Recording under his 96 Back alias, 9696 Dream is the excellent new album from Manchester producer Evan Majumdar-Swift; a body of work that can handily be summed up in all its fun-loving, electro-leaning glory by its title track. Some of the sound design here reminds me a little of Holly Herndon, but without any of the oppressive intensity her music often explores. Instead we get warm, open chords, stripped-back rhythms and an almost uncontrollable desire to listen this at a volume that would doubtless upset my neighbours.
In her poem Wild Geese, Mary Oliver explores what one must do in order to lead a good life. In it the speaker talks directly to her reader, imploring them to not worry so much about being good; rather, the reader should be true to nature and the beauty found in it. As someone who holds the natural world in similarly high regard, it’s fertile inspirational ground for Nina Kinert, who describes her own feeling while reading the poem as “a sort of wanderlust, travelling of the mind in a time when we all need to stay put to stay safe.” The result is a brief but beautiful ballad which not only has the heartbreakingly poignant piano you’d expect, but a pan flute, which adds further a further atmospheric layer to a hauntingly lovely piece of music.
Bit late on this one as it came out about a month ago, but… it’s so fun! The British indie pop band’s latest starts life in a vaguely Aphex-ish way – all squidgy bass and sharp breakbeats – before morphing into a hyper-pop bubblegum banger like it was suddenly hit with a massive dose of steroids, but the kind that mean you’re still smiling and having a nice time, rather than sweaty and twitchy paranoid mess. Taken from their album (although it’s only three tracks, so, maybe EP?) Civilisation II, which is out now.
I only really started paying proper attention to ambient a few years ago, and increasingly I feel like I’ve missed out and will never properly catch up, especially when there seems to be a near constant stream of incredible new stuff being released. Case in point: PCM’s Macro, the lead single from their forthcoming album. It’s absolutely incredible: a masterclass in restraint, raw emotion and surging power stretched out over 9 epic minutes.
Lisa & Kroffe released their first album Gärdet Session back in 2013, and have been keeping themselves busy under various different names and projects in the electronica, techno and kraut genres since then. Efterdyningar is taken from their new LP Roslagens Famn which came out last month, which is really brilliant instrumental music in the borderland between folk, psychedelic, ambient and styles of electronic music I can’t even identify. Efterdyningar itself is a super-chilled moment halfway through that delves into a lot of my favourite themes: nostalgia, sadness, melancholy; you know, the good stuff.
There are so many artists involved in this I’m not even going to try and dissect it. What makes it even more confusing is that I missed that the Varg I know and love recently became Varg2™ after the German metal band Varg issued a cease and desist (leading to the release of Fuck Varg last year). Say ‘Varg’ again… I dare you!!
But forget all that; forget that if you’re living in the UK life begins to return to something at least vaguely resembling ‘normal’ and ‘fun’ again next week. For now, just listen to this utterly amazingly beautifully heartbreaking record and think about the impermanence and fragility of everything around you until you start to cry.
Last month Moog Music launched the Moog Sound Studio, a new semi-modular synthesizer “aimed at both beginners and seasoned professionals”, which supposedly provides everything you need to get started on your path to musical greatness. Except talent of course: you need to provide your own. To celebrate the launch Moog teamed up with a load of amazing artists to demonstrate the capabilities of the MSS, including Ela Minus, Bonobo, Peter Cottontale and Julianna Barwick, none of whom are short of talent and all do excellent jobs in making this look easy. Barwick’s Open is a sinister delight, with her unmistakable vocal accompanied by muted percussion and church organ-like tendrils of Moog-y goodness.
Named after San Fransisco’s Sutro Tower, Christina Chatfield’s new album Sutro shares more than just a name with that iconic structure. Skeletal in form, both suggests the celestial: towering presences that have a far weightier impact than you’d expect from their sparse construction. Distinct from her usual dancefloor-focussed aesthetic, Chatfield lets the tracks drift, almost aimlessly: amorphous forms that at times are little more than fragments of vocals and gently pulsing pads. If you have an hour to spare, this is a wonderful album to lose yourself in. If you don’t, you should probably reconsider your priorities.
Less than six months after the release of The Ascension – about which I still have mixed feeling to say the least – Sufjan has just announced a new instrumental album, Convocations. Comprised of five volumes – Meditations, Lamentations, Revelations, Celebrations and Incantations – the project is “a two-and-a-half-hour, 49-track reflection on a year of anxiety, uncertainty, isolation, and loss”, and while I’ve probably done enough reflecting over the last year or so, it’s Sufjan, so this is obviously excellent news, as even if it’s likely – on recent form – to be an uneven two-and-a-half-hours, you’re pretty much guaranteed at least a few moments of indescribable beauty. Out 06 May digitally, and 20 August via 5xLP colored vinyl boxset .
The latest single from UK producer L E M F R E C K is markedly different from some of his earlier work. As the grime/r&b artist told Gigsoup earlier this month, “I was deep into nihilism/depression. I had no plan of releasing music after the single ‘Sinners’, and that was it for me.” We’re grateful he stuck with it, as Falling is just brilliant: rooted in melancholy, but with a hopeful yearning that suggests he’s made peace with it. Greatness beckons for this former BBC Introducing artist.