Electronic

Arovane - Tides

ARTIST: AROVANE

ALBUM: TIDES

LABEL (YEAR): CITY CENTRE OFFICES (2000)

FOR FANS OF: BOARDS OF CANADA, MASSIVE ATTACK, LAMB, NIGHTMARES ON WAX

Words by Aidan Daly


You’d think that being a fan of Warp darlings Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada I’d have been exposed to Arovane, aka Uwe Zahn, much earlier. Zahn’s contribution to the vast body of work lazily but continually termed ‘IDM’ is considerable, but he hasn’t received nearly the level of attention he deserves, especially compared to those mentioned above. Though Zahn’s second album Tides departs noticeably from the glitches and breaks of his debut Atol Scrap, it retains an acute level of melodic and emotional depth.

A central component of the album is the use of the harpsichord – its harsh, bright sound not typically associated with the placidity of the broader wave of late 90s/early noughties downtempo. On opener ‘Theme’, the instrument fades in over a reverb-heavy drum loop, the motif set up with the expectation that a bass line will enter, or some other structural deviation. Instead, the harpsichord simply fades out again and the song ends. Likewise, the instrument’s prominence in ‘A Secret’ slices through the blanket of delicate background synths – a contrast that serves to give the album much of its character and consistency.

‘Eleventh!’ comes close to being a replica of better-known Boards of Canada, all melancholy chords and fucked up samples of children’s laughter. Interestingly enough, however, Zahn actually anticipates the darker turn Boards would take with the occult-influenced Geogaddi, released two years after Tides. The album ends as it starts with ‘Epilogue’, as harpsichord and drum loops are set against each other again. This time the waters are choppier, the harshness of the harpsichord more apt for the closing track’s brooding twists and turns. 

Tides ebbs and flows, pushes and pulls, achieving much with such a minimal structure of repeated, chopped up drum samples and subdued overhead melodies. As a whole, the album folds in and out of itself, tracks fading into the next, recalling earlier moments as it develops. In Tides, without over-conceptualising, Zahn succeeded in creating a body of music that reflects the subtle qualities of its namesake.

Jan Jelinek - Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records

ARTIST: JAN JELINEK

ALBUM: LOOP-FINDING-JAZZ-RECORDS

LABEL (YEAR): ~SCAPE (2001)

FOR FANS OF: BOARDS OF CANADA, FENNESZ, MURCOF  

Words by Jasper Morvaridi


Jan Jelinek's debut full-length Loop Finding Jazz Records makes me feel fuzzy. It might be the use of static and white noise, the warmth of the sounds or even the simplicity of the loops used throughout. But the record has a certain feeling to it that, for me at least, could warm up the coldest of winter days.

Loop Finding Jazz Records is situated somewhere between minimal, ambient and techno music. Yet the subtlety and simplicity of the loops, synths and rhythms make it far harder to pigeonhole. Microscopic clicks and pops neatly decorate the dampened layers of loops (that may well have been from jazz records, though it's unlikely), to create rhythms that slowly pulse into life.

In places the record feels like a less aggressive, or perhaps less heavy, Andy Stott, though it's only really 'Rock In The Video Age' and 'Tendency' that make use of 4/4 rhythms for a sound that is somewhat dance-floor ready. Meanwhile 'They, Them' has a gentle swing to it and tracks like opener 'Moiré (Piano & Organ)' and 'Them, Their' set the scene for a record that washes and swirls through warm textures.

It'd be easy to over-intellectualise or over analyse this album's intricacies. But to me it's simple: eight tracks and 51 minutes of music that give me a hazy dream-like feeling. And I'd hope that it'd do the same for you too.

Susumu Yokota - Sakura

ARTIST: SUSUMU YOKOTA

ALBUM: SAKURA

LABEL (YEAR): SKINTONE/THE LEAF LABEL (1999/2000)  

FOR FANS OF:  BRIAN ENO, BOARDS OF CANADA, APHEX TWIN

 

Words by Aidan Daly


Sakura is an strange album. I can’t tell if I only think this because I found it around the same time I was reading Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore, and the subtle absurdity of the book leaked into my listening. It could well have been the other way round.

Either way, like much of Murakami, Sakura appears completely familiar and disembodied at the same time. Swells of serene loops make up the album’s meandering fifty-one minutes, yet each track remains rooted by a pulse, be it a rhythmic one or a repeating musical motif, which provides a framework for other elements to unfold around. Much of the music is disturbingly affectionate, a sensation made even more immediate through the sustained repetition that structures the album.

Appropriately, ‘Gekkoh’ makes use of Steve Reich’s ‘Pulses’ from Music for 18 Musicians, tastefully recycling it alongside strings and impatient, metronomic percussion. ‘Saku’ opens the album as dreamy ambient smog, until the track’s layers ebb away leaving only a reiterating, twitching hook – perversely mechanical given the rest of the track. ‘Hisen’ sluggishly morphs into a contemplative chord sequence, aided by violin samples, while ‘Azukiiro No Kaori’ sees a crescendo of knotted vocals gradually come to fill the mix, both touching and distancing simultaneously.

I always come back to Sakura. It’s accessible, and pleasant, but there’s an alienating undercurrent to it. It’s precisely this duality that makes the album so enticing – a sweet spot only Yokota knew how to exploit.


Throbbing Gristle - 20 Jazz Funk Greats

ARTIST: THROBBING GRISTLE

ALBUM: 20 JAZZ FUNK GREATS

LABEL (YEAR):  INDUSTRIAL RECORDS (1979)

FOR FANS OF: CABARET VOLTAIRE, EINSTÜRZENDE, NEUBATEN MONTE CAZAZZA, CURRENT 93

Words by Stef Fiorendi


Their name is as outrageous as their artistic performances; Throbbing Gristle, which in Yorkshire slang refers to an erection, were a collective of “wreckers of civilisation” and pioneers of industrial music in the UK.

20 Jazz Funk Greats is the third LP released by the controversial band, which was used to collaborate in the performances of the sleazy and subversive art clique, COUM Transmissions. The album is a zig-zag through jazz and funk to which dashes of disco, rock and exotica are added here and there, all disturbingly permeated with a gritty industrial vibe. From the Kraftwerk-like synths of ‘Walkabout’ to Cosey’s breathy vocals, and the Moroder-esque beats of ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ to the ominous dirge of ‘Persuasion’, the album mingles distress and ecstasy, deliberately swaying between sharp and slimy. The pornographic photography session described in ‘Persuasion’, the political anthem of ‘Convincing People’ and the deceptively cheerful cover photo on the suicide spot Beachy Head generate an illusionary flirt between irony and reality, rhythm and noise.

On first listening I twitched my mouth a bit. Probably a good soundtrack for one of the early Cronenberg films: dirty, brittle and harsh, yet curiously frisky.


Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS

ARTIST: KAITLYN AURELIA SMITH

ALBUM: EARS

LABEL (YEAR): WESTERN VINYL (2016)  

FOR FANS OF:  PHILLIP GLASS, BRIAN ENO, FEVER RAY, BOARDS OF CANADA

 

Words by Jasper Morvaridi


Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith hails from Orcas Island, Washington State, which she describes as "one of the most magical and peaceful places.” It’s clear that she’s channelled the energy and glorious nature of her hometown into her beautiful new album, EARS. It’s an album intrinsically connected with nature that somehow also feels completely out of this world.

EARS is made up of many undulating layers, primarily composed using Smith’s impressive Buchla 100 Music Easel synthesizer. Pulsing patterns, smooth enveloped sounds and lyrics, both sung and chanted, drift naturally through the record. Hearing the introduction of Smith’s vocals, almost three minutes into opener ‘First Flight’, stopped me in my thoughts the first time I heard it and continues to give me goosebumps.

Rob Frye (of Bitchin Bajas) decorates many of the tracks with acoustic woodwinds, complementing Smith’s intricate production. On ‘Envelope’, Frye’s winds lead the middle section of the track, whilst on ‘Rare Things Grow’, they harmonise neatly with her vocal melody.

Where ‘Rare Things Grow’ subtly makes use of Aphex Twin’s ‘Tha’, from Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, the use of field recordings explores the overarching theme of the album: nature. Each of the nine enticing tracks play upon this theme through their many textures and layers. Listened to in its entirety, however, the album immerses you in Smith's own vision of some faraway, intergalactic world.

For me, this interplay between two worlds: analogue and electronic, natural and cosmic, navigated through the use of synthesizer and woodwinds, makes this album as special as it is. I don’t doubt that we'll be seeing this topping ‘best of’ lists later this year.


BE (Garth Be) - The Seven Movements

ARTIST: BE (GARTH BE)

ALBUM: THE SEVEN MOVEMENTS

LABEL (YEAR): SWEET STICKY (2014)  

FOR FANS OF: FLOATING POINTS, THEO PARRISH, KYLE HALL, MOODYMAN

 

Words by Jasper Morvaridi


The Seven Movements is a perfectly executed album, consisting of jazz-inflected house jams, meditative states and MPC grooves.

There’s very little known about Manchester based BE (Garth Be). The Seven Movements was his debut full-length, self-released in 2014 on his own Sweet Sticky imprint. That same year, it was rightfully placed in the Top 10 of both Phonica Records’ and Piccadilly Records’ end of year lists, with very accurate comparisons to the likes of Floating Points, Theo Parrish, Kyle Hall and Moodyman.

As the title suggests, it consists of seven tracks - all of which explore a variety of soulful styles of house. ‘Marquis’ starts things off, with offset beats, a funk bassline and Rhodes keys, while ‘Dreamline’ takes things onto a jazz-influenced house number, followed by ‘Dontwant’ - an incredibly infectious MPC jam. On the flip, ‘Houskeysonbrandy’ taps into Detroit sounds, with lush pads that swirl around the four-to-the-floor driven beat; ‘Monday Club / Tuesday Nite’ consists of a killer sample hook-line: “on and on”; ‘GYB3’ takes the listener to a faraway place with distant, celestial synth-lines; and to finish, album closer ‘Teakayo’ is another perfected MPC workout.

Who is BE (Garth Be)? For me, that question remains unimportant. The music does the talking.

In Garth’s own words, “find your place in the cosmos and unwind your mind!”


Murcof - Martes

ARTIST: MURCOF

ALBUM: MARTES

LABEL (YEAR): THE LEAF LABEL (2002)  

FOR FANS OF: Amon Tobin, SQUAREPUSHER, APHEX TWIN

 

Words by Jasper Morvaridi


Martes is undoubtedly Murcof’s most famed album, and rightfully so. The nine-song debut from the artist, also known as Fernando Corona, combines the somewhat opposing worlds of contemporary classical music with electronic minimalism and glitch. Originally released exclusively in Mexico in 2001, the record saw wide distribution across Europe and North America by the ever-consistent Leaf Label the following year. Recently, it saw a rare repress as part of The Leaf Label's 20 Year Celebrations.

The use of the sparser elements of classical music – be it the pluck of a violin, one bow’s length across a cello, or the pound of piano keys – is subtly contrasted with glitches and beats. The result is a recontextualisation of classical music in which traditional instrumentation finds new space to breathe, while the electronic foundations of the record are in no way overbearing.  

On ‘Mes’, moments of suspense, leaving the listener anticipating the next violin pluck, are juxtaposed with atmospheric layers of texture. ‘Mir’, on the other hand, sees the use of instrumental samples in unison with the erratic glitch beat, the two complementing each other, urging the listener to stay locked in.

Martes is a delicately intense record that forces you to engage with it and actually listen. The result, in many ways, engrosses the listener in the various layers and loops of the music, always on the lookout for what’s next.

NB: one for headphones/good speakers.


Franco Battiato - Polllution

ARTIST: FRANCO BATTIATO

ALBUMPOLLUTION

LABEL (YEAR): Bla Bla (1972) 

FOR FANS OF: EUGENIO FINARDI, FAUST, STEVE REICH

 

 

 

 

Words by Stef Fiorendi


Franco Battiato, also known as 'Il Maestro', is considered the pioneer of Italian new wave and progressive rock.

Despite the fact that he actually reached commercial success in the early 80s with a number of synth pop/electronic melodic hits (such as La Voce Del Padrone in 1981), Pollution, released in 1972, remains one his most significant works and a staple record of experimentalism.

Battiato has always been passionate about philosophical, religious, existential and culturally exotic themes regarding the human condition, and these are wisely explored on this album.

In particular, Battiato focuses on the topic of pollution (‘ti sei mai chiesto quale funzione hai?’ – ‘Have you ever wondered what is your function?’), and avoiding preachy critique, he takes the listener on a journey through Earth and the universe. The voyage starts with a joyful Viennese waltz, some delicate and evocative words that are abruptly interrupted by an obsessive, gritty guitar and a medieval organ. A sudden explosion of sound is followed by a surreal krautrock inspired melody. It reaches a psychedelic metaphysical elevation in ‘Beta’, then dives into the abyss in ‘Plancton’, mixing electronic modulations with delicate religious vocals and traditional sounds. The odyssey ends with some distressed moans and eventually a silent celestial leap into space, drawing closer to the obscure and mysterious meanings of life.

OK, that sounds like an epic effort, an endless peregrination, but I promise, it all happens in 33 minutes.

This is an ambitious concept album yet it is the sophisticated composition that makes it such a success. A highly inspirational record that will make you sit and think about your place in the universe.



Dj Koze - Amygdala

ARTIST: DJ KOZE

ALBUM: AMYGDALA 

LABEL (YEAR): PAMPA (2013)

FOR FANS OF: MOOMIN, FOUR TET, JÜRGEN PAAPE

 

 

Wordy by Theo Kotz


‘We need to eat, we need to sleep and we need… Music’ – So goes the quote at the beginning of this album’s opener ‘Track ID Anyone?’ Knowingly romantic and playful, this opening sort of sums up DJ Koze’s general aesthetic. Though he’s known somewhat as house music’s resident joker, a boundless love of music is evident in all he turns his hand to, keeping his joviality from becoming contrived. His reputation is iron-clad at this point following world class remix collections, the genre-bending DJ Kicks 50 and countless dancefloor destroyers – not least 2015’s behemoth of a tune ‘XTC’.

Even without all of the above (and his alias tracks besides) the two original Koze LPs would be enough to earn anyone a place among dance music’s pantheon. Amygdala is the second of the two, released eight years after Kosi Comes Around. It was my first introduction to his work and it totally blew me away. It works as an album better than just about any house record I can think of, weaving together a progression of verdant textures, bittersweet melody and a sense of joy throughout.

Highlights include the crunchy overdriven bass and naughty off-kilter riff on ‘Marilyn Whirlwind’ and the eider-down soft pads, skittish hats and steel drums of ‘La Duquesa’. Then there’s the cameos from friends scattered across the record: Dan Snaith’s (aka Caribou) lightly dusted melancholy on the aforementioned opener; Apparat’s soulful mumble over a porcelain shimmer on ‘Nices Wölkchen’; and Mathew Dear’s drugged out warble on my personal favourite ‘Magical Boy’.

It’s refreshing that it doesn’t take itself too seriously in the often po-faced world of house and techno and there’s experimentation and musical left turns on show here that no-one else is really pulling off. Most importantly though, it’s deeply affecting music that just gets under your skin. After the first listen I tracked down all of Koze’s music and cycled through all of it for weeks. Hear it to believe it.


Copeland - Because I'm Worth It

ARTIST: COPELAND

ALBUM: BECAUSE I'M WORTH IT

LABEL (YEAR): SELF-RELEASED (2014)

FOR FANS OF: DEAN BLUNT, HYPE WILLIAMS, ACTRESS, RAIME

 

 

 

Words by Stef Fiorendi


Inga Copeland has always been a controversial character, rarely speaking in public since she first emerged through her collaboration with Dean Blunt as one half of Hype Williams. 

Because I’m Worth It is the Russian artist's first solo album, released under the single name Copeland. It starts with the propulsive 'Faith OG X', in which a mysterious crackling noise reaches a jarring, high-pitched climax. Most of the tracks (Insult 2 Injury, Serious, L’Oreal) are mechanical, syncopated beats – discomforting, nebulous and dank soundscapes that recall the alienation of urban life. ‘Advice To Young Girls’, made in collaboration with the equally elusive producer Actress, is both an encouraging and ironic nod toward the dichotomy in the image of the empowered woman. This message is implicit in the title of the track ‘L’Oreal’, as well that of the album; a subtle critique of watered-down feminism in the world of women’s beauty products. 'Inga' and 'Diligence' represent an earnest consideration of modern life, one both driven yet alienated by money: ‘Cash moves everything around me. So what’s the difference?’  


This is a cold, stark and disquieting album, yet remains mysteriously intriguing. It's an atmospheric and left-field call to action to listen to when, bored of the music in the nightclubs, you wander in the wet dingy streets looking for a dark adventure.