Cristal"-- may never germinate at all. On the whole, however, Tres Cosas is still remarkably lean in fat. Neither particularly immediate nor eager to please, it's also absolutely nothing like a punchline, but who said Molina had to be funny anymore?
Mark Pytlik / Pitchfork