Drone / Ambient
UK Contemporary label run by Andrea Zarza and Matthew Kent.
Swooping, sub-heavy sci-fi from Riz Maslen. Leda Maar is a new moniker for the established artist who’s released a crop of downtempo and electronic music as Neotropic and Small Fish With Spine, as well as collaborated with the likes of Future Sound of London, filmmaker Andrew Kötting, and featured in PSP-era Grand Theft Auto soundtracks.
Mana’s long lasting love of Riz’s 1996 Laundrophonic EP, released under her Neotropic name, spurred this new release. That 12” was a deep and dark web of rhythm and ghostly urban found sound that one Discogs reviewer aptly named “coin-slot Dubstep”. With elements mostly sourced from tape recordings made in and of her local laundromat, it still stands out as a remarkably contemporary feeling work; more like a post-Fisher, post-hauntology observation of urban life from the last decade, taking the ambient temperature and undercurrent pressures of the 90s. Asking if she had anything in continuity with this slice of her discography, and describing our interest in her take on “space and bass”, Maslen returned to us with Stairway 13.
Heavy-lidded and ethereal in long form, Stairway 13's balance of bass weight, mechanical metre, and darkly tinted new age feels like a cinematic re-approach to some of the textures, moods, and themes of Laundrophonic. Originally composed for an installation, Stairway 13 folds in her decades’ experience in sound design and theatre, along with shards and elements abstracted from her more recent folk-like music, zoning into a deep, retreated, altogether dreamlike and expansive atmosphere. The scale and soundscape is reminiscent of Geinoh Yamashirogumi and their Ecophony album series, resonating to similar frequencies and exploring themes of chaos and rebirth in feature-length form.
Stairway 13’s four parts spread and swoop as single extended sides across this double LP. Carried by waves of sub bass and heavenly chorus, and later punctuated with autonomic clicks of machinery, whirrs, and pulses -sometimes reminiscent of FSOL’s weirder and more clipped staccato sampling in sections of their cyberpunk ISDN-the work forms a gothic, otherworldly ambience. A subtle space opera. credits
Leda Maar – Stairway 13
Somewhere between ambient, soundtrack, and an audio play. The tragicomedy and melancholy of a halted art project and a restless mind turning in on itself; as daydreams, farce, and the surreal transform into a blue and beautiful narrative.
“In January, 2018, I travelled to Lithuania. I was staying in a small wooden cabin in the middle of a forest and was there to photograph all 3000 sculptures in the nearby Devil Museum. The project was funded by the Mondriaan Fund but two months earlier I’d lent the entire budget (8,000€) to my friend, Martin. He’d just gotten a new job at Rainbow Solutions. I’m not sure what they did but they'd given him a company car with a huge sunroof and a big rainbow printed on the bonnet.Over the following four weeks in Lithuania I kept an audio diary and recorded sounds in and around my cabin. I met no one and spoke about meeting no one. I remembered Crow Man and the time I sold my mum a kilo of scallops. I listened to the door hinge and I recorded the river, with its small islands of ice brushing up against the banks like a pulse. It’s a nice word, ‘pulse’; the motion of an artery as blood is driven through it by the heart.The Devil Museum is an audio drama made up from these recordings. It’s scored with original compositions by Kareem Lotfy and was put together and mixed in collaboration with Jacob Oostra.”
Jacob Dwyer (UK) is an artist based in Amsterdam. His work often centres around personal encounters that could equally be seen as fables or heresy. He studied Experimental Film at Kingston university and completed a residency at De Ateliers (Amsterdam).
Jacob Dwyer – The Devil Museum
"Alternatively banging and evasive, exhausted and unglued. Stepping along the rim of the silver screen. Diptera takes a near electro-acoustic approach to the DNA, texture and pressure of UK Garage with a debut release on Mana.
Its four tracks teeming with material detail, the duo's musical collaboration operates like a relay. Initial tracks made by Activist DJ — short sharp affairs focused on swung drums and darkside — are passed on to Wesley to be broken apart, tinkered with, and slowly refigured into more anxious and impressionistic musical forms, etched with intricacies and mixed fidelity. The result is a distinctive and resourceful excavation of hardcore at its most agile.
A fly on the wall may face some adversity, so if you imagine a human hand in basic swatting motion, maybe you will also couple the image with an evasive manoeuvre of some sort; usually there is a moment of hesitation where the human is unsure whether their aim was true. "Did I catch it?""
001 [Antenna] – Diptera
"First commissioned by the French Government in 1981, the LP Rose Des Vents Action Musicale evolved out of a six year project by Swiss composer Pierre Mariétan to document and musicalise the sound environment of urban landscapes within France, creating an inter-geographical auditory map of cities and townships located in the suburban reaches of Paris, including Bezons, Herblay, Montmagny and l’Isle Adam. Through a mix of field recording, interviews, vegetable market catcalls, braying animals and urban hubbub, Mariétan paints a broad, psycho-acoustically vivid and decentralised profile of metropolitan life from the period; carried to the ear through a coupling with musical studio performance and serialist compositional technique. Over an hour and forty minutes, the recording provides an intersectional and ambient passage through environmental and urban narratives, the radiophonic voice of Ana de Carvalho offering fleeting, poetic orientation with announcements of each titled scene, divining and evoking the sonorous qualities of each landscape as it comes into focus. Each scene tangible yet non-specific, the artist arranging and signalling the possibility of civic and pastoral space as a musical container for spontaneous, sonorous interactions. Mariétan’s profile is of a rigorous yet open and exploratory composer, utilising principles of chance and curiosity in organising found sound and often negotiating or encouraging encounters with improvisatory gesture or incidental and occurring sound. In 1966 he established the outfit GERM, grouping composers and musicians dedicated to developing new meeting points between composition and improvisation. Members assist in contributing recordings and performances throughout Rose Des Vents, including musical passages on piano, synthesizer, horn and saxophone. These studio pieces, played on saxophone by Daniel Kientzy or piano by Gerard Fremy, recall and redeploy techniques developed over the lifespan of the project, where site- specific actions and concerts were performed within each of the towns. In many ways, the album is a folding of each facet of the author’s life and work into a single representative culmination. A sympathy towards radiophonic or documentary production values is recognisable—Mariétan produced two iterations of Rose Des Vents. Action Musicale for Alain Trutat and Jean Tardieu’s ground-breaking Atelier De Création Radiophonique on Radio France Culture ahead of this LP release—alongside the influence of his work in urban acoustics and research into forms of sound ecology. So too is the obvious pleasure taken in introducing the sweetness of music to children, with notable samples from his educational workshops and sound installations helping to internalise and evoke a sense of inquisitive delight. It’s these components, combined with themes and concerns about the acoustic environment that resonate 30 years later and establish Rose Des Vents as such an approachable, listenable and lovely piece of experimental sound art. The conjuration of an emotional or psychological plane through musical and metaphorical synthesis allows the listener to situate themselves within the montage in a near cinematic manner, discovering an underlying sonority embedded in the psychic atmospheres of communal life."
Rose des vents – Pierre Mariétan
Rie Nakajima and Keiko Yamamoto are joined by violinist Billy Steiger and percussionist Marie Roux in a dozen deconstructions of Japanese folk music, for this pacy, engaging debut album. Rie’s baby orchestra of rice bowls, toys, clock workings, balloons and motors is by turns haunted, teased, adorned and laid waste by Keiko’s chanting, rumbling, whispering and stamping on the floor. The production by David ‘Flying Lizards’ Cunningham deepens and spooks the mix, which brims over with energy and wit, intimacy and presence, grace and mystery.
"Suddenly we are closer to music being made than we have been for many years or longer even, so alarmingly close as to feel warmth and discomfort, as if studying the sole of a foot from a few centimetres away or holding a private whisper within an enclosed hand and feeling its trembling desire to be free; but also so far away distant as to feel each vibrant, pungent ingredient within its box or jar or bowl or packet or bottle or air-tight translucent container or brown paper bag painstakingly stirred, shaken, scattered, poured into the heated cauldron of what we call recording, its imaginary rooms and its production, though my better self prefers not to speak about or analyse the notion of ‘the studio’, this being a working up of spaces that are social, a vision of something beyond us but not quite beyond us because its existence as a listening object is real enough to make us pause and question how it was lost or never found." - David Toop
Keiko Yamamoto / voice, melodica, flute, recorder, floor percussion, toy dog (1-7, 9-12)
Rie Nakajima / objects, whistles, flute, cards, taisho koto, xylophone, piano, abacus, drain horn (1-12)
Billy Steiger / violin (2,4,7-9,11,12)
Marie Roux / percussion, thumb piano (2,4,7,9,11,12)
All composition by Nakajima/Roux/Steiger/Yamamoto apart from Yobu, Hebi, Iroha, Kitsune and Are Kore (Nakajima/Yamamoto) and Futari (Nakajima/Steiger). Words by Yamamoto except 5 and 11. Iroha is a Japanese classical alphabet. Sojarobai is a working song from Miyazaki, Japan. Produced by David Cunningham. Cover image by Marie Roux. Sleeve design by Ayako Fukuuchi.
O Yama O
“Puzzle Music is the desire to create images out of diverse pieces of sound. To collect timbral colours in a gradient procession and connect them until they create reason. Principally not knowing how the image will turn out, or what the picture even is. It is the act of placing sound shapes next to one another in the hope that clarity will gradually be revealed.When grouping the songs together I was thinking of them as mechanisms in a timepiece. I have something of an obsession with Swiss watchmaking, although I think this stems from a desire for creative mastery and the design of an energy source independent of electronic needs. Hopefully the songs all serve a purpose towards the end goal of the album... but also, the way the Oberheim Xpander pans sounds is in a very clear circular pattern, which makes me think of gears turning.”- Madalyn Merkey
Interior sounds from Madalyn in an album that flits between eerie ambience, environment, and hermetic logic. The music’s timing and sequencing feels distant, the elegant constructions conjured and organised semi-consciously, drawing the listener deeper into the dream and towards a zone where watch hands tick forward accurately and their perception of time unspools. Here each neatly tuned conversation and clockwork assemblage harmonises, spinning tantalisingly just out of range and understanding.
Artwork by Casey LeungVinyl mastered and lacquer cut by Kassian Troyer @ Dubplates and Mastering, Berlin.
Puzzle Music – Madalyn Merkey
"Wild soundscapes from Benedict Drew, an artist splitting his time between installation art and music that hums and spills over with vivid material encounters; sounds are slurpy, runny, fizzy, spongy, hard as rock. Following digital releases, a tape for patten’s Kaleidoscope label, a musical score to accompany his De Re Touch video art project commissioned by Transport for London’s Art on the Underground, and many active years in London’s experimental music scene through work with the London Musicians’ Collective, as a solo performer, and via live collaborations with artists including Rhodri Davies, Chris Watson and Sachiko M; ‘Crawling Through Tory Slime’ is Drew’s debut long-playing record. Music on each of the record’s faces bleeds together continuously, recalling long improvisational sets, floor-sucking dub-wise, psychedelia, plunderphonics, and tight GRM-era electronic sound design pieced together with drum machines, cloudy synthesiser, bits n’ bobs. There’s a certain English charm, humour and taste for cheap science fiction and cobbled-together escape routes out of reality that follows a lineage set out by artists like Jeff Keen or Bruce Lacey, reset for the exciting horrors and delights of contemporary life. Benedict Drew’s solo exhibition The Trickle Down Syndrome runs from June to September at the Whitechapel Gallery, designed over the same period as the LP and "drawing on wide-ranging references, from the stage sets of classic Hollywood cinematographer Busby Berkeley to the Surrealist worlds of artist Max Ernst"."
Crawling Through Tory Slime – Benedict Drew
"Gamelan and capoeira in dub. The collective behind this doesn’t like to talk much but their music is beautifully conversational. De Leon is the most organic and percussive of their shifting identities, developed on their Aught project in small-run, clear-shell cassette tape releases over the last few years. They've appreciated a cult interest for their takes on outernational rhythm, field recording, and the tension and relief on the knife-edge of dance music; all delivered with an impressive commitment to anonymity and clarity of vision through cut-and-dried aesthetic minimalism. These six pieces of music seem formed from wood, metal, air. Dramatic, balletic flourishes and tightly woven interlocking patterns are embedded in slowly changing and "live" atmospheres. The shadow of a hand over the mixing desk makes gradual adjustments to alter the pressure and dimension of the space. A number of tracks first appeared on De Leon's set for Blowing Up The Workshop in February 2016."
Rain, spit, ice, neon, mercury, arcing electricity, plants, steam, soil, and dust; this is dream music from Sa Pa. Following up on his 2015 debut 風物詩 [Fuubutsushi], In A Landscape provides rich content for fantasy and the fertile imagination, establishing a rich terrain of visual, poetic, and abstract sound that draws on techno and dub ambient.
Somewhere between pastoral impressionism and cyber-noir, its surface evokes the tensions of a fluctuating, fizzing atmosphere, pictures emerging and dissolving in the mind’s eye. Thick layers of field recording - some salvaged from a recorder lost in Bassiani during the police raid last year and recovered in January - flood tracks fabricated from erratic, oddly distanced rhythm.
The sensation whilst listening is not unlike hearing the world from a place within the body; swimming in the bloodstream, cutting through the turbulent landscape secure in a metal tube.
Or being over-exposed to lushly textured environments with the anatomy far receded; an out-of-body experience where subtler senses are heightened and the landscape begins to take on surreal qualities.
In A Landscape – Sa Pa
Cryptic, twilight emissions from Villalobos and Loderbauer; their synthetic compound of electronics and ouroboros jazz has walked from ECM and Perlon over to Mana.Developing a sound that tends to drift along as otherworldly atmospheres and strange fusion, Vilod evade easy categorisation, even compared to Villalobos’ already experimental and genre-twisting solo minimal offerings. He and Loderbauer pull away the backbone inherent to the structure of that dance music, and The Clouds Know refines a deft and subtle musical noir built on ambient cues, sparks and claps of electricity, brushed drums, black voids and subterranean bass swoops. There's a twinkle in the eye and moments of deadpan levity, but the overall mood here is sober and introspective. Emotions run deep.Through studio mastery and an enigmatic language the album forms a fascinating sonic and sensory work with few compromises. With erratic rhythms notably submerged—techno remains as an irregular pulse in the belly of the beast—fields of crisp, uncanny detail expand greatly. Humid environments appear, dense with the chatter of synthesised insects and the gentle rain of drums and whispering cymbals, enchanting the listener in focus or sublimating into layers of ambience depending on your disposition - and the quality of your stereo field.
Vilod – The Clouds Know
1. A1 - 14:512. B1 - 14:353. C1 - 14:074. D1 - 15:00
Art by Matthew KentVinyl mastered and lacquer cut by Mike Grinser @ Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin.
Uwalmassa shape their relationship with various forms of musical heritage into technical and stylish forms on Malar, marrying acoustic sonics with a contemporary outlook that reflects their Indonesian identity; evolving, mutating, and scavenging traditions to draw parallels to dance music, and to test the adaptability and flexibility of those sounds.Here the collective go dark and deep in their first album-length collaboration with Mana, casting long shadows and moving snake style at speed across nine tracks. Using a mix of synthetic and acoustic instruments - the texture of Malar feels enigmatic, occasionally industrial, and the result magical in its mystery and fluctuating impact.Uwalmassa is the name with which DIVISI62, arts & music collective from Jakarta, Indonesia, perform and produce music.
Artwork by Desmond WongVinyl mastered and lacquer cut by Anne Taegert @ Dubplates and Mastering, BerlinDigital mixed and mastered by Wahono @ Studio Oposisi, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Malar – Uwalmassa
Combining steppy dance music, lush detail and a diaristic tone, Jack Chrysalis’ debut album dials between music that is destined to catch the ear of the club-goer and the heart of the dreamer, his signature propulsive mutations of organic techno and UK garage sounding strongly in tracks like Another Year and Coldharbour.Between these, Chrysalis threads in more introspective moments. Tracks formed by running a hand along piano keys in improvisation, or made in recollection of Koji Kondo’s clear bright musical palette for Zelda. They lend a sense of atmosphere and a deeper running mood to the album’s overworld, heightening endorphin hits from the garage swing and affording a little more bittersweetness to its textures and secrets.Whether in rush or retreat, each track on this album emerges with its own emotional resonance. There’s a sense of seasons turning, or a twilight quality that’s hard to fully pin down. “Owl music” became shorthand for Jack’s tunes, a way for Mana to capture a prescient, nocturnal flight within their environment.
Art by Matthew KentVinyl mastered and lacquer cut by Kassian Troyer @ Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin.
Big or profound sensations from small gestures which are carefully arranged. Using a mixture of sacred and profane, or classical and prosaic sound sources, knitted into intricate, fleet-footed compositions that virtually spring into the ear. Profondo Rosa is composer Ailin Grad’s first vinyl album following years embedded and loved in the Argentinian experimental music scene, with past treats on labels Krut, Sun Ark, Orange Milk Records and her own label Abyss, devoted to ‘connecting Latin Juke with the world’.
There’s a playfulness at the heart of Profondo Rosa that’s immediately charming, with a sense of scale and spatialisation in the sounds being toyed with, exploring the strange pleasures and satisfaction in her approach to delightful and fresh feeling sound design. Aylu is known to be as likely to deploy the sound of a finger click, a fizzy drink being cracked open, or a fly buzzing past the ear, as she is drawn to sampling gorgeous strings or instrumentation. Her debut album for Mana constantly builds territories that tug at your heartstrings and then have you grinning five seconds later. This versatility and acceleration has often resulted in her music being compared to footwork, alongside collaboration with other producers experimenting in that sphere; in 2017 she and Foodman put together a dizzying hour of sounds for NTS.
Her miniaturisation of rhythm and ringtone-like sample size could also bring to mind SND circa their warmer softer glitch Tenderlove phase, or perhaps the approach that Teenage Engineering take to designing tools for music making. Each are deriving pleasure from small and satisfying shapes, as well as advocating an object-oriented philosophy and minimalisation in their work that sidesteps a draining of colour. Sound is fun, and in Profondo Rosa it sounds like Aylu has that at the forefront of her mind.
Her hyperreal sound and its link to the languages of electroacoustic or computer music are clear, but she outmanoeuvres many of the overly-academic and formless examples of those genres. Profondo Rosa’s skeletal assembly of objects becomes tunes in an elegant, almost understated way; tactile elements quickly combine and roll into deeper and persuasively emotional places. These compositions give off an air of being very free, very experimental, despite being meticulously artful and studied arrangements on precise and nimble coordinates.
Artwork by Roberta Di PaoloTypography by Gustavo EandiVinyl mastered and lacquer cut by Kassian Troyer @ Dubplates and Mastering, Berlin.
aylu – Profondo Rosa