Staff Picks - October 2020

Staff Picks - October 2020

November 10, 2020

Written by:

Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

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If you're looking for a soundtrack to accompany the new quarantine, this selection of albums released in October might be a good starting point. Here's 34 albums and compilations comprising anything from psychedelic rock to free jazz, improvised music, ethnic, ambient, electronic hybrids of all sorts, both new and reissues.

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.
Ale Hop - The life of Insects (Buh Records)
Ale Hop - The life of Insects (Buh Records)

From Arash Pandi to Baba Zula

VA - A Little Night Music: Aural Apparitions from the Geographic North (Geographic North)
The midnight hour crept unto thee with hasty caution, revealing 'A Little Night Music: Aural Apparitions from the Geographic North', Geographic North’s new compilation comprising 31 brand new tracks of "haunted hysteria conjured by some of the most alluring ambientists and outer auteurs from around the world".

V.A. - Akuphone Sampler #3 - Autumn 2020
This sampler package invites the listeners to discover the intriguing music world of the French imprint Akuphone. Expect nothing but great music from the likes of Ak’chamel, Çaykh, Rizan Said, Raed Yassin, The Dwarfs of East Agouza and more.

Ale Hop - The life of Insects (Buh Records)
Ale Hop is an artist, researcher, and experimental instrumentalist. She composes electronic and electroacoustic music, by blending strains of noise, pop, avant-garde, ambient and a complex repertoire of extended techniques for electric guitar and real-time sampling devices which she uses as her sound vocabulary to craft a performance of astonishing physical intensity, saturated of layers of distortion and stunning atmospheres.

Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes - Heritage of the Invisible II (International Anthem)
Telepathic Afro-Caribbean improvisational trumpet-and-percussion duo Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes are longtime friends, collaborators, and tireless hustlers on the creative music scenes of New York City. "Heritage of the Invisible II" follows Navarro and Holmes’s rise to prominence as members of free jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements.

Arash Pandi - Exotic Paradox (Zabte Sote)
Arash Pandi is an experimental electronic musician, sound designer & teacher from Rasht in northern Iran, currently based in Denmark. Artist Statement: "We live in a world of paradoxes created by humans. We take care of some animals, while enjoy feasting on others. We're destroying millions of hectares of rainforest each year, to create pasture for beef cattle. We have created the largest mass extinction in 65 million years. Every hour, We kill millions of livestock for food, while 1/10 of our population still live in hunger. We exclude immigrants and refugees from our societies, forgetting who provides services to us, who does the hard physical labour, who cooks our late-night food. We ban social gatherings to protect our citizens from virus infections, while keeping others densely confined in camps and prisons. These facts are easy to understand but hard to remember. Living life with respect to all cohabitants of this planet, somehow seems familiar and understandable, but the actual 'doing' of it seems eccentric for many; a discrepancy between what we know and how we act." His latest work Exotic Paradox reflects on new possibilities in electronic music and sound design in a non-western musical system.

Ash Fure - Something To Hunt (Sound American)
The music here features the indefatigable virtuosity of Fure's long-time collaborators and close allies, the International Contemporary Ensemble. Warmly captured by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Studios, the music by the ensemble (as well as the iconoclastic voices of Rebekah Heller, Brandon Lopez, and Nate Wooley on A Library on Lightning and the live orchestra recording of Bound to the Bow) are presented as they should be: close, transparent sound that inhabits your psyche and transcends form, melody, and harmony.



Baba Zula - Hayvan Gibi (Night Dreamer)
BaBa ZuLa describe their sound as ‘Psychedelic Istanbul Rock ’n Roll’ – a heady mixture that laces the classic Anadolu psych sound with modern electronics, dubwise studio smarts, and fiery left-field sonic radicalism. Founded in 1996 after the breakup of experimental band ZeN, BaBa ZuLa began by scoring for film, before developing a style that pushed the classic Turkish psych sound of the 1970s forward into the 21st century. This is their most recent effort.


From Brian Case to Cecil Taylor

V.A. - Brown Acid - The Eleventh Trip (Riding Easy Records)
V.A. - Brown Acid - The Eleventh Trip (Riding Easy Records)
Bourbonese Qualk - Preparing for Power (Mannequin / Platform 23 Records)
'Preparing for Power' was the last album recorded at the bands base at the Ambulance Station on the Old Kent Road, London, and again released on their own Recloose Organisation, saw the band develop further beyond the limits of the post-punk / industrial scene where genres increasingly became redundant. Ethno, jazz, funk and EBM are all buried deep in the album as it seeks independence. The title, a critique of the Labour movements ineffective and limited call to arms against the prevailing Thatcherism of the mid-80s, encapsulates this wider oeuvre.

Brian Case - Parallel Voices (Hands In The Dark)
Chicago based musician Brian Case is returning to Hands in the Dark with his fourth release under his own name. Parallel Voices comprises five pieces and is a much-needed sonic journey for the current times.



V.A. - Brown Acid - The Eleventh Trip (Riding Easy Records)
Riding Easy is now in the double digits of brilliant long-lost, rare, and unreleased hard rock, heavy psych, and proto-metal tracks from the '60s-'70s and clearly this has become a bonafide archaeological movement as each new edition leads to more exciting new discoveries.

Cecil Taylor - at AngelicA 2000 Bologna (I Dischi Di Angelica)
In the year 2000, when Bologna was European Capital of Culture, AngelicA Festival, then in its tenth edition, invited Cecil Taylor to hold a concert at the Teatro Comunale - Opera House of Bologna: solo, with his piano (and his dance and his poetry readings) he opened an evening that ended with a rendition of the luminous piece Coptic Light by Morton Feldman performed by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, conducted by Jurjen Hempel.

David Toop, Scanner, Lawrence English - Entomologists (Room40)
"When we played this gig, I had been working on my Black Chamber LP and so I can hear many of those sounds. At the time I was trying to work out the technical and conceptual problems of how to change my performance approach, all of which bring back a particular moment in time. This trio was very compatible, socially and musically, and it gives me a lot of pleasure to be able to hear that togetherness through the music." David Topp

Decolonize Your Mind Society - A Courteous Invitation To An Uninhabited Anabatic Prism (Hunnia Records & Film Production)
Inspired by non-European traditional musics, non-tempered tuning systems, psychedelic ritual performances and the legendary Jon Hassell's Fourth World music, Decolonize Your Mind Society was founded by Balint Szabo Gosheven as a natural continuation of his creative focus and work. The band uses a wide spectrum of instruments, such as a glissonic wind instrument, the refretted just intonation guitar or the retunable analog synthesizer. The band recorded the material during three days at Supersize Recording Studio in Budapest.

Dolphy Kick Bebop - Briefvisit (WV Sorcerer Productions 巫唱片)
Founded in 2014, with only a few cult live shows, Hangzhou based free psychedelic project Dolphy Kick Bebop 海豚踢 has never stopped exploring the edge of avant-garde music. After a silence of two years, Dolphy Kick Bebop 海豚踢 is back with their latest full-length album "Briefvisit" on WV Sorcerer Productions.


Elektricheskaya Sobaka - Yabadabadubuda (ТОПОТ)
Elektricheskaya Sobaka - Yabadabadubuda (ТОПОТ)

From Drew McDowall to Henry Collins

Drew McDowall - Agalma (Dais Records)
Despite its depths, Agalma is also an album of immediacy and emotion. Celestial laments of and for times of unrest and suffering. McDowall characterizes his initial intention for this music as an to attempt to convey experiences he felt incapable of putting into words: “To try and approach sublimity, or at least acknowledge it in some way.” Agalma more than acknowledges the ineffable – it embodies it.

Elektricheskaya Sobaka - Yabadabadubuda (ТОПОТ)
Elektricheskaya Sobaka (Russian for “electric dog”) is a trio from Moscow comprising Rustem Imamiev (aka XΛN), Kirill Stepanov (Rites of Passage) and Nicolai Schizoph. Their debut album Yabadabadubuda is "a hymn to disobedience, a manifesto of deviant pranks, the fur stuck in your ears and the howling of a free dog, broken off its tether and running somewhere, joyously squealing."

George Lewis - Rainbow Family (Carrier Records)
"This audio documentation of my interactive computer music work Rainbow Family is taken from three days of live performances that took place in May of 1984 at the Salle de Projection of the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). The performances are the culmination of two years of sustained research and creative work in fulfillment of an IRCAM commission. Thanks to Tod Machover and the late and greatly missed David Wessel (1942-2014), I spent three years there, meeting Pierre Boulez (1925-2016), Tristan Murail, Philippe Manoury, and many others, and making some lifelong friends and associates, like Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barriere, as well as György Kurtág (the younger) and the late Oliver Johnson (1944-2002), a lifelong friend of Wessel’s (and a fellow drummer) with whom I performed in Steve Lacy’s ensembles." George Lewis

Graeme Miller & Steve Shill - The Carrier Frequency (Finders Keepers Records)
Frozen in time over four decades this 1984 “cyclic incantation” combines electroacoustics, grazed euphoria, industrial aesthetics, sampled salvage and recycled mechanic folk to score a widely revered dystopian physical theatre performance from the UK’s hugely influential Impact Theatre Co-Operative.



V.A. - Gritty, Odd & Good: Weird Pseudo-Music From Unlikely Sources (Discrepant)
Gritty, Odd & Good is a new weird, pseudo-music compilation published by Discrepant and curated by avant-garde experimental composer and audio artist Francisco López. The compilation presents a world of unusual experimental de-constructed and recombined music of the future.

Henry Collins - Prepared Rain (Zamzam Records)
'The whole world is a drum kit’ -Attributed to Paul Burwell (1949-2007). Henry Collins comes as a well needed tonic and distraction from the current realities of the world. In his recent Prepared Rain, out on the French imprint Zamzam, Henry Collins has assorted a number of objects in the outdoors which he describes as a ‘drum kit for the sky’. Objects and microphones are moved at the Artist’s whims, while a heavy downpour of rain and ‘intermittent guttering drips’ create a variety of textured rhythms and cacophony.

Kahil El'Zabar - Kahil El’Zabar’s America the Beautiful (Spiritmuse Records)
Kahil El’Zabar’s new album reflects on the turbulent issues in America (and the world) today, as seen through the lens of a better tomorrow. America the Beautiful was composed, arranged and conducted "to speak musically about the to the times that we are living in today, in the wake of a worldwide pandemic, despotic leadership, mass social discontent, disproportionate poverty, Black Lives Matter and other disenfranchised peoples’ movements and the ecological and economic disparity of our planet. It is time to express ourselves with compassionate art that will hopefully propel better and clearer thoughts about where we are now and where we are going in the future."


Kukaya - Kukaya Bili (1000HZ Records)
Kukaya - Kukaya Bili (1000HZ Records)

From Maalem Mahmoud Gania to Pouya Ehsaei

Keir Neuringer, Shayna Dulberger, Julius Masri - Dromedaries II (Relative Pitch Records)
Dromedaries II presents four improvisations moving between 10 and 13 minutes by the powerful comprising Keir Neuringer on saxophone, Shayna Dulberger on bass and Julius Masri on drums.

Kukaya - Kukaya Bili (1000HZ Records)
The new album of Mzuzu based Kukaya band, again performed in the formula of live-in-the-field-studio-in-suburbs-of-Mzuzu, presents the band with leader Emmanuel Mlonga Ngwira and his musicians reaching for the particular themes of the north Malawian vimbuza style, which are the charms against evil. "It is related to a difficult time in Ngwira's life, who in recent years, despite the relative success of the first album, lost his home and encountered many existential challenges. Hence, the band performs its most trance-like and meditative character. In several songs, the band sings the names of the donors who supported the production of the album. The recording, just like on the first album, is embedded in the sonic environment of suburban life - there are children's laughter, rooster's crowing or a distant mill."



Maalem Mahmoud Gania - Aicha (Hive Mind Records)
"Aicha was previously released on cassette in Morocco only in the late 1990's. Maalem Mahmoud Gania was a particularly prolific artist recording for many labels in Morocco and many details about the recording of this particular album or the people involved are destined to remain a mystery. However, we do know the album was recorded in the Gania's home town of Essaouira with only a small and intimate group of supporting musicians. The resulting album, after the dizzying intensity of the opening song, offers more relaxed, laid back interpretations of the Gnawa ritual repertoire, and a deeper, more gentle sound than our previous Gania release, Colours of the Night. The album shines a light on Mahmoud's virtuoso guimbri playing and mastery of Gnawa songcraft, and is a standout amongst his many cassette releases."

Milan W. - In Bloom (Radio Tests Antwerpen)
Antwerp based electronic producer and musician Milan W. returns with a new album. As Spencer Clark puts it, "on In Bloom he departs to a touching sidereal impressionism allied with Coil’s instrumental pieces on Horse Rotorvator — an album whose cover portrays the potential powers of the pavilion just as Milan W. is portraying the generative soul and alienation of Europe’s ‘Night Play’. Because of In Bloom we can come to believe that there is a secretive energy in alienation, a playfulness that is alight at Night."

V.A. - New Neighborhoods (Freedom To Spend/ RVNG Intl.)
In recognizing and celebrating mutual communities, and with ambition to both envision a better world and hold onto precious local histories, Freedom To Spend shares New Neighborhoods, a collection of sixteen new works by an international, intergenerational cast of artists acknowledging, and pushing forward, the sonic path traveled by Ernest Hood, the musician and field recordist from Portland, Oregon responsible for the 1975 “joy in reminiscence” Neighborhoods.



Pouya Ehsaei - RocRast (Zabte Sote)
Pouya Ehsaei is an Iranian musician, audio-visual artist and performer currently residing in London. Beside his solo sound projects, he is involved in different collaborations with dancers, performers and other musicians. His latest effort, RocRast, out on Zabte Sote, is an 11 songs odyssey which provokes our perception of time. How experiencing time leads to sensations, feelings, emotions and how these become the matter that is sound.

Organizatsiya - À l'ombre des roches (Knekelhuis)
Organizatsiya is a music project hailing from Lyon, France and comprising Leo and Zoe, two musicians with strong roots in folk and acoustic music. These ‘old worlds’ blend in surprisingly well with more contemporary digital, futuristic sounds. Soothing analog recordings meet hyperdigital compositions reminiscent of IDM creations and peppered with spoken words that dance around in unexpected ways.
Sun Ra Arkestra - Swirling (Strut Records)
Sun Ra Arkestra - Swirling (Strut Records)

From Soare Staniol to Ustad Saami

Soare Staniol - Soare Staniol (Underdog Records)
The Romanian experimental electronic music band Soare Staniol launches the long-awaited debut album, after five years of sonic searches through the infinite universe of the sound experiment. Soare Staniol project was founded in 2014, and over time has continued to charm its fans with increasingly captivating sound experiences. Imbued with improvisation, the album breathes a nostalgic air, filtered by a strong contemporary expression. Inspired by the aesthetics of noir films, this debut material incorporates the collective effort of several personalities who give color to the Romanian music scene: Maria Balabaș, producer Sorin Păun, Mihai Balabaș, Călin Torsan and Marina Pingulescu.

Sonja Tofik - Anomi (Moloton)
‘Anomi’ is Sonja Tofik’s first full-length LP, and a continuation of her debut ‘Neuros’. Anomi is the Swedish word for the sociological term anomie, first coined by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in 1893. Described as ‘the condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals’, he suggested that for societies to function and their individuals to prosper, they need to be driven by strong and distinct norms, both social and moral.

Spires That In The Sunset Rise - Psychic Oscillations (FPE Records)
Spires That in the Sunset Rise come together with this crisis point in the now and offer a new album filled with psychic energy made physical in time. Psychic Oscillations was written over a span of time which included a condensed period of focus during an artist residency at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, summer of 2018. The instrumentation on this record hones in on cello, alto saxophone, flute, synthesizers, and voice. It is the Spires' twelfth album.



Sun Ra Arkestra - Swirling (Strut Records)
The planets align as the mighty Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of the maestro Marshall Allen, are releasing their first studio album in over twenty years, ‘Swirling’. “We truly hope that this recording brings much joy to a planet which is so deeply in need of a spirit sound and vibration,” states saxophonist Knoel Scott. “We hope it contributes to a change in the ominous direction of man’s journey through the cosmos.” “This new release is the Arkestra’s love offering to the world,” concludes Marshall Allen. “Beta music for a better world.”

Ustad Saami - Pakistan Is for the Peaceful (Glitterbeat Records)
Following his 2019, critically acclaimed debut, God Is Not a Terrorist, 49-note scale microtonal vocal master Ustad Saami returns with an epic part two. Pakistan is for the Peaceful presents an even more immersive work, comprised of just three extended tracks and again produced 100% live at the master’s rooftop home in Karachi by Grammy-winner, Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Zomba Prison Project, The Good Ones) with musical accompaniment provided by Ustad’s four sons. Ustad Saami is the last living Surti master, a precursor of the ancient, Islamic devotional music of qawwali. Even under threat of Islamic fundamentalists, the master has spent his life as a dedicated practitioner of a vanishing art — one that has been passed on from generation to generation since the 13th century. As The Quietus noted: “when Ustad Saami dies, these forty-nine notes die with him.”



Wajiri Bi - II (self-released)
The enigmatic artist Wajiri Bi delivers a new album after two years from his debut. II was recorded in Marseille, Utrecht and Milan and comprises five song ranging from blues to free jazz and psychedelic folk.
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Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

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