Erlend Apneseth – Fragmentarium

Fragmentarium follows on from last year’s brilliant Salika, Molika album for the wonderful Hubro imprint. This new collection of seven delicately-assembled pieces finds Hardanger fiddle maestro Erlend Apneseth joined by Stein Urheim (guitar / bouzouki / electronics), Anja Lauvdal (piano / synth / electronics), Hans Hulbækmo (drums / percussion / flute), Fredrik Luhr Dietricshson (double bass) and Ida Løvli Hidle (accordion).

Opening with the mesmeric shapes of ‘Gangar’, Apneseth offers a rich tapestry of sounds straddling traditional Nordic folk forms with more modernistic flourishes – delicate synth sprinkles, arrangements that nod toward jazz and a sense of casual discordance. The album’s title track buzzes with an angry, claustrophobic noisiness punctured with layers of Jew’s harp and Apneseth’s evocative fiddle playing. Throughout that piece, and indeed across the whole album, we hear processed, floating voices drifting in and out, each one borrowed from the Norwegian folk museum in Prestfoss, creating an odd sensation of being adrift from time and place: who do these voices belong to? When were they recorded? What are they saying?

Apneseth’s skill is to ensure that his fiddle playing never stays too long in the mournful, stirring channel that it all-too-readily lends itself too. Here we find him offering playful, unexpected gestures and more aggressively-wrought passages, interspersed with sections that nod firmly in the direction of Nordic folk tradition. As a bandleader, he allows a sense of freedom and experimentation to develop among his accomplished group, resulting in incredibly tight playing but a flexible, evolving approach to composition.

The signature track on the album arrives in ‘Der mørknar’, a densely-packed sequence of heavy drones, fluctuating synths, spacey guitar riffs and expressive fiddle, all glued together with percussive restraint and plaintive piano clusters. The effect is one of constant, unresolved momentum, a feeling of pointing toward something that never quite arrives; in place of the wild pay-off, the track collapses into gentle fiddle shapes, a rare moment of introspection in an album that studiously avoids self-absorption.

Fragmentarium by Erlend Apneseth was released February 28 by Hubro.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Jazzrausch Bigband – Beethoven’s Breakdown

The follow-up to last year’s Christmas album Still! Still! Still! and the reissue of 2018’s Dancing Wittgenstein, Beethoven’s Breakdown exemplifies what composer / arranger Leonhard Kuhn and bandleader Roman Sladek’s Jazzrausch Bigband do best: namely, creating large-scale sonic landscapes occupying the nexus of jazz, classical music and house music.

If that still seems unlikely, one cursory listen to the group’s arrangement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ sonata should help dispel any sort of notion that this is some sort of novelty hybrid. Here, the piece’s familiar melodic motif is interwoven with a thudding dance beat and freeform brass solos that swing gently on the framework of the composition, never detracting, but highlight this Munich-based sixteen-piece band’s dexterity within the jazz oeuvre. The major surprise are the small, subtly evolving circular sections running throughout the piece, creating a familiar sensation for anyone used to hearing the tweaked modulations of a minimal techno track, but here providing the connective tissue between that strain of dance music, Terry Riley and Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics. It perhaps shouldn’t work, but it does.

Beethoven’s Breakdown sees Kuhn and Sladek distinctively re-interpreting three Beethoven pieces – the aforementioned ‘Moonlight’ sonata, his Symphony No. 7 and the two-part String Quartet No. 14. Each one is delivered with the flair and sensitivity that Jazzrausch Bigband have become known for, in other words being respectful of the source material, the jazz tradition and the expected formalism of house while still allowing enough room for gentle improvisation. Leonhard Kuhn’s synths are deployed carefully, never detracting from the traditional jazz instrumentation but also providing interesting detail and colour throughout.

The album also includes a four-part sonata composed by Kuhn and featuring the trombone of Nils Landgren. This piece nods firmly in the direction of Beethoven but have more of an open, less densely-packed dimension that allows greater room for soloing – Landgren’s expressive trombone, the combined pianos of Severin Krieger and Kevin André Welch and Kuhn’s blipping electronics.

The element that is perhaps least appreciated, yet omnipresent, here is Silvan Strauß’s drum technique, wherein the entire album hinges on his ability to play unwavering robotic drum machine patterns and more complex polyrhythms, often alongside Kuhn’s programmed rhythms.

Beethoven’s Breakdown by Jazzrausch Bigband is released March 27 2020 by ACT Records.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Novelty Island – Welcome To Novelty Island

We’ve been championing Novelty Island at Further. since their second single ‘Saturn Alarms’ dropped into our inbox earlier this year. Welcome To Novelty Island, the band’s highly-anticipated debut EP, collects together last year’s first single ‘Magdapio Falls’, ‘Saturn Alarms’ and last month’s ‘Windows’ single with new track ‘The End Of The Whirl’, each discrete track highlighting the songwriting prowess and deft melding of retro-futurist sounds by the band’s Tom McConnell. McConnell hails from an indeterminate location somewhere in the north of England, and his group may or may not be named after an especially bonkers Vic and Bob skit.

‘Magdapio Falls’ is an understated singalong gem, featuring deft choruses, woozy retro synths and a wonky, space-age sensibility. Possessing an inner uncertainty and indecision in its lyrics, something about ‘Magdapio Falls’ feels like you’re being propelled gently through distant galaxies, the combination of delicate electronics and spiky guitars on the bridge having a brilliantly emotional quality, while Mellotron-esque chords nod back to The Beatles. Some of ‘Magdapio Falls’ sedateness creeps into ‘Windows’, a tender song filled with psychedelic, chill-out reference points that eddy and spin from its gauzy core – a trippy stew of languid beats, icicle-sharp melodies and delicate harmonies.

‘Saturn Alarms’ is the counterpoint to the languid, laidback structure of those songs, being an urgent rush through the turbulent reaches of our solar system and the omnipresent sauce junk floating around out there, replete with catchy vocals and star-scraping electronics. Poised somewhere between vintage electronic pop and wiry indie rock, the track was named after some inexplicable graffiti that McConnell spotted tagged onto his mother’s house in Liverpool, and thenceforth transformed into a tightly-executed pop monster.

New track ‘The End Of The Whirl’ buzzes on grimy, droning synths, vintage 1981 one-note melodies and a thudding glam-rock R&B stomp of a piano and drums rhythm. ‘All of this white noise is so hard to understand,’ sings McConnell as the track breaks down briefly into a slowed-up soundfield of accelerating synths and polyrhythms. Its upbeat, urgent, playful sounds and melodic juxtapositions are precisely what the world needs right now.

Welcome To Novelty Island was released March 20 2020.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

First Play: Matthias – Hold Me (Matt Pop Radio Edit)

Matthias is Matt Danforth, a Canadian electronic musician known for producing upbeat music full of faithful synth sounds and brilliant, sparkling melodies; music that nods reverently in the direction of classic synth pop but without ever sounding like a pastiche.

His most recent single, ‘Hold Me’ features vocals from his frequent collaborator Mark Bebb (Andy Bell, Shelter, Form). The track includes one of Bebb’s most impassioned vocals in a career of impassioned vocals, here set to a gripping, happy-sad mood that’s the perfect complement to the vocals.

Following December’s single release, ‘Hold Me’ has been given stunning remix treatments by Further. Favourites Circuit3, Reed & Caroline’s Reed Hays with Phil Garrod (featuring a rare Moog and Hays’s distinctive cello), Darwinmcd, People Theatre, Nature Of Wires, MDA/ADM and the inestimable Matt Pop.

Today we’re pleased to bring you an exclusive first play of Matt Pop’s brilliantly-executed, high energy Radio Edit.

Hold Me – The Remixes by Matthias is released February 28 2020.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

In Conversation: Wrangler

Wrangler is a trio of Stephen Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire, Creep Show), Ben ‘BengeEdwards (The Maths) and Phil Winter (Tunng). Their third album, A Situation, takes the current, destabilised state of the world and sets it to smart electronics, laced with heavy doses of angular funk.

Further. spoke to Mal, Benge and Phil about the genesis of the latest record, how they work together and what J. G. Ballard would make of modern Britain.

The subject matter across the whole of A Situation makes for uncomfortable listening, and yet it sounds incredibly, infectiously funky. Was it a conscious thing to make it danceable instead of utterly bleak?

Mal: I don’t think it is ever ‘overthought’. We make music and rhythms that speak for us, and lyrically I hope don’t we don’t hold any punches. Words should cut through just as the music should, this isn’t a time to look the other way, I hope we can go toe-to-toe with the world we inhabit and nothing hits harder than rhythm, so it’s perfect synergy for us.

Benge: We simply try to make music that we would want to listen to, or dance to, and this is what comes out when we all get together. That’s the great thing about being in a band with three producers – we each have individual styles, but when blended together something unique comes out

Phil: I think people have always needed an escape, when times are tough. A lot of my favourite music has combined a reflection of ongoing problems with a groove that can bring them together.

It seems that the process of making each Wrangler record has started from a fundamentally different place each time. Why is that? Is it to avoid getting too comfortable?

Mal: I’d like to think we grow with every release. It is the ultimate challenge to create your own sound and aesthetic without repeating yourself. I like to think Wrangler are distinct, and recognisable but also keep reinventing ourselves.

Benge: We don’t plan things out very much – we tend to respond to the situation we find ourselves in each time we get together. Sometimes there might be a new piece of gear that we are exploring in the studio, or we might be responding to other circumstances around us. When we were making this album there was a pretty messed up political situation so that fed into the tracks as well.

Phil: It’s pretty unconscious for me. I never have any idea how it will turn out. Equipment and to a degree, whatever I’ve been getting into, will have an effect for sure.

How do the three of you work together?

Mal: It’s easy – we get in a room together (either the studio or just set up to jam) and magic happens! Well, most of the time. In the studio we all chip away at what each of us has done until there’s consensus – which is when it sounds like Wrangler. But importantly, if it sounds like a new version of ourselves, that’s when we know we’ve got it right.

Although we live in different places we have to be together. Often it’s been a while since we’ve actually been together so it’s proper crazy because there’s so many ideas – and bits of new gear – to share.

Benge: We usually work from a starting point of some kind. Maybe Phil plays some loops from his laptop, or I get up some wonky synth-sketch that I have been working on and we go from there. And Mal always has a bunch of vocal ideas hidden away somewhere. One time I remember he came in and sang all these amazing but really dark phrases and I wondered how he had thought of them. Later on I found newspaper he’d been reading lying on the sofa, with all the phrases circled in marker pen.

Phil: I think we’re quite traditional in our approach. We get together, we chat and we play.

I thought I could hear a nod back to the early Warp, slightly disjointed techno sound and also vintage electro on this record, yet it doesn’t sound nostalgic. What kind of reference points were feeding into A Situation?

Mal: I think we are conscious not to ponder the process too much and just let it flow. The beauty of early techno was its simplicity and rawness so we try to think like that. Techno, in the first instance, is music you hear with your muscles.

Benge: I definitely think there are some early 90s sounds coming in to the recent stuff. I’ve been buying lots of those early digital synths that you can get really cheap at the moment, and we used some of them on this record. Maybe we used less of the older analogue gear this time.

Phil: Yeah, there was definitely a lot more black plastic around. And LEDs.

The last track features a poem inspired by The Atrocity Exhibition. What would Ballard make of where we are today? Would he be pleased that he got it so right? Or would he be as horrified as we all find ourselves?

Mal: I think Jim Ballard knew where we were heading, and his later books told cautionary tales of the potential of a collapsing world and the growth of a conflicted and materialistic island mentality. I think his earlier dreams of future worlds would be a little flattened by what we are at present, but I’m sure we all hang our hopes on solutions and resolutions.

A Situation by Wrangler is released February 28 2020 by Bella Union. Wrangler play The White Hotel in Manchester on February 28 and Electrowerkz in London on February 29 (with support from MICROCORPS – Alexander Tucker).

Interview: Mat Smith

Thanks to Zoe.

(c) 2020 Further.

Nokuit – Live At Cafe OTO

Live At Cafe OTO captures the debut 30-minute live performance by sound artist and NKT cassette label head Nokuit, recorded at London’s experimental music epicentre during the summer of 2018.

Presented as a single piece, the set is a bold, antagonising stew of sonic motifs right from the get-go: snatches of news broadcasts, spinning and eddying sounds, recordings of parade ground preparations, noir atmospheres, predatory electronic tones, metallic distortion and squalls of what might be violins are all melded together into something that, in another artist’s hands, might have been noise for noise’s sake.

Instead, the set consists of brief segments of pieces taken from previous Nokuit releases, each one carefully and delicately composed with a curatorial zeal that gives the set a soundtrack-y tension and a claustrophobia-inducing awareness of the value of intricate detail. The result is a busy, restless urgency that is never still for a second and never anything but enveloping and engaging in the completeness of its sonic breadth.

As a piece of brooding, dark ambience, Live At Cafe OTO sounds vaguely like one of the imagined soundtracks for cult books issued by the Bibliotapes imprint, only here the narrative we have is entirely of our own design. Nokuit himself calls it a ‘soundtrack to a film that has left its screenwriters behind’; and yet, in the closing, piano and grubby synth symphony that edges us to the set’s conclusion, we hear faithful echoes of everything from the first Terminator movie to Blade Runner to any other film relying on shadowy, bleak representations of dystopian futures as its central concern.

Live At Cafe OTO by Nokuit was released February 21 2020 by NKT.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

3 Questions: Piney Gir

Kansas City’s Piney Gir delivered one of last year’s most memorable albums with You Are Here, the latest record in a body of work that showcases her deft, brilliantly obscure angle on love, life and everything in between. The album was originally titled It’s Been A Shit Year For Everyone, which was both utterly accurate and pretty miserable, so she changed it.

Her latest single from the album, the album highlight ‘Puppy Love’, was released on Valentine’s Day and features Piney accompanied by the distinctive Wille J. Healey. Following the release of the new single, Further. spoke to Piney about Muppets (I’m always happy to talk about the influence of The Muppets, FYI), Dolly Parton and the merits of writing on the move.

Read our review of You Are Here over at Documentary Evidence.

What’s your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is kinda odd, because I was an actual baby; it was in our old apartment before we moved (we moved when I was two) so I must have been younger than two – and the memory is a bit inconsequential! I remember sitting in a high chair eating something (I’m not sure what) and watching Big Bird on TV.

The Muppets have always been a big part of my life and in the early years they educated me on pop culture. I wasn’t allowed much secular music or pop culture as a kid, but I saw Elton John on The Muppet Show singing ‘Crocodile Rock’ with a bunch of crocodiles and I thought Elton was a muppet dressed in feathers and colours with crazy glasses. I figured if he wasn’t a muppet he might have been from another planet… from Sesame Street to The Muppet Show and all the Muppet Movies: Caper, Manhattan, Christmas Carol – they have all been a huge influence on me over the years and I still love them.

The Dark Crystal was frightening at the time and really triggered some deep fears of the dark side when I watched it. I should re-watch it and see if it still has that effect on me! We didn’t have fancy cable growing up so I didn’t see Fraggle Rock until recently, and it’s great! I guess anything from the Jim Henson Studio makes me happy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Hmmm… I don’t feel like people give me advice very often; I wonder why that is? I’m very open to receiving advice if anyone has any for me.

I think Dolly Parton put it well when she said, “You’ll never do a lot unless you’re brave enough to try.” I guess she was certainly a brave woman who I really admire and her courage gives me courage… she also said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Which is great advice for anyone.

She’s a bit of a legend, Dolly! I once sang, not with her, but at her, on the One Show on BBC TV… Me and Mike Monaghan (my drummer, but he also drums with lots of people, Gaz Coombes, Willie J. Healey, Young Knives, St. Etienne…), we were invited to be part of a ‘human juke box’ and Dolly Parton was a guest on the show. When she arrived we sang her own songs at her. There was about 20 of us, including a really bossy Dolly Parton look-a-like. It was crazy to be about three feet away from Dolly though, breathing the same air and singing her songs to her – pretty surreal!

I have a signed, autographed photo of her in my studio. She inspires me every day.

Where are you most productive or inspired?

Oddly, I write a lot when I’m on the move.

Something about the rhythm of walking, or the boredom of sitting on the tube or a train or a plane makes my brain go all prolific. It’s mundane tasks where my brain and creativity can function separately from my body that somehow make room for my muse to shine. If I feel a bit creatively blocked I’ll go for a walk or take a train journey by myself and I’ll get inspired.

I guess that’s in regards to songwriting. When it comes to recording that’s best suited for the studio, and I like to change that side of the process up quite a bit, so it’s never the same twice. That keeps recording fresh and playful and fun.

Puppy Love by Piney Gir was released February 14 2020.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.