Greetings from London, where strong winds (“the beast from the east”) and temperatures of -2 have led to people panic-buying bread, spontaneously emptying their bowels and fornicating in the streets. Train delays n'all.
After last week’s FELTMANIA it’s perhaps inevitable that this week we've swung in the other direction completely. Our current faves are all pretty bracingly electronic – from the astral peregrinations of XVARR to the brooding, cut-glass concrète of Christian Zanesi. Newsletter has ended up being a bit rushed - having gone from thinking there were f**k-all new releases deserving of anything beyond cautious praise, we’ve suddenly been inundated with goodies – and I’d say at least three things that are bound to become classics round these parts pretty quickly.
In addition to the bits highlighted below, check the site for just-in wonder stuff from Eastley/Burwell/Beresford/Toop, Sewer Election, Kim Byoung Duk, Vinalog, FTP +++.
Consummately executed - considered, grown-up, sincere - ritual electronics from a London-based child of Thule, Zaheer Gulamhusein - inspired by "The Crooked Path, Lycia, Osiris, Sekhmet, Oblivion, Shugna, Paranoia." For years Gulamhusein has been passing private CD-Rs of his recordings - all heavily informed by his study of Western esoteric spirituality - to friends and acquaintances, but this LP is on another plain, really. It combines a Coil-esque decadent, world-weary disinterment of the city’s occluded/interdimensional energies with a refreshingly direct and wide-eyed line of psychedelic inquiry. In the end, Beyond Illuminism sounds like nothing but itself, but it’s obviously aligned with the grandest sidereal tradition: ‘Temperance’ is our dreamweapon of choice, an accumulation of bowed and scraped tones that sigh and sway like Spacemen 3 in full flight (cf. Cale and Conrad), while ‘Quasi-Hypnotic’ combines the planet-curdling, arpeggiated fizz of Pulse Emitter or recent Ashtray Navigations with the opaque, quasi-gothic intensity of noir-est Detroit techno. Throughout all this Xvarr, like Ashtrays, Astral Social Club, even TG and Legendary Pink Dots, yolks together a quintessential UK underground/industrial severity with a sensuous, tactile drone-logic and thirst for ecstatic auto-annihilation that transcends place and feels as old and unarguable as time itself. But there are moments too of a more acute and earth-bound romanticism that caught us off guard: ‘Gemini Tree’ in particular is a beautiful piece of piano-led pastoral ambience that sounds like Plinth relocated from the Dorset countryside to the steps of Elephant & Castle shopping centre at first light. An amazing record, all the more powerful and remarkable for its purism and total indifference to current trends (whatever the fuck THOSE are). Edition of 200 copies, mastered by Rashad Becker, cut by Matt Colton, and pressed on heavyweight vinyl in a screen-printed, popset sleeve with gold foiled insert; a glass mastered CD version included with the LP too.
Lullabies For Insomniacs' purple patch is extended with this seductive, pleasingly contextless offering from Garland. At its best it maybe sounds like the modern equivalent of those Lifetones or Leven Signs records - broken, free-form-verging-on-all-over-the-place, dub-wise music that has its origins in pop but plays by its own made-up, mashed-up rules. Will take us a bit of time to properly get our heads around this one, it's only been here a day, but we can't stop listening to it - the fact that it feels rooted in the familiar, and is a joy to listen to, but we still can't QUITE place it or think exactly what it reminds us of... those are always the records you end up regretting not buying when you had the chance, eh. TIP!!!!!
I think I’ve bought everything on Recollection GRM to date… but I can’t say I reach for any of these Undisputed Masterpieces Of Electronic Music very often… they’re like the aggressively highbrow books you buy when you’re a teenager, you genuinely think you ARE going to read them, but you rarely, if ever, do. And, like those books, you just can’t get rid of them – you should, to make space for the celebrity sporting memoirs that you REALLY love. But you don’t. It’s not that they look impressive the shelf – on the contrary, they make you look like the amateur/grasper you are or were - but to get rid of them would be to admit defeat, to admit that your whole idea of yourself is fundamentally wrong. You want to feel like you’re the kind of person who would be into this stuff. So you cling on. You haven’t read it, or listened to it, this book or this record, but you WILL, one day, honest. That rainy day that never comes, even when it’s SHITTING BUCKETS outside.
However, this here record by Christian Zanesi is the ONE GRM record that a desperately middlebrow melon like me doesn't have to trick myself into listening to. This one is an unmitigated pleasure, at least with the context of, er, glacial electronic minimalism. It’s hard to say exactlywhyit's such a pleasure. I think it’s the MOODINESS of the thing… there’s a very cold, grim, dead-eyed feeling to this record that aligns it not only with the bleakest minimal techno but also industrial, but PROPER, without recourse to anything overly bludgeoning or darker-than-thou or otherwise over-cooked…Zanesi demonstrates amazing powers of restraint, creating a work that is essentially suspenseful rather than cathartic. Made in 1991, the repetitve, hypnotic nature of this work suggests he was at least aware of contemporary currents in electronic dance music at the time, but who knows... compared to most '91-era techno/ambient this sounds LIGHT years ahead, and in a blind test you'd almost certainly assume it was from the turn of the millennium, something from that Fennesz / Vainio / Oval / Hecker / late Whitehouse milieu. Today it still sounds utterly pristine and mysterious and future-proof, and it's without doubt one of the very best pure electronic music / concrète works I've come across. But then what would I know... I don't really ever listen to any of the others.
Pretty insane album of loose, dubby, minimal, Dada-inspired dream-pop/electronics from Sahko, with echoes of, what, Inga Copeland, Ksiezyc, F ingers, Phew...? I'm clutching at straws because this on its own thing, really. Produced and sent to the label twenty years ago, it ended up in a drawer and totally forgotten about, only to be recently discovered - they liken it to "a Finnish version of Dreams Less Sweet by Psychic TV brought to a mad 21st century...80s industrial sounds blend with neo classical parts and contemporary drone music" - but honestly I don't think that comes close to capturing how brilliant and off-kilter and oddly contemporary-sounding this record is. Check it out!