Jasmine Guffond – RR Variation From Yellow Bell LP (Sonic Pieces)
The first output under her own name, ‘Yellow Bell’ hints at Guffond’s past in sound art, in that it restrains itself to measured shifts in tone and has infinitesimal flickers wavering within its worn textures. Saying that, there are traces of song which edge furtively and transiently into view, as on ‘Elephant’ where a lament like some surreal infant mantra (‘There’s an elephant in my room’) leaks through and quickly dissipates. Likewise on ‘Useful Knowledge’, where an affectionate hum melancholically breezes in after a heft of ambience like frozen mist and a repeated automated ricochet are together phased out.
It’s those glimpses of more accessible beauty, handled so well and coming out of the more nebulous and enveloping passages, that heighten the stakes and enhance what might have been a perfectly adequate exercise in delicate ambient into something deeply entrancing and harder to define.
There is often an accusation that the moods Guffond eventually treads into are ones which are commonly expected of women working in electronic music; ethereal, precious, emotive. But a thorough listen reveals that there’s just as much cold daze as there is warm articulation, as ‘RR Variation’ more explicitly proves, with ominous, scurrying electronics and equally unsettling notes of dreary brass concluding a very promising EP with a sense of creeping downfall.
Schneider/Kacirek – Low Rhythm From Shadows Documents LP (Bureau B)
In which Stefan Schneider (To Rococo Rot) and Sven Kacirek bridge the tribalism of German electronics and traditional Kenyan forms…
Apparently the duo have been traveling Kenya the last couple of years, recording as they go, at the behest of UNESCO and the Goethe Institute. That leaves a certain impression, perhaps that this music, coming from such official quarters, will be academic, dry and unpalatable to general consumption, which fortunately isn’t the case at all. To separate the melding somewhat, it’s usually the percussion which betrays the more African influence here; an offbeat procession of organic instrumentation engaged in often intricately meandering beats. Still there are great divergences which make separating the liquid gloop, bizarre blurt and sleek finish of the electronics from that basis a more difficult prospect, even to the point where there seems no discernible separation (‘Birds, Bells & Sticks’ for one)
Considering how magnified the percussion is in the mix, the results recall Craig Leon’s Nommos/Visiting works, which often foreground a Linndrum pulse within an imaginative translation of extra-terrestrial folklore (originating from Mali) Here though, the sound feels much more rooted in something earthly and familiar, even in spite of the strange, futuristic glug that works at its core; a focal feature which is frequently dragged to greater depths by formidable sonorities of bass. ‘Low Rhythm’ is where this trait becomes the most overt and effective, its lurking whomp, rattling friction and eventual introduction of rough, hollow drums like the slinking, malevolent path of a serpent.
Novelist/Mumdance – 1 Sec (Instrumental) From 1 Sec EP (XL)
Who doesn’t love a sampled dog bark? Especially when, doused in echo, it jostles in and out frame with what sounds like vending machine whirs, duct tape tears, dentist drills, booming thunder, the cascade of rain and a man who’s fucking terrified, screaming his lungs out in a comically abject bawl. It’s like some incidental, backstreet orchestra who’s source material comes crisply gleamed from the daily sonic chaos of any modern sprawl; the machinery of various interiors mixed with the expansiveness of outside atmospheres.
Obviously the instrumental has a lot more blank space, which only accents the strange variance of these samples even further, as well as making the brutal sub-bass gut-pounds as potent and thrilling as any instrumental grime so far released this year. And that’s the only reason that this instrumental garners a special mention, in lieu of the vocal; the prominence of its maniacal sampling as well as its impeccable sound design.
Although, that’s not to diminish Novelist’s ability, as his 909-accompanied freestyle on RA Sessions attests; smirk-laden bravado and hilarious self-glorification that flows naturally, without any self-conscious superficiality. Basically, we need more of this collaboration as soon as humanely possible.
L/F/D/M – No Cure from M is a Shape LP (Ecstatic)
Doof. Doof. Doof. So it goes with ‘Insect Cylinders’, ‘Sun Shape’ and ‘Black Shadows’, all of which motor along and hammer home a frantic, glassy motif amidst the pummel, a la Jeff Mills. There’s plenty of that brand of systematic force driving this affair, but with it comes detail, especially in the shorter anomalies which make up the rest of the LP. These are more in line with library music (check ‘Drifting Pyramid’) with elements dotting eccentrically around; vibrant, though slightly degraded, droplet-like forms, repeating and eventually forming a recognisable but skewed pattern, like a Norman McLaren animation.
It takes a while to untangle, given the vacillation between a constant throb and more fluid quirks, but once afforded the time to unravel its crossed wires, there’s a lot to admire. Something about the textures recall the new-world awe that permeates kraut electronics; that brand of ‘I Hear A New World’ futurist romance. Nestled among floor-moving stomp and coruscating bleeds of satellite-crackle though is ‘No Cure’, the most likely leeway into this LP’s hidden qualities. It favours a slick grain, not miles away from that of Ital and Lee Gamble, releasing snatches of spoken samples, and tunnelling through metallic shears and a drenched bluster, like the rhythmic stream of a high-speed night train.
DJ Sprinkles/Mark Fell – Insights: 'from the first Fresh Insights EP'
Considering the pillaging of early 90s house for nefarious means, it’s encouraging to hear a translation of such a style simplistically executed yet confrontational, laced as it is with a monologue from Tony Benn, who outlines a history of oppression to almost tacky crystalline piano chimes and brawny bass foundations. This comes as a follow up to ‘Complete Spiral’, the Arthur Scargill-sampling 12’’ which brought forth a similar mix of retro redolence and extended political cut-and-paste.
It’s a welcome continuation as it’s all too rare to have such consciousness focalized, especially when the whole breadth of the current house landscape is considered, the commercial and even the more respectable forefront of which often feels like an apolitical, parallel twat-dom of vague, co-opted hedonism. This might be why it’s so stirring; an address which admonishes complacency. The fact that it’s cradled within a contrastingly light and danceable constancy only heightens its power.
(Preview above, available here)