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"Challenge Me Foolish" is an almost lost album of µ-Ziq material circa 1998-99, an era that saw Mike Paradinas release "Royal Astronomy" on the now defunct Virgin subsidiary Hut records, and also tour with Björk.

It’s an era of his music that’s definitely worth re-exploring, in which Mike went against the grain by producing music that was baroque, melodic and whimsical, while the IDM movement he was lumped with made instrumental music that was often neurotic and complicated. His taste for melody and dreamy beauty above roughness and intricacy confused people who were hanging on too tightly to the rules. He even brought in Japanese vocalist Kazumi, adding an extra human touch.

"Challenge Me Foolish" is something of a companion to the "Royal Astronomy" record; arguably even better given the fresh ears selecting the material. It’s imbued with a confident sense of pastoral colour, and a gentle optimism, utilizing bells, studied orchestral arrangements and airy synthesizers that sit the album somewhere between, Jean Jacques Perrey (the French electronic composer whose whimsy was always balanced with serious innovation and chops) and the colourful, optimistic soundtracks of Joe Hisaishi. There’s a strange sense of the old and new throughout, the sentimental and utopia, with nary a hint of darkness. Even when the album dips into the hyperkinetic rhythms of jungle, the melodies and mood still retain a sense of gentle warmth. Dive into peak time Paradinas.


East Man is a new project from Anthoney Hart and its material predates his previous work as Basic Rhythm. His unique take on grime reduces the sound to its steely fundamentals, bringing in influences from dancehall, drum and bass and techno to gird the voices of the MCs he works with. His own name for this hardcore continuum mongrel is 'Hi Tek'. Anthoney struck a friendship with the academic and theorist Paul Gilroy, who wrote the album introduction which places the segregation between young people and governments at the centre of its discourse. The set is a particularly regional offering, something that could only have really come out of London with its unashamed lyrical colloquialisms, razor-sharp beats and unparalleled grime energy.

STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: I like hearing stuff that's so unashamedly geographically tied down that you can't help but conjure up vivid images of the locale when you hear it. This is one such piece.

Antwood (a.k.a. Canada's Tristan Douglas) returns to Planet Mu with his second album 'Sponsored Content'. The album is more reflective than his debut, last year's 'Virtuous.scr'. The relentless mood of the first album has given way to a more melodic, stripped out sound. It still shakes with speed, energy and seismic bass swells but with more space, more moments of delicate sadness and strange cyborg pop. What comes to the fore in 'Sponsored Content' is Tristan's gift for melody, coupled with the uncanny feeling that somehow his strange music is an entire ecosystem of it’s own. A bit Bladerunner, a little vaporwave and a whole lot like the score to a futuristic dystopia that's yet to emerge.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says:

Claude Speeed returns to Planet Mu, two years after the 'Sun Czar Temple' EP, with his second album 'Infinity Ultra'. He describes the record he's been creating since he started making computer music as one "conceiving an interior territory: an abstract space to process the oppression, confusion and insanity of the contemporary age; and to formulate an honest emotional and artistic response - a psychic jumping off point into an uncertain future." 'Infinity Ultra' takes inspiration from sleep paralysis, monumental artworks, children’s anime, abandoned places, ghostly rave pasts and terrifying silicon valley futures, and the limitless anger of the digital present.

These influences have been channelled into an impressionistic burst of varied creativity: Shimmering VSTs; monolithic noise; euphoric blocks of colourful sound; trance stabs and the citrus rush of hardcore; towering drones, and skynet math rock – all rendered against cold, sinister space and nostalgic synth melodies. The album reveals the artist’s Scottish roots, viewed at a hazy distance from his Berlin home - a series of memories of Glasgow’s experimental psychedelic underground, its DIY rock scene and defiant club hedonism. These genre relationships are blurred and at times they contrast with audible brutality; the result is a hybrid, sculptured way of rendering music – minimal specifics, maximum emotions.

STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: Throbbing industrial hums and hefty droning basses (think Blanck Mass, Fuck Buttons etc) but speckled with flecks of melody. As intense and beautiful as any of Hecker or Fennesz' less avant pieces, and just as deep. A brilliantly conceived and wonderfully cohesive epic.

Ekoplekz returns with his fourth album for Planet Mu, "Bioprodukt". The uniquely lo-fi, woozy sound of Bristol's Nick Edwards stays intact while he veers towards the nineties for inspiration: the bleep and bass sound of the north of England is one touchpoint and the acid gurgles of the 303 are another. While the murky lo-fi production levels and evocative melodies remain, they are now bolstered by a more muscular rhythmic chassis.

Snappier kicks and snares mingle with dense layers of percussion and deep undulating sub-basslines adding a funkier edge, as typified by opening track "Elevation" where playful beats interlock with breezy keyboard flourishes to create something uncharacteristically upbeat. Similarly, the gentle, fluid motion of "Slipstream" and "Calypzoid" represent some of the most appealingly chilled grooves in the Ekoplekz canon to date. But the darker-edged material remains. "Expedition" has a pensive, percussion-heavy feel whilst "Acrid Acid" is a dirt-encrusted slow-mo techno meltdown.

"Transcience" displays the Ekoplekz trademark dub-fx in full flight over a driving lo-end, before "Descent" leads down to the final section, where the beats fade out, replaced by rippling layers of spectral ferric ambience on the epic "Low-X Over", before finishing with the radiant looped stasis of "Denier Daze". The albums shifting, imperfect patterns and muted colours are visually mirrored in the beautifully realised sleeve by the Print Project.

Jlin's long awaited second album “Black Origami” drop via Planet Mu. A percussion-led tour de force, it's a creation that seals her reputation as a unique producer with an exceptional ability to make riveting rhythmic music. “Black Origami” is driven by a deep creative thirst - 'Black Origami for me, comes from letting go creatively, creating with no boundaries. The simple definition of origami is the art of folding and constructing paper into a beautiful, yet complex design. Composing music for me is like origami, only I'm replacing paper with sound.'

Spirituality and movement are both at the core of “Black Origami”, inspired largely by her ongoing collaborations with Indian dancer / movement artist Avril Stormy Unger whom she met and collaborated with at her debut performance for the Unsound festival.Playing with concention throughout, time shifting / folding / disrupting effects can be heard throughout the record -especially on “Holy Child”, an unlikely collaboration with minimalist legend William Basinski. She also collaborates again with Holly Herndon on “1%”, while Halcyon Veil producer Fawkes' voice is on “Calcination“ and Cape Town rapper Dope Saint Jude provides vocals for “Never Created, Never Destroyed“. 

STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: Hailing from the same town as Freddie Gibbs, Jlin's atypical brand of tribal-fused rhythmic workouts, leftfield sound design and amalgamation of footwerk energy couldn't be further from the gangsta rapper's remit; thankfully it’s every bit as good.

It’s about love, loyalty, family and the start and end of relationships, with an overarching theme about becoming a father, all delivered with warmth and emotion. Miles even sings and so does his eldest son Milo on one track. About the theme he says, “we all know the stereotype of the black dad with multiple children from multiple partners who is absent from the child’s life, we see it consistently in popular culture. I want to champion the alternative, which to me is just normal.” As well as being a producer Miles is the co-founder of the Boxed nights, which have been a tight incubator of a music scene dedicated in the main to re-thinking and expanding what grime means, especially instrumental grime.

Mitch has always taken it further than most in a unique direction, defining his music led by his own personality rather than deferring to a scene consensus. An early example was his development of ‘peace edits’ in response to the aggressive ‘war dubs’ craze amongst other grime producers, around the time of his first album. Production-wise Mr. Mitch has always been a minimalist at heart, pushing detailed sound and melody around in space, but on Devout everything is more ambitious, emotive and polished, taking his music in an epic and well defined pop direction, albeit from a sideways angle, re-imagining what an album by an underground producer can be. Devout’s cast of male and female allies, MC’s and singers each deliver songs that cast perspective around the album’s theme.

Mr. Mitch sets the scene with the graceful honesty of the piano led intro, then P Money drops a heartfelt and emotional lyric about the charge of love and responsibility experienced on becoming a dad. Denai Moore’s song ‘Fate’ is open about being sceptical in allowing yourself to fall for someone at the start of a relationship, while Palmistry’s track ‘VPN’ explores his feelings after separation. The warm centre of ‘Devout’ is ‘My Life’s heart-tugging Sakamoto-like melody and bent keys, with Miles gently intoning “It’s yours” and final song ‘Oscar’ tells a newborn his brother will be an elder brother. "Devout" is a beautiful, grown-up pop record with its foundation in grime.


STAFF COMMENTS

Millie says: Grime hero Mr Mitch bursts out of the underground with a polished LP of sleek, minimal and soulful RnB. Fans of Sampha, FKA Twigs and The Internet need to hear this!

Teengirl Fantasy, the duo of Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss, return with ‘8AM’, their first full-length since 2012’s ‘Tracer’. ‘8AM’ is music that replicates that headspace when you’ve seen the sun come up, but sleep is still way off. It’s music of the in-between time, between tonight and tomorrow, when you’re not ready to let the feeling of right here and right now go. Your body is spent, but your spirit holds on to the memory. A new energy or a different route. The album takes the dream-state of Teengirl Fantasy’s 2010 album ‘7AM’ deep into the next day, stretching ambient themes in multiple directions, scattering with the morning light. ‘8AM’ is Teengirl Fantasy’s most introspective and abstracted work so far.

It still pulses with the muscle memory of house and disco, slow-motion sub bass, chiming synth melodies, and the airy, perfumed chords of early techno, but takes a line of flight away from songs, immersing the listener in a gently invigorating space. Pieced together from evocative fragments and longer beat-driven tracks, the music is melodic and dreamy, yet sharp and clear. The only vocal comes from Khalif Jones (f.k.a. Le1f) who draws the album back from its gentle turbulence into a time and place on 'Seeds’. ‘8AM’ places the listener in a chilled delirium; one saturated with light, like when the glare from the sun’s too bright but you can’t stop squinting at it.

Few artists have the ability to totally seduce over a few spins like Italy’s Herva. What may seem messy at first listen starts to fall into sharper definition and ‘Hyper Flux’ makes a very strong case for being his most seductive and mature record yet. The album has dismantled the broken beats of his early records and drifts, dives and shivers, its beats blended into the haze, everything approached from unusual angles with none of the music sounding entirely digital as it smudges between manipulated live instrumentation and field recordings coupled with synthesis and space - there's a warm heart at the centre of this music. 

Mike & Rich

Expert Knob Twiddlers - Planet Mu Edition

A collaboration between Aphex Twin (Richard D. James) and µ–Ziq (Mike Paradinas), Mike & Rich - ’Expert Knob Twiddlers’ was made back in 1994. Richard edited the tracks into shape later in 1996 with his new Apple Mac computer and it was released later that year on Rephlex, the label he co-owned and which released the first two albums by µ-Ziq. This new reissued version has been carefully cleaned up, re-edited and remastered from the original DAT tapes, put into a more fitting order and, more excitingly, seven new bonus tracks and alternative versions have also been added. The album was recorded over a few days during the 1994 World Cup, back when Richard lived in a big shared flat in Stoke Newington. Richard had tried to collaborate with a few other likeminded artists but something clicked when Mike and Rich worked together and the sessions have a unique feel; playful and at times actually drunk. These are fun experiments in the spirit of lighthearted moog pop and ripe 70s British TV themes, standing out from the po-faced electronica of the time with a garish glee. The record was made on what is now seen as pretty primitive gear - an Atari, Roland MKS-80, Memorymoog, Roland R8 and a handful of samples on a Casio FZ-10M - but it’s to their credit that it resonates well with the hardware workouts coming out today. There's a broadminded but sloppy funk to the record, even whistling, singing and harpsichord in 'Reg' and wonky beat pile-ons in 'Jelly Fish'. There's latin piano and wheezy drunken techno in ‘Vodka’, or the sleepy spaced out ambience of ‘Bu Bu Bu Ba' with its barely contained laughter which seems to reflect the absurdity. The new versions and bonus tracks are an absolute delight - from a trancier version of ‘Vodka' to the wonky bounce of ‘Portamento Gosh', The 3/4 dub of 'Waltz,' the banging door bass of' Brivert and Muonds', the creepy seasick atmosphere of 'Clissold Bathroom' and finishing with the strangely graceful and serious 'Organ Plodder'. A generous and welcome return to the racks. 

STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: What can we expect from two stone-cold stalwarts of the electronic music scene? Excellence, that's what. Analogue funk to the high heavens, acidic breaks and groovy sample mayhem. There really is something for everyone here, and it couldn't be any more of a perfect match between Paradinas' footwork/jazz/twee stylings and Mr. Twin's gritty machine worship. There are some proper tunes on here, and a lot of them. A historic catalogue, and a collaboration made to delight.

Asher Levitas

Lit Harness

Asher Levitas is perhaps best known as part of Old Apparatus, the acclaimed and enigmatic London experimental outfit. Over the last few years he has featured on releases for labels including Deep Medi, Houndstooth and Left Blank as ‘Saa’ with the singer Linn Carin Dirdal. ‘Lit Harness’, his first solo album, started forming as a project in 2015 alongside the artist and writer Michael Crowe who worked on the live A/V show while Asher created the music with vocalist Marina Elderton (from the ethereal psych band Kull) who features on the tracks.The record follows personal themes in a time of extreme emotion: anxiety and madness but also serenity and acceptance, hence the term ‘Lit Harness’, which holds you in a calm place while chaos happens all around. Asher also wanted to describe the experience of the sleep paralysis, which he has had most of his life, into a musical sound world. That’s not to say the album is totally dark, but there’s intensity and transcendence here as well as an otherworldly beauty.

The music on ‘Lit Harness’ plays out in a shadowy hallucinogenic dream-like state where it’s not clear what’s meant to reflect reality or pure fantasy. Part of this process was the way the audio and visuals developed in tandem with each other, Michael passing Asher images and video, which Asher used to inject drama into the tracks and finish them. ‘Lit Harness’ could be described as ambient, but every track is filled with detail and a strange clanking drama, the hammering noises of ‘Withdrawn’ and the cold fever of ‘In The Eyes’ playing out like a dream. ‘Sheathe’ turns the record around with clouds of swirling choirs and ‘Waiting By An Open Door’ plays a hazy piano, with wind rushing through the soundfield. ‘Strongest Bonds’ has held descending chords with watery drum hits; ethereal vocals building in the background into a haze of noise. ‘Blessed Mother’s’ repeating vocals and rising chords ripple with a transcendent, gentle hopefulness, which gives way to the flatline drone and otherworldly voices of ‘Premature Exit’. ‘Anticipating Violence’ finishes the album with a sad, angry surrender, punctuated with rushes of cold hammering and reversed breaking glass.

Herva is the artist name of Hervè Atsè Corti. He lives in relative seclusion from the dance music world in the Italian countryside around Florence and is one of the most intriguing producers to work in house and techno for a while. He makes house and techno that doesn’t adhere to the usual influences of Detroit, Chicago or Berlin. ‘Kila’ (the Swahili word for 'everything') was put together using software and hardware that he often modifies, with a mixture of beats and samples punched in like old-school hip hop and synths and effects that give his tracks the feeling of dance music that's been teased apart, smudged and smeared. The music is relaxed and warm but simultaneously abstract and punctuated with ragged detail and gritty disruption.

The album moves across tempos, from the floaty upbeat disco of ‘All Good On Your Side’ to the full throttle electro of 'Seat Behind Mirrors’ which gently gives away to a looping Burundi vocal. Then down to the old-school hip hop and wonky ooze of ‘Mistakes Dealer’. The track ‘Fading Above Smoke’, is held in place by a repeating drum pattern while synths and samples scrape and wrap themselves around the rhythm. ‘Dust Cover’ approaches the sound of early Pole, as if it had been described to him but never heard, sending digital grit and glitches across a low-slung bassline and opaque dubbed-out chords. The album finishes on the overloaded climax of ‘Fog’, which runs awkwardly edited samples over a loose drum tattoo, with enough restraint to keep the track flowing.

Various Artists

µ20 - 3xCD Box Set

    Planet Mu is a label that has always survived on its own very independent terms. For 20 years it's existed both on the fringes and in the centre of emerging electronic music, from IDM and breakcore to dubstep and grime and lately to footwork, which it took a chance on, opening it up to the world through the two Bangs & Works compilations. It also has a strong history of connecting the dots in between those genres by supporting idiosyncratic artists, from label stalwart Venetian Snares to Kuedo, Machinedrum, Boxcutter, Vex'd, Falty DL, Luke Vibert, Ital, Jlin and Mr. Mitch to name just a few. Run by Mike Paradinas, who under the name µ-Ziq was one of the first wave of producers pushing the musical envelope in the wake of house and techno's initial burst of inspiration, Planet Mu is an established engine of creativity and enquiry, with one foot in the pop world, and a sense of fun that never lets its experimentation disappear into exclusivity and snobbery.

    To celebrate their 20th Anniversary, Planet Mu have organised a 50-track, triple CD compilation of both old and new unreleased tracks and remixes packaged in a deluxe dvd-style boxset complete with a 100 page book charting the history of the label, with insight from artists and staff, written by electronic music writer Rory Gibb.

    The music on CDs one and two is mainly from the current decade, with contributions from Kuedo, Machinedrum, John Wizards, Ital Tek, Remarc, Boxcutter, RP Boo, John T. Gast, Jlin and new signing Herva to name but a few. They're colourful, broad and adventurous rides across the roster that will impress and excite any fan of electronic music and are a strong reminder of the consistent quality and broad mindedness of the label too. CD three features more of the older guard, dipping back into the roster from the late nineties and early 2000s with a range of noisier, knottier contributions from artists including Jega, Neil Landstrumm, Speedy J, Shitmat, Leafcutter John, Hellfish, Datach'i and Hrvatski, it's the perfect compilation for hardcore fans and a brilliant and friendly introduction to the label for curious newcomers too.

    As the popularity of Footwork has continued to soar, the range of sounds within the genre has expanded. From the angular, minimal beats of RP Boo to the widely admired sound of sadly departed DJ Rashad, the genre has lovingly seeped into hearts and feet worldwide whilst continuing to innovate. Until now most of the focus has been on the male DJ/Producers, but that is about to change. Gary based producer Jlin, who some of you might remember for her track “Erotic Heat” (Bangs and Works Vol.2 – Planet Mu 2011), or from her moment in the mainstream light providing music for fashion designer Rick Owens’ FW/14 Paris runway show, is stepping further into the light with a stunning eleven track debut album “Dark Energy” showcasing her unique and bold new sound.

    Gary, Indiana, a neighbouring City to Chicago, is one of those towns people overlook or perhaps expect the worst of. It's famous for the Jackson 5 and its Steel Mills, one of which Jlin works long shifts at. She says her sound and “the themes behind my tracks are all based off what my creativity absorbs, whether it be bad or good”, and the music certainly shows that intent. It's forceful, yet ripples with colour; it’s an intense, monolithic sound with rugged rhythms that stop and breathe and roll out in unusual staccato patterns. It’s a sound unlike any other out there, one that’s fiercely unique. Her track titles are as evocative as the music is intense and hint at deeper themes – “Black Diamond”, “Guantanamo”, “Abnormal Restriction”. She notes “The titles I chose are based off failing and learning.” Album track ”Expand” also features a vocal from another important female artist - respected experimental West Coast producer Holly Herndon whom Jlin has been quietly collaborating with.Her album “Dark Energy” is so called because of where it came from and how it came to be; the dark monolith on the cover also perfectly encapsulates it – “This album took my entire life to make. Every moment in my life lead up to this album. My musical sense of expression comes from sadness, and anger. I can't create from a happy place. It seems pointless in my opinion. I don't make the tracks as much as I feel them. Creating for me is about feeling and impact.”Jlin has been supported by all the key players in the Footwork scene and says she is “thankful to many.” 2015 feels like the year people are ready for a new voice in Footwork and Jlin is a true original with a hard, yet infectious style and an album that showcases it brilliantly.


    John Wizards are a band from Cape Town, South Africa. They’ve written one of the most singular and intriguing records of the year, and one of the loveliest to boot. Band leader John Withers has spent recent years moving around Africa, never settling, instead feeding off the sounds and sights he encountered. He also came across Emmanuel Nzaramba, whose stunning voice soars above the complex rhythms and arresting melodies found within this collection of songs. 'John Wizards' is a brilliant combination of African music, R&B and and chamber pop, filtered through gentle electronic arrangements that cross-pollinate with South African house, Shangaan Electro and dub, and it's the sort of music that effortlessly captivates you in with its beauty and richness.

    Opener ‘Tet Lek Schrempf’ starts things off with a gentle waltz before crashing in with a flighty mix of conch shell, handclaps and pitched-up guitar riffing. Next up ‘Lusaka by Night’ charms you with its catchy highlife riffs and spacious pools of electronics, while Emmanuel’s auto-tuned voice flutters atop the mix. ‘Limpop‘ is a tribute to Shangaan Electro, in which skittering drum machines and synth bass dissolves into the lush funk of ‘Muizenberg‘, all highlife guitars and muscular riffy bass, breaking down into John’s soft falsetto and piano. ‘iYongwe‘ is based around joyful, lovable deconstructed 80’s funk-pop chords, while ‘Finally’ breaks out from a ambient haze, into the choppy, detailed techno-like dub and rolling guitar riff of ‘Jet Up‘. ‘Maria‘ is sung by Emmanuel in Kinyarwanda, a heartfelt love song to the girl of the title, with a happy recorder melody. On side 2 ‘Jabu Ley’ is a richly constructed ballad, with a touch of 80’s pop and nostalgic melody, while ‘Jamieo‘ opens in bombastic R&B mode, rich with Rhodes chords, rhythm guitar and brass, but its seriousness is undermined by the parping bassline and daft lyrics. ‘LEUK‘, slows things down to a shape-shifting mix of R&B and pulsing post rock repetition. Twisting once again, ‘Durvs‘ is essentially a house track with its highlife guitar sounding like it's routed through early British techno. ‘I'm Still A Serious Guy’ tells the story of how the song almost didn’t come about, while ‘Lushoto‘ opens with thumb piano and guitar, breaking into John’s vocals and a galloping melody. The album finishes on the gentle ‘Friend’ making a nod to Mali’s meditative music, with harp-like guitar and Emmanuel’s voice fed through a delicate dubby treatment, dropping an extremely satisfied listener off at the end of the album.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Matt says: It's Planet Mu - you weren't expecting this to be plain sailing were you?! Unbelievable juxtapositions are explored on this African-soul / future electronics album which is really quite breathtaking. Paul Simon for the bass generation...?

    RP Boo - AKA Kavain Space - is a man who is revered and respected amongst the dance music cognoscenti. He's cited as one of the originators of footwork, the fast, repetitive, rhythmically syncopated music and dance style that’s a grandchild of Chicago house and which has been brought to the wider world via releases from Planet Mu and others, alongside internet archaeology from fans, experts and enthusiasts. Going back to the roots of this music, his self released track ‘Baby Come On’ made in 1997, sampled and looped up ODB over tough syncopated drums, and in doing so spawned one of the first tracks to solidify the style called footwork. Later on, in 1999, his track known as ‘11-47-99’ ('The Godzilla Track') was monumental in the evolution of sampling in footwork, chopping up the Godzilla theme taken from ‘Simon Says’, by Pharoahe Monche and setting off a trend for footwork versions of hip-hop tracks. Many cite RP Boo as the originator of footwork music, and it's hard to argue, when the scrambled, syncopated drum patterns common to footwork can be largely traced back to him. Kavain was born in West Chicago and moved to the Southside in the 80s.

    Like many of footwork’s originators, he was brought through into production through associations with the legendary house and juke dance clique House-O-Matics, DJing alongside DJ Deeon and DJ Milton, then getting shown how to produce by DJ Slugo. The machine Kavain learnt to produce on was a display model of the Roland R-70, a drum machine which gave access to all previous Roland drum sounds and the ability to punch in rhythms on the fly, it’s the machine he still uses today. RP Boo’s music is singular and unusual in footwork, featuring raps and dialogue adopted from juke, often in combination with sharp-edged and incidental samples giving some tracks a paranoid atmosphere. Take ‘187 Homicide’s bleak feeling and question and answer vocals, ‘Area 72’s alien landing scenario or ‘Speaker’s R-4’s audio walk-through. His music is often hectic, seemingly built to to almost psyche-out the listener or offer challenges to dancers; it’s this playful and imaginative quality, along with his sometimes baffling-but-it-works rhythms and sub, that give RP’s tracks their totally unique feel.

    A real sense of drama is a thread that runs through Solar Bears music, ‘Supermigration’, their second album following 2010’s critically lauded ‘She Was Coloured In’ is full of all kinds of drama - from the intimate to the psychedelic, from the chase to the suppression. This time it’s been taken to a new level in all kinds of ways. 'Supermigration' is the result of a year and a half of on/off studio time in a state-of-the-art studio in the Wicklow Mountains (a far cry from the bedroom studio where they produced their debut). Compositions were road tested through a steady stream of live performances that saw John and Rían expanding Solar Bears from a duo into a full-scale band featuring members of I Am The Cosmos, Jape, Ships, Great Lakes Mystery and special custom visuals. And let's not overlook the two vocal-led highlights of the album featuring special guest appearances from Sarah P of Keep Shelly In Athens and the legendary Beth Hirsch (whose work here recalls her appearance on Air’s 'Moon Safari').

    'Supermigration' is clearly telling us that despite the strong acclaim around their debut, this Ireland-based duo was simply warming up. The title is inspired by Native American culture and the krautrock band Neu, giving this record a sense of the nomadic mystic. Occasionally you can hear parallels in approach to the recent work of Broadcast and the Ghost Box crew too. Their music also possesses an electronic sci-fi sheen as rich as their Planet Mu peers, but like the fact that their name is taken from a Tarkovsky movie, that’s just one portal, there’s also an emotive nostalgic side to the record that transcends the now, cutting a path through their diverse inspirations that include everything from Erik Satie to the Incredible String Band, from Cluster to Madlib.

    John rightly notes “Its fair to say we listen to a lot of music from decades gone but we get inspired far more from spontaneity in the studio.” If pushed, John might also admit the cut Cosmic Runner (leaked a while ago on various sites including Pitchfork) was inspired directly by Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger and that Rainbow Collision was inspired by a “Psychedelic daydream of two stained glass rainbows colliding over a Technicolor ocean... plus it matched the arrangement." Solar Bears are about layers, a sense of movement and drama, all brought about by a deep process that has resulted in one of the most exciting second albums this year. But what do we want a band to do on their second album? Give us the things we like about the first, but also to expand, and by setting off on their own personal, deep and intense migration that’s just what Solar Bears have done on Supermigration. Welcome to the trip.

    As both singer-songwriter and electronic musician, the sound on Rudi Zygadlo’s new album ‘Tragicomedies’ defies easy categorisation and pigeonholing. His debut, 2010’s ‘Great Western Laymen’, took the fundamentals of dubstep to a point previously unheard, amalgamating off-kilter influences like choral music and Frank Zappa into the mix, opening the ground for the inevitable fusion of dubstep and song that was to follow from many artists.

    Wilfully perverse as ever, Rudi took his second album ‘Tragicomedies’ on a different trajectory, dumping the dubstep chassis, while leaving its faint traces and treatments, jump cuts and edits. ‘Tragicomedies’ is a puzzling, romantic and emotionally open album, cerebral, yet poppy and direct, weaving from woody, folky arrangements to doo-wop and the elegant structures and motifs of classical music in an unforced and playful way.

    The album opens with a lyrical reminder of past love, the woozy pitchy piano ballad of ‘Kopernikuss’, which is swiftly followed by ‘Melpomene’, where the piano vamps reach a crescendo while Rudi sings of his lost love. By the time we reach the album closer it's clear Zygadlo has been operating in a musical zone unique to himself, with the repetition of the classical Minimalist replacing some of the dubstep-inspired structure of his past as just one key aspect of this bold album. Listen more closely and you'll detect echoes of a broad range of music including Laurie Anderson, Raymond Scott, Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares, Alfred Schnittke, John Zorn, Bach, Prince and much more. But what's most striking is how Rudi's twisted take on pop has a distinctly 2012 feel to it. The music and the lyrics of each song burst at the seams with a sense of now. This is music pouring out of Rudi Zygadlo in the most natural way possible. Full of emotion, life and living. Sensationally so. In the process of making ‘Tragicomedies’, Zygadlo moved from his native Glasgow to Berlin where he “had a couple of life-changing experiences there and they wrote most of the album”.

    However, instead of soaking up the electronic music culture that often brings people to the place, the sound of Berlin does not define this album, and it’s not a Berlin song cycle or techno album. Instead, ‘Tragicomedies’ is inspired by three key sources “Other music. Other conversations. Other literature.” Free from genre constraints, Rudi Zygadlo is crafting the kind of intelligent music his hero Frank Zappa would be making if he were producing now in the wake of the bass music revolution. It’s Pop for people who read.

    You might be familiar with Konx-om-Pax previous work without already being aware of it. His real name is Tom Scholefield, he’s from Glasgow, and as a 3D film director and graphic artist he’s made videos for locals Hudson Mohawke and Mogwai as well as Martyn, Jamie Lidell, Kuedo and Lone, created sleeve artwork for Oneohtrix Point Never, Rustie, King Midas Sound and others, plus he has toured with Mogwai as a DJ.

    So how on earth does he find the time to make music, or the energy? Tom explains that he makes music to chill out, a form of creative self medication. In contrast to his bright, synthetic and colourful artwork and videos, his music is more mossy and analogue. Often beatless, personal and located in a transporting surrealism, it's sometimes inspired by the idea of rescoring films and TV. 'Glacier Mountain Descent', for instance, is a re-imagining of the start of Werner Herzog’s 'Aguirre'. At other times tracks are inspired by nostalgia for childhood feelings, while watery immersion is a running theme, and a sense of Scottish surrealism is another. Tom started out making tracks in his teens, copying the synth lines he’d heard on prog house CDs, before graduating to a deep fascination with Jeff Mills and Drexciya’s hermetic imagery and alien funk after hearing them on John Peel’s show. This led him to creating lo-fi techno, then DJing and promoting events at art school, which developed his knowledge, driving him to formulate an aesthetic of unpolished, textured and emotive music. 'Regional Surrealism' works largely like a film. Vignettes like 'Isotonic Pool' transition into larger more dramatic pieces like the deep 'At Home With Mum and Dad' which takes an early Aphex sounding ambient track and fills it with odd drama. 'Sura-Tura-Gnosi-Cosi' featuring mysterious U.S. artist Steven Retchard is full of tape-hiss and unsettling spoken word, while 'Zang-Tumb' - with guitar played by Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite - works in bruised and twisted Ash-Ra Tempel territory. Elsewhere 'Slootering' finds a sweet spot between Drexciya and Oneohtrix Point Never, while 'Lagoon Leisure' lets you get lost in musique concrete space and drops. Later on 'Hurt Face' rubs static and raw electronic textures together and 'Chambers' follows it up with a sunny glow. The album finishes on the water-themed 'Let’s Go Swimming' which indulges in a slow-motion nostalgia, sending you away happy.

    Right at the start of the year, Planet Mu already present a candidate for 2012’s most questing dance-fuelling long-player. If you gave someone a description of Theo Parrish’s most opiated brown-house excursions and asked them to copy that style without letting them hear it, the result might well come out like ‘Hive Mind’. Of course, it might not too, but it’s a nice idea to turn over, no? Much like the multitude of ideas that turn and twist and tumble and gracefully fold and unfold at length in Ital’s creative vortex.

    Daniel Martin-McCormick's name has recently and increasingly become known in association with his disco / punk / echo band Mi Ami, or as Sex Worker on the Not Not Fun label, or finally as Ital on 100% Silk. Raised in Washington DC, Daniel has a history in the city's hardcore scene, having been in a band signed to the legendary Dischord label. However, he has always made dance-inspired tracks too, but at a very different angle to your average guy with a copy of Logic and a passing knowledge of dance music history. Daniel's music is a stranger thing. Working best at high volume, it uses house’s easy going 4/4 structure as a kind of camouflage for more out-there sonic explorations; subverting expectations, seeking out the links between the space and the sound-bending of dub and industrial’s unsettling sonics with the grooves of classic house and the effects and black holes of minimal at its weirdest.

    ‘Hive Mind’ has a sculptured feel; sounds twist in space, feeling almost three dimensional, and melodies pitch-shift in an unsettling way; voices dissolve in and out of these frameworks and the whole album has a unique, haunted feel; nothing is ever allowed to settle totally comfortably, everything vibrates. Opener 'Doesn't Matter (If You Love Him)' sounds a bit like Tackhead if they had made house music, using a flickering and confidently repeated phrase over a lumbering drum and bassline, introducing swirling and bombing synths into the mix. 'Floridian Void's' strange marriage of treated voices and swelling, pitch-bent chords and effects draws the listener into its strange atmosphere; it’s an ambient house track of sorts, but the ambience here is a swirling, confusing, watery vortex rather than being fuzzy and new age. 'Privacy Settings' builds creepy wolf howls over a slow bassline and cold faraway banging drums, estranged from their usual disco setting. Next, 'Israel' picks things up again, with weird, pitch-shifting edited bells over dubby toms, all the while cold chords rushing in and out over this unsettling backing track. The closer 'Final Wave' restores the album back to something resembling normality, with a disco-like swing that recalls Moodymann’s beat down productions but slid through brutal dub-like FXs that bring out a shade of strangeness in an otherwise happy groove. An entirely, unarguably, and irresistibly essential listening experience.


    Various Artists

    Bangs & Works Vol. 2 (The Best Of Chicago Footwork)

    In 2010 Planet Mu released "Bangs & Works Vol. 1". The carefully curated compilation showcased Chicago footwork, one of the most forward-looking, innovative new styles of electronic music on the planet. Since its release, interest in the scene has grown with the sound beginning to spread outside of Chicago, influencing productions by not only Planet Mu artists such as Machinedrum and Kuedo, but many others as well. "Bangs & Works Vol. 2" brings the focus back onto Chicago’s own producers, showing where the real innovation still lies.

    While its predecessor sticks mainly to the more hallucinatory and left-field elements, this one has a wider remit, ranging from mad techno-style tracks such as DJ Metro’s “Tekno Bangz” or DJ T-Why’s immense “Juice” and ‘Finished” to those that sound like musique concrete gone footwork, like Young Smoke’s “Space Muzik Part 3.” Others like Traxman’s “Funky Block” and DJ Clent’s “DJ Clent #1” display the obvious influence of flipping samples, hip hop style to the rhythms of footwork, while DJ Rashad & Gant-Man’s amazing “Heaven Sent” shows the influence of P-Funk and Detroit’s hi-tech soul. On the whole, footwork’s synapse-snapping intensity is ever present, but this selection shows an even wider diversity to the genre’s independent and unique production focus.


    Tropics is Chris Ward, a British producer and multi-instrumentalist in his early 20s signed to Planet Mu. Since the release of his debut single ‘Soft Vision’, things have moved on. The synth-pop of his early tracks has evolved into a more substantial and personal sound on this, his debut album. ‘Parodia Flare’ features Chris as a multi-instrumental auteur, playing drums, guitar, and a range of synths and electronic boxes, as well as singing on these songs.

    Coming from a family where music was always played, it made sense as a musician for Chris to act almost as a conduit by wiring the sounds he enjoyed growing up with into his own creations. The music he makes weaves vintage sounds and Rhodes keyboards, alongside banks of old synths, software and guitars, live drums and electric bass. Tropics is a suitable name for Chris’s music as each song is like a warm analogue jungle of sounds, drawn into focus by Chris’ naive singing voice and his knack for a lush melody. Given that the album was recorded in a walk-in wardrobe at his house, the steamy heat that the album gives off is a testament to his imagination.

    The opening short 'Navajo' sets the scene with atmospheric clouds of reverbed chords and electric guitar, quickly followed by recent single ‘Mouves’ with its gently sung verses disappearing into clouds of echoey Rhodes chords and floating synths with low-slung New Order-esque bass and soft drums keeping the track in shape. Next up ‘Parodia Flare’ majestically stretches shimmering keyboard tones and a light guitar over a tight bass and drums, gently teasing out the serene atmosphere. ‘Going Back’ features a keyboard refrain borrowed from a 70s jazz fusion track, with a low bass and Chris snowy voice cutting through the middle of phased guitars.

    ‘Wear Out’ is the morning after, sounding like an exhausted take on late period Beatles, with a lolloping drum beat and horns that sound like they’re drunk, interrupted by shimmering marimbas while cold keys screech in the background. ‘Celebrate’, revised for the album, is a vortex of aerial dub, with echoes and reverbs layering and looping over a very minimal drum and sub-bass, the whole track moving in glorious slow motion. 'Figures', meanwhile, delicately projects Chris's whispered vocals onto a chord borrowed from late 80s Detroit techno, inside a chilly electronic atmosphere that gradually breaks into an 80’s electro funk bassline.

    ‘Telassar’ is a soft focus 80s synth epic, while 'Playgrounds' is more upbeat, with lyrics remembering the past. ‘After Visiting’ is made out of a strange airy atmosphere, full of tiny dropped-in details and smudged synths stretched over minimal drum pads borrowed from dubstep, while 'Sapphire' is based around a repeating piano refrain, guitar, sax and vocals. Final track 'On The Move' sounds like prime Chicago post rock but with the Mizell brothers on production, it’s musical mixture that tidily bookends the album.

    Terror Danjah’s back on Planet Mu after last year’s "Gremlinz" compilation reintroduced him to the world at large. Since then, as well as Planet Mu, he’s released a single on Hyperdub, one on Butterz with more to come. Well the Gremlinz are back again on Planet Mu with this punchy eight track mini-album of experimental grime that showcases a breadth of new music, that swallows r'n'b and dubstep into Terror's self made matrix. The tracks range from the spikey, minimal 'Space Traveller' to synthy beasts like "Twisted", to the vicious "Power Grid" that pits shuffling 2step drums against a fierce, dark bassline and the occasional firing ravey breakbeat. "Upton Lane" contrasts a twinkling synth melody with big kick drums and nervy chords, while 'Horror Story' goes cold and minimal again with a shivery bassline, slippy slidy drums and spooked out harp chords.


    The Internal Tulips

    Mislead Into A Field By A Deformed Deer

    The Internal Tulips is a new project from two guys who have a history in American Bands such as Medicine and Savage Republic and who have separately released more abstract electronic music on Planet Mu in the past; they are Brad Laner who was Electric Company and Personal Electronics and Alex Graham who is Lexaunculpt, and they continue continue these experiments in pop. The project has a Beach Boys / Brian Wilson/Beatles influenced sound, but it manages to avoid being another exercise in retro comfort music because Brad and Alex use laptop trickery learnt form their more experimental pasts to bring their sound firmly into the present.
    Aside from making beautiful songs, sung in Brad's delicate multi-tracked falsetto, The Internal Tulips give their whole project a very modern, psychedelic production, treating their slow burning but gently arranged Americana to unusual treatments that blur the layers between acoustic and electronic sounds, cutting and editing vocals and instruments and adding depth and clarity to the arrangements, giving them an extra sense of the dreamlike. It's an album that feels immediately familiar; we're used to Grizzly Bear and the Fleet Foxes, bands you could superficially compare to Internal Tulips, but after a few listens the modern abstraction and production at the heart of the album will pull you in and take you somewhere else.


    "Human Meadow" is the stand out track from New York garage / 2-step / dubstep / hip hop / electronica artist FaltyDL's debut album "Love Is A Liability" and on this remix 12" he gets the Planet Mu treatment by some of the biggest names on the label. First to step up to the challenge is Boxcutter. Remixed during the period of writing that led to his new release "Arecibo Message", it has the same lush sound as that album. Second to take the remix stand is label owner U-Ziq aka Mike Paradinas. The final mix comes from veteran of Planet Mu Luke Vibert.

    After last autumn's sublime "Glyphic" long-player, Boxcutter reverts to his actual real name for a journey through his extensive back catalogue of material. These tracks all date from the period 2002-2005; up to the time Barry wrote his classic first album "Oneiric". An early interest in UK garage is apparent in the 2-steppy breaks of "London" for instance, while "LTI" (CD only) offers up minimal techno. "Balancing Lakes", though, feels like a whole album and not simply a collection of tracks. From the gorgeous blissful amen jungle of "Loving Dub" to the jazzy horns and otherworldly melodies of "New Orleans" this shows a man at the top of his game even before his debut release.

    U-Ziq

    Duntisbourne Abbots Soulmate Devastation Technique

    "Duntisbourne Abbots..." is U-Ziq's first new album for four years and first new material released since 2005. It's a more reflective body of work compared to the whirlwind of chaos that was "Bilious Paths"; introspective and rather melancholic, U-Ziq revisits his roots in the early 90s ambient techno scene pioneered by, among others, The Black Dog, Aphex Twin and himself. Amongst these 17 tracks of off-key melodies, nauseous harmonies and woozy beats can be found gems such as the beautiful "Strawberry Fields Hotel" in which a lone bassline strikes out a refrain of unexpected simplicity while bees swarm overhead around a fig tree. And "Drum Light" where a five-part melody gives way to a startling noise assault. "Acid Steak Night", a collaboration with label-mate The Doubtful Guest, is a more straightforward techno number with 303 basslines warring it out with spooky melodic synth lines. A melodic tour de force.

    Joseph Nothing

    Dreamland Idle Orchestra

      A concept album of love songs dedicated to Yokahama's derelict 'Dreamland' theme park.

      Nautilis

      Are You An Axolotl?

      A great selection of musical electronica. I'm well impressed with this!

      FORMAT INFORMATION

      CD Info: Now on CD too!

      Tim Tetlow

      Beauty Walks A Razor's Edge

        An album of reflective, melodic techno in the vein of mid period U-Ziq and early Boards Of Canada.


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