Two drum’n’bass excursions from Saigon, the more experimental sublabel of No U Turn. “Control” is a moody, minimalistic, late-night kind of affair, punctuated by electronic bleeps, far-off sirens and snippets of voices low in the mix. “Stimulant” is of course the opposite, a jittery, over-amped hip hop track that features those roaring synth lines we’ve come to expect from No U-Turn.
Another minimalist dub-house experiment from Germany. The A-Side features spoken word from Savage, in a thick Jamaican patois, about how we should all be happy and love one another. (Right.) The B-Side features two VERY abstract instrumentals. This stuff is DEEP, man. I mean REALLY deep. This is the music from 20,000 fathoms. And minimal. So minimal it makes Philip Glass sound as ornate as J.S. Bach. Did I mention how deep it was?
Push Button Objects is one Edgar Farinas, resident of Miami, Florida and part of the local Schematics/ Chocolate Industries axis of electronic artists. Having released previous EPs on both those labels, as well as on Skam in the UK, this latest six-track EP finds him moving away from the hip-hop flavor of his previous work and into more abstract terrain. At times minimal, and at other times almost industrial in texture, this is a record that should appeal to fans of Autechre, Funkstorung, etc.
Viennese artist Gerhard Potuznik (aka Gerhard Deluxxe, or GD Luxxe, for this release) seems to be channeling the spirit of New Order on this six-track EP of electropop. The vocal on “Minds,” in particular, sounds uncannily like Bernard Sumner. If that doesn’t appeal to you, check out the gurgling instrumental “Hydraulic Buildings,” or the short-but-funky “Angels,” which ends in a locked groove.
Plaid’s latest album finds the ex-Black Dog duo of Ed Handley and Andy Turner expanding their electronic musical palette in all directions. From moogy Jean-Jacques Perry -isms, to hip hop beats and scratching, to orchestral pieces and more, this album jumps about restlessly but always manages to entertain. Plaid have ably reinforced their “major league” status in the electronic arena.
Recorded three years after The Black Dog’s Peel Session, doggie duo Ed Handley and Andy Turner return (minus Ken Downie) to the Peel studios in their Plaid attire. This time the result is far more exuberant, with beats taking priority over melody. From the opener, an energetic reworking of the latin-flavored “Scoobs in Columbia,” to the propulsive, minimal techno of the closer, “Cold,” this four-track EP successfully balances rhythmic complexity with shifting electronic textures. Another fine entry in Warp’s “Peel Sessions” series.
Vibes player Dave Pike has spent a lifetime in jazz: recording his first album in 1956; working with Herbie Mann during the bossa nova craze of the early 60’s; touring and recording in Europe with the Dave Pike Set from 66 to 73; returning to the States and recording three albums for Muse in the 70’s; and finally, after several personal hardships forced an early retirement, releasing a well-received comeback album in 1998 on San Francisco’s Ubiquity label. This long-unavailable session from 1969 is 3/4 funk, 1/4 lounge, and 100% groovin’. Organ and vibes dominate the set of original tunes and instrumental cover versions of everything from James Brown to Burt Bacharach. And pay no attention to that buzzing sound in your speakers–it’s just an un-miked Dave singing along with his vibes!
More evidence of the otherworldly genius of Rainford Hugh Perry, captured in his prime at Black Ark Studios circa 1975. This dub “concept album” is based around instrumental tracks that were, for the most part, recorded specifically for this release, a musical tribute to the kung fu flicks of the 70’s. Joining The Upsetter’s band on this experryment is the melodica master Augustus Pablo. Weaving in and out of almost every track are the martial arts musings and mumblings of Scratch himself, carried to extremes on the wacked-out “Flames of the Dragon.” “Black Belt Jones” adds some whistling accompaniment to Scratch’s moaning and groaning, and “Skango” is perhaps the most melodic offering here, a swinging instrumental featuring the horn section of Bobby Ellis and Dirty Harry. It’s all good.
If ESP-Disk was the original home of free jazz, then the French label BYG/Actuel was its summer vacation home. Between 1969-1971, BYG/Actuel recorded and released 52 essential documents of boundary-breaking music, including this exhilarating quartet recording led by drummer Sunny Murray. A frequent sideman to Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler, Murray is accompanied here by the double saxophone assault of Byard Lancaster and Kenneth Terroade, with the Art Ensemble’s Malachi Favors on bass. Spiritually grounded yet totally “out there,” this is free jazz at its apex.
Lexaunculpt is SoCal resident Alex Graham, and his “Double Density” EP is the first release on a promising new SoCal electronic label called Orange Records. Six tracks of subtle beauty and meticulous programming. Hippity-hopping beats and gorgeous melodies underscore this effort, while all manner of split-second sound textures keep things interesting throughout. Based on this release, I’d rank Lexaunculpt right up there with the very best electronic artists on the scene today.
On their new single the godfathers of techno adhere closely to the classic Kraftwerk sound. “Expo 2000,” in all four variations here, features lush synthetic melodies and vocodered voices dropping in lines like “the 21st century…” and “man… nature…technology…” over and over. (In English and German!) The beats are firmly mid-tempo save for the “2002” mix (my favorite), which adds a funky bassline. Not a classic but certainly a respectable showing from these electro-pioneers.
Another delicious bomb from Miami’s Chocolate Industries label. Ko-Wreck Technique is a collaboration between Push Button Objects, providing the sonic crunch and fuzz, and world class turntablist DJ Craze, wailing away on the 1’s and 2’s. Two great tastes that taste great together! And if that’s not enough, for dessert you get a Plaid remix of the track “Metro Dade.” That one’s a real soundclash, with Plaid’s typically beautiful melodies wafting over and around the gritty original. But this four-track EP is more than just a hodge-podge of styles; it’s a unique and successful fusion that I hope will continue on to other projects.
Even before your needle hits the groove, this album’s epic-length title suggests that you’re about to experience a classic dub clash. And you will not be disappointed! Lloyd “King Jammy” James is a protege of King Tubby and one of the most successful producers in the history of reggae. And Japan’s Dry & Heavy are the most impressive new dub band to come down the pike in recent memory. Put them together and you’ve got a whole lotta bin shakin’ going on! This is a wonderfully gritty dub excursion, so full of reverb and distortion that it’s almost psychedelic. Tracks given the King Jammy treatment come from Dry & Heavy’s two most recent albums, ONE PUNCH and FULL CONTACT. You will almost feel the room cloud up as you listen.
Here’s the second release from Michigan trio Kiln, and their first for Ghostly International, quite simply one of the best electronic labels in the U.S. Kiln’s music veers from the burbly and dubby to the clicky and glitchy, while consistently maintaining a delicate melodic component that brings out the warmth between the beats. Definitely a candidate for headphone listening; there are many varied textures here that will tickle your earholes.
“The Italian Job” is an obscure British caper comedy from the late 60’s about a gang of cockney criminals who attempt to rob a shipment of gold bullion in Turin, Italy. Until now, the Quincy Jones soundtrack has been EXTREMELY collectible due to the film’s poor box office performance in America. Fortunately, this French reissue sets things right. The soundtrack album contains three vocal tracks, notated as such in the liner notes, and a variety of instrumentals, of which the highlight for me was the jazz arrangement of “Greensleeves.” The music is light, airy, and generally in character for a British comedy.
This four-piece band from the UK has assimilated a variety of influences, from 70’s jazz fusion to Steve Reich minimalism to modern drum’n’bass, and recombined them in a wholly original manner. MESSAGES FROM THE HUB is their first proper album, following a compilation of EP tracks. It’s a languid, jazzy affair with REAL instruments and REAL electronics, an attempt at bringing the improvisational qualities of jazz into the electronic arena. Female vocals enhance a few tracks, including a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage.” Bandleader Jamie Odell also records as Audiomontage.
In 1962, veteran jazz drummer Chico Hamilton re-aligned himself with a more modern style of jazz by recruiting a lineup of talented young players for his new Quintet. Included among them were Gabor Szabo on guitar and Charles Lloyd, the group’s musical director, on alto and tenor sax, flute, and clarinet. The resulting album, DRUMFUSION, is a relentlessly rhythmic and bluesy album sure to keep your feet tapping. All six tracks are great, but I’m particularly fond of the three on Side B: the growling sax lines on “Homeward,” the more subtle flute and guitar duets on “A Rose for Booker,” and the hard-swinging finale, “Transfusion.” This quintet was very successful at the time, and the two members mentioned above went on to even more success in solo careers. A great reissue, even if it is a bootleg.
Gadget’s sound is a unique fusion of hip hop and electronics, both funky and tweaked. “Black Acura” features a sort of electronic siren over heavy beats, ever-so-slightly augmented by acoustic instruments. “Wide Open” commands you to “open up your mind” via scratched vocals over electronically distorted beats; the “Low Down Mix” adds some Eastern flavor. “Behold the Future” is a throwaway that begins with an answering machine and degenerates into electronic wankery. An interesting debut, though.
Here we have Michael Fakesch, one-half of the group Funkstorung, with his first solo EP on the group’s own Music Aus Strom label. Compared with Funkstorung, this music sounds a bit more minimal and fragile to me, and at times even a bit meandering. But hey, it’s experimental and it’s good for you, so stick with it! Four tracks in total, all with different flavors and textures. Side A features a remix by Boards of Canada. This is the kind of record that works well “in the mix.”
Drexciya: it’s not just music, it’s a mythology! Like the Saturnalia of Sun Ra, Drexciya’s aquatic electronics are perfectly integrated with theories about a sub-oceanic mutated species, the offspring of pregnant slave women who were thrown overboard with the sick and dying during ocean crossings. THE QUEST, Drexciya’s career-spanning previous release, was reported to be their last transmission from the murky depths, but happily that was not the case. NEPTUNE’S LAIR contains all-new material, every bit as unique and brilliant as their previous releases: part electro, part techno, and all Drexciyan. This is some of the most important music coming out of Detroit, period.
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