SOUL FEEDING: a list-with-review of the best releases of the month, selected by our editors.
Gonçalo Penas – Ego De Espinhos
Artist: Gonçalo Penas
Album: Ego De Espinhos
Label: Subtext Recordings
A great destructive energy emanates from “Ego De Espinhos”, the debut album of the 22-year-old Portuguese musician Gonçalo Penas. The record is out on a well-known and appreciated label, the Berlin-based Subtext Recordings, whose electronic and experimental verve is present in this album too.
It is entirely made of digital music, produced with instruments designed and realized by the artist. Improvisation and experimentation are the guiding principles of Penas, who tries to turn music into a pure act of will, which means that “Ego De Espinhos” can be seen as a series of self-exorcisms that free the musician from rules and expectations. The music is the guide of this path. In “Espelho Meu”, one of the most intense tracks, there is almost a feeling of ecstasy when a distorting vortex gives way to the majestic and epic beauty of the final. A tribal act, but also the product of contemporary digital technologies: a further element of contrast that increases tension. There is a primordial simplicity even in improvisation: the artist stated that some tracks have been recorded with only a single take (the ethereal “Introdução, Umbigo” and the alienating, apocalyptic “Tecto Falso”).
The final result is 40 minutes of abstract and futuristic atmospheres where industrial synths are a counterpoint to very soft, fluffy carpets and heavy bass. To be a debut, the aesthetic coherence of “Ego De Espinhos” is amazing. It’s an album that plays with contrasts and counterpoints between sounds and rhythmic patterns in a lively way. It is chaotic, but at the same time extremely powerful and dramatic.
By Francesco Cellino
James Blake – Assume Form
Artist: James Blake
Album: Assume Form
James Blake got us used to sensational records and new groundbreaking concepts in pop music release after release. Each time he comes out with new music it’s impossible not to expect him to compete for the title of album of the year. Is it the case once again? Only time will tell.
Contrary to expectations with Assume Form we’re certainly talking about a more compact and tight record than his last works and there is surely less experimentation than what we would have wanted to hear too. After the release of “If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead” last year many of us were expecting an abstract, challenging new sound from him but he surprised us once again by taking the exact opposite direction. The piano is back up front and leads the way through almost every song, electronic and experimental elements are reduced to the minimum, and the whole listening experience at first glance sounds like going through a rather simple piano pop record. Quite disappointing right? Luckily this is only a small part of the story.
Reality is that we’re in front of one of the most indisputable talents of our time and there is nothing you can really do to resist his fascination. Every note he plays is never as simple as it might sound and each element on the record comes out exquisitely. Theatrical as always James Blake is able to amuse the listener and take him into his own dimension only by snapping his fingers with unique emotional sensitivity and a wave of sad and overwhelming feelings. Listening to this record is like having all of your empathic abilities awakened by an extraordinary carrying story. Jame’s voice changes and develops song after song like the most magnificent narrating voice and moves brilliantly around the superb music arrangements. Not to mention the charming features all over the record, able to challenge the listener with extraordinary combinations of influences and sounds. Give more than a superficial spin and we’re sure you’ll fall in love with James Blake all over again.
By Thomas Borgogni
Jay Glass Dubs – Epitaph
Artist: Jay Glass Dubs
Label: Bokeh Versions
Over the last couples of years, Dimitris Papadatos aka Jay Glass Dubs has provided a prolific output of cassettes and vinyls in which he dismantles and re-assembles traditional Jamaican dub DNA. Opting for a scientific and creative overdub (I couldn’t avoid using this wordplay, sorry) of the sources, rather than a trite nostalgic mannerism, the Greek producer reminds us of the actuality – or better, the timelessness – of dub, a genre mostly known among electronic heads for its association with -step or -techno.
Beware, though; you’re not likely to find any ‘true’ dub track on Epitaph, like it has been the case with JGD previous outputs for Bokeh Versions, Ecstatic and Berceuse Heroique. Instead, the dubbiness here resides in the atmospheres and sonic treatments that permeates the entire record. Space, reverb, submerged vocals, foggy textures, esoteric repetitions, sinister melodies, all make Epitaph an album in which a coherent mood prevails over coherent song structures. It is noteworthy that the word ‘dub’ has disappeared from the tracks titles, even though the music retains all the haziness, drowsiness and drugginess typical of the genre. Another departure from the dub paradigm is the presence of the voice – JGD himself sings on some tracks – usually drowned in reverb to amplify the overall mystical halo suffusing the record.
From the very beginning ’til the end, Epitaph takes on plenty of other (unexpected) influences: it is a dub meets trip hop meets dream pop meets goth meets industrial (these suggestions were confirmed when I noticed the ‘goth’ and ‘industrial’ tags on Bandcamp, btw) album, resulting in a new kind of slow-motion gothic dub. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Epitaph is released via Bristol’s Bokeh Versions, as the ‘90s Bristol trip hop heritage is vivid along dreamy and gothic recollections.
More colourful than dark ambient, more ominous than dub, more industrial than dream pop and more dreamy than industrial, Epitaph sheds new light on sonic templates we thought we had taken for granted.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Mruwki – Wyspa
Label: Oaktopus Records
Wyspa is the sophomore album by young Polish producer Mruwki (class 1995).
Detaching from his slightly poppier debut Miss Universe released in March 2018, this work plays a different role, placing itself in a less diverse and more homogenous dimension, made of more tangible solutions and concrete disquiet.
First of all, this album is surely more cohesive than his first effort. Sharp patterns and mechanical monstrosities keep piling up one after the other, through IDM echoes and sound collage techniques, and this is undoubtedly something he’s been working on. Arca’s influence, on his synths especially, sounds quite strong.
Every track is volatile, due to unexpected quick changes in atmosphere and extended overlays, making it quite unusual. Light but sombre, twisted but even, it’s a listening experience which can cause a mild grade of anxiety and tension, presenting itself as such even by the album art.
On the whole, Wyspa is a very good attempt and ends up being appreciable simply on the ground that these six tracks make sense together, representing a development when compared to his previous effort, which was involving but too fragmented. Despite lacking some recognizable somatic traits, at times, the prospects for the future look good. If he manages to show his true colours fusing the pop touch of Miss Universe with the allurement of Wyspa, also considering his young age, Mruwki will surely gain more exposure.
By Andrea Alfieri
NKISI – 7 DIRECTIONS (UIQ)
Album: 7 Directions
In Kongo tradition, Nkisis are spiritual entities that inhabit objects, infusing them with spiritual power. For her first album, released via Lee Gamble’s UIQ, Congolese born and Belgian raised Nkisi chooses to explicitly reference her homeland tradition. Already known for co-running the NON label, for challenging DJ sets and for her hard-edged, mutant dancefloor tracks, Nkisi reaches her artistic peak with 7 Directions, her most accomplished work to date.
Inspired by Congolese scholar Dr Kimbwandende Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau’s writings on Bantu-Kongo cosmology, this album is a thorough excursion in African polyrhythms imbued with a techno framework. If the backbone – and the most pronounced – element of the record is the hypnotic and relentless swirling and interplay of percussions, there is an undeniable techno vibe that sets 7 Directions apart from loads of harsh percussion-driven deconstructed club experiments; ominous (but at the same time ethereal) sci-fi pads surfacing at some points in every track, subtly yet constantly morphing, and the average length of the tracks themselves, make it an ideal bastard son of Detroit and UK techno conceived during a Kongo holy ritual.
The press release describes it as “hyper-focused hyper modern tracks”, and Nkisi explicitly stated she intended this record as an ode to the changing power of rhythm, “allowing the rhythmic to experiment with conditions of perception”. You won’t find any 4-to-the-floor beat here (except for a brief and unexpected gabber assault on “IV”), though; instead, broken rhythms and technoid tribal drumming create a flux that seems static on a macro level, but that’s continuously morphing on the micro.
What’s stunning is how Nkisi easily manages the apparent incongruousness between frantic rhythms and atmospheric, often melancholic synth pads. Perhaps, this is 7 Directions’ very strength: an unlikely, masterfully crafted study of rhythms and the hallucinatory states they can arouse. Its relentlessness doesn’t sound anxiety-inducing but rather trance-evoking, as if the album as a whole was infused with austere holiness, each track pulsing and bursting with energy like living organisms.
An ancient rite projected into the future, 7 Directions is a statement of contemporary mutations within established traditions, be them sonic or not.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Tavishi – মশ্তিষ্কের কণ্ঠশ্বর | Voices in my head
Album: মশ্তিষ্কের কণ্ঠশ্বর | Voices in my head
It’s not the first time we talk about Chinabot here on Soul Feeder. The label/collective, that features interesting artists of Asian origin, has gifted us with a new release at the beginning of the new year: “Voices In My Head” by Tavishi, real name Sarmistha Talukdar, a composer and artist from India, now based in the US where she works as a biologist.
Biology and Tavishi’s job are also present in “Voices In My Head”, her new album released on tape and digital platforms: “I Eat Myself Alive”, a 10-minutes long majestic and disturbing track obtained by transporting into sound the amount of research data she produced studying autophagy, the process in which cancer cells eat themselves in order to survive. It is a composition made of drones, infinite loops and interrupted melodies, which hide a reflection on the weak, marginalized rings of our society – “forced to cancel parts of themselves in order to survive”, she explains.
If this was not enough to convince the reader to give it a listen, we will add that this 9-track album made of ambient music, field recordings and traditional instruments has the merit of creating fluctuating and exciting soundscapes without giving up on crucial, contemporary topics: the extraneousness of the academic world to social reality, Tavishi’s status of immigrant in a society hostile to immigrants and her status as a woman in a patriarchal society, the rejection of rigid gender patterns imposed by society (“Sitting in a circle looking for corners”), the attention to marginalized people and their stories (“Satyameva Jayat”), and more. The artist’s experience is present, but each human being can find its own, personal experience inside this record: this is what we talk about when we refer to true art.
By Francesco Cellino
Trohi – ГОСТМИКС 022: trohi “Mamaliga Connect”
Album: ГОСТМИКС 022: trohi “Mamaliga Connect”
Label: Gost Zvuk Records
This half an hour long mixtape – ГОСТМИКС 022: trohi “Mamaliga Connect” – uploaded on Gost Zvuk Records’ Soundcloud caught our attention this month for a quite extended range of reasons. Also, the Balkan scene is always a point of interest for us (or me, at least) for what concerns the aesthetics of sound and the research in finding different transmission channels – into the music itself – of whatever message. The mix is work of Trohi, a Bulgarian duo based in Sofia formed by Yoana Robova and Peter Parmakov.
The sound narration of the mixtape is composed by a perpetual changing of something resonant (sometimes even echoing) metaphorically hearable in your imagination of humid desolated land – that’s what I’d hear in my mind if I had to picture and think about such a thing – and more metropolitan vibes. Sample and field recordings are here cleverly used: the sound of a traditional phone keypad played to produce a melody, horn honks and raindrops all contribute to building this second landscape. An interesting side of this listening regards discovery: I would never associate these places I’m figuring with Bulgaria if I didn’t know that most of the field recordings actually come from there. What’s bad is that I’ve never been there so mine’s just a very naïf analysis on feelings and maybe not even what really matters. Only at minute eleven and twenty-one are there are moments in which the whole thing gets rhythmic, for the rest of the mixtape the connections are bare and simple, but not boring at all. You still need a high dose of concentration to keep with the flow because changes are frequent and unexpected, but if you’re up to it, you won’t be disappointed.
By Margherita Rho
ULTRAMAX – LOVE – [ NRG ] ;Core [BFL-00]
Album: LOVE – [ NRG ] ;Core [BFL-00]
Label: Bio Future Laboratory & BRATKID
If you are a fan of deconstructed club music there is an high-chance that, in 2019, you’re not so impressed by it as you were a couple of years ago. But before you actually start hoping for club music to be put back together, you should definitely give a listen to LOVE – [ NRG ] ;Core [BFL-00] the debut album of young Russian producer known as ULTRAMAX (fka MAX 100PERCENT), as it brings the concept of deconstructed music on a whole new level.
What you hear while listening to LOVE – [ NRG ] ;Core is, in fact, the deconstruction (and the consequent glitchy rebuild) of an entire aesthetic, the Y2K aesthetic that is, sonically portrayed through a brilliant and broken sound design, made out of a peculiar selection of samples (including voices, fireworks, video games, camera clicks and even old-school phone vibrations), post-apocalyptic gabber beats, bubbly acid synths, glossy trance leads and calculated doses of unsettling noises and vibrations.
Though one might think that this quirky cornucopia of sounds would be quite hard to use to build a track that makes sense, ULTRAMAX is able to create brilliantly layered textures using his resources in unpredictable ways, as in “☆EXTRA”, where he turns bashing, hardcore drums as a background, ambient sound.
As if this wasn’t enough to make a good album,LOVE – [ NRG ] ;Core [BFL-00] is enriched by the collaboration of Belgian producer ssaliva and of Spanish artist Diego Navarro, who smoothly add their colours to the complex sound palette of the Russian musician.
Emotional and abrasive at the same time, ULTRAMAX’s debut is the proof that the deconstructed club music has still quite a bit to offer.
By Michele Sinatti