Monday, 31 January 2011

Date confirmed for new Fleet Foxes album

The whole world will probably know it by now, but the new Fleet Foxes album will be released in the UK on May 2 (and a day later in USA). Their second album is titled Helplessness Blues. You can hear the title track on Pitchfork here

Not sure if the song has left any impression on me so far, but I will keep listening. Had thought Fleet Foxes were some sort of saviours of popular music. But if the album is rubbish, I'll just go back to listening to isolationist electronica 24 hours a day and staring at the wall in the dark.
Please be a good album, Pecknold. Don't let me down.

Another new Jamie XX remix

This guy is red hot right now. He is firing off mix after mix in readiness for an album of remixes to be released on February 21. The big question is - does he ever sleep? But when you look at the guy, you think maybe not. Anyway, if he keeps up like this, he's going to do some huge things in 2011.
Hear the new track here

New Shackleton releases on the way

It appears a new Shackleton release is coming out soon. The record will feature Deadman, one of the tracks from the Fabric mix last year, alongside a "Death Dub" remix by King Midas Sound. The cover seemingly shows a sort of tree-like growth spreading across a street scene. Anyhow, according to Piccadilly Records, the release will be one of two to come out on February 14.
This is what they have to say about it on their site:

"Sam Shackleton stalks deeper into the sub-loaded unknown, with the first of two Valentine's Day releases for Honest Jon's.

Retrieved from his celebrated Fabric mix-CD, "Deadman" is signature Shackleton, turning paradox and paranoia into dancefloor fire. It comes straight at you: rolling, dread techno of breathtaking heat and humidity, spurred by hectoring congas and thick-set subs, amidst a teeming soundscape of drones, field recordings and oblique vocal textures, like missed messages and garbled warnings. Nimble yet drop-forge-heavy, sensuous yet punitive, wide-open yet occluded, on the move yet unnervingly rooted.

Kevin Martin adopts his King Midas Sound guise for an expansive remix which reveals his lineage in noise, industrial and isolationist ambient. He fillets and cools Shackleton's production, building a corona of crackle, with stirring strings. Hitomi's singing taps the melancholy latent in the mischief and menace of the original. A muffled bass and tripping syncopation nods to Rhythm & Sound - but "Death Dub" is its own beast, fully realized, daring and affecting."

You can pre-order a copy here , which, if you've any sense, is what you'll be doing right now.

John Barry

It was sad to hear of John Barry's death this morning. It's impossible to imagine the Bond films without his music in them. The score to You Only Live Twice always struck me as very decent film music - both the brilliant theme tune and the instrumentals throughout the film. One of my favourites is the slow, creeping orchestral piece in the scene at the start of You Only Live Twice, where a SPECTRE spaceship drifts towards an American craft, terrifying its occupants before ultimately swallowing it up. You can hear it here

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Gig of the year so far?

Just heard about a gig taking place in Bristol on April 7 at the Arnolfini and Start The Bus. It sounds like the organisers must have sat down, looked through my record collection and said: "Can we get all these guys in the same room at the same time?" Well, judging by the line-up, they have. Performances on the night from King Midas Sound, Oneohtrix Point Never and Games make this one unmissable - although, being in Bristol, I shall very probably miss it. Making up the setlist are Some Truths, who the press details say are "joining the psychedelic dots between John Carpenter soundtracks, Mika Vainio's pioneering early work and Sun Ra's moog space missions." Which makes them sound pretty comprehensive, if nothing else.
So, somebody, get down there and enjoy this night. Please.
Details are available here

Mark Pritchard finishes off a new album

The world has never been the same for me since Global Communication called it a day. I light a candle every day out of pure remorse. 76:14 is easily one of the best albums of the last 20 years, as is Pentamerous Metamorphosis. The band called it a day shortly after their Evolution Records label hit hard times and George Lucas and his legal team came down hard on them for using the Jedi Knights moniker. But since then, we have had the advantage of seeing Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton twice as much - because, as solo artists, the two have been working their guts out pretty much ever since.
And now, word emerges from Mr Pritchard himself that he has a new album on the way. His Twitter feed states: "8 tracks getting mastered at Loud mastering today for the Africa hitech album, the rest getting done on tues. So close now, can't believe it."

Africa HiTech is the latest Pritchard musical project, and it has seen him team up with Steve White from Spacek. Their debut EP, Hitecherous, came out last year, and it now seems like a follow up LP is not too far away.

Tom Middleton's top 10 of 2011

The year is new, and fresh like a flower by the sea.
Maybe, anyway.
But to honour this fresh newness, Tom Middleton - formerly of all-time wonder band Global Communication - has reeled off a top ten of his favourite tracks at the moment.
Below is the list, plucked from the renowned Resident Advisor site, plus a couple of the pieces from it. He's had an instinct for good deep house for many years, and it's clear he still knows what he's talking about.

1 Tom Middleton: Cicadas (Maya Jane Coles remix)
2 Roman IV: Lucy
3 Vincenzo: The Clearing
4 J.Phlip and Julio Bashmore: Midnight At The Aquarium
5 School Of Seven Bells: Half Asleep (Lusine remix)
6 Maceo Plex: Vibe Your Love
7 Robert Babicz: Chordy
8 John Berg: Stabs
9 Pezzner & Aki Bergen: Tarareando feat. Terry Grant (Vocal Mix)
10 Lone: Rissotowe_4

Like all deep house, you really have to let it run, let it seep in, before it completes its effect. See the full list here

Jamie XX tears another track to shreds

The Fresh on Campus website has flagged up the latest dancefloor wrecking ball from Jamie XX. It's a re-take of a track by Adele, who I think is some fairly unhip middle-brow singer who gets in T2 now and again. Anyway, the remix is another red-hot block of now, or something.

Listen here

Not talented? Then don't make music, says Twin Shadow

George Lewis Jr, the outrageously coiffured 80s revivalist, has conducted an interview with the website Crack in the Road. And, no, I've never heard of it either. It's only a short piece, part of which is taken up with the interviewer's grievance at not being able to get tickets to Coachella, but it features a frank slice of advice from the Twin Shadow man - electronica's answer to Morrissey - on what aspiring musicians should do if they are a little short of ability.

"CitR: Got any tips for up and coming artists?

Twin Shadow: If you don’t think you’re good at it, find something else to do. The world doesn’t need anymore musicians. So if you’re really good at it, then hang in. If you have the slightest thing going that you’re not, find something that you like to do. Don’t just do it because there’s nothing else to do."

Harsh words from the hairdo. Read the interview here

Fleet Foxes and the fight against the rats

According to the news team at Rolling Stone, Fleet Foxes had a little more trouble putting their new album together than we first thought. It appears recording has now finished. But when they were still at it, in a studio where Nirvana once recorded, they were battling an infestation of rats.

Frontman Robin Pecknold told Rolling Stone magazine: "You have to keep the interior door closed, because of the wharf rats... You'll go into the bathroom and, like, the whole door will be chewed up. We actually can't eat food there."

Sneak peek of new Memory Tapes album

Memory Tapes laid down a slab of chillwave during 2009 that still occasionally gets a listen at electronixxx towers. According to the beach tapes website, the band has a new record on the new way - and they feature a track, This Is Our Life, that is said to feature on it.
Listen to it here

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A new Radiohead album? And Thom Yorke and FlyLo have a chat

Thom Yorke spoke to Gilles Peterson at an awards ceremony this week. Afterwards, Peterson came away with the news that a new Radiohead album was "just done, I believe." It's the sort of tantalising titbit that we hope is true. But we mustn't get our hopes up, or we'll end up all disappointed and cross.
Anyway, that conversation was not captured on camera. But another one was, and in it Yorke met up with Flying Lotus man Steven Ellison after handing him an album of the year award.
During the exchanges - in which Yorke does most of the interview with FlyLo - Yorke talks about the FlyLo album LA, and Ellison speaks of how he first got into Burial after coming to the UK.

Yorke: What amazes me about your record is that in LA your record to me makes total sense. It's like your head opening up. The fact that people get it so much in this country [the UK] I find fascinating, because it's so cold here and wet.

FlyLo: There's something about the cold here, man, that a lot of people back home don't get.

Yorke: You were talking about that and Burial. You didn't understand Burial until you got here.

FlyLo: No, not until I got here, man. I was like on a road trip like maybe the second time I came out to the UK. I heard the new album, the Untrue album, and it was just like, I don't know man. But then we started cruising and, like, raining and it's like seeing all the buildings-

Yorke: London and shit?

FlyLo: Yeah. And it was like, oh right, it makes so much sense you know, and I just fell in love with it after that. It just opened me up, that whole experience.

Yorke: Anyway, because it's like, all the textures, it's great that they translate. I think it's amazing...

Voice off camera: Gilles?

Peterson: Yeah? Am I on?

Yorke [waves to camera]: Gotta go.

You can see the full interview on the Consequences of Sound website here

Tim Hecker and the dropping of a piano

Thanks to California's exclaim website, I've discovered the meaning of the piano dropping image on the cover of Tim Hecker's new album, Ravedeath, 1972. The image shows a group of people pushing a piano towards the edge of the roof of a tall building. And I have now learnt that this has been a yearly tradition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1972, and takes place on the last day that students can give up classes. I've found grainy footage on youtube of the first such event at MIT, as well as recent piano-smashing ceremonies. It's the sort of event that seems to get up the noses of some people. One comment on youtube runs: "Each instrument has a soul. Even if it was a broken piano, this is not the right way to stop using it."
But I rather like the raw, destructive power of it all.
And we should cherish our traditions, shouldn't we?

Anyway, Hecker has talked a little about why he chose the image. Here is an extract from the interview with Pitchfork:

Pitchfork: Where did you find that picture?

Tim Hecker: I found on the Internet. When I finished this album and it was time to do the artwork, I became obsessed with digital garbage, like when the Kazakhstan government cracks down on piracy and there’s pictures of 10 million DVDs and CDRs being pushed by bulldozers. I kept thinking of these mountains of digital garbage.

So while searching for stuff like that on Google I came across pictures of destroyed pianos. I discovered that MIT students started this ritual in the 70s where they throw a piano off a building. The photo is of the first piano drop. I licensed it from the MIT museum, printed it out, threw it up on the wall in my studio, and took a few photos of it with a film camera. Then I went to the crappy pharmacy and got them developed.

Pitchfork: Are there a lot of photos of this piano drop ritual?

TH: Over the years it’s been documented but the photos are increasingly dull. The whole thing is probably more sanitized and sterilized and dignified now. Back then, it was probably a bunch of bros with some beers just going for it with one guy at the bottom pushing people away.

The exclaim website has used the grainy footage of the first piano drop as an accompaniment to the first track on the new album. It sounds fantastic. Listen

Boards of Canada get the samplers out

I'd never thought of Boards of Canada as the sampling types, but an interesting chart on the musicradar website shows me otherwise. The track Aquarius, from the album Music Has The Right To Children, contains a beat and funky bass-line that is ripped straight from the Aquarius song in the musical Hair. Should have worked that out really.

Anyway, where's this new album they've been promising?
Listen to the two records here

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Surfer Blood and Hector Zazou - separated at birth?

Noticed this many months ago, but it's possible that not everyone has picked up on the reference. Surfer Blood's bubbly but prickly Astro Coast got quite a lot of attention last year. What no-one seemed to spot at the time was the fairly extensive reference to obscure electronica pioneer Hector Zazou, whose track I Love You S is referenced at length on Surfer Blood song Harmonix.

Separated at birth, perhaps? Anyway, make sure to click the "watch it on youtube" link for the second clip.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Artist of the day - Big Blood

Big Blood crept up on me a couple of weeks ago with a sound that is little short of chilling. The track Coming Home Pt III, from last year's Dark Country Magic, is slow, sparse, morose folk that is more than just a touch unnerving. The unpretentious arrangement is deep, smouldering, intense, but it is the vocal of singer Colleen Kinsella that is most striking. Entering the piece after a gentle, brooding instrumental intro, her voice wails out in a way that somehow seems as piercing as it is plaintive.
The Big Blood duo of Kinsella and partner Caleb Mulkerin rose from the ashes of long-term Maine art rock project Cerberus Shoal. They have been releasing albums in profusion for some time now, many of them CD-Rs, and the description of their music by one critic as a mixture of The Residents and Amon Duul II is probably as good a definition as you will find.
Cover versions by the band reveal an interest in Can and stray oddities put out on the Sublime Frequencies label. In an interview with Foxy Digitalis about three years ago, the pair talked about their influences. Caleb's obscure, cerebral choices pointed to the likelihood that he is the brains of the operation. But Kinsella's choices - more mainstream, more obviously accessible, hint that she might be the heart, with that understanding of melody and of the hook that she has.
She said: "The music that fueled me growing up was Public Enemy’s “Nation of Millions”, Sinead O'Connor’s “Lion and the Cobra”, Pixies’ “Bossonova and Surferosa”, Jane’s Addiction’s “Nothing's Shocking”, all Early Cure records especially the B-sides of “Standing on the Beach”, Clash, Dead Milkmen’s “Big Lizard In My Backyard”, Prince’s “Purple Rain” and “1999”. Most of the music I listened to came from boyfriends/ friends who were skaters but in high school I got a job in a record store and my tastes exploded. Everyone who worked there influenced my tastes, from Ministry to Jimi Hendrix to Brand Nubian, Pink Floyd, Daniel Lanois to Cannibal Corpse. That's when I started to go to local hardcore and metal shows."
Dark Country Magic, which only came out about a month ago, has already gathered attention on the blogosphere. But their sound is so patently thrilling that it seems strange that there has not been more interest from the big-name critics. They tour this year in Europe, and will possibly release another effortless slew of new records - so perhaps this will be their year.
But in addition to their talent for songcraft, the duo also appear to be more than generous about letting people hear their material. To access it for free, click on their site HERE or on an authorised batch of their recordings HERE

On top of that, here are a couple of quite wonderful songs by the group.

Steven Seagal goes dubstep

This is just brilliant. I've played it on repeat for the last two days to the exclusion of almost everything else. Officials are probably preparing to hand out a Nobel Prize to Lukid as I write this, but, if not, he deserves to be showered with garlands like a Roman conqueror. Not sure who put this video together, but "theuglymugly", who holds an account on youtube, could perhaps be Joe Muggs, the music critic who recently bigged up Lukid in Wire. Either way, the marriage here of music and image is terrific. And the manner in which the beat kicks in as the clip slows down is just perfect. But then, what do I know? I've watched this so many times in the last two days that I can't remember my own name.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Is this decade more 80s than the 1980s?

Is this decade more 80s than the 1980s?

It's an undeveloped thought, but the notion just came to me as I took a look at the new Destroyer album, Kaputt. The LP is leaving the critics foaming at the mouth. Indeed, it sounds like a very decent album of its kind, but all the retro 80s music / video / imagery like it that has been swirling around in the last year or two is starting to seem a little like it's overpowering our culture.

Was the 80s like this? I was there, and I'm not sure it was. The decade seemed less obviously 80s. I don't recall this weird sense of revivalism being so obviously at play in so much popular music at the time. I'm not hailing that era as one that stands out in musical history. But it does strike me as strange that we are now mining it so savagely.

Three concepts - none of which I understand - seem to be behind this 1980s revivalism, or at least attempt to explain it. They will be familiar to anyone with an interest in the discourse of modern popular music criticism. Yawningly familiar.

1. Hypnagogic pop

This one comes from America, I think. Or most of the bands who bear its trademarks are from the US anyway. I think this is people like Toro y Moi, Pocahaunted, Ducktails - that kind of thing. Poppy, but nostalgic, with layers of fuzz / feedback / dreaminess. This one was cooked up by Wire critic David Keenan. On one level, it's a totally legitimate attempt to understand an important musical strand of the present day. On the other, it's a heap of blather-filled pseudo-profundity. I can't quite work out which. In his essay on the topic, which I didn't even notice in Wire when it came out a year or so ago, he talks of this then new musical sound seeming similar to - I'm paraphrasing - the phase between sleeping and waking that we all experience. It has something to do with Don Henley's Boys of Summer as well, I think I remember him saying. Anyway, irregardless of the clarity / credibility of Keenan's theories, it pointed to the fact that this 80s revivalism was live and among us.

2. Hauntology

I believe this was coined some time before Keenan's theory - back in about 2006, perhaps - by Simon Reynolds. I think this is supposed to be more British in sound, and includes bands like Broadcast and the Belbury Poly set. I don't think the principal difference is geographical, but it's the only one I can work out.

3. Chillwave

This is the vulgar younger brother of the other two, a sort of cheap, tabloid stain of a genre invented by those too thick to understand (1) and (2). As far as I can make out, it is a label that can be used with reference to people like Washed Out and Neon Indian, but not serious musicians like Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds or anyone like that. They're more hypnagogic - or H pop, as some people have taken to calling it now.

So those are the three strands of musical labelling used in discourse around the topic of 80s revivalism. What few seem to hint at is the possible sterility of this phase we are going through. I love it, and check out the new "H pop" bands hailed by Pitchfork every day. But it does worry me that all this revivalism hints at a larger cultural failure - the failure to conjure up anything new. I don't think it applies more broadly to other sounds - dubstep, for instance, is a fresh, vital force in modern electronic music - but the fetishism of this genre for the past is worrying.

Will it last, or are we in the middle of one of those phases like Brit pop that we all look back on and laugh about years later? I'm not sure. I like all this revivalism stuff. That's the problem. I just wonder what it says about where we are right now that the cultural world I live in is looking more like Miami Vice every day.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

James Blake's dad

Most people will have read by now the James Blake interview in yesterday's Guardian. In it we find out some interesting things. First off, Blake makes a veiled reference to his dad being in the music business. We read that his dad doesn't want to "get involved", but he does mention that he played one of his dad's records when he guested on Rob Da Bank's Radio 1 show a while back. Guardian scribbler Alex Needham suggests it might therefore be James Litherland, who played with people like Leo Sayer in the 70s.

If so, this would be him:

Later in the interview, Blake explains the need he feels to make clear he is "for real" in being a genuine part of the dubstep circuit - something that it had never occurred to me to wonder. He tells Needham: "I've got a lot of friends in the dubstep scene. I mean, I'm in it!" This appears to be a defence prompted by Needham's line of questioning - which seems to hint that as Blake is white and not on the breadline, it's possible he is just a middle-class university boy piggy-backing on someone else's music. The Eminem of dubstep, maybe. I don't see that - indeed, I'm sure it's merely a conceit on Needham's part. When Blake emerged last year, his low key, moody, wordless tunes scarcely hinted at populism. It was only the Feist cover that could possibly have led to the suspicion that he was after the Radio 1 crowd, as Needham, playing devil's advocate, suggests.
But if I'm right about the potential of this chap Blake, he will be a big, big name once his album comes out. As Alex Petridis suggests, his sound is not mainstream, and the Radio 1 popheads will not necessarily "get it". But - stating the obvious - lots of other people buy music - and I sense that the indie crowd will love it, as well as those with an interest in the underground.

Blake also appears to have been pretty late in catching on to dubstep, or electronic music generally. It was only at 19 - he's 23 now, I think - that he first came to appreciate it's power. He says:

"The DJ played a Coki track called Haunted, and it took me so far into my own head that I couldn't work out how it was happening," he says fervently. Before then, Blake hadn't even considered electronic music as a serious art form. "When I thought of dance music I thought of trance."

In the interview, he also name-checks Mala, but hints at his broad sensibilities by talking of his love of Bonnie Prince Billy and Arthur Russell.

And as for the sandwich at the top, Needham tells us that Blake spends much of the interview eyeing his sarnie enviously as he tackles the hack's questions.

That's what you get when your news ed asks for colour.

Read the interview here

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Track of the day

Heard about this in a review of the new Punch Drunk compilation, Worth the Weight: Bristol Dubstep Classics. Forsaken has put out records before with Peverelist and Joker, and this piece is worthy of them at their best. Light, sharp beats ride over languid, murmured samples, creating immaculate music for late night driving. Special.

Is this the scariest Michael Jackson cover version ever?

Vindicatrix has decided to release his own version of one of Michael Jackson's best tracks - Human Nature. But when you hear it, you'd be forgiven for not noticing this was a cover version of anything at all. It sounds like Scott Walker remixed by Oval, wherein the light, blissful original is turned into a dark, chilling lament. Creepy. Vindicatrix, part of the Mordant Music roster, has released one album, but I don't remember his material sounding as alienating as this before. 2009's Die Alten Bösen Lieder - apparently a Schumann reference that hinted at depths of intelligence - was described in Wire magazine last January as an "oustanding" work of "preposterous, overblown ambition". Which sounds about right. Check the cover version out below.

What's Thom Yorke listening to these days?

Didn't notice this at first, but the boys at Radiohead HQ have posted a new chart on the excellent (although rarely updated) Dead Air Space website. The list features dubsteppers such as Burial, Apparat and Actress, some footwork, long-term Thom favourite Nathan Fake - as well as some hip-hop, jazz-funk and classical stuff. The usual, then.

This is their new office chart:

1.King Of Clubs - Apparat
2.Senorita - Actress
3.South London Boroughs- Burial
4.Organ Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593 after Vivaldi's Concerto Op. 3, Number 8 - Wolfgang Rübsam
5.Whole World - Aloe Blacc
6.Mosh Pit - DJ Trouble
7.The Curlew - Nathan Fake
8.The Turtle - Nathan Fake
9.A Jackson In Your House - The Art Ensemble of Chicago
10. Kill A Man With A Joystick In Your Hand - D'eon
11. Supreme Cunnilingus - Actress

New Fleet Foxes album is finished

News out this morning reveals that the wonderful Fleet Foxes have finished their new album. Frontman Robin Pecknold has put a statement out on the band's facebook page in which he says that announcements are on their way about the new record. After the joyous debut LP from a couple of years ago, this is something to be very excited about indeed.
In the statement, Mr Pecknold says: "Announcements coming SOON, thank you for waiting and caring. The record is totally done and mastered and has been for a bit. XO Robin"
Paste magazine have also reported on the completion of the record. They think the new album should be out this year.
Read what they say HERE

But we should perhaps not get too carried away with ourselves. In an interview reported in the NME in 2009 - which you can see HERE - he said the album would "definitely" be out in 2010.
"Definitely 2010. There's no way it wouldn't be next year. But probably the early second half, or mid-second half, stocking-stuffer style."
So let's keep our fingers crossed for now.

Friday, 21 January 2011


These guys have just released a new album. Still making my way through it, but what I've heard has been grand indeed. They definitely have a bit of the Animal Collective about them, but the sound is more dreamy - and less Beach Boys. Haven't stopped listening to this piece all week:

Thursday, 20 January 2011

David Bowie and David Lynch's Lost Highway

Lost Highway is one of the most consciously difficult films I've ever seen. It perverts narrative to the point where characters are almost meaningless, and time an endless loop. The movie tells the story of a man convicted of killing his wife. In jail, he mysteriously swaps places with someone else, and the authorities are forced to release the unknown individual who appears in his place. So far, so strange. But from there, the story folds in on itself again and again. By the end, we are not sure who is who, what is what or when is when. On some level, as argued by Alanna Thain - a disciple of Deleuze - the film explores the notion of communicative failure. But overall, despite thrilling the viewer at times, the impression left is of something that doesn't really add up - and doesn't really want to. The same narrative disruptions would be explored more artfully and more successfully in Mulholland Drive. But the film did bring to my attention one good thing - I'm Deranged, a track from a mid-90s David Bowie album I'd never heard before. Bowie was never at his best in the 90s. (Remember Hello Spaceboy?) In fact, I'm not sure he's released a really good record since Scary Monsters. But the piece of his used in Lost Highway really works - and really fits in with the mood of uncertainty the film conveys.

See it by clicking on the screen below when it says: "Watch on youtube".

Tim Hecker produces the record of the year - already?

Tim Hecker might never top the bill at Glastonbury, but in the niche world of drone, this guy is king. His eagerly awaited new album, Ravedeath, 1972, is already creating a buzz on the blogosphere. We're always told never to believe the hype. But, according to the website The Liminal, the Canadian may have already produced the album of the year. We'll have to wait to see if that's the case, but here is the site's review of the new LP: HERE

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

What's on the stereo at electronixxx

It's been a good start to the year, all things considered. I can already think of three or four albums that have caught my attention. But as it's been fairly quiet, I've had time to listen to old records and some of my Christmas presents as well. This is all on heavy rotation at the moment at electronixxx towers.

1. various things by Lichens
2. Lone: Emerald Fantasy Tracks LP
3. DJ Sprinkles: Midtown 120 Blues LP
4. Beach House: Devotion LP
5. Zomby: Where Were U in 92? LP
6. Gold Panda: Same Dream China
7. various things by Big Blood
8. Kona Triangle: Sing A New Sapling Into Existence LP
9. Actress: Splazsh LP
10. Stars of the Lid: And Their Refinement of the Decline LP
11. Hype Williams: Chatline
12. Neu! : Elanoizan
13. Fat Roland's new year mix
14. Roska: I Need Love
15. Messiaen: 20 regards sur l'enfant Jesus: XI

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Rephlex boss reflects on the label's 20th anniversary

The Spannered website has just put up an interview with Rephlex boss Grant Wilson-Claridge, in which he talks about new formats, moving back to Cornwall and the label's 20th anniversary.
But the big man also reflects on the coming months at Rephlex towers - and what the label will be releasing. He names Dave Monolith - unknown to me - and Wisp as two to watch out for this year. He also mentions D'Arcangelo and Pierre Bastien, as well as some others.

Asked about 2011, he says:

"Really importantly and imminently, Dave Monolith debut album. Outstanding. And more Wisp. Those two guys are hugely underrated or unknown by too many so do check 'em out and help us promote them, so the world becomes a better place. I have seen their music leave people crying, smiling, jumping every time everywhere. I also have the dopest album by Aleksi Perälä which is mental sub bass and pure harmonics like mother nature’s dub. A shedload of absolutely top quality lush dance tunes from Jodey Kendrick (keeping the hot core of acid house, Detroit techno and braindance burning), deep electronics from the D’Arcangelo brothers, the mysterious Steinvord and an audio-visual project from one of my favourite artists, Pierre Bastien. There are a couple of other new people in the schedule too but more info about them later…"

Click HERE for the full interview.

Stravinsky - an aside

I had the day off today. As I was eating lunch, I put on an old Decca CD of The Rite of Spring. The ballet score is full of cacophony and drama. But tucked away at the end of it, almost like an aside, is a piece I haven't listened to for at least a couple of years - the elegaic Symphonies of Wind Instruments.
The music was originally published in an embryonic form in a magazine, alongside short pieces from Ravel and others.
It's a much more simple affair, but for whatever reason it has always meant a lot more to me. I think at some deep level I dislike too many notes. Too many words, too. And the Symphonies piece has a very striking sense of economy about it, and a piercing, haunting quality about the way it leads inexorably towards its beautiful coda.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Hype Williams - one of our most mysterious bands - in Wire magazine

Hype Williams are up and coming. Ones to watch, perhaps - like a decent player you've seen put in a performance in a reserve match for your local team.
They have shrouded themselves in mystery - so that it's not clear who they are, how long they've been around or what they're all about. Elliptical interviews in the media so far have compounded this impression - as have a series of bizarre lo-fi videos on youtube and a couple of scrappy, tinny but nonetheless interesting albums.

So, given the enigma around them, it is good to see the mystery electronics duo in the Wire this month. They appear in the Invisible Jukebox section - often the best read in the whole magazine. It's still not clear who these people really are. According to the blurb at the start of the interview, "Hype Williams is the performing name of Inga Copeland and the pseudonymous Dean Blunt". The profile tells us the duo met and started working together about two years ago in London, where Blunt was born and raised. Copeland, we learn, is Russian.
Reporter Lisa Blanning then offers some typically Wire-esque thoughts on what we might describe as the meaning of Hype Williams - whose work, we are not surprised to read, "dovetails perfectly with the primarily American phenomenon of Hypnagogic pop." Like most of the stuff they review, you might say.
Hype Williams, we read, specialise in "musical inquisitiveness and tactile evocation". Can work out the first bit, but not sure if the second half of the phrase is supposed to make any sense or not.
I won't say much about the entertaining interview - but it is the most revealing piece on the band I have read so far. There's a funny bit when Blunt pokes fun at the journo's suggestion that they have links to Hypnagogic pop - saying he has only heard one James Ferraro song, and has never even been to LA.

Later in the magazine, their LP, Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Reel, is reviewed - as is 7" Do Roids and Kill E'rything.

Hype Williams still appear to be in their formative stages, but I sense, somewhere amid all the mystery surrounding them, something very interesting. I'm excited about where they go from here - and will find out a lot more with their third LP, One Nation, which is out in March.

In the meantime, here is the excellent Chatline - which features Copeland washing Blunt's hair in slow motion for about ten minutes.

According to Wire, there are some exclusive tracks from the band on the magazine's website. But when I had a quick look just now, I couldn't see any. Keep an eye out HERE anyway, if you're interested.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The longest album ever?

The world still awaits the release of the new, inordinately long album by Terre Thaemlitz. Thirty hours in duration, this is a record that could test to breaking point the Thaemlitz devotee's interest in his work. The theorist/electro musician approached the Guinness Book of World Records about having the new release - due out at an unspecified date in the near future - recognised, but the officials there were not interested.
As he said: "As of November 18, 2010, The Guinness Book of World Records officially declined the creation of the category "Longest music album (non-compilation, new release)," so we will not have their certification on this project. Their rejection was a standard form letter stating they favor categories with more active competition and of greater public interest. However, this does not alter the fact that Soulnessless will be, to the best of our research, the world's longest album!"

There certainly must have been some furrowed brows in the studio when the gender theorist started recording this monster. The extensive blurb for the album says (snappily): "Soulnessless is composed from an openly non-spiritual and anti-religious perspective that sees atheism not as a "solution" to religious organizing, but as an act of self-defense entwined with the hopelessnes of life amidst an unstoppable onslought of spiritual dogmas and superstitions."

Notwithstanding the apparent seriousness of intent behind the album, talk of trying to win recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records raises the thought that this is all a bit of a gimmick.

But Thaemlitz has made some very interesting music, so regardless of what eventually emerges, there should be quite a lot to get stuck into.

For more on this epic concept, visit his website HERE

Saturday, 15 January 2011

How close was Aphex Twin to Brit Award nomination?

Was Richard D James close to winning a Brit this year? Perhaps not, but the NME reports that a gremlin in the system meant Aphex Twin and a string of others not up for nomination were thrown into the mix in the online voting for the Brits. The website where votes were being cast,, suggested that a number of artists who were not up for awards had, in fact, been nominated -giving people the opportunity to nominate RDJ, even though he hasn't released a record in what feels like a million years. The hitch has since been corrected, meaning the mostly banal list of nominees was thankfully restored.
Of course, if the music industry's top brass could spare a brain cell between them, they might have given AFX a Brit Award years ago, instead of handing them to nobodies like Robbie Williams and Travis.

New Falty DL album out soon on Planet Mu

The amiable people at Planet Mu have revealed that a new Falty DL album is on its way. It is called You Stand Uncertain and follows 2009's Love Is A Liability. Featured somewhere on the record is a contribution from Anneka, whose breathless vocals lit up Blue Daisy's The Space Ex.

Planet Mu chiefs say the record is a major advance on the 2009 release. This is what they have to say about it:

"When Falty DL released his 2009 debut on Planet Mu, Love is a Liability, it was notionally tied to dubstep, despite not sounding much like the sound at the time. A combination of irregular but still funky drums, bass and light musical surfaces, it stood out and was recognised for it’s distinctiveness - this was a native New Yorker interpreting his love of British dance music from a unique angle.

After spending 2010 honing his craft and working on singles for a bunch of different labels and remixes for the likes of The XX, Mount Kimbie and Anthony Shakir, Falty DL, born Drew Lustman, pulls his skills and experience together for this new LP, "You Stand Uncertain".

Things have evolved a lot on "You Stand Uncertain". From the very beginning the listener is plunged into his new focus on layered dusty atmospheres. Opener "Gospel Of Opal (ft. Anneka)" is also his first work with a vocalist.
Although at times it’s anchored in the familiar basslines and rhythm science of uk dance, as heard in his previous material, on this album it’s clear that Drew has been soaking up some of his native city’s musical past such as disco, house and hip hop. With this in mind the album moves at different tempos, the ghosts of dance music past are evoked but never allowed to take over, giving the whole album a decayed, dreamy abstraction that allows for comparisons with the current crop of ‘chillwave’ producers, were it not for the tight drums and basslines. Check the way "The Pacifist" moves between passages of melody and waves of synth over distorted breaks, or "Open Space’s" use of slowed down rave euphoria and double speed 808 drums.
The crisp 2-step of "Brazil", the first of two songs featuring UK-based singer Lily McKenzie sweetens the atmosphere, followed by "Eight Eighteen Ten" which builds watery melodies over chopped up breaks. The album gets slower still with the steamy, bittersweet melodies of "It’s All Good". The spaced out "You Stand Uncertain" marks a mid-point and a breathing space, before the album gears up with the ravey synths and jungle percussion of "Lucky Luciano", the slow burning stripped down house of "Voyager" into the duo of abstract 2-step tracks "Tell Them Stories" and "Play with my Heart" before the tempo drops for the ultimate track "Waited Patiently (ft. Lily McKenzie)" which combines her chopped vocals with jazzy piano keys and a punchy technoid melody.

And they have even provided clips of the tracks on the record. Click HERE to listen to them.

The album is released on March 14.

Flying Lotus offers free music to loyal fans

He's a decent bloke, this FlyLo chap. To all fans who bought Cosmogramma, he is offering up free new tracks and alternate takes from the album. It involves using some device called Trigger, and it looks like you need a web cam as well.

He said: "I’m really into old jazz traditions and I felt Cosmogramma was my jazz record in a sense. In that spirit, for anyone who’s bought the album, we’ve made something they can use to get new tracks and alternate takes from the original Cosmogramma sessions as a gift from us. We’re making a big fuss…"

Click HERE to find out more.

A night to remember

This one sounds amazing. Juan Atkins - Mr Model 500 himself - will be performing alongside Francois K in New York on Monday. The two maestros will be at the Cielo club.
Despite Atkins (and Kevorkian) having near deity status, entry price is just $14. But the flyer helpfully points out that admission is free before 11pm - with an open vodka bar.

Am I living in the wrong country?

Well, very possibly. Tom Middleton - one half of electronica greats Global Communication - will also be in the Big Apple on February 5. He will be in the Sullivan Room at Basic NYC. The press gumph says: "One of Basic NYC's favorite guests, Tom returns to New York for his 4th Sullivan Room appearance, with another extended set of unexpected musical surprises for all. Tom's vibe and energy is infectious - come experience him live and direct in the intimate setting of Sully. Arrive early for opening sets from our pals Holosound and Tristan Dominguez, who are both celebrating their B-Days on the night."

Anyone got a free plane ticket lying around?

"This is an untimely tragic loss" - Warp on Trish Keenan's death

From Warp:

"It is with great sadness we announce that Trish Keenan from Broadcast passed away at 9am this morning in hospital. She died from complications with pneumonia after battling the illness for two weeks in intensive care.

Our thoughts go out to James, Martin, her friends and her family and we request that the public respect their wishes for privacy at this time.

This is an untimely tragic loss and we will miss Trish dearly - a unique voice, an extraordinary talent and a beautiful human being. Rest in Peace."

Broadcast singer Trish Keenan dies at 42

Trish Keenan, singer in Broadcast, has died.

Maybe it's a daft thing to say, but you don't expect people to die of pneumonia. And you don't expect people to die at 42.

Read more for tributes HERE

Friday, 14 January 2011

Jamie XX takes apart Gil Scott Heron

Bit slow on the uptake with this one, Jamie XX's reworking of Gil Scott Heron's NY Is Killing Me. But everyone likes Gil and I think everyone likes XX, so what's the problem - right? I don't know the original from Gil's last album, but the remix is, well, fat - or, to stretch the metaphor, seriously obese. Judging from the cool, detached but rather gloomy XX debut album, Jamie must be supressing something, as it wasn't at all clear that they had a beats head on their books. Now the Juno Plus website is predicting him to be one of the stars of 2011. CLICK
If by stars we mean someone who can rip up the dancefloor, they could well be right.
Here's the stonking Gil Scott Heron remix:

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Secret Flying Lotus track

Wow - where has this been hiding? Flying Lotus helped produce Jose James' Blackmagic album last year, although no-one at electronixxx knew about it.

Who IS Jose James, anyway?

Well, a Minneapolis-born jazz singer who grew up on De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

That was before discovering Ellington and Coltrane and enrolling on New York’s New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music Vocal Program.
FlyLo produced one of the tracks on Blackmagic.
Now something from the cutting room floor has emerged - and boy is it a good un. Must have been left off the album - although how I don't know.
The clever clogs people at Prefix website have flagged it up. Listen HERE
To hear the track that made it onto Blackmagic, visit HERE to dig it out of the Potholes in my Blog site.

New Bibio album out soon

News has emerged that Warp Records bleepster Bibio has a new album out later this year. Mind Bokeh - the oddly titled new record - will be out on April 4 in the UK, and a week or so earlier in the US.

It follows the very well-received Ambivalence Avenue. Warp have even given us a free titbit from the last LP on their website.

Click HERE to have a listen to it.

Warp bosses say they are very excited about the album, the 6th by English electronics maestro Stephen Wilkinson. Exclaim, a California-based site, is also getting hot under the collar.

They said: "A sampler of Wilkinson's fourth full-length proves to be a woozy, late-night excursion of wobbly beats, distorted '70s soul samples and even a few moments of four-on-the-floor dance rock. It's a heady brew, to say the least."

They have obtained a sampler of the latest album, which can be heard by visiting their site HERE

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

James Bond's Thunderball gets a peculiar remix

This is an old one from the John Peel days. Not sure who the H Foundation are, or what else they did, but this is sampled from the music used during the underwater battle sequence at the end of Thunderball. Ripping good stuff.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Gatekeeper - the forgotten soundtrack to Streets of Rage

I know - it's a creepy cover. Skull plus alien computerised landscape. But it works.

This is a new EP out right now, and probably the best record of the year so far to feature a skull on its cover. Gatekeeper's Giza EP is the sort of cross over between Derrick May and the Streets of Rage soundtrack that the world has been crying out for. And we here at electronixxx like that kind of thing. It carries on where the 16 bit movement left off - recreating those teenage experiences from the 80s and 90s, when it was just you and your console, destroying universes before dinner. Pitchfork pick up on the retro vibe, saying in their review:

"The vibe of Giza is pure suburban hoodrat thrills, over-amped electronic music made for teenage metalheads playing coin-op games in grotty strip mall arcades."

They report that the band are also releasing an accompanying VHS to go along with this EP, which sort of tells you where Gatekeeper are coming from.

The release comes out on the Marek label, which has put out music in the last year or two from big names such as Salem, Crystal Castles and Titus Andronicus - as well as the marvellous Active Child.

All in all, Giza is an intriguing listen. As one post on youtube describes things, this is Super Mario gone wrong.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Electronixxx round-up - Coldplay, Brian Eno and beer

Today in the electronixxx round-up, we look at an American paper's attempt to review new beers while listening to Stars of the Lid. We discuss the possibility of Brian Eno again collaborating with Coldplay. We pick up on more of the buzz about Tim Hecker's new album, Ravedeath, 1972, and we gauge some more reaction from the world of music to UK electronica prodigy James Blake - whose album had better be as good as people are saying, or I will be ever so slightly upset.

First up, electronics master Brian Eno might not have the world in the palm of his hands any more. Hasn't done for about 20 years, come to think of it. But he still gets about. Word is emerging that he is working again with love em/hate em twee stadium rockers Coldplay. Wonder if they'll bash out an update of Before and After Science, or just press the repeat button on the bland machine. Click HERE for more on how the English sincerity merchants are planning a concept album. A la Yes, perhaps?

From America, we learn of a brilliant review of two of our favourite things here at electronixxx - beer and Stars of the Lid. Sounds like the perfect night in, right? Well, so thought a blogger for the Seattle Post Intelligencer. In a move that the rest of the world will surely soon make en masse, their blogger chose a selection of choice beers to review and then picked up some electronica to digest as he supped.

The piece begins thus:

"It's become tradition for the beers of Liquid Excursion to be paired with music. Any good excursion has a soundtrack right?"

And then goes on to pick out a musical choice for the drinking to come:

"Tonight, the vinyl disc that spins beneath the needle is imprinted with And Their Refinement Of The Decline by Stars Of The Lid. Stars Of The Lid are without a doubt a powerhouse in the world or drone, ambient and neoclassical. The music of And Their Refinement Of The Decline can often feel austere or placid. To allow it's sound waves to pass over and through you is akin to floating adrift a "dopamine cloud". Here, when acting as the setting to a tale with such an outlandish protagonist of a beverage, it acts as counterpoint, and grounds me before the flavors have a chance to overwhelm my synapses. As any true soundtrack should, this album simply accentuates, but never urges my thoughts in any particular direction. That is, solely, a task for Grand Cru this night."

Read the rest of it HERE

Putting the alcohol aside, more can be heard about the new Tim Hecker album due out next month by clicking on the Pitchfork site. Those arch cardigan-wearing types might be a little bit too much in love with Vampire Weekend for their own good, but they save a little bit of time for the Tim Hecker - which is their saving grace. Their latest post even includes an MP3 of something from the album - the ominous sounding Hatred of Music. Click

Elsewhere, Ikonika's new release gets a slightly stern review on Resident Advisor. Click

Meanwhile, old boy rock magazine Rolling Stone has had a say on the James Blake hype, with a short rundown of what the electronic hipster has to offer - as well as a link to one of his tracks. "Imagine if Antony of the Johnsons recorded an R&B album with Aphex Twin, or a scratched CD of Arthur Russell and Marvin Gaye collaborating in the afterlife," they say. Ooh, clever, eh? CLICK

And on the Consequence of Sound, more love is given out for Emeralds man Mark McGuire's super dooper album from last year, Living With Yourself. Some of you will know this has already been given the electronixxx seal of approval, but for those still in the dark, imagine the last Emeralds LP played only with guitars in a quiet French cafe in the early spring. As The Consequence of Sound review gushingly puts it: "Living With Yourself, then, is the perfect title for this collection, a sequence of three words that says as much about our humanity as most lyricists could." Click

New Planet Mu compilation out this month

The bosses at Planet Mu have decided to get the new year off with a bang by rolling out a compilation of (partly) new material. The mix, austerely titled 14 tracks from Planet Mu, features releases from some of the more recent artists to light up the label's discography - including Oriol, Solar Bears and Falty DL. There is music from new boy Tropics, who is releasing his debut album on the label this year, a track from Boxcutter - who also has an album out this year - and something from Hyperdub's Ikonika.
Their press blurb states: "To mark the start of 2011, Planet Mu release a compilation showcasing their current crop of artists. Featuring 4 exclusives, 14 Tracks From Planet Mu reveals the depth and quality of their recent releases."
Which sort of makes it sound like they are talking in the third person.

The album is out on January 31, and a sneak preview can be heard on the label's website HERE

Sunday, 9 January 2011

My week in culture

A quick chance to have a look at what I've read / listened to or in some other way culturally digested this week.

- in books, I continued to plough through Ian Kershaw's lucid, revelatory Hitler, and read another 150 pages or so this week. The invasion of the Soviet Union is imminent. In the book. Also read numberless newspapers and blogs, and wasted far too much time on Twitter.

- in film, I watched The King's Speech in the cinema with the wife. A decent, sturdy English film aimed at ticking the usual boxes - royalty, clipped vowels, Colin Firth. I found the exchanges - in particular early on - between Firth and Geoffrey Rush charming and enjoyable. But the dark, complex political backdrop to the film was almost made to feel secondary to the King's hope of curing his stammer. And the film's trite final act rather let down the rest of the story, I thought. But Firth was very good, as usual.
Also watched the preposterous Pacino remake of Scarface and Rogue Trader, the enjoyable if rather chipper account of Nick Leeson's one-man destruction of Barings Bank.

- in TV, I finally picked up the Thick of It, after somehow never getting around to it before. By the end of the first episode, I realised my money was very, very well spent. Note to self: be more like Malcolm Tucker.
I also made a start on the now forgotten about 90s American drama Northern Exposure, which has been delightful at times.

- and in music, I listened to albums by The Doors (who I had not heard for a while), Actress, Kona Triangle, Big Troubles, a number of CDs bought / received over Christmas, some (but not enough) Mozart, and two new mixes, one from Fat Roland and another from Mig Dfoe.

New Steve Reich composition on World Trade Center and 9/11

Anticipation builds about the world premiere of Steve Reich's new composition, WTC 9/11, which is coming up in a couple of months. It will also be performed at the Barbican in May. Click here for information.
Blogger Ashil Mistry reports that the piece is rumoured to be a sample-based composition, possibly along similar lines to Different Trains. We wait to see if this is the case. Reich lived close to the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks, so it appears this piece has been long in the making.
It comes after he picked up a Pulitzer prize for Double Sextet in 2009.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

New Tim Hecker album out next month

News reaches us from the excellent Stereogum website that Tim Hecker has a new album out next month. The chillingly titled Ravedeath, 1972 was recorded in a church in Reykjavik, which should help bring out all those cavernous drone sounds. He worked on the album with fellow droner - and Iceland resident - Ben Frost. Meaning it should be pretty good.
The front cover is of some people pushing a piano off a building. Deep.
Hopefully the release will be an improvement on the rather listless output of late, such as the only fleetingly engaging An Imaginary Country and the Apondalifa single.
The album is released by Kranky on Febuary 14.

Click HERE for an excerpt from the album, as well as more information about it.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Superb new mix for the weekend

Rush straight to the A Strangely Isolated Place website immediately if you have any sense - there's a mix on there that will knock your socks off. The selection is by Mig Dfoe (or is it Defoe?), and features tracks from artists such as Burial, Oneohtrix Point Never, Flying Lotus, Autechre and Zola Jesus. And it is one sweet listen.

Go there now, quickly, before you do ANYTHING else: Click

Wagon Christ - new album

Ninja Tune have announced today that Wagon Christ has a new album coming out soon. The album is called Toomorrow - yep, that's right, Toomorrow - and it will be released in March. The PR man at Ninja Tune has already issued some words of wisdom about it: "Built around a dizzying array of vocal samples, the album spins out in a hundred and one directions whilst retaining that recognisably Wagon Christ sound."

Will it be as good as Weirs?
Will it be as good as Drum n Bass for Papa?
Does anyone buy albums any more?

The release date is March 14.

The new James Blake album

Today I've seen the first review of the new James Blake album. I can't remember there being this much of a fever surrounding a new LP from an electronic artist before. Presumably he is the one who got picked up by the indie journos in 2010 to be the token electronica artist they obsess about for the next 12 months. But, in fairness, the man makes good music. Tiny Mix Tapes reviewer Jakob Dorof says: "It’s a desperately lonely set of songs that will certainly take time to settle, but there could be no better time to start doing so than the dead of winter." Which is probably not wrong. The album is not actually due out until some time in February, which gives us all time to allow anticipation to do its worst upon us. But for those who cannot wait, or who love to swipe free music, the LP was leaked some time ago - hence the Tiny Mix Tapes review, which seems to set a new standard in what qualifies as privilege for writing a review. Not at all a desperate attempt to jump the gun, of course.

Here is the review, anyway: Click

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Artist of the day - Blue Daisy

Blue Daisy

We've all heard of Donnie Darko. Now meet Kwesi Darko - the man behind Blue Daisy. Like the music that he makes, the information about Darko is shadowy, insubstantial. In the last two years, he has put out two EPs and two joint EPs - hardly a prodigious turnover. Perhaps he has a day job, or perhaps Darko is just making sure he gets what he does put out right. Because, at their best, the releases have been little short of breathtaking. Some in the know compared debut Space Ex to the first release of LA beats scientist Flying Lotus, which gives you an idea of the regard in which Darko was held from the off. In fact, there was huge excitement when Space Ex came to public attention after his music was played by Mary Anne Hobbs. Marked out as the work of a highly experienced producer, even Pitchfork got in on the act about Darko's sound. At the time, Darko was merely a Camden youngster doing his law exams and sending out tracks to DJs and record labels on the side. It's not clear what has changed since then.
But in an interview with Juno Plus last year, Darko said he had not been interested in music until he was 15. Kanye West's College Dropout was the point when the switch flicked. He told the site INTERVIEW HERE that he was a hermit who wanted to make music people would still be listening to in 10 years. The impression is similar to that Burial gives in interviews - of an introverted, poetic musician with serious ideas about the music they are making. Darko said in that interview that he wasn't interested in dubstep - despite superficial similarities with that scene.
Last year's Strings Detached EP evoked Dilla, although the dubstep imprint he says does not interest him is noticeably there. The Raindrops EP - put together with singer Anneka - is more brooding and frankly more interesting - providing concrete evidence that Space Ex was no fluke.
Darko has taken to the festival circuit, and has revealed plans for an album - although he doesn't appear to be in any rush. He said: "I’ve got enough tracks but I’m a pretty fussy guy. The plan is to have 30 tracks and have a selection and pick the album from that. I want to make it a proper album, working with vocalists on most tracks, although there are a couple of instrumentals. When it’s ready, I’ll know. I’ve got the contract with Black Acre, and they don’t rush me at all. I’m totally free in that respect, within reason. They know that you can’t rush these things."
If the LP, when it comes, is anywhere near as good as the miraculous but largely unnoticed Space Ex, it could be very special indeed.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Ice cream and dubstep

Quick blast of one of last year's dubstep high points: Hyetal & Shortstuff's Ice Cream. Reminds me somehow of the soundtrack to Golden Axe.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

LFO - the Stone Roses of electronic music

LFO were the Stone Roses of electronic music in the 90s.
Frequencies, their debut, was a phenomenal crossover success compared to other efforts in the genre. Then duo Mark Bell and Jez Varley did pretty much nothing for the next few years except soak up the adulation. And like the Stone Roses, it all ended with a bit of a whimper.
When they were at their most active, however, they spearheaded the whole bleep techno movement of the early 90s that led to the emergence of Warp Records as the pivotal label in electronic music, and created one of the greatest labels of modern British music.
They made Frequencies - one of AFX's favourite records, from what I've read - and upset Steve Wright so much with top 10 track LFO that he stopped playing it mid-tune on Radio 1. In their own inimitable words on We Are Back, they said: "There are many imitators, but we are the true creators" - which was bombastic but also had a grain of truth for a while. Frequencies certainly was a major record in electronics at the time - in an era when dancefloor-oriented acts did not make LPs. It veered between acid-techno and slow, blissed out ambience in a way that was pretty daring and varied for its period. In retrospect, the album has probably lost a little bit of its magic - seeming very much of its time on certain tracks. It's not alone in this - Orbital's debut suffers even more in the same light - but given that this was LFO's centrepiece, their principal contribution to the scene, it has meant that they have rather tended to be forgotten about in look-backs that focus on the more developed, sophisticated mind-bending sonics of people like Aphex Twin.
They had the indignity of seeing a fleetingly active boy-band take on their name a few years later, but as far as I know they never challenged that through the courts. LFO are still going today, although with a productivity rate of three albums in 20 years, don't expect any new music any time soon.
The merits of the band came to mind as a I was listening to an old Warp Records remix compilation - released for their 100th release anniversary - while out running the other day. The track I came across was Labradford's remix of Freeze - and the post-rockers did a marvellous job of decontextualising the original, turning a fairly straight-forward, even cheesy track into something drawn-out, lethargic, chilling.
Surgeon's spaced-out drum 'n' bass remix of Nurture follows a similar pattern, and is well worth a listen - regardless of whether you have heard the original. Frankly, it's all I know of Surgeon's work - and my flagging up of this piece should prompt a search of his other material.

Monday, 3 January 2011

New year - new music

There's never much decent music to be found in the first days and weeks of the year. I remember as a teenager, the first NME single of the week of the new year always felt like it had been scraped from the bottom of the barrel. Nonetheless, I have been scouring around for new things, with some success. There are a couple of groups I aim to blog about in the next few days.
In the meantime, there is some arresting new material out there worth looking into.
The new Big Troubles record, Worry, has that now familiar mix of feedback-drenched pop and the generational necessity of a nod to late 80s/90s miserable types such as My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. Chillwavers Ducktails have something to do with these guys as well. The track Georgia has a hazy, delirious quality about it that I like, although you do wonder how much of this Cure-esque stuff the world really needs.

Away from the world of MBV hero worshipping, Hisato Higuchi's sombre new album, Henzai - recorded over just two days - is leaving a mark. Tiny Mix Tapes makes reference to its mix of blues notes, wordless vocals and moments of pure silence. The reviewer said one song even left him with a lump in his throat - so make of that what you will.
Their review helpfully includes one of the tracks from the record, the light, elusive Ashi No Nai Inu: Listen

Elsewhere, there are some highlights from the international DJ circuit that are worth checking out.
Firstly, veteran German electronics man Roman Flugel's How To Spread Lies, which mixes sparse, Susumu Yokota-esque piano with dancefloor beats. He used to be a part of Alter Ego, who were briefly amazing about 15 years ago before it all went a bit wrong for them. Listen here

The new 12" from French DJ Olivier Ducreux, otherwise known as Shonky, is another one for the dancefloor, but runs on a totally different groove. Where Flugel's track aims for detachment, Shonky's is all about warmth. Listen

Sunday, 2 January 2011

My cultural New Year's resolutions

2011 is here, lying before us like a great unopened book. And here are the resolutions I hope will see me through it.

1. Listen to "classic" LPs I have so far ignored in my lifetime. While no-one could claim to know everything, my perverse, wilful obsession with electronica over the years has meant I've spent most of my days ignoring established mainstream records that are cornerstones of the canon. I'm no ignoramus, but to take two stark examples, I don't own The White Album or Are You Experienced? *makes embarrassed face*

2. At the same time, I must dig deeper into the realms of the obscure. Websites like A Strangely Isolated Place or Killed in Cars make me realise I have only scratched the surface in my appreciation of the modern undeground. When Michael Pisaro / Taku Sugimoto's 2 seconds LP is riding high on many people's end-of-year lists, it tells me I am not looking hard enough.

3. Listen to more classical music. With Radio 3's Mozart marathon this month comes the thought that I've largely ignored classical music in recent years. I'm sure I'm not alone, but when I make the effort, it brings great pleasure. Effort - that's the problem here. But for a start I could give Boulez' Piano Sonatas 1-3 a listen, after pretty much letting them rot in my room for about six years. On a less severe scale, I could give Don Giovanni a proper listen, seeing as I've had it for about 15 years now. Also should tackle the early Beethoven symphonies, my double CD of Ligeti, Adam's Nixon In China, and those Schoenberg CDs I have casually listened to now and again without ever really plugging away at them.

4. Avoid everything about Mad Men until the 4th series box set comes out in March. Having finally finished series 3, I have had a couple of narrow escapes when flicking through the TV reviews. Does he die? Does he marry someone else? Does he get capped? It's the best thing on TV since the Sopranos, anyway, so I don't want to ruin it for myself and the missus.

5. Read more. 2010 was a pretty good year for books for me. Among the highlights, I managed to get through Peter Ackroyd's enormous London: The Biography, read Simon Schama's beautiful epic on the French Revolution, Citizens, and Franzen's intermittently brilliant The Corrections. Best of the lot had to be the utterly gripping All The President's Men, which I picked up after a seminar on investigative journalism with David Banks. It really is a parable of the journalistic quest in its purest form - like The Old Man and The Sea with notepads. For 200 pages, I could barely put it down. The journalist's equivalent of the Bible, really, and compulsory reading for anyone thinking of leaving the industry. Still hard to believe I'd ignored it for so many years.

6. Finish all those box sets. I was given a John Cassavetes box set for Christmas in 2009, and have watched just one film from it so far. I still have a string of Ealing comedies to watch from a box set I got about five years ago. I have a box set of Claude Chabrol films I have not even OPENED yet. The same applies to the Northern Exposure and Brideshead Revisited DVD collections. Maybe a month off work would help.

7. Finish The Wire. This resolution is like number 6, but I HAVE actually started The Wire, and really liked it. Problem here is that the wife is not a fan, so it's hard to free-up TV time to watch it. Have been stuck on episode 2 of season 4 for about six months. God only knows what Stringer Bell would do to me, if he wasn't already dead.

8. Go through the back catalogues of my favourite Krautrock bands. Tangerine Dream, a band I first came across at 16, are case in point. I have some of their records, but nothing from their great late 60s/early 70s period, apart from bits on compilations. Must also do the same with Can, Neu, Faust, Popol Vuh. Especially Popol Vuh.

9. Expand my horizons. Awesome Tapes from Africa and Woebot's peerless (now defunct) blog are two ways of showing myself I know nothing about 90 per cent of the world's music. Which must change.

10. Finally, discover the funk classics from the seventies - whose merits I have only recently begun to understand. From Funkadelic's Maggot Brain to the neglected mid-career albums of James Brown, there is so much good stuff out there that I need to get my teeth into. Sly and the Family Stone too, and - not sure if it counts as funk - but the dozens of records released by the remarkable Stevie Wonder. Have been listening to Innervisions quite a bit recently, but had spent years seeing Wonder as a bit of a novelty. Could not have been more wrong.