MAGIC MIX

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

WEEK STARTING 18 Oct

Genre pick of the week Cover of Look Up Sharp by Carla Dal Forno.
Dal Forno beckons a bold new era in her peerless output pushing her dub-damaged DIY dispatches to the limits of flawless dream-pop. In a transformative move towards crystal clear vocals and sharpened production, "Look Up Sharp" is an evolutionary leap from the thick fog and pastoral stillness of her Blackest Ever Black missives, "You Know What It’s Like" (2016) and "The Garden EP" (2017). Three years since her plain-speaking debut album, the Melbourne-via-Berlin artist finds herself absorbed in London’s sprawling mess. The small-town dreams and inertia that preoccupied dal Forno’s first album have dissolved into the chaotic city, its shifting identities, far-flung surroundings and blank faces. "Look Up Sharp" is the story of this life in flux, longing for intimacy, falling short and embracing the unfamiliar. Dal Forno connects with kindred spirits and finds refuge in darkened alleys, secret gardens and wherever else she dares to look.

In her own territory between plaintive pop, folk and post-punk dal Forno conjures the ghosts of AC Marias, Virginia Astley and Broadcast through her brushwork of art-damaged fx and spectral atmospheres. The first half of the record is filled with dubbed-out humid bass lines, which tether stoned hazes of psychedelic synth work as on ‘Took A Long Time’ and ‘No Trace.’ These are contrasted with songs like ‘I’m Conscious and ‘So Much better’ that channel the lilting power of YMG and are clear sequels-in-waiting to dead-eyed classics like ‘Fast Moving Cars.’

The B-side begins with the feverish bass and meandering melody of ‘Don’t Follow Me,’ which takes The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ as its conceptual springboard. It’s the clearest lyrical example since ‘The Garden’ of dal Forno’s unmatched ability to unpick the masculine void of post-punk and new wave nostalgia to reflect contemporary nuance. Look Up Sharp reaches its satisfying conclusion with ‘Push On’ - dal Forno’s most explicit foray into an undiscovered trip hop universe between Massive Attack and Tracey Thorn. The album’s last gasp finds personal validation in fragility: ‘I push on / I’m the Place I’m Going,’ a self discovery lifted by reverberant broken beats and glass-blown vocals.

Adding further depth to Look Up Sharp are the instrumentals, which flow seamlessly between the vocal-led pieces. ‘Hype Sleep’ and ‘Heart of Hearts’ drink from the same stream as The Flying Lizard’s dubbed-out madness and the vivid purple sunsets of Eno’s Another Green World. While ‘Creep Out of Bed’ and ‘Leaving for Japan’ funnel the fourth-world psychedelia of Cyclobe’s industrial-folk into the vortex of Nico’s The Marble Index.

Conceived as a whole, Look Up Sharp is a singular prism in which light, sound and concept bend at all angles. A deeply personal but infinitely relatable album its many surfaces are complex but authentic, enduring but imperfect, hard-edged but delicate. A diamond. Look up sharp or you’ll miss it.

A Produce

The Clearing

    The Clearing is the debut album by the late Los Angeles-based musician Barry Craig aka A Produce. As co-founder of the underground cassette imprint Trance Port Tapes, Craig managed to assemble local artists who were working within the realms of DIY electronics and rhythmic, spacious sound. Incubated over a three year period, '88 release The Clearing draws on the roster of TPT associates such as Scott Fraser (Kronos Quartet), Daniel Voznick (Afterimage) and guitarist Scott Marc Becker resulting an 'an album of conceptual space', owing equally to the guitar-based new-wave releases of the imprint prior as to the later, and deeper ambient trance sound that would follow. Coming at this intersection of styles, there are moments of deep introspection and sulking, minimal drum machines followed by pieces of more outward expression only to be plunged back into tense, oppressive atmospheres. Yet despite these shifts in style, the sense of mood and cohesion throughout is ever-present, giving a true sense of inhabiting a unique space - or 'The Clearing'. Stockport-based store All Night Flight Records is proud to present this official reissue, with the blessing of Craig's estate and artwork replicated by the original artist - renown designer Bruce Licher of Independent Project Recordings. Distributed by Low Company.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Patrick says: Microdosing man Tom Houghton launches the label arm of his vinyl empire All Night Flight this week, with a meticulous reissue of esoteric LA rarity "The Clearing" by A Produce. Fusing post punk, tribal, minimalist and ambient into a surprisingly accessible LP, Trance Port boss Barry Craig came up with a sublime LP, which we now get the chance to enjoy!

    Battles return with their fourth album "Juice B Crypts" on Warp Records to follow their complex, mind-bending predecessors "Mirrored", "Gloss Drop, Dross Glop" and "La Di Da Di". Their latest album is a sensory overload of information that throws everything you thought you knew about Battles into flux once again. John Stanier's percussive power drives the LP through motorik, jazz and post rock, while the cubist keyboard and guitar melodies of Ian Williams capture the fractal pop majesty the group have made their own over the past decade or so.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: While Battles' previous outing definitely tread more through the math rock spectrum, and sometimes suffered cohesion losses through it's jagged momentum, 'Juice B Crypts'leans slightly more towards the free-jazz end of things, with loungey grooves and deep rolling basses keeping a solid backline behind their characteristic madness.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    2xColoured LP Info: Indies exclusive transparent vinyl in gatefold sleeve.

    2xColoured LP includes MP3 Download Code.

    CD Info: Gatefold wallet with poster booklet.

    Broen return with eyes open to new vistas on their second album, ‘Do You See The Falling Leaves?’. Back in 2017, Norway’s experi-pop quintet brought exuberant reserves of intelligence, positivity and warm-spirited commonality to the world-building bustles of jazz, funk, psychedelia, electronics and hip hop on their international debut, ‘I Love Art’.

    ‘Do You See The Falling Leaves?’ extends its predecessor’s vision and expands its brightly generous worldview, opening the door to mindful, invigorating and mind-bogglingly inventive ways of composing, engaging and connecting: with nature, with each other, with their own potential.

    As Anja Lauvdal (synths, piano) explains, finding ways to connect is a core theme. Even if EE Cummings’ classic minimalist poem ‘l(a’ was not an influence on the album, its use of a falling leaf to symbolise loneliness clicked with Anja. “I thought that was a nice comment to the title/theme of the record. People can use each other and nature around us to feel connected instead of lonely. The opposite of loneliness is maybe to be connected - as an individual - but also connected to the world. In a way, ‘do you see the falling leaves’ then also means ‘do you see the lonely people’, and that you can open your eyes or reach out a hand.”

    Montreal duo Essaie pas return to DFA with a single that picks up where their 2018 album ‘New Path’ left off. ‘Earth’ is a blistering ride through the rave, an amalgamation of techno and trance. The galloping bassline is the backbone of the song and Marie Davidson’s vocals climb to new heights against synth stabs. ‘Corps Étranger’, with its stuttering percussion, is a slow burner in comparison. For the remix of ‘Earth’, Marco Passarani of Tiger & Woods (Running Back, Numbers) doubles down on the Italo disco angle and doesn’t shy away from the more anthemic moments of the original, managing to rework it into something akin to a celebration of this place we call Earth.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Patrick says: DFA duo Essaie Pas find their inner Faithless with a trancey techno journey on the A-side before knuckling down for some arthouse electro on the flip. Italian legend Passarani steps up on the remix doing a 'Lectric Workers meets Visage Italo romper perfect for the next Red Laser party.

    Emotional Rescue returns to the music of British pop band Furniture, with an EP of the band's own extended versions, remixes and unreleased takes of their particular output. Taken from three 12"s that followed "When The Boom Was On" (ERC072), the songs included cast a light on their development from 3 to 5 piece, adding Sally Still (bass) and Maya Gilder (keyboards) and the new male / female frontline. The subsequent broadening of their line-up and sound meant they could start to address the kind of pop music they wanted to play. After the early releases garneered radio play and reviews, Furniture were launched into the melee of '80s pop. An anomaly, the band found they attracted a specific kind of intense follower, who were often beguiled by Furniture's freaky normality. This was addressed on the 1984 release, "I Can't Crack". A more urgent version of the sound Furniture had debuted with "Why Are We In Love", the track, sung by Tim, was based around a sequencer-like rhythm played live by drummer Hamilton Lee, and a clarinet part played by Tim's brother, Larry Whelan. A mix of bleakness and euphoria, the song was and is a favourite of the band and considered one of their best self-productions, as well as becoming a latter day club play. This is followed by the studio experiment "Throw Away The Script", where the band wrestled with sequencers and synth-pop, but then countered it with a free-jazz sax solo. Found on the flip of the double A -side of "Love Your Shoes" 12", this instrumental version too became an underground club hit, including a cult play at Fran Lenaer's influential Valencia club, Spook Factory. Played loud, the studio mastery, trickery and oft-accidental discoveries come to the fore, with tissue-damaging frequencies giving extra sound system shaking bottom end. The B-side continues the band's love of making extended mixes with "Dancing The Hard Bargain". Co-produced with Tim Parry (formerly of Blue Zoo), they threw everything at these 12" versions. Able to relax and focus on the sounds they really liked, rather than the ones thought more commercial, this can be clearly heard on this compelling, percussive mix, a stop-start breakdown becoming a band hallmark. To close this collection is the mammoth "Bullet". Again sung by Whelan, an edited version of which debuted on the 1986 Survival compilation of Furniture tracks called "The Lovemongers", here this previously unreleased original take is centred on a mesmeric tape loop, live drums and a guest appearance by violinist Helena Bjorelius.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Matt says: I'm not up on much of this sound I have to confess. But I'm a sucker for anything jagged, funky and progressive! Furniture seem to join the dots between post-punk, new wave and Balearic and alongside the A Produce record on All Night Flight this week, should be your go-to curveball releases this week!

    LuckyMe proudly present the new album from Jacques Greene, "Dawn Chorus". The record is bold step forward and his most collaborative project to date, featuring additional production and instruments from film composer Brian Reitzell (Lost In Translation), cello by London’s Oliver Coates, additional production from Clams Casino and vocal contributions from ambient artist Julianna Barwick, rapper Cadence Weapon and singers Ebhoni and Rochelle Jordan.

    If the Canadian artist’s 2017 debut album "Feel Infinite" was the soundtrack to a dream pregame - amping you up to lose yourself in the club - then "Dawn Chorus" resides in the post-rave reflective moment. A time of heightened sensuality and latent possibility.

    Now 29, Greene has been making music for the club for over a decade. His sound could be described as an emotional haze, in that its balance of sonic elements work to illuminate the overlapping feelings that lie between the familiar binaries. "Dawn Chorus" opens with "Serenity", an all-back-to-mine breaks tune that Greene describes as 'a weird, euphoric take on Chemical Brothers.' "Night Service" is a neon-lit hip house anthem helmed by Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon, who drapes a love letter to the club around Greene’s acid-dipped synths. Elsewhere, "Distance" blends ambient textures with sampled birdsong and the snaking lines of Oliver Coates’ cello.


    Previously only available on CDR promo and in limited quantities on the relaunched www.jaipaul.com, this 2011 classic by BTSTU comes to shops for the first time.

    Still sounding fresh, and arresting in its simplicity, this faultless slice of neo-soul highlighted a particularly fruitful time in UK music with artists like James Blake, FKA Twigs, The XX and many more grabbing the finesse and minimalism of dubstep and flipping it into a unique take on modern soul that was / is totally UK-bred and forged.

    Remastered for 2019 on vinyl and taking us right back thru a rose tinted lens to this fertile time. 


    STAFF COMMENTS

    David says: Bedroom soul for bedouin beatniks and street urchins the world over. Now available for all to enjoy.

    Stephen Mallinder

    Um Dada

      Stephen Mallinder, co founder and frontman of the iconic Cabaret Voltaire, has returned with his first solo album in over 35 years: Um Dada. Laced with leftfield house and cut up sound collages, Um Dada is a melding of energies that are an exercise in simplicity and motion. Sincere, playful realism that beckons your body to move, always reminding you to never take yourself too seriously without forfeiting your agency.

      While steering Cabaret Voltaire through the 1980’s, Mallinder was already busy piecing together his first solo album entitled “Pow Wow”, which would help define Mallinder’s interest in the more leftfield electro sounds shaping England at the time. It was this diverse and abstract hybrid that helped inspire generations of artists and musicians through steeping raw machine funk within the whimsical and absurdist ideology.

      Since the release of “Pow Wow” in 1982, Mallinder continued his pioneering work with Cabaret Voltaire, as well as recording and touring with his electro projects Wrangler, Creep Show, Hey Rube, Kula, and Cobby & Mallinder. In addition to his non stop schedule in electronic music, his professional life as a journalist, broadcaster, producer and now a professor of Digital Music & Sound Art at the University of Brighton, has lead Mallinder to a unique point in his career. Most in his position would be caught up in rosy retrospection, but Mallinder himself says, “There’s too much digital finger licking right now; every thought and desire at the turn of a dial... well a click of the mouse. And there’s a giddy, false nostalgia about the analogue past. Sorry to burst your bubble but the truth of history is more mundane: practical, pragmatic...Um Dada is about ‘play’ cut and paste, lost words, twisted presets, voice collage, simple sounds things that have been lost to technology’s current determinism. Let the machines talk to each other, let them dance .. they lead, we follow.”

      Um Dada opens up with the exact machine led surrealism that Mallinder recommends in “Working (You Are)”. A thick, stripped back dance floor groove provides the ideal foundation for Mallinder’s eccentric vocal cuts. The frisky chops present an almost twisted irony, subtly bringing to mind the role we’re all forced to play as just another cog in the ever grinding capitalist machine of life. Yet, somehow, the listener is left feeling optimistic. A prime example of simplicity at work. Tracks such as “Satellite” give a skillful illustration of Mallinder’s adeptness with his musical expertise while preserving his core historical context as only simple reference. The underlying bassline and percussion, coupled with the floating melodies and airy vocal refrain disclose the vulnerabilities of love and loss without a hint of irony or nostalgia.

      Um Dada is mischievously idealist, however never loses touch with reality. Offering structure while simultaneously dismantling any and all preconceptions. The spirit of sincerity that sustained Cabaret Voltaire’s lengthy career is abundantly present within founder Stephen Mallinder’s journey through his own whimsical utopian consciousness and staking claim to an identity that is solely his own.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: One of the most singular voices in English electronica returns for his first solo album in over 30 years. 'Um Dada' encompasses everything we love about Mallinder and while his most recent collabs (Creep Show with shop favourite John Grant was a particular highlight) clearly showed his influence, it's great to hear his own sound, undiluted and unadorned, and switching effortlessly between a huge range of influences and sounds.

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      Coloured LP Info: Clear vinyl. Signed copies while stocks last!

      CD Info: Signed copies while stocks last!

      So far so far out for Stroom, who continue their journey through the lesser thumbed pages of the Belgian underground with this sublime retrospective of art-house hero and ambient music weirdo Jan Van Den Broeke. Famed for his wavy, sample heavy synth compositions as Absent Music, The Misz and June 11, Van Den Broeke made an appearance on Alain Neffe's Insane Music imprint, with the lo-fi tropicalia of "The Desert" (included here folks). Falling somewhere between Spike, Marc Barreca, Eno's poppier moments and the bedsit anxiety of a Flying Nun band, the music collected on "11000 Dreams" beguiles, intrigues and transfixes us with its introverted magic. Working with a minimalist set up of drum machines, guitar, synth and spoken vocal, Van Den Broeke pursues his own unique musical path to create a sound which falls into a flawless musical no man's land - Absent Music indeed! So, if you dig on Balearic, minimal wave or ambient sounds, you NEED this in your life.


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