Sunday, 30 September 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #78 - Christoph Berg (Field Rotation)

If nothing seems to match in my heart the initial strike of Field Rotation's second album Acoustic Tales 7 years ago, whose haunting cello harmonies, plucked strings and organ, disrupted by pulsated beats and elegiac drones, carried a profound, almost fateful sense of despair, the Berliner Christoph Berg never disappointed since then, from the hazy daydreams of And Tomorrow I Will Sleep (2011) to the recent suite for strings Conversations recorded last year under his own name, refined masterpiece of grief and regrets, but also hope for dialogue and reconnexion.

In the meantime, critical success really came with Fatalist: The Repetition of History, his third release for the acclaimed german label Denovali, one of the greatest purveyors of atmospheric instrumental music this decade. Eerie chants, mournful piano and ill-fated string arrangements underlying a sentiment of existential mystery and tragedy of destiny make it another pinnacle in Christoph Berg's sparse but essential discography, a nightly soundtrack of gloom and menace that could have been a great fit for Twin Peaks' movie or second season.

However, Day Has Ended along with cellist Aaron Martin (From the Mouth of the Sun) unveiled that same year (2013) a more melancholic and bittersweet aspect of that nocturnal mood, and more recently, Bei, a collaboration with German pianist Henning Schmiedt, showed on Japanese label flau that Berg's music didn't have to carry such weight all the time, with its relatively peaceful - even hopeful on occasions - collection of chamber music compositions.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Altrice, from electronic dreamer to instrumental hip-hop storyteller

Revealed at the dawn of the decade by his inspired remixes for Radiohead and Caribou and sadly forgotten right away, Altrice had pushed the exercise to its limits, recreating Dan Snaith's entire album Swim in 2011. Stem, as a result, was quite an impressive and personal work of dreamlike and atmospheric nature, full of dark corners and evanescent textures.

However, I didn't follow that closely the Tucson-based beatmaker since the equally beautiful and haunting EP Fell released the following year, which gave him plenty of time to make his sound evolve through a handful of EPs and mixtapes from baroque electronica to evocative instrumental hip-hop.

thhf '18 set seems to be inspired by a Turkish tale, not far from Perrault or the brothers Grimm, about three young boys warned by their mother not to venture into the forest, a story for which the EP would be some kind of imaginary soundtrack. Beautiful loops of sampled eastern strings, deep bass and syncopated beats accompany the narrative on the opener once there was, and quickly the tension increases, a heavy breathing underlying the similarly loud trap-ish drum patterns of and twice there wasn't.

Fate, from a sneaky flute, seems to be lurking around this family of three brothers and after the polyphonic chamber wandering of big one, the menace is unveiled by in-the-middle with its horror-like sound effects and murky synths... the Witch enters the stage and teeny-tiny "the littlest one" only owes his salvation to his agility to dodge deep pulses and fluttering cuts, escaping through the serpentine boom bap of every day, their mother said.

Finally, the arabian melancholia of "you can play anywhere in the village..." comes as a relief for the brotherhood. Or was it all an eerie dream like the closing track "...but do not go into the forest." and its last phantasmagoria fading into the light appear to imply ? That EP sure was for the listener, and a quite enjoyable one !

Sunday, 23 September 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #79 - Monade

Second entry in that end-of-the-decade early overview, i must clarify a few points already. Firstly, the ranking doesn't mean that much, after #40 maybe, a hundred names could have come up right there, at the #41 mark... barely a personal impression at that given moment. Moreover, plenty of still active all-time favourites of mine have been left out for various reasons : Björk, Massive Attack, Tortoise, Radiohead, Tim Hecker, Jim O'Rourke, Sigur Rós, Aphex Twin, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, múm, Alva Noto, Tindersticks, Max Richter, Deerhoof... an excruciating enumeration really. And finally, music artists with only one longform release since 2010 had no chance to appear, even Phoenecia whose incredible Demissions is simply my favourite album of the 10s so far (their Miami-based imprint of mutant IDM will be represented, though).

Moving on...

Not to be confused with the excellent post-rock side-project of Stereolab's vocalist Laetitia Sadier, Monade aka Roberto Donato is an italian beatmaker, perhaps the greatest regular contributor to the tragically overlooked Xtraplex Records, one of my favourite IDM and experimental electronic labels of the decade.

With the two beautiful and highly atmospheric tracks, made of pulsating beats, oniric textures and moody piano, that he recorded for compilations curated by both my French websites IRM and Des Cendres à la Cave (actually, half the musicians from that list took part to at least one of those, and i am quite grateful for that), i could very well have a soft spot for the guy. But with 5 albums in half a decade already, including at least three impressive ones, my admiration for Monade goes far beyond that, starting with the futuristic and shapeshifting Pt#9 from 6 years ago.

Equally synthetic and somatic, haunted and dreamlike, dark and melancholic, mutant and melodic, Monade's tracks infuse their electronic destructurations with anxious phantasmagorias, recalling the finest hours of Warp Records, with more and more focus on splintering rythms, deep ambient textures and organic clicks and cuts since Own Your Ghost (2013), an evolution culminating the following year with Puni's fascinating cybernetic mitosis, life emerging from a technological void and expanding, invading its synthetic substrate to merge with it and take over... probably his best release to date.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Edan and Homeboy Sandman team up for a slice of dark and psychedelic vintage hip-hop

Pretty discrete since his experimental cratedigging EP Echo Party 9 years ago, Edan finally reappears with a new project, courtesy of his friends at Stones Throw. Associated with one of the rising stars of Peanut Butter Wolf's alternative hip-hop label, the Maryland MC leaves the mic to him on the forthcoming Humble Pi, focusing on what he does best, beatmaking and production.

First track off the record, to be released on October 26th, the opener Grim Seasons features Homeboy Sandman's... grim flow and Edan's signature vintage loops, ever evolving mixture of gothic synth vibes and David Axelrod-like cinematographic instrumental sections. The single unveils a large scale storytelling, perfectly translated by Kagan McLeod in this animated gem, an obvious tribute to the godfather of graphic novels Will Eisner and the daily-routine crossed destinies of his masterpiece Life in the Big City :

Typically Edan in its construction and sound, the second except #NeverUseTheInternetAgain with its crude voice sample, chopped patterns and jazzy keyboard and bassline, is another of those psych-hop epics that made Beauty and the Beat a timeless classic. One of my favourite hip-hop records of all time, finally blessed with a sequel of sorts 13 years after. Eagerly awaited !

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

My favourite music artists of the 10s : #80 - James Murray

It's been a crushing exercise. 300 people at least would have deserved to make that list of 80. Besides, if i have no choice but start now in order to be done by spring 2020 at the rate of one article every week, the decade isn't finished yet. Thankfully, the whole thing is highly subjective so if you're kind enough to read that blog written in English by a Frenchman in the first place, i'm sure you'll indulge me and just go with the flow.

Another difficulty for me, i'll try to keep it short. Not easy when one has to write about musicians he's been following for years, reviewing most of their albums, interviewing them now and then, even getting in touch sometimes through social networking to ask them to take part in compilations of original tracks and appreciating their kindness, availability and dedication on a personal level.

It's been the case with James Murray, who contributed to IRM's Twin Peaks tribute last year with this beautiful ambient waltz :

Already back on Home Normal with his second release of the year, Falling Backwards, equally nostalgic and haunted plummetting into some anxious childhood episodes with amazing idiophone loops, a few months after his first long distance collaboration with Belgian musician _steiner as Silent Vigils already championed by Ian Hawgood's label (Fieldem, a dreamlike and fragile collection of musical "mind landscapes"), James Murray started his journey 10 years ago on French label Ultimae with the more electronic and trip-hop oriented Where Edges Meet. However, since then, he published most of his beautifully crafted electro-acoustic works of personal depth through his own imprint Slowcraft Records, also home of his partner Anne Garner, one of the greatest voices - metaphorically and litteraly - in experimental music today.

From the iridescent and cristalline melancholy floating over The Land Bridge to the meditative, celestial and haunting abstractions of my personal favourite Heavenly Waters, not forgetting Mount View and its ethereal, delicate drone radiations and evanescent electronic arrangements, James Murray's music is made of fragile dreams, bittersweet recollections and fascination for the elements (cf. his second album Floods), a heartfelt soundtrack of love, loss and introspection, to remember, heal and move forward in life.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Lumerians, modern psychedelia wizards in glittery hooded robes

Lumerians is a psychedelic band from California, blending fuzzy guitars and massive drums with kosmische synths et spacey arpeggiators (Fuck All Y'all). They toured with Black Moth Super Rainbow, possible influence on their retrofuturistic and highly distorted synthlines (the gothic closing track Clock Spell). Third proper studio album for the Oakland based quartet, "a penetrative exploration of Earth through an alien gaze gone native" according to the band, Call of the Void is also their first to be released by Fuzz Club Records, British independent label known for its taste in all sorts of experimental rock, from shoegaze and psychedelia to post-punk and noise (Singapore Sling, Dead Rabbits and The Underground Youth are a few examples of its loyal roster).

Saturated with dozens of over-hyped untalented revivalists like Psychic Ills, White Fence, Thee Oh See and the whole Ty Segall nebula, the American new psychedelic scene needs more bands like this one, able to transcend an efficient songwriting with dense walls of sound, epic drum patterns and out of this world synthlines (Silver Trash). Futuristic and yet organic, Lumerians' signature sound is full of distorted synths tangents and dystopian arpeggiator sequences (Space Curse), and this ecstatic vibe most psych-rockers nowadays seem to be satisfied with is part of a more ambiguous mood here, like extraterrestrial dreams catching up with our reality (Signal). Some of the tracks are instrumental and the music speaks for itself, but when Jason Miller takes the mic, his vocals become an element among others, from the weirdly hymnal and deliquescent Fictional and its feverish crescendo to the baroque and hypnotic Ghost Notes.

A must-have this year for those of you still believing in evocative and forward-thinking rock music :

And if you're living in Paris with nothing else planned for thursday night, you can catch their (probably costumed) set at Le Petit Bain, part of the new Fuzz Club evening with French psych-rockers You Said Strange and London shoegaze/kraut/psychedelia/post/everything monster The Oscillation, aka the best guitar band of the past ten years, nothing less. You can even win some tickets here.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

A Bleeding Star shooting throughout the year

Canadian sound teller or ageless count from the depths of Bulgaria, we don't much about Frost Goth except that he has been sharing dark and esoteric ambient music under the moniker A Bleeding Star since 2008. Ten years of plummetting into the murkiest of lo-fi abysses through albums and EPs, self-releasing most of them and a few other with the help of small structures dedicated to idiosyncratic ambient and electronic music like Somehow Recordings (and its former subdivision Twisted Tree Line - French readers can check Des Cendres à la Cave's review of The Wolfbitten Melodies Of My Snowfallen Memories, maybe his most beautiful LP so far), Xtraplex (the excellent Encyclopeiaferamorte Decuparactesdelosotros Vienhivernatomeindormir last year, fitting with the more glitchy and abstract universe of one of the best IDM labels of the decade) and Assembly Field.

For about two years now, those gloomy offerings have been taking the singular form of an almost weekly single track output to stream and download for free on Frost's Bandcamp page, soon to be called "Cauldronations" with individual titles as evocative as the music itself.

An interesting choice for a type of music that usually relies a lot on lengthy immersion, this concept allows A Bleeding Star to blend in his cauldron different ingredients and influences every time, from the industrial downtempo beats of the well-named Ghost & Grey and the piano-based elegy My Castle Walls Couldn't Be Any Higher​.​.​.​So Fuck thy Luck At Gettin' Possibly Closer to the Eno-esque stellar ascension Singin' Sweetly: "I'm Goin' to Rip Your Fuckin' Heart Apart & there's Nothin' You Can Do to Stop Me", through the ethereal clouds of Curse thy Nefarious Light​.​.​.​I 'Vant None of It​.​.​.​for this Nocturnal Creature's Pure Darkness and Kenrokuen Garden, the rainy hiss melancholia of Exitfogblissforest, the harrowing lapping and clattering of Sink Or Swim? (ending on a sweet piano lullaby full of nostalgia) or the liquefied cinematography of Leaving Tokyo After A Crucial Message to Make My Way to Iwate's Tono Furusato Village.

Among the highlights of those past 8 months, let's mention the longform Classical Snowglobe Castle: Heart Apart By Deceitful Psychical Icicles with its organic flows of found percussions and stormy drones, sinking in the darkest ocean or floating in a snowglobe filled with ashes and lava dust :

... the misty atmosphere and martial pulsations of Pure Instincts: Nighthuntin' Departure's Street​.​.​.​Extinct​-​Time to Feast... dangers are lurking under the weak street lights at night :

... the chiroscuro dreamlike drones filled with mystery of the Badalamenti-friendly Just Give Me A Minute So I Can Recollect My Senses :

... the hammered chamber music for piano and metal percussions of Kithzenith :

... the liquefied hauntological reveries of 'Tis Ok​.​.​.​Blissful Dreams Eventually Slip & Break : (Revoking the Offering) :

... and the aerial and syncopated electronica of Recorderhope: Usin' Musical Notes Heard Further Years Ago In Order to Cope, which should feel warmly familiar to fervent followers of labels like Raumklang Music or the late Tympanik Audio (whose alumni Tineidae was sampled for another beat-based Cauldronation) :

Other sampled artists include the Belgian beatmaker Mind.Divided, who also released music with Raumklang in the past, on the crawling and creepy Los​(​t) Angel​(​es​)​s: Deadsign'd On A Glass Table​.​.​.​Contractcost Able​.​.​.​Parallel Line of A Mess, and the brilliant duo Tangent from Netherlands, formerly fom the Tympanik roster and now associated with n5MD, for the cosmic tides of Latenight Entertain'd & Still Swatchblazed​.​.​.​We Watch'd the NSA Go Up In Flames. A new direction favourable to proper collaborations, which happened very recently with Pavlo Storonsky aka Tineidae, resulting in the deep and bleak ambient maze of Vermilion Haze :

A lot more soon, maybe compilation volumes, who knows ? And to make sure you don't miss anything of what comes next, keep an ear on A Bleeding Star's Bandcamp page !

Saturday, 8 September 2018

My 5 favourite electronic records of the 90s

 After all this a new blog, we need to get acquainted first !

1. Roni Size / Reprazent - New Forms (1997)

I remember listening to this one a lot 15 years ago and yet, i only began to grasp its genius during the last few years, sign of an album definitely far ahead of its time. A visionary for blending spacey drum'n'bass, future soul and organic jazz but also hard rythms and deep textures, and even right away from the start, on the opening track Railing, for merging hip-hop with experimental electronics in a manner that would pave the way for Thavius Beck and British grime, the Bristol genius unfortunately never matched this level of epic abstraction again. With the irresistible groove of its hypnotic bassline shaking an almost nighmarish atmosphere of analogic phantasmagoria and digital meltdown, Mad Cat remains one of my favourite instrumental tracks ever recorded. No need to say that the 2 CD version is essential.

2. Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album (1996)

Surprisingly, Richard D. James' more accessible work is also my favourite, right before the schizophrenic Drukqs and the seminal Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Synthetic strings and candid melodies (Fingerbib) along with acid grooves (Peek 824545201) collide with epileptic beats (Carn Marth) and destructured rhythms from the starting point of the opening track 4, and bravura "pop" pieces like To Cure a Weakling Child and the crystalline hit Girl/Boy Song, as well as the bouncing final Logon Rock Witch became for good reasons some of the biggest classics of a highly celebrated discography (Milk Man, weirdly compelling nursery rhyme from the Girl/Boy EP added as a bonus on the american edition would also have to count for one). Of course, there are a few dark corners too, starting with the unsetlling Cornish Acid... after all, Come to Daddy was released the same year and one can't change his true nature !

3. Funki Porcini - Love, Pussycats & Carwrecks (1996)

Maybe too discret for his own good, James Braddell influenced many during his Ninja Tune era, from Amon Tobin to the late great Alias through The Cinematic Orchestra, without really making a name for himself, ultimately leaving the label on a stroke of genius (On, in 2010) to focus, since Plod, on a more ambient direction with underground masterpieces of atmospheric and troubling beauty like One Day, Conservative Apocalypse and earlier this year The Mulberry Files. His best work during the 90s, Love, Pussycats & Carwrecks melted jazz into hushed drum'n'bass, evanescent clouds of ambient and liquefied downtempo drums like no one ever could before or even since, with a result alternately tense (Carwreck) and dreamlike (I'm Such A Small Thing), retro (Snip & Lick) and futuristic (Theme Music For Nothing), abstract (The Last Song) and meditative (Going Down), easy on the ears (Hyde Park) and oddly unbalanced (12 Points Off Your License). A fascinating unidentified musical object that too few people know about.

< my many FP reviews on IRM, for French readers >

4. Autechre - Tri Repetae (1995)

Pretty much the greatest band in activity today with a discography so mesmerizing of constantly genius exploration that no other electronic artist from the great Warp era could come any close except maybe Leila if she had released twice as many albums (just listen to BoC and AFX last records and then, listen again to anything Rob Brown and Sean Booth put out after the almost "poppy" yet still strong Quaristice...), Autechre, for me, really became next level with this on. Surely, Incunabula (1993) helped define IDM, and Amber (1994) set the bar quite high for electronic ambient music with a softer sound (especially if you compare it to what came next, the very abstract and destructured masterpieces Chiastic Slide and Confield), but Tri Repetae really started to share, with a fascinated niche audience at the time, that unsettling mood of distressed computers, the melancholy of machines dreaming of becoming human and fearing of waking up from that dream, a state of (cyber-)mind made of feverish steamroller rubbery rhythms, anxious synthlines and agitated blips. Often qualified later as cold, mechanic and disembodied, Autechre's music never disconnected from that underlying disquietness of the soul, more human than ever today in our era of ever-increasing artificial intelligence.

< my old review in French from 11 years ago >

5. Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children (1998)

One of the peaks, with the even stranger and greater Geogaddi, of a body of work dedicated to out-of-this-world dreams and subconscious mythologies, Music Has the Right to Children felt at the time like an experience in easy-listening turned corrupt. In the continuity of Maxima (1996), downtempo syncopated beats slighly influenced by trip-hop and instrumental hip-hop, eerie melodies of distorted vintage synths and manipulated abstract voice samples float above ethereal voids of oneiric vapors and future-passed nostalgia. Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin capitalized on their mysterious persona and instantly became a cult duo for the whole electronic community but ultimately failed to renew with that timeless inspiration with a somehow shy and predictable Tomorrow's Harvest in 2013, regardless of a quite blind critical acclaim - if you ask me their underrated Campfire Headphase was much more touching and interesting... while ex member Christ., who departed after Twoism, remains virtually unknown despite a tremendous series of dreamlike releases on Benbecula and Parallax Sound. Life is unfair for geeky musicians with no marketing plan.

Bonus :

6. Oval - Systemisch (1994)
7. Alec Empire - The Destroyer (1996)
8. Leila - Like Weather (1998)
9. The Curse Of The Golden Vampire - The Curse Of The Golden Vampire (1998)
10. Seefeel - Succour (1995)

Also, a few albums among my all-time favourite which would have made a perfectly good top 5 but that i chose not to include for not being "electronic" in the purest sense : any Massive Attack (or trip-hop/early instrumental hip-hop like Alpha's Come From Heaven, DJ Shadow's Endtroducing etc), Björk's Homogenic, The Dust Brothers's Fight Club OST, The Third Eye Foundation's You Guys Kill Me and The Prodigy's The Fat of the Land.

Friday, 7 September 2018

The 5 best music videos of the summer

OK, technically we're not done with summer just yet, but i couldn't wait to share those with you :

Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch - Morphee

Still life in these pulsating chamber compositions - a description working for both, the French modern classical pianist's intense track and its fascinating stop-motion video :

< my review of the album in French >

Converge - Melancholia

Doppelgängers and self-loathing in this hard-hitting vid from the metalcore gods :

< my review of the EP in French >

Ben Chatwin - Knots

A disturbing birth cadenced by former Talvihorros' stellar arpeggiators, tense beatmaking and elegiac strings :

< my review of the album in French >

Strangelove - DMT

An eerily abstract imagery that fits the British trio's ambient hip-hop quite well on this instrumental opening part of their latest EP :

< my review of the EP in French is hidden in there >

More Or Les - Nerd Love

Nerd-friendly alt-rap from a member of Backburner aka the greatest hip-hop crew in the universe... imagine a canadian Hieroglyphics so cool with being uncool that it would become cool again :

< listen to the album in full >

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Thalia Zedek Band : the first track off "Fighting Season", out Sept. 21st

With more emotional - should i say feminine ? - vocals and an apparently more gentle songwriting compared to E's music (whose second and best effort yet, Negative Work, will be one of the noise rock highlights of my year), outlined by violist Dave Curry's beautifully restrained arrangements, Thalia Zedek delivers another impressive record on Thrill Jockey, almost epic at times (The Lines), more bluesy (What I Wanted) than gritty this time but filled with the same intensity (Tower) and sense of struggle against personal and political anxieties (Fighting Season), emphasisezd by bassist Winston Braman's and drummer Jonathan Ulman's fierce rhythm section.

Still some nice blasts of abrasive guitar in there (Ladder, with Mel Lederman's dissonant piano too), some delicate piano/strings folk-rock also, to contrast with Come's former leader's edgy vocals (War Not Won), a falsely serene and truely haunting cello ballad (We Will Roll) with Jonah Sacks at the instrument, and the first track off the album, Bend Again, offers us through its bipolar ride a couple of distinguished guests and close friends, both behind the guitar, Chris Brokaw (Come) and J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.) for the final solo :

If you read French : my live report of E's concert in Paris last June.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Where that umpteenth music blog comes from...

Mainly, from my wish to try and write some short comments about music in English. See, i'm French and most musicians i write about elsewhere can never really get what i'm saying in my reviews, otherwise than from using online translating tools... you probably can imagine how it turns up most of the time... funny at first but somehow frustrating after a while. So this was long overdue.

Besides, i'm a huge list addict, and never really had any playground for that... so here it is !
Oh, and also, the title comes from one of the best opening tracks ever :

If you like it, you may have ended up in the right place. If not, just stick around a bit, who knows what's coming next !