Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
I know I may sound overly romantic saying this, but a great album should have the power to erase daily stresses and strains. With world affairs and current politics seemingly more depressing than ever we need our creative arts to step up and remove us, however temporarily, from the horrors of everyday life. This week I will be highlighting some of the LPs which have accomplished this feat by stealing my time and creating an addictive craving in my very soul. By JOHN BITTLES
In a glorious selection we have the jittery electronica of Kuedo, DARKPYRAMID and Cvltvre, the jackin‘ house groove of Doms & Deykers and Youandewan, the gothic pop of Jenny Hval, the essential techno rhythms of Umwelt, the remix sleaze of Andrew Weatherall, the downbeat air of The Orb and David Holmes, and lots more.
So, before we are assaulted by more horrifying headlines condemning immigrants for having the audacity to flee poverty and war, we had best begin …
Created over a mere four days in Panorama Bar resident Steffi’s studio, Evidence From A Good Source sees the DJ/producer team up with fellow Ostgut Ton artist Martyn for a house album full of the deepest of beats. After two well received EPs (Fonts For The People & Dedicated To Those Who Feel), the duo don the Doms & Deykers moniker once again for their debut LP. Classic house and electro sounds dominate in a record which is rich, playful and, most importantly, fun. Eyes Up opens the record with a Mr. Fingers style bassline and a house groove whose chugs could warm the coldest of hearts. From here, the title track seduces with some squelchy electronic squiggles and a deep bass bounce, the gorgeous strings on It’s You I See recall the classic tones of Pacific State, To All Family And Friends is full of Detroit techno loveliness, while Sweet Sanctuary is B12 style electronica which tickles the very soul. Containing a stunning array of house rhythms and grooves, Evidence From A Good Source is a timely reminder of just how vital an art form electronic music can be. 10/10.
Five years ago Kuedo’s Severant album took the traditional sounds of footwork and dubstep and sculpted them into something exciting and new. Unfairly lumped in with the post dubstep sound represented by the likes of Mount Kimbie and James Blake, Severant was fresh and vital, sounding like nothing else around. This month Kuedo makes a welcome return to the long-player format with the deep electronica of his sophomore LP. Out now on Planet Mu Records, Slow Knife further develops the haunting melancholy of its predecessor, but moves further away from the constraints of the dance. At times sounding like the ghosts of dance music emitting a last impassioned cry, the record takes ambient and soundtrack music as its starting point then pilots the listener into the deepest, darkest space. Early tracks such as Hourglass, In Your Sleep and Under The Surface directly follow on from Severant’s icy beatscapes, while the second half of the album omits the beats entirely to conjure a cold, alien aural world . Mystifying, engaging and beautiful, Slow Knife is an album to accompany the strangest of dreams. 10/10.
Opening with the slow-burn menace of Ritual Awakening, Blood Bitch sees musical enigma Jenny Hval explore a dark, sinister world which evokes childhood memories of watching horror films in the dark. As Jenny herself explains, Blood Bitch is an investigation of blood. Blood that is shed naturally. The white and red toilet roll chain which ties together the virgins, the whores, the mothers, the witches, the dreamers, and the lovers.・ Full of rich Gothic imagery, the record keeps the listener in a constant state of unease through the horror score instrumentation and Jenny Hval’s voice which conjures a creeping sense of dread. Highlights include Conceptual Romance, which features gorgeously lovelorn vocals over a fizzing synth backing, The Great Undressing, whose languid trance backing forms a welcome juxtaposition to the track’s jet-black lyrics, while Secret Touch’s strings and hushed beats help lift the song towards the divine. Full of lofty ambitions and musical explorations, Blood Bitch may well be Jenny Hval’s most fully realised work yet! 9/10.
London label Dream Catalogue have long specialised in releasing futuristic electronic music so full of emotion that listening to their output can feel like receiving a long, satisfying hug. Characterised by a quiet sense of longing, albums by 2814, HKE, Remember, and Telepath sound so hauntingly beautiful that a sense of sadness can befall the listener when the tape comes to an end. Conjuring images of a cold, lonely future society where the only hope left are the memories of the past, New Humans by DARKPYRAMID is a record which demands to be listened to as a whole. Songs such as Memory Recall and The Dark Pyramid do stand out though, their evocative pulses nuzzling up to the ear. However, pick of the bunch is the twelve minute plus ambient opus We Will Live Forever In The Ocean which, quite simply, is one of the most stunning pieces of music you will hear all year. Available now on cassette or digital download from Dream Catalogue’s Bandcamp page, lonely optimists, cyberpunk nostalgists and romantic dreamers don’t want to miss out on this. 9/10.
Next up we have the gorgeous deep techno dynamism of Umwelt. For over twenty years the Lyon native has been producing some of the finest electronic music known to man. This month he arrives on the always essential Killekill imprint with the twisted beats, ghostly synths and dark futurism of his new LP. Days Of Dissent features eight devastatingly good beat-heavy missives which sound heavenly in a club or on headphones. The jittery bass and surround sound atmospherics of the title track get us off to a juddering start, before the goth-tinged electro growl of Factory Of Death drags you straight into the dark. Reminiscent of the bass-tastic output of legend Andrea Parker, this is a track which makes you want to start your own religion just so it can get the attention it deserves. Further in, the industrial menace of Revolt, the technoid groove of Non-Conformity, and the heady Detroit bleeps of World Shatters keep you on the edge of your seat in an album to relish from beginning to end. 9/10.
This October ambient house heroes The Orb return to their spiritual home Kompakt with the pastoral tones of their brand new LP. Cow/Chill Out World is the follow-up to last year’s well received Moonbuilding 2703 AD, and was speedily recorded in a mere six months. Awful title aside, it finds the core duo of Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann in mighty fine form. “The idea was simply to make an ambient album” explains Alex Paterson in the press notes. Trippy and sedate, yet filled with an inner sense of groove, it is fair to say that their mission was a complete success. Tracks such as First, Consider The Lillys, 4AM Exhale (Chill Out World), and Just Because I Really Really Luv Ya recall the optimistic air and playful spirit which won the band a legion of fans in the early 90s. A liberal sprinkling of samples help add a tongue in cheek humour to the music, while the gentle piano refrain on Wireless MK2, and the easy-listening loveliness of 5th Dimensions are just as good as anything found on U.F.Orb. More than mere retro-revivalists, if you haven’t chilled out to The Orb then you haven’t chilled out at all! 8/10.
After the rhythmic techno of 2014’s Cool Haptics EP, Brooklyn’s finest sound magicians arrive on Kranky this autumn with the organic murmurings of the Physicalist album. Warm, groove-filled and refreshingly dense, the double LP sees Forma adopt a pastoral Boards Of Canada style of electronica to fine effect. With just the hint of a krautrock chug, songs such as Sane Man, Spin Glass and the title track retain a sense of slowed-down funk which appeals to the feet as much as the head. Of the more downbeat numbers, Descent has a raw sense of vulnerability all too rare in music these days, As If Pianos Grew On Trees is gorgeously melancholic, while Collapse Of Materialists 2 is an awe inspiring synth drone. Pick of the bunch though is the Zombie Zombie style house strut of Maxwell’s Demon, a track which, once heard, is impossible to get out of your head. With Physicalist Forma have crafted an album which could almost threaten capitalism (it’s so good you want to pull a sickie from work so you can listen to it some more). 8/10.
Belfast native David Holmes is exactly the type of DJ you would want to man the decks at an after party session at your mates. From composing Hollywood soundtracks to producing the rich nocturnal feel evoked on the albums This Film’s Crap, Let’s Slash The Seats and Bow Down To The Exit Sign he has long specialised in music which both massages and fucks with your head. His contribution to the long-running Late Night Tales series features an eclectic selection of music which, in lesser hands, could have been a complete mess. Full of curiosities and obscurities, the album’s 19 tracks take in alt-rock, spectral ambiance, eerie children’s choirs, Buddy Holly and lots more. Opening with the goth-tinged menace of Great Father Spirit In The Sky by Barry Woolnough, the DJ skilfully blends tempos and genres to craft a captivating aural brew. Special mention must go to the ethereal majesty of Documenta’s Love As A Ghost, the grandiose melancholy of Gloomy Sunday by Die Hexen, and Elsewhere Anchises, the collaboration between David and Jon Hopkins and Stephen Rea which ends the mix on a heart-swelling high. 8/10.
This week we’ll finish with acid house legend Andrew Weatherall, who’s Convenanza album from earlier this year showcased a producer at the very top of his game. Postpunk basslines, disco flourishes, house grooves and more featured in a record which could well be Mr. Weatherall’s most enjoyable long-player in years. This month the album receives a fresh lick of paint in the form of Consolamentum, a fresh and fruity sounding remix LP. Getting things off to a synth heavy start, David Holmes dons his Unloved alias for a slick and sleazy disco re-rub of We Count The Stars. Sounding like it should be soundtracking some cheap S&M joint, it sets things up nicely for the 80s new wave chill of Justin Robertson’s take on The Confidence Man. Other picks include the smooth Balearica of Red Axes‘ remix of Frankfurt Advice, the twisted electronics of Timothy J. Fairplay’s take on Thirteenth Night, and the classic house groove of Scott Fraser’s Vocal Dub mix of Ghosts Again. As always with remix albums, there’s the odd dud, yet there are more than enough disco nuggets to be found to make repeated plays seem like an excellent idea. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: There Is No Right Time by Youandewan – An album of sweet and tender deep house grooves brimming with emotion and melody. If you consider yourself a house music fan then tracking this down is a must, 9/10, She Thought She Would Last Forever by Abstraxion – Trance-tinged, melody rich house music which seems tailor-made for causing a few tears on the dance floor, 8/10, The Ride by Hidden Turn – Taking the basic elements of drum n‘ bass, and mutating them until you end up with something vivid and new, Hidden Turn have crafted an album which revels in the beauty of bass, 8/10, V.I.C.T.O.R. by Golden Bug – former Gomma artist Golden Bug dons his furry disco boots for an album of slo mo house goodness, with the unbelievably loose bassline on Amazonia worth the admission price alone, 8/10, Schaum by Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek – Glacial ambiance and relaxing soundscapes abound in a record which could add a sense of calm tranquillity to even the most hectic of days, 8/10, 10 Years Of Symmetry by Break – From soul-infused vocal collabs to hard n‘ heavy rollers, this is as perfect a snapshot of modern drum n‘ bass as you are likely to get, 8/10, Notu_uronlineu by DVA (Hi:Emotions) – Reminiscent of ISDM era FSOL, DVA’s new album flits from mournful melodies to speaker rupturing noisequakes with ease, 7/10, and A Made Up Sound (2009-2016) by A Made Up Sound – Dave Huismans calls time on his A Made Up Sound label with a double CD of bassy deep house and techno grooves. From the tribal drift of Bygones to the twisted rave of Crisis, clued-up clubbers will find these beats hard to resist, 8/10,
And let’s not forget: Surreal by Cvltvre – Resembling a loved-up Aphex Twin, Cvltvre returns to Dream Catalogue this month with the playful electronica of their new LP, 9/10, 10 Years Diynamic by V/A – Solomun’s Diynamic Music celebrate a decade of releasing smooth, melodic house music with a bumper compilation featuring new tracks by Kollektiv Turmstrasse, Stimming, H.O.S.H., and more, 8/10, Discopathy by Cabanne – Jazz-infused deep house features heavily in a set which understands the importance of a good, steady groove, 8/10, Firewood Street by Idealist – An album of dub-infused house music which will appeal to fans of Echospace just as much as Ron Trent, 8/10, Splendor & Misery by Clipping. – Alt rock label Sub Pop go hip hop with textured beats, strange sonics, and Daveed Digg’s frenetic raps in a record which thrills in places, yet stops and starts too often to truly flow, 7/10, Rapport Sur Le Désordre by Franck Vigroux – Dark, eerie and disorientating, this mixture of ambiance and brutal noise terror could cause the odd sleepless night, 7/10, A Life In Breaks by DJ Wool – Recalling the days when instrumental hip hop was the coolest thing around, Glen Brady’s debut LP is full of booty shakin‘ beats, 7/10, Return To Love by LVL UP – Warm, scuzzy rock music from the band with the world’s coolest name, 7/10, and Dark Matter by Lustmord – Comprised of three ambient tracks, each over twenty minutes long, Dark Matter’s dronescapes are a rewarding listen for the patient of mind, 7/10.