Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
With the dreaded Record Store Day just around the corner, I would suggest visiting your local vinyl emporium before it gets swamped by a terrifying mixture of Rolling Stones re-issues and Discogs abusing culture vultures. To help you on your way, this week I’ll be reviewing some of the fantastic new albums which have been been gleefully stimulating the pleasure receptors of my mind. We have swoon-inducing electronica from Chris Carter and Steven Rutter, the warm house tones of Will Saul and Booka Shade, the lush Balearica of E Ruscha V, and lots more. By JOHN BITTLES
So, before we are forced to endure an exclusive limited 7” from Abba (too late), we had best begin…
His first solo release in almost two decades, Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume 1 finds the former Throbbing Gristle member in stunning form. Composed of 25 short electronic vignettes, most of which don’t pass the three minute mark, the album is deeply engrossing from beginning to end. Recalling the best of 90s IDM one minute, the mutated techno of Sandwell District the next, Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume One is, quite simply, one of the best albums you will hear all year. For those quick off the mark, the coloured vinyl is a gorgeous piece of art, and contains four sides of lush, all enveloping electronica which excels at enriching the soul. Picks include the deep synth crunch and misfiring bleeps of Blissters, the melodic house flourish of Tangerines, the Cocteau Twins style eeriness of Cernubicua, Modularity’s tough techno throb, and the spooky acid of Ghosting. Everything to be found here is excellent though, making the purchase of Chris Carter’s Chemistry Lessons Volume 1 a must for anyone with eager ears and an open mind. 10/10.
The band B12 are considered legends within techno circles, their Electro Soma and Time Tourist albums, which both came out on Warp in the early/mid 90s, are still rightly regarded as masterpieces of the genre. Last year founding member Steven Rutter took a step back from the B12 project to bring out the excellent From Me To You EP. This month he follows this with the beautifully deep BrainFog LP. Resembling a lost IDM classic, the record blurs downtempo acid, languid rhythms and melodic flourishes on an album which should be considered as essential as air. Sleep Gives Freedom opens proceedings with a dense, foggy atmosphere, daring the listener to step further into this uncanny world. Next, Statuesque utilizes toughened beats and a killer melody on a track which positively begs to be stuck on repeat. Further in, the classic techno sounds of Degenerator recall classic Derrick May, First Degree Anguish is an emotionally charged piece of rich ambiance, Infinity Engine is a perfect slice of machine soul, and the slow bass squelch of Takedown is so good it is impossible to listen to without it raising a smile. Electro nerds and sonic explorers take note! 9/10.
This April also finds Aus Music head Will Saul kicking off his label’s new Inside Out compilation series with a stellar mix of techno and house. Full of new and exclusive tracks from artists such as Lone, Komon, Appleblim, and Move D, the album moves from downtempo grooves to upfront bangers with ease. Merging the best of ambiance, bass music, house, techno, acid and more, this impeccably mixed album is a genuine delight. Genres and BPMs blur into one glorious whole, with the steely dub pulse of Mission by Komon, sitting easily next to Sei A‘ s deep bass throbber Via, and the mid-paced rave of Gleeko Drive by the impeccable Move D. Other picks include Tee Mango’s faultless disco cut-up Too Future, the New York style swing of Need You by Marquis Hawkes, and the emotive melodies and subtle trance riffs of Nathan Micay’s Vor Showers. While the vinyl version features nine of the album’s tracks unmixed, the real joy of Inside Out is in allowing Will Saul to take you on a 75 minute journey into the very heart of electronic groove. 8.5/10.
Next up we have the eclectic Balearica of Who Are You by E Ruscha V. Out now on the always excellent Beats In Space label, the record is the aural equivalent of sipping Mojitos in the sun. Best known for his work as Secret Circuit, Who Are You sees Eddie Ruscha donning his given name for a record full of warmth and soul. The Hostess kicks things off with twinkling melodies and lightly plucked guitar to create a track which washes over the listener like a long, hot bath. Further in, Gravity Waves is gorgeously trippy, Carried Away could even make an enraged gerbil find its sense of inner calm, Endless Sunday merges 70s electronics with a sunny disposition, while All Of A Sudden is nothing short of a heart-stirring masterpiece. In the press notes Ruscha himself describes the music on Who Are You as spanning “from calm to ecstatic but mostly in-between these”. An apt description of a record which is tranquil, melodic, and pretty close to divine. 8.5/10.
While last year’s Galvany Street saw German house duo Booka Shade largely eschew the huge emotional riffs and trance touches with which they made their name, new LP Cut The Strings finds them rediscovering their previous form. Cut The Strings is out now on the band’s own Blaufield imprint, and contains eleven mostly instrumental songs full of nuance, depth and main room appeal. The opening trio of Easy Drifter, Night Surfing and EMS Love is about as good as it gets; emotional crescendos, impeccable production and a warm, welcoming air makes for a great introduction to the Booka Shade sound. From here, the title track features soft synth tones and the vocal talents of Troels Abrahamsen to form a deep piece of dance floor joy, Kolibri is a short, but sweet piece of bubblegum electro, while Black Crystal contains a bassline to die for. While Cut The Strings is unlikely to appeal to techno purists, it contains more than enough goodies to please any dance music fan. 8/10.
This week we’ll finish with what is perhaps one of the strangest yet most mesmerising records to see the light of day so far in 2018. Nordub by Sly & Robbie Meet Nils Petter Molvaer Feat. Eivind Aarset and Vladislav Delay (whew) is a strange, yet rewarding merging of Jamaican rhythms with Nordic jazz and more. Reggae legends Sly & Robbie have been touring with trumpeter Molvaer for a while now. For the album they have also added guitars from Aarset and percussion and electronics by Vladislav Delay. The result of this unusual melting pot is a meeting of minds which not even Mystic Meg could have foreseen. After the dub, jazz fusion of If I Gave You My Love, things really get going with the fabulously stoned fug of How Long. Also worth checking are the nostalgia filled melancholy of White Scarf In The Mist, the deep dub groove of European Express, and the soft bass strut and playful trumpets of Politically KKKorrrekkkttt. While not everything works, there are still enough gems to reward repeated plays. 7.5/10.
A special mention must also go to: Brand New Abyss by The Blow – Sounding like nothing else around, the new record by Melissa Dyne and Khaela Maricich merges post-punk attitude with spacious sound design and an invigorating dollop of bass, 9/10, Always Yours by Chevel – A collection of next level techno and bass drenched ambiance which help make the debut LP for Mumdance and Logo’s Different Circles imprint a mighty fine thing, 8/10, Earth Loop by Moon Gangs – BEAK keyboard player William Young takes a break from the day job with an album of retro sounding synth workouts, 8/10, Once Upon A Time In Napoli by Davide Squillace – Crosstown Rebels keep it funky with this collection of ten groove heavy tracks by Italian DJ/Producer Davide Squillace, 7/10, Where’s The Magic by Band Of Gold – The Norwegians inject an air of youthful yearning to their winning brand of eighties indebted indie pop, 7/10, Waves by Pale Grey – Sounding like a more electronic Elbow, Pale Grey’s new LP is full of emotional crescendos and a bittersweet air, 7/10, and 20 Jahre SOS – Jubiläums Compilation by V/A – Celebrating 20 years of the Save Our Souls party, artists such as Acid Paul, The Glitz, The Micronaut and more supply top quality tunes for both hearts and feet, 8.5/10.
And let’s not forget: The Sound Path by Aera – German label Permanent Vacation come up trumps yet again with Berlin resident Ralf Schmidt’s fab new LP. Full of gentle house rhythms, soft-focus beats, and lush melodies, The Sound Path is a truly wondrous thing, 9/10, Beautiful Thing by Alexis Taylor – The Hot Chip front man goes it alone for a solo album of soft house pulses, downbeat excursions, disco flourishes and melancholy vocals, 8/10, Abandon In Place by Umwelt – New Flesh Records‘ 20th release finds label head Umwelt reducing the pace somewhat with a dystopian inspired record full of atmosphere and tension, 8/10, Freedom by Amen Dunes – New York artist Damon McMahon returns to the Sacred Bones label with an album of widescreen indie soul, 8/10, No.4 by Christina Vantzou – Atmospheric soundscapes and rich orchestration make the new LP from Belgium based composer Christina Vantzou something you’ll gladly lose yourself in for days, 7.5/10, Nihx by Groeni – Hints of Radiohead abound in an emotionally rich and musically diverse collection of downbeat gems from the always reliable Project Mooncircle stable, 7.5/10, Fine But Dying by Liza Anne – Head straight for the heartfelt acoustic strum of Control, a song you’ll find yourself playing again and again, 7/10 and Soulquencies by Aquarius – Melody rich dubstep and ambiance combine on an record which sounds so Now it might already be passé, 7.5/10