Watch: Sandra Kolstad “My Yellow Heart”

27 Jan 2015 — Andrew Darley

Sandra Kolstad rides in on a great big horse for her new single "My Yellow Heart". It is her latest offering from her third album, Zero Gravity State Of Mind, which she is set to release on March 3rd. The song is a plea to not become “a hard-hearted woman” in the midst of struggle. The video locates the singer-songwriter in a barren landscape, as we witness her transform and mutate into a number of entities amongst the crumbling landscape. With an ardent focus to colour, the clothing, make-up and surrounding nature burst in vitality. The song contrasts the sweetness of previous single "Rooms", as she bounds in with a rickety piano line and soaring melody. "My Yellow Heart" encapsulates her talent in electronic pop and her theatricality to front it. She takes us into her stimulating world, as we witness her blossom into something ‘other’ in front of our eyes.

Zero Gravity State Of Mind will be released by Red Eye Transit.

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Johan Agebjörn “You Passed Through (Memoryhouse Remix)”

26 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Lund, Sweden native Johan Agebjörn, who frequently collaborates with the great Sally Shapiro, makes pop music that's almost archetypically Swedish: technically beyond perfection, slick yet never bland, dreamy, beautiful. Of all the compelling arrangements compiled on his forthcoming LP Notes, new single "You Passed Through" must be the most spellbinding. Featuring Montreal outfit Young Galaxy, it's innocently tinkling along on an ethereal, melancholic melody, finally giving way to the gentle singing of birds in springtime. For the single release, Memoryhouse, another Canadian project that sadly has been silent for quite a while now, has taken the song and turned it into some sort of mellow dance tune, much to my surprise. Take a listen to remix and original below.

Notes is out February 10 on Paper Bag Records.

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Glass House “Headlands”

23 Jan 2015 — Henry Schiller

As Glass House, Ian Collier and Eric Brannon create what they describe as “dynamic chunks of space and melody.”  The notion of music coming in “chunks” really speaks to the heft of the Chicago-based duo’s latest cassette, "Headlands", which is 40 minutes of post-apocalyptic ambience.

On "Headlands", Glass House pull at the tendons of washed out ambience with enough melodic intent to make the cassette sound less like a soundscape and more like a cinematic score. Whether meant to accompany such images or evoke them, "Headlands" seems suited to a wide expanse of desert with a possibly illusory city perpetually on the horizon.

Side A thumps out slowly with a loop of a sound like a ghost knocking on a window in the rain. Side B of "Headlands" is a bit louder, a bit more front-facing, and incorporates some excellent sonic peppering around the 13 minute mark by way of church bells and a string instrument that sounds like a coyote howling. The naturalness of this turn almost had me convinced there was some sort of rich narrative to the whole thing; as if, with the track, I had wandered into some abandoned town and we were about to investigate.

Tim Hecker’s Virgins seems like a probable influence, but so do the kinds of wandering, ponderous scores usually associated with open world video games. Indeed, the experience of "Headlands" is almost like that of playing an RPG. There’s supposed to be a strict narrative – a compelling and wrought out one at that – but you very often delay or dance around it because you’re too busy trying to jump over an invisible wall or talk to an NPC that you’re convinced can trigger the continuation of the plot. Is it a little frustrating? Sure – but it’s where all of the fun is, it’s where the point is. If you wanted everything handed to you you’d have read a book or, similarly, listened to a pop record. This kind of music requires a little more effort on your part.

"Headlands" is out now on Lillerne Tapes - supplies are limited but you can order your copy here.



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Ozel AB “Crimes EP”

23 Jan 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Lobster Theremin ethusiastically describes Ozel AB's style as "the missing piece in the final core artist tapestry of the label." After having listened to this EP close to fifty times in the last week, I would agree that something big and quenching, finalizing, is going on for the label in this release. Ozel AB achieves this through decorative sonic geometry: it's like going to someone's apartment who displays impressive ownership over and compatibility with any awkward nooks that come with the space. The resident has made very good, slaking use of filling and complementing wall space and corners, clutter-free, tetris-satisfaction style. Crimes EP is alive with paddy synth bites that smoothen everything out. They hit you the way you absorb someone's slick and well-feng shui-ed flat. Samples and simple progressions persistently entering at the perfect, most agreeable moments, which speaks loudly to the artist's awesome sense of rhythm and knack for organization, regardless of what his living space actually looks like.

Buy the Crimes EP here, and check out other great LT releases right here.

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Ex Geo “Memex”

23 Jan 2015 — Richard Greenan

This tape from anonymous newcomer Ex Geo has caught our ears. Out on London's Indole, Memex is described by label chief Jimmy Billingham – aka HOLOVR – as employing "warped tape loops, glitched CDrs and digital modular techniques in combination with layered, out-phased synth harmony – the sense of material/digital rupture of the former offset by the reflective ease of the latter."

The effect is of a robot vomiting, then crying. There's something seductive about the juxtaposition of thunderously twisted, unpredictable beats and wistful, meandering synths – the synthesis of rough and smooth, fast and slow, steely yet vulnerable.

Precious copies of Memex are still available. Indole have released a number of other intriguing tapes over the past week or so. Do yourself a favour and check the rest out here.

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Magic Island “So Tender”

16 Jan 2015 — Henry Schiller

To claim that Magic Island's "So Tender" is more aurally daring or sophisticated than bedroom pop might seem a bit disingenuous. What Magic Island (AKA Emma Czerny) has crafted is, first and foremost, a sparkling piece of pop music. But when we take the track by its sonic roots it's easy to see that Czerny has drawn from an unusual combination of musical ouvre, and that “So Tender” is - despite the safety net of pop it shrouds itself in - actually pretty weird.

Czerny seems to be drawing from two distinct pools. On the one hand, we have the kind of sugary - if deceptively sparese - synthpop born out of a music industry realization that synthesizers weren't just for the bedroom dwelling intellectual set. On the other hand: the heavier, artier, ethereal-wave fare that stomped the 1980s to death in northern Britain and Iceland.

The cheap Casio keyboards that feature prominently on “So Tender” were presumably designed to, if nothing else, emulate the wave forms produced on the more sophisticated machines used by by people like Brian Eno and Vangelis, and later, to less overwrought ends, by groups like Soft Cell and Yazoo. On the other hand, Czerny's vocals keep a spiritual distance from the kind of music that her songwriting would naturally put her in league with (somewhere on the line between FKA Twigs and AlunaGeorge), incorporating instead the more piercing bombast of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser.

The result is a satisfying conflict of intimacy and spaciousness; music that hooks you like all good pop music should but keeps you tangled up in its weirdness.

Magic Island's Wasted Dawn EP is out February 3 on Mansion and Millions.


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Stefan Jós “Inside Voices” (exclusive)

15 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Stefan Jós is one of the many guises of Southern Californa producer Devon Hansen, currently calling Montréal home, whose other project Lotide left us thoroughly enchanted with Moonless, a cassette released in 2013 on London outlet Astro:Dynamics. Things You Left Behind, Hansen's latest upcoming work, isn't the first offering as Stefan Jós. Last year, the moniker appeared already on We Live Here, a compelling split with NFOP favourite Austin Cesear on Opal Tapes. This time around however, the project's direction seems to have shifted. Still minimal and based on noise, the arrangements are less contemplative than before, openly aiming at the dancefloor. EP lead track "Inside Voices", premiered below, is a case in point: built around straightforward 4/4 kicks, the track unfolds into a glacial, rigid piece of techno.

Things You Left Behind is set to be the first 12" released by Japanese imprint flau's new subdivision raum. It will be out February 25. Pre-order now over here.

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Review: Disappears “Irreal”

13 Jan 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

There are few labels that have successfully curated an artist roster that abridges the rather wide and sensitive gap between quality electronic music and rock. If we were to say that said gap has at all narrowed in the last ten years, we could quite naturally thank Kranky. Chicago's novel, "going nowhere slow" label exemplifies that the key to such strenuous effort isn't only through recognizing how avant-garde and ambient are genres more agreeable for those with guitar and drum ears; it also argues curation, how a consistent aesthetic and resilient, unwavering self-definition can win the hearts of others. Consistency creates feelings of safeness and trustfulness for just about anybody. For example, the Kranky website hasn't changed, ever, and that very quality has afforded some of us plans for long-term fandom. Kranky also somehow embodies the unqiue personality combination of solemnness plus funny. Above all, Kranky in its subtle ways advocates a genuine emphasis on sound itself, love of sound. It broadcasts that listening is an artform within musicianship, a talent bullied and overrun by proactive instrument playing. Can't a musician be a musician by his or her style of listening, sans guitar and/or synth collection?

Disappears' upcoming fifth Kranky release, Irreal, accents the inveterate label in a new way, and excavates big observations about Kranky as a whole. Though a rock band drawing strongly on psychedelic soundscapes and gospel spokenword, who have toured and collaborated with Steve Shelley, Disappears have tapped into a vein that travels from rock and indie toward electronic music and listening advocacy, without turning to synths and drum machines, or dance music. This feels executed mostly by Irreal's foregrounding of the drum kit, triggered, layered, and edited at a different if not later stage of making the record. By placing the effect-heavy drums prominently, as much so as vocals, we experience more of a pro-sound album, not overrun by rock motifs and traditional instrument assembly. Guitars are undoubtedly present, however working as if physically behind the drum kit. They assist in completing and stregnthening the, or any drum kit's nearly infinite range of frequency and particular type of solemness and thunderous emotionality. On Irreal, these traits are even more so unleashed, unlimited, and explosive, staring straight at you, in the face.

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Having sung this praise, Irreal uncomfortably pageants a type of violence and begruded existential yearning. While screaming and heaviness aren't unusual for Disappears, the despondent key signatures are. Furthermore, lyrics like "I want to remember" repeatedly stated as relentless yet calculated instruments smash their way through to supremacy altogether discontent the listener, making she or he likewise itch and eventually grovel for solutions to rudimentary unfairnesses. Incomplete sentences and general unknowns also evoke this fury. There are interludes and windows of mild prettiness, such as the end of "Another Thought," where a washed-over, Sting-like crooning soothes the fire at hand; nonetheless, later tracks like "Mist Rites" and "Navigating the Void" leave no room for invigoration, positivity, or redemption, which seems to be so desired here, since the start of the album. As "Navigating" limps on, a very arid form of solace slides in before the guitar feedback subdues the drum levels and begins drowning the album.

What is the anger for? Is this a band singing ill-praise for the recognized superfluity of standard rock band set up? Is it more personal than political? The message is perhaps deliberately unclear.

Several aspects of Irreal remind me of later Wire, This Heat, and struggling-to-grow-up Sonic Youth, all of which are quite militant, droning, and somewhat clean. These bands are surely not only celebrated by Disappears, but also the whole of Kranky and most of their various artists. My critical question about this album has to do with label coherency, like what was being rambled about at the top of the review: how do violent sounds, song structure and refined post-rock presentation work so well next to a plethora of celebrated ambient artists? In other words, how can Kranky have abrasive pieces right next to neo-classical ones in their catalog? How is it that ambience and aggression work so well into each other, that death metal lifers make exceptions for electronica only when it comes to ambient? No matter the feasible answers, Kranky is certainly arriving at a more ethereal stage in their career where a paradox like the one between violence and tranquility can make sense and even be patched up, and Irreal is a vtial part of that arrival, not to mention a fascinating evolutionary step for Disappears.

Look into pre-ordering here. Album to be released January 19th.