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The latest edition of K7!'s ever essential DJ Kicks compilations sees Forest Swords take on curatorial duties. Following acclaimed albums on Ninja Tune and Tri Angle, soundtrack and installation work, and remixes of the likes of Bjork, Matthew Barnes aka Forest Swords has curated a 25-track compilation that draws a line between past inspirations and his current peers. "During all of the nights that shaped me as a music fan there wasn't really a focus on DJing etiquette; sticking to genres, perfect transitions – it was all pretty DIY and purely like having someone cook up their personal mixtape in front of you, to surprise you and to explore different sounds" says Barnes. "That kind of rough-around-the-edges approach is so much more exciting to me than something sterile and seamless and I wanted to carry that spirit into this compilation." Chosen over the course of a few weeks in winter 2018, the mixed version was cut on Barnes' laptop during a wintery cross-country train journey. Like much of his own output, his DJ-Kicks skirts around pristine electronics and embraces more organic textures: 80s post punk (Anna Domino, Dead Can Dance), classic 90s British electronica (Orbital, Mira Calix), and smokey digi-dub (Rhythm & Sound), all rub up alongside some of the most forward-facing producers working today (Demdike Stare, Laurel Halo, Fis). The compilation sifts through rhythms, shifting speeds and emotions: from pop icon Neneh Cherry's primal thudding to the zombified throb of exclusive Forest Swords track 'Crow' via Deena Abdelwaheed's clattering deconstructions to the euphoric two-step of Djrum. It's a collection of tracks that feels as restlessly curious and weighty as Barnes' own work

Released in February 2017 Tosca's acclaimed 8th studio album Going Going Going saw Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber go back to their experimental roots. After a series of album's that had seen them experiment more and more with vocal collaborators and traditional song structures, Going Going Going was a clean sweep of the table and a return to the deep beats and dubbed out sounds that first made their name two decades ago. Now in the grand tradition of their previous albums Richard and Rupert have handed Going Going Going's parts over to a handpicked roster of producers from around the world.

The result is BOOM BOOM BOOM, a radically altered image that sees Tosca's original compositions blasted into pieces and rearranged in kaleidoscope fashion, from the elastic digi-dub reworking of Love Boat by Shanti Roots & Scheibosan and Brendon Moeller hazy, space filled interpretation of Amber November through to Stereotyp's jittering, percussive take on Chinabar and Steve Cobby's rubbery, funk fuelled house remix of Tommy. Like the best remix albums, Boom Boom Boom builds upon its original's foundations, taking us in unexpected new directions without ever losing site of the source material.

When Saints Go Machine

Konkylie

    The Danish four-piece — Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild (vocals), Jonas Kenton (keyboards), Simon Muschinsky (keyboards) and Silas Moldenhawer (drums) — are a complicated mix of influences. There’s dance music in there, for sure, but also post punk, some experimental electronica in the Aphex Twin mould, and, crucially, a healthy dose of pop. You could describe the end result as a heady mix of Caribou, The Knife/Fever Ray and Arthur Russell. But, really, it doesn’t sound like anything else out there.

    The band formed in 2007. They started out making dance music, but quickly left four-four beats behind and started fusing electronics with pop melodies. They caused a local stir when Danish radio picked up on some tracks they’d uploaded onto Myspace. The buzz meant that their first ever gig was at Vega, one of Copenhagen’s leading venues. Then, last year, they opened the Roskilde Festival in front of 45,000 people, an experience Nikolaj describes as “fantastic”.

    The band’s debut album, ‘Konkylie’, (Danish for ‘conch shell’ incidentally), has been two years in the making. It sees them moving their sound on into new, uncharted territory. On ‘Parix’, Nikolaj’s spectral vocals, a mix of Antony Heggarty’s tremulous falsetto and Talk Talk frontman Mark Hollis, are pitched against a shimmering mirage of synths. There’s an echo of their clubland past on ‘Kelly’, which is underpinned by a chugging, mid-paced beat. It’s the jumping off point for four-minutes of electro pop perfection, like Empire Of The Sun with some added Scandinavian cool. Nikolaj’s vocals, meanwhile, are never more beautiful that on the closing track ‘Add Ends’, where they float over skillfully orchestrated strings and gently popping electronics. It’s an atmospheric reverie that transports you to another place. All told, it’s stunning stuff, esoteric, yet instantly accessible, the kind of underground record that everyone can buy into.

    One of the things that sets When Saints Go Machine apart from their peers is that there’s a warmth to ‘Konkylie’. Electronic music can sometimes sound rectilinear, like a Cubist painting. It was something the band were keen to avoid. They went to great lengths to inject an organic feel into the record, experimenting with new recording techniques and locations. All the vocals on the title track and opener ‘Konkylie’ were recorded outside in such unlikely spots as a tunnel and a forest. Then there was the assemblage of effects they created to inject a random element into proceedings. “We had this set-up of effects that we ran sound through to create an organic feel. Like tape echoes, other effects and synths. We’d control one element each and we’d mess around,” explains Nikolaj.

    The band make no apologies for the fact that ‘Konkylie’ is a dense, at times complicated record. It’s partly down to the fact that they’ve spent a lot of time on it. “If you spend two years on 11 songs then there will be a lot of detail and strange sounds in there,” confirms Nikolaj. But it’s also a product of the four members different music influences. “Our musical backgrounds are so different from each other. Jonas and Silas are from a clubby background and they still make house and techno together as Kenton Slash Demon; Simon’s is jazz and neo soul; and I’m somewhere in between, ’60s and ’70s breaks, bands like Broadcast and The Slits and White Noise. That’s why there are so many elements in there — dance, post-punk, classical. But it’s hard to pick out tracks and connect them to one particular song. I think that’s a good thing.

    And if it’s been a difficult, at times protracted process, the band are convinced it’s been worth it. “We’re really pleased with the album,” says Nikolaj. “All the songs fit together more than anything we’ve done up to this point. A lot of details we left in the songs from earlier versions. I think it gives the record a sense of many layers. The arrangements are bigger and better. It’s more evolved all round.”

    True enough. When Saints Go Machine: you’ve never heard anything like them.



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