MAGIC MIX

synth-pop . alt-R&B . cold wave . industrial

WEEK STARTING 15 Feb

Genre pick of the week Cover of Hollow Earth by Pye Corner Audio.
Hollow Earth is the new album from Pye Corner Audio aka Martin Jenkins, his third for Ghost Box. It’s conceived as a sequel to 2016’s Stasis. Where Stasis played with notions of outward cosmic exploration and the idea of suspended animation and sleep, Hollow Earth takes subterranean exploration and submerged psychologies as its theme.

It draws on Berlin school synth improvisations, New Age reveries and the ghosts of 90s house euphoria to summon up images of vast, awe inspiring spaces and claustrophobic chambers. It sustains an atmosphere of wonder and adventure throughout, and like its companion piece, Stasis, it works equally as a soundtrack to physical as well as mental exploration.

Pye Corner Audio specialise in majestic, cinematic electronica that evokes sci-fi soundtracks, dystopian futures and the sound of haunted dance floors. The discography to date includes eight full length albums and many more singles and EPs across several labels. There are also remixes for John Foxx, Mogwai, Mark Lanegan, Stealing Sheep, Knightstown, Not Waving and most recently Dolphin Midwives.

Pye Corner's Martin Jenkins (aka The Head Technician) is a veteran live performer, and has played shows and festivals all over Europe, Canada and the USA. Most notably he has supported Mogwai on several tour dates, played the Mutek festival in Montreal, the Mugako Festival in Spain and Barcelona’s Primavera Club.

Pye Corner Audio pieces appear in the soundtrack to Adam Curtis’s 2016 film HyperNormalisation and the 2018 Shudder TV series, Deadwax. More TV soundtrack appearances are due to appear in 2019.

STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: Another absolute killer from PCA for the legendary Ghost Box, very much serving as a follow-up to Piccadilly top-5 album of 2016, 'Stasis'. Where the throbbing, machinated pulses of stasis still held elements of light, 'Hollow Earth' is very much a product of the unsure times we live in, dark vocal abstractions (don't worry, it's vocoded), fractured rhythms and saturation as standard. It's completely hypnotic and every bit as superb as you'd expect. Completely brilliant, and ALREADY album of the year material for me.

Agar Agar

The Dog And The Future

    NME - #61 in albums of the year "The French duo's debut album is a surreal synth-pop voyage that'll give your head a little wobble in all the right ways. Check out 'Sorry About The Carpet' and you'll see what we're getting at".

    Debut album from French electronic duo Agar Agar. Following their first EP "Cardan" (with 20 000 000 streams), the 25 years old art student duo release their first LP "The Dog And The Future", a synthetic travel infused with 80s electro-sound, synth-wave touch and a bunch of talent. Reviews and features in Quietus, Mixmag, FACT, Dazed, The 405, The Skinny, Killing Moon, Gigsoup, Oui Love. 

    The mighty Beak> – made up of Billy Fuller, Will Young, and Geoff Barrow of that band fame – return with their most claustrophobic album yet, chock full of the krautrock grooves, meandering structures and off-kilter melodies that fans of the band have come to expect from them. Having knocked it out of the park with their ‘Sex Music’ single earlier this year, >>> carries on in the same subtle, bass-led vein.
    The trio flirt with chaos throughout the album, pushing each instrument through layers of distortion and reverb to the brink of recognisability, and the countless eerie squeaks, sci-fi synths and fucked-with-strings only add to its otherworldly nature. >>> is as mesmerising as it is uneasy, teetering on a tightrope stretched between soft, winding compositions and edgy, no nonsense heft.
    Pretty much every song is a highlight. ‘Birthday Suit’ is devastating, all fluttering synths, lo-fi vocals and heartbreak, while ‘Allé Sauvage’ is a dangerously danceable seven-and-a-half-minuter, with blips galore and razor sharp hi-hats driving the song along nicely. ‘RSI’ is a motoric gem. Scratch that – Beak> are a motoric gem.
    But ‘When We Fall’ is on another level entirely. First released under the band’s Like easy listening music thrown off a cliff and pieced back together again, >>> is a Frankenstein’s monster of atmosphere, griminess, groove and space. Transcendent.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Javi says: You’d be right to judge >>> by its brilliant cover because it’s a brilliant album, and one that’s likely to win 2018 for me. Buy it / play it / love it.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Picture Disc includes MP3 Download Code.

    Ltd LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    Brigitte Fontaine - Areski Belkacem

    Vous Et Nous

    Originally released in 1977, "Vous Et Nous" was the fourth release under the Areski - Fontaine alias, though the French duo had collaborated heavily over the previous decade or so. If you're au fait with their better known 1973 release "Je Ne Connais Pas Cet Homme", you'll be expecting astral folk explorations, arabesque tonalities and chanson-abstractions, and there's certainly a whole load of avant garde acoustics on show here. But "Vous Et Nous" sees the duo pushing the boundary, both in terms of tracklisting (a massive 34 compositions and poems) and technique, exploring electronics in a more direct way than ever before. Check the R2D2 bleeps of the titular opener for a taster, before diving headfirst into the slo-mo cosmic funk of "Patriarcat", a sleazy synth heater if ever I've heard one. On the organic end of the spectrum, "Je Suis Venu Te Voir" calls to mind the pagan jazz of Henri Texier while "Les Épis" takes us on an exotic jazz journey before jumping straight into a cosmic folk heartbreaker.
    Experimental, free form and flowing, this is a triumph of expression and inspiration. 

    A proud New Yorker, Emily King spent her first three decades living on the same Midtown block. She loved her home, her family, her friends and her life there. But last year, when she finally resolved to challenge herself by moving out of her comfort zone, positive changes started taking shape immediately. In Upstate New York, the fresh air and fresh mentality gave her the proper space and perspective to create what would become the album of her career. Its name: ‘Scenery’.

    Without a doubt, King has carved out such a space for herself. With ‘Scenery’, she has challenged herself to create new roots, both in physical form as well as sonically. “For me, ‘Scenery’ is about taking a chance and having an adventure, with themes of independence, confidence, and self-reliance throughout, and having a sense of freedom and self-worth,” she says. “I’m really proud of this record because we took time to make sure it was right. We let time pass in between creating, recording, and listening, so that my true judgment can be revealed, ego goes away, and you see it for what it is. Sometimes you have blinders on because you want it to be good so badly. When I listen to this record there are no cringe-y moments. I’m proud of the process.”

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: From sashaying, finger-clicking soul, swooning funk and low-key rhythmic R&B to longing acoustic ballads, anthemic indie-pop and snappy guitar-led minimal melodicism, Emily King pulls of every key change with absolute skill and an impeccable ear for a tune.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    Electronic pop quartet Ladytron return with the release of their first new album in seven years on Ladytron Music via ! K7 Label Services. The eponymously titled Ladytron follows the release in 2018 of two enthusiastically received singles, “The Island” and “The Animals.” Distilling twenty years of experimentation into one propulsive album, Ladytron again push the boundaries of electronic pop in invigorating directions with thirteen songs that explore the disquiet of our times. Loaded with their trademark analogue synths propelled by relentless rhythm, Ladytron is a hypercharged album that radiates a visceral urgency.

    Their sixth album is the band’s most definitive work to date, full of catchy hooks, rousing riffs, sweeping melodies, and thick textured harmonies. Helen Marnie says, “For us, it’s like getting together with an old friend. You’ve both changed, but still have that common ground. Familiarity crossed with excitement.” “It’s diverse and emotional,” Daniel Hunt adds. “It’s a lot heavier than our last album, Gravity the Seducer, which was an intentionally more sedate, ethereal record. The album also features guest Iggor Cavalera (Sepultura/Mixhell/ Soul wax) on drums.

    Well they got the title right on this one didn't they: "Confuse The Marketplace" brings together the three CD bonus tracks from "45:33", but all have also been previously released on vinyl too - yes, you knew you'd seen them somewhere before. The EP kicks off with the brilliant "Freak Out" (on the flip of Harvey's mix of "All My Friends") - a better tribute to Edwin Starr's "Get Up Whirlpool" you will not find. Here's the difference though, where as the original mix was blended into "Starry Eyes" here you get a little break so the drum solo won't mess up your mix. Over on side-B we have the Onastic Dub of "North American Scum" (previously promo-only) and last up is the absolutely brilliant "Hippie Priest Bum Out" ("North American Scum" B-side cut). Out of press for a decade, but still fresh as it gets. 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Patrick says: Long live LCD. Just days after I had the pleasure of their recent "Electric Lady Sessions", New York's finest repress this classic EP of B-sides and remixes. "Freak Out / Starry Eyes" is as good as anything they've recorded, that Onanistic Dub is a triumph of kraut-laced nu-disco and "Hippie Priest" is full on live-jam Fall tackle. Ace!

    Stroom's valentine special for 2019 sees the label excavate some lovely wave from Venice, Italy (1981-1984). Though the city may be best known for gondolas, the biennale and romantic getaways, it seems those canals spawned some vital contributions to Italy's vibrant underground pop scene in the 80s, not least the DIY sounds of Ruins. The collaborative project of Alessandro Pizzin and Piergiuseppe Ciranna, Ruins took inspiration from British post punk, US electro, the robots from Düsseldorf and the sleek new wave topping the international charts at the time. Opener "Elegant Shout" fuses crunchy electronics and grooving bass and guitar to create a bedroom pop beauty which could easily have made it onto MFM's "Uneven Paths" comp. "Alone" is a punchier affair, more obviously directed at the leftfield dancefloors with insistent synths and the kind of garbled chorus you get from no-wave. Cut a rug in your baggiest trousers with the early-Spandeau stylings of "You're Like A Cigarette", then go wild with the drunk in the jazz club weirdo post-punk of "Skeleton In Love". The flipside keeps the hits coming, be it the slow and sleazy "Fit Of Nerves", tropical pop bangers "Boys & Girls" and "Everybody Knows Me" or the whacked out white funk of "It's Not Too Grand". Long live Stroom and their endless knowledge of alternative wave greats.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Patrick says: Skinny ties, skew-wiff sounds and the weirdest, white funk around - sounds good to me. Sitting at the groovier end of the post punk/synth pop spectrum, "Occasional Visits" is a wavey masterpiece from Italy's 80s underground. Time to dance differently...

    “If there was a mission it was to create something like absurd office funk,” says Stats’ Ed Seed, recalling the birth of his band. He was working a series of banal London office jobs, but rather than switch off or despair, Seed used this conventionally sterile backdrop for creative inspiration. “It was about taking things that are considered boring or are overlooked,” he says. “If you stare at anything long enough, it becomes weird.”

    Staring into the infinite oddness of office life was interrupted when Seed “fluked” his way into La Roux’s band - which itself proved a further inspiration for the evolution of Stats. “I'd always been in scrappy indie bands,” he recalls. “Then I met Elly and her crew and thought ‘wow’. This kind of pop music, I always thought it only happened over in Hammersmith, you had to have tens of thousands of pounds and a major label. But I realised you didn’t need a huge budget to make something more stylish than your average band.”

    This was a turning point for Seed, recognising he could create his own contemporary version of DIY art pop. “That gave me confidence,” he reflects. “I wanted Stats to be quite theatrical. I wanted it to be strangely glamorous, in a Roxy Music or Pet Shop Boys sort of way. Something that’s glamorous and quite silly. Those bands are very serious about being very silly.”

    Debut album “Other People’s Lives”, recorded at RAK studios with the full Stats band (Ed Seed – vox, guitar, John Barrett -drums, Stu Barter - bass, Duncan Brown - guitar, Nicole Robson – keyboards, Iso Waller-Bridge – keyboards, vox) is about investigating the gaps in the stories we tell about our lives. Says Ed, “the world encourages me to experience my life as a narrative: a story in which I am the lead character, going on a journey, moving towards the discovery and realisation of an authentic self. Other people’s lives are presented to me as coherent, relatable stories, full of passion and travel and wonder. But my story makes no sense: it is full of contradictions and formless subplots, and I barely feel like the same actor from one day to the next - let alone find any meaning in it.”

    Musically Other People’s Lives is in many ways a time-stamp of a record, something that captures the now, the fleeting, the fickle and the forgotten – like that perfect moment lost on the dance floor. Yet the album avoids being tied to a time and place, ricocheting between 70s art rock, 80s synth grooves and cosmic disco, presented honestly and experimentally via the all-encompassing prism of pop music.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Patrick says: Duncan from Dutch Uncles hipped me to Stats a few months back (Memphis Industries fam innit), and I was on board instantly. Following the same absurdist pop route as Fujiya & Miyagi or Yacht, but with a touch of Roxy Music glamour, some Talking Heads vocal nods and a whole lot of DFA-style indie dance grooving, Stats are 2019's answer to Hot Chip, Metronomy and Holy Ghost.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive limited edition neon pink vinyl.

    Coloured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    Various Artists

    Cuneiform For Pumapunku

      ** NEW LIGHT SOUNDS DARK!!! - Act now or cry later! 

      Keeping with their theme of late, it's a minimalistic, ambient, drone-like curation of none-hits that plunge deep into wormhole, scrap up all the interstella detritus and cough it back up through a phlegmy, alien oesophagus.

      Two sides of wacked-out, voodoo discharge, electrostatic ambience and general creeping sense of doom. Like watching Event Horizon on your own on 4aco powder - incredibly terrifying but certain to re-programm your synapses. 

      SERIOUSLY limited quants on this one folks so don't dilly dally! 


      Back to top