Evening dears, minimal pre-amble tonight... suffice to say, February is the cruellest month. And so, without further ado, this week's redemptive and consoling picks...
OFFEN MUSIC | 2LP | £19.99
Wow, wow, WOW… behold this stupendous archival offering from Offen Music: a deeply mesmerising, narco-romantic, dub-me-crazy collision of fourth world ambience, polyrhythmic techno, minimal synth and bombed-out breakbeats from the mind of Yugoslavian artist Mirar Subotic.
Subotic’s sterling, otherworldly industrial experiments as Rex Ilusivii have been showcased on a brace of previous Offen releases, but that formidable body of work frankly pales in comparison next to this life-affirming, pigeonhole-obliterating 2LP, which Subotic recorded in Sao Paulo in 1995. It’s top-to-bottom stunning, with a make-up that will speak powerfully to all but the most impoverished ears: stately, sumptuous synth themes with a hint of new age uplift but generally leaning towards a darker, cold wave-via-Detroit drone-psychology and intensity; heavy basslines, vocal cut-ups and dense layers of African percussion that extrapolate from the paranoid urban funk of My Life In The Bush of Ghosts and Liquid Liquid and the searching, ethno-psychedelic reggae impulse of Jah Wobble’s Lago years, and strapped to low-slung, decelerated B-boy breaks that sound like they were beamed in from Smith & Mighty’s St Pauls bunker.
Yes, there’s an unmistakeable Balearic vibe to proceedings, but in the most intrepid, drug-damaged, prelapsarian sense - not dad-disco-limp or cosy or twee…on the contrary, Wayang exudes an unwavering heaviness and DREAD throughout, albeit of the most subtle, grievously earned and strangely blissy kind - it's not a stretch to see an affinity with the outer limits of New Beat and even the embryonic Goa sound...no-holds-barred, bad-meaning-good-trip, slow-motion TRANCE. With its sampled tribal (for want of a better word) voices and MDMA-rush electronics, there are moments where it feels like Future Sound of London dragged through the thorny hedge of the industrial avant-garde backwards - and you can't say fairer than that.
OK you could also just go right ahead and call it trip-hop, but, as Offen point out, if this record had reached the audience it deserved in 1995, it would’ve made Mo'Wax music sound frumpy. On the one hand, this album is a bolt from the blue, but on the other it binds all our current enthusiasms and preoccupations in a way that feels logical, necessary..inevitable, even. In other words, if Wayang didn't exist, we would have had to make it up.
12TH ISLE | LP | £16.99
Already down to our last handful of copies of this, the new 12th Isle from XYR. Glistening, existential, Popol Vuh-influenced synth / ambient drift that makes us come over all Kinski. “I am the wrath of god, who else is with me???” Who indeed.
"Experimental cinema sonics, electroacoustic research practice and shadowy wind instruments come together to form this unique interpretation of the mythical city of gold. Utilising rare, half forgotten Soviet era synthesisers Vladimir Karpov creates immersive soundscapes under the name XYR. The Formanta mini keytar and the Alisa 1377 lend Karpov’s music strange, seldom heard atmospheres which the St. Petersburg native then combines with field recordings, toy percussion and wood flute to further build upon his utopian narratives."
DDS | 2LP | £19.99
Another stellar offering from Demdike’s DDS imprint (which seems to be smack in the middle of an imperial phase): Earprints, a 2LP of sublime, crepuscular electronic jazz from David ‘Move D’ Moufang’s Conjoint ensemble. Originally released on Source in 2000, and featuring piano/vibes man Karl Berger (who’s worked with Don Cherry and Ornette) and Jamie Hodge (responsible for the zinging early/mid-90s Born Under A Rhyming Planet 12”s on Plus8), it was hardly the only record of its era to bridge jazz minimalism with micro-house and gauzy hip-hop abstraction, but it’s certainly one of the most subtle, absorbingly dubbed-out and - we can now say - timeless. A must for fans of Supersilent, Jan Jelinek, Villalobos and Loderbauer’s ECM reworks, Arve Henriksen, MVO Trio…
EFFICIENT SPACE | 12" | £12.99
More archival Andy Rantzen, this time courtesy of Efficient Space, who put out those highly rated Oz Waves, Sky Girl and Midnite Spares comps. Rantzen remains best known for his dourly excellent '80s industrial/post-punk offerings (solo and as part of Pelican Daughters), but this 12" - like the hard-hitting, broken house one-off 'Will I Dream' on Oz Waves - is aimed squarely at the soundsystem/dancefloor. Its four home-recorded cuts, recorded 1999-2000, include digi-dub bone-shaker 'Rock Steady' and - our pick - the briliant hip-hop/dancehall hybrid 'Green River'. In many ways cut from the same cloth as the Suba, it's pleasingly rootical but idiosyncratic, exploratory stuff.
ALL CITY | 2LP | £19.99
Absolutely PHENOMENAL, life-affirming compilation of "Irish groove, punk-funk and electro" compiled with both serious scholarship and a whiff of mischief by John Byrne, Colm K, Jeremy Murphy and Olan. Perfectly presented double-LP with printed inner sleeves featuring copious liner notes and photos, it eschews the overweening tastefulness of so many recent post-punk comps and grinningly reminds us that independent music of the '70s and '80s wasn't all about the raincoat brigade - obscurity is not a barrier to entry here (although no one featured enjoyed what you'd call enduring fame), and some of the best stuff on here is jaunty and spangly as fuck - take Those Nervous Animals, who come over like Duran Duran or ABC wannabes thwarted by, well, themselves (they do everything right, but still it sounds utterly, utterly wrong). It's outsider music by default, not by design. I dunno, it's a strange kick, Quare Groove, but we can't get enough of it. Nuns playing ping pong? EXACTLY.