Croatian Amor

Love Means Taking Action
Posh Isolation

Arguably the linchpin of Copenhagen's ever-fertile DIY scene, Loke Rahbek is one of those artists that no-one can mention without the ‘prolific’ descriptor, but he is extraordinarily so, with a vast catalogue spanning a broad spectrum across post-punk, noise and much more besides. He also co-founded and runs Posh Isolation, the label and shop that functions as the beating heart of the Copenhagen experimental underground. Croatian Amor is his foremost solo alias, and Love Means Taking Action quite possibly his defining work to date.

It's abstract, sparse music – sometimes little more than a bit of clattering, disjointed percussion and some plaintive synth or ominous vocals – and also uncompromising, often brutal in its approach. 'Octopus Web' bases itself on a few atonal, unevenly pulsing obfuscated samples, but gradually unspools into flowing ambience.

When asked in a recent interview if this album showcases his ‘kinder and gentler side’, Rahbek responded, “I like the thought that it's kind, but I don't care for it to be gentle,” and that's the perfect encapsulation of the album's tone. It feels a bit like a David Lynch film, in that even at its most tender, such as on the spacious piano-based 'Nadim Call Emergence II', there is always a deeply lurking sense of unease. But, also like Lynch, it does feel ultimately benevolent and caring, a rumination on love at its most mystical and unknowable, love's power to disrupt and confound as much as to invigorate.

Thomas Sprackland

J.G. Biberkopf

Ecologies II: Ecosystems Of Excess
Knives

Even before reading the background behind J.G. Biberkopf’s latest album, it’s obvious to the listener that Ecologies II: Ecosystems Of Excess is a dramatic melody that has weight and a narrative.

The title alone stands out and fits the sound of the album, which is emotional, dark, delicate and intimidating. On ‘Preacher’, there is a vibrating melodic voice throughout, along with sharp segments of DMX’s ‘Prayer’, a rapper whose voice fits in perfectly with the tone of the record. ‘Dust’ is one of the most emotional outings here, a track that calms but also creates a worrying feeling in the listener. ‘From Infinity To Here’ sounds like it comes from somewhere alien and is one of many tracks that bear a blockbuster touch due to the scope and deepness of the sound. ‘Realer Than Real’ is the most unsettling listen. The sounds of animals are not included on it for harmonic reasons, but to provoke the imagination to think of suffering and pain.

Biberkopf described music to him as being “a reaction to being overwhelmed and not being able to change anything.” This frustration has manifested itself fully on Ecologies II, and Biberkopf bringing that reaction together musically in a way that can be enjoyed is something that should be celebrated.

Akeem Balogun

Mix #0

Clelia Ciardulli
Hybrid Vigour

Why have Hybrid Vigour, the promoter and record label wing of polyrhythmic local people Blood Sport, numbered their first mix by Clelia Ciardulli with a zero? It could be a nod to Rebore, vol. 0, a self-remix by Boredoms' frontman eYe, which similarly expanded the potential of the mix beyond the dancefloor. Maybe it's Ciardulli’s declaration of Year Zero, with one of the new series’ stated aims being to "distort and interrogate dance music".

Orientating us with a glimpse of something comically familiar, a sample of 'Ghost Town' opens the mix then disappears instantly, its purpose served, removed and discarded elsewhere in the industrial plant we find ourselves in. We hear machinery’s churning hum and the dull thump of production line mechanics in a sabotaged kick drum. A helicopter circles above, looking for us. Pained voices cry out somewhere in the distance, but we’re in no position to help.

The electronics on this mix, droning yet never ambient, build a world in a similar method to Pan Sonic. But unlike the Finnish duo, Ciardulli doesn’t limit herself to one genre to create the right atmosphere, utilising howling guitars and expressive vocals straight out of Norwegian death metal. Eventually we emerge into light, a Messiaenic chorus consecrating our escape.

In the closing minutes, we navigate through a dense web of glistening tones, like the inside of a hollow glacier, breaking the claustrophobic first half wide open. It’s the sound of Ciardulli finding an escape route, for the genre and for herself.

Sam Gregory

Nat Johnson

The Liberty System
Bandcamp Release

The words of the Brönte sisters are sometimes overlooked in syllabuses, but musicians have a love for their catalogue. Kate Bush paid tribute to Emily Brönte, while Jim Steinman obsessed over Heathcliff and Cathy.

Nat Johnson has never shied away from showing her deep love of literature. You can find references both obscure and well-known throughout her back catalogue, and The Liberty System is an EP that pays tribute to Emily, Charlotte and Anne. Each song resists bombastic Wagnerian rock and baroque pop. The approach is folk. And why not? A genre born between shivering hills and windy peaks is a perfect fit for the words of the Bröntes.

The wistful ‘Anne, the Gardener’ brings introspective peace, like the one you might get after a fit of anger ends in slamming a door in the face of a despicable ne’er-do-well. ‘Emily, the Diver’ is a maritime ode full of grey tones. The harsh autumn skies darken the northern shores. In this great desolation, the words of Emily come back to life for four intense minutes. ‘Charlotte, the Levitator’ has a playful demeanour, sometimes in contrast to the bittersweet lyrics. There’s hope amidst loss, a few sunbeams piercing through the overcast skies.

The Liberty System is short lived, just like the tragic lives of the Bröntes. Often overlooked, it’s always reassuring when an artist brings them back into the spotlight, even for a brief moment. Sometimes those moments are the brightest.

Sam J. Valdés López

Pattern Man

Pattern Man
Bandcamp Release

"Do you find yourself mapping an area for safety?" asks poet Rick Holland, as Chrononautz hurl shards of Syrian wedding keys over his head on their project, Pattern Man. "I do. Is it the room of your first sight of danger?" Foreboding and unease are the bedrock of this record, a collaborative work layering Holland's readings of his Burroughs-style poetry over wonky, grubby techno from the Leeds duo.

The orthodox view of poetry, or any other writing, is that a piece has to be ingested in its entirety to have been properly 'read'. Pattern Man discard that idea, with the dynamics of Chrononautz's music often drowning out Holland's words. His voice drifts in and out of full audibility, sometimes leaving only single words visible above the surface.

On 'Skimming', Dom Clare and Leon Carey give Holland a wide berth, letting his monotone voice occupy the mid-range as they attack the low-end with carefully deployed depth charges of sub-bass. For a record not angling for club play, there's a surprising amount of bass, as if the group aim to weaponise the traditionally sedate medium of poetry.

It's near impossible not to politicise leftfield art in 2016, but maybe it's a temptation best avoided. "There are two golden visions at the moment, in two golden rooms," Holland says on 'Dressed Head', but to try and draw comparison with our increasingly divisive politics is to cheapen the kind of beautiful but oblique imagery that can be found all over this curious project.

Sam Gregory

Sad13

Slugger
Carpark Records

Were it not already November, Sad13’s ‘Get A Yes’ would’ve been the sound of the summer. With buzzing, low-end keys like an old Nokia ringtone and a pro-consent hook of “I say yes to the dress when I put it on / I say yes if I want you to take it off,” it’s the catchiest example of Slugger’s style of empowerment pop. It’s like a bedroom ‘Lemonade’.

Not since Le Tigre has there been a DIY pop record so 'woke'. ‘Just A Friend’ is a call to 'objectify boys', while closer ‘Coming into Powers’ supports “My girls dancing on the pole / Got some moves I’d kill to know.” As per for Sadie ‘Sad13’ Dupis, it’s a lot more chilled, a touch sardonic, but no less clear-eyed and full-hearted.

For the most part, only trace elements of her day job are noticeable in Dupis’s first sort-of solo record. Moments of Speedy Ortiz’s Pavement-style millennial slacker rock trickle through, but they tend to make up the weaker parts of Slugger. The shiftless chord progressions propped up against melancholic lyrics feel a little like Foil Deer offcuts - not necessarily a bad thing - but otherwise Sad13 is something different.

Dupis embraces the sort of Casio keyboards, drum machines and handclaps that recall good Beck records. You know, the ones where he isn’t too sad to write choruses. All the record’s standouts are sparkling and sweet, with a sharp metallic tang, like a can of fizzy drink from a corner shop.

Tom Baker