Letters From Mouse – Watching

Music for post-humanity: Watching is the follow-up to Edinburgh electronic musician Steven Anderson’s Proto Human, described by its creator as a casual surveying of the end of civilisation either through technology or a virus. Proto Human was released in February of this year, just as the world was lurching toward who knows what thanks to COVID-19, and where technological dependency was suddenly a reality for all of us if we actually wanted to stay connected. 

Watching imagines what comes next. This is an album of wide-open spaces, unhurried melodies and a serene, almost soothing sense of realism and perspective. Its purview is the notion that what is going on with the human race can’t be all that there is out in the galaxy, that life must exist somewhere beyond our understanding. The effect is to give tracks like the corporeally-minded ‘Blood And Bone’, the mystique-heavy ‘In The Corner’ and the questing ‘Helix Nebula’ a feeling of discovery, the use of vintage-sounding electronics evoking some of the earliest electronic music. 

There is a feeling of weightlessness to some of these pieces, while others suggest a weight being lifted from your shoulders. Beats drift into view gradually, pads ebb and flow around you like healing waves of cathartic sound, and melodies eddy and spin with grace and evanescence. Pieces like ‘1420 Megahertz’ and the haunting ‘Stars Went Missing’ are draped in foggy layers of thick reverb, meaning that when strident synth patterns and a crisp electro beat creep into view they are never presented aggressively, reinforcing a sense of expansiveness and wonder. 

Amid the most harrowing global events we hope to witness in our lives, Anderson has created an album that takes a step back and tries to focus its electronic attentions on far greater concerns through the lens of an almost scientific enlightenment. The thirteen tracks here are dominated by a stateliness and an unhurried, slowly-evolving sense of purpose, one that asks us to look skyward, away from the trials and tribulations of a virus-ravaged Earth. 

Watching by Letters From Mouse is released October 30 by Music Is The Devil. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

Various Artists – Isolation And Rejection Vol. 5

Have you ever been broken up with by the same person twice? I have. If you thought the first time hurt, it’s nothing compare to the second time, which is as brutal and barbaric as someone running a knife through your already broken heart. 

That’s kind of how I feel as we reach the fifth and final part of Front & Follow’s Isolation And Rejection series. I had only just got over the feeling of emptiness that Justin Watson’s label left when he shuttered it’s operations last year, only to suddenly feel rejuvenated at the announcement of this project. And now, as it draws to a close like the darkening evenings of a lockdown Autumn, I feel utterly bereft again. 

Still, in many ways, Watson saved the best for last, as this collection of rejects includes some of the best material to have appeared in this whole series, the proceeds of which have all gone to The Brick charity in Wigan. The album commences with three grubby, edgy electronic belters – Assembled Minds’s ‘The Eeerie Machine Hums A Barley Song To The Sun’, Accidental Tones’s ‘Mute’ and ARC Soundtracks’s ‘Exhibit F’ – and it really just stays at that same level throughout. Those three set a precarious tone to the album, one that feels like they’re reflecting back our sundry concerns – a bit of paranoia; a skewed sense of purpose; a nagging feeling that things don’t feel quite real. 

And so it progresses, through Simpl_Machines’s hypnotic ‘The Worst In Me’, which sounds like an alternative take on a key cue from the original Teen Wolf; the ceasless mechanistic strut of Bit Cloudy’s ‘Secret Genes’; das fax mattinger’s noisy ‘Sommerhit’; Isobel Ccircle~’s textural ‘Devour Isolation’; Synthetic Villain’s dreamy ‘Rhythm & Weep (Remix)’, which sounds like electronica nodding in the direction of dreamy easy listening; The Kendal Mintcake’s scattergun electro beats and icicle-sharp – almost Christmas-y – melodies on ‘∞%y’; the pulsing nod in the direction of minimal techno on Quartersized’s ‘Limiting’; Laica’s dramatic, submerged atmospherics on the standout ‘(Kakinuma) Traces Of The Soul’. 

As with the previous volumes, it’s the straying away from the electronic template that reinforces Watson’s curatorial even-handedness. Petrine Cross’s doomy ‘Absorbed In An Artificial Night’ is a heavily-distorted metal cut that sounds like an outtake from Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, that was rejected from Trent’s gloomy masterpiece for not being optimistic enough. Sam Underwood and Graham Dunning’s Mammoth Beat Organ (Google it right now!) deliver the acoustic ‘Mast’, which sounds like an afterhours visit to Brian Cant’s shop on Bric-A-Brac

The album concludes with the folksy acapella ‘Lo-Fi Symphony For Portslade-by-Sea’ by Dominic Bradnum, a mournful, yet optimistic piece of vocal sentimentality that sounds like a fishermen’s chorus singing Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’. It’s this savagely beautiful piece that I’ll be listening to for comfort as I once more mourn the loss of one of my favourite labels. 

Isolation & Rejection Volume 5 is released October 30 2020 by Front & Follow. RIP. Again. 

Words and tears: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

Shots: Immy, Spacelab, Lagoss, John Frusciante, Snowdrops, Body/Negative, Paradise Cinema, Espen Eriksen Trio

Immy – In The Morning (2433392 Records DK) 

Immy is London-born, Falmouth-based singer-songwriter Imogen Leach. ‘In The Morning’ is her debut single, showcasing a lightness of touch and a haunting vocal intonation that prompts comparison with the work of First Aid Kit. Ostensibly a frustrated paean to the transiency and impermanence of one-night stands, ‘In The Morning’ concludes with a firmness and resolution, even as Imogen delivers the song with a quietly stirring grace and subtlety. Expect great things. Released September 28 2020. 

Spacelab – Kaleidomission (Wormhole World / HREA’M)

A joint release by the ever-dependable Wormhole World and HREA’M labels for Spacelab, a mysterious electronic project with absolutely no biographical backstory. Containing 36 short tracks, Kaleidomission is an exercise in plunderphonic dexterity, taking in freaky little segments of speech or birdsong culled from the ether, wonky loops of jazz drumming and ambient texture like ‘We Love Can’ and ‘Astral Dynamics’ that sound like they’re being broadcast from a broken AM transmitter in the overgrown grounds of Aleister Crowley’s house. The title of the standout skewed electronica of ‘Fucked Casio Melody’ requires no further explanation. Released October 16 2020. 

https://wormholeworld.bandcamp.com/album/kaleidomission

Lagoss – Imaginary Island Music, Vol. 1 : Canary Islands (Discrepant) 

Lagoss is a collaboration between Discrepant label head Gonçalo F. Cardoso and Tenerife-based electronica duo Tupperware. The 37 short tracks on Imaginary Island Music, Vol. 1 are like listening to Les Baxter or Martin Denny at a post-apocalyptic exotica club on a broken soundsystem. Swooning tropical lushness abounds here, but it’s skewed to the point of nauseating discordancy as vibraphones wobble and shimmer into dissonant sprawls and hip-hop / electro beats lurch awkwardly. If you listen closely to tracks like ‘Chipude’, you can hear the sound of waves lapping around a wrecked beach bar run by an old stoner dude in a Hawaiian shirt mixing Mai Tais for thirsty ghosts. Released October 9 2020. 

https://discrepant.bandcamp.com/album/imaginary-island-music-vol-1-canary-islands

John Frusciante – Maya (Timesig) 

For his first electronic album under his own name, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante (aka Trickfinger) delivers an energetic tribute to two vastly different things: his recently-departed feline companion Maya, present with him in the studio since RHCP’s Stadium Arcadium, and his hitherto unknown love of jungle and drum ‘n’ bass. A time machine back to the period 1991 – 1996, tracks like ‘Brand E’ and ‘Amethyblowl’ fizz with turbulent breakbeat edginess, while his instantly-recognisable awareness of melody offsets that rhythmic freneticism and intensity with stirring ambient colour. Released October 23 2020. 

https://johnfrusciante.bandcamp.com/album/maya

Snowdrops – Volutes (Injazero) 

Volutes is the debut album by French duo Christine Ott and Mathieu Gabry. With a title referring to the spiralling patterns evident in both architecture and nature, Volutes is a breathtaking masterpiece full of gentle, emotive twists. With a palette of sounds including piano, electronics and the expressive violin of Anne Irène-Kempf, moments such as ‘Trapezian Fields’ are freighted with an unpredictable, austere, haunted quality full of intricate detail. Ott’s work with Yann Tiersen can be heard in the mesmerising Ondes Martenot-led ‘Ultraviolet’, wherein layers of the instrument’s characteristic reedy alien sounds are encircled by Irène-Kempf’s savagely heart-wrenching violin as it plunges into minor key despair. Un album d’une beauté poignante. Released October 16 2020. 

https://snowdrops.bandcamp.com/album/volutes

Body/Negative – Fragments (Track Number Records) 

Fragments is the debut album from LA’s Body/Negative, the pseudonym of nonbinary multi-instrumentalist and producer Andy Schiaffino, and follows their Epoche EP from 2019. Beginning with an instrumental cover of Elliott Smith’s ‘Figure 8’ that sounds like it’s being heard through the gauzy vestiges of sleep, Schiaffino has produced an ambient album full of unique personality and highly personal, almost diaristic reference points. Here you can just make out their classical musical roots poking through on pieces like ‘Catholic Guilt’, but they are presented like elusive memories appearing out of the haze of long-buried emotions, making the fifteen minutes of Fragments one of the most haunting and transcendent albums I’ve ever heard. Released October 23 2020. 

https://bodynegative.bandcamp.com/album/fragments

Paradise Cinema – Paradise Cinema (Gondwana Records) 

Paradise Cinema is a trio consisting of Portico Quartet multi-instrumentalist Jack Wyllie with percussionists Khadim Mbaye and Tons Sambe. Recorded while Wylie was on location in Dakar, Senegal, his vision for the album was prompted by the ceaseless rhythms he’d hear through the night and the faded aspirations and historical grandeur of the city. The timbres on pieces like ‘Liberté’ are immediately recognisable from Wylie’s day job with Portico Quartet, all shimmering ambience and considered, absorbing electronics, but it is their fusion with the Mbaye and Sambe’s percussive backbone that focusses the attention. ‘It Will Be Summer Soon’ is a restless, urgent highlight, sounding like rush-hour traffic on a hopeful Senegalese morning. Released October 9 2020.

https://paradise-cinema.bandcamp.com/album/paradise-cinema

Espen Eriksen Trio – End Of Summer (Rune Grammofon) 

Seven tracks of piano jazz from the versatile fingertips of Espen Eriksen, recorded in Oslo during lockdown after the trio of Eriksen, double bassist Lars Tormod Jenset and drummer Andreas Bye saw all of their shows cancel in quick succession. Released as the strangest of summers drew to a close and the dork Norwegian autumn commenced, pieces like ‘Transparent Darkness’ carry a ruminative, reflective quality in their melodic structures, while the Latin rhythms of the album’s title track carries a sense of quietly chilled optimism. There is also a sense of catharsis and energy in the pieces here, borne from the trio finally getting back together in the studio for a vibrant, socially-distanced session. Released September 25 2020. 

www.runegrammofon.com 

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

YOVA – An Innocent Man

YOVA – the duo of Jova Radevska and Mark Vernon – have today released their new single, ‘An Innocent Man’. Not a cover of a Billy Joel song, ‘An Innocent Man’ contains a tender narrative inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird, encapsulating Scout’s love and empathy toward her father and his anxiety at trying to do the right thing in the face of immense pressure. 

Jova’s quiet lyrics are delivered over a fragile tapestry of music box and Ondes Martenot melodies from Rob Ellis, violin from Anna Phoebe and cello from Nick Holland. Its presenting is immediately arresting, carrying an introspection and uncertainty that leave you feeling ever-so-slightly changed at its conclusion. “It came about so unexpectedly,” explains Jova. “When jamming with Mark, I found myself starting to narrate scenes from To Kill A Mockingbird, completely unplanned, and that was that.” Much like the book that inspired it, ‘An Innocent Man’ gives you pause to reflect, both on a world still prepared to tolerate the racial injustices that Harper Lee so vividly documented, and also the strength of family ties. 

The song is accompanied by a powerfully stirring animated video from Tim Burton collaborator Jess Cope that takes place inside a music box. Here we observe the care and affection of the song’s narrator toward her father, the heavy weight that he must bear in his pursuit of moral rectitude, and a savage reflection of a world still unable to tolerate equality. 

Today, Further. brings you the lyric video for ‘An Innocent Man’. Jess Cope’s video will screened at various film festivals over the next few months. 

An Innocent Man by YOVA is released October 23 2020. Listen here.

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

A Lily – Sleep Through The Storm

Sleep Through The Storm is the fifth album from James Vella’s A Lily. Beginning in 2006 with wake:sleep and continuing over the past fourteen years, Vella’s music under the A Lily name has been one of utmost flexibility, shifting his stylistic impulses refreshingly from drones to electronic pop with each release, without worrying about any sort of back catalogue compatibility issues. 

His latest album finds Vella in a deeply contemplative frame of mind as he reflects on the parlous state of the world we call home in 2020. Outwardly simple yet richly complex beneath the surface, these eight pieces are the electronic equivalent of putting on a brave face when, inside, you are trying to manage the swirling emotions and myriad anxieties that seem to have existed in our daily realities for the past twenty years or more. 

Opener ‘Endless Jasmine’ is presented as cluster of rapidly coruscating tones. Their presentation vividly recalls listening to peeling bells celebrating some joyous occasion, but instead they feel claustrophobic, relentlessly devoid of any sort of release. The deceptively beatific ‘A Softly Glitching Reality’ evokes the melodies of Vella’s work for piano, with subtly abrasive dissonance and slow filters giving the piece an uncertain, indecisive, troubled timbre.

The album’s centrepiece, the almost title track ‘Slept Through The Storm’ poses the question we’d all like to ask ourselves: what if this was all just a dream? What if that daily creeping dread and relentless non-specific unease and all the multitudes of hellish headlines we are confronted with were all just figments of our imagination? The track exists with a cautious optimism, spirals of wispy melodic cycles floating upwards, encircled by criss-crossing textural motifs. 

‘Slept Through The Storm’ sets the tone for the remainder of the album, which proceeds with a gracefulness (if you’re feeling optimistic) or a sense of resignation (if you’re not). The album concludes with the slowly-evolving countermelody of ‘Slipped At The Edge Of The Pool’, a haunting, reflective, sweetly-fluctuating refrain that stays with you long after the album has ebbed away into a heavy, bereft silence. 

Sleep Through The Storm by A Lily is released October 16 2020 by Bytes. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

The Killer Robots! – The Killer Robots! Crash & Burn OST

“In late 2004, after years of intense math calculations, four men determined the world wasn’t weird enough and decided to encase themselves in spray-painted fibreglass. They picked up some musical instruments, wrote a few songs and took to the road in an effort to generate a maniacal cyclone of fun and jubilation amid the cold thundering machine of life.” – The Killer Robots! biography.

I’m not sure how I never heard about The Killer Robots!, a ‘theatrical rock band’ from Orlando, FL where the band members wear huge robot costumes. They seem like a lot of irreverent fun, though I think you have to be a huge nerd to fully appreciate them; or maybe, given their predilection for on-stage pyrotechnics and tongue-in-cheek sci-fi-isms, you just need to be a fan of Muse. 

Too big a concept to concentrate solely on music, The Robots seemed predestined to find a route into film. In 2016, they released their second movie (the first was called The Killer Robots And The Battle For The Cosmic Potato – yes, you did read that correctly). Co-opting the name from one of my favourite robot flicks from my youth, Crash & Burn was a B-movie-style adventure that followed the Robots as they tried to eliminate various nefarious villains in increasingly goofy chapters that was more like watching someone successfully playing a computer game than a traditional movie. The movie was started in 2010 and delivered on an amazingly small budget. The result was both deftly humorous but also, in its own inimitable way, a faithful tribute of sorts to the earliest sci-fi movies. 

Killer Robots’ bassist founder Sam Gaffin, who put most of the film together single-handedly over five years, wrote a brilliant electronic score for the film that has now finally been made available through Bandcamp. 

Containing 27 mostly short cues, Gaffin’s music is luridly vivid, with pieces like ‘Fury Of The Robots’ and ‘Prepping For Battle’ consisting of big orchestral melodies reminiscent of Eastern European military parade-ground demonstrations, mixed in with some tasty Neubauten-esque metal bashing. Befitting the rapid scene changes of the movies, most of these cues deliver a lot of intense action in a short space of time, their ideas being allowed to reach prominence before concluding rapidly. ‘Trog Goes Clubbing’ is a brilliant slice of futuristic techno, while ‘Max Talks Smack’ is determined electropunk, fusing rolling post-punk drums and a central electronic bassline that acts as the missing link between oompah music and Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft. 

The concluding piece here, ‘Surfing On Space Junk’ sends the album out on a bang. Beginning with some eerie, theremin-esque wailing, the track suddenly opens out into a euphoric sequence of fizzy melodies and hi-NRG hooks that feels like you’re careering wildly through space, only just on the edge of control. 

The Killer Robots! Crash & Burn OST by The Killer Robots! was released October 9 2020. 

Words: Mat Smith. With thanks to Espen. 

(c) 2020 Further. 
Note: an earlier version of this post appeared at documentaryevidence.co.uk in 2016 

Dugo – Recluse

Dugo is the alias of Tokyo-based guitarist, electronic musician and video game soundtrack composer Takahiro Izutani. Recorded while suffering with – and thankfully recovering from – Covid-19, his new three-track EP carries a contemplative air, informed by staring the illness squarely in the face during enforced reclusion, and pondering what life would be like after. 

Not for nothing, perhaps, does the EP’s title track last for four minutes and thirty-three seconds, perhaps an unintentional nod in the direction of John Cage’s most well-known piece, and one that encourages a contemplation of existence like no other. There is a beautiful clash of sounds and styles here, with a constantly-shifting electronic backdrop acting as the restless backdrop to Izutani’s expressive flamenco guitar shapes. Those shapes sit somewhere between meditative, jazz-inflected introspection and moments of gentle optimism, while an occasional percussion sound recalls the waves lapping at a pebble beach. 

The EP’s other tracks play with the same timbres – ‘Crossing Probability’ has an urgency and determination, offset by delicate piano clusters that circle around his frantic fingerwork. ‘Finding’ is perhaps the most subtle moment here, beginning with what could be raindrops, recalling Jon Brion’s work for the Disney short The Blue Umbrella, before widening out into a landscape of minimalistic electro rhythms and unpredictable left-turns.

Recluse by Dugo was released October 9 2020. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

Take Five: Alka

Philadelphia-based Alka release their fourth album, the portentously-titled Regarding The Auguries, on October 9th through Vince Clarke’s VeryRecords. Originally a solo IDM project of Bryan Michael, Alka is now reconfigured as a trio with visual artist Erika Tele and likeminded electronic producer Todd Steponick, a line-up familiar from their pre-lockdown live shows. 

“I think we’ve always been working towards being a more cohesive unit,” explains Bryan. “We like calling ourselves a unit – I mean, are you really a ‘band’ in the electronic music world? When I started the Alka project it was really just me and a laptop, and while I had fun with that, eventually I got bored with the process. Recording this album was really collaborative – I might start an idea; I’ll send it to Todd; he’ll send it to Erika; they’ll send it back, I’ll hear something else and we do this back and forth until we get a sound we like. It’s spontaneous, but it was done in a kind of slow motion.” 

We spoke to Bryan, Erika and Todd about some of their favourite albums and major influences. For more information on Regarding The Auguries, head to veryrecords.com

Xymox – Twist Of Shadows
Wing Records / Polydor, 1989

I can admire a band wanting to do something different. After two solid albums on 4AD, Clan Of Xymox was ready for a change. Perhaps a nod towards making their music more accessible, Twist Of Shadows’ production values are slightly different than their former releases whilst retaining the band’s signature gloomy vibe. Having dropped the ‘Clan Of’ from their moniker, switching from 4AD to Polygram, and partnering with fellow Dutch synthesist Bert Barten for songwriting and production efforts, Xymox went on to create what is quite possibly the best synthpop record of the late 80s. Decidedly less goth and more melancholic synthpop, Twist of Shadows is an underrated classic filled with beautifully dark vibes. The idea that something could be this introspective yet still synthpop is something I carry with me in our music as Alka. – Bryan

Newcleus – Space Is The Place
Sunnyview, 1985

Space Is The PlaceNewcleus’s second full-length album from 1985, following up from their first album Jam On Revenge in 1984, is soulful, melancholic, contemplative and upbeat at the same time. It brings out so much of the personality of the band, their originality and such a futuristic space narrative from the heydays of hip -hop. It’s so out of this world that it’s really a mystery as to why they are so much lesser known than their flashier hip-hop counterparts. Electro-funk took much more of an underground passage that slid beneath the louder mainstream rap and hip-hop, yet this band was creating imaginative, innovative live electronic funk! The first album Jam On Revenge, has the hit b-boy anthem ‘Jam On It’ (with an amazing video to go along), but this second album really resonates in my soul and inspired me as a person and artist. I have so much respect for this band, and am so humbled to share the airwaves with Cozmo D and his son DJ Dogtrane on Global Funk Radio. The composition, performance, writing and concept makes it a magical masterpiece – definitely one to experience. Come on and take a ride! – Erika

Coil – Horse Rotorvator
Force & Form / K.422, 1986

After hearing ‘Ostia’ in the 80s on my local college radio station and future alma mater (WKDU Drexel) I was instantly enchanted with Coil. The cascading and meandering Fairlight guitar sample sounding like it was programmed by some broken medieval robot, punctuated by haunting strings and Jhonn Balance’s melancholic delivery. “There’s honey in the hollows and the contours of the body…” It’s just perfect. I loved how it was this deeply sad song yet somehow upbeat, clocking in at 126 BPM. The entire album is genuinely a masterpiece and an enigma of its time having been recorded on a hired Fairlight and Emulator II in 1986, both extremely expensive bits of gear for English underground musicians. I guess what I pull from Coil’s influence is their diversity in sound – one moment brooding drones, the next acid house, all while never losing the mystery. – Bryan 

Julia Kent – Asperities
The Leaf Label Ltd, 2015

There is no way to put on happy music in a century like this and not feel like you’re somehow lying to yourself. More vulnerability and confrontation with the uncomfortable than anything like an escape, Julia Kent‘s cello work resonates with nuanced reflection navigating real-world hardships. Similar to the way glaciers once steadily scraped landscapes bare and carved mountains and vales, what remains is that which may have had more integrity than the friction could take. Strengths, and a handle on the centre, but at a cost. Something of this mammoth, austere process feels inherent in the enduring heart of the artist working the cello, and the strewn grey boulders of Asperities is the evidence. In early Autumn 2020, its somber story quietly commiserates, like an intricate monument to hard-earned survival left to be found by others lost and struggling in the bleak grey stretches of time. Mysterious electronics occasionally emerge and remind of only more uncertainties. Anxieties over accelerating existential threats weigh and grind. Powerlessness and atomization frustrate through a pandemic under narcissistic mismanagement. Default anxieties fester in the mix. Asperities feels like it takes in all of these things, scores a harrowing way through, and consoles as we wait to heal. – Todd

Plaid – P-brane EP
Warp, 2002

Something about Plaid‘s programming always intrigues and inspires me. It’s so intensely intricate and sonically rich but it’s the creeping melodies and chords changes that make my brain shiver with delight. It’s impossible to choose one album as their best but this particular EP was the sole reason for me to quit traditional guitar-based bands and return to my electronic roots with Alka once and for all. With shimmering almost new-age arps and delicate pads juxtaposed with complex, ever-evolving, and at times quite heavy rhythms, Plaid are at once eminently danceable and yet completely brooding and thoughtful. I challenge you to listen to the ending of ‘Coats’ and not get chills. – Bryan 

Regarding The Auguries by Alka is released October 9 2020 by VeryRecords.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Amongst The Pigeons – Before The Storm Hits

‘Before The Storm Hits’ is the new single by Amongst The Pigeons, the avian-inspired alias of producer Daniel Parsons, and the first evidence of his forthcoming fourth album. The track finds Parsons in collaborative mode, with vocals from Fast Trains (Tom Wells). 

Over snaking electronics and turbulent (but never intrusive) rhythms, ‘Before The Storm Hits’ is a moment charged with latent energy and the portentous uncertainty of not quite knowing what’s about to hit you. Think back to what life was like in January, back when COVID-19 vaguely felt like someone else’s issue and that nagging feeling that maybe your confidence wasn’t actually justified. 

Many-layered and working short, sharp ideas that appear quickly and disappear just as rapidly, ‘Before The Storm Hits’ has a sculpted sonic anxiety about it; a restless, edgy disposition befitting the subject matter. Wells’ vocal is, in contrast, delivered with quietly detached soulfulness, for the most part a calming contrast to Parson’s electronics in spite of observational lyrics that sound nightmarishly bleak. 

Before The Storm Hits by Amongst The Pigeons is released October 2 2020 by Peace And Feathers. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

Various Artists – Isolation And Rejection Vol. 4

Various Artists - Isolation And Rejection 4

In 2019, to my immense disappointment, the Front & Follow label decided to shut up shop. It looked like either a temporary cessation of activities or a complete end of a 12-year run that had seen the Manchester-based imprint issue an incredible run of adventurous sonic material from a diverse set of artists. 

Fortunately, 2020’s lockdown presented the ideal opportunity to bring the label back, specifically for the Isolation And Rejection series of artist compilations. From the off, the premise was simple – Justin Watson, who runs the label, put out an open call for artists to send in tracks that had been rejected by other compilers. Isolation And Rejection became something of a home for the unwanted, overlooked and unloved. All proceeds from the sales of the digital albums go to The Brick in Wigan, a charity focussed, like Isolation And Rejection, on the homeless. 

In keeping with the previous three editions of the series, the tracks presented on the penultimate instalment are far from mere

offcuts or poor quality knock-offs. Volume 4 collects together twenty-four tracks from established, well-known artists like Kepier Widow, Howlround, Rupert Lally and Pulselovers – none of whom, frankly, should ever find their music on a compiler’s cutting room floor. These artists nestle evenly alongside material from less well-known individuals, creating a sense of even-handedness that is a credit to Watson and his label. That he selected an acoustic guitar strumfest – MJ Hibbett’s ‘Rocking Out But Quietly’ – as the album’s centrepiece is downright audacious amid the anxious, squalling, buzzing, droning and quietly ethereal electronics elsewhere, but then again Front & Follow were always defiantly atypical in their release schedules.

So here you get the woozy, hypnotic structures of Stellarays’ ‘Butterfly Control Tower’, all delicate melodies and an electro-shoegazery disposition; the nod in the direction of Cabaret Voltaire on Function Automat’s resolute ‘Data Data’; Earthborn Vision’s haunting, edgy electro pulses on ‘Effects Of Isolation’; Graham Reznick’s processed cello and choral vocal textures melding with stirring electronics on the beautiful ‘The Visit’; Kepier Widow’s brooding ‘Perfect Latency’. Elsewhere, Rupert Lally immerses himself in the same ambient sonic foreshore that inspired his Marine Life album with the pastoral ’It Learns From Its Mistakes’ and Lammergeiers delivers a psychedelic stew of amorphous, shapeshifting processed blues guitar riffs and grainy textures set to motorik rhythms on ‘Ephemeris’. 

My personal favourite here comes from Joe Evans’ Runningonair. His ‘Cocktail Hour’ is a breezy slice of gentle exotica, all tranquil beats, discrete acid squelches, blurry shapes, vibes and jazzy piano, just perfect for mixing a Mai-Tai or three in the comfort of the Tiki bar you fashioned up because you had nothing else to do in lockdown. Cheers. 

Isolation & Rejection Volume 4 is released September 25 2020 by Front & Follow. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further.