Staff Picks - January 2020

Staff Picks - January 2020

February 12, 2020

Written by:

Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

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Welcome to 2020, or what seems to be one of the best years in music. We start with January and a very diverse selection of new music, as well as reissues. Anything from ambient to psychedelic, experimental, ethnic/traditional, electronics and much more.

What's new, what's good, what's hot or not, what's obscure or under the radar, music wise, here's the monthly Staff Picks.

If you think that we've missed something or want to send a tip, please get in touch.

2. From A.R. Luciani to Brecht Ameel

VA - Alternate African Reality - Electronic, electroacoustic and experimental music from Africa and the diaspora (Syrphe)
VA - Alternate African Reality - Electronic, electroacoustic and experimental music from Africa and the diaspora (Syrphe)
16-17 - Phantom Limb (Trost Records)
The group 16-17 comprises Alex Buess (reeds, electronics), Damian Bennett (bass), Michael Wertmüller (drums), Roger Graf (guitar), Eugene S. Robinson (voice) and Kasia Meow (voice).

A. R. Luciani - Elettroencefalogramma (Finders Keepers)
This compilation aims to provide a concise, but varied overview of Sicilian born (Florence raised) polymath A.R. Luciani's most groundbreaking musical experiments that were made available to Finders Keepers via a host of production music labels in the 1970s. Unlike many indispensable library legends of the era, it's arguable that Luciani should be considered a library musician at all, rather an independent, highly educated, experimental musician who happened to make library records.

VA - Alternate African Reality - Electronic, electroacoustic and experimental music from Africa and the diaspora (Syrphe)
Syrphe presents a new compilation comprising a wide selection of contemporary African musicians. As Cedrik Fermont (Syrphe’s label head) states, ”the artists included on the compilation only represent a fraction of the African electronic music world, and the listeners should not believe that nothing exists outside of those countries. Electronic, and, at a lower extend depending on where you look for, experimental music do exist in many other African countries.”

ArtSaves - Bore (Kopi Records)
ArtSaves is the moniker of Arash Mollakarimi, an Iranian electronic music producer who’s been doing IDM/experimental music, while taking a different approach in DJing, with more focus on techno-oriented styles. His new work, ”Bore”, comprises a selection of tracks encompassing different mind states, with an ear for improvised electronics.

Bergsonist & Speaker Music - Sublime Language of My Century (bizaarbazaar)
Sublime Language of My Century is a collaborative release referencing Capital Is Dead by digital culture theorist McKenzie Wark as framework towards a fluid electronic social thought.

Brecht Ameel - Ghost Tropic (Hands In The Dark Records)
Ghost Tropic is first and foremost the name of the third feature from acclaimed Belgian writer-director Bas Devos. The film tells the story of Khadija, a middle-aged cleaner who has no other option but to walk home through Brussels on a cold night after falling asleep on the last train. The journey is a reflection on motherhood and expectations, pride and unknown struggles, stories of the ghostly magic of a lonely night in a big city, of the kindness of strangers and the hurt felt seeing the vulnerability of someone you love. Brecht Ameel, from the band Razen, uses his classical guitar training and his experience with various string instruments to craft a beautiful soundtrack of minimal ambient acoustic music. The Belgian musician’s intention was to create music that would be a warm blanket for the nocturnal odyssey of Khadija. A melody and rhythm to accompany her walk through the cold night, a sort of guiding light.
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Katawa Singers - Ufulu 1991-1997 (Modernizations1000HZ)
Katawa Singers - Ufulu 1991-1997 (Modernizations1000HZ)

3. From Giuliano Sorgini to J. M. Pagán

Charles Curtis - Performances & Recordings 1998-2018 (Saltern)
This is the first comprehensive collection of recordings surveying the career of renowned, American cellist Charles Curtis. Selected by Curtis and Tashi Wada from recordings spanning the past two decades, the collection offers a broad, inclusive view of Curtis’s activities across the diverse worlds of music he inhabits, containing rare, unreleased recordings, and never-before-released music by Terry Jennings, Richard Maxfield, Éliane Radigue, Alison Knowles, and Curtis.

Ed Wilcox & Antony Milton & M3Y - s/t (Pakapi Records)
Antony Milton is a sound artist based in Wellington, New Zealand. He has been active in the underground and experimental music scenes since the early 1990s. He is also the curator of the PseudoArcana label. Ed Wilcox is a drummer from the Philadelphia area and main member behind the Temple of Bon Matin project for years. He has been part of Arthur Doyle's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, both on recordings and tours, and also participated in several European tours with Marshall Allen. M3Y (aka My3yeah) is the Argentinian duo of Tomás Müller and GMC (Guillermo M. Cerredo), their music explores different elements of noise, free improvisation, stoner rock, drone, free-folk, etc. They have released several albums on independent labels and compilations throughout the world. The release contains some psychic free jams done in Boedo by Antony and M3Y and studio added drums by Ed Wilcox who telepathically joined the jam by Philadelphia.

Giuliano Sorgini - Sounds From The Far Space (Musica Per Immagini)
Originally composed in the 1970s, Sounds From The Far Space is a 30 min compilation of unreleased songs by legendary maestro, Giuliano Sorgini. Produced for space related TV series, the music here is slightly different compared to what he used to do in that period, in ways that experimental artists are still looking up to today. It incorporates all things from avant-garde synth and musique concrete, to electronic percussion and eerie atmospheric arrangements, defining the visionary style of the artist. The album opens the 'Musica Per Immagini' catalogue, a Naples/Rome based independent label aiming to deliver exquisite emotional treats from the Italian cinematic & library music scene, to the collectors’ circuit worldwide. Picked by Alexandru Drăgănescu/JB

J. M. Pagán - Kiu I Els Seus Amics (Finders Keepers)
From the cosmic creative musical mind of Swiss/Catalan studio whizz, Zeleste Nightclub engineer, Video Nasty film composer, occasional Jaume Sisa (Música Dispersa) collaborator and future electronic music therapy pioneer comes the synth-ridden vocoder-loaded 1984 sci-funk soundtrack to Barcelona's daytime TV response to the universal E.T. phenomena.

Jeff Parker - Suite for Max Brown (International Anthem)
Jeff Parker is best known as the longtime guitarist for the Chicago–based quintet Tortoise, one of the most critically revered, sonically adventurous groups to emerge from the American indie scene of the early nineties. Aside from recording and touring with Tortoise, Parker has worked as a side man with many jazz greats, and as a solo artist. Suite for Max Brown is informally a companion piece to The New Breed, Parker’s 2016 album on International Anthem. “In my own music I’ve always sought to deal with the intersection of improvisation and the digital era of making music, trying to merge these disparate elements into something cohesive,” Parker explains.

Katawa Singers - Ufulu 1991-1997 (Modernizations1000HZ)
Katawa Singers from Mzuzu in the Northern Region of Malawi are pundits of the local scene. They have designed and delivered the electronic gospel sound that dominates the country ever since. It all started by accident. The choir that collected money for the erection of the new Presbyterian church in the Katawa area received a Yamaha keyboard from a foreign donor. What followed next is the result of the musicality, inventiveness and artistic sense of artists who quickly gain acclaim. Since then, Katawa Singers have recorded a dozen releases, toured around Malawi, playing at festivals and prayer gatherings. The album compiles their first albums recorded into one stereo track at studios in Blantyre and Lilongwe. The band's success has inspired many epigones to set up groups aiming to utilize electronic instruments. It is an unfinished process because up to this day Christian choirs from big cities and remote villages struggle to buy electronic keys to displace allegedly outdated African drums or acapella.
VA - LÉVE LÉVE - Sao Tomé & Principe sounds 70s-80s (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
VA - LÉVE LÉVE - Sao Tomé & Principe sounds 70s-80s (Les Disques Bongo Joe)

4. From Lite Fails to Phase Fatale

VA - LÉVE LÉVE - Sao Tomé & Principe sounds 70s-80s (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
The two Portuguese-speaking African islands of Sao Tomé & Principe, located in the Gulf of Guinea, created a unique music called Puxa, a refined mixture of various musical components from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. A blend of Semba, Merengue, Kompas, Soukouss, Coladeira patterns, often pushing forward with a voodoo-like energy, solid bass lines, delicate melodies and backing harmonies of the rich Sao Tomean melodic traditions. Léve-Léve is the first ever compilation devoted to music from São Tome and Principe, two small islands situated off the coast of Gabon in central Africa. The album unravels a story of liberation where the music of Africa, Europe and the Americas unify with a carefree spirit personified by a phrase the islanders use all the time: “léve, léve” (“take it easy”).

Lite Fails - The End Of The World Has Already Happened (Flaming Pines)
Australian based artist Lite Fails made the album The End Of The World Has Already Happened as a response to the Australian bushfires with all proceeds to the Australian Rural Firefighting Service. This album is composed from archival recordings uncovered during composer Henry Reese's (Lite Fails) research into Australia's early colonial soundscapes. He writes: "Researching the cultural history of sound recording, I am constantly struck by the comparisons that early Australian listeners made between fire and the surface noise of phonograph cylinder records. In the 1890s and 1900s, the pops, crackles and imperfections of the new medium struck early listeners as similar to the daily presence of fire, heat and power."

Machinefabriek - Stillness Soundtracks II (Glacial Movements)
The friendship and collaboration between Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) and Alessandro Tedeschi (label founder of Glacial Movements) has been going on for several years now and it is constantly evolving. The Dutch artist, in addition to carrying out the graphic designs of all Glacial Movements' releases, is also part of the label’s catalog with the album "Stillness Soundtracks" released in April 2014.

Nerve - Psycho Mafia (A Colourful Storm)
Nerve is Joshua Wells, co-founder of the Resistance / Restraint label. His alias Nerve has been active since 2013 and has released music on Unwound Records, Resistance / Restraint and A Colourful Storm.

VA - Parakustiks #2 (Karlrecords)
Karlrecords celebrates its cat. no. KR050 and its 13th anniversary with a free download label compilation with selected tracks from albums released after PARAKUSTIKS #1 (KR015 , released in 2014).

Phase Fatale - Scanning Backwards (Ostgut Ton)
Scanning Backwards, Phase Fatale’s second full-length album following his 2017 debut album for Hospital Productions, is music about control. Using the connection between weaponized sound and psychological manipulation as a conceptual foundation, Hayden Payne explores the ways in which music – and sub frequencies in particular – are used to influence thinking and to synchronize emotions and behavior: from military technology to sound systems and the physicality and sexuality of queer techno culture.
Stallone the Reducer - Ruthless People (Unknown Precept)
Stallone the Reducer - Ruthless People (Unknown Precept)

5. From Pod Blotz to The Dwarfs Of East Agouza

Pod Blotz - Transdimensional System (Dais Records)
Pod Blotz began in 2002 and has released over 25 cassette and vinyl releases via labels such as L.I.E.S., Difficult Interactions, Clan Destine, Chocolate Monk, and Dungeon Taxis. Over the years the project has included a number of guest members and performance artists, but has solely remained the brainchild of Suzy Poling.

Prophetas - Reveal, Accept, Remember, Forget (Sucata Tapes/Discrepant)
Prophetas is a new concept and moniker of Gonzo's aka Gonçalo f Cardoso, head of the Discrepant imprint. Inspired by visionary/paranoid cult figures, gurus with delusions of grandeur, lonely and idiosyncratic figures as symbols of hope/despair for the uncertain times of the new decade, this two-parts album explores unknown sonic territories and succeeds in offering a unique listening experience.

Sdem - Zns (Seagrave)
SDEM previously released music on imprints such as CPU Records, Opal Tapes and the MEDS platform. Mostly archival, his Seagrave album ‘ZNS’ (or ‘Zones’) describes much less a careful log of experiments conducted over a 15-year period, as an assemblage of electronic maps, a charting of ulterior paths half-followed, impersonal ‘zones’ traversed, mechanical entanglements undertaken and hallucinogenic spaces weathered.

Stallone the Reducer - Ruthless People (Unknown Precept)
Detroit native Stallone the Reducer is hailing from New York City. He’s a member of the ADULT. outfit during the mid-2000s while operating in the suburbs of the American underground for more than a decade under different guises. Samuel Consiglio has made a name for himself over the years thanks to his anarchic whimsical electronic oddities. At times humorous, however always crucial, Ruthless People does not escape the rule and makes up for a facetious impulsive mini-album unfolding in bursts of zealous hysteresis. Straight out of a movie that never existed, now and again flirting with the grotesque like his last couple of releases on Est. ’83 Records, Consiglio keeps on crafting wacky mechanical grooves and anomalous synth lines as if scrambling at full speed on the American highway; skipping through the radio looking for incongruous bits of dialogues only true mutants can understand.

The Alvaret Ensemble - Ea (Laaps Records)
The Alvaret Ensemble is the improvisatory collective based around Greg Haines (piano), Jan Kleefstra (voice, poems), Romke Kleefstra (guitar, bass and effects) and Sytze Pruiksma (percussion). ‘Ea’ is the group’s third album, after releasing the acclaimed self-titled double debut and the second album ‘Skeylja’ in respectively 2012 and 2014. ‘Ea’ was recorded over three nights in a small church in the Netherlands. As usual the group invited other musicians to join, as they did on the first two albums and also during their live concerts. On ‘Ea’ the group is expanded with the Polish violist Olga Wojciechowska and Portuguese cellist Joana Guerra, that became permanent members since the recordings.

The Dwarfs Of East Agouza - The Green Dogs of Dahshur (Akuphone)
The Dwarfs of East Agouza are back with The Green Dogs of Dashur Once again, the prolific American-Egyptian trio composed of Alan Bishop (Acoustic Guitar-Bass/Alto Sax), Sam Shalabi (Electric Guitar) and Maurice Louca (Organ/Synthesizers/Beats) breaks off all constraints and reveals a resolutely free album offering the listener variations of seductive melodies and unhinged improvised trance. The hot embossed metallic double-headed dog designed by the Lebanese artist Lynne Zakhour perfectly illustrates this album that blurs the boundaries of rock and jazz. A new album that will certainly delight fans of Sun City Girls or Land Of Kush.
Ubek - II (Sucata Tapes/Discrepant)
Ubek - II (Sucata Tapes/Discrepant)

6. From Varsovia to Wilder Gonzales Agreda

TNT Roots - Raw Dub Creator (Bokeh Versions)
Raw Dub Creator LP is a survey of TNT Roots’ 2006 - 2018 CDr selected by Bokeh. These are driving, dark, militant sounds for these times made in seeming isolation in Northampton. As half of Earthquake, he’s responsible for the darkest, forward, most slept-on future of dub to grace us. Picked by Alexandru Drăgănescu/JB

Ubek - II (Sucata Tapes/Discrepant)
Following the 2017 tape released by Discrepant’s sub-label Sucata Tapes, the mysterious Polish duo Ubek returns with a new collection of degraded echoes, salvaged from authority. Galvanised as if lost to the shock of formal experiments.

Varsovia - Recursos Inhumanos (Buh Records)
Varsovia’s Recursos Inhumanos (Inhuman Resources), a classic album of Peruvian synth punk, is finally available in vinyl format. Since its appearance in 2014, Varsovia surprised many listeners with its combination of punk and synthesizer electronics. Using sequencers and drum machines, loud guitars and a voice that oscillates between whispers and shouts, the band builds songs that offer a freewheeling and visceral vision of Lima. The trio, made up of Fernando Pinzás (synthesizers, programming), Dante Gonzales (synthesizers, programming) and Sheri Corleone (vocals, guitars) has quickly garnered a loyal following and become one of the references of a new generation of Latin American artists who explored dark electronic sounds of a post-punk sensibility.

Villaelvin - Headroof (Hakuna Kulala)
In April 2019 improvising lyricist, producer and sound artist Elvin Brandhi moved into the 'Villa' in Kampala, Uganda, to work on a collaborative album with several artists from the Nyege Nyege collective. Auto-tune blast beats from field recordings of Evangelist churches, the swamps surrounding the studios, with warped drums by Kampala based percussionist Omutaba, improvised stream of consciousness lyrics from local rappers Hakim and Swordman Kitala, with glitched out bassy productions with Boutiq Studio manager Don Zilla and Congolese producer Oise. This new project called Viillaelvin is the first full LP to be released on Hakuna Kulala.

Wilder Gonzales Agreda - 25 Años De Revolución (Superspace Records)
Wilder Gonzales begun his musical career in 1995 with his first bands Avalonia and Fractal, both part of the Peruvian post-rocker scene known as Crisálida Sónica. Since then he has been pursuing a musical ethos that makes him one of the most interesting contemporary sound artists from Perú. Gonzales Agreda has released more than 50 discs by now, on his own label, Superspace Records, and on other labels across the world like Clinical Archives (Russia), Ruidemos (Spain), TibProd (Poland), Limitada (Argentina), Tape Safe (Belgium), Discos Invisibles (Mexico), Aloardí (Perú) among others.

Will Guthrie - Nist Nah (Black Truffle)
Nantes-based Australian drummer and percussionist Will Guthrie returns to Black Truffle with Nist-Nah. Like his previous solo record on the label, the abrasive hip-hop concrète of People Pleaser (BT027), Nist-Nah finds Guthrie branching out in a new direction, this time in a suite of six percussion pieces primarily using the metallaphones, hand drums and gongs of the Gamelan ensembles of Indonesia. The music presented here is grounded in Guthrie’s travels in Indonesia and study of various forms of Gamelan music, from the stately suspended temporality of the courtly Javanese Gamelan Sekatan, to the delirious, thuggish repetition that accompanies the Javanese trance ritual Jathilan, to the shimmering acoustic glitch of contemporary Balinese composer Dewa Alit and his Gamelan Salukat.

YlangYlang - Interplay (Crash Symbols)
Catherine Debard has been active as YlangYlang since 2012, a creative staple in the Montreal music community. She’s worked frequently as a collaborator, but continues developing her unique interstitial solo recordings through a variety of labels and performance experiments. Inspired in part by the writing of Danish poet Inger Christensen, in Debard’s words Interplay explores “how we are shaped and shaping our experience at the same time” and “how free we can be within our own limitations.”
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