Review: Presented in a limited run of 200 copies, "A Higher State Of Body & Mind" is the result of a one-off live performance by storied experimentalist (and Borft Records co-founder) Joachim Nordwall and Lebanese saxophonist Christine Abdelnour. It consists of a single, constantly evolving 41-minute piece in which Abdelnour adds subtle sax sounds and smoky, free-jazz style solos over Nordwall's mysterious, otherworldly electronics. With the Swedish veteran manipulating slate-grey drone sounds, moody aural textures and wayward electronic motifs, the resultant performance sounds like Mika Vainio jamming with one of jazz's more experimental horn players.
Review: When he launched the "Xerrox" series way back in 2007, Alva Noto intended it to run to five volumes. Here he presents the fourth volume, which largely eschews "external samples" of everyday sounds - the series was inspired by the idea of creating new musical motifs from "copies of copies" - in favour of greater warmth, emotion and musical dexterity. There's much to enjoy throughout, from the appealing, slow-burn haziness of deep ambient opener "Xerrox Kirlian" and the distinctly cinematic, Angelo Badalamenti-in-"Twin Peaks"-mode beauty of "Xerrox Voyage", to the Radiophonic Workshop style creepiness of "Xerrox Cosmos" and the melancholic, string-laden swell of "Xerrox Canaux".
Review: Back in 2008, noted experimentalist Alva Noto began a sporadic series of albums that were far more focused on dancefloor-inspired rhythms than his usual eccentric and inspiring fare. Unieqav is the third and, we're told, final part of the series. The album is apparently meant to be a sonic representation of an underwater dive, a conceptual theme which manifests itself through the storied producer's use of deep and atmospheric chords, fluid and occasionally glistening electronics, and rhythms that evoke images of ever-deeper dives into the dark, cold depths. Rhytmically, there are nods to electro, IDM, dub techno and Autechre, though the mood remains laidback and intoxicated throughout.
Review: "Alphabet" is the pairing of French poet and sound artist Anne-James Chaton with former Raston-Noton man Alva Noto. Their debut album features Chaton's spoken word mutterings, which range from repeating a series of numbers to looped one word phrases via the annunciation of phonetic sounds, carefully filtered and layered into dark but inviting drones, cold wave and ambient experimentalism. It's all inspired by Etymologiae, an etymological encyclopaedia compiled in the seventh century by Spanish scholar Isidore Of Seville, and despite that weird and wonderful source material makes for an enthralling and atmospheric listen.
Review: It's rare that an electronic album is the biggest album of the year, or at least the most hyped. That's certainly the case with Syro, Richard D James first official release under his Aphex Twin moniker for some 13 years. So, is it in any good? For starters, it sounds like an Aphex Twin album. Listen through to the 12 tracks, and many of his familiar staples are present - the "Digeridoo" era rave breakbeats, the mangled synth-funk mash-ups, the intoxicating ambient-era melodies, the warped basslines and the skittish drill & bass style rhythms. There's madness, beauty and intensity in spades. In other words, it's an Aphex Twin album, and - as so many have pointed out since the album's release was announced - there's no-one else quite like Richard D James.
Review: In line with the timely reappraisal of all things R&S related, the resurgent Apollo have seen the opportunity to bring one of their most celebrated records back for another round on CD. Aphex Twin's ambient recordings mature magnificently with age, sounding ever richer and more emotive as the rest of electronic music continues to play catch up all around. From the gentle breakbeats of "Xtal" to the aquatic techno lure of "Tha", the airy rave of "Pulsewidth" to the heartwrenching composition of "Ageispolis", every track is a perennial example of how far ambient techno could reach even back then. It's just that no-one quite had the arm-span of Richard D. James.
Review: The unveiling of an Apparat album is always cause for commotion with the artist influence enough to push radio stations to stream his music 24/7 upon release. Long passages of streaming synth-textures underline the loose and sparse percussive effects of Apparat's jazz and minimalism. The artist's signature bass pulses hit the sweet spot throughout the albums entirety, always inspiring a well of heavy feeling when they do. Touches of the artist's Bpitch Control days remain as does Apparat's always inspired approach when merging instrumentation with outboard gear and technology, beat making and sound design. A sound to cherish once more.
Review: As hinted by the stark but bold cover art, Stockholm-based experimental composer Ellen Arkbro has adopted a more minimalist approach on her latest album for James Ginzburg's admirable Subtext label. "Chords" comprises two lengthy pieces, each of which stretches out alluringly across a side of vinyl. A-side "Chords For Organ" sets the tone, with Akbro making merry with unsettling sustained notes, foreboding electronic tones and droning electronic pulses. It's pretty challenging, but strangely alluring in a mind-altering kind of way. "Chords For Guitar" applies a similar approach to effects-laden guitar passages, with individual notes - processed to resemble odd electronic tones - sparring with slowly strummed chords over 17 mesmerizing minutes.
Review: By the time they released In Visible Silence in 1986, the trio behind the Art of Noise - JJ Jeczalik, Gary Langan and Anne Dudley - had broken free of producer Trevor Horn and ZTT Records' concept-loving media man, Paul Morley. The resultant album was arguably more musically rich and varied than its predecessors, even if their obsession with the creative potential afforded by the Fairlight-CMI sampling computer remained in tact. It remains a hugely enjoyable set, rich in Dudley's neo-classical flourishes, Jeczalik's cheeky sense of humour and ability to spot a killer sample, and Langan's brilliant beat programming and production. This expanded reissue accompanies the original 11-track album with a wealth of obscure, forgotten or unreleased bonus material, including alternative mixes, 12" versions and unlikely collaborations.
Review: The illustrious and complex catalogue of Robert Ashley is a many-sided dice with all kinds of points of entry. Fortunately reissue culture sees some of the most significant highlights coming to the fore, guiding you into the world of this visionary artist. "Private Parts" was Ashley's second studio album, preceding his widely hailed classic "Automatic Writing". It's made up of two long form pieces centred on Ashley's freestyle poetry, with a backdrop of synths and tabla creating a comfortable bed for his thought-provoking words. "The Park" is the more melodious, soothing creation, but the words drill in deeper over the rhythmic focus of "The Backyard." Either way, a landmark piece of work from a truly singular artist - to think it was originally released in 1978...
Review: Over the last four decades, we've come accustomed to veteran electronic experimentalist Uwe Schmidt surprising us with each successive album. Even so, we were still pleasantly surprised by his latest Atom TM release, whose title - Walzeryklus ("Waltz Cycle") - offers a hint to his latest inspiration. Recorded with angel-voiced singer Lisokot, the album is entirely made up of tracks recorded in the 3/4 time signature of classic waltz. Naturally, these waltzes are unlike anything you'll have heard before, variously taking in neo-classical inspired ambient, eccentric left-of-centre synth-pop, bubbly electronica, fizzing Rephlex style "Braindance" and even a gtouch of wonky, mind-altering techno.
Review: While many experimentalists are still coming to terms with the death of the late, great producer and live performer Mika Vainio, his spirit lives on via occasional archival releases. This latest one is particularly special, as it presents a rare live recording - apparently the only one in existence - of Vainio's three-way collaboration with fellow electronic minimalists Ryoji Ikeda and Alvo Noto. Across 11 movements, the trio thrilling moves through droning ambient, Autechre-ish re-imaginings of Jamaican dancehall rhythms, concrete-clad electro and pulsating abstract techno, before returning to where they began. It's a dizzying and hugely enjoyable journey that somehow gets the perfect balance each of the contributor's trademark style.