Hello and good morning. I greet you with good news - the European underground is alive and strong this week. Ulla and Perila, Sferic and Discreet all contributing end of year contenders. And while not European in any way, that Carlos Nino return works some real magic of its own. The bad news is that, as per usual, they are brutally limited in quanitity, most notably the Ulla and Klas Trollius LPs. The latter is arriving early next week, but i've put it up for pre-order now given the unsatiable appetite you all have for the Sound of Young Sweden.
The first part of a fantastic second hand collection is also live on the site and in the racks today - i've featured a few more titles than normal below, mainly because it's so good and i've a painful desire to show off. Virgina Astley, Obscure, Larraji, Terry Riley, Don Cherry. A lot to love.
And speaking of Don Cherry, as you'll see below, we've very limited copies of the show stopping Organic Music Society compendium on Blank Forms. This seems to be sold out everywhere else, a fact that somehow fills me with a strange hope. A bit of a life-changing text in all honesty. Be kind to yourself.
And finally, the shop will close one hour early on Sunday as we've a flight to catch to Glasgow for what might be the shortest holiday in history. Sorry if that causes any incovenience, but these dogs need a liedown.
Thanks and goodbye.>>>
Ulla - Limitless Frame
Motion Ward, 2021
Not entirely sure why i'm writing this, since we all know this is going to have sold out before you get to the end of the opening sentence... Well, Ambient Fetishism be damned, because this remains a record worthy of devout attention and understanding. Through both her music and the Experiences Ltd imprint she operates, Ulla Straus is undeniably central to the 'West Mineral & adjacent' (inc. Sferic, xpq?, and of course, Motion Ward) sound that's been championed here and by countless others the last few years, arguably hitting its peak with last year's Tumbling Against A Wall. Love it as we do, there's only so much you can say about a type of music that seems so aesthetically pre-defined. In that context, it's especially satisfying to receive the appropriately titled Limitless Frame. It begins in roughly familiar territory, couched in the reverb and delay of abstracted electroacoustics and manipulated electronics, haunted by the ghosts of glitch-past. Straus is incredible when making these sounds, and i'd be more than happy to hear another record based solely on this approach. Yet Limitless Frame sees Straus gently evolving her practice, the second side shifting into newer, less explored spaces. Amd 'space' is in fact the operative word. Album centrepiece 'Something Inside My Body' is a work of spatial reverence, mournful piano chords held suspended against a backdrop of natural static, the outside world floating in through the window, as if the breeze itself is playing the keys. Arguably the best thing anyone from this associated world has put their name to. The final three tracks explicitly place electroacoustic instrumentation front and centre (most arrestingly via the sax and piano interplay of Walk Alone), as if Straus is actively moving away from the synthetic qualities of electronic composition to the more direct emotional expression of 'real world' sounds (i realise there's a subjective qualification to such a distinction, but it's not worth explanation here). The overall textural shift reminds me in part of early Tomlab and Fat Cat (particularly The Books), in creating that bridge between post-rock abstraction and electronic minimalism, and there are some aspects of Arthur Russell's World of Echo rearing there head in the contrasts of empty space and crackling reverb. But even then, Limitless Frame seems to require its own understanding. This feels like a hugely evocative and personal statement, not so much genre-defining, as surpassing it, moving into its own standalone space. Gotta be one of the best of the year.
Carlos Nino & Friends - More Energy Fields, Current
International Anthem, 2021
Carlos Nino's follow up to last year's live LP with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson finds the LA drummer digging deeper into his blackbook for a series of collaborative tracks in which they collectively traverse the conjoining spaces of spiritual jazz, ambient textures, electronic experimentation and fourth world/new age errieness. The list of contributors here is impressive in itself - Sam Gendel, Laaraji, Jamael Dean, Shabaka Hutchings, Dntel et al - but mostly it's Nino's open-ended experimentation that stands tallest. This is an amorphous collection of detours, sonic epiphanies and rare inspirations, an eye-opening wander through the sound universe of some brilliant collaborative talents. When i saw the number of names involved, i was fearful of the outcome, as if it might be too disjointed or directionless. I needn't have worried. It's testament to Nino's vision that he's able to marry this a range of voices to such a rich listening experience. It's not as explicitly abrasive as Flying Lotus, but there's some element of the same restless creative approach underpinning More Energy Fields... that reminded me of Steven Ellison's boundless attitude to genre. Nino's is firstly rooted in jazz, of course, yet as with much of the International Anthem world, he's certainly not beholden to it, mostly using the free aspects of its central doctrine in order to explore new spaces. An impressive evolution.
Perila - How Much Time it is Between You & Me
Smalltown Supersound, 2021
What timing! In the same week of release as Limitless Frame, frequent Ulla collaborator Perila follows-up a highly productive 2020 (in which she released at least three different records!), with her debut long-player for Smalltown Supersound. Much like Ulla Straus, Aleksandra Zakharenko is deeply embedded within the post-Huerco S/West Mineral world, making a number of significant contributions to this emerging aesthetic in a very short space of time, each providing a gentle refinement of her definitively humanist electronic minimalism. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Zakharenko sees her voice as a key component to her sound, and on How Much Time is it Between You & Me she's present on at least three tracks. It's an important point of difference within an aesthetic in which the creator is mostly anonymous or, at least, ambiguous, and whilst Zakharenko is by no means propagating a cult of personality, there's a performative presence within this collection, and though they use their voices in different ways, i am reminded at times of Jenny Hval. The music is also often gritty and roughly textured, flecked with noise, grain, static, as if through it expressing some kind of human imperfection. Like with the latest Ulla record, Perila breaks beyond the generic traits associated with the world she operates within, making broader strokes in search of new terrain, but retaining micro-levels of detail and nuance that from the start have made her music so engaging. It's a big week follow-up records, and this is another bold statement from an artist that looks increasingly like she's in it for the long haul.
TIBSLC - Delusive Tongue Shifts/Situation Based Compositions
Missed this last week having spent too much time with that new Space Afrika 10", but we're not too late to take a look at yet another vital transmission from the Sferic camp. And don't be fooled by the absolutely terrible name chosen by Leipzig-based artist, TIBSLC (The International Billionaire's Secret Love Child) - nomenclature might not his forte, but micro-aesthetics certainly are, and this is yet another immaculate experiment in what is becoming a sort of trademark sound for Sferic. Much like with the Experiences Ltd and West Mineral stables, there's a compelling interplay between the natural and the synthetic, blurring the origin of sound and conjuring that sense of decay that seems so central to a lot of modern electronic composition. As with, say, Ben Bondy, Picnic, Pontiac Streator, LOG et al, TIBLSC owes much to the Clicks and Cuts crew from the late 90s, re-imagining the aesthetics of glitch with his own micro-detailed ambience and no little emotional clout. As much as Delusive Tongue Shifts/Situation Based Compositions is notionally representative of a specific milieu of boundary-pushing producers, there's two records in particular it stands most obviously alongside for me: Jan Jelinek's Loop Finding Jazz and the 100% future classic, Hotel Nota by label mate Romeo Poirier. Two firm WOE favourites, so it's no mean comparison, and TIBSLC shares a similar universe-building skill, a distinctive environmental noise for his own imagined liminal spaces. Now if we could only do something about that name...
Ed Chamberlain - 03/06
Lapsus brings together all three Ed Chamberlain Fixxy EPs from 2006 into one collection and adds in a few bonus tracks from the same era to pad out the spare grooves. Those original BaseLogic 12s are all now trading for madman money, which is as good a reason as any to have this record exist, but it's mostly good because previous inaccessible music is now able to hit new ears. Chamberlain seemed to represent a second generation of IDM-inspired producers, brought up on imperial era Warp and Rephlex. As such, he's drawing from a rich history, square-wave work outs, Squarepusher breakbeat abstractions, DMX-acid, Black Dog melodic ebullience.. A new trip and more education. Or just a bit of a weirdo flex. You decide. Whatever, restart the braindance.
Klas Trollius - Sånger Till En Människa
We wont have this until mid next week, but posting now since we're well aware of how popular anything coming out of Gothenburg is right now. Consider this fair warning. And yes yes, that seemingly limitless spring of talent from the Discreet universe continues to flow with this debut record by Klas Trollius, a relative unknown to all but the most devout Swedophile. Opening with a feather-light Vini Reilly-like eight-minute John Martyn cover that once again channels the folk song influence that underpins a great deal of the Forlag For Fri Musik output, Sånger Till En Människa might be considered an archetypal Discreet release, splitting the difference between the cult-y hymnals of Blod and Enhet For Musik, and the abstracted and often uneasy ambience of Arv & Miljo. Though generally much longer compositions, the patchwork quality and repeated motifs of these five songs also echo the episodic Astrid Oster Mortensen LP from earlier this year, enveloping field recording, tape static, spoken word and occasional bursts of melody into one rich tapestry. There's certainly a continuation of that shared avant sensibility that seems to colour all those within the Discreet orbit, though it is also telling that Trollius has cited Razorcuts as an influence, shifting the context a little with it. Indiepop isn't an obvious touchstone, but the gentle jangle radiance of Koltrast is a palette cleansing delight, like how Skygreen Leopards used to submerge perfect popsongs within psych-drone noise abstraction. It's a much appreciated counterpoint to Trollius' more experimental instincts, a daydream hidden in the fog. Edition of 400.
Language Scraps 02: Mark E. Smith's Handwriting & the Typography of the Fall by Paul Wilson
The Grass Is Green in the Field For You, 2021
120 x 180mm, 36 pages
In this essay Paul Wilson views The Fall through a typographic lens and explores their visual identity as propelled and produced by Mark E. Smith.
“Mark E. Smith’s handwriting became part of The Fall’s visual identity: a typographic signifier of and for The Fall. His attitude towards the development and articulation of a visual identity for The Fall, and in particular the use of his handwriting, reflects his position towards The Fall’s sonic identity. Further, his ambivalence towards contemporary technologies (of sound recording, communication and graphic design), together with his fascination with the idea of creative unwinding (or as he often calls it ‘unlearning’) continually relocates The Fall’s aesthetic tending towards an idealized primitivism.”
This essay was first published in Mark E. Smith and The Fall: Art, Music and Politics (2010) published by Routledge. Edited, updated and represented between March and May of 2021.