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Albums - Issue 583

Martyn - Voids

Martyn

Voids

Ostgut Ton

Vivid visuals
9.0
By the time ‘Try To Love You’ gently unveils its keys, Martyn’s first long-player for the Ostgut camp deserves a breather. Ambient noise and playful pianos invoking forgotten scores to lost pre-war reels, as a track it’s a small tumbler of woozy, minimalistic smoked jazz, offering very different flavours to the overall body of work, which is complex, future-focussed and largely pretty solid. A single aural reading of timeless oak-aged late nights amid sci-fi sonics and roughneck rhythms. Everything on ‘Voids’ makes visualisation easy. Layers of electronics for mind and feet hypnotise without turning into background fodder, some subtle others up front. Deep enough to mean easily losing yourself in the arrangements, tough enough to mean some sections could destroy clubs faster than the sledgehammers they use as kick drums (‘World Gate’, for example). Although difficult to pigeonhole, from the earth-shatteringly low refrains underpinning percussion-heavy ‘Nya’, to ‘Cutting Tone’’s sharp, unforgiving cymbals, staccato almost-fours and skeletal organ stabs, Martyn’s signature is omnipresent if you listen. The ghostliest depths of dark garage experiments, the rave-ier end of post-dubstep and melancholic fringes of broken techno – hybrid sounds he has been instrumental in helping to push forward. Stopping short of dnb tempos doesn’t mean nuances can’t also be found amongst the sonic reference points. Not least the track title ‘Manchester’, a spatial, echoed stepper resplendent in waves of synth and shimmering top ends dedicated to a close ally of Martyn and hero of soulful futurism, Marcus Intalex, who died in May 2017. The same year Martyn suffered a heart attack himself, taking him close to the brink. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the result of studio time after those traumatic events is unpredictable as life, and a record that makes every moment count.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Theo Kottis - Beautiful Strangers

Theo Kottis

Beautiful Strangers

Beautiful Strangers

Short and sweet
8.0
With his debut album ‘Beautiful Strangers’, Anjunadeep and Moda Black alumnus Theo Kottis spans a wealth of well-worn touchstones, from groovy acid to the kind of spine-tingling house music that demands warm sand between your toes and stars sprawling above your head. It's also pleasingly brief. These sound like backhanded compliments. They're not. The fact that it doesn't wang on for hours on end, full of its own self-importance, is a wonderful thing. At seven tracks, it's tight and well proportioned. And that some of the inspirations may be well-worn is no bad thing either. He executes flawless balearica on ‘Same Old’ and ‘Reasons’ effortlessly, to be consumed with a daft smile slapped across your face. ‘The Get Down’ chugs and drives with nods to the old school, and the sound of a rave in the background. ‘Sky’, meanwhile, brings all of those dancefloor feels rushing to the fore. This could well be the soundtrack to the rest of your summer.
Ben Arnold
Masayoshi Fujita - Book Of Life

Masayoshi Fujita

Book Of Life

Erased Tapes

Good vibes
8.0
Erased Tapes are renowned for signing the most daringly unique composers and musicians from across the globe, and the latest is from Japanese-born Berlin-based Masayoshi. This is his third album using the vibraphone as a fundamental sound resulting in a delightfully melancholy piece of work. The instrument naturally reverberates meditative, dreamy sounds and when they’re electronically amplified they become gracefully hypnotic. Experimenting with mallets, cellos and flutes in addition create an even broader range of musical phrases, all interweaving harmoniously. The entire body of work is pensive, evoking deep reflection with moments of exaltation. ‘Old Automaton’ calls upon additional strings that amplify sadness, whereas ‘It’s Magical’ conjures a brighter, jovial mood. ‘Cloud Of Light’ is the final piece, with vibraphone notes that pause but are played with aplomb. This album should be played start to finish but be warned; it may make you shed a tear.
Anna Wall
Skeptical - Enjoy This Trip

Skeptical

Enjoy This Trip

Exit Records

It's a journey
8.5
With the impact Skeptical has had on the imprint and the game as a whole, it’s crazy to think this is his debut album for Exit Records. Label boss dBridge has said that “he has been largely left by the label to work at his own pace in order to find his true voice as a creative”. And may we wholeheartedly tell you, the wait’s been worth every millisecond. The album works exquisitely as one piece of art, a slow moving, pulsating organism, with the main vein of the work throbbing continually, switching as it glissades through the track list. Our favourite bit on the LP would have to be ‘Grub’, with its black and brooding atmosphere. The fast-forward motion of the shuffling drums and the icy, veils of breathy air give an uneasy vibe of being chased by an otherworldly demon. ‘Elevator’ stands out from the rest of the record sheer glitchy brilliance, and nods to footwork.
Whisky Kicks
Soulwax - Essential

Soulwax

Essential

Deewee

Spontaneous party music
8.5
‘Essential’ is an odd conceptual album if ever there was one (redundant even, at first glance); the result of the Belgian duo’s recent Essential Mix invite, which inspired them to spontaneously throw together an hour of new music in just two weeks. A recipe for slapped-together mediocrity? What’s incredible is that even after 20 plus years of making music, Soulwax still spat out an album’s worth of wall-to-all bangers in record time. The opening robo-voiceover quickly establishes the Soulwax sense of humour as intact, the word “essential” repeated endlessly and absurdly (emphasising the theme to the point of raucous stupidity). Music wise, it’s fascinating how effortless its electro/indie-flavoured house sounds are; delivered with the chutzpah of a flavour-of-the-moment newbie. It’s an unexpected lesson (from two grizzled veterans, no less) of how the industry currently favours prolific spontaneity over overthinking; and demonstrates Soulwax haven’t lost their knack for irreverent, ridiculously fun party music.
Angus Paterson
Ross From Friends - Family Portrait

Ross From Friends

Family Portrait

Brainfeeder

A funky friend
7.0
It’s hard to decide whether ‘Ross From Friends’ is the worst or best artist name ever. Either way, anyone expecting a mashup of ’90s tunes is going to be disappointed – although, there is a dose of the ’90s in places, but then there’s also a dose of pretty much everything else, too, in a good way. Stripped-back house is the backbone, but Ross (Felix Weatherall) gently loads up the lo-fi with samples, soul, synths, wailing saxophones, funk and ambient. At first it sounds a bit hotchpotch-y, but stick with it and you realise that each track is its own little tapestry of finely calculated weirdness with its own groove. Wonky, rolling, foot-tapper ‘Project Cybersyn’ demonstrates this nicely, as does ‘Wear Me Down’ – one of many nods to Aphex Twin, along with the delightful, twinkly, punchy ‘R.A.T.S’.
Tristan Parker
The Egg - Galactic Love Machine

The Egg

Galactic Love Machine

Loop De Loop Records

Sound of the summer
6.0
Perennial festival faves The Egg return with their fifth studio album, produced and co-written with Orb knob-twiddler Greg Hunter and keyboard-wizard Ulrich Schnauss. What’s always been so relishable about The Egg’s previous full-lengths is the mix they achieve between a jamming-improvisational vibe and lush studio-confected textures and ‘Galactic Love Machine’ is no exception, ‘Psyfunk’ kicking things off with a dreamy mix of wibbly synths, shoegazey guitar and crisp, thrumming beats. I’m reminded most palpably by tracks like the deeply dubby ‘Subfunkd’ and ‘Sublemon’ of Ninja Tune’s hippyish fringe (Up Bustle & Out, DJ Food) as well as the golden age of Eat Static and Guerrilla Records by more straight-ahead tent-pleasers like ‘Dreams Are So Much Better’ and ‘Deepspace’. Will I listen again? Probably not, because I don’t do barbecues or MDMA. If you do either of those, this should be your soundtrack this summer.
Neil Kulkarni
Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons - Heart Of Sky

Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons

Heart Of Sky

Crosstown Rebels

I'm with the band
7.0
Damian Lazarus has always been known for his quirky dress code and outlandish productions, and it’s with the Ancient Moons that he’s found his spiritual home complete with full live band. All hail their second studio album. ‘All I Need To Get High’ is a stormy beginning with dark synths and electrical pulses that set a dramatic skyline, the clouds eventually breaking into lighter song and melody. ‘Feedback Loop’ is a play on analogue output, with plenty of subtle reverberating sounds. In true album format there’s a token beatless ballad that comes in the form of ‘Lost Myself’, complete with emotive washed out piano solo. A grand finale comes with ‘Tomorrow We Can Start Again’ utilising a myriad of cinematic style orchestral strings. It’s these slow-burning sub-driven productions, laced with glimmering sounds and indie-pop breakdowns that have become Damian’s forte. The album contains plenty of sing-along style verses, sure to be heard across his Woomoon parties throughout the summer.
Anna Wall
RP Boo - I’ll Tell You What!

RP Boo

I’ll Tell You What!

Planet Mu

Danceable chaos
6.0
Two albums in, ‘I’ll Tell You What!’ is footwork progenitor RP Boo née Kavain Space’s first album proper. Following his archive sets ‘Legacy’ and ‘Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints’, ‘ITYW!’ sees the Chicago stalwart experimenting, dabbling in industrial Daft Punk-style progginess on Wicked Bu, martial Jlin-ish drums on ‘Earth’s Battle Dance’, dubstep-cum-digidub on ‘Bounty’ and subtler composition in the form of the ethereal coda bolted on to ‘Deep Sole’. But despite these surprises, the bulk of ‘ITYW!’ is self-reflexive, circle-centric business as usual, with juxtapositions that can seem inspired or maddening. Soft Stevie Wonder steals get twisted to form lovelorn dancer brags on ‘U Don’t Know’ while ‘Deep Sole’s “it’s not over between you and me” line becomes less about separated lovers than stoking rivalries. Boo hasn’t lost his taste for the chaotic or his casual disregard for form – he doesn’t do neat. Occasionally though, he does turn out a tight construction. ‘At War’ is a tonally ambiguous workout that John Cage fans could warm to and ‘Work the Flow’s nagging vocal is tightly triggered around its jagged synth line. ‘ITYW!’ is no brave new world for Boo, but it will keep his seat safe.
Sunil Chauhan
Castillano & Wenninger - Live At W57

Castillano & Wenninger

Live At W57

Riviera Club

Düsseldorf dreaming
8.0
The revival of the cassette medium is far from a fad. Increasingly a way for labels to put out unconventional or limited edition albums, there are many treasures to be found if you look. The third release on Riviera Club, a label run by Brighton leftfield techno/bass producer Caldera (WNCL, Noorden) is a prime example of the vitality of the tape format: a new live document capturing German experimentalists Björn Castillano and Pitt Wenninger in remarkable form. Recorded at the W57 art space in Düsseldorf, over 40 minutes, their performance ranges from psychoactive broken techno to off-kilter, analogue roughage, driven into the red and draped in eerie vocal samples. Supremely lysergic in places, in others, ambient and beautiful, there’s more than a hint of Düsseldorf electronic progenitors such as Kraftwerk or Neu! in Castillano & Wenninger’s continuous modern techno mix. It’s well worth hooking up a tape player and letting the duo’s grainy goodness wash over you.
Ben Murphy
Loco Dice - Love Letters

Loco Dice

Love Letters

Desolat

Dump me
4.0
Loco Dice’s story is a mixed one. After early roots in hip-hop, he made a successful transition to house and techno and became one of DC10’s key residents during the Ibiza club’s heyday. His sound was always chunky and imbued with a hip-hop attitude. It spawned a decent debut album and plenty of club hits, but then he went off track, releasing a collab-heavy album with EDM powerhouse Ultra that must have been a ploy for the super big time. It didn’t work, and now he’s back with ‘Love Letters’, which is far from the pop trash of his last effort but still a bit of a mess. His trademark big drums and bold synths have gone in place of a glitchy, wonky tech sound that’s often awkwardly muddled. The simple but effective ‘Code Feelings’ is one exception in an album of otherwise rather coked-up mishits.
Kristan J Caryl
 SOPHIE - OIL OF EVERY PEARL's UN-INSIDES

SOPHIE

OIL OF EVERY PEARL's UN-INSIDES

Transgressive

Pop’s new face
8.5
How do you follow up the EP that’s cited as radically redefining pop music? In SOPHIE’s case, you unleash a debut album that fires on all cylinders from the off, excellent singles ‘It’s Okay To Cry’, ‘Ponyboy’ and ‘Faceshopping’ belonging to perhaps the strongest opening trilogy of any record in 2018. From here, we’re treated to SOPHIE at her bounciest, ‘Immaterial Girl’ armed with those trademark plink-plonk synths that propel Charli XCX singles, and most abrasive with ‘Not Okay’ punishing even the sturdiest of soundsystems despite clocking in at under two minutes. But it’s extended monster closer ‘Whole New World/Pretend World’ that is the record’s crowning glory; layering sugary vocals, frenzied bass growls and metallic shrieks with increasingly warped intensity, refining somewhat familiar elements for a fresh assault on pop and further reinforcing SOPHIE’s tag as an unparalleled pioneer in the musical world and beyond.
Anonymous
Lotic - Power

Lotic

Power

Tri Angle

Difficult, captivating and… regimented
9.0
A glance at the cover of ‘Power’ suggests concepts of identity are under the microscope. Indeed, the debut LP from Texan born, Berlin-based J'Kerian Morgan aka Lotic nominates Ta-Nehisi Coates' ‘Between The World And Me’ as inspiration. Further still, it’s a Foucaultian exploration of the various ways “power can be expressed and experienced." It’s an extravagant conceptual exploration indeed; though ultimately, its cerebral side is aggressively pushed aside by its sonic concepts; inspired this time, inexplicably, by Lotic's love of “Texan marching bands." This makes more sense than you might think. There’s the same violent mashing of the harmonic and atonal elements from earlier work, the contrasts even more extreme now, though this time they’re grounded by an unmistakably regimented rhythm and percussion. Confronting and exhilarating in equal measures, its more disciplined rhythmic approach weaves coherence into the chaos for the year’s most exciting avant-garde electronic album so far.
Angus Paterson
Natureboy Flako - Theme For A Dream

Natureboy Flako

Theme For A Dream

Five Easy Pieces

Natural beauty
9.0
Chilean-born Dario Rojo Guerra (who also moonlights as Flako and Dirg Gerner) has a knack for summoning the natural world through his sweeping, hallucinatory productions. 2015’s ‘Natureboy’ was an essential document for those interested in the intersection of orchestral sonics and hip-hop (Guerra was co-producer on Kutmah’s latest Low End Theory-mining LP), and ‘Theme For A Dream’ is as strong – if not stronger. His layering of rhythm and particularly melody is unparalleled; ‘Stream Of Being’ sounds like being at the centre of a rainforest (albeit one inhabited by robots), while the titular cut really is a masterpiece – buoyed up by some thrilling horns. ‘Ancient Lands’ throws zig-zagging, saw-toothed synths over hand claps and bar chimes for something that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard, but everything you want to hear. It’s a trip, and you won’t even need to don your walking boots.
Felicity Martin