NOT ON LABEL | LP | £17.99
“Light up / and have a thought that leads to nowhere…”
What the fuck… this Lolina album is brilliant. Part existential murder mystery, part stoned London travelogue, few records – few anything – capture so well the exhilaration and chaos and emptiness and absurdity of semi-rootless, semi-privileged life in Zones 1-6. It’s a world away from the dissolved-girl dub worries of Because I'm Worth It and a quantum leap on from the INNERESTING but frequently irritating Relaxin' With Lolinaand Live In Paris. The Lolita 10” was pointing in the right direction, but musically The Smoke is on another level: an inspired, crazily compelling and properly NOURISHING, pure-pleasure palimpsest of classic UK DIY art-damage, deadpan 90s R&B/trip-hop tropes, rock-hard grime/avant-dancehall riddims, ecstatic keyboard tone-float and a kind of digressive, semi-improvised alien lounge-jazz sensibility (?!) that threatens to dissolves even the toughest beat and bleep patterns into a semi-improvised, ectoplasmic ooze. Wahey. The influences are easy enough to unpick, but they're beaten into shapes you haven't quite seen before. No lo-fi obfuscation either, the production is stunning: lucid and high-def and underlining the boldness and brightness and BOTTLE of the songs/playing/arrangements.
Going on the track titles alone, The Smoke is linked to Inquiry & Collaboration, L’s recent performance piece with Johanna Ulfsak, about “a private detective disguised as an art and design student from Central Saint Martins”, and there are plenty of other London signifiers too, from the blurry St Pancras station on the cover to ‘The River’, a paean to the open-sewer murk and majesty of the Thames that grafts wild Eski string-stabs onto the kind of sinewy bass-driven meta-metal last heard on Tricky and Martina’s ‘Black Steel’. Oui chef! The gleaming suicide-note synth-pop of ‘Murder’, the bedsit Timbaland bounce/bump of ‘The Missing Evidence’, the mocking S-M diorama ‘Style & Punishment’, the fucked cabaret monologue of ‘Roulette’…it’s all fire.
The Smoke came out digitally earlier in the year, but thank god for this self-released vinyl edition – when the servers melt, this is one you’ll wanna reach for to remind you who you were, where you were, what all this nonsense WAS.
SPRTLZM / SCIFI (PRE-RELEASE)
PESSIMIST PRODUCTIONS | 12” | £9.99
**Limited pre-release of 12" coming in Autumn 2018.** Droning, downtempo breakbeat dreadnoughts...unmistakeable Pessimist. First release on his new label. Hand-stamped test pressing, 15 copies.
BITTER BLOOD: A COLLECTION OF ARCHIVAL RECORDINGS
DISCIPLES | LP | £16.99
Released in parallel with an Arcola 12” of his “lost” Mo’Wax productions, this compilation from new imprint Disciples focusses on the more DIY/industrial-hued creations of cult producer Dan Dwayre aka Black Lodge. It's pretty hard to peg this bloke. A lesser-spotted member of Autechre and Rob Hall’s Gescom crew, Dwayre emerged at the fag-end of the 90s with a series of 12”s on Acupuncture and Mo’Wax, then pretty much vanished. He re-surfaced in 2010 with a brace of cassette drops on The Trilogy Tapes, and a double-pack of top-drawer disco re-edits, only to drop off the map again. Recorded in the upstairs room of a Manchester pub, we're guessing in the early 90s, a couple of the tracks here feel like the missing link between the acid b-boy culture of Ae et al and the seamier manoeuvres of the industrial/scum-underground, but for the most part we’re treated to the kind of wistful, hermetic, dub-distressed chamber-music/space-folk - lots of clarinet, cello, violin and stiff-upper-lip yearning - you might expect from a Woo or a Flaming Tunes or a Leven Signs (really Disciples say it best: “Eno’s Another Green World drowning in a sea of Boddingtons”). We don’t summon those names lightly, this is honestly incredible stuff: accomplished and grounded but also lawless and idiosyncratic and full of deep feeling.
To be clear though, it's not all Music For Bus Depots and lunar jazz, ‘Wodwo’ (is that a Ted Hughes reference?!) is a slice of disorientingly pristine Hosono-ish synth-pop, and ’Soph Says’ feels like minimal techno if Storm Bugs had invented it, while ‘Withershins’ and ‘Castle To Castle’ are dopesick dispatches from the frozen borderline that are just ECSTATICALLY depressing. It’s early days, but it seems safe to say that this is going to be one of those records we cherish, and return to again and again.. it zones in on, and sustains, that rarefied bittersweet mood we look for in, well, pretty much everything. In fact it delivers it in such abundance that it feels almost too good to be true. Essential must-have ++
PALTA & TI
PALTA OG & TIPALTA OG TI PA DEN TOLVTE
12TH ISLE | 12” | £10.99
New 12th Isle courtesy of Palta & Ti, an Aarhus duo last spotted doing their thing on Gravity Graffiti. A bit of a departure from the blooty fourth-world abstraxxions the label is best known for, what you get here is three mini-epics of sumptuous, inward-looking, rub-a-dubbed dream-house with one foot in dubbed-out, early 90s hypnobeat / Blue Room biz - shades of Seefeel, Reload, an icier Irresistible Force. Class throughout, but the B-side is the one for us, floating skywards on wings of pure Cluster-y synth shimmer. Lush screen-printed sleeves as per.
STROOM | LP | £23.99
Latvia has been a goldmine for the Stroom project. Following on from that much-loved NSRD collection, this new compilation, Spoki (Ghosts), showcases the peripheral demented pop genius of Ingus Baušķenieks. Prolific and well-known in his home country both for solo work and his band, Dzeltenie Pastnieki, this record - culled from the years 1988-2011 - might taste of bubblegum, but closer inspection reveals a visionary/crackpost assemblage of dubbed-out vocal samples, fx and all kinds of unruly tape manipulation and looping. which tells the real story of a visionary dating back to his first records in 1979. It's full of unconscious Balearic and synth-pop signifiers, but the sheer insanity running down the spine of this record prevents it falling into the realm of full-on Pyjama Music - the heavy basslines and electronics owe just as much to EBM, new beat, and at its most extreme ('Trīsi, Trīsi, Sikspārnīt..') Spoki is more reminiscent of Laibach than the Fourth World fluff you might be primed for. A gloriously unpredictable and enlightening record, and, like the Cybe and the Vazz, this is one of the entries in the Stroom catalogue you absolutely need.
BACK IN STOCK!!!
LA CONTRA OLA: SYNTH WAVE AND POST PUNK FROM SPAIN 1980-86
BONGO JOE | 2LP | £25.99
You might well ask: do I need any more cold wave / post-punk / minimal synth comps in my life? Course you don't! But if you still can't resist - and frankly the immaculate 'dos those cover girls are sporting was all it took to reel us in - you will be very handsomely rewarded by this amazing 2LP. Often with these sorts of comps you tolerate a load of half-arsed tape-music/proto-industrial filler because there's two or three un-Pop KILLERS on there that you need, but La Contra Ola has been put together not just with historical expertise but also a firm eye on quality control - steering well clear of the aforementioned noisy blah, and of the dull-as-dishwater darkwave that Spain produced no shortage of in the early-mid 80s - focussing instead on more idiosyncratic, less generic stuff, with electronics clearly foregrounded.
Whether by accident or by design, the tunes on here to me sound so much more interesting than the by-now-canonical Belgian/Dutch/French MW classix.. there's a wildness (dare I say "latin flair"?!) to the songs and the performances, the instrumentation and arrangements are is dense and weird and unpredictable but invariably PARTY-minded. I don't think it's the case that Spanish post-punk at large was better than any other country's, but the track selection here is so good that it really makes it seem that way. Sometimes it just comes down to what's under the hood: cut any act on here, even the most synth-centric or dubbed-out (check Derribos Arias's mad ricocheting percussion work-out 'A Fluor'), and they would bleed rock'n'roll...check out Zombies' nervy surf-punk curio 'Extranos Juegos' - sounds like Cramps armed with a drumbox and a Polysix. Esplendor Geometrico are the . best known act included: their well-worn but still scintillating proto-electroclash, mecha-billy banger 'Moscu Esta Holado' is a perfect, signal opener.
VRYSTAETE | LP | £20.99
Getting harder and harder to think of new superlatives each time Dutch press Vrystaete offer 150 hand-stamped copies of some strange goodness you've never heard of. But this self-titled LP from Blessum is GORGEOUS even by the label's own out-of-this-world standard. The duo behind the record, Wouter Venema and Keimpe Koldijk (the latter was also half of hallowed DIY/minimal pop duo Bebe Fang, architects of another Vrystaete masterpiece), recorded on an church organ in situ built in 1659 in the Frisian village of Mariakerk, Blessum in Northern Holland. The recording is monstrous in its all-enveloping realism, capturing all the musical potential the 17th century had to offer and in its billowing, stately dialogue with guitar/fx the organ is clearly the star of the LP. And though this is soft music, for contemplative listening do yourself a favour and play it LOUD. Windows (and the soul) will shudder. This meditative Cyclobe-cum-Earth explosion continues Vrystaete's impossible habit of hitting ridiculously high benchmarks and leaping over them with ease.
HEAVENLY | LP | £18.99
HEAVENLY | LP | £18.99
The heatwave shows no sign of abating… perfect time to reach for these twin masterpieces of summer-in-the-city enchantment from Saint Etienne... Foxbase Alpha (1991) surely needs no introduction?! Quite simply one of the most brilliant and blissiest debut LPs of all time, every track a (serene, supine) banger: the surging poptimism of ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’, the dubwise cover of Neil Young’s ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ (further versioned into immortality by Weatherall), horizontal house workouts ‘Stoned To Say The Least’ (Richard Whitely sample!) and ‘She’s The One’, the impossibly languid lovers rock of ‘Carnt Sleep’ (based on the Youthman riddim!), ‘Girl VII’ (if I die, let it be to the sound of Sarah Cracknell drolly intoning place-names. “...Clerkenwell, Portobello, Maida Vale, Old Ford, Valencia, Kennington, Galveston, Holland Park, Studamer, Dollis Hill, Fougeres, London Fields, Bratislava, Haggerston…”)
So Tough (1993) is the less iconic record, but it's arguably a more mind-blowing listen, and certainly more fully realised in terms of sound and concept and all-consuming SWOON: a drowsy, dubbed-out, sampledelic collage of a concept album, charting an imaginary dérive around London (beginning at 'Mario's Cafe' in Kentish Town). This is, of course, an impossibly glamorous London of yesteryear - a scruffier, more romantic incarnation of the capital, before its energy and mystery was mapped and sapped by satellites and smartphones and Yelp reviews. Perhaps this idealised, prelapsarian city never truly existed except in the imaginations of fugitive suburban dreamers like Bob and Pete and Sarah and you and me. But fantasy or not, in the grooves of So Tough it LIVES. The influences/references are the same as before - a crazy-sophisticated brew of house, hip-hop, reggae, indie-pop, lushly orchestrated 60s folk-rock, chanson, ye-ye and drug-numb dolly-doom - but they’re harnessed here with even more precision and postmodern flair, and embroidered with sampled dialogue from films like Peeping Tom, Billy Liar andThat’ll Be The Day that hammer home the uniquely British themes of self-thwarting / longing for ESCAPE.