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Albums - Issue 599

Giant Swan

Giant Swan

Giant Swan

KECK

Reckless techno-punk energy
9.0
Over the past few years, Giant Swan’s full-throttle live sets have gained them a diverse following; from those who feed off their raucous punk sensibilities, to those who lean towards their foot-stomping techno. The duo have built a reputation for weaving both styles into their productions, through a string of releases on labels such as Howling Owl, Timedance, Mannequin, and Whities. These EPs are audacious, reflecting the energy and intensity of a live show that’s taken them from their hometown of Bristol, to Berlin’s Säule at Berghain and Krakow’s Szpitalna 1. This year has been their most important to date, with the announcement of their self-titled debut album, released on their own, newly-launched imprint, KECK. The album kicks off with their first single, and one of their strongest cuts, ‘55 Year Old Daughter’. The momentum is immediate, with vocals that pierce through shattering drums. ‘Pandemonium’ follows in a similar mood, as abrasive vocal recordings are processed and twisted into psychotic exaggerations. The abstract soundscapes of ‘I As Proof” creates a pensive, melancholy moment, a precursor to the haunting drones of ‘Peace Fort 9’. Other tracks lean towards UK industrial, like ‘Weight Of Love’, with its corrosive drums and heavily distorted vocals that mutate into guttural stabs. Techno comes through on ‘YFPHNT’, quickening the pulse with 4x4 hysteria and plenty of noise. It’s a stark contrast to the final track, ‘Spisbah’, with emotive and discordant sounds that dissipate into the ether. In mood, this is a reckless album, full of energy and wit. But in practise, it’s precise and considered, sonically ambitious. Giant Swan throw their middle finger up to genre constraints, working with their own set of rules.
Anna Wall
Moor Mother - Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes

Moor Mother

Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes

Self-released

Afrofuturistic electronic gospel
9.0
Philadelphia poet, musician, and activist Moor Mother draws goosebumps to the skin with her powerful new album. Her collage of dizzying synths, metallic percussion, and poetic reveries swerve at light-speed, giving the album a tandem feeling of suspension and rapid movement, dragging the listener deep into Moor Mother’s sonic black hole. The production is crisp, with a punk sensibility, and her spoken word poetry creates gut-churning moments. “They don’t love me like they love you, is it because I’m black, or they want me black and blue?” she challenges, on the warbling ambience of ‘The Myth Hold Weight’; “It’s so soft to the skin when you land in the cotton fields of democracy” she laments, her soft drawl atop rustic, West African percussion on closing track, ‘Passing of Time’. Using her earthly-yet-cosmic energy, Moor Mother confronts and reframes the harsh realities of the Black American experience through her own history: drawing comparisons between the past and present, and boldly probing narratives of slavery, abuse, and crooked power structures. Remixing these concepts with 20th century sound bites and unnerving soundscapes, the album plays out like a twisted soundtrack to a reality more haunting than any film.
Tanya Akinola
Sudan Archives - Athena

Sudan Archives

Athena

Stones Throw

Bold blends of electronics, R&B, and violin
8.5
There’s patience at the core of Sudan Archives’ music. Since breaking through in 2017 with single ‘Come Meh Way’, the LA-based violinist, songwriter, and producer has garnered considerable acclaim for her lucid and luxurious take on R&B and experimental electronics. Fusing distinct, self-taught violin playing influenced by North-east African styles with rich, organic beats and intoxicating vocals, her two EPs to date have presented a singular artist on a path to stardom. Sudan Archives has tread that path carefully, though, taking her time to arrive at a debut album that is as assured as it is vulnerable. Across 14 tracks, ‘Athena’ explores themes of internal conflict and duality. The forthright lyricism on highlight ‘Confessions’ soars with the help of bold strings and bass. ‘Iceland Moss’, ‘Honey’, and ‘Pelicans In The Summer’ revive trip-hop with ethereal mastery. A stunning debut.
Eoin Murray
Ziúr - ATØ

Ziúr

ATØ

Planet Mu

Club music, spliced with mutated R&B
8.0
In the notes for Ziúr’s second album, she lays out her approach: “This record is not here to please, but to disrupt & to connect us in solidarity.” ‘ATØ’ sees Ziúr build a sonic cocoon for people on the fringes, developing on themes of past releases and her Berlin-based queer parties. Her bold production style strays from traditional structures, her raw earnestness blended into a mix of noisy, deconstructed club music with R&B vocals and left-field pop. ‘I Vanish’ explores the fragility and power of visibility, aligning herself with the people she creates music for. Over steely, off-kilter percussions and panning, fuzzy synths, her bare-skinned lyrics are spoken in voices that mutate in pitch and mood. Vocalists Samantha Urbani and Ash B riff on this, with forthright contributions. ‘ATØ’ is an authentic illustration of an artist on their own path.
Tanya Akinola
WaqWaq Kingdom - Essaka Hoisa

WaqWaq Kingdom

Essaka Hoisa

Phantom Limb

Psychedelic Japanese polyrhythms
8.0
Whilst compelling in their solo endeavours, Japanese artists Kiki Hitomi and Shige Ishihara compliment each other as WaqWaq Kingdom, liquefying underground genres into new forms. On their third release, they melt hypnotic West African rhythms into left-field pop and Japanese mythology. The phrase ‘Essaka Hoisa’ comes from a traditional Japanese chant that evokes perseverance, and the duo use the album to explore concepts about the weight of human existence. Lyrically, they scrutinize human greed, over-consumption, and generational wisdom. Though the motifs are heavy, the music is delightfully bright, and Kiki’s vocals are warm and child-like. Borrowing from psychedelic and electronic tropes to African polyrhythms and chants, they manage to tie seemingly disparate elements together without it feeling kitsch. With conceptual influences pulled from their own culture and global sonic influences, the album is an ultra-modern kaleidoscopic of inspirations.
Tanya Akinola
Black Jazz Consortium - Evolution Of Light

Black Jazz Consortium

Evolution of Light

Perpetual Sound

Brazil-inspired deep house
7.0
No one makes deep house quite like Fred P, and none of his monickers have made it sound quite as exquisite as Black Jazz Consortium. Now, on his fourth album under the alias, the Queens, New York-born, Berlin-based artist draws from traditional Brazilian music to craft a collection that is spellbinding, if a little intangible. Described as a direct response to his 2007 LP, ‘RE:Actions Of Light’, Fred P recruits several Brazilian instrumentalists for ‘Evolution of Light’ to give an organic flair to the album’s first half. While virtuosic and at times enchanting, tracks like ‘Another Path’ and ‘Scared Sun’ slide away on their own polish, leaving little to remember them by. The album’s latter section thrives in its directness, however. Tracks like ‘Focus’ and ‘Paradise Essential’ remind us just how crucial the prolific Fred P is to the deep house continuum.
Eoin Murray
Lee Gamble - Exhaust (Flush Real Pharynx Part 2)

Lee Gamble

Exhaust (Flush Real Pharynx Part 2)

Hyperdub

Expansive, thrilling beatscapes
8.5
In the second part of an album triptych, the peculiar Lee Gamble continues to stray further from his original inspirations – jungle and ambient music, the fog of memory – and deeper into fresh intellectual territory. Late writer Mark Fisher coined the term “semioblitz” to describe the stimuli onslaught of cities and virtual spaces. It ushered Gamble into amorphous cyberspace on Part 1, where traffic noise, synthetic drones, and melodic bleeps nestle together. Part 2, however, exudes dancefloor energy, picking up the chunks scattered on Part 1 and reallotts them into unpredictable beatscapes. ‘Envenom’ is the first total banger of the entire project, suddenly welcoming a busy D&B snare drum into the beautiful mess. ‘Glue’ quickly follows with fat Ibiza synths firing into a warzone of kick drums. The stamina holds throughout ‘Exhaust’, too – confusing as it is, the semioblitz can also be pretty fun.
Tristan Bath
Karenn - Grapefruit Regret

Karenn

Grapefruit Regret

VOAM

Mesmeric hardware techno
8.0
Known for their fiery hardware-based sets, UK producers Blawan and Pariah return as the duo Karenn for their debut album, siphoning the energy of their live performances and juxtaposing peak time moments with subdued, twisted electronics. High-octane rhythms fluctuate throughout, spurred on by the dark, pulsating modular tweaks that open ‘Lemon Dribble’. Evolving, crushed bassline-turned-melodics are tweaked to infinity on ‘Crush The Mushrooms’, intertwined with a solid warehouse kick. ‘Cloy’ experiments with ever-so slightly slower tempos and a gradual build, creating soundscapes full of gritty atmospheres and machine-hum. Throughout the eight recordings, there’s a tangible energy, with impactful moments that are as menacing as they are mesmeric.
Anna Wall
Galcher Lustwerk - Information

Galcher Lustwerk

Information

Ghostly International

Blissful burnout
8.5
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Galcher Lustwerk would drive around listening to downbeat hip-hop, “quiet storm” R&B, post-rock, and electronica – beats that bump steady and strange, sound-tracking highways that roll on and on. His productions are imbued with this ambience: soft pads and muffled grooves and kicks, marbled with his laconic rap-tinged vocals, lonely and burned out, observing the good times from afar. His third album in as many years, ‘Information’ is his debut for Ghostly International, and it’s a delight. His vaporous deep house beats are twinned with loose-wristed jazzy hip-hop drumming and tempered synth work. A highlight comes towards the final movements, ‘Been A Long Night’. You can imagine it: the dying embers of the after party, as hands are held and plans to leave haven’t quite materialised yet. ‘Information’ speaks quietly, but lingers long in the mind.
Lauren Martin
Altered Natives - Nine Alpha/Omega

Altered Natives

Nine Alpha/Omega

Eye4Eye Recordings

Dance distilled
9.0
London producer Altered Natives nearly died recently from a heart attack, brought on by a congenital defect he was unaware of. As such, he made his ninth album ‘Nine Alpha/Omega’ as if it were his last, pouring all his emotion and influences into a 26-track set. Crystallising techno, jungle, hip-hop, footwork, and house into a characterful compound, the album is bound together by Yorke’s ear for detail, his love of film dialogue, and gift for atmosphere. ‘A.T Field’ stop-starts to a broken beat rhythm, decorated with mournful pads and subtle melodies. The excellent ‘A.D.O.R.E’ nods to his junglist roots, though — nearly — dispenses of the beats, while the soulful strings and bells of ‘First Kiss’ suggest 4hero. But ‘Teen Acid Fantasy’ is the greatest thing here, with its fractured drums and 303 bleeps. It’s easily Altered Natives’ finest moment yet.
Ben Murphy
Thomas Brinkmann - Raupenbahn

Thomas Brinkmann

Raupenbahn

Editions Mego

Off the production line
7.0
Behind the latest record from arch techno experimentalist Thomas Brinkmann is an intriguing conceit. ‘Raupenbahn’ looks back rather than forward for its technological sounds, to the noises generated by early industry — specifically those of fabric-making looms. Brinkmann recorded five of these machines in action to create 21 tracks that revel in their strangely modern rhythmic effect. ‘Lentz 2 MG (Viersen _ D)’ has a locomotive chug and little blips that could soundtrack a Berlin techno shindig, while ‘Bändchen MG (Jacquard F_unbekannt)’ is almost like drum & bass in its ever-onward percussive clanking. On the record, Brinkmann encourages us to hear the link between our industrial past and the industry-heavy cities that would become famous for electronic music, from Dusseldorf to Sheffield. It’s fascinating how, on ‘Raupenbahn’, the human brain is encouraged to find music in objects which weren’t designed for that purpose.
Ben Murphy
Traversable Wormhole - Regions Of Time

Traversable Wormhole

Regions Of Time

Traversable Wormhole

Mesmeric techno voyage
8.0
Since its initial, mysterious appearance in 2009, US techno stalwart Adam X’s sci-fi-influenced Traversable Wormhole alias has been a sporadic force, surfacing irregularly but notably. ‘Regions of Time’ is its first full-length album and, like previous releases, it side-steps out-and-out bangers, indulging the producer’s spacier, brooding explorations. It’s still dark and heavy stuff, still recognisable as Adam X’s industrial, stripped-back workings, but the tear-ups have been replaced by hypnotic, unrushed journeys. There are, however, still some fiery moments, such as the frenetic ‘Wormhole Highways’ and the lasered pulse of ‘Massless Fermions’. And then there’s ‘Rotation Frequency’, which combines a solid techno stomp with a twisted disco-indebted shuffle and a huge air of menace. It all makes for an album that’s cerebral enough for a deep headphone listen, but also just about nasty enough to ignite a sweaty dancefloor.
Tristan Parker
Shanti Celeste - Tangerine

Shanti Celeste

Tangerine

Peach Discs

Sun-dappled house euphoria
8.0
On her debut album, ‘Tangerine’, Shanti Celeste gives her music the breathing space it has always deserved. Throughout her catalogue of technicolor house cuts, moments of celestial soundscapes and lightness have signalled an artist for whom the dancefloor was a primary, but not exclusive, concern. Now, over the course of ten tracks on her own Peach Discs label, the Bristol DJ and producer soundtracks the moments that come before and after dancefloor euphoria; with a few bangers thrown in for good measure. ‘Sun Notification’ opens with a mesmerising new age flourish, calling to mind Visible Cloaks and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. It drifts into ‘Infinitas’, a fast-paced cut of bouncy kicks and crackling hi-hats, underpinned with shimmering keys and a crisp bassline. The album flits confidently between ambience and vibrant house without ever losing course or coherence. It sounds like the sun coming out.
Eoin Murray
J:Kenzo - Taygeta Code

J:Kenzo

Taygeta Code

Artikal Music

Weighty 140BPM
7.5
Dubstep and drum & bass have long histories of their respective producers dipping a toe in the other genre, more often than not resulting in something that makes you wonder why they bothered. J:Kenzo has always straddled both worlds successfully, however, his offerings for Tempa sitting on par with those for Cosmic Bridge or 31 Recordings. It’s a bit of a shame, then, that his second album only features two tracks at the faster end of the spectrum — thumping, dubby, half-time numbers in the vein of Loxy & Resound. That aside, the other nine 140BPM tracks of ‘Taygeta Code’ are all fine examples of J:Kenzo’s super-tight production style. Particular highlights are the acid-spitting ‘Hoodwinked’, the junglist low-end and kinky garage swing of ‘Blind Summit’, and ‘Narky (Body Dem)’, which does exactly what it says on the tin (read: in the brackets).
Ben Hindle