Four Tet.

Beautiful Rewind.
Text Records.

Reviewer – John Gillett.

In typically unflashy fashion, the announcement of Kieran Hebden’s latest album on his Text label was done via a simple blog post on his website. The only information on offer was format and timescale – “no pre-order, no YouTube trailers, no iTunes stream, no Spotify, no Amazon deal, no charts, no bit coin deal, no last minute rick rubin.” Despite the lack of a high budget marketing campaign, the album organically acquired a buzz.

The 11-track Beautiful Rewind is for the most part heavy and industrial, teeming with nods to the UK pirate radio scene, with one track named after the 90s jungle station ‘Kool FM’. Expect raw and gritty samples taped from old recordings, MC shouts and radio static weaved with amen breaks and synthy basslines.

Samples with purposefully mismatched fidelity create alluringly unsettling soundscapes on a number of tracks, from opener ‘Gong’ and ‘Our Navigation’ to the thuddy, techno oriented ‘Buchla’ and ‘Aerial’, which blend together nicely with their shared themes of acid and bleepy electro.

There is some respite from the grubby industrial vibe on ‘Parallel Jalebi’, much more gentle on the ears with its dreamy synths and garage style vocal samples. The beautifully complex analogue synth work and ambient electronica on tracks ‘Ba Teaches Yoga’ and ‘Unicorn’ balance the whole sound of the album out.

Beautiful Rewind is definitely not for everyone. It’s not what you’d call accessible, perhaps even a touch ‘art house’. It hasn’t got the hooks and melodies of his previous releases but it is an intricately crafted homage to UK dance music and deserves to be appreciated on high quality hardware, not in the background at your mate’s house party.

Making more music than ever at the moment, Four Tet has also produced the new album by Syrian artist Omar Souleyman. Fans should look out for Wenu Wenu, released on Ribbon Music this month.

Recondite.

Hinterland.
Ghostly International.

Reviewer – Ben Dorey.

Recondite is slowly coming to prominence as a bit of a producer’s producer, with his records receiving support from across the spectrum, from Ibiza’s terraces to the dark clubs of Germany. This is, more than anything, due to his versatility as a composer as well as producer, and his admirable desire to spread himself thin while so many are increasingly concentrating on carving out as deep a niche as possible. Equally adept in expressing the light and beautiful as he is at taking us through haunted landscapes, his music has an emotional breadth rarely encountered outside classical music, and yet, as with many of the great composers in that tradition, his ‘voice’ remains distinctive throughout.

Hinterland is his second full length, following on from 2012’s majestic On Acid, a candidate for the best record of the decade so far in my mind. While the latter’s unity was derived from the ubiquitous presence of the 303 bass synthesizer, the new album employs a greater variety of voices, yet maintains constancy through its relationship to the landscape that inspired the record – the Bavarian hinterland of the producer’s home.

It’s hard to describe in words how every track on this album seems related by its common sonic environment, but basically it’s in the details. Similar reverbs, similar tempi, similar voices and drum samples unify tracks which are nevertheless very much independent in a compositional sense, each expressing an observation of the landscape often referenced simply in their titles – ‘Leafs’, ‘Stems’, ‘Grove’. In this it follows – like no other record I can think of from the past few years – in the footsteps of standout pastoral records in electronic music. Wolfgang Voigt’s excursions through the black forest as GAS spring to mind, as do Aphex Twin’s synaesthetic portraits of Cornwall in parts of Selected Ambient Works Volume II. It is perhaps also why it succeeds where similar projects have failed, such as Pantha du Prince’s Black Noise, whose tracks never conveyed quite the same sense of place.

I won’t bother talking up certain tunes, as despite their individual merits, they really do merit being listened to in their proper context. If you want to hear a piece of electronic music which is refreshingly divorced, in an aesthetic sense, from the sounds of the urban environment but which still has sharp teeth, this record is for you.

The Gifted.

Inside Out.
Self released.

Reviewer – Simon Bell.

Drop tune, just before the strings hang loose on your guitar, ratchet up the volume, max-out on fuzz with a generous helping of overdrive and you have a recipe for an auditory bludgeoning. And here it is. Inside Out is replete with beefy, pounding drum riffs underpinning a fat guitar mix, filled out with a subterranean layer of digital programming. I didn’t know what to make of this conflagration of screaming anguish on first listening, but the driving, thunderous mix has a pull and a draw to it that is strangely mesmerizing.

Andy Clarke growls, screams and roars out his minimalist lyrics and simple messages. The opener has Clarke chanting its title, “Why, why make me feel this way?” ‘Break’ kicks off with a screeching “I have no voice / I want to scream”, setting the nerves on edge and then piling in to knock them completely senseless. “Everything is relative and everything is slipping away / Just walk away, just walk away” is the tirade in ‘Everything is Relative’. ‘Finally Home’ provides the lilting refrain, “Wherever she may be / That’s home for me” – a fragment of light relief and optimism after the tormented questioning, even if delivered in a slightly demented way.

This is industrial, avant-garde rock that plunges the listener into a sensory pounding. The tracks definitely have a forceful edge and Clarke takes a few risks with the mix that catapult the songs into one implosion after another.

This is music that is not familiar territory to me, but I’ve listened several times and it’s definitely growing on me. This is music for the outraged, for anyone feeling that the world is a strange and somewhat convoluted reality. There is a driving urgency to songs such as ‘Why’, ‘Rainbows in the Night Sky’ and the cracking ‘Inside Out’. Dig in and prepare yourself – The Gifted are here to bombard your tympanic membrane and frazzle a few neurons.

  • Various Artists.

    BADVinyl001.
    Bad Sekta.

    Reviewer – Sasha Levy-Andersson.

    “We specialise in uncovering new and interesting electronic music and video from the more individual / extreme ends of the spectrum,” says the Bad Sekta website, and they’ve done just that since 2005, but this is their first foray into the world of vinyl. Given the blurb on the website, I was expecting a varied and innovative mixture of electronic music on this record.

    BADVinyl001 features five artists, all providing very different sounds. The first track, ‘Crank It’, comes from Ronin, a well-known name on the London breakcore and hardcore scene. It starts with something akin to a garage beat, albeit at a drum and bass tempo, quickly dropping into a very danceable bass focused roll, managing to be both experimental and genre mashing while still making you move. ‘Lights Down’ by Ascetic is a slow, spooky and thumping industrial techno track, deeply atmospheric and pleasingly post-apocalyptic.

    The artist name Weyheyhey! and track name ‘That’s Breakcore’ says it all for the next sound on this release. It’s a mish-mash of all things rave and breakcore – piano and hoover stabs built on foundations of chaotic amen breaks, with some amusing samples which seem to be a commentary on the commercialisation of breakcore.

    ‘Diabolical Statue’ by Lastboss brings it down to a more downtempo level, airy pads and low key background breaks keeping it clattering along. Finally, Phuq gives us ‘Shirking’, again a very different track. It initially plods along at a comparatively slow tempo, teasing with cut-up samples and varied percussion, then the plod builds to a jog, followed by the entry of a four to the floor beat, turning the track ever more danceable.

    The record is certainly in keeping with the label ethic, giving a varied slice of the collective’s output. It’s also got a fair amount of real dancefloor music, nestling next to more experimental tracks. There is a good spread of moods and sounds, an outcome not reached all that often at this end of the electronic music spectrum.

    Nils Frahm.

    Spaces.
    Erased Tapes.

    Reviewer – Paul Robson.

    The silence between the notes becomes as poignant as the music. Nils Frahm is a classically trained pianist who plays with a technique that is improvised yet restrained. For his latest album Spaces, Frahm has pieced together live recordings captured over a two-year period. One could argue that past releases such as The Bells and Wintermusik were constrained by the recording studio, where Spaces instead seems free and unfettered.

    The album opens with 'An Aborted Beginning', a fierce drum beat soon juxtaposed by 'Says', a composition that meanders with a group of slowly evolving synth chords, finishing with a minute of Frahm almost pounding the keys. Spaces later moves into more contemplative territory with pieces like 'Went Missing', 'Familiar' and 'Unter- Tristana-Ambre'. It is on these compositions that he really shows his ability to effortlessly sway between soft and intense passages. The pauses themselves hold an emotional intensity.

    What Nils Frahm also displays on the record is a sense of humour, as evidenced by the song titles 'Improvisation For Piano, Laughs, Coughs And A Cell Phone' and 'For- Peter- Toilet Brushes-More'. The former was improvised over an audience member coughing and a person’s cell phone ringing, which is left on the recording. All the performances were taped on an old reel-to-reel recorder and cassette tape deck, giving the whole production a gritty authenticity.

    One flaw with Spaces is that although it does carry a raw energy, some of the longer pieces like 'Unter-Tristana-Ambre' work better as background music. There are many hidden layers for the more patient listener, but some may find it tedious and exhausting.

    Polybius.

    The Arrival EP.
    Self released.

    Reviewer – Emma Louise Milton.

    If I knew little before, I seem to know less now. Between you and me I think they sound like an intergalactic space ship, but apparently ‘Polybius’ is derived from the name of an ancient Greek historian. Proven facts or fiction aside, what I hope has captured your attention in the Polybius sound is this fear of the indefinite and the greed to anticipate it further. Am I losing you here? The conclusion to this is that the mysterious factor they possess actually makes their sound so fresh, indulgent and set back from the other predictable music of our time.

    They may be new on the local music radar, but The Arrival is only an appetiser for the main album Be Seeing You, released in the near future. In the meantime this EP gives its audience time to acclimatise. Take ‘Be Seeing You’, for example – a powerful and edgy krautrock track, but above all an expression of their influential pin points through eras of music.

    ‘The Vibe’ resulted in a little distraction. In fact I listened to the track several times in a row. It has a certain luxurious texture which makes you want to repeat it. The Balearic style suits the sensual riffs in the background, and being playful with the arrangement has enabled the duo to switch between ambient and house elements, making it clever and meticulous.

    ‘MKU’, on the other hand, bears an entirely different, grittier feel. It’s a track of dramatic endurance, like a well planned long distance run. None of this music signifies a quick sprint to the finish – every beat, sample and hi-hat has been condensed, fragmented and precisely scrutinised before being layered together to create a detailed body of work.

    I say hats off to this two-piece from Sheffield and Rotherham. Firstly, for keeping me engrossed through three tracks of instrumentals – a mean feat in itself. Secondly, for pushing the boundaries and confinements of multiple genres.