Spring buzzes with excitement, and what better way to represent this spirit than with some amazing electronic music? From ambient electronic to industrial IDM, the field is bursting with life. We’ve followed suit by listing this season’s releases in loose order of timbre, beginning with the soft and soothing and ending with the hard and abrasive. There’s enough music in this preview alone to provide an album a week for a year: and here we find it all packed into one green season. We’re confident that every reader will find something to love in all of these circuit boards!
Our cover image comes from the series “Earth As Art,” in which the EROS Center collects US Geological Survey images taken from the Landsat 8 satellite network.
Rich’s Pick: Polynation ~ Igneous (Village Green, May 10)
Let no one tell you that cover art is inconsequential; one look at Stuut’s cover image, and we were in love. If necessary, we were going to review this album just to make the cover eligible for our year-end feature. But holy of holies, it turns out the music is spectacular as well. Fans of Gidge‘s “Norrland” from the recently-reissued Autumn Bells on the same label will be drawn to the grooves of “Toba,” but there’s plenty more to be found here. Igneous is a delight; our only regret is that we have to wait so long for the release!
The shadow of Brexit falls across Borders, a heartfelt album that may bring some to tears. The music of Elma Orkestra & Ryan Vail is gorgeous on its own, a hybrid of electronic and modern composition. Add the Celtic vocals of Moya Brennan on lead single Colours and the presence of spoken word poet Stephen James Smith, and the effect is sublime. Listeners might not survive track “My Island” unscathed (Quiet Arch, June 14, profile photo to the right).
Good things come in threes, and Ben Chatwin‘s 2018 diptych becomes a triptych with Altered Signals, with remixes from artists as diverse as Vessels, Ital Ten and From the Mouth of the Sun. A worthy project in its own right, the new set continues to shed light on the living music of Staccato Signals and Drone Signals (Village Green, March 29).
Metavari has spent years synching new music to old David Lynth miniatures, and the results are now ready to be unveiled. Absurdia: Music Reimagined in the Short Films of David Lynch arrives as a Record Store Day clear LP with extensive liner notes (Light in the Attic/One Way Static, April 13).
Is It Ambient or Is It Electronic?
Saffronkeira‘s warm Automatism has aspects of both, often tag-teaming within a single track. There’s a hint of bvdub in this conceptual album, which delves into the unconscious mind and pulls out enveloping rhythms (Denovali, March 29, pictured left). Amon Tobin‘s On a Hilltop Sat the Moon sounds like an ambient serenade, but Tobin has been known to bust out the beats at the drop of a hat. We’ll have to wait and see what else Fear in a Handful of Dust has to offer when it is released on April 26 (Nomark). The beautifully named Brick Reds, Black Mauves alternates between the genres on his self-titled debut EP, due April 24 on Lapsus Records. The name is a pseudonym for Alex Anders of Dalhous. Disket‘s self-titled EP is carefully chilled, as reflected in the cold cover art (Quiet Love / Salvation, March 22). Johanna Kuntsson‘s Tollarp Transmission is influenced by Neu! and morphs as it moves back and forth between the chill-out room and the club floor (Kontra-Musik, April).
A world vibe permeates CosmoTengri, which comes from Kazakh composer Angelina Yershova. The album addresses our relationship with the planet in light of ongoing environmental degradation. We believe that Dead Can Dance would be proud (Twin Paradox, April 18). Inslanar (which means “humankind”) presents Demedim Mi, “an epic 45 minute shamanistic techno folk song,” filled with Turkish rhythms and a sense of togetherness (Rush Hour Music, April 20). Christian Löffler‘s Graal (Prologue) is named after his coastal home, and lulls listeners into a peaceful state, just like the sea. Two vocal tracks set out to soothe and produce a patina of peace (Ki, April 5). Sometimes sweet and sometimes rocking, Jason Letkiewicz keeps the interest steady throughout The Reflecting Pool, a guitar-based album found on Into the Light this April. And Robert Heel performs an amazing trick by recording one ambient track and one electronic track that can be played together to form a third. In Between will be unveiled on Lobster Records March 29.
Laurence Pike‘s follow-up to the acclaimed Distant Early Warning is rife with percussion and a partially-composed, partially-improvised vibe. In title and tone, Holy Spring is a perfect match for the season (Leaf, May 17). Dawn of MIDI’s Qasim Naqvi lets the machines do the talking on the percolating Teenages, the latest release to expand the Erased Tapes sound (May 3). Eve Maret offers an expanded version of last year’s No More Running featuring three new synth tracks; the original appeared on Banana Tapes last August (April 26). Interplanetary drums and synth feature strongly in Yulio‘s Earth, purportedly the Chilean artist’s 73rd album (March 26)! Polyrhythmic duo Georgia offer an exciting set in which ethnic music mingles with computerized IDM. Time is out April 1 on Firecracker. Caterina Barbieri‘s beautiful machine music occasionally retreats to expose the human element. The ten-minute “Fantas” is the first track to be shared from Ecstatic Computation, and it’s already one of our favorites (Editions Mego, May 3).
Hip-Hop, Chop and Pop
Odd Nosdam‘s reputation only continues to grow, and Mirrors will certainly enhance it. This short but sweet hip-hop set includes a touch of aggression, as heard in the guitar of lead track Cookies. Perfect timing as a new book about “Walk This Way” has just hit the market (Alien Transistor, April 12). Schlomo welcomes the end of the world with a spliff and a smile. The End is available in a box set with sunglasses and rolling paper. The apocalypse has never sounded so friendly, which makes Friends of Friends the perfect home for this release (March 22). “Hip-hop folk electronics” is a rare mashup found on MALK‘s WMAIDT. The album is part of Lost Tribe Sound’s Dead West series, along with the recently reviewed set from Vieo Abiungo (April 12, pictured left). It’s hard to classify Bloom’s Taxonomy, no surprise given the moniker. Bitter Lake includes trip-hop, world vibes and funk, along with rhythms slow and fast. All this, and it’s only an EP (April 12)!
We feel compelled to point out that Joni Void is the male artist formerly known as johnny_ripper. The cut-up female guest vocals and ambiguous cover hide this fact. But it all makes sense when one learns that Mise En Abyme tackles “body-voice dysmorphia” and questions of identity (Constellation Alias, March 29). Samuel Kerridge and Taylor Burch combine forces on The Other. “I don’t know if you can hear me,” intones Burch; thankfully, we can (Downwards, May 3).
Astrobal offers “new age pop” on L’infini, l’Univers et les Mondes, which includes a few vocals, both human and robotic (Karaoke Kalk, April 26). The primarily instrumental Prins Thomas includes his first vocal track on Ambitions, and it’s also the lead single. The album is due April 6 on Smalltown Supersound. After seventeen albums, one would think Ryan Farish would be a household name. Radio-friendly tracks such as Sunrise and “Wonder” should put him on a plethora of playlists. Wonder sees the light of day on March 22. After scoring multiple honors with her score to the video game Celeste, Lena Raine unveils her first solo album, Oneknowing. The cover assures instant interest from manga and gamer fans (Local Action, March 29). Moderat’s Apparat returns with the uptempo LP5, with soft lyrics resting atop swift jungle beats (Mute, March 22). Paper Tiger‘s Rogue Planet is a variety pack, with instrumentals alternating with lyric-driven pieces featuring song and rap. Steve Spacek guests on the first single, “The Cycle” (Wah Wah 45s, April 5). Holly Herndon collaborator UCC Harlo embeds both voice and orchestral instruments in United, from the ever-adventurous Subtext label. Timbres range from pop to baroque (March 22).
Happy So Happy
Laptops, rainbows, bouncy balls and ocean waves play together in the video for the title track of Leafcutter John‘s Yes! Come Parade With Us. It’s safe to say the artist is in a good mood (Border Community, April 19). The same holds true for Mana, who has fun with line drawings in the vocoder video for Solo, the first single from Seven Steps Behind (Hyperub, April 5). House fans are directed to Afterglow, an upbeat album from Smallpeople on Smallville (March 22, no relation to the TV show). House music all night long, or at least for an hour!
David Chalmin‘s La terre invisible makes intensive use of mallet instruments, producing a chimed patina. The album will be released on Ici D’aillieurs, with a preview track dropping in two weeks (May 24). Last time, Com Truise brought us the incredible video “Propagation,” and now we’re seeing some sweet sky blue vinyl. Persuasion System may be a mini-album, but it seems likely to pack the dance floors (Ghostly International, May 17). Drumless synth is the order of the day on the perky Polygome, from Piotr Kurek. The music is as colorful as the cover (Hands in the Dark, March 29). House, jungle and Atari synth collide on Sage Caswell‘s Evil Twin. Listen for the laser blasters at the end of lead single Walter Reed (2MR, March 29). Even more game-like are the intricate beat duels of Tiger Village, who unveils Modern Drummer March 29 on Hausu Mountain. The robot wins.
Prefer melody to drums? Psyk offers club-friendly, stripped-down techno on A Moment Before, whose lead single Artemis is reminiscent of famous industrialists Intermix (Tresor, March 22). Even more lean is Zeno van den Broek‘s Breach, whose lead track takes the form of techno while withholding the drums (Moving Furniture, April 26). Head-nodding “gargantuan” techno is present on Tom Hades‘ four-track EP Acrab, due March 29 on Korpus 9. The aggressive timbres are sure to get people off their seats. Graham Dunning brings the synth on Music for Climbing Walls. The energy can even be extended to indoor mountaineering (LTR, April 12). Feeling more adventurous? Staub Records celebrates their sixth anniversary with a short techno set from an unknown artist. To cap the mystery, Staub 004 will be released on April Fool’s Day.
Blast from the Past
Tiger & Woods dig unapologetically into disco and funk on AOD, an album perfect for those who lived through that era or wish they had. Cue the vocoder (Running Back, April 12). RX-101 never thought his work was good enough to release. Now he’s been discovered by a new generation. Suction Records unveils another round of his vintage electronics on Dopamine (March 22). Fonolith continues to dust off the music of Neil Scrivin, whose music may come from 2004 yet still sounds contemporary. Stars and Rumours of Stars is out April 12. Proem proudly displays a Nineties influence on Until Here for Years, a set of warm IDM on the ever-reliable n5MD (April 19). He may have been quiet for a while, but Minotaur Shock is finally back with MINO, sounding none the worse for wear ~ even perkier than before (Bytes, April 5). And Disciples is still unearthing tracks from Bogdan Raczynski; the latest collection is called Rave ‘Till You Cry, and will be released on April 5.
Harder, Louder, Faster
Boom, boom, boom! goes Tommy Boy Seven‘s Veer, a hard techno project on 47 (April 5). The same holds true for Minimal Violence, its very title a dead giveaway; Technicolour releases InDreams on April 26. Steady beats rule the roost on Laurel Halo‘s installment of DJ-Kicks. Artists include Ikonika, Siete Catorce and Halo herself. With 29 tracks in 60 minutes, there’s little time to rest (!K7, March 22). A L T E R promises “no easy listening” on its compilation Alert!. Odd then that Anna Peaker’s public track “Helicidae” is so pensive. But the rest of the set brings the heat, even happy hardcore. Tomaga, Mark Vernon and Mumdance are but a few of the artists included (April 19). Multiple remixers tackle Daniel Avery‘s Song for Alpha as the producer offers an alternate look at last year’s album. Four Tet, Jon Hopkins and Luke Slater are among the artists featured on Song for Alpha B-Sides and Remixes (Phantasy/Mute, April 5). AV artists Slagmann explode from their Krysalis on April 29; for the full experience, be sure to catch the live show (Talismann).
The lead single of Lachrin‘s Imní EP may be mostly drone, but foghorns sound in the third track, followed by harsh percussion. There’s even a touch of modern composition found in these grooves (Jerome, March 28). Crunch and distortion dominate Alberich‘s Quantized Angel, producing a red level industrial storm (Hospital Productions, April 12). Codex Empire adopts the cloaking moniker of Antechamber for the Rift EP, which sounds like rubber and chains (Horo, March 29). Industrial and IDM make uneasy bunkmates in the diverse Echo Chambers from Pete Warren, who our readers may remember as Ghost Station (Local Electrique, March 29). One of spring’s most articulate releases comes from Logos, who cites influences both literary and musical. Imperial Flood is out April 12 on Different Circles. In contrast, Refectori‘s harsh noise makes Esplendi the season’s most extreme electronic release (Hedonic Reversal, April 5).