City Imp Records, Trevor Banks, Tapes, Erik Levander, Reverend Dollars, Ffion, Yen Sung & Photonz, Innesti, Eddington Again, Roxane Métayer, Nacho Román, Azu Tiwaline and Liquid Library
Good day my friends. It’s nearly May! And I look out the window at grey skies and raindrops. That’s what I get for living in Ireland. I want to give a special shoutout to Brad Rose and Foxy Digitalis. The website has recently relaunched and there’s new stuff coming every day. Interviews, reviews, short blurbs. So much. I’m in awe.
Jumping straight into it! These chancers, based in Ireland and abroad, have come together under the City Imp Records umbrella to celebrate all that is cheeky and silly and fun. Just check that artwork. The City Imp was a single-decker bus that ran through certain parts of Dublin in the 90s. I’m not quite sure where the idea came from or even how long it ran, but it was pretty cool livery and I’m glad to see it resurrected for this label/platform. Contributors to this mix include the hilariously named Toké O'Drift, DJ SELKY, who adds to the bus theme with ‘The 46Anthem’, Doubt and Sweet Philly, to name but a few. It’s a particularly Irish take on US club music, full of humour and life but never being anything less than serious with the music.
Even if you’re not a fan of Spike Lee’s joints, there’s much to enjoy in this mix from Trevor Banks on his Balamii show from earlier in the year. Two hours of jazz, hip-hop, boogie and what have you, it shows the director’s impeccable taste as well as his long-running celebration of black culture. Public Enemy, Stevie Wonder, Cymande, Common, even A. R. Rahman all feature, alongside some impeccable jazz selections. On top of all that, Banks has sourced lines and scenes from films, as well as excerpts from interviews with Lee and his collaborators. It’s made me want to go and watch all his films again.
Two tracks of languid digital dub from Tapes, released on Australia’s Research Records. The themes at play here are 80s or 90s muzak, but charming and beguiling even so. Just sit back, relax and breath.
From digital dub to subtle electronics, Erik Levander offers up a rather stunning release on Glacial Movements. The label name reflects the pace of the music, as each track grows slowly and without any hint of urgency. In fact, Jökel is the Norwegian for glacier. Smouldering embers build, submerged bangs appear deep in the distance. Again, as its name suggests ‘Expansion’ moves from nothing to quite striking crescendo, voices and tones unending yet ever growing across its 13 minutes. It’s the kind of work for which words do not suffice. Stick it on loud in a dark room and let your imagination run wild. We’ve been watching the TV series The Terror, the first season of which tells the story of men trapped in the Arctic in the 19th Century. This would be a fitting soundtrack to that tale.
‘Think!’ and ‘Sing Sing’ breaks, heavy distortion, weird looping. So far, so familiar. This release nonetheless sounds nothing like anything I’ve heard before. At times I was convinced there were two tracks playing, pausing it to make sure I hadn’t left something on in another tab. Things speed up and slow down at will, tapes running wild and records skiddering shamelessly. ‘ruff 404 jam’ leads the way, it’s perhaps my favourite here in the way that it encapsulates the chaotic approach of Reverend Dollars, who’s based in Seattle. That’s not to say it’s dishevelled or unplanned; I’m sure this chaos is organised and deliberate. But to the listener, ooh boy it’s a wild ride.
I’ve listened to the first track here, ‘Open Spaces’, countless times. It’s somehow both warm in its sounds and entirely frosty in its mood. Like Jökel above, it’s one that grows slowly, but in this case the growth is in modular melodies rather than in mood and sound design. It’s crusty and foggy, a swarm of flies around an abandoned shack. “Dropped feathers will fly no more,” says the blurb.
I played this on radio last weekend, and it’s just a gorgeous jam. A collaboration from Lisbon-based Yen Sung and Photonz, it’s the first release on their new label Alphabet Street Music. Chonky house vibes, a simple but effective vocal sample, seriously nostalgic keyboards. All round winner.
Innesti’s Filament and Place feels like a series of breaths. Hot breaths in winter, cool breaths on hot days. Imagine the feeling of being suspended in mid-air, floating on clouds as the world rushes by. That’s the feeling evoked by pieces like ‘Nil Shore’ and the album’s title track.
Imagine if Autechre made rnb. Barely two and a half minutes, this is a perfect slice of electronic experimentation, showing the capacity for genres to merge together slickly.
Double whammy here. I was sent Roxane Métayer’s Paroles Cavernicoles (literally cave lyrics) by Primordial Void, the label releasing it. Then I checked out her earlier work from this year, Éclipse des ocelles. Both are worth sharing. Sound art with field recordings, vocal harmonies, solo singing, wonderful violin expression, her work is a journey through time and space in the most magnificent way.
Well this is just the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. You know that thick washy ambient style that uses chords that make you feel like the world is ending and there’s nothing you can do about it but stand there and cry? That’s what this is.
What a mix. Azu Tiwaline put out a series of releases last year that were among my favourites. Like her own music, this mix, performed for Interdimensional Transmissions’ Samhain XX last year, is sparse and atmospheric, percussive and exploratory. It never quite lets you settle, twisting and turning down dark and fascinating pathways. The only track I recognise is Significant Other’s rumbling ‘Club Aura’, and when I mentioned that on its release last year I wrote “Where does this lead, where are we going etc”. This mix is very much like that.
Liquid Library have arranged a compilation in aid of Trans Aid Cymru, a mutual aid, helping trans, non-binary and intersex people across Wales. It’s got 14 tracks of excellent experimental music, ranging from guttural vocal rasps to field recordings to sound art sqwonk and blissful ambient, and more.