Staff Picks - September 2020

Staff Picks - September 2020

October 8, 2020

Written by:

Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

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September 2020 was very rich in diverse music, a fact which probably can be reflected in this month's Staff Picks too. Here's 31 albums comprising anything from psychedelic to improvised music, ethnic, ambient, electronic hybrids of all sorts, free-rock and beyond, both new and reissues; 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 Billy Brooks to Charbel Haber

ALSO (Katharina Ernst / Martin Siewert) - Live in Celovec (Trost Records)
ALSO (Katharina Ernst / Martin Siewert) - Live in Celovec (Trost Records)
Various Artists - Al-Ibtihal (Rhadâb)
Ibtihal is an Arabic word that can be translated as a hard state to reach, a deep mental connection towards the within where a being can feel for the entity he is worshiping, an entity that can be benevolent or malevolent, obedient or imperious, from above or from below. A double-edged sabre.

ALSO (Katharina Ernst / Martin Siewert) - Live in Celovec (Trost Records)
Viennese improvisation guitar/drums duo ALSO comprising Katharina Ernst and Martin Siewert are back with a new live recording. The two of them have been working together for more than five years now and continue to enjoy their compelling dynamics. This set is full of fire and thunder but also drawn by some striking and fragile moments thru variety of effects and some delicate lap steel play- true two masters in working on the axis of refracting and reflecting, and throwing it back again.

Arurmukha - 14.11.90 - ein akustisches psychogramm (Karlrecords)
This is a reissue of the album which Marc Weiser (Rechenzentrum, zeitkratzer) and Jurgen Hendlmeier created as Arurmukha. With the use of soundbites, field recordings, and stylistically diverse tracks, they reprocess the eviction of 13 squats on Mainzer Straße in Berlin-Friedrichshain in November 1990, forming it into an acoustic scenography. The violent confrontation between the police and about 500 squatters, involving armored vehicles, helicopters, and 10 water cannons, was the biggest police operation in Berlin's post-war history, with 4000 officers deployed, and is deemed to be the last big "battle" of left-wing squatters in Germany. The insert for the LP provides a detailed chronicle of the events (taken from the book "Berlin Mainzer Straße: Wohnen ist wichtiger als das Gesetz [Berlin Mainzer Straße: Housing is more important than the law]", published in 1992 by Basis-Druck)

Billy Brooks - Windows Of The Mind (1974 - reissue) (WeWantSounds)
Here’s the the reissue of Billy Brooks' much sought-after album "Windows Of The Mind," released in 1974 on Ray Charles' Crossover Records. The album, co-produced by Charles and featuring such heavy players as Herman Riley, Calvin Keys and Larry Gales, includes one of the most famous samples in hip hop history in the form of 'Fourty Days' which forms the backbone of A Tribe Called Quest's 1990 anthemic 'Luck of Lucien.' Newly remastered, the reissue comes with original artwork.

Brett Naucke - EMS Hallucinations (American Dreams)
The Chicago based electronic composer and performing artist Brett Naucke held an artistic residency at Stockholm’s Elektronmusikstudion aka EMS and this is the result, a mind-bending album comprising 4 "hallucinatory" pieces, out on American Dreams. EMS was founded in 1964 as a public studio primarily for electro-acoustic and electronic music, and is one of few places where musicians can access and record on two rare, foundational synthesizer systems - Buchla 200 and a Serge Modular - through their artist-in-residency program.



Charbel Haber - The Delightful Sights And Sounds Of A Decaying Nation (Discrepant)
Charbel Haber is Lebanese musician, performer, visual artist and composer from Beirut. His work has seen him collaborate with artists from a wide range of disciplines - music, film, video art, visual art, theatre - both in Lebanon and abroad. 100% of sales of this album released by Discrepant will be donated to a musicians’ fund organised by Tunefork studios in Beirut.
François Tusques - La Chasse Au Snark (The Hunting Of The Snark) (Finders Keepers Records)
François Tusques - La Chasse Au Snark (The Hunting Of The Snark) (Finders Keepers Records)

From Galya Bisengalieva to Grand River

CXCXCX - Breathing Relic (Tutamen)
Ectopic industrial movements from CXCXCX out of Denver. A theme for the eternal year.

Evan Parker & Agusti Fernandez - Tempranillo (Fundacja Słuchaj)
This is a reedition of the first meeting between Evan Parker and Agusti Fernandez. "In music everything is possible, especially when dealing with musics that tend in a natural way towards improvisation or that spontaneously come from it. And improvisation is a synonymous of a constant surprise.” Miquel Jurado

François Tusques - La Chasse Au Snark (The Hunting Of The Snark) (Finders Keepers Records)
"In 1967, 1968 and 1969 most of my works were happenings loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting Of The Snark, a not-so-cryptic poem that, to my mind, gave clues to free the theatre in the same way the “new music” had freed jazz. It never made it to record and I gave up on the idea when I met Sunny Murray and Alan Silva when they arrived in Paris in the summer of ‘69. Few concert venues would have anything to do with us but we didn’t want that kind of connection with the public – famous or not (Jacques Higelin joined on occasion!) – which more often than not would join us on stage to bang percussion, sing, dance, freak out. Our favorite part was when we shut down the lights near the end, silently left the stage, and when the light went on for the curtain... The public had formally taken our place." François Tusques

Galya Bisengalieva - Aralkum (One Little Independent Records)
The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet. Situated in Central Asia, it was once the fourth largest lake in the world. But the rivers that fed the Aral were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects from the 1960s. It has been disappearing ever since. By 1997, it had diminished to ten percent of its original size and satellite images captured by NASA in August of 2014 revealed that - for the first time in modern history - the Eastern basin of the Aral Sea had dried up completely, a region now known as the Aralkum desert. This disaster is the subject of Kazakh-British violinist Galya Bisengalieva’s arresting debut album “Aralkum”. As leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra, the award-winning violinist has collaborated with composers such as Steve Reich, Laurie Spiegel, Suzanne Ciani and more.



Grand River - Blink A Few Times To Clear Your Eyes (Editions Mego)
After two years since her debut full-length release, Grand River presents her second album “Blink A Few Times To Clear Your Eyes” on Editions Mego. The 8 track LP shows an evolution towards a more experimental side of the Dutch-Italian composer which is here superbly combined with her ability of creating melodies previously heard on her 2xLP “Pineapple”, released on Spazio Disponibile in 2018.

V.A. - Hallucinating Heights (Ondes HXCX)
The second release on Ondes HXCX brings together a selection of emerging, as well as more established artists from Romania. Music by the likes of Khidja, Somnoroase Păsărele, Simina Oprescu, Admina, Deathbycoconut, Grigore and more.


Lagoss - Imaginary Island Music Vol.1: Canary Islands (Discrepant)
Lagoss - Imaginary Island Music Vol.1: Canary Islands (Discrepant)

From Katharina Klement to Marta De Pascalis

Josiah Steinbrick - Liquid / Devotion & Tongue Street Blue (Hands in the Dark)
A vibrant collection of cinematic pieces that drape tapestries of FM synthesis and percussion around serpentine bass lines, this is Josiah Steinbrick’s new work for Hands in the Dark. The album unfolds like a rapturous dream with hushed laments, ecstatic rhythms, and hypnotic provisions. Liquid / Devotion & Tongue Street Blue digs charmingly into unknown terrains, building his own potent creative offering.



Katharina Klement - Vessel 1.2 / Suite pour une femme seule (Ventil Records)
With »vessel 1.2« & »suite pour une femme seule«, the Vienna based composer Katharina Klement presents a precise arranged album where instrumental approaches (piano on Side A and Zither on Side B) are almost invisibly connected to electronic manipulations. Due to Klement’s compositional skills, each of the two pieces easily keeps up the tension over the whole duration. The quality and focus she puts into each single sound, it’s appearance as well as its disappearance is eerie, but especially shows off in the first section of vessel 1.2. Though improvisation plays a main part in her work and also for this record, nothing seems to happen without being well thought of.

Krononaut - Krononaut (Glitterbeat Records)
Coming out of the fertile London jazz and experimental scenes, Krononaut is a richly textured new ensemble helmed by guitarist /producer Leo Abrahams (Brian Eno, Imogen Heap, Jon Hopkins) and drummer Martin France (Nils Petter Molvær, Evan Parker). The album features an esteemed group of collaborators and a sonic footprint that channels spectral ambiance, ‘fourth world’ expansions and a gorgeous slow-boiling pointillism.

Lagoss - Imaginary Island Music Vol.1: Canary Islands (Discrepant)
London based Discrepant imprint introduces Lagoss, a new project comprising Gonçalo F. Cardoso the head of Discrepant and the person behind projects like Gonzo, Visions Congo, Papillon or Prophetas and Tenerife electronic stalwarts Tupperwear (Mladen Kurajica and Dani Tupper). Diving deep into various phantom island mythologies (the elusive St. Brendan’s island being a recurring motif) Lagoss borrow from the exotica playbook of ideas and twist it inside out into a bubbling melting pot of sounds, shapes and patterns that eventually confuse, wonder and (occasionally) scare the inattentive listener.

Lucrecia Dalt - No era sólida (RVNG Intl.)
Lucrecia Dalt dissolves herself into sound on No era sólida, a suspended auditory illusion guided by unconscious murmurs, cosmic oscillations, and unpredictable percussion. No era sólida is a meeting place between phenomenal and noumenal worlds, and encourages the listener, like Lucrecia, to embrace the possibilities of possession.

Marta De Pascalis - Sonus Ruinae (Morphine Records)
Marta De Pascalis is an Italian musician and sound designer living in Berlin. She developed her musician skills under the spell of the Italian sound labs sphere, from Gruppo di Improvvisazione to Battiato and other masters that influenced the global movement of sound designers. Her solo works employ analog synthesis and tape loops, incorporating free playing into steady, repetitive patterns. Her beautiful new album Sonus Ruinae, out on Morphine Records, is a provocative listen, full of harmonies and affect, meticulously built layer by layer.



V.A. - Перамен! (Peramen!) A Compilation for Belarus (Radio Kapital)
V.A. - Перамен! (Peramen!) A Compilation for Belarus (Radio Kapital)

From None to Potter Natalizia Zen

NO/ON - Fajir (Zela Archives)
A mixture of industrial soundscapes and traditional elements from Middle East written and produced in Gyzi, Athens during 2020. This project is a collage of voices, images, sounds, lives. Created from the deep rage of all the oppressed populations, Fajir is dedicated to the people of Palestine and their rights.



None - Khneï Khneï Thnacapata Thnacapata (Unknown Precept)
The oddly titled album Khneï Khneï Thnacapata Thnacapata from the defunct Parisian band None is a compelling demonstration in self-restraint as well as one of the very few relics left to cherish of the short-lived group. Arranged as a forty-minute-long movement, the posthumous album dives into free improvisation, no wave and post-punk in a composed mayhem that echoes their equally intense live conduct where steadfast drums and far out cassette manipulation meet head-on with troubled saxophone blows, lonesome crippled guitar action and unintelligible vocals in which to lose one’s mind.



Olec Mün - Reconciliation (Lady Blunt Records)
Reconciliation is a systemic piano work composed by Olec Mün in order to heal the wounds inherited by war, persecution and segregation. Grandson of four Jewish refugees who escaped the Second World War and emigrated to Argentina, he is the first one in two generations to settle back in this part of the world. Eighty years later, Olec Mün returns to Europe and the Reconciliation project emerges as a necessity of his Soul. The album is the outcome of his past, his memory, his roots which are transformed through composition. The tracks of Reconciliation carry a personal and universal history and trigger deep, emphatic feelings. A small and delicate universe of solo piano pieces which become a powerful message. Recorded on an upright piano, the music transmits a deep sense of intimacy, of belonging.

V.A. - Перамен! (Peramen!) A Compilation for Belarus (Radio Kapital)
"The artists featured on the Peramen! compilation also demand changes. While we cannot physically join the protesters on the streets of Belarus, we want to offer them at least this form of support. Our thoughts are with our friends – and with all the people who have been arrested, beaten, and humiliated. We join in the grief of families of all those murdered in the protests.” The compilation covers a wide spectrum of music, from club oddities, to classical and contemporary classical sonic experimentations, to noise, ambient, and free rock, folk, improvised music and so forth. Its geographical scope is similarly broad, spanning Belarus, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, USA, Russia, and Hungary.

Potter Natalizia Zen - Magari (Ecstatic)
Master synthesists Colin Potter (Nurse with Wound), Alessio Natalizia (Not Waving), and Guido Zen (Vactrol Park, Brain Machine) reprise their supergroup for Ecstatic with a seductively serpentine follow-up to their superb debut from a couple of years ago.

Robin Stewart - Marsupial (NoCorner)
Robin Stewart is one half of Giant Swan, one half of SRS with Sunun, and sonic provocateur as part of the multi-headed Avon Terror Corps contingent. His next solo offering, 'Marsupial', comprises 6 new cuts straight from the soundsystem minded, sonic swamp of Robin Stewart.
Rüstəm Quliyev - Azerbaijani Gitara (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
Rüstəm Quliyev - Azerbaijani Gitara (Les Disques Bongo Joe)

From Staraya Derevnya to Twinkle3

Rüstəm Quliyev - Azerbaijani Gitara (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
Rüstəm Quliyev was born in 1969 in the village of Kosalar, Nagorno Karabakh. At the age of seven he had already mastered the tar before moving on to play the saz. He first encountered guitar during his military service for the USSR in Russia and quickly made a name for himself as a guitarist after returning to Azerbaijan. During the early 1990s, after years of intense fighting, he had to flee his home due to the conflict in Karabakh and settled in the capital city Baku. There his guitar playing took on a new character. He played at weddings, made TV appearances, and recorded numerous cassettes with small local labels. Rüstəm’s guitar playing not only drew on the rich traditional music of Azerbaijan but his thirst and passion for music also meant that he incorporated styles from across the globe into his repertoire: from Bollywood disco tunes and Afghan pop songs to Iranian street melodies and Spanish flamenco. He crafted a unique sound within an already idiosyncratic subculture of Azerbaijani electric guitar music. Sadly, his career was brought to a sudden end in 2005 after a short battle with lung cancer. His music, however, lives on remaining popular throughout the country. This release of archival recordings, produced in collaboration with Rüstəm Quliyev’s family and Moutains of Tongues, marks the first international release of this guitar legend's music. A good opportunity for revisiting this mixtape made in collaboration with Radio Is A Foreign Country.

S A R R A M - Silenzio (self-released)
S A R R A M is the solo project of the Sardinian musician Valerio Marras, which combines elements of drone/ambient, post rock and doom. His latest work, "Silenzio", has been recorded and mixed during the lockdown. Every sound has been created, sampled, converted, destroyed and rebuilt in his home studio in Nuoro - Sardegna. The record counts eight witnesses in various languages such as Czech, Farsi (Persian), Sardo (Sardinian language), German.

Staraya Derevnya - Inwards opened the floor (Raash Records)
Staraya Derevnya (Russian: Старая деревня, "Old village") is British-Israeli experimental psychedelic band that has been active since 1994. It is named after the historic district of Saint Petersburg.



The Master Musicians of Jajouka, led by Bachir Attar with special guests - Jajouka Baraka
"All funds raised from donations to this project will be sent directly for the benefit of the Master Musicians of Jajouka, so that, in’shallah, the Pipes of Pan might continue to blow." This album comprises recordings made by The Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar with special guest Arrington de Dionyso and Jacopo Andreini.



Tolouse Low Trax - Jumping Dead Leafs (Bureau B)
Bureau B delivered this September the fourth solo album by Tolouse Low Trax, Jumping Dead Leafs. Tolouse Low Trax is the project of Detlef Weinrich, a member of Kreidler and Toresch. His new album comprises 8 tracks and is a 38-minute "exorcism, Dionysian sexiness fueled with romanticism, made of mechanical incantations mixed with spectral vocals".

Twinkle3 - Minor Planets (Marionette)
After fifteen years and two astounding releases, Twinkle³, the trio comprised of Richard Scott, David Ross, and Clive Bell complete their cosmos themed electroacoustic trilogy with the ‘Minor Planets’ LP. This third album is all about the unique synergies the group discovered in combining improvisations with studio and Musique concrète techniques.



Zonke Family - At The Studio (Philophon)
The members of the Zonke family from Nyamapanda, Zimbabwe, belong to the few remaining master musicians of the matepe, a type of lamellophone which belongs to the family of the mbira. This complex interlocking music is played on each instrument with four fingers, each employing independent rhythmic patterns which effects many psychoacoustic tricks on the listener’s ear. The musicians seek to pass on the cultural expressions of the Marembe people to younger players, an attempt which is hindered by the country’s economic struggle as well as the fierce opposition of non-tolerant churches towards any indigenous religions.
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Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

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