Lena Platonos – Gallop (Dark Entries, April 2015)

Released a few days before April, Galop was undoubtedly the reissue that threw the longest shadow over the month, and about time too. Lena Platonos’s contribution to electronic music has been acknowledged by the Greek underground for a long time, so it’s good for us all to finally bite into it, above and beyond the hit “Bloody Shadows From Afar”. Platonos has a true sense of pop and a strong experimental instinct, her finger absolutely on the pulse of her time.

The album oscillates effortlessly between dark, pulsating analogue landscapes and tense storytelling, as she crafts a world which is knowing, smart and ironic, and also very warm. Rigid drum patterns, metallic vocoders, frozen basslines and crazed synths are led imperiously by Platonos’s languid voice, which seems to come from a time suspended between the never and the now. To listen to Galop is to enter a world of slow pulses, phone bleeps, threatening supernovas, and language taking pleasure in itself.

Made by Platonos single-handedly in 1985, Galop was described by its maker as “a study in the mythology of urban population of the contemporary metropolis and also a gaze into the future life of it.” An extremely accomplished study no less, which deserves attention, and this elegant record is essential to the story of Mediterranean post-modernity.

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Redolfi – Pacific Tubular Waves/Immersion (Recollection GRM-Editions Mego, April 2015)

With work from Beatriz Ferreyra, André Stordeur, the epic Pierre Henry boxset and more, April saw a wealth of reissues in early electronics. Michel Redolfi’s debut opus, Pacific Tubular Waves / Immersion, which dates back to 1980, is a welcome re-edition of a somewhat neglected piece made between Marseille and San Diego as a reflection in two parts of Redolfi’s encounters with the Pacific Ocean. Freezing and crystalline, full of circuitous sonic events, it’s a good introduction to the Frenchman’s later works, which continued (and continues) to research an idea of subaquatic music and underwater listening.

The A-side is a synthetic interpretation and ‘imitation’ of the rhythmic and textural dynamics of tubular waves, composed for and executed on an early, mesmerising digital synthesiser. The B-side, “Immersion”, consists of those same recordings remodelled by the sea itself, as Redolfi experiments with underwater transmissions of sound with the partial and full immersion of his equipment.

Overall though, the music doesn’t sound like an experiment. It glistens like a calm sea as repetitive tones are interspersed by rough, watery field recordings and moments of threatening drone, with white crisp atmospheres punctuating the sound here and there with a sort of science-fictional menace that suggestively drags you in underneath an imaginary abyss. Indeed, it’s a small ‘utopia of the senses’, which is what Redolfi said he wanted from his electroacoustic music. Pacific Tubular Waves / Immersion makes present a complex sonic world which you can somehow feel, and engages not only your ears but your body, your skin.

Dariush Dolat-Shahi – Electronic Music, Tar and Sehtar (Dead Cert, April 2015)

Andy Votel’s label has been on a roll since the off, reissuing fascinating music by the likes of Italian-American pianist Suzanne Ciani, Belgian composer Louis De Meester and that fine Industrial album by Alessandroni. Keeping the momentum going, Dead Cert provided one of April’s most surprising reissues in Electronic Music, Tar and Sehtar, a record that comes from Iran, or rather from an Iranian at Columbia University. Despite the unassuming title, this first album of only two from Dariush Dolat-Shahi contains much more than what it describes itself as: it’s a sort of visionary combination not only of different instruments, but also of differing sonic languages and sensibilities.

Inheriting the Iranian folk sceptre and passing it expertly through his academic research in electronic music, Dolat-Shahi creates a totally alien world of sound while maintaining a sonic equilibrium where rumbles of modular synths echo in and out of traditional folk melodies, while synthetic pulses open onto samples of pouring rain and sweet birdsong. Between the paces and the influences of the music a whole range of sonic textures merge, and the resulting album is mysterious and dense without falling victim to over-intellectualism, and while the work is complex, it remains anchored by simplicity.

Hypnosaurus – 1991-1992 (Porridge Bullet, July 2015)

Sometimes reissues deliver more or less what we expect, despite the fact they may be obscure and unheard. Ocassionally though, what emerges is something totally alien and this Hypnosaurus retrospective on the Estonian Porridge Bullet belongs in the latter category. 1991-1992 is deep, mindsweeping and intense, but I don’t even know how to hold it, how to classify it (and to be frank, I really don’t care). The compilation covers the early days of the Hypnosaurus duo formed of Aivar Tõnso and Railo Pals, who sealed their union by way of John Peel listening sessions but whose vision evidently stretched beyond anything they were hearing. The whole thing hinges on some drums, some effects and a Polivox, a powerful and highly ghosted nay downright uncontrollable Russian synth. By some strange coincidence, Peel actually saw one of the duo’s earliest gigs – have a look at this interview on Eastern Daze for more.

The Polivox is at the heart of this record, as the Porridge Bullet blurb reads: “feedback and glitches took over and the music developed into uncharted territory”. But maybe the Polivox was just a perfect, fortunate match for a musical imagination that was itself full of glitches and feedback, that ricocheted in a thousand directions, full of buzzy enthusiasm and fuzzy aesthetics – the best thing about this record is that there is never the shadow of a formula around, never a default, never a pre-trodden route. Highlights are “Peipsi Delfiinidele”, a sort of swarming drone with a jagged comet of a synthline escaping from its limits, “Päike Tõuseb idast” and “Langeb tähti sülle”, which perform a sort of brutal, ragged EBM, or the serpentine flutterings of “Laiküla uduvalgus’s”. All of it ideal for a small rave amongst friends in solitary working countryside.

 

Second Layer – World of Rubber (Dark Entries, July 2015)

Your country needs you, your country bleeds you dry. Drugs for the dying, meadows for the dead. Loyalty screaming on a blood-stained bed”. Adrian Borland formed Second Layer as The Sound were also forming, along with fellow Sound bassist Graham Bailey. While the outlook (and the insight) is similar to what was happening with the duo’s main project, Second Layer had a much colder allure, a more rigid sonic presence, a grave metallic beat (a drum machine is perhaps the greatest difference between the two bands), and not a trace of swagger or hipness. This is the first vinyl reissue on vinyl of World of Rubber, but perhaps even more importantly it’s expanded too, with a load of other material from Second Layer’s earlier efforts, State of Emergency and especially Flesh as Property.

I wonder if the reason this Second Layer record appears to have gotten quite a lot of attention over the past seven or eight years has something to do with a political, generational dissatisfaction. Because the record performs a series of juxtapositions we need but no longer seem to be good at: it’s raw but detached. Minimal, but heavy. Uncompromising, but melodic. Engaged, but totally alienated. Elegant, but rather brutal. And true: “Production – consumption – production – satisfaction – production – religion…

Syntoma – Syntoma (EM, July 2015)

Who would have guessed it would have taken a figurative trip all the way to Osaka to finally shine a well-deserved torch on one of Mexico’s most idiosyncratic synthpop outfits? But in fact it’s the Japanese label EM Records that picks up the gauntlet of re-diffusing Syntoma’s gems from the 1981-1984. Irresistibly playful in the freshest, most fizzy of ways, Syntoma was the brainchild of Alex Eisenring, formerly of prog-jazz band El Queso Sagrado, who then went on to militate in influential Mexican bands such as Decibel and Escuadrón del Ritmo. The latter band and Syntoma were what was then defined as ‘techno’ or ‘techno-pop’ projects, guided by an unorthodox but knowledgeable use of synthesisers and drum machines, and performing songs about computers and robots.

Syntoma was enriched further by the technically knowing and vocally absurdist presence of Synthia Napalm, and this mesh of Napalm and Eisenring makes for quite a special listen. On “Mi Robot”, perhaps the sweetest performance on the record, the melancholy KR-55, Napalm’s unhinged female voice, and the grave male voice worrying about a robot’s health all combine for perfect futurist domestic melodrama. This release takes tracks from Syntoma’s only LP No Me Puedo Controlar and from their two 7″s, the material is beautifully remastered and reorganised over two sides, one for instrumentals (perhaps where most joy is to be found) and one for vocal tracks. Essential for anyone whose heart beats for absurdist Hispanic synth.

M.B. (Maurizio Bianchi) – Symphony for a Genocide (EEs’T Records, August 2015)

Maurizio Bianchi self-reissues 10 of his 1980s works on CD (again), which you can buy either singularly or as a Mectpyo (read Mestruo) ‘Box’. Not knowing where to start, I’ve chosen the cream: Symphony for a Genocide is a monument, and if you haven’t gone to pray – or cry – at that altar then maybe now is the time. Bianchi’s famed LP initially put out by Nocturnal Emissions’s Sterile Records in 1981 is a brutal, desolate, awful meander through tracks named after Nazi extermination camps. Plunging the listener in an excruciating sadness, Bianchi masterfully joins the dots between the organic and the synthesised without having to demonstrate anything other than what he can honestly bring as an artist – and in retrospect, he brought a lot.

The record moves between rough, buzzing lo-fi textures and steely electronic coughs, with a slowness, a sternness, which is horrifying and extremely moving – moments of white fuzz alternate with moments of excruciating industrial bleeps twisted, deformed and deforming. Sometimes, through the valleys of pulsating noise something like a melody emerges, always in the form of a downwards whimper. Other times, the metallic swarm is interrupted by rattling power electronics, which seem to unravel, like some sort of breaking machine coming apart behind the trembling drones. Voices are muffled, mnemonic disembodied voices through the iron-hard hiss. It’s distressing and powerful, but it’s also a few other things: Symphony for a Genocide is a record without cruelty, carried only a disarming and desolate pain. You could even call it a ‘quiet’ noise record: it gathers its harshness not through violence but through a frozen sadness, and its effect is that of an anaesthetic.

 

Conrad Schnitzler – Kollektion 05 (Bureau B, August 2015)

Those of us who have been following the love affair between Bureau B and a whole host of German maestros – Schntizler, but also Moebius, Dorau, and the extraordinary Tietchens – know to keep our ears peeled for what hovers at the next corner of the label’s production. Various legendary works of Schnitzler’s have been put out through Bureau B, but this record is compiled, and that’s important for two reasons: because Schnitzler’s oeuvre is gigantic and because the compiler is Thomas Fehlmann (Palais Schaumburg, The Orb). While Fehlmann – who was intellect-struck by Schnitzler at the tender age of 22 at a lecture – curates this collection with a certain sense of responsibility towards the neophyte, he also does so guided lovingly by his own sensibility, and delivers a very personal portrait of this endlessly productive maverick at the dawn of the 1980s.

Including only the canonical material relevant to him (“Das Tier”, “Fata Morgana”) and only some of the classically electroacoustic material (the majestic “Con 3.3”), Fehlmann incorporates the unexpected cinematic suggestions of “Conrad & Sohn 02”, delicate, twisted, video-gamey pieces like “21.8.86” and “Copacabana”, and some of the most diverse pieces from the Contempora series (check out the clean low beats of “Contempora 9” and the eerie pulses of “Contempora 13”). While remaining firmly in awe of Schnitzler’s sense of invention above and beyond Tangerine Dream, we also get a glimpse into his humour, into a less conceptual and more narrative oeuvre. We’re seduced, enveloped, but also winked at and sometimes invited to dance. This is an anthology that really works: it illuminates the dark corners of a massive catalogue and remains full of complexity, full of surprises and full of electric interest.

Psychic Warriors ov Gaia – 1989 (Sacred Summits, August 2015)

Bloody brilliant, criminally underheard but long-legendary 1989 release out on Sacred Summits. Embedded deep in the Dutch techno scene, the Tilburg collective Psychic Warriors ov Gaia put out this now super-rare tape as a demo on Katharos Foundation in 1989. Also a collective, Katharos was one of the short-lived but very very splendid discographic hubs which picked up the glowing early 1980s Dutch baton of fusing dance culture and industrial culture in the most elegant and intelligent of ways. Although labeled varyingly as tribal and EBM at the time, this first tape – now sparsely and evocatively titled 1989 – is what I would label as a kind of ‘industrial carnival’, which shares part of its substance with tribal techno, but also with romantic noise, with early house, with lo-fi experimental new beat, in an astonishingly varied and accomplished range of impressions.

Opening on the heady beat of “Acid Dervish”, orientalism and car horns over slamming metallic rhythms, the tape leads us through a hedonistic way out of bleak post-industrial Tilburg marked by cowbells, out of breath breaths, and what sound like the trumpeting of an elephant call. “War Chant” is an obsessive, liberating saga of dubbed childish voices on a tribal but cold beat and “Intoxication” closes proceedings on two lovely synth lines, one fat and wet, one thin and eerie, ending a rough, buzzy, lo-fi maximalist record on a note of haunting beauty. 1989 will be a transporting listen for anyone interested in the evolution of dance culture, and it’ll keep you dancing, with African beats layered over factory beats, and instructions delivered in broken American English. This little tape is either the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end: ‘get yourself completely out of it’.

Boche – Beats (Entr’acte, September 2015)

The ever-exciting Entr’acte’s 188th record is a lovingly recompiled anthology of Boche’s electronic experiments recorded by the man between the mid-1980s and 1991. Boche was Hans Ludwig Jacoby, the author of one tape laconically entitledTape, which came out back in 1981 on the Animal Art label overseen by German cultural agitator Marc Behrens. Whoever he was, whatever he did, it’s criminal how underheard Hans Ludwig Jacoby has been until now; this record contains material remastered and sequenced by Behrens that has never been released before, and it’s whisker-lickingly beautiful.

Always teetering on the line between cunning and cutting electroacoustic and lusciously intelligent techno, Beats is a thing of dreams, a glorious succession of expert progressions of deeply thought-out rhythms, sonorities, manoeuvres. The true joy to be found here is in the feedback, all sorts of sexy, knowing, interesting manipulations of delay, whilst texture is undoubtedly the most satisfying and most succulent aspect of Boche’s music. Wet, jagged squelches – dirty but never vulgar – sit alongside echoed screeches reminiscent of searching through VHF radio at night, endless walls of insectoid pattering feedback, and empty space boominess. Moments of surprise flash up like fireworks: distant sharp whistles, woodiness, rustiness, whole screams, voices, conversations wrapped in destabilising filters, zooming in and out of earshot, going pure brilliant white and then hovering in the dark damp grain again.

Boche’s Beats is the kind of thing that makes you glad music’s recorded and stored on physical format so it can be found again. This one is sincerely and solemnly fantastic.