Staff Picks - August 2020

Staff Picks - August 2020

September 16, 2020

Written by:

Victor Stutz & Dragoș Rusu

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August 2020 seemed a bit more quieter than previous months in terms of releases, but several terrible events shacked the world and this was also reflected in the music. Enjoy this strong selection of 26 albums presenting both new and old music released last month. Anything from ambient to traditional/ethnic, to psychedelic, experimental, free jazz and improvised music, classical contemporary, or even speed core; you name it, we have it.

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 Channelers to Duma

V.A. - Beyond the Static (Soundsphere)
V.A. - Beyond the Static (Soundsphere)
Attilio Novellino & Our Love Will Destroy The World - The Assault Of Heaven (Opal Tapes)
The Assault Of Heaven relies on radical thought of the negative as the creative driving force. Inspired by the theory and actions of Mikhail Bakunin it explores the era of the “violence of positivity”, which appears in the form of overproduction, overachievement and transparency, consisting of two long suites, combining music for traditional instruments, contemporary classic, drone, noise and free-rock music.

V.A. - Beyond the Static (Soundsphere)
Beyond the Static is a new various artists compilation curated by the Romanian netlabel Soundsphere, bringing together artists from Romania, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Ukraine who explore the twisting combinations between ambient, drone and experimental music with contemporary literature and poetry.

Channelers - Isles Beyond (Inner Islands)
This is the tenth full-length release by Channelers, an artist and musician based out of Oakland, California, by the name of Sean Conrad. He produces music since 2015 and releases under his own imprint Inner Islands. Suitable for meditation, the whole album is a beautiful journey, providing inner peace through its healing soundscapes.



Dwiki Dharmawan - Hari Ketiga (MoonJune Records)
Dwiki Dharmawan is a distinguished pianist, keyboardist, and composer, one whose name is deservedly becoming more and more popular, thanks in part to his capacity to conjure unique, multicultural musical amalgams.



Duma - Duma (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
Martin Khanja (aka Lord Spike Heart) and Sam Karugu emerge from Nairobi's flourishing underground metal scene as former members of the bands Lust of a Dying Breed and Seeds of Datura. Together in 2019 they formed Duma (Darkness in Kikuyu) with Sam abandoning bass for production and guitars and Lord Spike Heart providing extreme vocals to the project. Recorded at Nyege Nyege Studios in Kampala over three months in mid 2019 their self-titled debut album fuses the frenetic euphoria, unrelenting physicality and rebellious attitude of hardcore punk and trash metal with bone-crunching breakcore and raw, nihilist industrial noise through a claustrophobic vortex of visceral screams.

V.A. - For Belarus
"The events currently unfolding in Belarus are terrifying and, perhaps, miraculous. Terrifying because the illegitimate president Aleksandr Lukashenko, known as “Europe’s last dictator”, is waging a war against his citizens in plain sight - his forces are beating, torturing, and killing peaceful protesters who are fighting for their right to honest, transparent elections. Thousands of people were arrested and many of them are still missing. Miraculous because the largest act of solidarity in Belarusian history is being conducted without coordination, leadership, or even an internet connection on the first days after elections. Kilometer-long chains of women in white with flowers are blocking security forces from continuing their violent suppression of entirely peaceful protestors. Factory workers on strike are having their lost wages supplemented by charitable contributions. And everywhere a spirit of joy, pride, and hope permeates this movement, despite the overwhelming repression and force with which they have been met. While Belarusians have real hope for a victory of the righteous, they need your support, your help, and your awareness. The aim of this international compilation is to show solidarity with these brave Belarusians and collect money for the victims of repression. Funds will be sent directly to Belarus Solidarity Foundation - one of several foundations currently helping Belarus. There is no time to wait — they desperately need our help now."


Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids - Shaman! (Strut)
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids - Shaman! (Strut)

From Gestalt Et Jive to Happy Dead Man

Gestalt Et Jive - Neowise (Al Maslakh Records)
Neowise is a previously unreleased live recording from Alfred Harth’s Gestalt Et Jive quartet, an experimental international band active in the 80s’, playing a hybrid of jazz and RIO styles. All sales of this album are donated to Lebanese organizations providing relief to the victims of the blast from August 4th, 2020.

Happy Dead Man - Vines Grow Between My Eyes (Unrock)
W. David Oliphant, Michael Pistrui (Fat Gray Cat) and Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls, Dwarfs Of East Agouza, Invisible Hands, Clandestine Quartet) came together in Arizona in February 2020 to record an album in two days. Nobody could guess that it would land this far beyond expectations. Prepared computer (W.David Oliphant) and acoustic guitar (Alan Bishop) are the only instruments used, together with the charismatic voice of Alan Bishop, and featuring the vocal talents of Michael Pistrui.

Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids - Shaman! (Strut Records)
Influential jazz collective Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids return with an epic new opus, ‘Shaman!’, featuring a fresh line-up including original 1970s Pyramids member Dr. Margaux Simmons on flute, Bobby Cobb on guitar, long-term associate Sandra Poindexter on violin, Ruben Ramos on bass, Gioele Pagliaccia on drums and Jack Yglesias on percussion. The band transitions from the political and social commentaries of 2018’s acclaimed ‘An Angel Fell’ into more introspective themes.



Jim O'Rourke - Shutting Down Here (Portraits GRM/Editions Mego)
Shutting Down Here is a special work. Symbolically, it covers a period of thirty years, between two visits by Jim O'Rourke to the GRM, the first, as a young man fascinated by the institution and his repertoire, the second, as an accomplished musician, influential and imbued with an aura of mystery.

John Butcher & Rhodri Davies - Japanese Duets (Weight Of Wax)
UK free improvising saxophonist John Butcher meets harpist Rhodri Davies for a session of Japanese Duets, the third album in the series "The Memory of Live Music", released on Butcher’s own imprint Weight Of Wax.



V.A. - Judgement Day (Doomshop Records)
Just in the right time globally, this collective of American rappers and producers from Doomshop Records returns with a new uncompromising Various Artists compilation record, Judgement Day. Freddie Dredd—Doomshop Records’ young, Canadian rapper-producer—has made a breakthrough in the industry as of late, even though he’s been making music for over four years. Doomshop’s stance lies in the lo-fi, cassette-esque, Memphis-Houston-underground-inspired sound.


Marko Melkon - Hi​-​Fi Adventure in Asia Minor (Canary Records)
Marko Melkon - Hi​-​Fi Adventure in Asia Minor (Canary Records)

From Martina Claussen to Matmos

Ken Vandermark / Christof Kurzmann - Consequent Duos: series 2e (Audiographic Records)
The collaboration between these two musicians goes back nearly a decade, in ensembles like El Infierno Musical (a tribute to Alejandra Pizarnik), Made To Break, and most recently Entr’acte. Despite the years of work, many recordings together, and a number of concerts in Argentina, Brazil, and Europe as a duo, they have only released one document of this material, which was part of the box set released by Not Two in 2014, “Nine Ways To Read A Bridge.” This is the fifth volume.

V.A. - LLI008 Compilation (Laura Lies In)
The new compilation from Laura Lies In serves as a celebration of the ever expanding and evolving label family. LLI008 comprises of an LP, a 50 odd page booklet (an 8-page photobook and insert), further digital tracks and some web-based contributions. Expect music from the likes of Conal Blake, Simon Benjamin, Joe Beedles, Syncom Data, DJ Marcelle and much more. Play this out loud, and if you feel like dancing, just dance.

Lingo Seini et son groupe - Musique Hauka (Sahel Sounds)
This album was recorded with a single microphone in the outskirts of Niamey (Niger) and comprises praise songs and sacred incantations to the spirits to inhabit the body. The Hauka movement started nearly a century ago and has persisted on the fringes of Nigerien society. Documented in the 1955 Jean Rouch film Les maîtres fous, the Hauka are a pantheon on spirits mirrored on colonial and military figures. Central to the religion is the “Holley Hori” possession ceremony, a ritual driven by militaristic percussive music, wherein spirits come into the body in powerful and violent manifestations. Lingo Seini has played ritual music for almost 60 years, learning from his father. He is joined by his son Youssouf on the calabash and Issaka Moulla, playing his homemade kuntigi. The group regularly accompanies Hauka priests in ceremonies.



Martina Claussen - Verwoben (Forwind)
Martina Claussen has been active as a composer, vocal artist and Professor of Voice in Vienna for many years. After many collaborations and appearances on some excellent compilations, she's arrived at her full debut album, also thirtieth release from the catalogue of Forwind.

Marko Melkon - Hi​-​Fi Adventure in Asia Minor (Canary Records)
"Melkon, then in his mid-60s and coming to the end of 40 years as one of the most prolific performers of Turkish-style folk music in the U.S., plays on the session, as he always did, beautifully. The arrangements are hard, fast, and loud, suitable for a harder, faster, louder America where rhythm and blues had become rock n roll and rural "hillbilly" music had become bluegrass and the Nashville. sound - an America where all folk music had been fitted with V8 engines and tailfins." Ian Nagoski

Matmos - The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises in Group Form (Thrill Jockey Records)
Matmos’ practice of creative constraint has made them one of the most consistently exciting acts in electronic music. The duo of M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel are well known for their long-standing practice of sampling unusual sound sources and experimenting with conceptual restrictions. As a couple in life and music for more than 25 years, Schmidt and Daniel have a particularly democratic approach to music making, each taking it in turns to come up with the framework or starting point for an album. The Consuming Flame: Open Exercises In Group Form was conceived by M.C. Schmidt, who made the decision to orient the record around a deceptively simple commitment. 99 different musicians were asked to contribute to the recording with only one instruction: they could play anything that they wanted, but the tempo of any rhythmic material had to be set at 99 beats per minute. The resulting album is a three-hour long assemblage that travels across a shifting kaleidoscope of genre, mood and density, all synchronized to a constant underlying tempo.



Meridian Brothers - Cumbia Siglo XXI (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
The traditional train of thought of Meridian Brothers is the figuration of an abstract picture of sound put it within a concrete context or cultural tendency. Their new album, Cumbia Siglo XXI travers the multifaceted terrain of 80s Cumbia, funky basses and a further evolution of the rhythms with disco and even rock music. Meridian Brothers is one of those bands where you can find a distinct sense of superimposing the traditional versus the urban context and the modernity.
Vladislav Delay + Sly Dunbar + Robbie Shakespeare - 500 Push-Up (Sub Rosa)
Vladislav Delay + Sly Dunbar + Robbie Shakespeare - 500 Push-Up (Sub Rosa)

From Saint Abdullah to Senyawa

Noemienours - Unquestioning unrequited (Noemienours Records / Unread)
Have you ever imagined how music for bears could sound like? The elusive Swedish musician noemienours did, and therefore here’s Unquestioning unrequited. All proceeds of digital downloads are donated to Hunt saboteurs Sweden.

Saint Abdullah - In God’s Image (Psychic Liberation)
Saint Abdullah is the project composed of two Tehran-born brothers: Mohammad and Mehdi. They have fine-tuned their vision of conceptual, blown-out dub and free jazz with “In God’s Image,” an ambitious twenty-song double CD out on the Dutch imprint Psychic Liberation. The opus by the two Iranians living in New York is full of mourning and rage, but these affects only scratch the surface of the work’s emotional and formal heterogeneity.

Senyawa & Stephen O'Malley - Bima Sakti (iDEAL Recordings)
Indonesian musicians from Senyawa joined Stephen O’Malley in Brussels in 2018, and the result of their collaborative work is called Bima Sakti, a very special album out on iDEAL. "Bima" is a name of a powerful black skinned Hindu God and also in Javanese Wayang Mythology. "Sakti" means "beyond powerful". So instead of taking the Ancient Greek mythology like the origin of the name Milky Way, the translation took a local mythology that describes the shape of the galaxy that looks like Bima is fighting a dragon.



Serpente - Fé/Vazio (Ecstatic Recordings)
Ecstatic keeps the spitits up with a record from Lisbon’s Serpente that feels unlocked and cosmically free compared with so much rictus, floor-based music, but with a grit and colour that can’t be denied on (currently imaginary) dance floors.

Taras Bulba - Soul Weaver (Riot Season Records)
Soul-Weaver was recorded between February and April of 2020. The album is a sharp contrast to the Taras Bulba debut. Whereas ‘One’ was a laid back psilocybic novelty travelogue; Soul-weaver is more guitar driven dream like psychedelia, mixing 60’s garage rock, shoegaze, bucolic west coast acid folk and ambient feedback.

V.A. - The Sacred Rage (Morphine Records)
The Sacred Rage, a collection of unreleased tracks by some of the finest musicians, who wanted to contribute to the fundraise and who shared our anger and disappointment in the Lebanese authorities. It is a personal and collective gesture of resistance, by Label owner Rabih Beaini, and fellow musicians Donato Dozzy, “A” trio, Monolake, Thomas Brinkmann, Havlovi, and many others. A 12 tracks compilation that screams justice, equality, dignity, compiled in a confused and angry state of mind but made with love and loads of energy.



Vladislav Delay + Sly Dunbar + Robbie Shakespeare - 500 Push-Up (Sub Rosa)
Vladislav Delay met Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare (the most prolific Jamaican rhythm section and production duo) thanks to a series of jam sessions. Trumpet player Nils-Petter Molvaer had been asked by the Jamaicans to join them and he invited Delay alongside guitar player Eivind Aarset to tag along, which eventually turned into the Nordub project. The result of these jam sessions turned into an album, mixed and mostly produced by Vladislav Delay, released on the label Okeh. It was also followed by an extensive series of live dates. This one-shot reunion was the beginning of another story: a trio composed by Delay, Dunbar and Shakespeare.
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Victor Stutz & Dragoș Rusu

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