SOUL FEEDING: a list-with-review of the best releases of the month, selected by our editors.
Christoph De Babalon – Hectic Shakes
Artist: Christoph De Babalon
Album: Hectic Shakes
The name of Christoph de Babalon has been spreading a lot lately, thanks to the release of Exquisite Angst and especially the reissue of If you’re into it, I’m out of it, a resurfaced lost monument from the ‘90s with its masterful blend of d’n’b, breakcore and dark ambient.
De Babalon ends 2018 releasing Hectic Shakes, an EP that revives and updates his penchant for breakbeat science and lonesome atmospheres. The four tracks on the release are all about this interplay of rhythms and soundscapes, at times leaning toward the former, sometimes privileging the eeriness instead. There is a clear thread detectable throughout the EP, but it doesn’t come as a sign of monotonous creative lack, rather as a coherent record exploring several shades of a sound that is shadowy itself.
Opener “Harakiri” sets the mood for the journey with its multilayered horn drones, before percussions come in to fill the empty spaces, and are sometimes left out of the mix again as if succumbing to the woeful horns. “Endless inside” starts with distant, echoed piano notes and background static; as soon as you start thinking it could be a Caretaker’s track, restless kicks and a deadly bassline punch you in the stomach; it is closer to the frenzy of footwork and the bass-heaviness of dubstep, and feels less aggressive than average d’n’b tracks, while being oversaturated with an utter sense of paranoia. The same goes for “Shivers and shakes”, whose rhythmic architecture is based around breaks played at a slower tempo, surrounded by Tim Hecker-esque high frequencies drones. Finally, on “Raw mind” we can taste a glimpse of melody, though a not-so-reassuring one. It’s the airiest track of the release and the only one where De Babalon lets some lights in.
But this is not music you listen to if you’re looking for something light. This is music you listen to when you want to get lost in the darkest and most paranoid recesses of your mind. Who knows, it may even help you feel better.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Croatian Amor – Isa
Artist: Croatian Amor
Label: Posh Isolation
Two years have passed since Finding People, the latest work the extremely prolific Copenhagen artist known as Loke Rahbek has released under the Croatian Amor moniker. Compared to the excellent, skeletal work that is Love Means Taking Action, released in 2016, Finding People, despite its shortness, had many moments in which the songwriting was more structured and conclusive (I think especially at “Sky Walkers”), which made it not just a simple supplement to a bigger release, but a proper hint to the direction the project’s sound could have taken in the future. And Isa, Loke’s latest fatigue, feels like a confirmation of this.
After the first track, “Towards Isa”, which, alongside “Siren Blue Accident”, is the closest to the essential, open sound delivered by Love Means Taking Action, the album immediately reveals an unprecedented layering of all of the songs’ elements, from the ambient pads to the noises, the crackling, the vocals, spoken and sung, and the drums, both playing a much important role than they did in past releases. Brilliantly combined with the dreamy, ambient-industrial sound palette of Croatian Amor, these two elements greatly contribute to give to Isa its avant-pop flavor, as it happens in “In Alarm Light”, which features highly-processed vocals from Rahbek’s longtime collaborator and bandmate Soho Rezanejad, glitching over emotional ambient pads, noisy hisses and a deconstructed beat.
Soho is just one of a long list of names who took part in the making of the album, such as Frederikke Hoffmeier aka Puce Mary and Yves Tumor (who has collaborated with Croatian Amor for his 2018’s debut on Warp Records), who respectively lend their voice for “Eden 1.1” and “Eden 1.2”, two highly cinematic ambient (although they sound more like audio performance) tracks that mesmerize the listener with a subtle alternation of delicacy and brutality, both musically and lyrically.
Thematically, the album seems to reflect on the arrival (or maybe the reach), in the present or in the past, of a messianic entity (Isa is, in fact, the Arabic translation of the name Jesus), rightfully leaving to the listener the possibility to wonder between a great variety images, some ethereal and gentle, other concrete and vicious, and to unravel their meaning (is reaching Eden a good thing? is it even real? or is it pure solipsism?). However, the album seems to end on a hopeful note, as one can deduce by “In A World Cell”’s lyrics: “ I believe that things still can be changed / You do not tend to escape into the little world of your own / Because you’re still reminded of the bad things that are going on.”
Incorporating all the experiences of the Posh Isolation co-founder, from his early noise solo releases to the works with Lust For Youth, Isa is probably the most accomplished and layered Croatian Amor album to date, a challenging work, able to bring into avant-garde the immediacy and accessibility of pop compositions and to bring into pop the subtlety and complexity which is typical of experimental music. Most importantly, is a wonderful, emotional listening experience, so fast and enigmatic that will inevitably bind you to a series of multiple “plays”.
By Michele Sinatti
Gossiwor – Domestic Saga
Album: Domestic Saga
Label: 5 GATE TEMPLE
Picture this: you’re going on a countryside holiday, to detach from the city chaos and bustle and enjoy vast landscapes of farmed fields, greenery, car rides in narrow roads passing through small, rural villages. It’s a bucolic idyll, at least until something starts going wrong. Not wrong, actually, but rather weirdly. Something mysterious, at once fascinating and unsettling. You feel it, you see it. It may be the creepy atmosphere of that village which seems to be haunted by some ancestral secrets buried deep; or the unexpected combination of light and shapes that projects shadows somehow menacing; it may be the calls and cries of unidentified animals in the woods, perhaps the bark of some monster; it’s also the road along which you’re driving that suddenly ends in a swampy dirt, which in turns brings you to a remote ghost town where ancient ruins have been reclaimed by nature; it may be the sun setting hours earlier than expected and not rising for the next two days; a farm where animals drink whiskey and play card games; a lush vegetation except that the trees, the shrubs and the grass get covered by mold and worms as long as you get closer to them; it’s when you hear children singing lullabies all around you, but actually you’re the only person within tons of kilometers; perhaps it’s when you come back to visit the country house you used to spend your childhood holidays in, and it feels both familiar and unknown.
This is what this record sounds like, or at least these are some of the images that are coming to my mind as I’m repeatedly listening and trying to find a way to convey what I’m feeling. With only three suite-like tracks on it, Domestic saga finds Gossiwor (the collaborative project of and John T.Gast & MC Boli) giving form to an alternate, parallel world in which everything shimmers in a weird light. Don’t waste time asking yourself if it’s folk, ambient, experimental, or whatever. Just listen to it and be ready to feel beautifully uncomfortable.
By Lorenzo Montefinese
Mang – Ritual
Label: Genome 6.66 Mbp
Okay, I’ll be honest, when I played Dante’s Inferno on my PS3 I didn’t like it that much. Maybe it’s because I’m an Italian jerk who was forced to study the Comedia for more than I’d like to admit, but the idea of using the Sommo Poeta, armed with the Grim f*cking Reaper’s scythe, to slay my way through Hell and kill Lucifer to save Beatrice never worked for me (but I loved the gruesome level design). But now that I’ve listened to Ritual, the latest, Dante’s Inferno-inspired fatigue by the UK based producer known as Mang, I have the urge to plug-in my PS3 and play the game again.
Featuring audio samples from the game’s most important cutscenes, this four-track EP travels through the purification ritual Dante goes through during is journey in Hell, in a raving and claustrophobic crescendo that finds a little peace only with “Love’s Promise”, the slow trance, closing track and the only luminous moment of this work. However, Mang’s cutting-edge production and brilliant use of samples (it reaches the Burial-tier more than a few times), might easily make you wish to stay in Hell.
“Wrathful” and “Never Enough”, the central and darkest pieces of the album, respectively a savage neo-gabber track and a vicious UK bass jam, are in fact so good, that when you get to the end of the EP, you will manically start it back from the beginning just to enjoy more of the brutal energy that pervades these two excellent bangers.
Never in my life I’ve loved to be sinful than when I’m listening to Ritual, a work that is as fast as it is good, with a strong internal narrative, supported by excellent smooth transitions between tempos and atmospheres, track after track.
I need a Mang full-length in my life right now.
By Michel Sinatti
Jay Mitta – Tatizo Pesa
Artist: Jay Mitta
Album: Tatizo Pesa
Label: Nyege Nyege Tapes
Singeli is a frenetic club music genre that has taken Tanzania by storm during the last 15 years, characterized by insanely high BPMs and, often, frantic MCing. The staple of Sisso Studios, one of the main electronic music collective in Dar Es Salaam, Jay Mitta has developed his own personal take on Singeli.
In Tatizo Pesa, the Tanzanian producer takes the main features of the genre to their extremes. The pounding beat and groovy percussions are the leitmotiv of the whole album, while the synths (drawing on various genres, from trance to electro) create infectious melodies and soundscapes.
The album’s compositions are almost all just instrumental, except for the title track, which features vocals by Dogo Janja, a young (14 years old) rising star in the Tanzanian MCing scene that ignites Jay Mitta’s mental production with his hypnotizing flow and a piercing vocal timbre.
Jay Mitta’s album is the soundtrack of an African metropolis crawling with life, where dark times leave space to lighter ones in the time of a track. With the Singeli scene reaching mainstream popularity in Africa, expect to hear more and more from Jay Mitta and his peers in the club scene of tomorrow.
by Carlo Casentini
M I R A – Torque
Artist: M I R A
Label: Amen Records
French-born producer Raphael Leray has lived in Tokyo since 2008. His artistic career is split between his solo works and the collaborative project with dancer and choreographer Honami Higuchi: together they form M I R A. Torque, their latest release, comes along this last thread.
It all started with a live performance which took place last year at TPAM Fringe festival in Yokohama. Just after that, a twenty minutes-long movie of the performance was released, and it added new audiovisual contents to the live shooting. The main focus of the project revolves around the idea of catharsis, a way to process personal trauma such as sexual abuse. It is a touching theme that recalls Higuchi’s personal experience. The soundtrack is noteworthy: the music actually seems to wrap bodies and carry them into internal landscapes, in a whirlwind of intensity. You can see firsthand by listening to the digital version of Torque’s original soundtrack, released by the Austrian label Amen Records.
Divided into three movements, this album guides the listener along a path that touches different moods, recalling the undercurrent scrip of the performance: the dark and disturbing “Torque I” is made of elusive and irregular electronic sounds, permeated by a sense of oppression. The subsequent track instead projects you into a suspended limbo where the echo of gloomy, long, crunchy notes leaves no peace, but the process finally finds a resolution in the ethereal final of “Torque III”. It’s a particularly expressive record with a careful production, rich in sound material but avoiding unnecessary frills. Ambient lovers will surely enjoy what they are listening.
By Francesco Cellino
Mira Calix – Utopia
Artist: Mira Calix
Label: Warp Records
Last December the English network Channel 4 broadcasted “Utopia”, a short film directed by the novelist Adam Thirlwell about a girl trying to create a commune in her apartment. Watching the movie, you feel a sense of dualism between what things actually are and what they should – or maybe could – be: an empty fridge that should be filled, immobile people at a party that should be dancing, a cigarette in reverse that should be turned.
The score very much suggests this sense of annoyance and clumsy imperfection. However, it is absolutely chilling music which makes you sway pleasantly and proceeds straight even though it leads to dissonant bass and a myriad of unexpected background noises.
Try to Shazam it: you’ll find out you are listening to “rightclick” by Mira Calix.
The track was originally composed for the short film but, good news for the fans, a few days ago Calix published utopia EP, which also features three brand new tracks that weren’t featured in the movie, but were always inspired by its feeling and sounds. Slow electronic drums with syncopated rhythms, broken vocal samples and many sounds from a definitely rich personal library are pasted together in a playful collage that at the same time aspires to and mocks the idea of perfection.
It is a double comeback for the London based artist. Most evidently, a comeback to Warp Records, the cult label where she used to work as a publicist in the ’90s and that published most of her discography until 2008’s The Elephant In The Room: 3 Commissions. Secondly, a return to music “for music itself”, since in the past few years she mainly focused on music production for installation and other forms of art. However you look at it, it’s definitely a must listen between this month’s releases.
By Francesco Cellino
whiterose – Hostility of Nonsense
Album: Hostility of Nonsense
To start off, it is quite difficult to hurriedly catalogue Hostility of Nonsense by whiterose. It surely is a violent debut ep, sometimes primeval, sometimes futuristic, short and soaked in a dark and evocative atmosphere. As a matter of fact, sinister synths and horror soundtracks are cornerstones of this album.
In particular, it is really the sound itself that fascinates the most in this new debut chapter for the French producer. Beats are peculiarly calculated, influenced by other genres such as extreme metal. This feature, giving an unusual vibe to the album, makes it very recognizable and unique. The solemn hi-hats of “Stable In The Field Of Love” resemble a lot the ones of a freezing cold extreme Norwegian record from the ’90s, but with electronic palpitations on obscure digital seabeds.
Lyrics are often screamed out in reverb, remotely à la Xasthur, even if well downsized and re-adapted. However, this is not a guitar-driven album at all, it is a proper electronic piece of work which moves along other lines, between glitch and deep basses, and exciting patterns that maintain the listener attention. With references to noise and deconstructed club; rigid, obscure but still melodic, it is a brief inexorable urge which resolves itself in 15 effective minutes. It does go further than expected and eventually leaves you wishing for more.
By Andrea Alfieri
Artwork by Francesco Battaglia