VONDA7, BEACHERS, DJ Lostcat, Devoye, Eimear Reidy, Binaural Space, Chorchill, Salvatore Mercatante, Robert Curgenven, Doline, Louise Gaffney, perila, A lake by the mõõn, Sour Blood and Matt Evans
Half the year over, yadda yadda yadda. My son finishes his first year of primary school next year. I can’t believe I’ve been doing Bandcloud for longer than he’s been alive. I think about the people who’ve come and gone, people who were once fixtures of these pages who’ve changed path or simply left the game. The styles of music that have found themselves in ascendance or decline. The once-off SoundCloud shares long since deleted. Who knows what will become of the artists below?
Let’s start off with something fun, shall we? Let Go is the debut album from VONDA7, a DJ and producer based in Berlin (where else?). It’s bouncy and effervescent, brimming with summery melodies and chunky beats. Proper hands in the air stuff. It can drift slightly into Ibiza terrace territory at times, but there’s craft and musicianship at play throughout. The stripped back elements of ‘Werk It’ are a welcome delight, while the M1-esque tones of ‘Friend, Anyone?’ recall Cut Copy at their best. It’s a crowd-pleaser, that’s for sure.
This work is, to me, astounding. It covers so much ground while retaining a specific vision, it’s just magical. There are moments of strange ambient stillness punctuated by gated vocal recordings, possibly radio snippets, but that’s a guess. There’s an almost techno pulse at times. Sounds could be synthetic, they could be metallophonic, in most ways their source is irrelevant given the modulation or manipulation at play. I could listen to this all day.
I find it amusing that the opening track here is a sub-three-minute radio mix. It’s one of the deepest and darkest techno tracks I’ve heard in some time, and while I’ve been perfectly fine with not clubbing of late (for many reasons), this one really captured the feeling of a dark, strobey, smoky basement. Immense stuff. So why is it so short??? I have no idea. The latter two tracks are longer, between six and seven minutes in length, but push a similar vibe. Driving yet subtle, there’s an understated intensity at play that really impresses.
On an entirely different dancefloor tip, this is pure house goodness. That said, ‘Celestial Alignment’ features unexpected and delightful drum programming alongside its lush and melancholy chords and dancing riffs. ‘Space Disco Heat (Too Groovy)’ operates with ad libbed vocals and a chubby bass. ‘Freq Dat’ takes the tempo way up into electro territory while maintaining a lightness of touch that will leave you bouncing like you’re on the moon.
This is one of those releases where the story is almost as good as the music. Cellist Eimear Reidy recorded these eight pieces while on an artistic retreat at a place called Cill Rialaig in County Kerry in Ireland, in a small area not far from Skellig Michael (given worldwide fame when it featured in the recent set of Star Wars films).
Once a deserted famine village, Cill Rialaig now acts as an artist residency and retreat for writers and musicians. It was here where Eimear would sit down in the evenings to compose this suite for solo cello, while the wind and rain would tap at her door before falling back into the ocean.
Notice I said “almost”. The pieces are powerful, evocative, wild almost, indeed, reflecting the weather in that corner of this island. Perhaps I’m reading too much into the setting, romanticising it given my own small connection to the area (I stayed there twice as a teen). Either way, I think this is a marvellous piece of work.
I bought this on a whim at about 7.54 last Saturday morning when I saw the artist tweet about it. Binaural Space collected all the pieces of music he’d released as singles over the past few years and put them on the succinctly titled Album Made of Singles. There’s a lengthy spiel about friendship and relationships that I’d encourage you to read while you listen to the music, which is glorious. Floral and decorative melodies, gurgling synths, modular waltzes, staid reflections, it’s a wonderful snapshot of the best of Binaural Space.
There’s a bit of a story behind this. It’s the latest in a series of albums inspired by/dedicated to a man who was an acquaintance of the artist’s father named Apel Okuyan or The Nachtfisch”: “a once-mythical figure who drove from Istanbul to West Germany on a motorbike in the 1960s and ended up as a prominent figure in a powerful trade union (and less official sectors of the Ruhrgebiet economy) before his unexplained disappearance in 1995.” Wild. This particular volume centres on Okuyan’s school days in Istanbul. I didn’t know this when I listened the other day, and the music gave me a very calming start to an otherwise disappointing and dispiriting day. There’s a theme running throughout, it almost feels like an extended suite of music rather than an “album”. Top marks.
Salvatore Mercatante or sm recently sent me his Pistacchio Sessions. That album was a slightly manic collection of spacey acid electro cuts. This album for Woodford Halse is more of this world. Indeed, the blurb starts “Somewhere between the earth and the sky”. It’s a rich work, almost as if the ominous tones of Popol Vuh’s Aguirre score were laid in between rattling percussion and 21st-Century synths. In other ways it feels like “dance” music that tells a story, reminiscent of the epic strains of 90s prog house but operating in an entirely different sonic universe.
Remember live music? There’s a gig on tonight in Dublin for 3,500 people, with tickets sold in blocks of six for designated pods. It’s all a bit weird. This release is a recording of a performance from Cork Midsummer Festival 2018, distinctly in the before times. It’s a rather masterful and deeply emotional set of organ drones from Australian-born, Ireland-based artist Robert Curgenven. The composition and performance is quite incredible, using one of Ireland’s largest organs at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork in tandem with a 10ft dub soundsystem, which played recordings taken in other cathedrals in Ireland and in Cornwall. It reminds me a bit of the emotional heft of Kara-Lis Coverdale’s Aftertouches, but really it stands apart from anything else.
This one fairly snuck up on me. The opener feels akin to a kind of semi-beatless, atmospheric version of Paul Woolford’s ‘Razor Burn’ (somehow 10 years old), while other tracks deliver nightmarish swirling melodies over beats that sound like they’re in a washing machine at the bottom of the ocean. ‘Cumengéite’, named for a kind of mineral, is choppy and explosive, yet also bright and wondrous, kind of like… Yeah you see where I’m going with this one.
I’m never the best person to write about vocal music, so hopefully I can do this justice. Irish artist Louise Gaffney released this some weeks back, and it deftly combines a range of electronic approaches with her own considered singing. The music is lush and layered, providing a rich and enveloping background for her vocals, which are often layered themselves, offering a chorus effect. The instrumental ‘Asleep in the passenger seat’ feels like a soundtrack to a lonely car ride, two people close yet separated by silence and states of wakefulness. ‘When I sing I drink wine’ presents her vocals over piano and droning echoes, perhaps a fitting accompaniment for an emotional moment in The OC or Friday Night Lights (and believe me, that is a compliment). All in all, somewhere outside my regular wheelhouse, but a welcome change of pace.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already listened to this (yeah, I get promos) but I went and bought it this morning. It’s yet another chapter in the ongoing greatness that is perila. After a number of stellar releases on labels like The Trilogy Tapes, Paralaxe Editions and Boomkat Editions, we are granted her debut album proper on Smalltown Supersound. As one might expect, it’s full of swirling ambience, muted tones, whispered vocals, clanking noises, all that good stuff, but in the best way possible. I can’t even describe it really, it’s just a feeling, and that feeling is YES.
Everyone’s using field recordings these days, but no one is doing it quite like this. Portuguese artist A lake by the mõõn has created an album where every sound is created from recordings of endangered species. Some of those sounds are untreated — you’ll hear birds and other such wildlife — but others have been treated and processed to create melodies and percussion. “Blending the raw and processed sounds, the animal’s voices are recontextualized from their collapsing ecosystems into a new world of organic electronic music.” It’s a marvel. A personal highlight is ‘Utopia o caralho!’, but you should dig in and discover a literal new world.
Sour Blood is Kevin Gleeson, an Irish sound designer for theatre who’s venturing into the world of recorded music with his debut release, Good Nevers. Strange moods are driven by uncertainty and confusion, with muted atmospherics and weighted piano sounds combining with at times pained vocals. Wavering organs and unexpected guitar licks meet syncopated percussion hits, with a general mood of unease. It’s an interesting debut and I look forward to seeing how this project develops.
Touchless is an album inspired by and dedicated to Matt Evans’s late partner, Devra Freelander, who died after being hit by a truck while cycling in New York two years ago. A senseless tragedy. This album grapples with that loss, and loss in general, through quiet, expansive pieces, allowing ideas to float and grow and sit and be heard. Dealing with grief can often be an exercise in keeping yourself occupied, forever busy lest the pain be allowed to settle and burrow inside your heart. This album seems to take a different approach, sitting still and welcoming and accepting the heartache. The pain of loss is proof of love.