Electronic artists use a wide array of tools, from warm pads to abrasive textures. Some songs are created for dancing, some for spiritual escape; tracks with sharp edges must be memorized before bodies can move with confidence. As well as being perfect for the club scene, the genre is well-suited to the open road, helping drivers to stay focused and alert. At home, it pumps us up; in a club venue, it offers the promise of transcendence. No single sentence is sufficient to describe its power. One thing’s for sure: this genre is as healthy as ever, and shows no signs of slowing.
Our cover image comes from Yoshi Sokeoka, the visual artist behind MYMK’s album Garlands. A preview is found in the article below!
Rich’s Pick: Surachai ~ Come, Deathless (BL_K Noise, January 25)
One of the season’s hardest-edged releases is also one of its best. Surachai’s dark excursion includes drumming from a member of ISIS and field recordings from deep in the jungles of Thailand. Industrial music is the starting point, but not the final destination; this album journeys into numerous forests, all of them dark. Percussion fans will be enamored with the heavy beats that threaten to attack like sonic guerrillas in the brush. The creation of the album was therapy for the artist, but the power in these grooves may be therapeutic to listeners as well. A sold-out wax-drenched edition (pictured right) operates as an objet d’art, as one suspects this particular slab is unplayable.
MYMK‘s Garlands is another of the season’s standouts, and is offered in both musical and limited edition visual editions, with work from yos_sod. The videos look like soap bubbles, popcorn and oil paintings, mixed together; the music is a potpourri of steady and unsteady rhythms, ventures into abstraction and colorful explosions. Check out the first taste of this exciting collaboration below (Sounds et al, January 25).
Karlrecords was a surprise inclusion in our Labels of the Year vote, until we realized how many fine yet disparate albums they had released in 2018. Their first release of the new year continues this trend, celebrating the work of Iranian spike fiddle player Saba Alizadeh. The artist’s last tour was through the ice houses and reservoirs from Iran, so this is no typical artist; we expect his album to be unique as well (February 15). The young and mysterious producer Lapsihymy follows Collections O2 with the unsurprisingly titled Collections 2.5. It’s another beautiful set of looped vocals and processed sound, and for the first time a sprinkling of song. The elements merge to produce a state of bliss (February). Kid Koala‘s music to draw to: io features Trixie Whitley, is based on Greek mythology and is available in sketchbook format. This is the second in an ongoing series (Arts & Crafts, January 25). Sure, it has lyrics, but Ultramarine has been around since 1990 and gets to do whatever they want. Signals Into Space also includes vibraphone and saxophone, and is bound to bring back memories (Les Disques du Crepuscule, January 11). Dolphin Midwives explore a variety of styles on Liminal Garden, including a mix of vocal approaches and an exquisite use of chimes. Two singles (along with remixes) have already been released, and the full album is out January 18 on Sounds et al and Beacon Sound.
After the success of Manu Delago last year, artists are continuing to hike into the Alps to record. The latest is Ulrich Troyer, who provides a score of sorts to his experience on Dolomite Dub. He’s assisted in this venture by members of The Vegetable Orchestra, who (somewhat disappointingly) play real instruments. The entire piece is a single 40-minute track, which changes conditions like the climate that inspires it (4Bit Productions, February 8). The Malka Tuti label returns with friends on the world-embracing Khidja si Balabas; expect to dance all night long (January 11). Nkisi uses cosmology and polyrhythms to explore the world of Congolese percussion on 7 Directions; her approach makes this one of the season’s originals (UIQ, January 18).
Anatole‘s Emulsion is a mix of instrumental and vocal, with a guest appearance by Ólafur Arnalds on one track. This is another visual album, with a healthy presence on YouTube. Inspired by long walks in the Australian bushland, the album is at one with nature; the artist’s name means “sunrise.” The timbre is a healthy mix of ambient, world music and modern composition, and exudes a feeling of unity ~ exactly what the world needs right now (Mercury KX, February 22). Ümlaut‘s Musique de Film is just what it sounds like: a collection of pieces recorded for film, although in this case the composer and director are the same. Piano features strongly, as does the occasional harsh repeating buzz (Audiobulb, January 9). Live music, computer processing, modern dance and projected image join hands under the Exseind banner, a live project that is finding its way to floppy disc ( ! ) this season. Join Lars Graugaard and friends for this experience on the Orion Network on March 8. Warm synth percolates throughout BeWider‘s Full Panorama, which was inspired by cinema. The tone remains positive throughout, despite titles such as “No One Ever Became Wicked Suddenly” and “Everyone Else Is Already Taken” (Folk Wisdom, February 1).
Synth You’ve Been Gone
New Tendencies releases a set of live Serge synth on January 25; perhaps Batch 0008 is not the best for the dance floor, but it serves as a window into the creative process (SM-LL). Craven Faults returns with another installment of their trip through Yorkshire; Springhead Works again features two side-long tracks, veined with komische (February 8). The video teaser for Pneuma hints at John Carpenter, but we suspect the overall vibe to be a bit more soothing; Alexandre Navarro‘s album of the same name is out January 12. An 80s vibe is present on Betonkust & Palmbomen II‘s Parallel B; we’re already flashing back to the arcade (Dekmantel, January 14). James Place‘s Still Waves to a Whisper is a showcase of melodic synth, bordering on techno without tilting (Umor Rex, February 8). Broads mixes vocal and instrumental tracks on A Small Box Over a Global Goal, producing a sound that is sometimes warm, sometimes dangerous (March 1). Silk Road Assassins offer a similar twist at the end of their debut album, following the warm pads of the opening tracks with a finale more suited to their moniker. State of Ruin is out February 8 on Planet Mu. Puce Mary appears as a guest on Croatian Amor‘s Isa, but despite some dark beats, optimism runs through these grooves (Posh Isolation, January 25). Lee Gamble‘s In a Paravental Scale features percolating synth, jet engines, and BPMs that top 160. It’s the first of three EPs that will eventually comprise the Flush Real Pharanyx album (Hyperdub, February 1).
Don’t Techno for an Answer
Pangea celebrates an anniversary with 15 Years of Pangea Recordings, veering to the pop side of techno with plenteous vocals (January 7). But fifteen years is still less than the time that elapsed between the last two Aubrey albums; Gravitational Lensing is the artist’s first release since 2001 (Out-ER, February 22). The label follows this with Movente, an experimental trip-hop album from Cleptotronic, on March 15. Also returning after a long absence (only 14 years) is Marco (DJ) Passarani with W.O.W. on Often Music (January 15). Gus Gus’ President Bongo is back with a sequel to his popular 2015 album; Quadrantes is being promoted with a familiar Icelandic video that showcases exuberant but unusual dancing (Radio Bongo, February 15). Is it live or is it MIDI? Fans will find it hard to tell on Music Needs No Heroes, the upcoming project from Moscow-based Alexsandr Tresorg (TruthTable, February 5). Efdemin unveils the green-colored New Atlantis on February 15; associations with Aquaman may be unintentional, but they can’t hurt (Ostgun Ton). Frieder Nagel‘s debut EP Distract Robots exudes a sci-fi vibe, as signaled by its title (InFiné Éditions, January 18). Chloé revisits last year’s hit album on Endless Revisions Live (pictured left), the name implying a sequel (Lumiaire Noire, January 11). Despite the name, Substance takes a turn to the dark side on Rise and Shine, moving away from the sunnier dispositions displayed as DJ Pete (Ostgut Ton, January 25). Damon Zucconi starts with an electro-acoustic piece before going straight-up techno; the percussive Untitled Substance is out January 11 on Zero Grow. Steady beats emerge early on Florian Meindl‘s Nonlinear Times, and remain throughout; this is definitely an album for clubs and pulsing lights (Flash, February 22).
License and Registration, Please
It’s not known if Munchies on Flowers is found on an alternative universe’s list of “my favorite things,” but this self-titled solo project has many facets. Some of the tracks are experimental, while the bulk rely on techno narratives. A bit of IDM surfaces from time to time as well (Switch Music, February 18). Junglist rhythms thread in and out of the appropriately titled Hectic Shakes, a hyperactive new set from Christoph de Babalon (A L T E R, January 18). Computer morphing technology has come a long way since Godley & Creme, as can be witnessed in the new AI “directed” Lorem video; Adversarial Feelings is pure IDM, released in a book/SD card format (AV, February 13). The self-titled album from Awefekt is another IDM gem, sounding at times like an elevator gone wild (“Petite Bloom”). The rapid-fire rhythms should be popular under the strobe lights (People, January 11). Bjarki‘s Happy Earthday is introduced as a tribute to his native Iceland, influenced by “volcanos, lava, the ocean, the strong wind and the rising sun over the glacier.” A fast album, this one should have clubbers trying to match every other beat (!K7, February 15).
Let’s Get Industrial
Roly Porter should be proud of his new Subtext signee Gonçalo Penas, as Ego de Espinhos shares many of the same textures that made the former artist famous. This gorgeously harsh debut will see the light of day on January 18. The new 12″ from Red Stars CPR begins with drone and ends with air raid sirens and beats. Earth Is Heaven/Heaven Is Hell eventually sounds as apocalyptic as its title (Testoon, January 22). Barnett & Coloccia‘s Copperworks is pure, dark industrial music, replete with whispered vox and buzzing chords. The rest of VLF may be more placid, but what an opening punch (SIGE Records, February 22)! The cornet was never an instrument associated with industrial music ~ until now. Cosey Fanni Tutti‘s Tutti shows us how it can be done (Conspiracy International, February 8). Launching an album with a movie sample is a tried-and-true industrial trope, used to great effect on Ascorbite‘s Macroscopic Framework. Booming drums and chants swoop in, providing the album with a relentless energy it doesn’t relinquish until the closing track (Corseque Records, January 25). Black Egg & Rendered connect Germany and France on the N0 Compromise EP, which screams latex suit despite the flannel and gas mask of the cover (Tripallium, January 16). And Jerusalem’s Raash Records offers the compilation RV/A001, a harsh set that includes heavy abrasion and is often so angry it forgets to dance: a reflection of a region in crisis (January 2).