Kristina Warren: New Suns (self-released, 2023)

May 6, 2023 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Kristina Warren: New Suns

Kristina Warren’s latest is a short album of Octavia Butler-inspired ARP 2500 synth pieces. “Simple Oankali Greeting” is about communication via direct sensation, and its slowly unfolding layers feel like a divine initiation. “Cipher Braid” has crunchier, more industrial textures and feels both like a procession and a slow diffusion. “Unakite Pool” is a slow but steady sequence of immersive bass frequencies, eventually crawling upward until it’s beaming from a mountaintop. “Slip Jigs” is a surprisingly playful robo-waltz which makes a crooked ascent to an unspeakable level of beauty.

Troikastra: It’s the Door with the Little Stairs (Castor and Pollux, 2023)

May 5, 2023 at 7:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Troikastra: It’s the Door with the Little Stairs

Troikestra, the trio of Curtis Glatter, DJ Tenshun, and Nathan Hubbard, battle it out on turntables, synths, samples, and drum machines, resulting in messy collages somewhere in between ’90s plunderphonic turntablism and freeform circuit-bent noise jams. The trio’s performances often have a much more cartoonish edge than most experimental improvisation, particularly with the presence of things like the chunky metal guitars and toy piano-sounding scattered notes of “Brief Sojourn Into a Side Alley”. “Two Types” splices different instructional records together to form Frankenstein sentences, evolving from rhythmic tutoring to spiritual advice. “Expectations Are Nigh” is 17 minutes long and somewhat less dense than some of the other pieces, but it also has some of the most aggressive scratching and overt hip-hop sampling. “Sonic Starcases” is frantic noise-jazz with dubby effects and almost modem-like squealing sounds. Lastly, “Blame It On the Casionova” is sort of a drunken stumble home under dark, flanged-out clouds.

upsammy: Germ in a Population of Buildings (PAN, 2023)

May 3, 2023 at 1:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

upsammy: Germ in a Population of Buildings

upsammy delivered a standout set at the beginning of Dekmantel last year, backed by fluid and forest-like visuals from Sjoerd Martens. Her new album on PAN is a set of electronic ecosystems teeming with beats that scurry like insects, and playfully abstract melodies. Her disguised voice adds a childlike human touch, but it already feels the product of a busy mind; even though the sounds are all electronic, this isn’t something that could’ve been randomly spit out by a machine. It feels both carefully thought out and shaped by nature. It’s glitchy and micro, but it’s also informed by dance and pop production without conforming to those types of structures. Her club tracks were great but this album is where she demonstrates her true artistry.

Octave One: Never On Sunday (430 West, 2023)

May 2, 2023 at 11:58 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Octave One: Never On Sunday

Octave One are always a must-see live act whenever they take the stage at Movement, and they’ve continued putting out an exceptional amount of music on their 430 West label (and others like UR and Tresor) since 1990. Previewed by a 12″ last year, their newest album is named after their longstanding Never On Sunday alias. Not quite a typical Detroit techno record, it’s somewhere in between a futuristic pop album, an industrial soundscape, and an international club showcase. “Enterstella” is a detached sci-fi intro, and then “Contemplate” and “Price We Pay” (both with vocalist Karina Mia) apply complex sonics to electropop songs. “Soon After” is sort of like dark gothic cathedral electro, and “A Moment of Truth” could easily be a Depeche Mode instrumental (but not anything like “The Policy of Truth”). “Metal Forest” evokes a magical environment, and “Mona” is a more beat-driven downtempo extension of the same vibe. The second half of the album is all instrumentals, edits, and remixes of tracks from the first half, and they’re often way more club-friendly (“Tiers” is really the only straightforward dance track at the beginning). Orbital’s “Price We Pay” is swell but Giorgia Angiuli arguably does more with the song, stretches it out and takes it in a headier direction. Skream turns “The Bearer” into a tunneling pounder, while P41 and Octave One themselves leave much of the suspense in.

Philip D Kick: Off World Tales (Astrophonica, 2023)

May 1, 2023 at 7:48 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Philip D Kick: Off World Tales

One of the originators of footwork jungle completes a trilogy of EPs for Astrophonica which began in 2018. The seven tracks (plus one “party loop”) are tightly wound tricky rhythms precision engineered to elevate your mind and your body. “Predator” injects spikes of fear thanks to well-timed drum breaks and horror soundtrack strings. “Orbit” is the most junglistic track, and clearly my favorite. “Replicant” has shifting break patterns (half time? double time?) and bubbling acid synths, clearly evoking a sci-fi atmosphere while also showcasing the trippy qualities of the hybrid style. It’s credited as featuring Om Unit (PDK’s alter ego, or the other way around), and it has a bit of the flavor of his Acid Dub Studies tracks. A lot of the shorter tracks on this release feel far more like DJ tools than fleshed out songs, but the heavier ones carry the bass weight.

Damian’s Ghost: After Life EP (Astrophonica, 2023)

April 30, 2023 at 3:11 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Damian’s Ghost: After Life EP

The first track on this EP, “Voices”, is one of those tunes where you immediately feel like something remarkable is happening and you’re excited to be witnessing it. It rolls in graciously, and a voice repeating the phrase “I hear voices in my head…” hooks you in, eventually revealing the completion of the thought: “I try not to listen”. There’s some footwork kicks in there, but overall it’s just blissful atmospheric jungle that doesn’t get too heavy. Truly transportive club music, something that’s going to trigger feelings when I hear it in the future. “Look at the Lights” is a pretty mellow, pleasant roller with a Kool Keith sample. “High Places” could easily be mixed out of the previous track, as the very beginning sounds very similar, but then it reveals some tighter, choppier drum rolls and more expressive synth pads. When the Amens kick in, it’s such a massive rush of dread, ecstasy, and melancholy all at once. Like finally having to take the plunge and face something you’ve been trying to put off and avoid for so long. Fortunately listening to it is a much more enjoyable experience, but it still points to something emotionally heavy. “In the Night” is a straight-through rave cruiser, which has some tense synths but otherwise feels a bit lighter than some of the other tracks here. Solid EP all around.

Yorobi: Eden EP (Sneaker Social Club, 2023)

April 27, 2023 at 7:27 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Yorobi: Eden EP

Amsterdam’s Yorobi previously played at Rupture and released a record with Tim Reaper, and now she’s on Sneaker Social Club with her first EP. Her tracks tend to have tight, snappy breaks, occasionally with unexpected sounds poking through, like whatever those sharp paddle-thwacks during “Stabs” are. Unlike the first side, the B-side isn’t jungle at all. “Model Patient” is glitchy electro with a garage swing to it, and “Rhode to Nowhere” is a cavernous journey with busy polyrhythmic percussion and smooth, reverby melodies. Then finally “Eden” sounds like a coded transmission from an invisible realm beyond the pale. A hugely inventive release from a producer clearly interested in reading between the lines of what’s considered club music.

Purelink: To/Deep 12″ EP (NAFF, 2023)

April 26, 2023 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Purelink: To/Deep 12″ EP

Chicago’s Purelink have been making waves with a distinctive blend of ambient, dub, and liquid drum’n’bass somewhere in the vicinity of releases on labels like xpq? and West Mineral Ltd. — music to swim inside rather than dance to. Their newest EP contains two of their most refreshing tracks yet, as well as two in-demand classics now on vinyl for the first time. “Earth To” tiptoes around ambient jungle but doesn’t plunge right in, yet it’s awash in luscious, soothing textures. “Not That Deep” similarly feels like dub techno without the beats, but there’s no need for them as the rippling echoes carry enough weight to move you. “Maintain the Bliss”, the first of the two tracks that appeared digitally in 2021, is another gentle whirlpool of sound, living up to its title by not “going anywhere” but cozying into an ecstatic state and holding onto it. “Head on a Swivel” is maybe my favorite track of the EP, with more forceful jungle breaks and clicks’n’cuts suspended in a sort of aquamarine gas, steered by deep bass pulsations.

Sharkiface: Climax In A Process (No Part Of It, 2023)

April 23, 2023 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Sharkiface: Climax In A Process

Angela Edwards has crossed paths with several experimental/underground music luminaries since the ’90s, including Daniel Johnston, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Leslie Keffer, Tomeka Reid, and so many others. She’s released music as Sharkiface since the 2000s, but this is her first full solo album, containing older as well as newer material, but it’s not specified when the pieces were recorded. Anyway, her music is often vocal-based, especially the opener, “Melancholeta”, which starts by building up a flurry of breathy moans before continuing with cryptic low-pitched whispering. Other tracks fold the vocals within the acoustic strokes and tape manipulation. “Pan & Echo” uses both of those effects, stretching strings and shivering voices into glassy audio sculptures. “Hour of the Wolf” is more upfront, with poetic dialogue, but “Mystery” hides wisps of voices behind creaking and wind. After the brief, clanging “Garden Party”, the rest of the album is taken up by the six-movement “Climax In A Process”. This suite has more obvious tape manipulations than the other pieces, and seems more electronic, especially with moments like the repetitive synth tones and feedback wash of the second movement. The fourth movement plays around with tape micro-loops which vary in speed, from slow murmurations yanked up to rapid yip-yip-yips, then fragmented into tough, acidic static. The 15-minute fifth movement is a hypnotic collage of ticking and striking clocks, and it gets deeper and more intricate as it evolves. Genuinely haunting.

Seekersinternational presents Ragga Preservation Society: No Parasites EP (Sneaker Social Club, 2023)

April 16, 2023 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Seekersinternational presents Ragga Preservation Society: No Parasites EP

Canadian abstract dub crew Seekersinternational sometimes dip into jungle as Ragga Preservation Society, and their latest EP arrives on the always reliable modernist hardcore imprint Sneaker Social Club. Four six-minute tracks, all mini-soundclash sessions rather than structured DJ tools. “No Parasites (Lickshot!)” has a long ambient midsection before it gets pulled back in with breakbeats. “Caught Up (Heart Breaks)” adds a familiar diva house sample to jazzy shuffling drums, then elevates the energy with ragga chatting, sirens, and thick ravey synths whooshing past in a Hooverian blur, to borrow a phrase from one of the group’s labelmates. “2 Gold Chain (Drive U Crazy)” doesn’t go for high speed, instead rushing memories of ’80s R&B into a sweet haze. “Original of the Original” is more repetitive than the others, looping the title phrase along with a busted break in a slow, dubby crawl. Not quite an all-directions-at-once free-for-all like other SKRS releases, nor a straightforward record of any genre, No Parasites is an intense bunch of overlapping memories which fires up when it has to, but otherwise keeps it boiling and bubbling.

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