SOUL FEEDING: a list-with-review of the best releases of the month, selected by our editors.
Bienoise – Most Beautiful Design Album Review
Album: Most Beautiful Design
Label: Mille Plateaux
Unusual thing: in this digital age vinyl is back in fashion and we are getting used to tapes again. Even more unusual: a curious EP on a 3,5’ floppy disk is out this month on Mille Plateaux, consisting of five mp3 tracks at 16 kbps. It’s a very low quality if you consider that the streaming files we all are used to listen to have a bit rate of 128/320 kbps.
Alberto Ricca, stage name Bienoise, identifies the genesis of this work in his obsession with the limits of the means. “Where tapes and vinyls saturate and rustle, the digital lacks background noise and imperfections – he explains – but digital compression also brings a large number of digital artifacts.” So the next step is as elementary as it is brilliant: highlighting glitches and imperfections of the compressed sound spectrum, with the intention of enhancing them in an expressive way.
To make this, Ricca puts aside drums and rhythms, focusing on sounds and frequencies. The first track, “Prepared CD Overture”, recalls the prepared piano works by John Cage, adapted with objects and instruments in order to alterate sound, but this time the preparation process goes through programming, rendering and lo-fi compression. The distorted background noise is exasperated in the following “To Save, to Share” and then becomes rich with harmonics in the ethereal and waver “Utopia Robotz”. The frenetic phrases of “Gursky Windows” are the moment of greatest tension of “Most Beautiful Design”, which closes with the soft title track.
The record is a very different compared to his previous ones and is the result of a long gestation started in 2013. The choice of the support, with its beautiful design, is an important part of this 1,44 megabytes tribute to technology and its limits. A good test for Bienoise, far out of his usual territories of IDM and techno.
By Francesco Cellino
Capibara – OMNIA Album Review
Label: La Tempesta Dischi
This time our Vacanze Romane continues with Omnia by Capibara, a Rome-based artist who’s quickly emerging and making a name for himself. The album, as well as being his actual first one, is really substantial both in time (it features seventeen tracks whose duration is a bit above average) and in experimentation. It wittingly touches different genres while mixing several techniques, so that the title acquires meaning song by song. The result is not a confused patchwork of jumbled skills but something reasoned, not easily labelable and, dare I say it, amazing.
The album opens with an all in all standard intro, the actual beginning of it starts with “Prodigio”. The presence here of a scheme of rhythmic and sharp sounds that slowly rise and get bolder reappears immediately after in “Santa Roma”, whose half-hidden tribal ethnicity suggests bloodlust and martial glory scenarios. Don’t expect less from the fourth track, “Cattivi United”. It’s just a lil’ bit slower, but still hyper-aggressive as f*uck. This ethnic taste randomly comes up in almost every song, more sharply in “Mandria” and “Mr Don Papa Boss”, with their suggestive and inhibiting Spanish lyrics. (“Mr Don Papa Boss” gotta be our favorite due to the pipe organ. Pipe Organ!) And yet, lyrics are central, particularly in the second part of the album where we find two tracks featuring Sxrrxwland (check our review to know what’s good about them) that manage to create a nasty channel between the experimental trap phenomenon and some latin dancehall vibrations.
The focal point of Omnia, though, seems to be in the middle: “Wall Maria / Asteroid Blues” (we loved the Cowboy Bebop reference, among the many present in the album), whose first half is quite fast and dynamic, counterpointed by an efficient tune control while the second one functions almost as a kind of tranquil recovery from an excessive excitement. Within its nine minutes, it contains the soul of the whole album (maybe Capibara’s one too) and expresses the temper at the basis of the capolavoro we are dealing with.
By Margherita Rho
DÆMON – ÆOS Album Review
Label: Intelligent Models
Out for Chino Amobi’s new label, Intelligent Models, ÆOS, acronym of Artificial Emotional Operating System, is the latest fatigue of the enigmatic singer and lyricist Jahsiri Asabi-Shakir, aka DÆMON, and produced by their close friend and collaborator JÆCE.
Perfectly in line with the label’s post-internet and post-human aesthetic (you should definitely go check the label’s website), DÆMON tells the listener the results of the first interaction with the (fictional) eponymous OS, focusing on the “unforeseen powers and limitations of the new technology”.
But don’t expect a cold report, because DÆMON is interacting with an Emotional Operating System, an unstable entity, which turns his narration into a chaotic flux of thoughts spat, talked and signed with their deep, metallic voice.
With lyrics that touch a great variety of themes, from the accelerationism intrinsic into human nature to religion to the inescapable coexistence of pleasure and pain, I can’t imagine other than JÆCE’s beats as the sonic surface where DÆMON’s words flow.
Afrobeat, ragga-jungle, dubstep and garage, get a post-human upgrade in the hands of this skilled producer thanks to his ability to create cybernetic sonic texture, rich of bleeping and clicks, while preserving the ethnic and human flavor of the beat, surprising the listener with the emerging of a ghostly guitar arpeggio or a sampled voice.
Human and artificial at the same time, with its cutting-edge production and lyrics that optimally merge together, ÆOS is an album that feels deeply rooted in the Afrofuturist movement and yet is able to project it into the post-internet era, exploring new interactions between the human and the machine (digital or hardware), the inhuman.
By Michele Sinatti
Kai Whiston – Kai Whiston Bitch Album Review
Artist: Kai Whiston
Album: Kai Whiston Bitch
Label: Gloo Records
Last year the eighteen years old English producer known as Kai Whiston dropped Fissure Price, a rage-fueled deconstructed club gem that showed how he was capable of turning avant-garde shi*t into pop and vice versa. Now he is back with his first (kinda self-titled) LP, Kai Whiston Bitch, a forty minutes-long personal stylistic manifesto, as the title clarifies, in which all the good ideas that were present in Fissure Price get a further development.
From the very first track, in fact, the album establishes itself as one of the finest examples, alongside SOPHIE’s debut LP and sega bodega’s self*care, of the merging of pop (in its most extensive meaning) and avant-garde of the whole year. But while SOPHIE’s latest installment mixes industrial and bubblegum pop, Kai Whiston’s sound is way more bound to rap, R&B, grime, dubstep and trap, as shown by the album’s rhythmic section and by the sampled vocal stems coming from artists like Kanye West, Total and (what sounds a lot like) Childish Gambino, just to name a few.
Chopped, filtered and processed, the voices of these artists become yet another layer of sonic texture bot maximalist and fractured, made of fat drum kicks, noises, crackles, rubbery sounds that get stretched, twisted and released at Kai’s will, and by sudden clean guitars riffs, piano’s melodies, and a myriad of sample.
Every track thus becomes a mutant entity, capable of switching sound, atmosphere and tempo in a matter of seconds while still keeping the groove intact and remaining coherent with Kai Whiston absurd urban imaginary, like “Mushy Seize”, a masterpiece of sound collage, which starts with a sampled sequence of piano chords accelerating to the point it collapses into a heavy drop that turns the track into a nightmarish trap banger that samples Kanye’s vocals from “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, just to change once again (sampling an R&B jam I wasn’t able to identify) as it fades away.
But other than being a mature work, one of the most accomplished post-club albums of the year and a perverse pleasure for your ears, Kai Whiston Bitch is also the proof that the punk “f*ck y’all, I’ll do what I want” attitude that marked Kai’s early works is still alive and kicking, which is fundamental to keep making good, sincere sh*it like this.
“All Is Fair In Love And Kai Whiston”, for real.
By Michele Sinatti
Kelman Duran -13th Month Album Review
Artist: Kelman Duran
Album: 13th Month
Kelman Duran had a very hard and complex task: to equal his critically acclaimed debut, “1804 Kids”, a masterpiece of spiritual dancehall and mystic dembow. And it’s exactly from these rarefied soundscapes that the Dominican producer took inspiration for his new LP, “13th Month”, out for the Brooklyn label APOCALIPSIS.
The title itself is dedicated to the thirteen months that compose the Lakota Natives’ lunar calendar and gives a preview of the ancestral world that influenced Kelman for this album. The artist spent time in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where he took field recordings and defined the mood of “13th Month”.
The album is slower and less dancefloor-oriented than its predecessor, but it’s way more layered and textured. The drums are delayed, the vocals reverberating and ritualistic. The first two tracks, that together last twenty-five minutes, are divided in various acts and guide the listener through all of the moods and soundscapes that will later characterize the rest of the album, moving from creepy tribal anthems to stripped down sad dancehall.
“13th Month” is almost overwhelming: it’s charming and catchy as “1804 Kids”, but it hits hard in the feelings when needed. The continuous alternation of frenzy and reflection is what makes this record so special and precious; the feeling is that Kelman Duran not only managed to equal his first album, but he exceeded it, setting new high standards for the genre.
By Carlo Casentini
Mumdance – Shared Meanings Album Review
Album: Shared Meanings
Label: Shared Meanings
Jack ‘Mumdance’ Adams has no time for resting. Having spent the last few years releasing official mixes, singles and albums (alone or with fellow artists Pinch, Novelist and Logos), founding the Different Circles label (which he co-runs with Logos), giving birth to the weightless sub-genre, playing b2b with a dream team of DJs on his Rinse “Radio Mumdance” show, he’s back with Shared meanings, a thirty-two tracks compilation.
The idea behind the mix is that “shared meanings are the foundation of any culture […] and in particular the dancefloor experiences that transcend location and language to unite people”. Comprised only of unreleased tracks, Shared meanings is a journey across and beyond the history of electronic dance music, with a particular focus on both the heritage and the present state of UK sonic spectrum. Indeed, Mumdance’s fine ear, knowledge and curatorial craft are evident in the way he seamlessly weaves together several electronic genres and nuances across ninety-seven minutes. The differences in tempo or drum patterns are smoothed out by, and in favor of, a constant mood that makes the mix sound cohesive and, needless to say, impressive. The dominant atmosphere is that of a dark basement where people are collectively consuming a ritual of ecstatic dance; it’s euphoria-charged but also rough and heavy, with no abrupt cuts or jumps but several highlights and turning point – among all the epic “Teachers”, a Mumdance&Logos eulogy of dance underground masters of yesterday and today.
An atmospheric and beatless opening that shifts into acid-tinged electro; broken techno alternated with pounding four-to-the-floor hammers; reductionist and weightless takes on industrial, trance and hardcore; mutant and paranoid drum’n’bass; skeletal electro and techno; euphoric bangers. These are the coordinates between which Mumdance skillfully moves, reflective of his career as a restless innovator and dance music archeologist.
That some tracks come from well-established names and others from relatively newcomers doesn’t really matter, as it wouldn’t to talk about single stands-out in here. Instead, the force of the mix is its overall narrative and how Mumdance makes it unfold.
Just press play and let Mumzie take you on this journey. Not for the faint-hearted.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Neanderthalic – The Severing Album Review
Album: The Severing
London-based Russian artist Artur Strekalov aka Neanderthalic just released his debut album The Severing via ANBA, a Cairo-rooted “sonic platform exploring the fringes of sound and art within contemporary music”. In order to listen to this new effort, just keep in mind a few necessary things.
First of all, the heart of the matter is the philosophical evergreen theme: human vs non-human. But what is intriguing and different about The Severing is the point of view being non-human. Therefore, prepare yourself for some tough, rigid, repetitive tracks.
Focusing on structure, the first half of the release features ‘dehumanized’ music, mainly. As expressed by tracks like”Incomplete”, “Inhuman” and the following “Projection” which all have a connection to the theme, we find inflexible deep basses and irregular heartbeats, blown by a mechanical breath. As a result, you might probably feel like a shaky intruder walking in another world.
On the one hand, it’s true that listening to The Severing you get the feeling of a chaotic workshop which only generates artificial noise. It’s as simple as that. Static tracks that almost never develop and leave you in the workshop alone with your tools in your hands. But, since melody is a human product, this first section has, accordingly, no space for it, and ends up opposing a strong experimental cacophony, led by huge bass lines which almost seem unreachable for men. That being the case, it’s functional for this debut as a concept.
On the other hand, the second identifiable segment is the section where a touch of melody is offered, as if coexistence was achieved. As a matter of fact, “Pristine” brings in the second section with a vague tune to quiet our nerves, which just got knocked out by 30 minutes of robotic noise. It’s not by chance that we finally come across titles as “Allowing to Exist” to emphasize the achieved ‘peace’ with humans through a delightful arpeggio and a clearer ambiance, with a sense of calm.
A claustrophobic listening experience for aspiring non-humans.
By Andrea Alfieri
RS Produções – Bagdad Style Album Review
Artist: RS Produções
Album: Bagdad Style
Label: Príncipe Discos
While the obvious headquarters for electronic dance music are very well-known to all of us (London, Berlin, NY, LA, Detroit, etc), recent years have witnessed the rise of new epicenters gaining attention thanks to media coverage, connoisseurs’ word-of-mouth and, of course, the Internet. One of the hot names in this renewed dance cartography is Príncipe Discos, the Lisbon-based label “fully dedicated to releasing 100% real contemporary dance music coming out of this city, its suburbs, projects & slums.”
Its latest release, Bagdad Style, is provided by RS (Rinchoa Stress), a collective of friends based in Rio de Mouro. In line with the label’s output, their music is grounded in afro-diasporic genres like kuduro, batida and tarraxinha, occasionally soaked in a house/techno boiling pot. As short as it is – out of 8 tracks, only two are longer than 3 minutes, and two others are below 2 mins – it sounds well-rounded, fresh and challenging. Perhaps it is because of youth’s rawness and urgent need of expression (the crew members are all in their late teens or early twenties), surely it is because of the top-notch production skills.
Instead of sketches left incomplete, each track is a vignette offering a glimpse of beat and melody science. There is a metallic quality to most of the percussions, which makes the now-going-mainstream drum patterns almost alienated from themselves (“Constipação do poco”, “Atrevimento”). The (mis)use of melody is another highlight, as in the earworm “Guerreiro” or “Lingrinhas” and “Abertura”, whose dissonance is unsettling at first, infectiously engaging soon afterward. The most memorable results, though, are achieved when flirting with restless 4/4 kick drums (“Caipirinha”), spooky sci-fi synths (“Futuro”), vocal samples and dub reverbs (“Hino RS”).
Bagdad style showcases a visceral force at work, although the reworking of the source genres makes it not immediate nor conventional. Instead, it updates and overwrites those genres; it’s the youth’s take on the meeting of local and global, the vision and perception of a cultural heritage masterfully turned to music.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Sabiwa -未知 Album Review
輪迴 is the Chinese translation of “reincarnation”, the belief that after death the soul of an individual survives by taking life in the body of a new creature, human or animal. She is Sabiwa, in this life in the form of a human being, and more specifically a musician and sound designer from Taipei. Her new album comes out for Chinabot, a platform created in 2017 by a group of avant-garde Asian artists.
It’s a mystical concept album before being a religious one, a universal melting pot that embraces East and West: the Taiwanese funeral rituals meet Charon, the ferryman to the Hades of Greek-Roman mythology, and even the Taranta, the typical music of southern Italy linked to esoteric popular beliefs, which Sabiwa samples and unsettles.
“Jia” is a strong impact opening track, with a downtempo rhythm and an arrangement that reminds Portishead under acids. Going forward there are many field recordings (“Wo de shijian”, “Xin de shijian”), moments of chaotic deconstructionism (“Jingti”), schizophrenic synths (“Dizzy & Confused”) and tribal marches (“Caronte”). Sabiwa’s modified voice and various samples follow one another on experimental dubstep bases, gradually taking on the form of voluminous choirs, narrating spoken or glitched sung.
The twelve tracks evoke sensations and images. Everything becomes explicit when the artist reveals what we are talking about: “I’m Sabiwa, I was a jellyfish (…) now I’m a human” (“I introduce myself”) . Whatever creature you are in this life,輪迴 is a pleasant and stimulating listening that you’d better not miss.
By Francesco Cellino
Tendryl – Knaves Album Review
Tendryl’s debut four-track EP, Knaves, gets involved by right into this week’s Soul Feeding issue ‘cause it belongs to that category of works that can spontaneously convey authentic images. In this case – at least this is the feeling we get – the image is of a fierce wildness and primordiality, which appear to be core themes in this album.
The first track, “Wot”, seems to be built on a form of ceremonial dance; or anyway, the inspiration might derive from traditional aboriginal music, due to the circular rhythm that composes the beat until almost the very end. In “Hall of Mirrors” the path is the same, but on a ruder scale: slightly altered roarings samples systematically compare, but they are cleverly compensated by sweeter sounds produced with definitely classical instruments. “Dissolve” retrieves the initial feeling of rituality, implemented by the addition of random incomprehensible vocals, made of single syllables, words or cries. These noises take shape as real speech in the next and last track, “Unglued”. in contrast to the others, this is pensive; the decision of keeping it at the end might be related to its deeper, quieter character to express the balance achievable living close to nature, that is itself the purest force for good.
An excellent debut that will surely convince you to keep an eye on this New York-based producer.
By Margherita Rho
TOMMY CASH – ¥€$ Album Review
Artist: TOMM¥ €A$H
From all the artists that have been inspired by Kanye West, Estonian rapper TOMMY CASH is surely the one who inherited Yeezy’s most admirable qualities: the ability to bend the borders of musical genres at his will and the charisma necessary to gather around his persona some of the most cutting-edge artists, both mainstream and underground, of his time in order to produce his music. Featuring productions from the Berlin based post-club duo AMNESIA SCANNER, PC Music‘s pillars A.G. Cook and Danny L. Harle, additional vocals by pop angel Charli XCX and American fashion designer Rick Owens, ¥€$, TOMM¥’s debut LP, is definitely proof of it.
Some may argue that it was a risky move to put tracks made by artists with such a diverse sound all in the same record, but TOMM¥’s visions, as it also happens with his works as a visual artist, was able to keep it all together and craft a final release that is as various as coherent.
His surrealist, post-soviet imaginary, in fact, hits you no matter the beat, and connects every track with each other, from the abrasive, deconstructed intro and outro, produced by AS to the eurodance banger “X-RAY” composed by Danny L. Harle, to the Latin Techno jam produced by Boys Noize and featuring the São Paulo rapper, MC Bind Laden.
The internal variety of the album is so well organized that every track is both a surprise per se and a cliffhanger for the one that follows, leaving the listener in a state of exciting confusion and with an uncontrollable desire to dance (which is one of TOMM¥ greatest passions).
Making underground music pop and pop music a work of art, TOMM¥ €A$H has crafted a true art-rap masterpiece, which makes him referring at himself as “Kanye East” a concrete achievement more than a simple pun.
By Michele Sinatti
Artwork by Francesco Battaglia