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Albums - Issue 572

Hercules & Love Affair - Omnion

Hercules & Love Affair

Omnion

BMG

Change of pace
7.5
Album number four from Andy Butler’s alt-disco troupe unveils a broader, gentler and more thoughtful side to Hercules & Love Affair. The clubby pulse that ran through previous records is no longer the focal point, and Butler now seems keen to be heard as a songwriter, rather than ‘just’ producer and dancefloor-filler. Still present, however, are some of those catchy, deviant-disco grooves that Butler crafts so well; ‘Controller’ (featuring Faris Badwan from alt-rock act The Horrors), has a touch of classic Hercules in its punchy swagger, and the title track (featuring singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten) is a big, radio-ready number with a big, pop-driven melody to match. Elsewhere, Lebanese indie act Mashrou' Leila bring soulful sparkle on ‘Are You Still Certain?’ and Icelandic trio Sísý Ey lead the stripped-back ‘Running’; there’s a big contributor list, but it’s ‘Fools Wear Crowns’, the one track without a guest, that perhaps reveals the most about the album’s new direction. Butler himself handles vocals here, on a highly personal song that finds him reflecting on a difficult subject — his battles with addiction and resulting behaviour: “Allow me to raise my hand and admit how much of a fool I am.” It’s a departure from previous Hercules albums, but listen hard to those records — even the self-titled debut from 2008 — and you realise it’s actually not a huge departure. H&LA have always utilised shimmering pop melodies and soulful songwriting — there’s just a little more introspection and a little less chugging disco behind it this time. Admittedly, some tracks don’t hit the mark, either from not having quite enough going on (‘Lies’) or just being overcooked (‘Wild Child’). So, can you still dance to ‘Omnion’? Absolutely. The difference is that you’ll be dancing during a sunny festival daytime rather than in a sweaty New York club basement.
Tristan Parker
Terrence Dixon - 12,000 Miles of Twilight

Terrence Dixon

12,000 Miles of Twilight

OUT-ER

Outer space
5.0
Detroit veteran Terrence Dixon's fifth album comes courtesy of Out-ER, the Italian label which has become a home to material from luminaries like Orlando Voorn, Aubrey and Juan Atkins. The triple-vinyl set ‘12,000 Miles of Twilight’, which begins with audio of a shuttle launch, is littered with space travel references, and perhaps the album might be best enjoyed while gazing into the heavens, thinking of other things. Otherwise, its shortcomings could easily become apparent. While murky, loop-heavy, trance-inducing techno most certainly has its place, chewing through a full 21 tracks of predominantly eight-bar phrases repeated ad nauseum becomes tiring. Perhaps it's all more artful than this reviewer appreciates (and it does indeed come adorned with some handsome, conceptual photographic artwork from London artist James Winter). But ultimately, ‘12,000 Miles of Twilight’ is an album in need of a brutal edit for its own good.
Ben Arnold
Portico Quartet - Art in the Age of Automation

Portico Quartet

Art in the Age of Automation

Gondwana Records

Four's the charm
8.0
With its original blend of jazz, neo-classical soundtrack touches and electronic beats and bass, Portico Quartet’s 2012 self-titled second album on Real World was excellent, a more cutting-edge follow-up to their Mercury-nominated debut. After a spell on Ninja Tune as a pared-back Portico, the Quartet have returned with a sound closer to their best record. It’s less dramatic, more restrained, and very beautiful, wreathed in strings, gentle saxophone, and on the title track, interlaces hang drum and bittersweet synth-work. ‘RGB’ returns to the syncopated grooves they’ve dabbled in before, its broken beats and funk bass overlaid with disconsolate instrumentation. The closing ‘Lines Glow’ is a more optimistic blend of cascading synth arpeggios and rolling percussion that would fit a Nordic noir TV show. Now that Ólafur Arnalds and Jóhann Jóhannsson are enjoying such success with similarly excellent music, Portico Quartet deserve to be recognised too. This album should be the breakthrough.
Ben Murphy
The Radiophonic Workshop - Burials in Several Earths

The Radiophonic Workshop

Burials in Several Earths

Room 13 Records

Intergalactic improv
7.0
The ‘Doctor Who’ theme is a legacy that’ll both bless and haunt The Radiophonic Workshop until the end of days. That incredible composition was recorded many earth moons ago by an incarnation featuring the amazing Delia Derbyshire, and if you’re looking for a similarly memorable electronic ditty, ‘Burials in Several Earths’ isn’t really for you. The album’s wild, moody synth improvisations are more in-line with the Workshop’s early soundscape material that boggled people’s minds decades ago. Each epic track is pretty out-there, but also has its own distinct theme – and the sci-fi sonics that people know and love the Workshop for are still there, particularly in the glitched, galactic thrashings of ‘Some Hope of Land’ parts one and two. Elsewhere, things veer from melodic to hallucinatory to downright creepy. For fans of Tangerine Dream, Tim Hecker and anyone who likes their music made by jamming, voyaging visionaries.
Tristan Parker
D'Visions

Dany Rodriguez

D'Visions

RMR

Tasteful techno
9.0
Dany Rodriguez is a rather under the radar techno producer. While the Spanish-born, Belgian-based RMR boss doesn’t get the headlines of some of his peers, the richness of his productions certainly warrant it. Currently in a purple patch, he quickly follows up last year’s ‘Galaxies Compared’ album with another, ‘D’Visions’, which offers nine more bits of cultured techno weaponry. Opener ‘Natural Symphony’ proves Rodriguez has a mastery of his synths, because it’s a blissful ambient opener filled with the joys of a new spring day. After that it’s down to business, with streamlined acid, crisp intergalactic electro and the sci-fi soundtracking of ‘Oscilo 8.’ Mind-melting Millsian techno built on rubbery 909s and awash with cosmic keys also appears in the second half and confirms this is an album that is as much about inventive form as it is effortless function.
Kristan J Caryl
Mary Epworth - Elytral

Mary Epworth

Elytral

Sunday Best

LA grooves
8.0
British musician Mary Epworth continues to push the boundaries of her psychedelic electronic pop on her second full length release. Recorded in Los Angeles, ‘Elytral’ is inherently steeped in the rhythm city with its groovy, sun-drenched melodies at odds with a more sinister, fractured underbelly. This theme of opposites and tension is conveyed through a wash of synths, electronic percussion, sax and Mary’s mesmerising, effects-laden voice. Standout track ‘One Big Wave’ pairs a lush vocal hook with sparse instrumentation, while ‘Bring Me The Fever’ pits jarring industrial drum machine passages against silky, repetitive lyrics. ‘Lost Everything’ glides past with its beautiful layered harmonies delivering melancholic words, and album closer ‘Surprise Yourself’ is a catchy and lilting pop song bolstered by glistening, wah-wahed keyboards. While ‘Elytral’ isn’t reinventing the wheel, it’s a damn good release that cements Mary Epworth as someone who’s only just begin to really discover the depth of her talent.
Zara Wladawsky
Mr Jukes - God First

Mr Jukes

God First

Island

Jukebox on steroids
4.0
So correct, so polite, it damn near makes me want to puke —should have expected nothing less from this side-project of Jack Steadman from the equally execrable Bombay Bicycle Club (thankfully on an indefinite hiatus at the moment). Some of the beats here are okayish, such as on the lunging Ninja-Tune-style jazz-funk of ‘Angels Your Love’ — but the disparate influence Steadman attempts to meld here (Bollywood, soul, electro, jazz) and the ever-present retro-synth textures and vocal ponderousness combine to create coffee-table music so soporifically bland you can practically hear Jamie Oliver cooking in the background. This is music arranged to be superficially ‘impressive’ and certainly the supporting cast is dazzling (De La Soul, Horace Andy, Lalah Hathaway) but there are better records being made in all the genres Steadman is plundering here, without the nasty edge of crossover dilution he brings to his soulless theft. Pass.
Neil Kulkarni
Biogen - Halogen Continues

Biogen

Halogen Continues

трип

Bio-genius
9.5
Roughly five years on on from Biogen’s passing, his influence is still strongly felt in the Icelandic electronic music scene. A key founder for both the legendary Thule and left-leaning Weirdcore labels, he also made an indelible mark over a small set of releases baring his singular, raw and experimental approach to atmospheric and beat-driven music. ‘Halogen Continues’ is the artist’s first posthumous release on Nina Kraviz’s трип. label; a stunning compendium meticulously cobbled together by Kraviz to showcase Biogen’s wide breadth of work from frenetic breakbeat freakouts to glacial, ambient narratives to droning bleep-driven club cuts. Through sheer rawness and adventurous production, he was able to craft timeless, enveloping and haunting sonic environments. Listening to the release from start to finish really hits home how talented and forward-thinking Biogen was, and will no doubt make sure his deserved legacy is heard and respected far beyond his inner circle.
Zara Wladawsky
Claude Speeed - Infinity Ultra

Claude Speeed

Infinity Ultra

Planet Mu

Entrancing
8.5
Scottish producer Claude Speeed, once the guitarist for math rock outfit American Men, has most notably made outings on LuckyMe previously, before side-stepping onto Planet Mu in 2015 with ‘Sun Czar Temple’. His second album ‘Infinity Ultra’ sees that complex-rhythmed heritage shining through (in ‘Enter The Zone’), while whispers of his LuckyMe past are present on opener ‘BCCCC’, with its life-affirming, Rustie-like melodies. The trancey ‘Ambien Rave’ brings to mind Lorenzo Senni, but it’s not all joyous technicolour — ‘Windows 95’ beckons us into an eerie rave cavern, while the Kuedo-assisted ‘Alternate Histories’ finds an imagined being hammering down a door. Speeed’s influences range from children’s anime, sleep paralysis, and ‘terrifying silicon valley futures’ — and inevitably ‘Infinity Ultra’ conjures up images of a dystopian world. When an album is this expansive it might seem pointless, but somehow Speeed manages to draw together these rave fragments and piece together something rather beautiful.
Felicity Martin
Cardopusher - New Cult Fear

Cardopusher

New Cult Fear

Boys Noize

Robot rave
8.0
Venezuela isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of electronic music activity, but in Cardopusher alone the country has a real modern great. His arresting body of work takes in labels like Super Rhythm Trax, his own Classicworks and Boysnoize, where he returns now for a second album after 2015’s ‘Manipulator’. And once again it is a rugged, robust and uncompromising affair that is built on macho rhythms and raw electro futurism. It offers a stark vision of a machine-made world and takes in a number of different styles, from the heavyweight ’Llegue Por La Noche’, which is pinned down by encircling synths and trudging drums, to the zoned out and libidinous loops of ‘Drunken Incapacitants’. Add in frazzled floor fillers like ‘Wanderlust’ and the acid acrobatics of ‘Falso Progresso’ and you have the soundtrack to a culture as paranoid and uneasy as is our own right now.
Kristan J Caryl
Marc Romboy & Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra - Reconstructing Debussy

Marc Romboy & Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra

Reconstructing Debussy

Hyperharmonic

No room for compromise
8.0
Marc Romboy is certainly interested in exploring new horizons at this point in his career. His retrospective anthology ‘Shades’ demonstrated just how comprehensive his history with house and techno really is, while the experimental ‘Voyage De La Planète’ from this year was incredibly well received. That album explored the tension between classical and electronic music, though he’s back just months later with a project that pushes this even further. ‘Reconstructing Debussy’ is inspired by Romboy observing the same pioneering attitude in 19th-century French composer as contemporary electronica, recorded live in one take with the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra. Romboy seeks to “edit, remix and reconstruct” Debussy, and it’s a deeply interesting and inspired affair, though also one that requires a degree of patience, particularly if your knowledge of classical is limited. For those who devour these 15-minute pieces in their entirety, they’ll discover an ambitious concept executed without compromise.
Angus Paterson
Maya Jane Coles - Take Flight

Maya Jane Coles

Take Flight

I/AM/ME

Flying high
9.0
Maya Jane Coles has returned with her highly anticipated sophomore album ‘Take Flight’. A long-time coming, Maya has passionately procured all parts of the process herself from writing, producing, arranging, mixing and performing, down to the intricate aesthetics of creating the artwork, and collaborating with fellow singer-songwriters Chelou, GAPS and Wendy Rae Fowler, who all add to the diversity of her latest creation. The breaks-driven ‘Cherry Bomb’ is dominating airwaves, the beautifully hypnotic synths of ‘Won’t Let You Down’ are all over club soundsystems, while ‘Blackout’ is a mesmerising blend of warm basslines and delectable guitar riffs with Maya’s dreamy vocals alluding to stories of restless nights. The album moves through many moods, soundscapes and tempos, proving that Maya’s creative diversity can work for the revered listener as well as maintain dancefloor sensibilities. ‘Take Flight’ is her landmark album and a true testament to all her hard work to date — it's clear Maya is still on fire.
DJ Mag Staff
Kutmah - TROBBB!

Kutmah

TROBBB!

Big Dada

Getting his own back
8.0
‘TROBBB!’ stands for ‘the revenge of the black belly button’ — a reference to the name Kutmah was called when picked on at school in Brighton. The turntablist has had to deal with a much bigger bully since then: US Immigration, who deported him from his adopted home in Los Angeles, where Kutmah’s Sketchbook nights were an integral part of the city’s beats scene. As such, there’s a notable feeling of disquiet and dislocation to his debut album, and some might find it as awkward and difficult to understand as the loner kid in the corner, as it moves between fractured hip-hop beats, dusty blues and abstract electronics, often accompanied by the prophetic mutterings of fellow leftfield beats travellers like Gonjasufi. ‘TROBBB!’ is ultimately too introspective to be a howl of rage, but it could certainly be a rallying
Paul Clarke

Bambooman

Whispers

Accidental Records

Gentle giant
9.0
‘Whispers’ packs integrity and originality for a journey across the breadth of where alternative electronica is right now, barely settling on one stylistic horizon. Less jarring than that suggests, sonic transitions feel natural but not predictable, so the lo-fi, woody arpeggios of ‘Bird Season’ don’t sound out of place after ‘Daxamite’s crunched hip-hop; and the snoozy, smoky R&B of the titular feels at home following ‘Frost’s atmospheric vinyl crackles and metronomic hooks, the latter making for a jazz warm up of snare rolls and percussive accents, suggesting more rhythm than the track contains. Perhaps what’s most impressive, though, is the use of field recording aesthetics within otherworldly interludes that are more than mere tools to separate more coherent tunes. ‘Manatee’s space chords create a subtle euphoria you wish lasted a minute or five longer; ‘Bronze’ marries alien whirs to the sound of crickets and distant chimes, as if a summer evening had been captured in one take and something slightly disturbing was picked up in the process. These interjections help make the more traditional segments even more delicious, not least ‘Brisk’, which is the definition of 21st Century soul — compressed lackadaisical drums, hypnotic notes, sultry vocals. Exceptional.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt