Staff Picks - July 2021

Staff Picks - July 2021

August 9, 2021

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The earth is on fire, so in case you need some companion for the apocalypse, here's the monthly Staff Picks column. This month we present a selection of 24 albums released over the course of July 2021, and comprising anything from ambient and experimental to Armenian finesse, dangerous free-jazz and spiritual endeavours and lots of improvisational music, 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.

Meanwhile, listen back to our second episode of the Staff Picks radio show, broadcasted live on Black Rhino Radio.

From Alan Vega to Archie Shepp

Comité Hypnotisé - Dubs Pour Oh La La (Cortizona)
Comité Hypnotisé - Dubs Pour Oh La La (Cortizona)
Alan Vega, Ben Vaughn, Barb Dwyer & Palmyra Delran - Alan Vega After Dark (In The Red Records)
In The Red Records participates in this year’s celebration of Alan Vega’s music legacy, with the release of Alan Vega After Dark - an album that captures a late-night rock n’ roll session with Alan backed by Ben Vaughn, Barb Dwyer and Palmyra Delran (all members of the incredible Pink Slip Daddy as well as countless other cool projects).

Archie Shepp - Live in Paris (1974) (Transversales Disques)
Archie Shepp's "Live in Paris (1974) Lost ORTF Recordings" is some of the best jazz of the era that almost no one ever heard. Fully mastered from the original tapes and capturing one of the great giants of free jazz in a crucial moment of change - tracing toward funkier, fusion tinged compositions, and more straight-ahead bop at the boundaries of spiritual jazz - the historical importance and raw beauty of these never-before released recordings are impossible to overstate.

Comité Hypnotisé - Dubs Pour Oh La La (Cortizona)
"With 'Comité Hypnotisé' Tim Vanhamel (Millionaire, Evil Superstars...) tumbles into a subsonic wormhole, where smoked out dub glues with boogie funk and off-kiltered early hip hop vibes. Transcending frequencies from an unknown galaxy channeled through a broken 70’s echo deck. Shortly after Evil Superstars played a one off concert for ‘An Evening With Laika’ in the Ancienne Belgique in 2013 Tim started to create the music which was the entering point of ‘Dubs Pour Oh La La’ and Comité Hypnotisé. A dancing delirium of mind and soul. A fata morgana of a brain-melting future. Hearing is believing."

Contorsionist - Modern Faith (Amek Collective)
Modern Faith is the third album of Romanian artist Silviu Badea under the moniker Contorsionist. Initially released in December 2013 and recorded live a month earlier through a multichannel guitar and bass amps setup, the music in the album is certainly something of its own kind. The raw, aggressive, yet highly textured and precise, sound allows for the complex and multilayered pieces of Contorsionist to transcend genres and label tags. ‘Modern Faith’ is an experimental work that dares to tame chaos, chance and extreme volume in order to create its aural world.

Daniel Alexander Hignell - Semblances (Difficult Art And Music)
A collection of DAH's early 'anarchist drone' - works in which drone soundscapes were used to frame real-world performance pieces. From giving away money outside of a bank, to giving out cake to the poor, holding a sonic protest outside of a respected symposium to dragging an organ across a busy city centre, these works sought to critique the social utility of art-making, with the constancy of the drone serving to ground such gestures within a shared social environment.

Elisabeth Harnik - Superstructure - Holding up a Bridge (Trost Records)
Elisabeth Harnik, an Austria based pianist and composer has created a multi-faceted body of work by blurring genre boundaries through various collaborations in the field of improvised music, interdisciplinary projects and contemporary compositional works.
Gustavo Costa - Entropies and Mimetic Patterns (Sonoscopia)
Gustavo Costa - Entropies and Mimetic Patterns (Sonoscopia)

From Frédéric D. Oberland to Hocine Chaoui

Frédéric D. Oberland - Même Soleil (IIKKI)
Même Soleil is the result of a dialog between the French photographer Gaël Bonnefon and the French musician Frédéric D. Oberland initiated by IIKKI, between December 2019 and June 2021. Composer and photographer born in Paris, Frédéric D. Oberland is known for his contribution in bands such as Oiseaux-Tempête (which he co-founded), as well as FOUDRE !, Le Réveil des Tropiques, The Rustle of the Stars & FareWell Poetry. He's also curating the experimental electronic label NAHAL Recordings (a regular record label on our monthly Staff Picks), alongside Mondkopf.

Gregor Cürten and Anselm Rogmans - Planes (E138) (Entr’acte)
Initially released in 1974 as a private press LP, this is the first official reissue of Planes, produced in close collaboration with Gregor Cürten and remastered from the original tapes by Giuseppe Ielasi. Recorded on 11 May 1974 without interrupting the course of the music.

Gustavo Costa - Entropies and Mimetic Patterns (Sonoscopia)
Gustavo Costa is a musician and an artist with numerous talents guided by a constant exploration of the limits of listening. He is a drummer, an instrument maker, a creator of new sounds, a sound sculptor, a teacher, a programmer, and a generous booster of the contemporary music and sound art that is made in Portugal nowadays.

Hocine Chaoui - Ouechesma (Outre National Records)
Hocine Chaoui is one of the genre’s most famous and respected musicians and poets. ,Hocine modernized his sound with drum machines, incorporating intense and modern production techniques with phased gesba flute, reverbed out vocals, taking the genre to its logical new phase. This LP is a reissue of one of the most “in demand” of the genre’s cassettes originally released by Oriental Music Production, a cassette label dedicated to the some of the best regional releases during the heyday of the 80’s and 90’s golden era of rai and local Algerian music cassettes. These releases were only ever released on cassette and now command a premium on the collector’s market.

Ingrid Schmoliner & Hamid Drake - Awon Ona (Klanggalerie)
Hamid Drake is an American jazz drummer and percussionist. By the close of the 1990s, Hamid Drake was widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in jazz and improvised music. Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion instruments and influence, in addition to using the standard trap set, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free jazz improvisers. The Austrian musician, composer and pedagogue Ingrid Schmoliner performs in various international and interdisciplinary projects. She is founder of the Raum 4 concert series and curates the New Adits Festival for Contemporary Music in Carinthia, Austria. Schmoliner distinctively expands the tonal language of current avant-garde music with her striking piano preparations and the multilayered combinations of her compositional patterns. She is at home equally in minimal music and in improvised jazz. The duo played several festivals together, amongst them Artacts in Tyrol, Austria and Jazz Cerkno in Slovenia. These two concerts were recorded and mastered for this release on double CD.
Lipstick Killers - Strange Flash: Studio & Live '78 - '81 (Grown Up Wrong)
Lipstick Killers - Strange Flash: Studio & Live '78 - '81 (Grown Up Wrong)

From Karkhana to Les Filles de Illighadad

John Sellekaers - Observer Effect (Glacial Movements)
John Sellekaers is an electronic music composer and producer based in Brussels. He has written and recorded close to sixty records so far, under different aliases, such as Feral Cities, Night Sky Pulse, Meeple, Xingu Hill and Dead Hollywood Stars. His music has been released by labels in Europe and North America, including Ant-Zen, Hymen Records, Parenthèses Records, Falt, Oreille Gardée, Hushush and Nova Zembla. John has toured extensively since the nineties and has worked on collaborations, remixes and soundtracks. He is also a freelance audio engineer (mixing & mastering), photographer and graphic designer.

Karkhana - Al Azraqayn (Karlrecords)
Consisting of seven of the most adventurous and innovative artists from the Middle Eastern experimental scene (and a veteran jazz percussionist from Chicago), Karkhana are surely among the most unique and interesting ensembles around. The septet’s sound is neither retro nor avantgarde, not folklore nor jazz or rock – it’s an astonishing blend of all these different styles and elements where seductive oriental melodies can intensify and turn into a psychedelic freak-out, fuelled by reeds, guitars and electronics, only to re-start again from quiet sounds till the ensemble seeks catharsis in a collective improv outburst! Defying simple categorization, and in lack of proper terms for the intense experience of KARKHANA’s music (as well as the member’s other projects mentioned before), someone labelled it “free Middle Eastern music”.

Kumbia Net - Un Año No Ha Sido Suficiente Para Olvidarte (Kumbia Net)
Navigating the remotest part of the Deep Web is how Kumbia Net arises. Considered as a Kumbiero Cyberspace, where the dance floor is checked for any dancer, a place where the most hallucinated synthesizers resonate, the most infernal congas, the roughest güiros and the most suburban Cumbias. Welcome to the cyberspace world of Kumbia Net.

Les Filles de Illighadad - At Pioneer Works (Sahel Sounds)
Comprising Fatou Seidi Ghali (guitar, vocals), Alamnou Akrouni (percussion, vocals), Amaria Hamadalher (guitar, percussion) and Abdoulaye Madassane (guitar, vocals), the supergroup Les Filles de Illighadad comes from the village of Illighadad in a remote region of central Niger. "At the heart of Les Filles’ music is the percussion and poetry of tende—a term used for both the instrument and the type of music— whereby a mortar and pestle are transformed into a drum, and women join together in a circle, in a chorus of singing, chanting, and clapping. Sometimes it’s music for celebration, sometimes it’s music to heal the sick, sometimes it’s poetry of love. But it’s always music of people, where the line between performer and spectator breaks down", notes Christopher Kirkley of Sahel Sounds.

Lipstick Killers - Strange Flash: Studio & Live '78 - '81 (Grown Up Wrong)
This is a much needed anthology of material by the legendary Lipstick Killers, who blazed a trail in late ‘70s post-Radio Birdman Sydney before gigging with the likes of the Gun Club and the Flesh Eaters in Los Angeles where they crashed and burned in 1981. The Lipstick Killers released just one single in their life time – the perfect ’79 Deniz Tek-produced pairing of “Hindu Gods of Love” and ”Shakedown USA” on their own Lost in Space Records and Greg Shaw’s Voxx Records - but a posthumous live album and a couple of archival releases followed. It was all incredible. All that material is included here, as is a plethora of additional stuff, all from the best-available sources (mostly original tapes).

Mark Cain - Cameos (Parenthèses Records)
"Cameos is a collection of pieces I have written and/or improvised and recorded in my home studio in Fremantle, Western Australia over more than a decade. Some pieces were created for a puppet theatre work, Turtle and the Trade Winds (Sandpiper Productions) and Oddysea (Sensorium Theatre) with musician colleague, Jamie David. Others were devised for the Cinematic Scores event (curated by then Australian resident and founder of Parenthèses Records, Alexis Courtin and Tom Múller), in which I composed an accompanying live score to the 1922 American ethnographic documentary, Nanook of the North. Others are pieces I’ve recorded that have only now found a home on Cameos. A number of these pieces feature accompaniment of Indonesian gamelan instruments (gongs, anklung, bonang and gambung) I recorded one afternoon in situ under an outdoor university pagoda." Mark Cain
Saba Alizadeh - I May Never See You Again (30M Records)
Saba Alizadeh - I May Never See You Again (30M Records)

From Minyo Crusaders to Nick Storring

Matthias Müller, Ricardo Tejero, Vasco Trilla - Implositions (Orbit577)
Implositions was inspired by apparent opposites and contradictions. As the first release from Matthias Müller (Trombone), Ricardo Tejero (Saxophone), and Vasco Trilla (Percussion), the experimental project is an inquiry into physics, metaphysics, and the root causes of tension that hold our world together; the resulting extended tracks are balanced explorations of those competing forces. Incorporating ambient noise, distorted brass, and scattered percussion, the music is punctuated and structured by negative space, looking for natural implosions of sound.

Michael Marcus, Joe McPhee, Jay Rosen, Warren Smith - Blue Reality Quartet! (Mahakala Music)
In 2018, jazz musician extraordinaire Michael Marcus got an invite to bring his duo with drummer Jay Rosen to the Austrian venue Jazzgalerie Nickelsdorf. And when he arrived, the promoter of their show sprung a novel idea on them: performing their set with fellow reedsman Joe McPhee and another drummer, Warren Smith. The name of this project has a little history behind it and multiple layers of meaning. 20 years ago, Marcus and Rosen recorded an album called Blue Reality, as part of a trio with bassist Tarus Matteen. It was another one of those magical sessions with the right mix of players and energy that Marcus always wanted to revisit.

Minyo Crusaders - Live at Le Guess Who? (Mais Um)
Minyo Crusaders return with a live recording of their triumphant headline performance at Le Guess Who? Festival from their debut European tour in November 2019. Described as a "a concert unlike any other, where a commitment to having a good time went alongside a celebration of rustic traditions" by The Times, Minyo Crusaders’ dazzled audiences across Europe with their dynamic reworkings of historic Japanese folk songs (min'yō) with Latin, African, Caribbean and Asian rhythms.

Nick Storring - Newfoundout (Mappa)
Over the last decade, Toronto-based composer Nick Storring has become well known for his unique, painstaking compositional style of layering performances on a plethora of objects and musical/electro-mechanical instruments to deeply moving effect. Newfoundout, his seventh album, follows last year’s lush and nocturnal My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell (out on Orange Milk Records) with more rhythmical material and an almost theatrical, phantasmal sensibility.

Répéter - Bad Twang (Bokeh Versions)
Austrian musician Martin Werner aka Répéter fka Rer Repeter presents Bad Twang, an adventurous approach in bringing together the aesthetics of surf-rock soundtracks, post-world exotica and punk attitude with spring reverb’d dub. "It’s your post-nuclear surf film Shadows montage, John Wayne’s hologram in a zombie Tarantino deepfake", notes the British imprint Bokeh.

Saba Alizadeh - I May Never See You Again (30M Records)
Iranian composer and Kamancheh virtuoso, Saba Alizadeh releases his new album I May Never See You Again on the newly founded Hamburg label 30M Records. Influenced by Iranian harmonics, musique concrète and sophisticated, forward-looking beat science, Saba Alizadeh's recent work represent an incredibly exciting act of mutual inspiration - when Iranian scales and Western electroacoustic understanding powerfully unite.

V.A. - Second Wave (Random Numbers)
The Second Wave compilation comprises the contributions of 16 producers close to the label and kindred to the sonic quest that Random Numbers has been pursuing since 2015. This collection of 12 tracks delivers a multi-faceted testimony of our experience with the pandemic, translating feelings of absence, desire, and necessity into a mind-bending sound exploration.
About the Author

Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

Dragoș Rusu is co-founder and co-editor in chief of The Attic, sound researcher and allround music adventurer, with a keen interest in the anthropology of sound.

Victor Stutz is a sound adventurer and music selector from Bucharest – currently based in Barcelona - with a background in anthropology.

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