Beginning with Marcus Schmickler’s unearthly Particle/Matter is sure-fire way of grabbing attention, sonic or otherwise. Tobias Thomas’s mix then proceeds to contact and connect all in its path as sounds from the future, occasional the past, are transporting into an emotionally changed journey into sight, tone and timbre. Have to say that the feeling compacted into the opening numbers is sheer and forceful touching the human senses in mind expanding ways, as the playlist unfolds so does the introduction of melody alongside drums plus a wealth of imagination. The list (selected from the labels back catalogue) takes in everyone from DJ Koze to DJ Tennis at over almost two hours’ worth of time, although it’s the overall mood created across its entirety which pays testament the innate strength and ability of both the DJ and accompanying music.
Produced as the soundtrack to a documentary by Volker Heise, ‘Herbst 1929, Schatten Über Babylon’, offering historical insight to the third season of the television series Babylon Berlin, Thomas Fehlmann has created a wonderfully evocative selection of music diving headfirst into the resolution of grainy atmosphere, lost memory and the sequence of time. Pieces like Mit Ausblick drip with a brilliant intensity, others like Umarmt pulse with distant drums accompanied by a more joyous expectation. Either way this is a particularly stunning listen that will transport your consciousness far and wide. A further expanse of narration amid motion then continues with tracks like Vulkan existing in the glitch of imagination looping noises that combine the opposites of warmth and icy despair, while others such as Abgestellt feel Minimal and jerky. Again it all plays in illuminating fashion provoking a deeper, soul searching response that isn’t always comfortable, yet is always sincerely rewarding.
A stunning piece of work from Marcus Schmickler whose experiments into the boundaries of sound and its consequent construction play out here across some thirty seven minutes. Sometimes touching ecstasy, sometimes reaching deep within igniting forgotten images. The concept explores when two galaxies collide by gravitational forces. Split in two parts on the LP release the continuous revelation posed by the digital version however has sonic pulses contacting an unnerving realisation, that escapes somewhere between an imagined future and a lost past. Not always an easy journey. But always a revealing and rewarding one. If you are seeking out something beyond ready melody…you may find that here.
Release: October 11
It feels appropriate to listen to Tom Demac’s newly founded creation as blue skies drift by outside in the morning light of cool. Serenade pulses with a breezy energy that lifts the senses skyward as pointed piano smoulders, producing hints of yearning in amongst the probing drums and questioning voiceover. Is the word ethereal correct here? Next distracting from all that light relief is the much tougher Seventh Sign which as the name suggests gets darker with fizzy Acid lines erupting over a wealth of electronically charged drums, while also incorporating a strange blend of sounds to excite in other directions. Second Skin, then gets darker still with broken rhythms simmering across moody pads to end.
Release: April 5
Like a breath of freshly charged air Let It Fail contradicts any negativity with the promise of moving forwards. The arrangement bustles with ideas each igniting the next as shuffling, funky rhythms punctuate teasingly, repetitive stabs amide the warm glow of atmospheric pads. Totalling in the region of eight minutes this comfortably reinvigorates and refreshes tired notions of music via its fizzy electronic pulses and beautiful, building sense of wonder. So good you’ll hit repeat.
Release: August 10
Sometimes the depth reached for by Kenneth James Gibson tearing fields of vision is almost too much to fathom. Sometimes to exhilarating to feel safe with. This new album starts and ends with the feeling that something else has just happened. Beyond that the poignant, perfect piano of single Far From Home says more in moments about the human condition, than perhaps needs to be, as soaring notation agitates perception. I guess it is easy to drift into a sea of descriptive words and thoughts while the endless, dreamy slide guitar of To Love A Rotting Piano plays, or the sci-fi mood generated by Plastic Consequence comes into sharp focus. Maybe, it is just much better to listen rather than read words about it: Transcending Ambience.
Release: March 9
Girls in Uniform
How could you not love this. Yes it’s about ‘Girls in Uniform’ but please put that preconception down and enjoy what is a playfully amusing lyric, although pitched over spikey, punk attitude that sees racing beats fight against punchy guitar and bass to produce a gloriously edgy, yet exhilarating experience. By the way Aladdin are the sum total of Nicolas Ker (singer, chaotic poet) and label boos Gilbert Cohen. The excellent Gilb’R then delivers a smoky Dub version that at once commands your stereo with its array of death defying weirdness that plunge the depths of cool. Followed by Trevor Jackson’s downbeat exploration into further dub excursions into intensity which also proves to be deliciously dangerous and rather f**king fantastic.
Returning with this exceptional remix care of Watergate resident Rüede Hagelstein, ‘Counting Comets’ is now injecting with a new lease of life for 2016. A tastefully crafted production that is driven by addictive syncopation accompanied by somewhat sassy percussion and contrasted by ethereal synthesizers which ultimately climax into a thing of darker beauty. And I’m glad it’s almost ten minutes long. Equally stunning is Marc Romboy’s own captivating beat-less Part 2 version which is cut through with a shining ambience that doesn’t require words, while also playing out across ten perfectly timed minutes.
Release: March 9
Suggesting something of a theme this week (in parts) is this latest from seemingly ever present The Orb. Masters of their own landscape ‘Alpine’ doesn’t disappoint either via its lush textures spilt into three sections. ‘Morning’ favours a sleepy evolution of sounds that combine the surreal and wonderful, while ‘Evening’ not surprisingly adds the pulse of four/ four beats to its looped equation of rhythms. ‘Dawn’ then returns to an evocative, haunting bliss via a reworking of the previous ‘Morning’.
Olas De Quila Quina
Three new tracks go to make up this debut release on KOMPAKT from Alex Under. Beginning with the title track, ‘Olas De Quila Quina’ which delivers waves of pulsating bass notes together with tripped-out vocal effects and swirling reverberations that become all the more impressive once the beat drops, causing all sorts of high-level impact. In a word, spectacular. Next, ‘El Reflejo Del Lacar’ hits the Techno button, leaving the cool melodies plus funk-infused bassline of the excellent ‘Lolog’ to complete.
Release: March 11
The Salsoul Orchestra Story
40th Anniversary Collection
Groove Line Records
WOW! Three cd’s worth of the Salsoul Orchestra. Or, to put it another way, heaven on earth. The clue is of course contained within the title: Salsoul from the infinitely influential record label for a start, secondly the word Orchestra and all of the musical prowess which accompanies the noun. I love that you can simply switch the music on, then get lost in a world of soaring strings, driving beats and bass, and yes occasionally sleazy, though always sensual, uplifting lyrics. At times there’s the sheer romance of it all, at others hard and heavy grooves drive it all home. Needless to say if you haven’t yet experienced the soulful joy of ‘Take Some Time Out (For Love)’ featuring Jocelyn Brown or the classic rhythms of Shep Pettibone’s mix of ‘Ooh, I Love It (Love Break)’ then here’s the chance. A wealth of talent informed the orchestra’s production’s and remixes too from Larry Levan to Tom Moulton to Walter Gibbons. And, with arrangements from the likes of Vincent Montana Jr., Bunny Sigler, and Patrick Adams this newly remastered exploration of their sights and sounds from 1975 to the early eighties is both exceptional and essential.
Le Grand To Do
“Music is the direct access to the soul” sounds like a good a place as any to start this review of Oskar Offermann’s spellbinding new long player. Fuelled by an undulating funkiness the album delves into all sorts of landscapes which reach ambient depths to edgier heights. Sometimes purely atmospheric without the reliance on beats, sometimes up-tempo and energising such as on ‘Carol’s Howl’ there really isn’t any identifiable rule book being followed – good. What you do get is an exciting travelogue of gritty, booming, speech laden, probing, emotive music which embraces funky breaks as much as it does sizzling electronics. Further.
Pop Ambient 2016
To label this as merely ambient may do a disservice to the rather glorious, beautifully textured music that lies within. However, let’s go with Pop Ambient, although as the selection of tracks doesn’t display any melodic resonance perhaps that doesn’t quite accurately describe what’s going on either. Never mind. This 2016 edition of the long-standing series of atmospheric brilliance maintains breath taking standards as distinct layers of sound lift and drop all five senses with immaculate precision. The second track typifies the inclination with who else but The Orb’s epically charged ‘Alpine Dawn’ stretching sonic boundaries via all sorts of expanding ideas. You will also find the caliber of artists such as Stephan Mathieu and Mikkel Metal alongside Max Würden’s deeply involving ‘Unterwasser’. A truly wonderful compilation of music which talks its own melody.