SOUL FEEDING: a list-with-review of the best releases of the month, selected by our editors.
Artist: Ash Koosha
Album: Return 0
Label: REALMS Records
In computer programming, the return value of the main function is considered the “exit status” of the application, that causes execution to leave the current subroutine and resume at the point in the code immediately after where the subroutine was called. On most operating systems returning 0 is a success status saying “everything is OK, the program worked fine”.
Naming his latest album Return 0 is a way for the London-based, Iranian-born producer known as Ash Koosha to tell his audience that the merging between man and machine for music composition is not only working but will open an immense amount of new possibilities in terms of expression and creativity.
Just like with the YONA project, the melodies, the arpeggios, the loops and the lyrics of this record are created via a series of generative software and then arranged by Koosha’s alien taste.
This time it’s the man, not the machine singing, though. It is an interesting overturn that shows us once again how the most direct involvement of the machine in the seminal phases of the creative process doesn’t result in something cold or aseptic.
On the contrary, the thirteen tracks of Return 0 are vibrating compositions that space between traditional Persian music, neoclassical suites, glitch-hop, UK bass, and more dance-floor oriented works, all coherently deconstructed and rebuilt together, making the album quite a narrative experience.
The whole album is a work that seems to sonically sum up the history of Ash Koosha so far, telling both its brightest and darkest moments at the same time, the sought for asylum in the UK, the love for the machine and, of course, his high hopes for the future of music and humanity in general.
A must listen, indeed.
By Michele Sinatti
Album: с | т | р | у | к | т | у | р| ы
Astrosuka, part of T R R U E N O’s crew from Buenos Aires and 1/3 of la muerte collective, just came out with a new EP cryptically called с | т | р | у | к | т | у | р | ы, the Cyrillic word for structure.
Quite a short work, this record only features three tracks carrying the same title – “структурa” -only differentiated by the numbers one, two and three, all composed with the same sounds but with a deep diversity in their structure, which may be the reason behind the EP’s title. The first one is immediately characterized by a commingling of edgy and sharp sounds mixed with the Latin rhythm typical of his production, which then gets mixed up with naturalistically-shaped sounds, such as echoes and realistic drips, slowly merging in a melodic sequence that immediately gets back to the violent attitude of the incipit. The second one is surely the less immediate of the three, lacking the energetic feeling given by those knife-y vibrations and sounding more like the haunted, ambient-core version of a dancehall track. In the third one we find again the intensity that heavily marks структура 1. This time the “artificial sound matter”, as it’s called by Astrosuka himself, molds a strongly gloomy and metallic atmosphere, shifting the core of the song to the last part of it, inserting the zippy noises right in the second half.
The job made on the architecture of the tracks is mindful: if this kind of production might be easy nowadays, what is not easy is giving character to it, creating really different separated products but with the same soul, and most importantly escuchable, while never making the listener able to even foretell what’s going to happen in the next ten seconds. Astrosuka definitely didn’t make me win at this game.
Also, a special mention goes to El Pelele, author of the cover art resembling engravings on a stone wall that remind of some old hieroglyphs and that in my mind is the most perfect visual illustration that could ever fit for this EP.
By Margherita Rho
Artist: Burial + Kode9
Album: Mix For Mary Ann Hobbs
It’s hard to deny that Kode 9 and Burial are big shots of electronic dance music and more.
The former founded Hyperdub, the latter is universally known for creating one of the most innovative and impactful records of the last decade, which has almost earnt him a Mercury: both are brilliant musicians and pioneers who have shaped the modern sound of music in the UK (UK garage, jungle, Bristol sound, etc.) by deforming and pushing it through unexplored routes. It is therefore natural that there is a lot of attention on everything they do, especially after the announcement that they will have the honor to record the last – the 100th – FABRICLIVE, the successful mix series of the famous London club.
While waiting for the release, we can have a taste of what awaits us in this 30 minute mix recorded for the Mary Anne Hobbs show on the BBC Radio 6. After a short introduction, the mix begins and it is like a journey through the history of the past 30 years, between raves and extravagances.
The start is immediately powerful, with tracks like Orca’ s “4AM”, Acen’s “Trip 2 The Moon”, Dj Biz’ “Losing Track of Time”: masterpieces and classic breakbeats that still today can have an explosive effect even on the laziest dance-floors.
As the atmospheres get more extended, there is room for dark ambient brackets that alternate between hard trance tracks and high BPM, as a sort of mystical schizophrenia. The last part of the mix draws mainly from more contemporary and unclassifiable productions: Hyperdub’s DJ Phil, Jlin, Dj Lag, SOPHIE and more. You can finally find vaporous atmospheres that invite you to relax, but you will always be surrounded by untidy and syncopated beats that will make you move nervously.
By Francesco Cellino
Album: E.C.S.T. T.R.A.X
Label: Throttle Records
When it comes to harpsichords, most people will probably think of nobles with curly white wigs and lavish dresses, listening to the melodies and counterpoints of Bach or Scarlatti in a luxurious country villa during a sunny day of spring. Do not expect that from Clark’s “Harpsichord E.C.S.T.” and “Piano E.C.S.T.”, the two tracks of his latest 12″.
E.C.S.T. T.R.A.X. is the first release of Throttle Records, the new personal label of Clark, and also his first work out of the Warp Records catalogue.
The idea may seem simple and already seen: melting acoustic instruments, typical of classical music, with the sounds and structures of contemporary electronic music. What makes this work interesting is how the British producer does it: focusing mainly on rhythmic patterns, with harpsichord phrases and dissonant piano chords repeated in a frenetic and obsessive way. These are tracks that you would expect to listen more to a rave party than at a concrete music concert in a theatre.
Of classical music, this double 12” preserves the complexity, especially because these productions sound crystalline despite being extremely rich in variegated samples – from tribal vocals to drones passing through foggy or powerful synth bass. If it is true that well-begun half done, make sure to keep an eye for Throttle Records’ future projects.
By Francesco Cellino
Artist: Gazelle Twin
Label: Anti Ghost Moon Ray
Gazelle Twin’s new album, Pastoral, is as unsettling and far away from any actual pastoral setting as it goes. Elizabeth Walling, the British artist behind the Gazelle Twin moniker, delivers a post-Brexit album that resonates as a nightmarish musical report of our current times. Although born from and addressing British society, Pastoral also speaks of/to the rest of the Western world at the mercy of reactionary nostalgia for the (faux?) good old times and the subsequent anxiety-fueled life.
The uncanniness of this album is made clear in its cover already: a weird red-dressed court jester wearing a hat and Adidas plays the flute in a Constable-like idyllic landscape, under a worn and glitched yellow graphic that resembles the Deutsche Grammophone artworks. In fact, Pastoral relies on the dialectic between past and present, with the massive presence of harpsichord, choral singing, folk and classical remembrances updated to the era of digital identities.
In this eerie mix of ancient tradition and glossy, dull present, in which pastoral tropes meet everyday horror, the center of attention is Walling’s voice itself. An altered voice, but of a different kind than the ones we are used to ear within the freeform sea of avant-garde electronic music: instead of being hyper-processed, more-than-human and mechinic, the voice here sounds more beastly – Evangelions going berserk were the only images that came to my mind while listening to the bone-rattling “Better in my day” – and not totally, or not enough, human (the angelic singing on “Sunny stories”).
If the voice is the leading figure, the rest of the team is composed by sharp, hectic and sometimes glitchy beats; spare quieter moments; older musical traditions surfacing; and a general sense of unease, halfway between satire and hopelessness.
An album that consciously channels and rides the waves of darkness these times are making us accustomed to, twisting and revolting them to create an opus of unconventional beauty and sheer urgency.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Artist: Giant Swan
Album: Whities 16
Three tracks for fifteen minutes of length. What’s that? Oh I see! The industrial techno punks from Bristol known as Giant Swan dropped their brand new EP via Whities just a few weeks after their last effort High Waisted came out.
They light the fuse with first track, check the weapon with the second one and eventually let the device detonate with the closing piece.
The opener, “Pax Britannica”, almost appears to have an ironic title, since the track resembles a sonic-war declaration, which shares about nothing with a hundred-year-old Britannic peace. Kinda funny. What we have here is mayhem, actually. And there’s something exciting about it. Placed at the center, “IANAH” has a mystic aura due to the choruses lines and massive reverbs in which wired synths are drowned, and slightly slow down the album pace, preparing the field for the explosive conclusion which is “The Plaque”. A tombstone that permanently seals your mind alteration state, really going out on a high.
This work roars vicious, and it is soiled by haunting vocals manipulations that make up for a metallic, thick and obsessive sound, which was present in previous works but only up to a certain extent and not expressed as smoothly as in here.
As a matter of fact, Whities 16 is richer in textures, and presents massive improvements across the table in dynamics and ideas, proving the duo has come up with solid stuff, recently. Broken beat elements meet unrelenting techno via guitar pedals and analog machines, culminating in body-shaking and short-refrains repeated sections. While on the one hand it’s true that the duo has strong feelings for loop sections with repetitive beats and segments, on the other hand they manage to keep it interesting, succeeding where they crawled in previous releases. Long story short, this is a the sound of an evil haunted factory and deserves a listen if you love to lose yourself to insanity-inducing dances. Shirtless.
By Andrea Alfieri
Label: Planet Mu
Award-winning choreographer Wayne McGregor and producer Jlin teamed-up on their new project Autobiography, out on Planet Mu. While this is not the right place to talk about the ballet, we will focus on that impressive work of art that is Jlin’s soundtrack.
Autobiography alternates ghostly ambient tracks to the syncopated, industrial sounds that are typical of the American producer. Tribal percussions and metallic synths coexist with desolated soundscapes and wrenching piano notes, summoning in the listener’s mind the dancing bodies that McGregor masterfully stages.
It is rare to find such an introspective and elevating album. Already known for her beautiful albums Dark Energy and Black Origami, characterized by a very well-defined offbeat sound, with Autobiography Jlin has proved herself capable of creating an incredibly complex and layered album, showing a clear artistic growth.
By Carlo Casentini
Artist: Roc Jiménez De Cisneros & Rubén Patiño
Label: Haunter Records
One of the most interesting things in listening to a lot of deconstructed club music (am I cool now, dad?) is to realize that the ways in which electronic dance music can be de-composed are simply countless, and GNOMOS, the collaboration between Roc Jiménez De Cisneros and Rubén Patiño, is yet another proof of it.
If those two names don’t immediately ring a bell just let me add that the first is a member of the electronic-duo known as EVOL, while the latter is one of the two halves of the post-industrial project known as N.M.O., and together they have decided to deconstruct rave music to the point of reducing it to its very minimum: drum loops (made with a Roland 909, apparently).
There are no other instruments involved in the making of GNOMOS’ five skeletal tracks, just eerie drum patterns that constantly repeat themselves (editorial note: all the tracks are more than six minutes longer), slightly accelerating and decelerating or changing the arrangement of the drum hits, in a constant violation of expectations that puts to serious test the listener’s attention span.
And although some may say that this is a record for hardcore listeners only, I think it is quite an interesting experiment that tries to explore the limits of club music writing and listening at the same time.
By Michele Sinatti
Album: Síntesis Morena
The recent dancehall and neo-perreo wave that brought to international attention artists like Bad Gyal, DJ Florentino, and many others seems unstoppable. Talisto is the last artist to come up in the genre, and he won our hearts with his first full-length album, Síntesis Morena.
The Chilean artist has a very melancholic and intimate approach to the genre, resulting in slow, romantic ballads and emotional dancefloor hits.
The great research behind Talisto’s rhythms and sounds finds its peak in “Desierto”, featuring Dinamarca, one of the most prominent figures of the genre. The echoing synths and vocals make it the perfect anthem of this deep, sentimental interpretation of dancehall. However, my personal favorite is “Te Llamé”, a more club-orientated track featuring Ms. Nina, another rising star in the neo-perreo scene, with its voluminous pads in the background and its sensual atmosphere.
Síntesis Morena is indeed a great start from Talisto, who deserves credit for being able of giving a deeply personal spin to an almost saturated genre.
By Carlo Casentini
Artist: Tim Hecker
Over the last fifteen years, and especially since his 2011 breakthrough album Ravedeath 1972, Tim Hecker has entered the pantheon of those few musicians able to craft a sonic world of their own, unique and immediately recognizable. Konoyo, his latest fatigue, is another polished tile in the mosaic of his discography.
Made mostly in Japan with a gagaku ensemble – gagaku is the Japanese imperial court music – Konoyo is born from Hecker’s interplay with the performers, instead of the usual reworking of the source material. The result is an astounding blending of Hecker’s electronics and digital manipulations, and gagaku traditional instruments. Across the seven tracks, it’s hard to define the origin of the sounds we’re hearing, to tell what’s natural and what’s digitally processed, as flutes, keyboards, strings, percussions, shrieking high tones, otherworldly synths and celestial drones all merge defying distinctions.
“This life” takes you by hand and ascends toward an impalpable place, while “In death valley”, with its distant percussions and echoed notes, is like wind blowing in a zen garden 2.0; “Keyed out” morphs restlessly for almost ten minutes, always unfurling yet apparently static; if there was a requiem for humanity, it would probably sound like “In mother earth phase”; and the epic, fifteen minutes long closer “Across to Konoyo” is the appropriate ending for Tim Hecker’s most ambitious project to date.
At the same time menacing and uplifting, dark and enlightening, heavy and weightless, Konoyo requires to be listened to as a whole to be fully grasped in its majestic splendor. Not as accessible as its predecessors, it may take multiple listens to get lost in this solemn, free-floating sonic temple. But once you reach that point and let the music take you to a higher realm, you’ll never want to come back on earth again.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Label: Biodiversità Records
Italian underground community is thriving in recent years, and the latest compilation by the Florence-based label Biodiversità Records offers a glimpse into it. Ecotono, the aptly chosen name for the compilation, is a word indicating a transition area where two ecosystems meet and integrate, thus resulting in a high biodiversity. Not only ecosystems but communities in the wider range meet in an ecotone, as stated in the release’s Bandcamp notes, and this reflects the label aim of promoting a heterogeneous community of like-minded artists.
The landmark references of the compilation may be traced back to ambient and bass music, with everything in between. Atmospheres are at the center in each track, everytime declined in a different yet coherent way.
P I T sets things up with the aqueous, hazy mood and minimalistic drums of “Dreamin Hawaii sea.avi” while Lampreda’s “Yatta can” stands as a tribal take on noise seasoned with shamanic drumming; things get rarefied on “Prayin’ in Lallbela” by MonoLogue, its space and texture resembling Dean Blunt-gone-ambient. User from PT takes us on a journey through the abyss with the submerged ambience of “LILITH-23”, before we start breathing again with the ravey synth and scattered drums of “Skysole” by L O S C I, in which footwork and breakbeat drown in codeine.
This track and the following two – Guenter Råler’s “SEKHMETX” and Katatonic Silentio’s “Fire” – are Ecotono’s rhythmic core: the former is a robotic take on dembow, the perfect score for a Blade Runner spin-off set in a retrofuturistic dystopian Kingston; while the latter offers a meditation on (submerged) bass weight, as if the ghosts of jungle and dubstep were haunting your speakers. “Reynoutria japonica” by Molestia Auricolarum brings down the curtain with an evanescent track of rarefied ambient filled with distant noises and melodies.
A solid work from Biodiversità Records; let’s wait for more ecology-themed releases from Florence.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Artwork by Francesco Battaglia