Remember when our previews only contained 100 albums? Now we have over 100 to share in a single article, which brings our total to a record 300! The electronic section of our Spring Music Preview is the largest by far; the airwaves are about to explode with percussion and synth. Happy first day of spring!
If we’re all going to hunker down, why not enjoy some music while we’re at it? There is so, so much to look forward to. New music continues to be announced at a record pace (pun intended), while many artists and labels are offering sales and contributing proceeds to charities. Keep in mind that digital stores don’t close! Bandcamp is waiving their usual cut of revenues today so be sure to support their artists and labels with some financial love. The music industry is filled with positive spirits and a desire to help. Thank you to everyone who is a part of it, and especially to those finding creative ways to make a difference in a troubled world.
On behalf of the entire staff, we wish you a happy and healthy spring. As the earth revives beneath our feet, we recall that life is a cycle and this hard time won’t last forever. And now: let there be music!
Rich’s Pick: Rone ~ Room With A View (InFine, April 24)
It’s hard to get a read on Rone‘s Room With A View from the preview tracks, as one of them features a children’s choir and the other is a playful stream of “bad words.” But we’ve heard the full album, and it’s just what the world needs right now (love, sweet love!). The timbre is life-affirming, the subject matter is timely, and the purchase options include t-shirt, sweatshirt and socks!
There’s such a small difference in quality between our top pick and our next two that it came down to the album art. Right now, we need more light! Thankfully, Ben Lukas Boysen‘s Mirage is filled with bright tones, in contrast to the art. Not only did the artist once score our prized Album of the Year (for Everything with Sebastian Plano), but he’s joined on this set by Daniel Thorne, who recorded one of our favorite albums of 2019. Erased Tapes has another winner (May 1). In like fashion, site favorite Tilman Robinson displays dark tones on the cover of Culturecide. But in contrast, one also finds dark sounds within. Robinson probably didn’t mean to be prescient, but when listening to the album, one might say he saw this crisis coming (Bedroom Community, April 24).
Since when does Jónsi make dance music? It’s been happening for a while, as Dark Morph II is his second collaboration with Carl Michael von Hausswolff. The new release is dedicated to the world’s oceans and was recorded in Fiji and Tonga. Whales make a heartfelt appearance to plead their case (Pomperipossa, May 1). And what’s Sufjan Stevens doing here? Aporia is his collaboration with Lowell Brams, and these gorgeous electronics are likely to surprise even long-term fans (Asthmatic Kitty, March 27).
Vocal samples lounge around in a bed of beats on Stumbleine‘s Sink Into the Ether, which even includes a surprising cover of the Hole track “Malibu” (Monotreme, April 3). Soela‘s Genuine Silk sounds as smooth-edged as its title, an ambient pillow with fringes of house (DIAL, 17). Now signed to n5MD, worriedaboutsatan doesn’t seem that worried anymore. The languid Time Lapse is set for release on May 8. We’re digging Kate NV‘s Room for the Moon, with a vocal vibe that reminds us of Sign Libra on the same label; a shared tour is a no-brainer (RVNG Intl., June 12). Somewhat silly at times, David Behrman, Paul DeMarinis, Fern Friedman, Terri Hanlon, and Anne Klingensmith are at least having fun on She’s More Wild…, which draws on various time frames for reference (Black Truffle, March 27).
Past Palms‘s spring-themed Vernal EP is unveiled on the season’s opening day, and sings of snow melt and crocus bloom. The effervescent Rainwater is the first single. We’ve already reviewed Somni‘s Home, which gazes right past spring to summer. A light sea breeze wafts through the streets; tropical weather is right around the corner (Friends of Friends, March 27). Modular synth decorates Bright Serpent, the new album from Inwards. “Skateboarding” is particularly bright, and may end up in many ear buds this spring (Small Pond Recordings, April 10). Buli also jumps forward in time, as “Summer Nights” is the premiere single from Blue (Alpha Pup, April 17).
Birdsong, waterfalls and lullabies create a warm environment on K-LONE‘s Cape Cira. The album sounds like a tropical rain forest that somehow found electricity (Wisdom Teeth, April 24). World music vibes permeate Guedra Guedra‘s rapid-fire set Son of Sun, which the label is billing as “the sound of summer.” The colorful hues match the good-time vibe (On the Corner, May 1, pictured right with exclusive Bandcamp art at the top of this article). Daniel Haaksman offers Black Atlantka Edits, compiling ethnic-flavored mixes made around the globe (BBE, April 24). And look at that Eskimo Recordings cover for The White Collection; don’t we all wish we could be swimming while listening to positive, uplifting music? The album marks the 20th anniversary for the Belgian label (April 3).
Cyborgs and Other Hybrids
Is that a cantaloupe? If so, it’s not like any cantaloupe we’ve seen. Skalpel‘s Highlight is jazzy and groovy with a touch of rock. It’s also guaranteed to prevent scurvy (Ninja Tune, March 20). There’s a little bit of everything on Ian Chang‘s Belonging, which borrows from different genres to create a hodgepodge of tones. Some of the tracks are vocal, while a few contain electric guitars and one makes use of an orchestral sample library. Otherwise known as 属, the LP is out April 24 on City Slang. We’re unused to seeing the New Amsterdam label in the Electronic section, as most of their output falls under Modern Composition. That changes with the self-titled debut of Methods Body, a duo of keys and percussion that beckons people to the dance floor (Co-released with Beacon Sound, May 22).
Matt Evans blends electronics and percussion on New Topographics, adding chalkboard writing on the lead single Cold Moon (Whatever’s Clever, April 17). Acoustic cello, harp, kalimba, bells, electronics and more share a love shack in Entangleland, located in the Pingipung region. Landlords Andi Otto & F.S. Blumm keep the grounds tidy and bright (April 3). Razen offers some intricately improvised Middle East timbres on Robot Brujo, an LP that sounds less robotic than trancelike (Hands in the Dark, March 27, pictured right).
One-man-band Cabeki mixes four guitar approaches into one on Da qui i grattacieli erano meravigliosi, the latest of a series of finely tuned releases on Lady Blunt Records (April 15). Six songs, six videos, one EP: we’re in the middle of the release slate for alles ist alles, with the full EP drop scheduled for April 10. The vibe is jazzy, the beats contagious (Grundrauschen). Jazz drummer Gerald Cleaver goes electronic on Signs, yielding a light island vibe; the cyan blue vinyl is quite attractive (577 Records, March 27). We’ve just learned that Record Store Day has been postponed from April 18 to June 20, but we won’t penalize Qasim Naqvi‘s Beta for being released on the first day of summer; this soothing release deserves to be listed here (Erased Tapes). Vladislav Delay, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare team up for the dub excursions of 500-Push-Up, an album reminiscent of early Sherwood productions (Sub Rosa, May 15).
The Ombrelle Concrète label has a pretty neat one lined up for May 8: Let It Bleep, a reimagined version of The Beatles’ Let It Be. The album asks the question, “What if George Martin and The Beatles had recorded the album today?” The album is knee-deep in electronic timbres and makes an engaging thought exercise. Can you believe DJ-Kicks has been around for 25 years? The imprint celebrates its anniversary with a new entry from Mr. Scruff. The 32-track set contains a wealth of unique artists and sounds; as with all works on the label, it’s not “just” a compilation (March 27). Luke Slater offers a 130-minute mix on Berghain Fünfzehn to mark the label’s 15th anniversary; it’s a free download beginning April 3. Listeners will find a wide variety of timbres on the 40-track Scandinavian Swords III: Atlas of Visions. The preview tracks include one pounding techno piece and another synth vocal selection (Northern Electronics, May 15). Josey Rebelle mixes the next installment of Beats in Space, aptly titled Josey in Space. 12″s are also available (May 15).
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith continues to make a name for herself with a constant expansion of horizons. The Mosaic of Transformation is an apt title not only for her new album, but for her career. Buchla, organ and voice create overlappings as flexible as the cover image (Ghostly International, May 15). Also combining synth and organ, Minais B works through a time of loss. Quiet Bloom is a life-affirming set that draws on various spiritual traditions while confronting the presence of death (ANYINES, April 24).
Where are the drums? There ought to be drums. Lorenzo Senni disagrees, and on Scatto Matto the artist finds other ways to produce percussive sounds. The “pointillistic” album is out April 24 on Warp. Boris Hauf introduces the Clark2 EP with a series of black and white videos; no relation to the artist Clark (Shameless Records, April 24). Jaki Liebezeit, Burnt Friedman and Joao Pais combine their talents on the tap-happy Eurydike EP, out March 27 on Nonplace Germany. Synth abounds on Plone‘s Puzzlewood, which has a pleasantly retro flavor. The new set from DJ Python is out April 10 on Incienso. The preview track may contain vocals, but Mas Amable sounds so warm we’ll allow it (Ghost Box, April 17). Can one be light and dark at the same time? Sunken Foal manages the trick on Hexose, which treats timbres like playing cards (Countersunk, April 24).
Stacked Up At Zero resides on the border of ambient and electronic, veering between rest and wreckage. In its darkest minutes, Ross Downes even flirts with the industrial (Trestle, May 1, pictured right). Hunter Complex presents semi-industrial synth tracks on Dead Calm and Zero Degrees, which was also inspired by their love of horror films (Burning Witches, March 20). Not many albums come with a comic book, but Magic Sword‘s Endless is the exception. The retro-minded sci-fi album is out March 27 on Joyful Noise. Cat Temper is even more in love with the eighties, and Feralyzed sounds like the synth soundtrack to an old VHS movie, but with pristine mastering indicating it was recently recorded. Pre-orders are available on mint green and cat splat vinyl (April 17). Similarly tongue-in-cheek is Reykjavik’s Volruptus, who offers a sort of dinosaur rave on First Contact (bbbbbb recors, March 27).
Editions Mego continues its trustworthy release schedule with a variety pack of timbres this spring. C. Lavender‘s Myth of Equilibrium is thick and wet (May 15), while Ewa Justka‘s Upside Down Smile is fast and pummeling (April 24), Kassel Jaeger & Jim O’Rourke‘s in cobalt aura sleeps is deep and dronelike (May 15), and Bernard Parmegiani‘s archival Violostries is as crinkly as aluminum foil (April 3). More of their spring slate has already been covered over the past few days, and all can be previewed here.
Teruyuki Kurihara‘s Frozen Dust brings us out of winter and into spring, imagining the stories of an Arctic adventurer and others as they brave the forces of nature, including wind & fog (Mille Plateaux, March 24). A remastered version of the first three Pole albums 1, 2 and 3 will be available as a box set on Mute April 24; some have been unavailable for quite some time. Gavilán Rayna Russom‘s Secret Passage could just as easily pass for Experimental; we placed it here due to the pulsing synths. The album is a dedication to the rail yards of Providence, RI, and mixes field recordings and vocals into a curious miasma (Voluminous Arts, March 26).
“Still, severe weather” is the definition of Tynni and somehow manages to fit the music as well: sometimes spiritual, sometimes stormy, with devotional vocals from Cucina Povera (Night School, March 27, pictured left). One of the tracks on Malcolm Goldie‘s debut album is titled “What Is This.” The question is apt, as the bouncy and humorous The Sound of Malcolm thumbs its nose at the rules (Trunk, April 17).
Automatisme has a “rhythmic side and a landscape side” on Alter-, which teems with ambience but is dipped in glitch (Mille Plateaux, April 14). Traditional Japanese instruments make Odoriko a joy to listen to, although we’re guessing Hoshina Anniversary is a made-up name (Alien Jams, March 20).
Wow, we are seeing some great dance videos this season. The latest comes from Glass Museum, and percolates with beauty and joy. This is an Abyss we’d love to fall into, thanks to dancer Sofia Moreira and the direction of the band. Reykjavik is out April 24 on SdBan Ultra.
Robby the Robot
Fluxion offers gentle beats to match the gentle title of Perspectives, a pleasing hybrid of techno and dub, with some nature sounds added (Vibrant Music, April 24). Vibrant synth tracks are sprinkled with ambience on Musique Sans Paroles, a short set from Pierre Rousseau (Beats In Space, March 27). As suggested by the artist’s moniker, Popnoname, Horizons has a chance to cross over. The vibrant beats are tailor-made for the dancefloor, and tracks like “Alone at the Beach” and “Star Trek With Mustafa” seem ready for radio (Fienes Fier, April 3). Philipp Rumsch Ensemble offers pop-rock confections with a light jazzy flair; µ: of anxiety x discernment is out March 27 on Denovali. Scene stalwarts Jaga Jazzist return with the groove-minded treat of Pyramid, paying homage to Earth, Wind & Fire; over two dozen instruments are included (Brainfeeder, April 24)! Squarepusher drops a 25-minute EP on April 9; we lament that there are no preview tracks for Lamental (Warp).
Hodge‘s Shadows in Blue was inspired by nature and invites one to commune with the elements; this happy dance album will have us dancing in the rain on April 17 (Houndstooth). Here’s a cool cover (see the aqua/green monster pictured right): Patricia Kokett‘s Bizarr lives up to its name with strange screams and tribal rhythms (Knekelhuis, March 30). “Sepia-tinged space operas and Russian sci-fi folk tales” are some of the inspirations behind Square Fauna‘s Meet the Fauna, which starts off fast before taking a siesta. The album pokes through the leaves at the end of March (Firecracker). Billed as “a mysterious initiation rave in a utopian hidden village,” the flute-filled Birdtrapper is the very definition of a journey, from Capitol K (Faith and Industry, April 10). Lunch Money Life makes “apocalypse music,” which means their time has finally come. Drums, bass, guitar and horns mingle with electronics on Immersion Chamber (Scenic Route, April 3). Sci-fi meets spring on Galaktika, beckoning clubbers to dance wherever they may be (3000GRAD, April 3).
Making the jump to Constellation, T. Gowdy offers a quintet of tracks with just a hint of ambience. Therapy With Colour began as an AV collaboration with Laura Buckley, and we suspect that the live experience is trance-inducing (May 8). House and techno beats are dipped in a light ambient sauce on ST371, from Cologne’s Matt Karmil. Despite the soft sections, this is one for the clubs (Smalltown Supersound, March 27). Marks may be regretting his decision to name his latest album Endgame; Google it and you’ll find mostly Avengers (Coyote, March 20).
In the months to come, we’re all going to be worried about Checks Cashed; Tulpa makes the wait easier to bear with a series of modular techno tracks (TruthTable, April 15 – tax day in the U.S.!). Kelly Lee Owens produces popular techno and has even been featured on Adult Swim. Inner Song looks to be huge this season, preceded by the banging “Melt!” (Smalltown Supersound, May 1). It may have been recorded before the current crisis, but Roza Terenzi‘s Modern Bliss serves as a reminder of the power of dance (Planet Euphoria, April 17). Profile of the Lines is a compilation series of three 12″s released March 23, May 18 and July 13. The first installment yields music by Hotel Neon, Vladislav Delay and Pole, among others (Concentric).
“Cry Me a Blizzard,” says Nathan Fake on his upcoming double vinyl Blizzards. The album is a commentary on politics in the U.K., and much of it was recorded live in a single take (Cambria Instruments, April 3). Ital Tek‘s latest work comes across as ironic, as much of it was composed while the artist stayed up with his newborn child ~ but Outland is by no means crib music. It does, however, sound like insomnia and the worries of a new parent. The album is out May 1 on Planet Mu. The intensely percussive Donde Hubo Fuego will likely put Mexico City’s Bungalovv on the map; this is how to make a debut (Infinite Machine, March 27). Ricardo Donoso continues his strong run of electronic releases on Denovali with Content, announced for April but as yet without preview. Alexandre Navarro‘s DISTIL is coming this spring on Mircorama Records, the blue sky beauty of the teaser video a seeming contrast to the slow, crunchy beats. Abstraction runs rampant on Farwarmth‘s Momentary Glow, awash in digital seas that momentarily part to reveal cello and other organic instruments (Planet Mu, April 3).
Even the press release states that “it would be easy to classify Fabryka as dark ambient; and yet, one spin of the title track and the tension is laid bare. Shortwave Research Group lurks in the shadows with a host of drums, waiting to strike (May 8). As one half of Lumisokea, Andrea Taeggi has produced some mesmerizing sounds. He continues the tradition solo on Mycorrhiza, available April 24 on OOH-Sounds. Generously packed with percussion, Christoph de Babalon & Mark‘s Split verges on jungle rhythms, but takes a mid-album break to lounge in the stringed savannah (A Colourful Storm, April 20). Oh, those danceable military drums! 3Phaz gets listeners marching with Three Phase (pronounced like the artist’s name) on March 27 (100Copies).
Acid is alive and well on Netherlands label New York Haunted, who also have a neat run of cool cover art. Their next release is DyLAB‘s supremely danceable EP Happy Endings (March 20). Acid and jungle both appear on Time Very Near, by Becker & Mukai, just when one thinks the album is entirely electronic, a trumpet appears (SaS, April 3, pictured left). So much jungle, so little time; are the 90s back? Just ask dgoHn, whose Undesignated Proximate is a throwback to the good old days of drum ‘n’ bass (Love Love, April 17). Speaking of which, Dom & Roland are still around, feeling nostalgic; Lost in the Moment even appears somewhat lost in time (April 3).
Melodic jungle can be found all across Minor Science‘s Second Language, although we doubt the artist will be able to sell his 500£ stone tablet version (Whities, April 3). Sleeparchive‘s pounding techno sounds like the opposite of sleep, but good luck trying! Trust awakens March 27 on Tresor. Electric Rescue‘s Esquisse du Nouveau Monde is a volcanic set on Skryptöm, filled with booming beats (March 27). Re.Kod may be difficult to Google, but Sketch from a New Era is easy to enjoy: an apocalyptic techno-industrial set that is perfect for its time (WIC, April 3).
Retro beats meet female screamo on Fire-Toolz‘ wild Rainbow Bridge; cross at your own risk (Hausu Mountain, May 8)! The label also offers RXM Reality‘s blood blood blood blood on April 3, sounding like a video game left untended after soda was spilled on its wires. Aggressive, distorted electronics are smeared across Epoch, a no-holds barred entry from Forces, filled with alarm (Gin&Platonic, March 22). Container‘s sound is purposely distorted, a 4-track nightmare. Scramblers is his latest red zone release (A L T E R, March 20). Featuring 34 tracks from “the father of hardcore,” The Most Famous Unknown is a banger akin to a construction crew. The Marc Acardipane retrospective is released March 27 on Planet Phuture.
Disintegration State has a trio of releases lined up for spring. The first one is Fragile X‘s industrial-minded Panzer Kunst (April 3), to be followed two weeks later by Steve Hadfield‘s wet and wild synth fest Unreality, and finally Violet Mist‘s gentler Glimmer on June 5. Of course the Royal Dungeon EP is available on red splatter vinyl; we’d expect nothing less of Filmmaker (Opal Tapes, April 24).
A 39-minute track split into quarters, Compulsion rages through drone on its way to jungle; Kyam continues the red theme of prior works (Unbidden Audio, April 24). In defiance of its title, Dadub‘s 4-track EP A Sun Called Moon refuses to let in the light (Ohm Resistance, March 20). Featuring titles such as “Taste of Metal,” “Invasion” and “The Machine,” Machine Learning Experiments is a lock for the aggressive section. Augustus Muller‘s album combines the scores to a pair of films, Orgone Theory and Hydra, recalling the spirit of classic Front 242 (Nude Club, April 10). The same association holds true for Frieder Nagel‘s EP Karoshi, whose “Circuits” completes our robot theme. Skynet has arrived!