Staff Picks - November & December 2022

Staff Picks - November & December 2022

December 19, 2022

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We slowly close this extraordinary year with a final selection of albums released in November and December. Here's 40 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.

From Alexis Degrenier to Ben Frost

Bardo Todol & Robert Millis - A Magnetic Road To Hell (Discrepant)
Bardo Todol & Robert Millis - A Magnetic Road To Hell (Discrepant)
99LETTERS - Kaibou Zukan (Disciples)
New album by Osaka-based electronic producer Takahiro Kinoshita aka 99Letters, based around the sampling and processing of traditional Japanese instruments. The sounds of koto and shakuhachi are transformed through spatial effects and noise to create beguiling ambient drones and out-and-out dancefloor bangers. The title Kaibou Zukan translates as “picture book” and it serves as a kind of audio diary of the artist during lockdown, trapped at home and thinking about their place within their home country, landscape, and culture.

Alexis Degrenier - La mort aura tes yeux (Murailles Music)
Alexis Degrenier lives and works near Clermont-Ferrand. After studying classical percussion and composition, he decided to take paths as multiple as they are distant, invoking the music of G. Ligeti as well as the metric systems of the Maqam and Middle Eastern music or the pulsations of everyday mechanics, as well as the music of Central France through the study of the oblique listening of sound spaces.

V.A. - Anthology Of Contemporary Music From South Africa (Unexplained Sounds Group)
"Over the last decades, South Africa has become a new hub for exploratory music and sound art. There a community of practitioners of experimental, improvisational, and otherwise avant-garde musicians is growing each year with a focus on creating a supporting, nurturing environment. With increased public exposure to these alternative forms of musical creativity, the future of this experimentation is bright." Raffaele Pezzella

Bahtiyar Taş - Acaip (Zel Zele Records)
Zel Zele is back with a stomper of a DIY 80’s solo album by Turkish bassist Bahtiyar Taş. Arabesque melodies meet odd fusion beats with humorous lyricism, cheeky use of synthesizers and a free approach to arrangement; Acaip offers a cross genre trip into Taş’s ironic world. The story in music is always real when it represents its moment of social and political ongoings, and right on that line of truth, Bahtiyar Taş can bring in a touch of dark humour. He thinks only then we are able to loosen up and laugh about life events, because why heavy feelings over absurd fun?

Baldruin - Kleine Freuden (mappa)
Johannes Schebler's musical output is all about establishing a dreamlike territory where sonic settlements can spread at ease. While Grykë Pyje (Johannes Schebler's duo with Jani Hirvonen) presents musical landscapes as open and clear spaces, Baldruin's miniature pieces tend to narrow them down, zooming into domestic sceneries that shift like malleable rooms inside a magic building. These are the quarters where the inhabitants of Schebler's musical world are configured.

Bardo Todol & Robert Millis - A Magnetic Road To Hell (Discrepant)
A Magnetic Road to Hell is Robert Millis and Bardo Todol’s first release as a duo. Recorded transcontinentally throughout 2021 and 2022 they traded sounds and ideas between Cordoba, Argentina and Seattle, USA with a stop in Mexico along the way: screamings, rivers, kids, radios, mellotron, records, 78rpm shellac, wax cylinders, field recordings, birds, electronics, guitars, percussion, haze, static, a destroyed Indian piano, talkative violins, talkative people from the 1920s, talkative black and white dreams, tin cans from the streets, Argentinian children's tales about cows being teachers, and more.

Ben Frost - Broken Spectre (The Vinyl Factory)
"This album is ultimately a document of failure. A failure of our democracies, a failure of political will, a failure of imagination, and creatively, my own failure to communicate through sound the vast scale of the Amazon and the ongoing damage inflicted upon it by the policies of Jair Bolsonaro. This album is an indictment of his regime, but also of ourselves. It is a witness statement, an artwork born inside an artwork that draws upon a continuously inspiring, decade-long collaboration with Richard and Trevor, and is my best attempt at a tribute to the natural world from which it came and in that regard it may well be one of my better ones." Ben Frost

Calabi-Yau - Calabi-Yau (ТОПОТ)
Calabi-Yau - Calabi-Yau (ТОПОТ)

From Charbel Haber to Ian Martin

Ben LaMar Gay - Certain Reveries (International Anthem)
In the tradition of toddler crayon scribbles on perfectly painted bedroom walls, multi-freshness composer Ben LaMar Gay expands on the teachings of Alabama star spirits and presents a collection of work involving sound, fabric, movement, rivers, shadows, Lagosian memories, light and listening.

Calabi-Yau - Calabi-Yau (ТОПОТ)
Nastya Mineral and Boris Lesnoy formed Calabi-Yau in Moscow at the end of 2020. A prominent artist on the local and international sub-underground scene - Nastya Mineral - is well-known for her contribution to the key Moscow free improv & punk acts such as Asian Woman On The Telephone (AWOTT), Punk Fraction Of The Red Brigades, Mikhail Mineral and more. Boris Lesnoy vice versa has emerged from the world of modern composition and tends toward the academic means of composing and directing. His main project, Phonema Choir, operates as a collective workshop whose participants are engaged in the development of phonetic formulas, spectral studies of phonemic landscapes, and work with particular acoustic spaces, and architecture of sound.

Charbel Haber - A Common Misunderstanding of the Speed of Light (Other People)
Charbel Haber’s latest offering, A Common Misunderstanding of the Speed of Light is a multi-media musing on the chronic and the chronological, the subversive nature of time. This combination of a record and book observes the slow passing of life and the illusion of retrogradation in his every day. Simply by documenting — via image, text and tune — Haber assigns value to everything that is cast in amber by this project. There’s an acceptance and appreciation of the destitution he witnesses, it is an homage given in overlapping forms.

Derya Yıldırım & Grup Şimşek - DOST 2 (Les Disques Bongo Joe)
"DOST is a Turkish word that you can translate into English simply as ‘friend’. DOST is the connection to keep this life and world meaningful, significant, and equal. To maintain respect, tolerance & the moments of love and peace. To keep growing and learning from each other. To allow yourself and others to live their lives as they chose. This album is an appeal to those who believe in friendships, who believe in DOST."

Grupo Los Cóndores del Cusco - Vacilando (Discos Fantástico!)
Spanish imprint Discos Fantástico! presents a new sonic adventure of Peruvian and Latin American musical archeology. All songs of Vacilando, by the Grupo Los Cóndores del Cusco were directed by Arnaldo Tapia Rodríguez. This record was originally released in 1982 by El Volcán, Cusco.

Héron Cendré - 3-4 (Moli del tro Records)
Born in la Hague near Cherbourg and based in Rennes for 7 years, Héron Cendré builds a poetic world made of sounds from modular synthesizers, field recordings picked up in schools and other minimal lo-fi weirdness.

Ian Martin - Grey Theatre (Confused Machines)
As an artist, Ian Martin refuses genres or styles, choosing instead an open source of creativity. He is the host of SEER Radio on Intergalactic FM and has released his music on acclaimed labels such as: Bunker Records , Pinkman, New York Haunted, Bio Rhythm to name a few. His nine track Grey Theatre album for Confused Machines is a deep dive and playful exercise with his synthesizers.

Iftin Band (Kooxda Iftin) - Mogadishu's Finest: The Al-Uruba Sessions (Ostinato Records)
Iftin Band (Kooxda Iftin) - Mogadishu's Finest: The Al-Uruba Sessions (Ostinato Records)

From Jesu to Lotus Eater

Iftin Band (Kooxda Iftin) - Mogadishu's Finest: The Al-Uruba Sessions (Ostinato Records)
Seven years in the making, this is the official retrospective of one of Somalia's most famous and beloved private bands, Iftin. Digitized from cassettes recorded between 1982 and 1987 at the legendary Al-Uruba hotel's secret studio and the jams for the masses performed in the basement of Somalia's national theater. Banaadiri rhythms from Somalia's south, Mogadishu's finest vocalists, Dhaanto reggae-like guitar licks, and smoldering brass blend seamlessly with the sounds of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa to form one of rawest, most cosmopolitan eras of music anywhere.

Jesu - Pity / Piety (Avalanche Recordings)
Justin K Broadrick presents a new release under his Jesu monikor, recently out on his own Avalanche Recordings imprint.

Kabar Jako - Kabar Jako (30kill/ Sakifo Production)
Kabar Jako is Jako Maron's new project. It is not no longer alone behind his machines, here he is in a trio with Axel and Zan in the spirit that blows musical entrails Reunionese: the kabar.

KEDA - Flow (Parenthèses Records)
Flow (2018) by Swiss-based contemporary dance Compagnie Linga is inspired by the astonishing performance of animal’s group movements, such as shoals of fish, flocks of birds or swarms of insects. These flexible and fluid formations, capable of instantaneously modifying their speed and direction without losing space coherence, question the laws of interactions that act the different members of a group and the coordination of their movements. Invited by Compagnie Linga to compose a musical score and perform it live, KEDA created a mesmerizing soundtrack, in which E’Joung-Ju stirs up lively rhythms and melodic fragments of the Korean geomungo, like an electric bass, which Mathias Delplanque captures and mutates in ambient and noise collages, ensuring a hypnotic pull.

Leviot - Sharav (Akuphone)
Leviot (Hebrew for “Lionesses”) is the brainchild of the multifaceted musician and composer Yael Lavie. She is accompanied by classically trained percussionist and music teacher Cnaan Canetti, and synth enthusiast Yishay Seroussi. The project is a result of Lavie’s explorations beyond the restraints of classical kanun and her fascination for electronic sounds and modern composition.

Lostsoundbytes / Lowspace - A Given Moment (Phase Group)
A Given Moment presents the dub-laden, mind-bending and noise-driven music of Brussels-based artist and Vastechoses label head Lostsoundbytes, and the lo-fi, early morning lysergic experiments of Lowspace, an unearthed, forgotten collaborative project by French DJ and musician Low Bat and Dresden-based producer Heninspace.

Lotus Eater (Lucy & Rrose) - Plasma (Stroboscopic Artefacts)
Lotus Eater is a duo consisting of Luca Mortellaro (Lucy) and Seth Horvitz (Rrose), techno artists just as comfortable operating in the uncharted area of experimental music who have gained a cult following, both influencing and challenging the direction of contemporary electronic music.
Markos Vamvakaris - Death Is Bitter (Olvido Records)
Markos Vamvakaris - Death Is Bitter (Olvido Records)

From Marc Richter to Mike Cooper

M. Takara & Carla Boregas - Grande Massa D'Agua (Hive Mind Records)
Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas have long been key players in the experimental and underground music scene in São Paulo, Brazil and have recently relocated in Berlin. Grande Massa D'Agua (Great Body of Water) is their second album as a duo and it sees them continue to explore themes related to water as they dive into uncharted musical depths.

Marc Richter - MM∞XX Vol.1 & 2 (Cellule 75)
Here’s a package by Marc Richter, out on the Ham burg based imprint Cellule 75, comprising 21 tracks based on recordings by 33 artists: Andrew Pekler, Richard Youngs, Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (Jerusalem In My Heart), Felix Kubin, Eric Chenaux, Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), Timo van Luijk (In Camera, Af Ursin), John Fell Ryan (Excepter), Roger Tellier-Craig (Fly Pan Am), Maja Ratkje, Brian Pyle (Ensemble Economique), Joni Void, Paul Regimbeau (Mondkopf), Dan Hayhurst (Sculpture), Jonna Karanka (Kuupuu), Jan van Hasselt, Jan Anderzén (Tomutonttu, Kemialliset Ystävät), Guido Möbius, Alexander Rishaug, Frédéric D. Oberland (Oiseaux-Tempête), François Bonnet (Kassel Jaeger), Luke Fowler, Janek Schaefer, Konrad Jandavs (No UFO's), Pascal Hector (Datashock), Ulf Schütte (Phantom Horse), Jani Hirvonen (Uton), Alexander Schubert, Christoph de Babalon, Neil Campbell (Astral Social Club, Vibracathedral Orchestra), Antonia Leukers, Lucio Capece and Floris Vanhoof.

Markos Vamvakaris - Death Is Bitter (Olvido Records)
12 rarely heard recordings of addled suffering and love from the most legendary of all Greek rebetika artists, Markos Vamvakaris. Rebetika is the sound of Greece and Asia Minor clashing amid civil war, mass population exchange, and the anarchy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Poetic, mournful, and bitter, rebetika music was born in the hash dens (tekes) of Mediterranean ports, its verses whispered in Greek prisons before spilling out to the greater population in the 1930s, propelled in no small part by a series of remarkable recordings by Markos Vamvakaris.

Matías Pizarro - Pelo de Rata (Altercat)
When Chilean pianist Matías Pizarro arrived in Argentina fleeing Pinochet's dictatorship, word spread like wildfire in the local jazz scene. In the two short years that Pizarro spent in Buenos Aires, he became one third of the Viejas Raíces project alongside local jazz heroes Jorge López Ruiz and Pocho Lapouble, recorded with famed Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and released his own solo album, Pelo de Rata ("Rat's hair").

Mike Cooper - Extraordinary Moments @ Hotel Palenque (Room40)
"Ever since purchasing the original release of Silver Apples Of The Moon, the 1969 album by Morton Subotnick, and Early Fall by Fall Mountain in 1979, I have wanted to be able to ‘play’ electronics. Subotnick’s album (I love it so much I have both the original and the re-release on vinyl) sounded improvised to me back then. I have subsequently learnt it was not but was rather put together over a long period and ‘composed’. On the other hand, Bob Ostertag, in Fall Mountain, was playing and improvising on his Serge synth. Not an easy task on a system you had to patch. He also appeared, to my delight, on albums by Eugene Chadbourne and John Zorn in the early 80’s. Just in time for Lol Coxhill, Roger Turner and myself to organise The Recedents in 1982. I wanted to be able to: 1... emulate the synth sound, and playing, of both Subotnick and Ostertag, but using guitar and effects pedals. I actually recorded bits of Silver Apples onto a cassette and used it to make samples into my Casio SK1, the cheapest polyphonic sampler there was in the early 80s. I have never got to grips with patching the likes of a VCS, Buchla, Serge, Aalto synths etc. I never found them fast enough for what I wanted to do especially reacting to other musicians with them while improvising. Bob did, glory be to him, and recently he has found a way of using a gamepad controller to do this too. Now there are apps to do what I was looking for and these pieces were all recorded direct to stereo using one on my iPhones and recorded into my Zoom H2 while sat on a swing seat on my rooftop 2... terrace while the sun went down in November 2022." Mike Cooper.

Pasamoan Art Initiated - Camin Taruih (Das Andere Selbst)
Camin Taruih is the debut album of Pasamoan Art Initiated, an ensemble of musicians from Indonesia and India. The album investigates traditional music with an electroacoustic approach: elements of folklore, Kaba, oral literature, Pasambahan, Tambo, Dendang, intuitiveness and catharsis congregate in long alchemizing tracks. This is done by processing sounds of ethnic musical instruments such as Talempong, Canang, Sarunai, Pano-pano, Sampelong, Rabab, Gendang Karo, Pakhawaj, Tabla, Kanakol, Dendang, as well as DIY instruments amplified through sound engineering and manipulation.

Raïna Raï (راينا راي) - Hagda (هكدا) (Elmir Records)
Elmir Records presents the vinyl reissue of this multi-faceted pop-raï masterpiece. This mythical album, recorded and self-produced in 1982, which cover of Ya Zina became an international hit, still sounds very modern thanks to the avant-garde guitar of Lotfi Attar. These eight electrified and electrifying raï tracks are ready to be (re)discovered.

Sun Ra - Prophet (Sundazed Music / Modern Harmonic)
Sun Ra - Prophet (Sundazed Music / Modern Harmonic)

From SOISONG to Sun Ra

RS Produções - Saúde Em 1º Lugar (Príncipe)
Long playing second release by the ever-busy RS Produções, showcasing an update of the crew's particularly moody dance beats. Their debut "Bagdad Style" featured only the main core of Narciso and Nuno Beats but RS is expanded with Farucox for this album, adding more oblique rhythms to the whole.

Sawt Out with Tony Elieh - Machine Learning (Bocian)
Machine Learning is the result of a project comprising four musicians: Burkhard Beins (analog synths, samples, walkie talkies, cymbal), Mazen Kerbaj (crackle synth, amplified objects, toys, radio, trumpet), Michael Vorfeld (light bulbs, electric switching devices, cymbal) and Tony Elieh (electric bass, electronics).

Slumberland & Sainkho Namtchylak - Lightkeeper (Morphine Records)
Belgian musician, composer and instrument-maker Jochem Baelus presents his obscure, hypnotic krautrock new album as Slumberland for Morphine Records. After creating his signature battery of sewing machines, projectors and dismantled mechanical objects, Baelus immersed himself into the world of 64-year-old voice-artist Sainkho Namtchylak and assembled a new sound sculpture inspired by her colour.

SOISONG - qXn948s (Dais Records)
SoiSong is the stunning but short-lived partnership of Coil co-founder Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and veteran Russian electronic experimentalist Ivan Pavlov. Though friends since 1997, the project birthed roughly a decade later in Bangkok, where Christopherson relocated following the death of his Coil collaborator John Balance in 2004. Named after the Thai word for ‘two’ along with a notorious red-light district street nearby, the duo dialled into a cryptic language of lurching synthetics, Eastern minimalism, and interdimensional glitch, oscillating between elegance and mayhem.

Sun Ra - Prophet (Sundazed Music / Modern Harmonic)
What happens when a Prophet meets a Prophet? The answer lies within these grooves. Amongst the hundreds of recordings issued by Sun Ra and his Arkestra, under their various guises, the majority were recorded in concert or in makeshift studios such as their early 1960s set-up at NYC's Choreographer's Workshop. Beyond those, roughly 22 albums were recorded at Variety Recording Studio in New York's Times Square. However, on August 25, 1986, Sun Ra and cohorts entered Mission Control, a state-of-the-art 24-track studio north of Boston, which was teeming with electronic keyboards and otherworldly sound generators. Nestled within that arsenal was a brand-new digital ultra-keyboard — the Prophet VS ("Vector Synthesizer").

Timuçin Şahin's Flow State - Funk Poems for 'Bird' (New Focus Recordings)
Guitarist/composer Timuçin Şahin releases Funk Poems for 'Bird', a reckoning with the ghost of one of the most important figures in the history of jazz, Charlie Parker, as well as a document of Şahin’s unique collage of influences from the classical and improvisational avant-garde. Joined by pianist Cory Smythe, bassist Reggie Washington, and drummer Sean Rickman, Şahin’s double neck guitar (one standard neck and the other fretless neck in an alternate tuning) careens through textures that are shaped by Bird's spirit while also being infused with the rhythmic energy of funk music and the chromatic pitch vocabulary of 20th century modernists.
Tom Skinner - Voices of Bishara (International Anthem)
Tom Skinner - Voices of Bishara (International Anthem)

From Upupayāma to Wau Wau Collectif

Tom Skinner - Voices of Bishara (International Anthem)
Voices of Bishara began life when Tom Skinner asked some musician friends to join him for a Played Twice session at London’s Brilliant Corners. The regular event had a simple format: play a classic album in full through their audiophile system and then have an elite ensemble improvise their response.

TRÓNCO - TRÓNCO (Ramble Records)
This is the first full-length by the Genovese based experimental collective TRÓNCO. Originally live recorded in studio during the summer of 2020, the album has been mixed by Tommaso Rolando and mastered by Domiziano Maselli. It’s a collection of seven pieces that are somehow a multidimensional expansion of the same seed, placed in the ground in an ageless period: a trans-genre and trans-geographic recklessness growth by a wild resonance moving through the body as a spiraloid arrow.

Upupayāma - The Golden Pond (Cardinal Fuzz Records / Centripetal Force Records)
Upupayāma is the psych rock project of Alessio Ferrari, an Italian musician living in a small mountain village near Parma, northern Italy. The debut album The Golden Pond was just released via Cardinal Fuzz Records and Centripetal Force Records.

Violetov General - Gentle Reactor (Osàre! Editions)
During the late 1980s and 90s, at the helm of Violetov General, he pioneered a darkly melancholic, avant-garde formulation of the new wave sound. The band enjoyed international acclaim, spending time in the underground scenes of Bulgaria, Berlin and Slovakia. Since then, Valev has gone on to refine his hypnotically idiosyncratic style with a number of solo releases and appearances at electronic music festivals. Now, Osàre! presents Gentle Reactor, a collection of twenty-five years of remastered and more recent material.

Wau Wau Collectif - Mariage (Sahel Sounds)
Wau Wau Collectif’s second album, Mariage, is instilled with a newfound sense of purpose. Expanding upon the inspirational themes of their acclaimed 2021 debut, Yaral Sa Doom (Educate The Young), this long-distance collaboration from musicians in Senegal, led by Aurora Kane, and Sweden’s Karl Jonas Winqvist is an even more stylistically expansive affair. Joyful children’s songs collide with fuzzy guitar solos and thumping hip-hop beats. Shimmering synths lift off from the plunky percussion of the balafon and versatile sounds of the 22-string kora. Familiar voices from the first album return with more explicitly political lyrics, while the music feels both rhythmically dense and sonically weightless, flowing from one spellbinding moment to the next.

Y Bülbül, Yumurta - Not One, Not Two (Pingipung)
Y Bülbül is back on the controls accompanied by Yumurta, a percussionist from Istanbul. Not One, Not Two is based on a one-way transmission of improvised drum recordings from an industrial estate in Maslak, Istanbul to another one in Tottenham, London, where Y Bülbül laid down fragmented layers of bass, synths, guitars and field recordings over Yumurta’s singular drum takes.

About the Author

Dragoș Rusu & Victor Stutz

Dragoș Rusu is co-founder and co-editor in chief of The Attic and allround music adventurer.

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

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