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Albums - Issue 609

Dana Ruh - Time Out of Mind

Dana Ruh

Time Out of Mind

Cave Recordings

Luscious deep house realness
9.5
Dana Ruh always goes deep, and ‘Time Out of Mind’ doesn’t disappoint, with its lush, stripped-down house realness. The Berlin-based producer, DJ, and label-owner’s second album – her follow up to 2014’s exquisite ‘Naturally…’ on Underground Quality – has the spaciousness and ease of a project that hasn’t been rushed. The album’s title is about the freedom of not feeling beholden to a release date. According to Dana, it’s “the best state of mind if it comes to making music. It is this freedom you need to simply create because you want to!” The result is eleven stunning tracks written and reworked over five years, in Berlin, New York City, and on tour. From the immediate warmth that hits with the delicate pads and beats of opener track, ‘Still’, the listener is transported into a world of nostalgic house. It nods to ’90s UK, NYC, and West Coast styles, the early ’00s progression into proto-tech house through to present day, and the more subtle and propulsive German deep house. There are nods to the sounds of labels like Driftwood, Dial, Comatonse, The Lauren Bacall, and Dana’s own Brouqade. Tracks like the chugging ‘Empty Battery’ and ‘New Day’ wrap us in a hazy cocoon of rhythms, and the emotive ambient passages of ‘Suspended’ and ‘Revertigo’ bring to mind Terre Thaemlitz’s productions. Woozy pads draw us in on ‘Misty Blue’ and ‘Me vs Me’, tracks that would sound equally as good in a sunrise set as in an introspective headphone listen. If a more pointed critique can be made, it’s that Dana Ruh isn’t exactly trying to reinvent the wheel here. But ‘Time Out Of Mind’ is so beautiful, so well produced, that it doesn’t matter. This will be a repeat listen for many months to come.
Zara Wladawsky
Nicolas Jaar - Cenizas

Nicolas Jaar

Cenizas

Other People

Melodies for the endless void
8.0
On ‘Cenizas’, Chilean-American producer Nicolas Jaar takes an evocative concept and distils it, with aplomb, to create a remarkable record. In similar fashion to his early work – specifically, his exceptional 2011 album ‘Space Is Only Noise’ – ‘Cenizas’ can be interpreted as a soundscape to a desolate scene. The album builds on tender organs and pianos, twitching electronica, and whispered lyrics. Among all this melancholia, the spoken-word verses and vocal samples come through as warm bursts. The melodies on ‘Cenizas’ are somewhat sluggish, but the overarching sensation is a tranquil one; it’s evocative of a sonorous Medieval church sermon, or the soundtrack to being lost in an endless void. ‘Cenizas’ is evidence, yet again, that Jaar is in a league of his own. His work demands your attention – and for such a meditative listen, it’s worth it.
Dhruva Balram
Yves Tumor - Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Yves Tumor

Heaven to a Tortured Mind

Warp

Freckled with non-conformity
8.0
Settling into a new Yves Tumor album is an exciting prospect. Each album offers something new; you can never predict what world he’s been quietly simmering away in, waiting for the right moment, and the right sound, to re-emerge. ‘Heaven to a Tortured Mind’ is his latest album, and it’s seductive. Brimming with sprightly instrumentation and soulful, pop-leaning melodies, this album sees Yves Tumor at his most accessible – though his approach to composition is still freckled with non-conformity. Spurts of sweaty, swirling guitars lay confidently beneath his vocals, which have always been at the forefront in his songs, but never has he been more verbal; probing starry-eyed themes of love, lust, and human connection, it’s our clearest insight yet into one of electronic music’s most mysterious figures. A vivacious, psychedelic, and sultry record.
Tanya Akinola
Thundercat - It Is What It Is

Thundercat

It Is What It Is

Brainfeeder

Dazzlingly unique jazz-funk
8.0
Thundercat’s 2017 album ‘Drunk’ was one of the previous decade’s highlights, and the considering the number of hungry collaborators on this new album – including rappers J Cole, Ty Dolla $ign, and Childish Gambino – might have you fearing that the Los Angeles wonder might risk diluting his batshit sound. Well, fear not. ‘It Is What It Is’ might be his most compelling work yet, with Flying Lotus producing things with a frabjous sense of freshness. Where ‘Drunk’ sometimes seemed obtuse and showy, the grooves here are tighter and the drums are more detailed. Tracks like the pulsating ‘Black Qualis’, the quiet-storm shimmer of ‘Fair Chance’, and the neck-snapping funk of ‘King Of The Hill’ emerge as sharper and more concise than anything he’s made before. It’s Thundercat’s finest, which means that it’s some of the finest sounds you’ll hear in 2020
Neil Kulkarni
Dom & Roland - Lost in the Moment

Dom & Roland

Lost in the Moment

Dom & Roland Productions

A veteran throws off the shackles
8.0
When Dom speaks of returning to the “core of the elements” of drum & bass, it’s not a statement threaded with the kind of purist mentality that you might expect. He’s actually talking of fleeing the limitations of dancefloor dogma, and the resulting album is among the most futuristic to emerge so far in 2020. Dom seeks to recapture that transcendent drum & bass energy on ‘Lost in the Moment’ through loosening the formulas that drive dancefloor momentum, in order to play with the sonic spaces that open up as a result. Its soundscape sketches are full of grit and menace, without steering too deliberately into experimental territory; the standard drum & bass pulse remains a constant. Instead, there’s a certain looseness, a deliberate lack of discipline, which makes it an exhilarating experience for those prepared to go along for the ride.
Angus Paterson
Max D - Many Any

Max D

Many Any

1432 R

Off-kilter house jams
7.5
Asides from being half of Beautiful Swimmers, Future Times boss Max D is best known for his frenetic rhythmic productions as Dolo Percussion. It seems to be in this mindset he kicks off ‘Many Any’, his fourth album, on fellow Washington DC-based label 1432 R. The fast/slow polyrhythms of ‘I Think Our Souls Are Other People’ make it as cosmically bonkers as the title makes out, while the jittery ‘Many Any Dolo Brush’ is the craggy offspring of footwork and musique concrète. Then, come ‘Fly Around The Room’, the gears shift down and the mood loosens. There’s the same inventive rhythmic bump, ‘Shoutout Feel’ broken beat with a Detroit techno mood, ‘Lullabiological’ a subterranean dub house groove, but by closer ‘Cuz It’s The Way’, with its stoned haze of golden-era ’90s hip-hop breaks, he’s in full reclining mode.
Joe Roberts
DJ Python - Mas Amable

DJ Python

Mas Amable

Incienso

Ambient Latin rhythms
8.5
New York’s DJ Python made up the term “deep reggaeton” as a joke. But on ‘Mas Amable’, a concept album drawing on the cosy experiences of friendship, he follows his love of ambient electronica and hypnotic Latin rhythms to their logical conclusion with a non-stop, evolving album that’s the dem bow equivalent of ‘E2-E4’ or ‘76:14’. Beatless, rain-soaked opener ‘Te Conocí’ bleeds into ‘Pia’, where the winding drums start. It’s the same with ‘oooophi’ and ‘Alejandro’, subtle intricacies hidden in the gentle grooves, switch ups, and repetitions. It breaks with ‘ADMSDP’, an 11-minute deep dive into subconscious currents narrated by LA Warman’s mesmerising voice. ‘Juntos’ pulls you back to the surface, via echoes of Boards of Canada, ‘mmmm’ fading out in ‘Selected Ambient Works’ bittersweetness. Next time someone tells you the album is dead, play them this.
Joe Roberts
Roza Terenzi - Modern Bliss

Roza Terenzi

Modern Bliss

Planet Euphorique

Hallucinogenic house
8.0
Originally from Perth but based in Melbourne, Roza Terenzi is a prolific producer. She’s dabbled with everything from electro to breakbeat (as has become the norm in the dance underground), but her debut album ‘Modern Bliss’, perhaps reflecting her busier gig diary, is powered by house and techno rhythms. Throughout, there’s a distinct psychedelic edge. The title cut is layered with dreamy synth pads, mind warping effects, and the energising spoken word of Ivy Barkakati: a morphing mandala of intricate detail. ‘That Track (Rewired Mix)’ is sub bass-heavy, minimalist house with chunky percussion, panning back to introduce a rap loop, threads of snaking electronics, and warm synth. ‘My Reality Cheque Bounced’, meanwhile, combines Roza Terenzi’s many influences into a coherent, rave-instigating whole. A hugely impressive debut, ‘Modern Bliss’ confirms her as one of the Australian underground’s great rising acts.
Ben Murphy
Laurel Halo - Possessed

Laurel Halo

Possessed

The Vinyl Factory

Videodrone
7.0
Laurel Halo described 2017’s ‘Dust’ as her “happy” album, but that happiness seems very subjective – you can’t picture her music accompanying some heartwarming life lessons delivered by cute animated animals in the latest Pixar flick. An impressionistic visual collage about ennui and individualism in the social media age, though, seems right up the Berlin-based American artist’s street. Composed around the same time as her ‘Raw Silk Uncut Wood’ mini-album, ‘Possessed’ is as much a companion piece to that as a score for the titular film, jettisoning Halo’s vocals in favour of sombre electronic tones and scratching, treated string parts performed by cellist Oliver Coates. Tracks like ‘Masks’ echo Mica Levi’s score for ‘Under The Skin’ – whilst Halo’s first stab at a soundtrack isn’t quite as singular or disturbing, it’s another string to this musical polymath’s impressive bow.
Paul Clarke
Ociya - Powers of Ten

Ociya

Powers of Ten

Acid Test

Mesmerising 303s
8.5
The squiggly acid sounds produced by the Roland TB303 bass synth (and various other emulations of it) are an integral part of practically every form of dance music, even now. Yet it’s rare that the device is employed for its emotional resonance. Ociya, a collaboration between acid master Tin Man and Patricia (of Ghostly, Opal Tapes) finds the duo making the little silver box do things it normally just couldn’t. Recording to 2-track at Patricia’s New York studio in one take, ‘Powers Of Ten’ is powerful proof of the expressive possibilities of the 303. ‘Ghost Moons’ is a gorgeous techno piece of multi-layered melancholy, possessed of the same unearthly feeling as classic U-Ziq or Autechre, and ‘Hopeful Galaxy’ has a wistful key motif accompanying its reverb dunked acid lines. Bewitching, full of tracks you could get blissfully lost in
Ben Murphy
Hodge - Shadows In Blue

Hodge

Shadows In Blue

Houndstooth

Neither shy nor retiring
7.5
Reading Hodge’s listed influences for his debut album – gardening, sci-fi novels, prog rock – it might seem the Bristol-based producer behind bass-heavy cuts on Hemlock and Livity Sound has chosen a quieter life. Which, given his frantic release and DJ schedule, would be understandable. But while the opening tracks are New Age soundscapes ideal for tending flowerbeds to, when ‘Sense Inversion’s beats bump, he’s clearly downed his trowel and picked up dancefloor tools instead. Things really get going with ‘Lanes’ churning percussion, before he brings out rave sirens for ‘Cutie’ and breaks and trance-y synths for ‘Ghost Of Akina (Rainbow Edition)’. ‘Shadows In Blue’ shows that Hodge’s chameleonic but cohesive style, which has seen him collaborate with such disparate souls as Laurel Halo to Peverelist in the past, works even better on an album than over 12”s.
Paul Clarke
Sepehr - Shaytoon

Sepehr

Shaytoon

Dark Entries

Freaky electro wanderings
8.5
San Francisco-based Sepehr’s debut album is an adventurous journey through left-field dance music, traversing myriad sounds and influences in wild and intriguing ways. There’s a sexy low-slung swagger on tracks like ‘Contamination’ and ‘Neophyte Delight’ that bring to mind cozy and sweaty dancefloors. Equally, the frenetic acid of ‘Hallucination Express’ and ‘Magma’ conjure up similar feelings, but amped up considerably with a more cerebral bent. Is Sepehr’s singular aesthetic the result of an upbringing rooted in Aphex Twin, a love of post-hardcore bands, ’70s Iranian albums that his family played at home to him as a child, and the San Francisco house and techno scene? Who knows, and honestly, who cares? It’s great. Everything on this album is just a little bit weird, and conforms to so few recognisable genre tropes, which makes it such a refreshing listen.
Zara Wladawsky
Matt Karmil - STS371

Matt Karmil

STS371

Smalltown Supersound

Low key perfection
9.0
Matt Karmil’s music keeps as low a profile as the UK artist himself. Word is, he never really planned to release his own music at all, but was persuaded to do so by Kompakt artists Popnoname and Ada. He’s worked away quietly as an engineer for Kornel Kovacs, Matias Aguayo, and Talaboman, but ‘STS371’, his fifth studio album, proves that he is every bit as deserving of your attention as those more established artists. It’s an album of thoughtful house moods and ambient atmospheres that take you away from the here and now. Deeply buried kick drums make for only the slightest, most suggestive of rhythms, while loopy chords inject motion and emotion into the clouds of dust and vinyl crackle. Like the great loop-master STL, the sounds here are imperfect and lo-fi, carefully dishevelled and beautifully melancholic. ‘Hard’ has lumpen kicks and wistful pads that drift off into infinity, ‘Congo’ is such a ramshackle collision of busted kicks, off-grid claps, and bright synths that it feels like it could fall apart at any moment, and ‘Still Not French’ is hyper-speed melodic techno minimalism. Karmil’s sound palette might be murky, but the ideas and execution never are.
Kristan J Caryl
Shabazz Palaces - The Don of Diamond Dreams

SHABAZZ PALACES

The Don of Diamond Dreams

Sub Pop

Jazzy hip-hop wonders
7.5
There’s a playful, jubilant bounce to Shabazz Palaces’ fourth studio album, ‘The Don of Diamond Dreams’, as the duo intertwine staccato hip-hop with Afrofuturistic lyrics over free jazz-inspired productions, full of samples, drum machines, and warbled basslines. Rooted in and informed by its Blackness, the album leaves plenty of space for Shabazz Palaces – in particular the leader Ishmael Butler, formerly of classic ’90s Brooklyn jazzy rap group Digable Planets – to tinker with idiosyncrasies within the playful beats and atypical lyrics. The club-ready ‘Bad Bitch Walking’ stands out, with arguably the strongest verse on the album from Seattle rapper Stas THEE Boss. Though there is a certain inventiveness missing on ‘The Don of Diamond Dreams’, which could have elevated it to even greater heights, the criminally underrated Shabazz Palaces have created another exquisite album that defies convention.
Dhruva Balram