After the club-centric four-to-the-floor session that was last week’s column, this week we’re more armchair than dancefloor, rounding up some of the best current and upcoming releases in experimental electronics, dissected dance and deconstructed pop. During the micro-heatwave my housemate has insisted on calling me out for playing ‘whale music’ at all hours of the day; on the evidence of this week’s crop he’s not far wrong, but there are some real gems that fall within that aquatic remit.
armchair dancefloor finally made it last weekend to one of the regular Exotic Pylon events held at the Vortex Jazz Club, this latest edition featuring sounds from Peverelist, Rocketnumbernine and Outpost13, as well as the Exotic Pylon Sinfonia. After somehow managing to miss their Mordant Music special in February, the follow up seemed an essential prospect. Rocketnumbernine’s blur of percussion and electronics was particularly impressive, possessed of a nervy and divergent sensibility far beyond the confines of last year’s ‘Matthew And Toby’ single.
There remained something in the evening’s mix of visual and sonic oddity that tied it very closely with the peculiarly British haunted humour of Mordant Music. As the brainchild of Jonny Mugwump, who hosts the regular show of the same name on Resonance FM, Exotic Pylon’s entire aesthetic feels intrinsically linked to the tension between transience and timelessness that defines much modern art and media. Booking Peverelist perfectly encapsulated that aesthetic. His productions hark back to the rolling beatscapes of jungle and Detroit techno’s body riddles while remaining forcefully futuristic; his recent and upcoming music on Hessle Audio seamlessly melds past and future together into a whirl of percussion and synth, equal parts sensory overload and deprivation.
Peverelist's set, whilst unusual in taking his music out of a club context, was among the best of his I’ve heard. Outside of its usual distraction-fraught environment, it shifted it into greater focus – the broken techno of Szare’s ‘Snake Cave’ and garagey house of Andy Mac’s ‘Everytime’ share a supple sense of funk it might normally be easy to overlook, and at high volume his own superb ‘Dance Til The Police Come’ peeled away in successive layers like the unfurling of gigantic flower petals. Upcoming Exotic Pylon nights at the Vortex feature the excellent likes of Dolphins Into The Future and Band Of Holy Joy – find out more, and check the radio show archive, at their website.
The next Exotic Pylon at the Vortex is on 13th May 2011, and features the Exotic Pylon Sinfonia, Sculpture, Mamuthones and Jigoku.
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Matthewdavid – Outmind [Brainfeeder]
The interface of hip-hop with the LA pop underground is throwing out some quite startling results. New Not Not Fun affiliated imprint 100% Silk – and increasingly the dancier, dubbier sounds emerging from its parent label – are home to the likes of Ital, Xander Harris, Psychic Reality and Maria Minerva, all of whom approach the sound from an NNF-centric angle; by way of contrast, many of the Brainfeeder crew, including FlyLo himself, have developed music rooted in hip-hop but shrouded and indistinct, scorched by the sun. Matthewdavid sits at the nexus point where these two worlds collide: his recent live collaboration with Sun Araw found a common ground where his vortices of static could completely envelop Cameron Stallones’ diffuse, spiky guitar work, and debut album Outmind is a similarly subtle affair.
Conspicuously lacking in anything so straightforward as a constant beat, any rhythms that do emerge from the murk are almost immediately reabsorbed through a process that sounds almost biological in nature. Matthewdavid’s ability to make digital sounds pulse with a weirdly organic quality mirrors that of Fennesz, whose classic Endless Summer lurks within Outmind’s semi-formless structure and humid warmth. It’s far less accessible though, lacking the fragments of real pop music that anchor Fennesz’s vision in reality. Made up of discrete sheets of texture layered upon one another, each fraying slightly at the edges, ‘Noche Y Dia/San Raphael’ resembles a patchwork quilt, and the slow dissolution of ‘Like You Mean It’ is assisted by a thousand tiny shards of vocal that cut through its stumbling rhythm. The whole thing is effortlessly beautiful though, its tryst through LA’s streets the daytime yin to the nocturnal yang of Flying Lotus’ mercurial Los Angeles album.
Sleep Over – Casual Diamond/Laurel Halo Remix [Hippos In Tanks]
Hyetal – Broadcast [Black Acre]
The sheer breadth of the Altered Zones axis, and the exposure of new musicians who’ve barely started recording to the fickle pressures of the blogosphere, has quickly ensured that what was originally a fairly unusual aesthetic has itself become the norm. But as ever, the most interesting mutations tend to occupy the liminal regions around the edges of established sounds; Laurel Halo’s superb King Felix EP, released last year on Hippos In Tanks, was one such beast, recalling the dreamlike sketches of classic 4AD recordings as much it did anything modern. Her remix of the label’s new signing Sleep Over’s ‘Casual Diamond’ is just as effortlessly lovely, its cascading arpeggios given rhythmic heft by a deftly programmed beat that slowly sinks beneath the waves. Sonically it’s not too dissimilar to Matthewdavid’s Outmind (see above), though far more structured.
It’s been interesting to note that the Cocteau Twins in particular have been a consistent reference point for new artists over the last year or so, and Sleep Over (there's an infinity symbol in there somewhere) herself occupies very similar ground. ‘Casual Diamond’s huge, reverbed snares and breathless vocals are almost hopelessly romantic in a late eighties/early nineties sort of way, and catch in the mind just as insidiously.
It might at first seem odd to align these tracks with the debut full-length from Bristol’s Hyetal, who made his name making starry-eyed, polychromatic variations on dubstep, but contrary to expectations Broadcast evokes the spectre of eighties dream-pop far more than it does DMZ. It’s the culmination of a gradual shift that’s been evident since the release of last year’s ‘Phoenix’, whose inclusion here emphasises the development from his early music to its current form. First single ‘Diamond Islands’ finds a whispered female vocal buffeted by wisps of barely-there synth and static; she returns for closer ‘Black Black Black’s majestic five-minute drone. The album remains bass-driven, with sprawling centerpiece ‘Searchlight’ sitting buoyant above distorted low-end, but he’s diverged furthest from his contemporaries in terms of rhythm. While the UK bass masses become increasingly fixated on complex, multi-layered percussive patterns, Hyetal’s are stripped back and spacious, allowing melody room to breathe. The results are often quietly dazzling.
Leyland Kirby – Intrigue & Stuff Vol. 1 [History Always Favours The Winners]
James ‘Leyland’ Kirby’s first release since his massive Sadly The Future Is Not What It Once Was triple album is a comparatively succinct affair, eschewing its haunted ambience and windswept landscapes in favour of feedback-ridden rock(ish) instrumentals. Like ghosts of eighties pop, all booming drums and decayed riffage, the tracks on Intrigue & Stuff Vol. 1 are similarly elegiac in tone, if less obviously so than their predecessors. Interestingly, given the regularly touted similarities between their subversive approaches to pop music, the tracks here are most closely aligned with the music of Dan Lopatin. The stammering melodies of ‘Video-2000’ wouldn’t sound out of place in a Ford & Lopatin (nee Games) track, and the dappled guitar pyrotechnics of highlight ‘Neon Lit Storms’ reveal it to be a soulmate of ‘Returnal’, the title track of Lopatin’s last Oneohtrix Point Never record. Kirby’s exploration of similar avenues continues to yield similarly captivating results. Both artists tunnel deep into the recent past, but avoid any of the simplistic ‘nostalgia’-based trappings of that approach. Intrigue & Stuff Vol. 1 is stark and soulful in equal measure.
Golau Glau – Somato EP [self-released, free download]
It’s surprising that the anonymous, self-described ‘silverpop’ duo Golau Glau haven’t garnered more attention for their music over the last couple of years or so, as its development has traveled along a perfect narrative arc that’s seen them collaborate with hauntologists The Advisory Circle, remix Esben & The Witch and now give away this fantastic EP for free. Somato is a gorgeous, sultry little record, as in thrall to the importance of space and silence as to the bodily samples that link the music to its overall theme. The airy ‘Maxillo’ brings a new meaning to the term ‘vocal house’, its glottal clicks and brushed teeth serving as percussive topping, and the gloopy ‘Cardio’ is submerged in amniotic fluid, underpinned by embryonic heartbeat as four-to-the-floor pulse. As a result, while Somato contains Golau Glau’s most beat-driven material yet, it’s also their heaviest conceptually, driven by metabolic rhythm rather than club desire. Read an interview and download the EP here.
Murcof – La Sangre Illuminada [Infine]
There’s a great deal of consistency to Murcof’s music, and at the very least it promises a joyous tension between drawn-out electronic composition and the acoustic instruments he regularly samples. This soundtrack, a re-edited score to the 2007 film, is characteristically contemplative though less given to the sudden, shocking shifts in volume that pockmarked Cosmos and The Versailles Sessions. Instead it grows slowly and with tectonic inevitability across its entire forty-minute runtime, leading to the stunning closing duo of ‘Isaias IV’ and ‘Como Quisiera Decirte (Murcof Mix)’. The former’s bowed cellos run like streaming water above muffled beats, and the entry of a histrionic vocal performance during the latter finishes the album on a mournful, dramatic note.
Mark McGuire – A Young Person’s Guide [Editions Mego]
Guitarist Mark McGuire’s music stands up as well when separate from Emeralds as it does when playing part of them. His compositions are almost instantly recognisable thanks to his distinctive style, where miniature loops are offset against one another to create backdrops that ripple like a skimmed pond’s surface, before heavier layers are added in the foreground. It’s a method that often runs beautifully counter to the usual unspoken rule of rock guitardom, where the densest layers (riffs, percussion) form the bedrock above which lighter elements (lead guitar, vocals) can flit. It also creates a delicious tension within his best work, whereby the upper levels are delicately poised on a base that can’t quite support them, but never collapse in upon themselves. His latest Mego release, A Young Person’s Guide, is a compilation of some of his best music from the last few years’ worth of limited cassette releases, and is too huge to cover in much depth here. But it’s an impressive, sprawling collection, ranging all the way from the monstrous distortion and wordless vocals of ‘Drean Tream’ to Emeralds-esque synth and guitar experiments like ‘Skies’, and gorgeous closer ‘Inside Where It's Warm’, which reprises last year’s Living With Yourself album perfectly. Very highly recommended.
Erstlaub – The Last Few Seconds Before Sleep [Broken20]
Sound sculptor Erstlaub’s new release reprises a similar theme to that of his last Highpoint Lowlife release, Sleepwalking Into The Underworld, and a similar sonic palette. His music is characterised by beautiful long periods of droning ambience punctuated by tiny flickers in the backdrop and drawn out climaxes, like the final second before a massive dancefloor track drops stretched out to a 45-minute eternity. The title fits the soundworld perfectly; during the final few seconds before dropping off the mind heads off into free-associative freefall in which consciousness remains for the briefest of moments, a sensation the album accurately recreates in wind-tunnel greyscale. Erstlaub has just recorded an excellent new mix for Broken20's podcast series, BrokenCinema, which brings together film soundtrack music that's inspired the label and works as a nice counterpart to the album. Download it here.
Ezekiel Honig – Folding In On Itself [Type]
Despite being a Manhattan resident, Ezekiel Honig’s music strongly evokes a sense of the pastoral, feeling preoccupied with the same spatial resonances as the music of Richard Skelton. Though it’s as much to do with its interest in empty spaces where humans once inhabited – though the occasional beats that cut through Folding In On Itself pulse like a heart, its echoes of found sound and warm drones indicate the presence of people just beyond the edges of vision. It’s like walking through a city’s streets in the summertime early hours just after sunrise, where not a soul is to be seen but clues of life remain indelibly etched into the environment. A quietly thoughtful album, its strengths lie in conjuring up ghosts from otherwise desolate surroundings.
Andy Mac – Everytime/Asteroid Belts [Punch Drunk]
Though Peverelist’s Punch Drunk label has typically been associated with leftfield dubstep sounds, its releases this year have moved still further from such a limited remit, reflecting the general shift in tempo and aesthetic within bass music. This 12” from Andy Mac gathers a pair of excellent, hypercolour house tracks, ‘Everytime’ shot through with garage infused bounce and ‘Asteroid Belts’ sleek and streamlined. As ever, the label continues to fly the flag for the evolving Bristolian sound.
Floating Points – Sais (Dub) [Eglo]
London producer Floating Points has been quiet for a year or so, so this single sided 10” sold on Record Store Day came as a welcome arrival – it’s a lovely, skipping slice of broken house/garage, with a mid-track synth break to die for.