Honestly, Skee Mask is just outrageously good. I’m only three tracks into his latest album Pool which kinda came out of nowhere last week, and I’m already convinced it will be in my top 10 of the year. Very few other producers can touch him in terms of rhythm, creativity and his ability to create unique, engaging and highly emotional musical landscapes. LFO is one of his gentler efforts, beatless and almost devoid of percussion, with the ebb and flow of synth lines driving it forward.
Shout out to Album of the Year for being a consistently reliable source of excellent music releases very few other sites seem to cover, the latest example of which being Libyan-German producer Kaizo Ziad’s electronic project Acetantina, and his new album Carmen Winstead. From start to finish it’s a fairly unsettling experience, with tracks emerging out of a static-y haze or being abruptly cut off mid flow, but it’s also consistency fascinating with some moments of truly exceptional sound design, the closing glassy synths of Blindside not least among them.
Like a lot of people, my entry point into Burial was 2007’s Untrue, which means I completely missed his remix of Blackdown’s Crackle Blues. According to Boomkat – who tend to be a pretty good authority on this kind of thing – that was a mistake, as it remains one of his tightest productions to date. Now, 15 years later, Burial and Blackdown reunite on Shock Power of Love EP which landed today on Keysound pretty much out of nowhere, which seems to be Burial’s current MO.
Space Cadet includes many of the later-era Burial staples – extended running time, triumphant, almost trancy chords – as well as plenty that have been with him his entire career (hello plaintive vocals and atmospheric crackles), but pushes the euphoric envelope further than perhaps ever before, with the warped call of “take me higher” echoed by a full on gospel choir. I guess we’ve come to expect this kind of relentless brilliance from Burial by now, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
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.
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.