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Albums - Issue 601

Bufiman - Albumsi

Bufiman

Albumsi

Dekmantel

Club curiosities
9.0
Düsseldorf’s Jan Schülte is a busy man. A resident DJ at his hometown’s Salon Des Amateurs club, he also makes music as Wolf Müller and Bufiman, and is part of Montezumas Rache and Young Wolf. What unites these projects are organic textures and instrumentation, a curiosity for fourth world sounds, and modern club sensibilities. It’s in this intersection that we find ‘Albumsi’, Schülte’s debut album as Bufiman. The track titles are symbolic: ‘Rave The Forest’ captures the album’s production ethos and feels like an intricate, rhythmical warm-up weapon for a DJ like Ben UFO or Bruce. ‘Apo-Calypso’ comes on like early SOPHIE making Soweto house, and the synths of ‘News From The Treetops’ feel like rays of sunlight breaking over the horizon on a fresh morning. This floaty mysticism is joined by the post-punk influence of the Salon: the kosmische vocal of opener ‘Galaxy’, the Jah Wobble-esque dubby guitar bassline of ‘Coolness’ and the warping ‘Langsam Aber Slowly / I Think I Got It Under Control Now / Well, Traumhaft’, unwieldy title and all. The album was made after Schülte left his day job of over a decade, drawing on a vast array of musicians and friends, including Phaser Boys and Credit 00. Their presence is identifiable in places, but the overall effect is of a boiling down of Bufiman’s essence into something richer and header than on previous releases. This natural sense of flow in his tracks means that the longest, the sprawling 13-minute plus ‘Pantasy’, is the album’s standout. With a proggy lead line, its main melodic hooks (one of which sounds suspiciously like a panpipe) convey the bittersweet emotions you go through during the last breaths of an ecstatic party – something this, with its final four minute breakdown, we can imagine soundtracking somewhere soon.
Joe Roberts
Squarepusher - Be Up A Hello

Squarepusher

Be Up A Hello

Warp Records

Bewildering acidic jungle
7.0
Since the release of Squarepusher’s last album, ‘Damogen Furies’, there’s been a swell of appreciation for the kind of weird electronics he specialises in. Music that was once considered odd now commands the spotlight, IDM tracks pepper the playlists of club DJs, and artists are springing up who owe more than a small debt to Squarepusher’s earlier innovations. As if to show the greenhorns how it’s really done, ‘Be Up A Hello’ finds him returning to his original blend of influences. If the absurd ‘Oberlove’ has a tongue-in-cheek quasi classical tilt to its squiggly melodies and d&b rhythms, then ‘Nervelevers’ will delight fans of records like 1997’s ‘Hard Normal Daddy’: it’s a pulse-quickening storm of frantic acid bleeps and junglist drums. Bar two beatless pieces, the album is all splintered breakbeats and frenetic machine melodies. A fun, hair-raising ride.
Ben Murphy
Black Deer

Black Deer

Black Deer

Huntleys and Palmers

Dark retro-futurism
7.0
The most off-kilter of several monikers in use by New Yorker and WT Records label head William Burnett, Black Deer is a project whose remit has included everything from kosmische synthesizing, guitar noodles, self-critical postmodern American patriotism, and densely abstract house. Compared to the wide-ranging slew of Burnett’s left field house productions as Willie Burns, Black Deer has always felt open-ended and loose in the studio. Less ambient than before, locked into a playful proto-techno hardware setup a la ‘E2-E4’, the simple repetitions and rich melodies of ‘Face Avant’ provide an instant hit from the outset for anybody in search of that hit of dark Italo-discoisms and arpeggiated Carpenterisms. Hiding behind that distinctly retro-futurist aesthetic, however, is some bold melodic invention, with Burnett’s playful approach evolving to build tension, at times with hugely grating results.
Tristan Bath
Robert Haigh - Black Sarabande

Robert Haigh

Black Sarabande

Unseen Worlds

Delicate, beautiful ambience
9.0
Robert Haigh’s latest album (under his own name) is a tender collection of spacious and textural piano pieces, full of rural ruminations and introspective intimacy. Many of us remember Haigh’s remarkable tenure as liquid, ambient-leaning breaks and drum & bass producer Omni Trio in the ’90s and early ’00s. His output since ceasing Omni Trio in 2004 has expanded on his mastery of technically simple keyboard and synthesizer motifs as powerfully emotive tools, bringing them to the forefront of his minimalist compositions. ‘Black Sarabande’ continues to utilize these techniques, highlighting Haigh’s uncomplicated yet effective pedal-soaked piano patterns with little more than the occasional layering of electronic pads in the background. Images of the artist’s childhood in the industrial Northern England countryside are evoked, as are elements of impressionist greats Satie, Debussy and Ravel’s solo instrumental works.
Zara Wladawsky
Julianna Barwick - Circumstance Synthesis

Julianna Barwick

Circumstance Synthesis

RVNG Intl.

Soaring AI-inspired ambience
8.5
Though a solo artist, Julianna Barwick has often made music in response to her surroundings, and in collaboration: her 2011 debut ‘The Magic Place’ echoed with her Southern US childhood, of church singing and climbing trees; 2013’s ‘Nepenthe’ took her to Iceland, working with members of Sigur Rós, múm, a string ensemble and a choir. Her style typically samples and loops real-world recordings into her instrumentations, folding the outside world — gently, by hand — into her own. 2019’s ‘Circumstance Synthesis’ is her latest album. Commissioned by a New York City hotel to create a soundtrack in response to the environment, reflecting the sounds and movements of a single day, Barwick used generative music tech developed by Microsoft AI to identify airborne activity — birds, people, planes, weather — which then triggered motifs for Barwick’s ambient classical progressions. As a technological task, it’s a neat trick — it was broadcast live in the hotel lobby — but the music also makes for a charming and beautiful album that, interestingly, has few aesthetic giveaways about its use of AI. It’s a great listen from start to finish, but ‘evening’ is perhaps the album’s best, with soaring pads, tender vocalisations and lush chords. A balm for frazzled senses.
Lauren Martin
Recondite - Dwell

RECONDITE

Dwell

Ghostly International

Pure electronic melancholy
8.0
A second album in as many years for Lorenz Brunner, he returns to Brooklyn’s Ghostly International following previous long-form excursions on Dixon & Ame’s Innervisions, Acid Test, the acid-orientated spin-off of LA’s Absurd Recordings, and last year with long-standing collaborators Plangent. Title track ‘Dwell’, opening proceedings, finds its twinkling atmospherics at odds with a sense of foreboding. ‘Nobilia’ is gruff and brooding, a languid percussive break underpinning spooky lilts of synth with peculiar echoes of G-funk. Meanwhile, tracks like ‘Black Letter’ and the driving ‘Mirror Games' are swelling and propulsive, arranged immaculately. The majestic ‘Surface’ slows things, a slow-motion electro loop with ricocheting wood blocks coupling with warm, enveloping pad chords. ‘Cure’, with its mournful music box melody, encapsulates the mood of ‘Dwell’ most neatly. Pure electronic melancholy delivered with poise and patience.
Ben Arnold
Citizen Boy and Mafia Boyz - From Avoca Hills To The World

Citizen Boy

From Avoca Hills to the World

Gqom Oh!

Fierce South African beats
8.0
21-year-old South African artist Citizen Boy has created a gorgeous seven-track album, ‘From Avoca Hills To The World’ that charts the mesmeric rise of dance music’s most in-demand sub-genre, Gqom. Released through one of its pioneering labels, Gqom Oh! Records, the album is split into halves: the past and the present. Soft hand-claps layered underneath staccato drums; rolling, brushed hi-hats and ghostly vocals occupy the spaces of the past. Revved-up, accelerated, darker and harder instrumentation make up the second half of the album, taking it to its current, in-demand global position. Enlisting help from his crew Mafia Boyz, who he started making music with as a young teenager, Citizen Boy has created a memorable, unreleased batch of songs that stamp the label and genre’s importance within the current dance music climate.
Dhruva Balram
Andras - Joyful

Andras

Joyful

Beats In Space Records

Rose-tinted house jams
8.0
His first album for Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space label, ‘Joyful’ is a sun-soaked and sentimental excursion into the Australian house producer Andras’ formative musical experiences, evoking the kind of flutter-and-fizz of energy you feel as you head to your first rave. Andras draws on his early memories of going out dancing, but also of driving down the dusty coastline near his native Melbourne, a drive soundtracked by a patchwork listening experience of ’70s folk, ’90s acid house, and the sounds of Australian nature. The music is gentle and organic; ‘Saga of Sweetheart’ has the caw-caw cal of native birds, warm washes of warbling pads, and a twangy synth line that would sound at home around a campfire. The album is blissful and bright throughout, full of acidic bleeps, gentle pads and saccharine melodies.
Tanya Akinola
Bergsonist - Middle Ouest

Bergsonist

Middle Ouest

Optimo Music

Urgent, dizzying club tracks
8.0
On ‘Middle Ouest’, New York-based, Morrocon musician and DJ Bergsonist shares her most reflective and accomplished work so far. Describing the record as a “sonic autobiography”, she stitches a tapestry of North African percussion, psychedelic electronics, hushed vocals, and techno rhythms. The title track introduces the album with billowing drums, a dizzying spark that lays the groundwork for the ensuing trip. ‘Amazon Snake Charmer’ and ‘Magnesium’ sway hypnotically with burly kicks and enchanting electronic swirls, while ‘LA Rave’ and ‘Faith Game’ place us firmly on the New York dancefloors she’s been playing for. The socio-political ideas at the album’s core linger in the mind: ‘Gaza Border Violence’, ‘Don’t Have Babies’ and ‘Poverty’ standing out not just as urgent club tracks, but as pointed representations of Bergsonist’s frank artistic identity.
Eoin Murray
Aleksi Perala - Resonance

Aleksi Perälä

Resonance

трип

Stunning and inventive techno
8.5
In the late ’90s, Finnish producer and classically trained pianist Aleksi Perälä made braindance for Rephlex, under names like Ovuca and Astrobotnia. His interest in frazzled, polyrhythmic techno has since expanded: for seven years, he has devoted dozens of solo albums to the exploration of Colundi, an alternate tuning system that disregards the classical Western 12-tone scale; working with Rephlex, трип and others, he’s shaping something esoteric, even quasi-psychedelic. Track lists for the Colundi albums run as numerical codes, each release a workbook for fine-tuning his arrangements of Colundi’s 128 tones. If you are a techno fan who is at all fatigued by the scene’s nostalgia aesthetics and rote kick-drum arrangements, you could well find Perala’s work a revelation. Resonance is a stunning album by a vital producer, full of inventive melodies and rhythms that murmurate between ambience, braindance and techno.
Lauren Martin
Rhizome

Nikita Zabelin

Rhizome

Resonance Moscow

Minimal machine techno
7.0
The techno of the Motor City spawned when Detroit’s funk and soul roots collided with the urban decay that consumed it in the ’70s and ’80s. Being raised in the midst of the harsh steel industry in the Urals, Nikita Zabelin has clearly absorbed the harshness of his own surroundings, too. His skeletal electronica has a keen grinding edge. Now resident of Moscow, his debut album ‘Rhizome’ is complex, and often bleak. ‘Blue_Reversez’ has the beating industrial heart of a factory floor, with piercing shards of sound cutting through the pounding. ‘Co2ridor’ pulses, a low, dull metallic clang instead of a hi-hat. ‘Tайm_Strэтching’ is thick with reverb, the percussive sounds reminiscent of dripping water, becoming more and more aggressive over a machine churn. Title track ‘Rhizome’ finally goes for the club jugular, a dubby technoid banger. But for all its invention and atmosphere, it’s tough to love.
Ben Arnold
Phase Fatale - Scanning Backwards

Phase Fatale

Scanning Backwards

Ostgut Ton

A fatale techno blow
9.0
Drawing on his knowledge of sound design and his experiences of performing and raving at techno monolith Berghain, New Yorker Phase Fatale has created ‘Scanning Backwards’, his second album to date and his first for Berghain’s in-house label Ostgut Ton. With an aptitude for moody atmospherics, he creates aberrant soundscapes,with synthesized sounds pushed through amps and guitar pedals, EBM and industrial drum patterns, and distorted snares. With its searing synths and penetrating vocals, fast-paced opening track ‘Velvet Imprint’ sets the tone, as Phase Fatale weaves through slower and faster tempos with a focused intensity. ‘During the Freezing Process’ and ‘Proxy Contact’ build extremes in tension and atmosphere, the latter most impressively with the use of spine-chilling recordings of human breathing. In its focused power, ‘Scanning Backwards’ is designed to infiltrate the dark corners of techno clubs around the world.
Anna Wall
Vilod - The Clouds Know

Vilod

The Clouds Know

Mana

Dub jazz oddities
7.0
When Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer team up (check out their incredible remix of Tony Allen’s ‘African Man’), psychedelic excursions can be expected. Villalobos is mostly known for his trippy minimal techno DJ sets, but the Vilod collaboration is more exploratory still, heading into slower, weirder domains. This follow-up to their debut album ‘Safe In Harbour’ on Perlon is avant-garde and freeform, with occasional strange synth melodies. ‘Jazzversuch’ sounds like a live jazz quartet folding in on itself, its shuffling drum and upright bass samples echoing and fracturing in highly disorienting fashion. ‘Wassernova’ resembles a more extreme version of Jan Jelinek’s sample cut ups, its synthetic horn hits swimming around an aquatic space. More immediately arresting is ‘Scheiss On Your Diamond’, a hypnotising ambient piece that could be Alice Coltrane in a parallel dimension. Compellingly out there.
Ben Murphy
Aquarian - The Snake That Eats Itself

Aquarian

The Snake That Eats Itself

Bedouin Records

Thrilling club contortions
8.0
Fittingly opening with a track titled ‘End Credits’, Aquarian’s debut album sounds like a shadowy score to a post-apocalyptic humanity - albeit one in which dancefloor hedonism still exists, in a twisted, mutant form. The brooding, industrial components of his previous releases are present throughout this album, but he gives himself more breathing space to push these sounds to their limits. Metallic, brutish synths writhe into contorted positions over driving breakbeat patterns, and skeletal, screeching ambient soundscapes conjure up imagery of smokey, brutalist terrains. The album maintains a lucid sense of rhythm, as moments of harshness and softness balance each other out. The overall effect is cinematic, of a haunting feeling, and a desire to dive deep into a dark nightclub.
Tanya Akinola