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Staff reviews this week

Good or bad, here's what we think of this week's crop of new releases.

Please note: All views expressed are those of individual staff and not Norman Records as a whole.

A New Line (Related)
Our Lady Of Perpetual Fucking Succour

11 people love me. Be the 12th...

9/10 according to our Ant

Somewhere between Detroit and Berlin - Lancashire to be precise, dwells Andrew Johnson (The Remote Viewer / Hood). Between gobbling up his native cuisine of hot-pots he’s managed to follow up his well received self-titled 2014 long player as A New Line (Related) - back on Home Assembly Music with a spanking 4-track 12” EP.

The title track kicks things off - if you don’t happen to be a DJ spinning this one at a party, my advice here is wait until the neighbours have gone to the caravan for the weekend, and knock the volume up to eleven to fully appreciate the mesmerising hypnotic effects of the loops, repetition and nuance. It’s a very classic techno sound. You can dance or simply lay back and let it rinse away all the mental detritus you’ve accumulated from this cruel world.

‘Belle Ile En Mer Dub Night’ is a lovely soothing, dreamy soulful, grainy dubby techno number with a partially buried vocal loop and ascending synth, building with metallic ticks and woody percussion until it reaches its fully formed bliss inducing state.

‘Nobody's Been In Touch’ has a more funked up, housier swing, all crackly dissolving effervescent effects, recalling Substance & Vainquer’s productions on Scion Versions, maybe a dash of Sistol, Maurizio and Pole floating around in there too.

‘They're Burning Northerners Fifteen At A Time And Firing Them Into The Sky To Light Up London’ gets top marks for its title. A cut that blossoms with gently gurgling bassline, static, and multiple layers of f/x laden shimmering loops that float and hover. Brittle keys ripple in liquid mercury beneath a wall of grainy fuzz, rising like flames.

The EP often has a deceptively familiar sound palette, and on the surface treads a well worn path, but it’s the sounds deeeeep in the mix that pull you in subconsciously, much like the emissions from echospace [detroit] or classic Basic Channel / Chain Reaction - this style doesn't rely on the skeletal, functional elements but on texture and how loops interact - revealing something intangible and partially obscured below the surface and in turn triggering something soul stirring inside the listener. There’s an irresistible charm and melancholy to these tracks that’s consistently warm and inviting, which makes becoming lost in them an effortless pleasure. Basically Andrew's nailed the style - but what makes this EP standout from a zillion sterile clones, is how he channels his personality and character into the sound - so by the time the EP ends, you feel like he's communicated something, like he's had a conversation with you through his machines.

The 12” comes bundled with a digital download of superb remixes from Maxim Walzyn, The Humble Bee, Beppu, Perfume Advert and Northener. Plus our copies include a bonus signed postcard.

Guy Reibel
Douze Inventions En Six Modes De Jeu

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

9/10 according to our Ant

Has your treasured copy of ‘Granulations-Sillages / Franges du Signe’ been getting lonely on the shelf? Fear not, it’s heartbreaking solitude and hopeless isolation will soon be terminated… Good people; welcome into your home its new companion ‘Douze Inventions En Six Modes De Jeu’. Is this a joke? How can this be? Previously unreleased music from legendary French avant-garde electronic music visionary, pioneer and GRM rebel; Monsieur Guy Reibel?

You can thank the good people at Karlrecords for unearthing these sonic gems. Digitized at GRM in 2014 and pressed up onto 180g vinyl, complete with download code and insert with liner notes by Zeitkratzer’s Reinhold Friedl, all for a mere thirteen of our English pounds. Is this a dream? Nope. Now compose yourselves, go and change your soiled under-garments - post-haste, for this my friends is reality.

Immerse yourself in sounds that defy banal adjectives. Ever wondered what Darth Vader smoking a bong in zero gravity would sound like? A radical musical language… sounds emitted from, but somehow not of this planet - created through machines that can think like living organisms? Life synthesised through circuits? The soundtrack to your alien abduction? The sonification of worlds within worlds, within the world. You know what to do.


3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Ant

Herve Atsè Corti has been putting out tracks on Bosconi Extra Virgin, Delsin, All City, Kontra-Musik, Don’t Be Afraid and has now been given a platform on Planet Mu. And deservedly so as this guy’s productions aren’t your bog standard looped to death house and techno affairs. I suspect he gets busy on the MPC but who knows… well him obviously but I don’t. The style across ‘Kila’ deconstructs and reconstructs house and techno with a sorta hip-hop methodology giving the tracks real dynamics, be it a soulful string sample or stuttering beat but not in a predictable glitchy way. His roots as a drummer shine through with his approach to rhythm.

Maybe imagine Aaron Funk stitching together warm house and techno sounds and odd samples instead of Amen’s but not quite as splattered into oblivion. It’s all squidged and crumpled up inventive funky gear that feels at home on a Planet Mu -  but then doesn’t really sound like anyone else on the label either. There’s metallic dubby techno bits, chopped hip-hop, the odd breakbeat, snatches from UK hardcore, maybe disco. All sorts going off - the bloody lot!

HKE / t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者
Gateway アセンション

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Ant

Despite the fact that Vaporwave has been a thing for some years now, I still know little to nothing about it. Infact just looking at the word makes me feel like I’m 90 years old. What I do know is that this tape sounds nothing like the chopped and screwed muzak / 80’s samples etc. that comprised the genre’s roots. It would seem there’s been an evolution and HKE (formerly Hong Kong Express) and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 appear to be leading the way.

HKE’s opening track ‘From Dust’ has me paranoid - running down the shadowy back streets of a neon-lit Tokyo in the year 2040, desperately trying to evade the ghosts of cyborg Yakuza. The epic ‘Spiral’ has a similar spectral quality - the ghosts in the machines have risen from decrepit Windows ‘98 machines - zombie data becoming a dense cloud of one’s and zero’s hovering over the set of Blade Runner. The sort of expertly executed, cinematic scale techno music you’d love to accompany your favourite anime on the big screen. ‘Light Patterns’ closes HKE’s side in fine style with lush, shimmering, ethereal tones floating from the speakers and manifesting in the room like a hovering phantom constructed from beautiful blue light leaving slowly dissolving vaporous tentacle like trails in it’s midst.

t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 opens the second side of the tape with ‘つかの間の思い出’ a dense piece of beat driven, dreamy electronica with emotive breakdowns and a fine balance between melancholia and euphoria. ‘アセンションゲート’ layers vibrant, glistening synths that feel alive, like a some unknown force opening a portal into the spirit world. The seventeen and a half minute ‘超越愛好家’ is a step beyond the material world, a world where solid objects and surfaces cease to exist, a world constructed from liquids and gases or an infinite inner world inside the mind. A world where you are your own DNA floating through space. Pure sonic escapism.

Lasse Marhaug & Kristoffer Alberts

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

8/10 according to our Ant

Heavyweight sonic collision from Scandinavian noise bossman Lasse Marhaug and saxophonist Kristoffer Alberts of Norwegian avant-garde / free jazz outfit’s Cortex, Snik and Saka.

Marhaug is in blistering form on electronics duties and together the pair interact creating a sound beyond any traditional musical language - one that will strip the paint from the walls. Marhaug pretty much lays down the beaten canvas on which Albert’s sax paints an infinite spectrum of colours with his brass. The instrument perhaps possessed by the spirits of Borbetomagus and Peter Brötzmann, yet with a fully intense idiosyncratic approach - shifting dynamically from emitting manic, tortured blasts and screeching yelps; into complex, hyperactive almost blues like phrases. if you dug Wolf Eyes and Anthony Braxton’s ‘Black Vomit’ collaboration - you need this on your turntable.

Housed in screen-printed sleeve with artwork by Lasse Marhaug and released on Kristoffer Alberts newly minted label KBA Records.

Shift Work
Document II

7 people love me. Be the 8th...

7/10 according to our Ant

Careful folks - listen to one too many records by The Fall and Factory Floor and you could end up calling your band Shift Work. At ease… someone's already beaten you to it. ‘Document II’ appears to be the erm… second offering from this pair. The first came out on Optimo Music last year (that’s 2014 if you’re reading this from the future). You get two original cuts and counterpart remixes, one funnily enough from the aforementioned Factory Floor. The other from DVA Damas.

‘Abandoned Hands’ kicks things off and sounds like a bizarre imaginary old New Order remix of Wiley’s ‘Wearing My Rolex’ which our Brian was convinced was a euphemism for “fisting”. A jaunty, stripped back and functional party track with deadpan vocal. DVA Damas’ damaged, narcotic take on the classic sounds of the B52’s produced a somewhat underrated album on Downwards. Joe Cocherell from the duo has put out some techno bangers on Frozen Border and Taylor Birch from the group has popped up on the odd Tropic of Cancer record. On their mix, they sloooow it all the way down into an eerie and sinister paranoid creeper, looping a small vocal snatch along the way and introducing the odd guitar twang.

On the flipside is ‘SFBM’  which thuds along with an EBM flavoured riff that’s all the rage with folks like Traxx, Silent Servant and Powell. After a bit it blossoms into a wailing acidic number. Factory Floor’s mix is more subdued looping things up into an endless hypnotic groove. Nothing on here is either brilliantly flooring or abhorrent, just kinda average trendy new-wavey techno that’s got me on the fence.

DJ Sprinkles
Shishapangma EP

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

9/10 according to our Clinton

What will DJ Sprinkles get up to next? Having already sampled Arthur Scargill on a recent release, the deep house producer is getting increasingly hard to predict.

This time it’s a remix of part of Simon Fisher Turner’s soundtrack ‘The Epic of Everest’. It’s easy to see what has piqued the interest of the Sprinklemeister. The original is a gorgeous piece of fluttery electronics with horns as soft as the flip side of a dog’s ear. A really lovely piece.

Overleaf Sprinkles deep house-ifies it with some simple metronomic beats and add further syn-horns and shards of stretched out sound. Gorgeously deep bass makes an appearance towards the finish with some deliciously dubbed out echoes. What a marvellous release this is. Superb atmospheric house for those endless train journeys.

Hello 307

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

Is there any chance Central Processing Unit could release a bad record? Just to show that they are human.  There's no chance this time around with this superbly warm slab of electro. The A side 'Hello' (hello to you too) has that deliciously warm and soft sound associated with past greats like Plaid and Aphex Twin at his most melodic. It's an immediate killer of a tune with some superb acidy squiggles towards the fade adding to the general '90s Warp and Skam heyday feel. If I had the words, I'd talk about that track all day but there are three more to consider. First up 'Accidental' breaks out from it's pulsating beginning with a feel-good hook over some simple drum machine.

Overleaf things get a bit squelshier, 'Ju_World' sounds kind of like video game music in a puddle, the drum machine is pre old school with a distinct lack of 4/4 beats, 'Telephone' is a hi energy pulsator, with squiggly synths struggling to keep up with the swift BPM.  The closer 'MVMS' introduces some haunting Plaid-like synths    

There are a lot of squiggles. I found the B side to be a bit too squiggly (or maybe I was all squiggled out) but the A side to get things just right with a more spacious sound. Anyway it's another winner from this collectible label. 

Gary Cook
The Fabulous World Of Gary Cook

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

This is a great compilation of a songwriter that I'm fairly certain absolutely no-one anywhere (apart from maybe a few souls in Barrow-in-Furness) will be aware of. What it does though is instantly capture another time where people like Gary Cook recorded songs at home on 4 track, most of them destined to be heard by no-one -- the only way to get them out there would be to play eccentric, presumably ill-attended shows in the back rooms of local pubs. In the days when you couldn't upload tracks onto the internet and get an instant reaction, the music done purely for artistic reasons. Reading the back story, Gary Cook comes across as the type of chap who was born to play music, as if it was his only way of existence - like a northern, hairsprayed Martin Newell.

The songs here were made in the dark and gothy '80s and  tracks like 'Ice Laughter' sound like demos the Cure discarded. Their are moments of hilarity (the Jilted John-like spoken outro to the aforementioned track), there are tons of flanged guitars, late night acoustic laments, early New Order-like electronic pop. It's not always great, but delve deep enough and you'll be rewarded. 'Somerset Water' is particularly brilliant, with the sort of melody many C86 bands would have killed for, and the closer 'After the Rain' does what Ariel Pink tries to do when he does his gothy Depeche Mode '80s trick. 

Sadly Gary Cook passed away at the far too young age of 41. This is a lovingly put together tribute to the sort of person who would now be dubbed lo-fi bedroom genius. 

Boots For Dancing
The Undisco Kidds

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

Boots For Dancing are the missing link between Jozef K and Modern Romance (bear with me) i.e the band Franz Ferdinand wish they were. This amazing piece of lost history fills in a much needed gap in Scottish pop history - where Orange Juice dropped all their foppish leanings and truly went for the dance floor. Sharing members with Josef K and the Rezillo’s and containing future members of the Human League and Delta 5, Boots four Dancing certainly deserve their place in Scottish pop history albeit belated.

Immediately when you put the needle on the record you are taken back in time to some working mans club in Glasgow in 1980, a band on stage in smart suits and guitars played way up there, Edwyn Collins in the audience carefully taking notes. You could easily expect to find tracks like ’The Pleasure Chant’ on a compilation of lost Postcard records -- it really is that good. '(Let’s All) Hesitate’ starts out uncannily like Orange Juice’s ‘Falling and Laughing’ but despite their funk punk leanings, Boots For Dancing have more in common with Josef K with their choppy shards of guitar and dishevelled rhythm section particularly on ’Timeless Tonight’ which has their scrappy charm in spades. I’ve only listened to this twice and there are several tracks jumping out like I’ve known it all my life. ’South Pacific’ for example is a superb piece of Chic influenced post punk with the line ‘going where the weather suits my clothes - the young Georgios Panayiotou wasn’t listening was he?  There’s the odd overly fancy moment hence the Modern Romance comparison but there are so many highlights over the two LPs. 

Francis Lung
Faehers Son Vol. 1

2 people love me. Be the 3rd...

8/10 according to our Clinton

This is a wonderfully packaged record that would have fitted snugly in to my ex’s flat. Everything she owned was white you see….and this is white throughout. The sleeve is white the vinyl is white, the enclosed CD is white, the inner sleeve is white. The music? Well it’s white-ish.

This is the man from WU LYF (remember them?) with a short album of whispered songs that recall… oh, it recalls someone. Opener ‘Something Blue’ is like a sad Belle and Sebastien but it’s on ‘Where Life Comes to Live’ that the record starts to flourish  - this is gorgeous country-ish stuff with tear drenched steel guitars whining away underneath a bedrock of shuffled drums and a slight lilt to the acoustic guitars. ‘Oh My Love’ sounds like a Young British take on the best bits from those Michael Nesmith albums -- kinda perky but full of countrified longing. ‘Back One Day’ is Brian Wilson transported to Manchester by way of Grizzly Bear

With just six songs it in no way outstays its welcome and promises a great deal. 


The Nectarine No.9
Saint Jack

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

Nectarine no 9 were the ’90s band fronted by former Fire Engines leader Davey Henderson and this has been re-issued with a bonus Peel Sessions download intact. It says much for Henderson’s abilities that this is still worth a listen despite some distinct ’90s production values (God, the drums on fiery opening title track).

What this reminds me a lot of is the harsher more discordant end of the Wolfhounds, Henderson’s gravelly bark isn’t that far away from Dave Callahan’s growl. Like that band they also take chances with sequencing. ‘Curdled Fragments’ is a sweet instrumental and ‘Fading Memory Babe’ an oddball slice of guitar slithers before we get back to the tough skewed indie that most defines them. They are rarely melodic though -- ‘My Trapped Lightning’ is the most Captain Beefheart thing I’ve heard all year with it’s dancing, ragged guitars -- and instead Nectarine No 9 lift up Glasgow’s dark underbelly and create grimy twisting guitar anthems to soundtrack the gutter. 

Ultraviolet Music

8 people love me. Be the 9th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

How to review a double CD, 152 minute long album by our favourite ambient deep house practitioner Deepchord in the 15 minutes I am allotted to pen it? Impossible.
Firstly, yes, it really is that long. The first CD clocks in at around 75 minutes, the second 77. You’ll be with it for days. Deepchord’s subtle sound world isn’t all that suited to the office environment either. You are going to need a good set of headphones and a volume knob to get the best out of this. As usual it’s full of muted 4/4 kicks, watery textures and 3AM atmospheres. Initial examination of CD1 seems to suggest that this is even more textural than Deepchord’s previous missives. You have to strain to hear the barely there synths amongst the static -- it’s as if Deepchord’s music is retreating further from the shore into an underwater sound field. A quick listen to CD2 reveals suggestions of clearer more distinct work, the haunting spectre of Gas never far away though with rhythmic percussion leaning towards Donato Dozzy, especially on tracks like the pulsating ‘Where Science Meets the Divine’.
Later tracks offer more meat to the bones than the early pieces which were a little too indistinct even for it’s genre. How you could stay awake to dance to this is anyone’s guess but for eerie late night long home listen Deepchord yet again provides perfect evocative atmospherics. 


1 person loves me. Be the 2nd...

7/10 according to our Clinton

On the sleeve, the most wonderful collection of fruit. Apples, oranges, kiwi fruit, grapes. Everything. On the record is terrifying dark ambience. I’m sure I could write more about the fruit than I can the record but as we’re not a greengrocer (yet) I’d better try to find something to say. Ok let’s say you went out walking one day and found an industrial park on the edge of a city. You fell asleep and woke at dusk to machines continuing to squiggle away doing their thing while everyone had gone home. The record is that and the sound of distant furnaces and bits of metal clanking together. 

I'm Down With That

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

These Speedy Wunderground singles are usually made quickly in an ad hoc atmosphere with head honcho Dan Carey at the controls. More often than not 

this method pays off.
This latest collab sees him oversee a project starring Theresa Wayman (Warpaint), Guro Gikling (All We Are), Sarah Jones (Hot Chip/Yeasayer session player) and what they all come out with is a lopsided splice of post punk which sounds a little like Warpaint and a lot like the latest Stealing Sheep stuff. Overleaf there’s a ‘dub’ version like you used to get on 7”s which strips things back adding effects to the vocals. I’m not sure if I don’t like this side better. Who'd have thunk it?
Anyway this perky little thing will sell out quick so you know what to do. 



Few More Days To Go

Nobody loves me. Be the 1st...

6/10 according to our Clinton

Fufanu’s earlier EP ‘Adjust to the Light’ contained come really great spiky post-punk that recalled Interpol and PIL with great songs. I’m not sure what has happened between that and this their first full length album but there’s a lot less magic here.
Where the EP had a classic opener in the pulsating and ear snagging ‘Will We Last’ this album edges in with the TV on the Radio like ‘Now’ and the almost apologetic ‘Northern Gannet’ which despite some truly brilliant drumming fails to catch light. It’s this insistence on mid paced plodders that frustrates  - the same ingredients are there but the songs lack the killer hooks necessary to bring all the best post punk to life. ‘Circus Life’ for example takes an age to get going, its initial atmospheres don’t give you any kind of reason to wait around to find out what happens. When the Bowie/Numan style vocals kick in they don’t really inspire. The worst song on the EP ‘Blinking’ makes an appearance but by this point the damage is done and I’m scrabbling around for positives. ‘Plastic People’ snags the ear with some rubbery guitars but otherwise it’s slim pickings.
My interest levels have been raised to amber by the excellent EP and this album, though nicely produced and showcasing a similar sound just doesn’t have the same effect. Feeling sad. 

Butterfly Child

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

6/10 according to our Clinton

How does one go about living in LA. I’d like to live there please if that’s possible? Butterfly Child’s Belfast born leader Joe Cassidy has managed to end up there via a circuitous route that also included Chicago (that would be fine too).
This is the first album in God knows how long (17 years says Ian), and although he was once part of the ’90s scene which also included AR Kane he produces a lush sun dappled pop full of the type of polished, well crafted guitar pop that coked-up record execs used to mistakenly think could be hits in the ’90s. Despite the lush production Cassidy’s voice strains a little on the otherwise lovely ‘Our Delays’ which has some gorgeous guitar spirals. Previous single ’No Longer Living in Your Shadow’ is just as delightful as it was when released late 2012 with guitars that redefine the word plangent and here extended in order to make it even better/longer.
Though it sometimes recalls My Autumn Empire’s expensive dad, it does veer a little into Tom Petty territory at times as the album wears on. Early tracks like the very pretty and twinkling instrumental ’Sheets of Whitewashed Sun’ will appeal to those who love the every things ok-tronica of the likes of Tycho but I’m a little concerned by fist pumping choruses such as the one on ‘Shot in the Dark’ and although I’m not going to criticise anyone for song craft, it sounds a little over-cooked at times.
Still, there's enough here to appeal to fans of his '90's work as well as folks who enjoy the polish pop of the likes of Engineers


5 people love me. Be the 6th...

9/10 according to our Robin

Drone dream team time! Perils is made up of the incredible sonic angels that are Kyle Bobby Dunn and Benoit Pioulard, both of whom have arguably released career highlights over the last two years -- Pioulard’s ‘Sonnet’ arrived to us earlier this year, shaking off his affection for songwriting in favour of a spectral, earth-scorched drone album. Dunn, on the other hand, reached the peak of his personal, feeling drones on ‘Kyle Bobby Dunn & The Infinite Sadness’, a behemoth of a record that shivered out long, crystalline compositions.

They might be two of ambient music’s best contemporary artists, but this record couldn’t be more of a ridiculous premise. Dunn has spent his career chasing the textural ideas of Stars of the Lid, busying their rise-and-fall drone structure into harder, less accessible tunes that bring to mind people fighting over their place on a commuter train. Meanwhile, Pioulard has been melding ambience with the kind of quietly abiding songcraft of Jose Gonzalez -- ramshackle drums, nylon strings and a voice that whispers down low or at a falsetto. All this points to something of a stylistic conflict, which can be heard ever so slightly in the curious sequencing and aesthetic shake-ups of their record.

That said… change: it happens. This record marks a fascinating development for both artists in that it challenges their firmly established sounds to exist anew: Loops and distant vocal treatises eventually feed into a hazily processed and distorted drone that sounds like Pioulard fuzzing up one of Dunn’s terse, subtly wavering pieces -- it eventually fades into something sharp and crystalline, the kind of sounds you might have been familiar with on KBD’s ‘Infinite Sadness’ -- but here, they’re contextualised as something of a buffer, interacting with a different force entirely as Pioulard’s nervous drums crackle into view.

There’s a real beacon of light shining over this record, and considering these artist's and their penchant for melancholy, it’s great to hear twinkles of hope emitting from these deep, chasmic drones: a sound akin to a slowly-turned music box riles the record’s second side up before a shimmering guitar drone takes over, eventually handing over to the siren-ambience of Pioulard. The best thing about ‘Perils’ is that you can hear when one artist is helping the other one out, like a relay team working their way to the finish line. It might sound a bit jarring, at first, but this is lovely work. You’re real sweet, Perils.

Lubomyr Melnyk
Rivers and Streams

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Robin

Lubomyr Melnyk has long been treating us to his caffeinated neo-classical, using his continuous playing approach to piano as a means of just pressing on. For many of us, the Youtube video of him playing seventeen notes in one second is probably enough; delve deeper, though, and he offers compositions that change in real time, his structure of melody generating scenery as if it only comes to life as you walk into it.

On ‘Rivers and Streams’, Melnyk takes striking aquatic images and interprets them into piano pieces that echo their movements: ripples of a waterfall are suggested on “Parasol”, on which rapid melodies collide, weaving in and out of separate tempos -- I’m assuming Melnyk has a sense of humour about him, considering that he closes this breathless thirteen minute downpour with a striking cadence.

Where the feat of playing really fucking fast and really fucking technically has taken precedence over much of Melynk’s previous work, it’s clear to see how emotive he can be in -- and often out -- of his framework, whether in the slowed ballad “Pool of Memories” (in which he often grinds to a halt before trundling down the piano), or the gorgeous “Ripples In A Water Scene”, where he’s accompanied by Jamie Perera’s lilting, ever-so-delicately picked guitar. There’s a suppressed energy in these pieces that recalls Hauschka’s ‘Abandoned City’, and a masterful tragic sound that echoes through the tradition as many contemporary classicists as you can count.

Ty Segall
Ty Rex

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

8/10 according to our Robin

Review to follow...........

Alien Wildlife Estate

2 people love me. Be the 3rd...

8/10 according to our Robin

Laurie isn’t here, so I’m just gonna come right out and say it: electronics are weird. Why are electronics so weird? Stuff twinkles and drones and whirrs, it goes, things happen. Tarzana have this whole thing going where they throw together a bunch of disparate textures -- squeaky, pastoral, dreamy -- and let them glide headfirst into one another (one of these dudes was in Skaters, after all). It comes out the other end kinda like Tsembla’s newest record interacting with one of Animal Collective’s -- like mud being flung as a mode of musical expression -- but there are rhythms amidst the madness.

Voices are separated from their original context, drone is fucked up by high-pitched samplings and ramshackle drums, but it still sounds, tautologically, listenable. Watery jams like “”Private Scarab Reserve Club” sound like accidental techno as found on the Folkore Tapes project, with different beats scoped way out in the backdrop while certain rhythms fall apart at the fore. It sounds rather Dolphins Into the Future, if that project lost all sense of chill, or a way less thoughtful Boards of Canada. Whatever it is, there’s creativity rolling through ‘Alien Wildlife Estate’. Probably too much. Please be less creative; your collage of sound humbles us.

Ensemble Economique
Blossoms In Red

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

8/10 according to our Robin

Hey, quick PSA: if you listen to the first track on ‘Blossoms In Red’ for too long you will actually sink into it and become part of the record sleeve. Listening to Ensemble Economique’s new record for the first time might conjure up that thing called ‘deep listening’, echoing the sublime, near non-existent sounds conjured by artists like Pauline Oliveros and Stuart Dempster -- on opener “From the Train Window, Red Flowers On The Mountain’, the foggy drone is brought in on softened siren effects, but floats out of peripheral vision, fading like countryside ‘til you’re asleep and have long since reached your destination.

Like all the best travel naps, this record parts ways with sleepy silence and shakes you awake, opening up into a record of chunky beats and industrial soundscaping -- think Music From Memory’s earnest electronic artists meeting slow, slithering musical approaches as disparate as Nine Inch Nails and Low. The breadth this record covers is immense, going from programmed beatwork to dauntingly sluggish drums in the space of a track -- and yet the basic speed we’re travelling at remains lulled, as if we’re approaching a halt any moment now. “You” opens on a screeching drone fragment that sounds like a car speeding through a tunnel at night, only to revert to a slowcore that marries old and new Low with the jaunted melancholy of Dean Blunt.

It’s hard to create a consistent world when you’re playing with this many ideas and taking these many paths towards them, but Mr. Economique does it well: whether he’s stuttering field recordings over pianos a la Gordon Ashworth on “Nothing Is Perfect”, or getting way too deep into his own ambience on “Train Window”, this record feels of a twilit and tawdry world, one that hope has long since abandoned. 

Show Us The Fire

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

8/10 according to our Robin

I like to feel like I am an illusion and everything around me is too, so I’m pretty into Zelienople’s brand of displacing post-rock. With a voice that cuts out between Arthur Russell and the dude from Tindersticks, plus a dampened, more affectionate take on Swans repeating rock ‘n’ roll arrangements, ‘Show Us The Fire’ has a lot of meandering tricks up its sleeve; the way different sounds are scoped makes it feel like you’re never going anywhere, while also being late for something urgent.

“Don’t Step Until You Die” is the first sign that Zelienople are kinda secretly special, with a twinkling piano figure rolling through the background like it’s happening at the end of the hallway; mucky guitar joins it the other end, and working at an entirely different timbre, the two somehow combine into something gorgeous, as if they’re been hypnotised into synchronicity by the rhythm. Throughout, the record retains this strange musical communication, with instruments meeting other instruments and lethargically working their way towards a midpoint. The atmosphere is both patient and ominous -- you know that eye before the storm thing? Yeah; that. It’s more eye without the storm, though.

Slowly adding an increment of post-punk to their sound through ruinously toned riffs and echoing gloom twang, Zelienople are more interested in wallowing in the ascent to the climax than actually releasing themselves into one. That might be what makes this record so great; it slithers about, but it isn’t going to eat you. How benevolent.

Mind Over Mirrors
The Voice Calling

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Robin

Jaime Fennelly does not ease you in; he does not build things up, and he does not wait for the sun to rise. Rather, he might be one of the only drone artists to Get This Show On The Road, opening his records on kosmische melodies that sound like they’ve been perpetuating for a good while. Desperate for us to hear his many sonic additives, ‘The Voice Calling’ is an immediately captivating work whose intensity is a shock to the system, not an inevitability.

Fennelly’s instrumentation will sound, in parts, as raw as a Natural Snow Buildings or Sly & The Unseen record, with Indian pedal harmonium creating a strikingly visceral sound to complement his wall-bouncing synthwork. It’s his implementation of vocals, though, that truly mixes up the standard drone sustain; whether trembled from a distance or sung with an immense assurance, they have to find a place to sit between rhythmic electronics and slow-burning pedal work; like the best kosmische work of Expo 70 or Cosmic Ground, your ears will be concentrating on a myriad sounds, trying to connect them in time and space.

The best thing about Fennelly is his ability to juxtapose strain with restraint; while his record will sound sharp and woozy at times, the electronics he uses are centering, as if offering a cease-and-desist to sounds that would otherwise go and go ‘til the end of life itself. There’s a beauty in all the sounds he’s using, but his ability to weave a structure through them, as on the horrific climax of “Strange Work” is most stunning of all.

Bersarin Quartett

12 people love me. Be the 13th...

8/10 according to our Robin

It’s been time and a half since I’ve heard from Bersarin Quartett, but I understand: the flow of time is an unfortunate accident for these folks, who move at their own, ever-slowing speed. BQ’s brand of neo-classical sounds like it was planted a long time ago and has only just now finished growing, with patient melodic developments rising through a forest of ambient mush; they bring to mind sleeper crews like A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Spheruleus, but where these artists still time entirely, the Quartett use jaunted, often jazzy rhythms, as if acknowledging how out of pace they are with the world.

On ‘III’, the Quartett’s sound is familiarly cinematic: vocals come in like drone’s equivalent of a Greek chorus, offering a dulcet hum underneath soundscaping guitars and gorgeous combinations of piano and tape hiss. Elements of post-rock come in to part the seams of the record, but it’s never too pronounced: the percussive ascension of “Hinter uns die Wirklichkeit” leads back into soft piano balladeering, melding together a musical triforce of Nils Frahm, Bohren & Der Club of Gore and 65daysofstatic.

This is a serene record, and one that rewards your headphones: while it has a skygazing scope, it’s nice to wrap yourself up in the Quartett’s spacey, echoing world and feel like it’s all your own. Take some alone time in the clouds, please.

Black Bombaim
Live at Casazul

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Robin

Instead of hiring someone from behind the decks to capture this psychedelic conversation between friends, the crew behind ‘Live at Casazul’ nabbed recordings taken by an audience member, essentially coming out the other end with a crowdsourced live album. The team in question are Black Bombaim, Isaiah Mitchell, Ridrigo Amada and Shela, and while you might worry they’ve just decided to put out a bunch of scratchy, poor-quality jams, the sound is actually crisp enough to hear each band kicking ass at their respective station.

I don’t know how tight these folks are with each-other, but ‘Lvie at Casazul’ sounds extremely democratic, which each member’s parts shining through like a spotlight; bass grinds its way between long, squeaky guitar solos, while saxophone screeches and echoes outwards, heard as loudly as the rhythm section pounding away at it. As for the jam; it’s as immersive as you could expect a straight-line improv session to be, with no one stepping too far to the leftfield and the band ultimately sticking together as a unit, like Acid Mother’s Temple with the solos and secret discipline.

This happened outdoors, which I suppose accounts for its oft-spacey vibe; the band fire out echoing psych riffs, oscillate their guitars and use cyborg keys to keep things extra-terrestrial. Are there any multi-disciplined saxophonist astronauts? I hope so. The band come crashing down to reality as the record ends, with "police raiding the stage and pulling off Isaiah's guitar cable from the amplifier". Decorum most inappropriate for space hypnosis.

The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol
Masters Of The Molehill

12 people love me. Be the 13th...

8/10 according to our Robin

This band is not Prince. Nor do I think they will ever cover “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man”, I’m afraid. The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol are named with a super-meta snideness but actually make pretty anonymous psych rock that is happier to meander than it is to transcend, enveloping waves of distortion before becoming a rhythmic trial of pedal worship and decent riff-raff. At points they lock into grooves that feel half old-skool rock, half motorik, with cymbal-heavy drums placating moaning guitars of psych-savvy Boris. Basically this kinda reminds me of that scene at the end of School of Rock where they jam “It’s A Long Way To the Top” for fucking ever, only this goes hard and is quite nice indeed.

On ‘Masters of the Molehill’, Symbol dudes meld a love of improv with a seemingly preternatural understanding of psych songcraft; these tunes can go and go with repetition and only slight modulations to the guitarwork around the corner, before striking out on a glorious cadence that rings the whole thing out with a sudden significance. At other times, they fuzz up their guitars to add a layer of stoner disdain, keeping the core of the guitars clean and dandy. Hearing it for a second time is essential; it hammers home the amount of work actually spent on crafting these numbing tunes, both in performance and engineering.

Cardinal Fuzz have gotta stop releasing these secret funtime records; the psychedelic Scrooge in me can hardly take it.

Swept EP

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Robin

I bet Olafur Arnalds has a really fucking good winter-wear collection. Temporarily abandoning his role as the man who makes neo-classical music next to a fireplace that also brews hot chocolate or something, he revitalises the Kiasmos project in conjunction with electronic dude Janus Rasmussen. What happens when they get together is that it sounds like two of their records are being played overtop one another; Arnald’s soft and warmly pronounced piano playing trundles by, ambient vocals pasteurize the land and a hushed electronica, brought about from looping drums and synth-y additives, adds the flavour of urgency. 

This short EP proves the Kiasmos proejct to have the same emotive properties as ever, as if offering a counterpoint to the more ecstatic melodic punch of labelmate Rival Consoles. “Gaunt” brings in the beats only after a synthwash and a bit of Sigur Ros-lite vocal crackle has laid down the track’s plaintive intentions, the track bursting into life as an afterthought. As the beats start to hit -- bluntly, as if they’re hitting a hard floor -- Arnald’s piano chords come back in with a second wind of melancholy.

This is a rather gorgeous EP, and one that the whole young Norman contingent can get behind, combining my love of distraught music with Laurie’s love of bangers. It’s “Swept” where the two artists feel most deftly balanced, with the IDM electronic palette feeling more forceful -- the rythmic more a character than an additive -- while the piano travels with it, not in parallel to it.

Parquet Courts
Monastic Living

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

7/10 according to our Robin

Really the only way you could get me interested in a release by these vibeless slackers is to tell me their new record is fucking unlistenable, which many have. Purported to be ‘Metal Machine Music’ for Pavement fans, ‘Monastic Living’ is actually the most energetic these dudes have ever sounded -- jaunty guitars crash against one another as if Battles had hired Phil Minton to write their sheet music (which until now was just receipts for crisps), and with the vocals mostly subtracted from proceedings, it sounds like they’re concentrating really hard on the squalor produced.

Hating on this record is easy, so I’ll give you an alternative: you’ve got rhythm in abundance on “Monastic Living I”, a discordant icebreaker of non-riffage that nonetheless sounds as propulsive as whatever your favourite psych rock tune was this year. I’m not saying Parquet Courts are good at noise rock, just that it’s actually less annoying than hearing them half-sing about being half-awake for the fourth time. The sharp guitar spikings start to sound like an apprentice Storm & Stress after a while, while the short songs could easily be Dead C interludes, little torrents of noise made by people who could just as well write a stellar melody.

The drum machine on “Frog Pond Plod” is cute and the little scuzzles of noise they scatter onto the song’s surface are too; once again, there’s a groove going on to help you fathom the nonsense and come to terms with the fact that Parquet Courts actually sound like this when they’re stoned. Come on: there’s even a little bit of space rock guitar going on in the backend of this song. Pitchfork’s review suggests it’s nothing more than a shrug, as if that hasn’t been the Courts mission statement since day whatever. As if we can compare them to old indie rock bands but not weirdo noise acts. I’m literally hearing it with my ears right now. It has bits that sound fine. You’ll be fine.

Workin' Man Noise Unit
Play Loud

12 people love me. Be the 13th...

7/10 according to our Robin

They asked me to play it loud so I obliged. I get the feeling they aren’t going to reward me with material goods, but Workin’ Man Noise Unit have offered this little stocking of rock music to enjoy. Workin’ Man Noise Unit are kind of what I imagine it’d be like if Charizard and Blastoise were in a two piece together; they look hardcore, but they used to be cute ‘lil Pokebabies. Distortion blows through the record like a hot blast of fire on “Cruisin’” before the band reach a strangely pretty vocal harmony and a riff worthy of pop-punk. It’s like they wanna be Metz but can’t help but be Japandroids. Check their ode to smokin’ and drinkin’ on the scowled fuzz rocker “Icegrill” -- I’ve got their number.

Their riffs slightly psychedelic and their vocals a strange kinda sugar punk, WMNU occupy a strange place in the noise ‘n’ stoner contingent. Their songs can lock into rhythms, but they’re just as likely to pick the lock and storm into the room yelling “freeze!”. It makes for a constantly surprising record in a world of pretty predictable fuzz records that feedback ‘til you relent. “Yeah I Was Hypnotised” stumbles onto a tight drumbeat and lets noise and riffs billow through it, eventually breaking the tight pace for a Parquet Courts-esque grand finish, which they then destroy with a tempo-shaking breakdown. They do a lot and I like it when they do it. They should've called it 'Please Play Loud' though.

Umarete Wa Mita Keredo

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

7/10 according to our Robin

Ominous chillers Flau are the label behind ‘Umarete Wa Mita Keredo’, so set an alarm for twilit and twinkling ambience. In the mists of this record’s sparsely framed compositions lies the one and only Sylvain Chauveau, a musician with a twin affections for neo-classical and pastoral folk music. Fresh from a reissue of Depeche Mode covers (it’s important to indulge one’s self), he offers this collection with smugly named band 0, a group whose work was intended to score a silent film.

Disregarding the band’s egg-based fantasies, this record is a gorgeous, autumnal work that sets atmosphere and glides along to it. Nearly every instrument feels decorative rather than narrative, with the flutes playing short, immediate figures rather than developing into proper melodies. Bringing to mind a less technically minded James Blackshaw, the guitars are plucked to sound subliminal, making up the scenery without asking you to pay attention to it. Call it descriptive folk music: it places you in a scene and builds it around you.

For those who’d kinda appreciate it if the world could come to a halt for a little while, ‘Umarete’ is perfect; at times it drops off from its arrangements completely -- as on “Nijuyu”, where flute plays solo, shyly fading into silence -- while the fullest the arrangements get is a duet of guitar, flute and glockenspiel. It’s like a music lesson at school where everyone’s playing the quiet game.

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Timestamp: Saturday 28th November, 11:10:18