The wide electronic field stretches from sparkling ambience to pounding techno. This spring we’ll hear examples of both, plus everything in-between. We’re jealous of New Zealand, where everyone is back in the clubs, but we know our time is coming; consider these albums as a down payment. Locked-down producers make music for the same reason the caged bird sings. This spring, the normal hopes for flowers, sun and warmth are joined by hopes for vaccines, DJs and dancing. We can hardly wait!
Our cover image is not just an image of an ale ~ a can comes with the music (or the other way around). We hope that you will enjoy our selection of electronic music for the spring season!
Rich’s pick: Murcof ~ The Alias Sessions (Leaf, May 21)
This ambitious double album rewards patient listeners through introspection and imagination. Murcof stretches the wide boundaries of the electronic genre by incorporating ambience, modern composition and futuristic pulses. While The Alias Sessions is not a traditional dance set, each side was composed for a performance piece. Our appreciation of the composer continues to grow.
Mute founder Daniel Miller and producer Gareth Jones join forces under the name Sunroof to offer the trancelike Electronic Improvisations Vol. 1. Why let Cabaret Voltaire have all the fun (Mute, May 21)? New label Orbscure Recordings reunites Alex Paterson with Andy Falconer for the first time in 30 years, picking up right where they left off with The Heavens, recorded under the Sedibus moniker. It’s good to have them back (May 28). Wisdom Teeth’s co-founder Facta offers a warm blend on Blush, which begins with water, birds and the sweet sound of synth. The album slowly expands its scope, while retaining its welcoming tone (Wisdom Teeth, April 2). There’s probably no more springlike title than birds on the playground; lawrence‘s watercolor cover solidifies the point, while the gentle keys and beats relax the soul (mule musiq, March 26).
Add Asian inflections and one finds Unknown Me with the meditative Bishanti, an album that might seem at home in a Buddhist temple. Even the titles suggest holy rituals (Not Not Fun, April 30). Leonidas & Hobbes highlight Riad Abji’s cello and tanpura raga on the Aranath EP, whose eighteen Buddhas are only the beginning of a holy, trance-like set. Tote bags are also available (Hobbes Music, April 16). Matt Robertson offers steady beats that prompt a relaxing trance; Enveleau is out April 30, preceded by single Kalimba. Luca Yupanqui‘s Sounds of the Unborn is billed as “the first album by an unborn baby,” which makes the video seem a little bit creepy; we hope it wasn’t filmed in the womb, because if so, get me out of here! (Sacred Bones, April 2). Those hoping to travel to another galaxy are invited to board Saso‘s Deep Code, departing March 23 on Sun Sea Sky. And it’s safe to say that Lycoriscoris has a club hit on his hands with “Shizumu,” the first taste of the crossover set Chiya on Anujabeats (March 26).
With titles such as “Squeezing,” “Stretching” and “Repeating,” it’s clear that Ben Peers is playing with algorithmic possibilities. In Succession contains a number such experiments, each focusing on a different element or approach (April 30). oplen explores dual genres on O-P-L-E-N. Side A is a beat-laden, computerized excursion while Side B is an extended ambient alternative (ohm2recordings & Luftrum, March 26). Nous Alpha takes A Walk in the Woods, but it’s not all as bucolic as the Bill Bryson title; one of the tracks is “Birdbox,” which means something very different after the Netflix film. An ambient tone is often present (“Virtues”), but the musical forest seems always in bloom (Our Silent Canvas, May 7). The bugs are back (providing an essential diet for the birds), their avant-electronic soundtrack provided by thatwhichcrawls. bug.albm is the follow-up to Wash, another homage to our insect friends. Granular strings of cello are molded like taffy on the well-named Particles, the debut album for Slovenia’s Olenc. One can hear the tiny pieces as they shift (Nature Scene, March 30, pictured left). AD 93 releases very few albums, so when they do, we pay attention. Maxwell Sterling‘s Turn of Phrase is called the “extension of a daydream universe,” the spoken word of “Tenderness” throwing the album into literary territory (April 16).
Howie Lee‘s Birdy Island is a mysterious, multi-layered affair, conceived as the soundtrack to a floating theme park. Asian instrumentation, multi-tracked choirs and birdsong abound (Mais Um, April 16). Greek folklore is refracted through a modern lens on Athenian Primitivism. Christos Chondropoulosa‘s cassette compositions fuse voice, warped notes and avant percussion (12th Isle, April 16). Felipe Gordon pays tribute to South America through a melange of jazz, soul, scratch, and sample on A Landscape Onomatopeya, a sweet summer soundtrack arriving a season early (Shall Not Fade, April 2). Drummer extraordinaire Sunken Cages draws upon multiple cultures to make rhythmic, globe-shrinking music. The street sounds of When the Waters Refused Our History, is both commentary and celebration (On the Corner, April 30). While Eomac touches on systemic racism on Cracks, he also reflects on love, the human spirit and the natural beauty of rural Ireland. Extra credit for another of the season’s best track titles in “All the Rabbits in the Tiergarten” (Planet Mu, April 16).
Chinabot founder Saphy Vong returns as Neo Geodesia to present a broken mirror of Cambodia. Dedicated to Chun Leng, a young woman who lost her life during a Khmer New Year’s celebration, the album possesses a bittersweet undercurrent. The music may be upbeat, but the tone is reverent (Chinabot, April 11). Bearing an unusual story about “squeaking entities from invisible zones,” plus Lei lines & discs, Iglooghost‘s Lei Line Eon is a concept album for the X-Files generation. One need not buy into the iconography to enjoy the album, but it sure is fun to do so (Supernature, April 2). From “False Spring” to “The Blizzard,” Laurine Frost (named after an imaginary daughter) takes the listener on a dark journey that may not end happily. Nimfa folds in multiple genres from jazz to dub; all make excellent travel companions (Horizons Music, April 12, pictured right). Sam Genovese‘s SKYMYTH is packed with orchestral snippets and angular abstractions. The artist declares, “these are not songs you listen to on the way to the grocery store,” but he’s wrong; he just doesn’t know us (April 23).
Secret of Elements offers radio-friendly space music on Chronos. We believe this has a high potential to cross over to a larger audience, as Rone’s album did last year. The live strings and voices help to produce a warm glow (InFiné Éditions, April 23, pictured left). Space is also the place for Sagan, whose album Anti-Ark imagines a dark future for space colonization (Seeland Records, April 30). As part of SUUNS, Ben Shemie engages in drone and krautrock; on his solo effort, he explores the possibilities of the legendary TB-303. 303 Diary is out March 29 on NAHAL. Gimmik just released Deux Nouvelles in February, so it’s a surprise to see another album on the docket for April. Cloudwalker is eminently danceable, a return to form for the artist, although the ambience continues to slip in from time to time (n5MD, April 23).
Wordless harmonies meet sweet synth on Hannah Peel‘s Fir Wave, built upon samples of the KPM 100 (My Own Pleasure, March 26). Gaming culture, especially the classic Need for Speed, becomes the impetus for Herrmann Kristoffersen‘s Gone Gold. Carrying the concept to the extreme, both cassette and artist are encased in gold shells (Bytes, April 23). The spooky synth of horror scores is found on Purgatory, the latest entry from concept-minded artist Sermons By The Devil. Less evil than philosophical, the album asks questions that may take a lifetime to answer (March 23).
Is it grime? Drum and bass? Proc Fiskal draws from many genres on Lothian Buses, where hyperactive rhythms meet pensive synth lines. An art gallery report at the end of the first track is particularly amusing (Hyperdub, March 29). Last heard on Spring Nights, Human Centerpiece returns with The Sum of All Destruction, a much harder affair. While the album has its peaceful moments, it also veers into jungle and breakbeat territories (Aviary Night, March 26). Placid Angles (Joey Beltran) has been recording for decades, but as everything old is new again, the IDM/breakbeat flavors of Touch the Earth fit right in (Figure, March 29). Gazelle Twin and Simon Fisher Turner and more guest star on Microcorps‘ XMIT, leading the music into unusual territories (ALTER, April 16). “This is your Life” is the early highlight of ishi vu‘s mostly instrumental breakbeat set La Luz; its declarations are both motivator and wake-up call (Different Recordings, April 30).
The YUKU label
This Prague label really has its act together, as shown by its incredible spring slate. Anmon hits the upper BPMs on its self-titled release, although the speed of the beats is offset by the restraint of the keys. (March 26). The next set on the docket is Current Value‘s pounding cut-up excursion The All Atracting – not for the faint (April 15). Es.tereo feat. Forest Drive West follows with the Drifter Dub & Perception EP, keeping the energy level high with two tracks and a remix (May 4). On May 18, YUKU steps into the spotlight with the dark and danceable Exordium. Have we mentioned the gorgeously dipped vinyl or subscription service yet? But wait, there’s more! Arriving May 30: TRAKKA‘s Maktub, Granul‘s A.I.-referencing Cypher and Valance Drake‘s intricate A Patternless and Endless Soul.
Techno and Related Genres
Many of us went on walks during lockdown in order to escape isolation. The walks were little consolation to Ørdop Wolkenscheidt as he was met by the dark apocalyptic smoke of coal power plants. The Boxberg / Schwarze Pumpe EP elaborates the contrast to the otherwise restive scenery (April 16). Pablo Diskko is also thinking about the end of the world; his EP Our Dreams Circling Near has the feel of descending crows. The obelisk on the cover makes us wonder if he was behind the recent art appearances (Dissolute, April 9). Hainbach also makes his own sculptures, a trio of these repurposed as Landscape Sculptures for his latest album. One man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure (SA Recordings, April 8). Yoshinori Hayashi‘s Pulse of Defiance is heavier on pulse than defiance. This warm, danceable album flirts with different genres while retaining a techno heart (Smalltown Supersound, April 9). Hard beats dominate Function‘s Awakening from the Illusory Self; it’s easier to wake up to loud music than to soft! The album includes “Compulsive Thinking: Repetitive and Pointless” (Tresor, April 16).
One of the season’s most intriguing releases comes from Thomas Fehlmann, who utilizes sound samples from the 1920s in Boser Herbst. Created for the documentary of the same name, the rich sonic palette communicates a feeling of warmth that belies the ages (Kompakt, April 9). The second half of Destiino‘s 2021 project (following Afsila) is a self-titled full length effort that encompasses house, techno and other electronic varieties (Lumière Noire, May 14). Dub techno saves the day on Forest Drive West‘s Dualism EP, a colorful affair coming April 2 on Livity Sound. Those who liked Rakka will love Rakka II; on this release, Vladislav Delay, draws inspiration from the untamed power of the Finnish wilderness. Deep in texture and mood, the set is drenched in sound and fury (Cosmo Rhythmatic, April 16). Fans may want to get in early on Terence Dixon‘s self-explanatory Reporting from Detroit; early vinyl copies include an extra slab with a pair of bonus tracks (Rush Hour Music, May 3).
On Waiting for the World, Wayward thinks “back to the old days” with a bevy of samples and a house-breakbeat sensibility. Their debut album references Burial at the top of a pyramid of prime producers (Silver Bear Recordings, March 26). House and disco and blended on Andy Ash‘s Not At Home, along with Haring-inspired art (Still Music, March 26). The only Samba de Coco album in this preview is VHOOR; fortunately RITMO‘s release is a good one, honoring its Brazilian heritage (Vhoor, April 2). The amazon-naut is not a very good pun, but fortunately the music is better. Bec Kororoti‘s album draws from myth and folklore, and sounds like a tribal dance deep in the heart of the jungle (Modern Obscure Music, March 26). Neida‘s Slowing EP combines breaks, acid and jungle, contradicting its very title (Nehza, March 30). ANMA and Cognitiva Records celebrate a new wave of musicians who inject a jazz sensibility into house and breakbeat; the double vinyl Outlines compilation is set for release April 2.
Lvcchesi blends techno and electro on the club worthy VSNA EP (Full Dose, April 2). The electro rhythms of the Roland TR-808 meet a new generation on Tenderlonious‘ TEK-88. Will Newcleus fans return (22a, April 9)? The On-U sound (or On-U-Sound sound, depending on how technical one wants to be) resurfaces with a vengeance on The Lucid Dream‘s The Deep End, a techno-electro excursion packed with sound samples (Holy Are You, April 2). Techno-industrial rhythms inform Night Drives, a dark EP from Black Bones on Touch Sensitive (March 26). Nitzer Ebb will want to check out Dale Area‘s Ondes Tribales, which combines hard beats with Latin chants (Mannequin Records, April 9). Pounding beats and percussive chants can also be found on Decadent Skies, courtesy of An Anomaly (Offen Music, March 26).
GEORGIA keeps the foot on the accelerator with State Effect (Accel), a hyperkinetic sci-fi adventure that seems perpetually poised to burst into overdrive (ooh-sounds, April 16). Leon Vynehall‘s Rare, Forever contains upbeat dance tracks with unusual titles; this may be the first time Mothra and Dumbo have shared space, despite being two large, magical, flying creatures (Ninja Tune, April 30). Giant Claw‘s Mirror Guide is a splintered sci-fi set featuring skittering percussion and vocal shards, entering orbit May 14 on Orange Milk. Prolaps‘ Ultra Cycle Part I: Vernal Birth begins with a scary yet ironic sample: “If you’re destroying all life on earth, don’t you think a little bit of guilt is appropriate?” After that, there’s little time for introspection, as the beats come fast and hard as a debris field. The two-hour tape should tide fans over until Part II (Hausu Mountain, March 20, above right).