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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NFOP Presents: Berlin Current at CTM 2015: UN TUNE

20 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Berlin is a city associated with bodily music. It’s the mediated yet immediately perceptible connection between the sounds of the club and the movements of the dancer which is the most obvious manifestation of Berlin representing the physical. It makes a lot of sense, then, to devote the coming edition of CTM Festival to “works by artists who explore the direct bodily effects of frequencies, sound, and music in order to address and disturb the human body in troubling and emphatic ways,“ in the words of the curators.

Like last year, the festival will again incorporate select artists of its Berlin Current roster, the on-going project that showcases musicians based in the city who explore the boundaries of contemporary experimental pop, funded by the Senate’s Musicboard and presented by No Fear Of Pop. More than just including twelve of those artistic endeavours, which should not come as a surprise, there’s a deeper nexus at play: of course, calling Berlin home, being inspired by the town’s cultural currents as well as its history as one of the breeding grounds of electronic music, all these artists also have an intimate relationship with music that transcends the purely sonic realm, reaching into the tangible world of objects and bodies. When talking to Phoebe Kiddo for Berlin Community Radio and RBMA last Friday, she revealed that for her these sounds serve almost as the essence of the city. So be it the aggressive, direct physicality of acts such as OAKE, Ketev, or Shaddah Tuum, the more futuristic, transcendental approach by Kiddo’s new project MINDBODYFITNESS, TCF or KABLAM, or the corporal, noire pop of Born In Flamez, Berlin’s new breed perfectly encapsulates the festival’s 2015 edition’s theme.

So while we’re sure that you might mostly be looking forward to the bigger names like Carter Tutti Void, The Bug, Alec Empire, Evian Christ, Mumdance, and all the other international heavyweights – which is of course totally fine – you definitely should check out at least some of the Berlin Current artists. Here’s where you’ll find them:

Amnesia Scanner – Berghain, Thursday, 01/29

Born In Flamez – Yaam I, Saturday, 01/31

Jesse Osborne-Lanthier – Yaam III, Saturday, 01/31

KABLAM – Panorama Bar, Thursday, 01/29

Ketev – Yaam III, Saturday, 01/31

Moon Wheel – Panorama Bar, Thursday, 01/29

OAKE – Yaam III, Saturday, 01/24

Opium Hum – Yaam I, Saturday, 01/31

Phoebe Kiddo – Astra, Sunday, 02/01

Sarah Farina – Yaam II, Saturday, 01/31

Shaddah Tuum – Yaam III, Saturday, 01/24

TCF – HAU 2, Thursday, 01/29

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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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NFOP Presents: unhappybirthday

14 Jan 2015 — Henning Lahmann

"Curiously nostalgic and comforting" is what we thought about the music of Hamburg outfit unhappybirthday when premiering their wonderful tune "Keanu" back in September, and even though the winter so far has either felt like an inapproriate extension of late fall or an eerily premature spring, there's certainly the need for more coziness in Berlin. Rather fittingly, the three musicians refer to their music as 'raincoat pop', so we urge you to leave your umbrella at home and join us at Kreuzberg's Monarch next Wednesday, January 21, to watch the trio perform more warm and fuzzy lo-fi tunes to solace your dreary winter heart.

Presented by No Fear Of Pop, the show starts at 9pm and is 8 Euros unless you send us an email to submissions@nofearofpop.net with the subject "unhappy" before Monday, 12pm CET, to get the chance to win 1x2 guest list spots for the event.

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