Mr Oizo

The Church
Brainfeeder

This month sees the return of Mr Oizo to the airwaves. The now legendary LA-based, French-born producer who brought us the instantly recognisable anthem ‘Flat Beat’ has been absent from the music scene for a while whilst delving into film and remix work. His latest, The Church, comes to us via Brainfeeder and, true to the imprint’s style, is much more than just an electro record.

Oizo opens with ‘Bear Biscuit’, a wonky beat with a brash melody, followed by the analogue acid of ‘Ham’, which despite carrying an over-the-top carnival atmosphere is perfectly poised above the minimal percussion. ‘Dry Run’ returns to a slightly off kilter beat, produced as if to replicate the sound of two records playing out of synch. ‘Mass Doom’ is funky, whilst ‘Machyne’ would not be out of place in the dingiest of techno nights, with a superbly worked break down which builds to a crescendo, only to tease back down to a kick and bass line. ‘Church’ concludes the record, complete with four to the floor kicks and a deep vocal sample.

Perhaps the only criticism I can level is that this record is a modest ten tracks long, but the fact that it feels short can only be a testament to the quality of its content. Mr Oizo is much more than the man who brought us ‘Flat Beat’ and this record proves it beyond doubt.

Fred Oxby

Jim Ghedi

Destroy All Your Earthly Possessions
Audacious Art Experiment

As someone who has made electronic music, when I first clasped my ear drums on this, I immediately realised this was a labour not just of love but of almost hypnotic devotion. The feeling of order from chaos that carries the whole album is mind bending. ‘Nevermind how he got there,’ was my inevitable answer, and I began to listen to it as an admirer.

The soul of the instrument, its taste and colour is what Jim Ghedi has found to be his muse. Rather than notes, melodies and scales, Destroy All Your Earthly Possessions gets around those roadblocks to provide a deeper and richer experience.

The perfect accompaniment to strong black coffee on a French boulevard, or on headphones while walking at night, this album is edgy. Flourishes of drama teeter on the brink of anticipating sampled sounds which bring an energy similar to dreaming. String and wind instruments are played to their boundaries, and when they fuse together for a brief splash in ‘Motion’, a rare symphonic climax is reached.

Like a piece of abstract art, from a distance it seems unfunctioning, but once you look harder and follow your senses, the conversation with the artist begins. Track titles like ‘Fatherless’ and ‘Patti’s Book, Window Seat’ reveal the unmistakeable work of a poet in music. The flow and cadence of the album is like metered verse, and as a whole this album can have you drifting into a romantic trance. Ending with the enticingly named ‘Arrival/Friends Embrace’, this universally familiar moment nudges us to make amends with our social lives.

Rowan Blair Colver

Various Artists

BTR 5th Anniversary
Bad Taste Records

Local lads Bad Taste Records have proven to be one of the breakout successes of the Sheffield label circuit. What started five years ago as a stable for resident producers and MCs, getting together to create grime and hip hop with a distinctive South Yorkshire brogue, has now spread its tentacles into the realms of house and garage and has a roster that spans both sides of the Atlantic.

For their fifth anniversary Bad Taste have unearthed two volumes of previously unreleased material, with a few choice cuts from the vaults thrown in as well. It’s a case of revisiting their roots on Volume One, as stalwart spitters Trellion, Sniff and Rawkid all plug in their mics over a string of woozy, sluggish beats, the latter combining to electric effect with Coco on the Darkstorm-produced ‘Mind Like Water’, a pairing of fluid grime bars with a softly lilting beat that harks back to classic era 90s hip hop.

While Volume One provides the audio roach paper for firing up a late night spliff, Volume Two concentrates on what’s made you earn it. Walter Ego’s blustering coalition of breaks and house on ‘Motherfuckers’ kicks off proceedings, before London producer Itoa tackles ‘Oops’ by Tweet, holding his own in a fairly saturated market. Timbah digs his grime-covered heels into the classic Seven Samurai score on ‘Return of the Samurai’, while Squarehead gives one of the label’s New York associates Tony Quattro a slick rubdown on his remix of ‘Doubt’.

It’s a strong two volumes from the birthday boys and should serve as a trusty almanac for anyone who’s traced Bad Taste’s journey over the past five years, as well as a healthy introduction to those just arriving.

Jack Scourfield

Application

Applied Remixes
Dust Science

For their latest release the Sheffield-based musical duo Application have enlisted the help of some of their favourite acts. Each artist was given the freedom to remix a track of their choosing from Application's full-length System Fork. The results are an interesting mix of robotic grooves, ambient textures and glitchy electronics.

Applied Remixes opens with ‘Front End’, remixed by Pye Corner Audio. It starts with a crackle of mechanical noise while other sounds slowly emerge. A repetitive chord section gradually appears as the drum beat gets underway. This is followed by ‘Flange 7’ (remixed by Beneath) and ‘Siren’ (remixed by Geiom). Both Beneath and Geiom bestow the music with an aggressive edge with blunt and direct percussion, the latter also adding a wobbling LFO.

Application themselves then remix ‘Swuth’ by condensing its running time and giving it a more punchy and incisive feel. Scanner has created a successful version of ‘Ambient B’ that perhaps betters the original, softening a lot of the electronic noise that clouds the original with deep reverb and delay and mixing in some light percussion to add weight.  

Electronic music can be enlightening and invigorating, but also aggravating. This is the problem with the last two remixes. For ‘Cron Job’ and ‘Steve Reich’s Ice Cream Van’, both Russell Haswell and Mark Fell have stripped away a lot of the densely layered effects. This makes the tracks seem very dry and minimal. They can't be faulted for wanting to impart their own character but, the final results seem jarring and disjointed.  

Paul Robson

Nat Johnson

Neighbour of the Year
Straw and Hay Records

Nat Johnson is a composer and arranger of minimalist folk and pop songs. With a voice like daybreak, Nat Johnson sings with heartfelt lucidity about her descent into and out of a really dark time. Neighbour of the Year is Johnson’s first solo endeavour, and earnestly speaks of woes and personal experiences.

Johnson’s tingling vocals layer with sensitivity and warmth, like a lone bird in flight finding its flock upon the approach of nightfall, an intimate musical performance of strength and vulnerability that makes you feel like you can’t fit the petal of a rose between your eardrum and the membranes of your speakers. The multiple harmony canon in ‘I Can’t See You’ bewitches like a chant of mermaids.

A versatile garb of backup instruments accompanies the acoustic guitar arrangements masterfully. Wind and brass instruments, breathy string harmonies mindfully heed the course. A drum set picks up the listeners attention here and there. Gusts of Americana and psychedelia, but mostly close, genuine and irresistible music that is catchy and friendly.

Nat Johnson is a songwriter with clever articulation. The record is symbolically being pressed on a limited edition run of 10” clear vinyl, like a window to the soul, the reflection of Johnson looking outside to vast blue skies. The lyrics inspire and charm you away from your plights and worries with allegoric ease. It encourages you to take a look from the outside to the inside, too. And then walk and run, like a ‘DOG’, or let the little turnips grow in peace under the earth, like on ‘Not Now, Horse’. The title track, with pedal steel guitar and rootsy drumming, infuses a chuckle with a pinch of sarcasm. It is a lovely record that will certainly and hopefully make its way into many people’s hearts. It’s from Sheffield.

Thomas Lebioda

Godflesh

A World Lit Only by Fire
Avalanche Recordings

On a world lit only by fire, a cold wind blows across a continent ravaged by war and industry. There is nothing green, no signs of life. What water can be found shimmers with petroleum rainbows in the light of a dying sun. The smashed hands of dead cities claw silently at a sky the colour of static. Decapitated skyscrapers lean drunkenly askew, like broken teeth rotting in a crumbling concrete jaw.

At the centre of the continent is a vast flat plain, as if some machine of unspeakable size and power had scraped it clear. At the centre of the plain is a vast factory. The factory is full of machines whose purpose and function is not apparent, engaged in the production of products unidentifiable, for a market unimaginable. Steam hammers and presses slam, boom and hiss with sullen, rhythmic malice. Wrist-thick metal cables thrum and buzz in the darkness above the machines, vibrating in time with the banging below. Every now and again, metal scrapes shrilly upon metal, like the punctuation of an alien grammar.

At the centre of the factory is a room with no windows but 99 monitors, flickering with images of the blasted landscape beyond. At the centre of the room sits the last man on the planet, with the control cables and data feeds crudely spliced into what were once his eyes, his ears, his brain. His wrecked mouth mostly barks orders, but sometimes what's left of the mind inside mutters and murmurs to itself, trying to remember where it all went wrong, or howls “I told you so!” to a dead, uncaring world.

This, dear reader, is what it sounds like.

Paul Graham Raven