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Albums - Issue 588

Kittin - Cosmos

Kittin

Cosmos

Nobody's Bizzness

Kittin purrs
9.0
In the last couple of years, at last, there has been an explosion of female musical talent. In turn, that vital representation has shown more and more young women that there is a place for them at dance music’s top table. Way before this happened, though, one French artist was breaking down her own doors and doing things on her own terms. Back then she was known simply as Kittin, but true to the rules of a dominant patriarchy, her alias was often, without consent, prefixed by ‘Miss.’ It stuck, and for years she was a go-to and all but standalone vocalist and electroclash pioneer. For her latest album, though, she goes back to her roots, loses the ‘Miss’ and serves up her most unrestrained record yet. It draws on her long background in electro, techno and wave music, but ditches some of the song structure she has leaned on before in favour of more textural and abstract electronic tracks. Her voice still features, but in small motifs, as spoken words, chopped or filtered into new forms. It adds a variety of moods, from robotic and ominous repetitions on ‘Elevate’ to more ethereal harmonies on ‘Last Day on Earth.’ In placing herself at the centre of this musical world, the record can’t help but feel autobiographical – there are socio-political themes explored on ‘#metoo’, moments of personal introspection on ‘Question Everything’ and a sense of disappointment in humanity on ‘Are You There,’ which muses, “We’re so primitive it hurts.” Tracks are brief and to-the-point, so things move quickly, and there is a general post-punk aesthetic that’s often monochrome and coloured only by Kittin’s own voice. It is her that lends the record a sense of humanity that would otherwise be missing in the icy atmospheres and sparse synths that characterise ‘Comos’, then, and her who once again leads from the front, on her own terms.
Kristan J Caryl
CHINAH - ANYONE

CHINAH

ANYONE

No. 3

Future R&B from Copenhagen
8.0
After several years studiously shaping their sound, Copenhagen three-piece CHINAH deliver a focused debut, zeroing in on visceral R&B thrills that sit comfortably alongside gritty electronics, and blessed with a charismatic MC who makes it all appear effortless. ‘ANYONE’ glides from moody to energetic, from warmth to abrasiveness. It peaks with the brash ‘Give Me Life’, a bona fide anthem that would slot righteously into any party hip-hop set, while also showcasing frontwoman Fine Glindvad’s breathless vocals that prioritise “fragility” over sassy attitude; asking the listener what comes next after they’ve “seen all of me.” Meanwhile, 'Adrenalin' flips into noisy industrial percussion, a sharp stylistic pivot that barely even feels like one. It’s an effort that showcases how well the Danish do edgy pop; not to mention, a trio that clearly enjoys incredible musical chemistry.
Angus Paterson
Slam - Athenæum 101

Slam

Athenæum 101

Soma

Ambient epic
8.0
Beyond their pounding DJ sets and strident productions, Glasgow techno team Slam have always had a gentler side. That’s in evidence on the many varied releases they’ve put out on their Soma label from other artists, and in their own downtempo material. It’s in full flight on their eighth album, which side lines the pummelling drums and soars off to ride the thermals of blissful, airy ambient music. ‘Athenæum 101’ (101 minutes long and 101bpm in case you’re wondering about the title), contains reflective epics such as ’12.37.870’, where percussive blips cascade over swirling synth pads. On ’33.06.534’, the dub techno of Echochord or Porter Ricks is evoked: a darker sound, where notes reverberate in a cavernous void. Towards the latter part of the record, the beats arrive, and over a stately four-four drum pulse, on ’40.42.771’, dubwise snares snap and ricochet in echo chambers, while sub bass lurks deep in the earth’s mantle. The moody magnificence of ’47.40.991’ is the highlight, where Slam let their gift for melody shine through: a dreamy synth line burrows its way into your subconscious, while a mystical bassline rumbles underneath, letting shards of sun into the record’s introspective domain. On their eighth record, Slam sound better than ever.
Ben Murphy
Crooked Man - Crooked House

CROOKED MAN

Crooked House

DFA

Warped dance
7.0
Sheffield’s Richard Barratt, aka DJ Parrot, has an enviable dance music CV. He’s been part of bleep techno specialists Sweet Exorcist, made electro-funk as Lady Cop, and dabbled with pop with All Seeing I. As Crooked Man, though, his muses are skewed house and classic New York disco – perhaps what attracted the attention of DFA. Barratt’s second album refines the sound he honed on killer tracks such as ‘Preset’ and ‘Scum’. ‘Make Up’ has a stop-start rhythm, a soulful vocal, and brain tingling analogue tones, while ‘Echo Loves Narcissus’, named single of the year in 2017 by Manchester’s astute Piccadilly Records crew, meshes psychedelic disco filters with a lethal blast of dark synth bass, before warm chords emerge from the fog. ‘Walls’, meanwhile, is unashamed, glorious piano house like they used to make. ‘Crooked House’ might be a touch uneven, but it contains several certified bangers.
Ben Murphy
Delroy Edwards & Dean Blunt - Desert Sessions

Delroy Edwards & Dean Blunt

Desert Sessions

LA Club Resource

Experimental synth jams
7.5
The fruit of jam sessions between two brilliant if slippery operators recorded in LA last year, ‘Desert Sessions’ is a curious quickie of an album. Using little more than a drum machine, ‘80s synthesisers and lots of tape hiss, tracks are stingily given only generic titles. There’s a see-what-happens feel, but Edwards and Blunt get plenty of mileage out of their minimal setup. Foggy instrumentals as sketchy as they are enticing, ‘Audio Track 12’s orchestral hits and cymbal crashes make it seem like an early Run DMC track made for the soundtrack of a straight-to-VHS ‘80s action movie, ‘02’, ‘04’ and ‘10’ echo the most blissed-out moments of ‘Black is Beautiful’, while ‘Audio Track 07’ could be an Ariel Pink demo. More of a work in progress than a finished article, it frustrates and engages in equal measure, but Edwards and Blunt probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sunil Chauhan
DJ Vadim - Dubcatcher III - Flames Up

DJ Vadim

Dubcatcher III - Flames Up

Soulbeats Records

Dub teacher
8.0
Russian hip-hop stalwart DJ Vadim’s production history goes way back… we’re talking well over 20 years in the game. Launching his label Jazz Fudge in 1994, a string of prolific releases on Ninja Tune and B.B.E have led him to be heralded one of the most prolific beatmakers in the scene. ‘Flames Up’ marks the third offering in his Dubcatcher series. Rooted in the teachings of dub, it’s a knowledgeable journey through dancehall and reggae, while still encompassing an undercurrent of his trademark hip-hop beats and breaks. ‘No Hype Man’ is a rowdy carnival rave tune, while tracks like ‘Rude Boy’ slow the pace and revert back to melodies laced with classic horn stabs. Then there’s the impressive list of lyrical collaborators – Mr Lexx, Big Red, Serocee, Killa P and a hell of a lot more are featured. This is testament that Vadim can effortlessly switch through genres while remaining solidly recognisable in his sound. Get educated.
Anna Wall
Lubomyr Melnyk - Fallen Trees

Lubomyr Melnyk

Fallen Trees

Erased Tapes

Leaves on the line
8.0
The ‘fastest pianist in the world’, the style of ‘continuous music’ Ukrainian artist Lubomyr Melnyk has been developing since the 1970s – where notes flow together almost imperceptibly quickly into a trancelike state – is perfectly suited to staring out the window on a railway journey. Unless you’re getting a train in the UK, where bum notes, long pauses and someone eventually stopping the music to make you get a bus would be more appropriate. Melnyk however was inspired by the view of fallen trees during a trip across Europe, which stirred him to compose a suite of eight pieces pondering death and rebirth. For all the album’s heavy themes, tracks such as ‘Barcarolle’ have the same lightness of touch as Melnyk’s fingers moving across the keyboard, being blessed with beguiling melodies that warm the soul, even if you’re stuck on a freezing platform listening to it.
Paul Clarke
Akito - Gone Again

AKITO

Gone Again

Tight Knit Records

Rhythm method
7.0
Sourced everywhere from gqom producers in Durban to grime artists in Dalston, the records Akito spins on his NTS radio show – which often sounds as if it’s being beamed from a part of East London populated by marauding golems rather than hipsters on fixie bikes – are an object lesson in the three Rs: rough, raw and rowdy. The London-based DJ and producer follows that for large parts of his debut album, putting the syncopated rhythms of UK funky, the soundsystem bass of dubstep and the adrenaline surge of dancehall through the wringer to deliver dancefloor hammerblows like ‘Rollover’ and ‘Imbalance Infinity’. Even when the rhythms calm down a bit – as on ‘Search Engine Translate’ which seems influenced by the weightless grime beloved of Mumdance – they have a gravitational pull which makes the overall sound of ‘Gone Again’ feel so elemental it should be in the periodic table.
Paul Clarke
Kevin Saunderson - Infused

Kevin Saunderson

Infused

KMS

Spine-tingling
8.0
Where you stand on remakes may determine quite what you make of Kevin Saunderson’s ‘Infused’, essentially a downtempo remake of his previous 2016 remake of his classic 1997 ‘Heavenly’ album as E-Dancer. Working with Virus J, this is the proverbial ‘soundtrack to an imaginary film’ overhaul. Featuring orchestral swells, bubbling acid over epic breakbeats and glitchy beats, its expertly realised, if a little discombobulating to hear the bassline of ‘Savage and Beyond’ blend into a patter of polite percussion. One might reasonably ask whether any of this was necessary, but as Sasha’s reinvention as a live act has shown, as his audience has grown up with him so have their tastes. The Es and the dancing might have been ditched on ‘Infused’, but it’s so epic and widescreen that it’s still likely to send a shiver down your spine.
Joe Roberts
John Tejada - Live Rytm Trax

John Tejada

Live Rytm Trax

Palette

Live and direct
9.0
Prolific album-maker John Tejada – this will be his fourteenth long-player all told – is surely his most ambitious yet. Born from his live performances, ‘Live Rytm Trax’, as the name suggests, has been recorded live, with no software, no DAW, nowt. Techno legend Kenny Larkin lent him his studio, the centrepiece of which is an API mixing console, and Tejada laid the album down track by track, with no editing, and no overdubs, using only outboard hardware. Ballsy. Knowing how it was recorded only serves to make this all the more invigorating. 'Irusu' is unctuous, a rolling, undulating groove. 'Bdub' drops in crunchy, off-beat stabs over modulating bleeps. It's a masterclass in dub house. 'Zazz Function' is a muscular floor filler, organic and urgent, while album-closer '126 bpm' finds Tejada truly letting loose, a joyous journey into the house cosmos. That all producers were this ambitious.
Ben Arnold
Throwing Snow - LOMA

Throwing Snow

LOMA

Houndstooth

Electronic concentrate
8.0
Great to hear all four parts of Ross Tones’ addictive series bundled together in one fat pack of vibrant intrigue and sonic delight. It’s the variety here that makes it so compelling, from ‘Simmer’ and its fusion of post-punk harshness with menacing breakbeats, through ‘Myriads’ dubbed-out glacial depths, and the hard-hitting d&b propulsion of ‘Subtitles’. Crucially it feels unified – at no point do you feel that Tones’ is merely dabbling in these different soundworlds – this is a producer clearly massively informed about precisely what makes his diverse influences work. So nothing is diluted, rather fed and then refracted through Throwing Snow’s uniquely twisted sensibility. On the stunning ‘Vulpine’ and ‘Minotaurs’ you feel yourself stumbling on genuinely new territory, somewhere between Alva Nota, Gantz and something on 31 Records – this is expansive, intense, bass-heavy music perfect for headphone solipsism or bass-cone belligerence. Deliciously fresh.
Neil Kulkarni
Toro y Moi - Outer Peace

Toro Y Moi

Outer Peace

Carpark Records

Home is where the heart is
8.5
Throughout his six-album career, Chaz Bear aka Toro y Moi has a track record for evolution. ‘Outer Peace’ follows up 2017’s R&B-influenced ‘Boo Boo’ and sees the artist adopt a broader scope of genres that have dance at their core. Written as a kind of homecoming LP (Chaz returned home to the Bay Area to write the record after an isolated stint in Portland), it’s an overtly joyful project – with danceable moment after moment. There’s really special moments (the hints of acid as opener ‘Fading’ concludes, the playful funky house of ‘Laws of the Universe’). ABRA appears for the sensual ‘Miss Me’, while ‘New House’ employs a bumpin, early-noughties R&B beat. ‘Baby Drive It Down’ is a slow-burning dancefloor beauty, whereas ‘Monte Carlo’ delves into the kind of melody-driven rap currently fuelling the charts, but with Chaz’s midas touch it somehow doesn’t feel like a gimmick. An artist who’s continually unafraid to change with the times, ‘Outer Peace’ is Toro y Moi really hitting his stride.
Felicity Martin
Antigone - Rising

ANTIGONE

Rising

Token

Patchy affair
6.5
Being tasked with fronting Paris’ resurgent techno scene is a huge responsibility. Locking down a residency at one of the world’s most famous clubs is another. But that’s exactly what Antigone has shouldered for some time, five years as a Concrete regular. While Antonin Jeanson has undoubtedly earned his stripes as a selector, how does that translate on his debut album? Reflecting the genre-hopping tendencies of his live sets, it’s a patchy affair that flits between atmospheric techno and ambient crackles, the latter being ‘Rising’s greatest strength. For all the predictability, and middling payoff, of tracks such as ‘Duality Of Mind’ and ‘Infinite Limit’, there’s the blissful ‘Lost And Found’ and a title track that opens the album with beautiful, swirling synths at odds with what’s to come. Only single ‘Dume’ melds the two styles seamlessly, a hypnotic percussive clanger and worth repeat listens alone.
Lee Wakefield
Silent Servant - Shadows of Death and Desire

Silent Servant

Shadows of Death and Desire

Hospital Productions

Enjoy the silent
9.0
Years in the making, this is the long-anticipated follow-up to Juan Mendez’s still epic debut 2012 LP ‘Negative Fascination’ under his Silent Servant alias. In the past six years, he has moved beyond the diabolically dark techno that marked his earlier solo productions, and time with Sandwell District, and has been carving out a niche that draws more from post-punk and EBM. ‘Shadows of Death and Desire’ is a summation of these explorations, and shows how much Mendez’s sound has, and still continues to, evolve. There’s a sense of urgency throughout this release, which is helped along by its incredibly raw and live feel, but it still contains the general unease and foreboding feeling that’s been a hallmark of all his work. While the first part of the album is a gnarly and confrontational set of jagged synth lines and Mendez’s rough vocals, the second half skews more emotional and introspective with a stunningly melancholic close featuring Tropic of Cancer’s Camella Lobo.
Zara Wladawsky