Peerless is an epithet lazily ascribed to legions of artists who are patently nothing of the kind, but in the case of arch dreamweaver Sam Shackleton, it’s the only appropriate term. From the arabesque dubstep extrapolations of his Skull Disco years to masterpieces of polyrhythmic psychedelia like ‘Music For The Quiet Hour’ and ‘Departing Like Rivers’, his trailblazing exploits in the sphere of contemporary electronic music have resulted in a discography that, in terms of sheer eye-popping originality, is all but unparalleled. His first release on Honest Jon’s in five years, ‘The Majestic Yes’ is Shack in microcosm; a gravity-defying exposition of rhythm as rapture that showcases his trademark rococo sound design in arguably its most otherworldly iteration since 2018’s lavishly abstracted ‘Furnace Of Guts’. Comprising three long-form tracks structured around the shamanic rattle of Senegalese percussion maestro Beaugar Seck’s sabar drums, this is expansive, sense-heightening music of the first order; swirls of opalescent synth, harmonium-filtered glossolalia and crepuscular sub-bass that permeate every quadrant of the soundfield like a cloud of opiated pollen from some alien species of orchid. It’s a scintillating, if concise, tour de force, but it doesn’t end there. To the majority of producers, remixing an artist as singular as Shackleton would be a poisoned chalice and then some, but his idol Mark Ernestus steps valiantly into the breech, splitting the difference between Basic Channel and Ndagga Rhythm Force with an arachnoid, dub-frosted (in)version of ‘The Overwhelming Yes’ that closes the EP on a deliciously sinister note. Majestic? Yes.
Disinclined to toe the self-limiting line of genre fundamentalism, Brooklyn-based imprint Ohm Resistance may be a broad church, but the primacy of bass over all other sonic prerogatives is, and always has been, its raison d’être. The fourth, and apparently final, instalment in OR’s annual sampler series, ‘Perihelion Infinite’ is a comprehensive showcase of the label’s lurid, low end-led aesthetic, featuring sixteen exclusive tracks (un)lovingly crafted to rupture every gas main within a 9-mile radius. Despite the occasional nod to stylistic orthodoxy (‘Subterranean’ by Metalheadz stalwart Jaise is a case study in drop-forged industrial jungle), the majority of these beasts are defiantly chimerical; scaly, multi-appendaged hybrids with their gaze fixed firmly on the future. Atsushi Izumi’s ruthlessly overdriven ‘Casaurius’, for example, fuses drum & bass and techno at the spine whilst a cannonade of scimitar-sharp breaks ensures the happy hardcore sugar rush of DrillBasser’s ‘Even’ leaves a distinctly sour aftertaste. Elsewhere there are forays into critical mass post-dubstep (DEFCE’s suffocating ‘Pain Centers’) deconstructed breakcore (the alarmingly vertiginous ‘Eat Sleep Repeat’ by Belfast belligerents Slave To Society) and even Emeralds-esque kosmische (Bob Rogue’s luminescent ‘Asteroids’), but the predator at the apex of this sub-chomping food chain is Sagana Squale’s nightmarish ‘Blood Goddess’, a paranoia-wracked bolus of malice aforethought trip-hop Portishead would have killed to concoct. Embrace the bass.
An inspired collaboration between Burkinabè urban griot Kaito Winse and Belgian noise-punk ne’er-do-wells Arnaud Paquotte and Benjamin Chaval, Avalanche Kaito follow up their astonishing ‘Dabalomuni’ EP from earlier this year with an incendiary debut album that refashions their crotchety head-wrecking clatter into a cornucopia of exotic new shapes. Never a band to abide meekly by the ossifying precepts of ‘world music’ (fuck that self-complacent A&R doublespeak and the donkey it rode in on), Avalanche Kaito bring the noise by the truckload, ram-raiding the repository of outernationalist wonder once plundered by freebooting firebrands like Faust and 23 Skidoo. Lashing together an exoskeleton of plangent bass and corkscrewing polyrhythms with sinews of caustic electronic dissonance, Paquotte and Chaval are the Igors to Winse’s Frankenstein who jolts this fire-breathing postmodern Prometheus to life with his high voltage vocal callisthenics. Able to switch seamlessly from incantatory croon to the sort of strident glossolalic hectoring that was the late, great Grandmaster Masese’s stock-in-trade, Winse is an unstoppable force here, spinning lyrical gold from the proverbs of his homeland amidst a heat-haze of twanging jaw-harp and effervescent peul flute. Picking favourites is next to impossible but ‘Goomde’, a paranoid psych-dub lurch that sounds like World Domination Enterprises on the wrong end of a three day speed comedown, is heavy with a capital H. Not black midi, THIS.
Archival release from Pain Jerk, featuring both tracks that would make up their abortive first 7″ release, and the track ‘Rocketry’ from the ‘ペイン・ジャーク’ cassette release of the same year, an early 90’s work of out-and-out Harsh Noise. These tracks are some of the few that feature Pain Jerk as a two piece operation. A fascinating fulminated electronic howl, catastrophic conveyorbelt channel-switch mayhems of early-ish so-called Japanoise, featuring abstruse cut up technique and volume immersion/endurance testing, battering extreme temperature maligned signal electronics to sear and confuse, dotted liberally with mangled, half audible bludgeoned sampling. Extremely hazardous and ego-killing. Archaic, difficult and perfect. Even as early as ’93 Pain Jerk was already setting new standards in the Noise of coldly implacable cut up electronics, removing new perceptions of objectivity and furthering the genre into furtive plateaus of electronics enmity and extremity. Pain Jerk’s Bandcamp page is a Noise fan’s nirvana, be sure to check through the various other releases hosted within.
Exceptionally stoned offering from Jah Excretion, a meditative solo mission into mesmeric Ambient Dub Techno territory, very Rhythm&Sound/Basic Channel influenced. Shimmering aqueous field recordings manipulated over blip radar Dub percussion motions and subsonic Earth’s crust Bass frequencies, with detail only truly revealed though the smoked-out haze at pealing volumes, using the voluminous excesses of his Harsh Noise influence to carve a sonic form of minimalist sound at maximal volume – This is as far from Harsh Noise as Iwasaki San has ventured, with sumptuous, smothering results. I found myself wanting longer songs here, as the entrancing sounds would possibly benefit from more play time room to breathe (smoke) – however, this is still an exceptional little recording, Dub heads & Techno listeners would do well to explore this one. Play it unbearably loud.
Justin K Broadrick has upped the tempo of his release schedule lately and barely four months on from the power techno slugfest that was ‘New Religions Old Rules’, he unpacks the nunchucks for another six belts of spleen-rupturing Sturm und Drang. ‘Veneer Of Tolerance’ though is a very different kettle of sabre-toothed piranhas to its predecessor. Hobnailed kicks still stomp through brackish mires of bass yet there’s something far more insidious at work than mere brawn and belligerence, an undercurrent of subliminal dread that levers open the mind’s eye and injects it with a pupil-dilating serum. After a brief Godflesh-flavoured aperitif, the walls close in with frightening rapidity, and with them the reality of just how ruthless a purge of dance music’s hedonistic trappings Broadrick has effected, though it’s less their mechanics than the images these tracks evoke – troupes of zombie gymnasts bouncing dead-eyed on a trampoline made of human skin; the heads of guillotined heretics thudding wetly onto concrete – that serve as the EP’s primary instruments of antagonism. Were an incautious DJ to drop one of these psychoactive bombs into a peak time set, a Mixmag editorial headlined ‘BERGHAIN ABLAZE AFTER CANNIBALISM OUTBREAK’ might be the least of their worries. Boom.
Collaborative issue between JK Flesh and Echologist. 4 tenderising tracks, head-enveloping brittle fibrous Techno with an entropic bent, diminishing returns and total futility, miserable, menacing and mangled – experiential and longform, syrupy, banging as fuck. Runs awkwardly through a delay haze yet with lots of swingin’ kick funk. Hyper-designed hardtek expanse unfolds at a menacing pace, minimalist layers of damaged radar bass, skullbreaking sequences of archaic hats and manacled claps drift to and fro across the delay field, paranoiac with potent shifting pulsing rhythm, loops swinging in and out of lockstep with purcussion and Bass in broken mandala alignment – shadowswept and lunatic, jaundiced heads float in decompressed airlock zero gravity, treading a fine line between science fiction cannabinoid innerspace inhabitation and dancefloor melting extro-expression. Brilliant.
Breakbeat aficionados with a taste for the nonlinear have long been gravitating towards Samurai Music’s horn of idiosyncratic plenty, and with very good reason. From the serpentine extrapolations of Ena and Clarity to the techno-flanged ‘Grey Area’ sound pioneered by Sam KDC, the Berlin-based imprint’s output hasn’t so much pushed the envelope of drum & bass as expanded its interior dimensions to cathedral size. It’s a space in which core values are respected but empiricism runs rampant, the ideal environment in fact for a producer like Bristolian visionary Mako to ply his truculent trade, and as anyone who had their cheekbones shattered by ‘Oeuvre’, his blistering 2020 full-length for Metalheadz will attest, circumspection is not exactly his forte. A world away from the by-rote builds and telegraphed drops of d&b in its dilute commercial form, ‘Death Of A Romantic’ goes off-piste never to return the moment needle hits groove, slaloming down treacherous crevasse-gashed gullies with near-suicidal abandon, yet ironically, it’s the precision, not the pandemonium of this precipitousness that gives the album its gratifyingly lethal edge. Tracks like the hellish bass grind of ‘Falter’ and ‘The Both Of Us’, an all tension no release panic attack of windmilling snares and small arms fire, exemplify the symbiosis between anarchy and exactitude that Mako harnesses here, but if you’re simply in the market for a shot of overproof aggro, the tungsten carbide breaks of jungle juggernaut ‘Grieve’ will give your spinal column an exquisitely rigorous seeing-to. The romantic is dead. Long live the romantic.
Recent release from spectral vapor dealer MACROBLANK. Barber Beats? Ok cool, what the fuck do I know about anything. Downcast, mournfully funky downtempo vapor jams to stalk the steaming streets of New Sodom to – dulcet Illbient inflections, slow smooth jazz conundrums and vaporous dejected luxury experience, masterfully smoothed and machined in a way that Barber Beats tend towards, eschewing ‘wavy surface noise and unwieldy joins for clarity and polish, smooth and lurid bronzed surfaces. Crisp Hip Hop beats, beauteous golden echo Sax guides your sobriety away in a dry haze, distant unfurling Funk Bass lines sizzle in the artificial sun. Sumptuous, plastic-sensual, aggrandising. Easy listening for the post postmodern luxuriant goods consumer.
Methlab Explosion’s most recent offering ploughs a furrow into Synthesizer soundscape dynamics, Industrial wall of glass and swirling vortex electronics Noise, eschewing the blast beats and Grindcore elements of their sound and diving headfirst in this Power Electronics/Industrial direction with bloodyminded aplomb – appropriately ruinous walls of synthesized ephemera, pulsing rhythms of Industrialised din, well placed samples and serrated synth drones, piercing harsh high spikes shearing eardrums to bleeding shit, extremely damaging, moments of clean(er) Synth tones drenched in bleach, movie dialogue sample loops used to hate-accentuating result. Cataclysmic and dramatic, lo-fi scary shit, bedroom of the gunman vibes. Midwestern horrors. Images of outsider compounds and weapon caches, busy at the work of war – Will’s projects are fucking awesome. Buy a copy from Tin Standard. “NOT ART IN THE LEAST”.
Having hit the ground running in March with an explosive debut EP that pitted his guileful production grit against the hectoring Afro-grime of nailgun-voiced Ugandan MC Swordman Kitala, UK beat provocateur Soft-Bodied Humans goes out on an impossibly long limb with its sequel, a brace of logic-defying collaborations that positively revel in their own jarring incongruity. First across the machine shop threshold is arch art-popster Silver Pyre whose whimsical streams of semi-consciousness (think Mark E Smith if he’d hailed from rural Somerset rather than the mean streets of Salford) are welded to a steely sub-bass chassis, smeared liberally with synth-grease, then reversed at high speed into a lava lake of Japanese monster movie samples. It’s an exhilaratingly strange contrivance, but if it’s the apotheosis of weird you seek, look no further than ‘Kaiju Growls’. Funeral doom and jacking South African house variant Gqom are arguably the ultimate in non-overlapping magisteria – less chalk and cheese, more BoJo and integrity – yet somehow, S-BH and dirge metal behemoth Abysmal Growls of Despair manage to cajole them into cohabiting. Spring-loaded beats carom through a dense gloaming of drone curdled to near-impenetrability by AGOD’s larynx-mangling gutturals which plunge so far down the register he makes George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher sound like Björk. You couldn’t make it up but that’s probably the point, and given that further instalments of this ongoing series are already in the pipeline, only time will tell whether suspension of disbelief is habit-forming or not. Ready?
Fearsome split cassette release from two of the most vital artists in the old guard of the international Harsh Noise scene. Like Weeds piledrives vibrating synthetic coils into your fear response centre to conjure the lizard hate for the ‘other’ – Brute Industrial action informed by the bleeding edge of Harsh Noise, with some reference to Powernoise and mutilated Hip Hop. Isolating, alienating, frightening. Protracted blasts of disrhythmic Noise erupt amid a fetid ambience, reverberations inside a factory of unknowable and reprehensible post-brexit productions, bristling edges of Bass pulses leaving contaminated grit and soot in fresh, deep wounds. Sanderson’s oeuvre always bears the indelible marks of urbanity and disillusion, and his contributions here are no exception. The Bastard Noise then inflicts a mortal wound on the psyche of Mancruel, from behind the master control panel of the Trogotronic battle computer they loose a staggered rhythmical audial barrage, a kosmische thermonuclear salvo to strike the surface of HIS world with Alien weaponry in sonic swordplay, sabres rattle/death rattle as the last of Bastard is repaid it’s fucking debt in kind!! 20 minutes + of richly designed Insect Electronics retaliation from TROG, meticulous Skullscapes to envelope in ambience and constrict in merciless signal abusing Harsh Noise, paced with baited breath, slowly unfurling the muted sonic troposphere and freak-out pulsing force of synthesizer mutation meltdown audia amid airlock atmospherics, peppered with outraged primitive vocal outcry. Essential tape.
In the domain of left-field electronic music, few artists cut such an elusively idiosyncratic figure as Eric Douglas Porter aka Afrikan Sciences. His recondite, Afrofuturist slant on house and its adjacent forms positions him in the exalted company of individualists like Jlin, Zamilska and Sam Shackleton whose work bears such a unique stamp of provenance, it practically births its own subgenre. Following hot on the heels of February’s astonishing ‘2220022 (Tiger Dynamics)’ (which, in typically capricious fashion, Porter deleted from his catalogue three days after it was released), ‘Genome Bentley’s Heritage Drum Corp’ is another fabulously out-there portfolio of possibility that reconfigures house to the point where it’s easier to describe in architectural rather than musical terms. Of course, this being Afrikan Sciences, the geometry of these precarious constructions is strictly non-Euclidean, each track a jazz-gilded labyrinth of illusion and improbability, like an M. C. Escher lithograph brought to angular sonic life. Booby-trapped with rapid-cycling time signatures (nothing so trite as a four-on-the-floor DJ tool here) and sampledelic whorls of every conceivable abstraction, this is music that, even at its most minimal (‘3 Things’, for example, is little more than an acidulated rumble of bass and percussion that spools out for almost 11 minutes), remains as resistant to decryption as the Voynich manuscript. It’s also an absolute fucking blast. If you’re an Afrikan Sciences virgin, pop your cherry with this then work back until you hit 2014’s twin masterpieces ‘Theta Wave Brain Sync’ and ‘Circuitous’. Trip isn’t the word.
Crisp, crystalline minimalist psychedelia from Italiant Ambienauts LF58 – microtextual magic beach blanket bong-out in the macrocosmic reality of unending space, the sounds of neural pathways lighting and connecting in the universe-mind cathedral mothership amid cannabinoid focus and micro-frenzy-process of ever expanding computation. Quiet and introversive, vastly spaceous and dense with weight and scale, at once revenant to EDM, Ambient and kosmische Zeuhl, four suites unfurling very slowly across the album’s running time, an expanse of lush textures and audial ascendant worship. This is my first look in to Astral Industries, I’m totally enamored with and intrigued by their consistent aesthetic and blotter paper comic illustration. I’ll be digging in to some more of their roster as immediately as I’m able. Silent Running.
The duo of Stephen Gethings (Magnetize) and Barry Murphy (The Last Sound) have been wreaking various shades of aural havoc for more than fifteen years, but ‘Blown Vestige’ is Whirling Hall Of Knives as we’ve rarely heard them before. All but absent is the redlining kick-drum carnage that made albums such as ‘Decate’ and ‘Voix’ such ear-savaging delights (think Regis after six pints of ayahuasca) but don’t go equating beatlessness with toothlessness. WHOK still have a full compliment of fangs, but this time, it’s your heart, not your throat they want to sink them into. Predictably though, for an outfit whose usual œuvre is the techno equivalent of cluster munitions, their take on ambient is about as far from cachou-scented New Age wallpaper-hanging as it’s possible to get. This is visceral, attention-demanding music that, despite its relative lack of gratuitous bloodletting, still lays siege to your consciousness with the same steely intent as their more rhythm-centric experiments. Amorphous billows of exfoliative distortion scud across the stereo field like storm clouds; chrysalids of crimson noise rupture and drip acid syrup into your ears, but it’s WHOK’s uncanny ability to conjure the organic from the inorganic that sets ‘Blown Vestige’ far apart from the pack. ‘Deconthroat’, for example, is so redolent of a slow-burning cello arabesque it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Clarice Jensen album, whilst the subaquatic swoon of closing track ‘Saw-tail’ is a sublime reimagining of A.R. Kane’s nebulous guitar shimmer blissfully untethered from the prosaism of wood and wire. Over the years, I’ve used many adjectives to describe the mighty WHOK’s irascible sonics, but ‘beautiful’ has never been one of them. There’s a first time for everything.
A blazing, brusque production here from Grime legend Manga Saint Hilaire, a rubber bullet deep impact triple bass pulse hitter replete with OG sampling with flavourful atmospheric haze, crisp production sounds with round fatass Bass shapes and bars of the total real/real grounded from Manga. Then come the remix with a re-arranged Bass and beats assembly bob-and-weave, fat as fuck rhythm cruise and masterful sample re-application, and guest bars from three unique voices, Roachee grandstands on imperious, stately form, Logan burns both sides of the toast with a blowtorch and Snowy slides across the beat like some charismatic ne’er-do-well. Manga then closes out the tune with two bars showing his complex flow, thoughtful expressions and deserving hype. Still releasing absolute dissolute fire and positive energy eruption. These things are infectious, sure to get your peers throwing mental shapes – fucking brilliant!
Shimmering grooves and anonymous styles from Silver Richards, originally released digitally by luxury elite’s legendary Fortune 500. ‘Volume 128′ covers a lot of ground across the various smaller sub-categories of Vaporwave, combining styles and vibez from track to track to create a kind of mix tape feel. Lots of sensuous/cheezy late-nite lo fi loops, vapid and wide-eyed vaporfunk refrains and super-screwed piano slow jams sway behind a thousand filters. Track 3 is a 2013 Cloud Rap type banger with leanin’ sample feed, spacious clap-drenched beats, and purple spittin’ on the right side of marble mouf from Gold Midas, an interesting addition to the track list which well exemplifies Silver Richards varied/scattered VHS mixtape approach. In here it’s always a simulated summer’s day, getting supremely baked and sunbaked at the edge of the pool, or is that just an ephemeral screensaver in the mind’s eye? An advertisement for the nostalgist’s impossible product.
There are matches made in heaven and there matches made somewhere altogether hotter, and given the fearsome track records of its two protagonists, it scarcely takes a genius to figure out where this meeting of minds and murderousness was conceived. An alias of sound sadist Kenny Sanderson, Like Weeds destroys techno with the zeal of a latter-day Savonarola, torching its vanities on a bonfire and fashioning something ugly and misshapen from the smouldering, blackened embers. The four tracks he offers here are baleful in the extreme, looming escarpments of greyscale noise that split the difference between power electronics and the heaviest industrial dub. Beats thud with contusive force, every micron of space between them choked with a boiling tar of static that corrodes the lungs like phosgene. By the time the death march of ‘Unauthorised’ fades into silence, the chest-crushing pressure is overwhelming, but don’t look to Andrew Nolan for succour; he’s too busy torturing trip-hop to mop your fevered brow. Ogreish and blood-spattered, it lurches from his dungeon, a Hallowe’en parade of grotesque miscreations primed to rip off your eyelids and drag you face first into a conscious nightmare of obliterating dub. As deadly as the blooms they’re named after, these shambling horrors may be short-lived but the bass bin-blowing havoc they wreak is prodigious. Gird your loins. It’s clobberin’ time.
Cassette release from Dayton Ohio’s Developer. An extremely Harsh, mimetic Musique Concrete explosion and confounding cut up approach Harsh Noise with sampling and loops interspersed, layered and collaged rhythmic accidents, sources appearing here and there amidst the maelstrom as less distorted and appealable to reason, then plummeting down the fucking spiral staircase of looping and distortion, piercing skewering frequencies, signals switch on a dime, disorienting and baffling, laughter…pockets of neutral audial spaces emerge… a total astringent brainwash collage. Artful and ascetic, but not too austere or serious in theme or approach. This is dynamic Harsh Noise for exploration of the inner space. US rust belt Harsh Noise mastery and mischief. “CAUTION: repeated listens or listening while inebriated may cause insanity…. It did for me on both accounts”
Bead brings the fucking basement dungeon funk straight out of the sex cult nihilist’s compound with this one, the paranoia is palpable and the feds are outside with weapons drawn but we’re nodding the fukk out anyways – brain smoothing Bass, greasy as oil-slicked hair Techno tracks with a slather of wicked funk hats and slow working venom trippin’ sequencer lines, outsider and paranoiac with a hint of come-up euphoria atmosphere and menacing vocal samples drifting in the ether of wizz, minimal low tek and lo-fi as fuck. This project never ceases to intoxicate and alienate, setting a paradigm for no wave experimental Techno that only a select few nutters and weirdos are operating within. Still available on cassette from Nice Music, mine came with a cool sticker too. Properly fucking sweaty.