Staff Picks - April 2020

Staff Picks - April 2020

May 3, 2020

Written by:

Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

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Music defies the lockdown and continues to flourish in April. Check out 30 albums comprising both new and old music; as usual, anything from Indonesian contemporary trance music to ambient and modern psychedelic cumbia, experimental techno and Ghanaian funeral songs 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.

From Arrington de Dionyso to Damily

Asunción + Ihä - Lof (Medio Oriente & Diseminación)
Asunción + Ihä - Lof (Medio Oriente & Diseminación)
Andrea Taeggi - Mycorrhiza (OOH-sounds)
One half of duo Lumisokea and persistent sonic explorer Andrea Taeggi (Opal Tapes, SM-LL, Type, Präsens Editionen) debuts on OOH-sounds with a new solo album under-the-influence of mushrooms. Recorded at Willem-Twee synthesis studios in Holland, MYCORRHIZA is a lucid excursion into a new form of ‘ritual- computer-music’ — gamelan from the future. Of course this is not the first album born under-the-influence of mushrooms, but apparently Taeggi doesn’t take them here as he rather observes the cognitive and intelligent behavior of mycorrhizal fungal roots—one of the great mysteries inhabiting the forest soil, and from which a network of beneficial underground relationships with plants sprouts. Known as Mycelium, this fascinating wood-wide-web very much resembles the intricacy of the human neural system—transporting carbon, water and nutrients from one tree to another. A mutualistic symbiosis that Taeggi similarly establishes with the rather rare arsenal of sound machineries he had access to at Willem-Twee synthesis studios in Holland—a center for experimentation inspired by Berio and Maderna’s Studio di Fonologia RAI in 1950s Milan.

VA - Anthology Of Contemporary Music From Indonesia (Unexplained Sounds Group)
The new VA compilation from the Italian imprint Unexplained Sounds dives into traditional Indonesian music, even in its more 'primitive' forms, as well in the very elaborate and developed ones from Javanese and Balinese tradition. The current mix of influences in the experimental and avant-garde music from this region has resulted in an extremely fascinating kaleidoscope of sounds.



Arrington de Dionyso - Lungs (self-released)
American experimental musician continues his Quarantine Sessions with Lungs, a 7 songs album so heavy that it even questions the aesthetics of free music, if any. One should be careful with this music; in case of emergency, break the glass.

Asunción + Ihä - Lof (Medio Oriente & Diseminación)
A silent two long pieces album, great for meditation. Lof is the result of a fruitful collaboration between Chilean musicians Asunción (real name Cristian Sánchez on synthesizers, sampler and effects) and ihä (real name Ignacio Moreno Fluxà on guitar and effects).



Damily - Early Years: Madagascar Cassette Archives (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
Damily was born in 1968 in Tongobory, a village surrounded by the great Malagasy river Onilahy. His career as a professional Tsapiky musician began in 1986; he settled in France in 2003, and since then has been developing his international career with his Malagasy musicians. This album is a compilation of his cassettes recorded in Madagascar between 1995 and 2002.
fra fra - Funeral Songs (Glitterbeat Records)
fra fra - Funeral Songs (Glitterbeat Records)

From DJ Die Soon to Gabriel Birnbaum

DJ Die Soon - Kappa Slap (Morphine Records)
Berlin based Japanese artist Daisuke Imamura aka DJ Die Soon drops the debut LP Kappa Slap on Morphine, after an initial 7” released as well by Rabih Beaini’s imprint in February. Obsessed with horror themes, DJ Die Soon creates an artistic universe by weaving demon masks, Manga and other elements of Japanese culture into his drawings but also into his music.



Duckett - Emperor's New Clothes Part Two (Berceuse Heroique)
Duckett is a producer and performer from Wales, releasing distinct and curious electronic music since 2001. He’s a core resident of the Freerotation festival and has released on labels including Until My Heart Stops, Freerotation and Greta Cottage Workshop. His music is difficult to pin down. However, his latest release for Berceuse Heroique sits somewhere on the edge of experimental electronic music.

fra fra - Funeral Songs (Glitterbeat Records)
Raw and celebratory funeral music from northern Ghana. Hypnotic kologo excursions. Pulsing percussion. Enraptured voices. Recorded 100% live and outdoors by Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Ustad Saami). Sixth release from Glitterbeat's acclaimed Hidden Musics series.

Gabriel Birnbaum - Nightwater (self-released)
Gabriel Birnbaum is a saxophonist, songwriter and composer living in Brooklyn, NY. He is a touring member of Debo Band, as well as the songwriter behind Wilder Maker (Northern Spy, Saddle Creek). He also released music solo, under his own name at Arrowhawk Records. ”This pandemic has been awful for so many people I care about in the music industry. Writers, venue workers, agents, musicians: all of us have lost work and are at risk. Seeing just how fast this can happen has given me some harsh clarity about my longstanding dreams of living only as a working musician. Dreams that, if achieved, would have left me without any income right now. There’s nothing I love the way I love music, but this industry is very sick and its most valuable contributors are just insanely vulnerable. It’s not right. I don’t know how to fix it but we need to,” says Gabriel Birnbaum.



Heerlens Percussie Ensemble - Biologic Music (Hot Mule)
"I was using a bucket full of water with a sponge: above it a microphone was placed to capture water noises in the background." Put into the spotlight by Daphni on one of his most appreciated edits earlier last decade, Heerlens Percussie Ensemble is a less known Dutch project from the mid 80's. Now almost 35 years later, Paris based label Hot Mule is giving this one-of-a-kind masterpiece its well-deserved repress. The music qualifies as percussion jazz overall, revealing minimal, African and groovy experiments on a peculiar atmosphere, with exquisite and fine details all over the songs. However, though the whole feel and excitement mainly came out of improvisations, combining the traditional and classical percussionist style with new ideas and musical influences, fully expressing the band aesthetic and making Biological Music a creative success. The LP comes with full liner notes and rare photos, plus some very interesting stories and thoughts from each individual band member. Audio restauration was very well taken care of as well and the sound is simply superb. Picked by Alexandru Drăgănescu (JB)
Joe Maneri, Udi Hrant, and Friends - The Cleopatra Record (Canary Records)
Joe Maneri, Udi Hrant, and Friends - The Cleopatra Record (Canary Records)

From João Pais Filipe to Jordan Reyes

islandman - Kaybola (Music For Dreams)
Anatolian psychedelia meets ritualistic rave on Kaybola, the second album by Islandman, released via Danish imprint, Music For Dreams. Fusing hypnotic guitar melodies, cross-continental field recordings and bubbling shamanic rhythms, Kaybola exhibits the Turkish trio’s original brand of spiritually guided, global electronica.

James Marrs - No worries if not (Laura Lies In)
After releasing on imprints such as SD Records and Jacktone, experimental producer James Marrs returns with a new album, this time on the London based Laura Lies In. No worries if not deals with an intricate pallet of sounds, each track is confronting different soundscapes and rhythms. Cool cover too.



João Pais Filipe - Sun Oddly Quiet (Lovers & Lollypops)
João Pais Filipe (b. 1980) is a drummer/percussionist and sound sculptor from Porto. Approaching a wide range of styles and languages, he played in various bands such as Sektor 304, HHY & The Macumbas, Talea Jacta, Paisiel, Rafael Toral Space Quartet. His recent album Sun Oddly Quiet presents four minimalist percussive pieces, deciphering and building unique polyrhythmic sound structures.

Joe Maneri, Udi Hrant, and Friends - The Cleopatra Record (Canary Records)
This group of recordings seems to represent the earliest recording session of Joe Maneri’s and among the last of Udi Hrant’s, a coincidence organized by an as-yet anonymous performer. The drummer, pianist, and bassist on the session were Joe’s band at the time, the same group on the 1964 demo session for Atlantic (issued on CD in Japan in 1998 under the title Paniots 9).



Jordan Reyes - Closer (American Dreams)
”When I’m making music with synthesizers it still feels like I’m trying to harness and channel some ungraspable force from the aether. I hope it always does. These early recordings were the first time I touched that energy and because of that, they will always feel particularly personal and special. I hope they feel personal and special to you, too.” Jordan Reyes
Oxana Grigorieva / Peter Ototsky / Sergey Bolotin / Andrey Kim - Drumazhur (ТОПОТ)
Oxana Grigorieva / Peter Ototsky / Sergey Bolotin / Andrey Kim - Drumazhur (ТОПОТ)

From Lagno to Phurpa

Lagno - Natural Language (Das Andere Selbst)
Lagno is the solo project of Elodie Le Neindre, a French violinist based in Berlin. Her music explores a variety of acoustic and electronic instruments blended with live looping, sampling and effect processing. Natural Language is her debut album, out on the Berlin based imprint Das Andere Selbst.

Magam - Reinventing Magam (Thirsty Leaves Music)
Magam is a music project comprising Romanian musician Călin Torsan and Greek based artist moody alien. Reinventing MAGAM was a live performance that took place at the Underflow Record Store & Art Gallery, in Athens, on May 11, 2018. It was the first one to feature Călin Torsan, a session recorded before they released the albums One and Another. The album also comes as a bundle with moody alien's book "The Flame Within", from which the project drew some inspiration.



Maxwell Sterling - Laced With Rumour: Loud-Speaker Of Truth (Ecstatic)
Weaving an intricately detailed tapestry of meditative, spiritual jazz and dream electronics, Maxwell Sterling’s dazing second album Laced With Rumour: Loud-Speaker Of Truth blooms in the gaps between Don Cherry, Talk Talk and Kara-Lis Coverdale, gently coaxing the listener into a trance-like reverie, where the real and artificial morph into one pulsing organism.

Oxana Grigorieva / Peter Ototsky / Sergey Bolotin / Andrey Kim - Drumazhur (ТОПОТ)
Drumazhur was recorded live in Moscow’s Gorky Park in the summer of 2018. ”In this performance we did not pursue any symbolism — we, like ordinary citizens, drooling from free improvisation (and drums), just wanted to see the lively interaction of the musicians and the power of simultaneously playing four percussion instruments.”



Phurpa - Hymns of Gyer (Ideologic Organ)
Phurpa is a Russian musical collective and performance group, recording and playing authentic ritual music of Bon, the oldest Buddhist tradition from Tibet, using ritual instruments and special tantric singing technique. The band was formed in 2003, with Alexei Tegin as a leader. Their new album released by the French imprint Ideologic Organ was made during an acoustic session dedicated to the space of primordial being [mu-ye] in February 2020 in Moscow.
Romperayo - Uyuyuis (self-release)
Romperayo - Uyuyuis (self-release)

From Romperayo to Sir Richard Bishop

Plevna - Collabs! (self-released)
The latest release under Horațiu Șerbănescu’s project Plevna comprises a series of jams in collaboration with three fresh blood Romanian musicians: Bogdan Stoian, Alex X-Tra-ta and Marian Bizgă. From modern soul to imaginary soundscapes of tallava and beyond.

Poisonous Frequencies + Hans Falb - The Prague Tapes (Meteorismo)
The Prague Tapes elegantly joggles with free jazz, analog electronics and experimental sounds and represents the unique result of the collaboration between Poisonous Frequencies (Didi Kern on drums, Tomislav Federsel on guitar and Petr Vrba on trumpet and electronics) and Hans Falb (turntables). Watch out, this is one for the weirder side of things.



Romperayo - Uyuyuis (self-release)
Romperayo is an energetic musical journey through Colombian tropical folklore, a playful and modern interpretation of the psychedelic sounds of ’70s cumbia.

SiP - Leos Naturals (Not Not Fun Records)
SiP is an experimental synth soundscapes project made by Jimmy Lacy, a musician and producer based in Chicago, Illinois. Lacy speaks of SiP as a headspace “in sync with my own clock and rhythms,” which is apparent in his uniquely attuned playing, both motorik and meandering, between raga, rave-up, and reverie. Leos Naturals is his debut album.



Sir Richard Bishop - Oneiric Formulary (Drag City Records)
Sir Richard Bishop returns in excellent shape with Oneiric Formulary, a 10 songs album with the sound of surprise. Meet six-string acoustic rags ‘n ragas, electric guitar, loads of effects and much more.
VA - WorldWideWindow (Enisslab)
VA - WorldWideWindow (Enisslab)

From Ulrich Krieger to Wukir Suryadi

Tashi Dorji & Tyler Damon - To Catch A Bird In A Net Of Wind (Trost Records)
Tashi Dorji (electric guitar) and Tyler Damon (drums/percussion) have developed a musical language that is not only shaped by original forms as free jazz, metal, rock and Buddhist monastic music. Their sound merges passion and emotions of literature, art, cultural movements, politics - flashes of ecstatic intensity, blurred timbral lines, fractal repetition, noir-ish, cinematic mystery and inclinations toward free play hint that the two are pleased to follow a winding path to destinations yet unknown.

VA - The Uncanny Times (Hive Mind Records)
This compilation was initiated by Hive Mind Records as a response to the unfolding Corona Virus crisis. ”Seeing so many people around the world losing jobs over recent weeks, and generally being placed in extremely precarious financial situations has been difficult and we thought it would be good to give some new music to the world and make it available to anyone regardless of their ability to pay.”



Ulrich Krieger - Wall Of Sound: Drones/Patterns/Noises (Sub Rosa)
Walls of Sounds is a series of CDs about music that invites the listener to indulge themselves in sound. It doesn’t guide an audience through a narrative—like a song—, but offers the listener slow changing and developing soundscapes, acoustic sculptures, to immerse themselves in. How listeners move in and through these sounds is up to them: meditative drifting along, focusing on certain small details of sounds, letting themselves be taken away by emerging psycho-acoustic phenomena or going back and forth between listening attitudes.

VA - WorldWideWindow (Enisslab)
In light of the current Covid-19 Pandemic Studio Enisslab headed up by Italian DJ and producer Neel has announced the release of a very special 56 track charity compilation project, fundraising for The Red Cross, who are working extremely hard alongside health services internationally that are feeling the effects of the corona-virus outbreak the most right now. The compilation is available for a limited time via Bandcamp and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to The Red Cross to help the world’s most affected countries in the Covid-19 pandemic. This special release features over six hours of previously unreleased and unheard material, where an all-star cast of artists were encouraged to share music that reflects this time we are living in.



Wukir Suryadi - Sound of Intuition (self-released)
Indonesian experimental musician Wukir Suryadi (better known as one half of Senyawa returns with a new release comprising some of his audio performance documented between 2009 and 2018. Each of the fifth pieces was recorded in a different city, namely Malang, Surakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta and Kyoto.

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