Neil Scrivin – Stars And Rumours Of Stars

Neil Scrivin is an electronic musician operating under the Phono Ghosts and Meatbingo pseudonyms. Stars And Rumours Of Stars collects together tracks recorded in 2004, and the merest glance at the sleeve gives you a clue as to what the mood of the eight unreleased tracks included on Scrivin’s latest cassette might sound like.

Opening track ‘Skywatch’ is a edgy affair, full of overlapping synth tones and a central structure full of mournful texture. There is a resigned, thwarted atmosphere to Scrivin’s opening gesture, only for tracks like the hyperactive squelch and buzz of ‘Omni Voyager’ and ‘Granular Occlusion’ to move the dynamic squarely into territory that nods to sci-fi-inflected electro, while simultaneously sitting in a sort of underexplored no man’s land between industrial drama and ambient sensitivity.

The album pivots on the shrouded of ‘The Power Of The Spiral’, wherein a simple, haunting melody gives the piece a mesmerising quality caught perpetually in tension with slowed-down beats and a nagging bass motif. Dissonance and atonality are employed liberally here, on the title track and elsewhere; Scrivin’s conceit is to limit the effect so as not to induce nausea, but add just enough to create a sort of compelling uncertainty.

Stars And Rumours Of Stars by Neil Scrivin was released by Fonolith on April 12 2019.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Rupert Lally – The Day Of The Triffids

Stuart McLean’s Bibliotapes cassette label is focussed on curating imaginary soundtracks for books. For its second release, Swiss electronic musician and soundtrack aficionado Rupert Lally has chosen to create a soundtrack to accompany John Wyndham’s 1951 sci-fi novel The Day Of The Triffids. Lally himself is no stranger to this concept, having previously delivered imagined soundtracks to J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise, a score that gave Clint Mansell’s music for the 2015 film a good run for its money.

Given the harrowing, apocalyptic subject matter of the book, it goes without saying that the tone here is resolutely gloomy. Using an array of synths, Optigan and Mellotron loops and instruments like flute, Lally’s cues are dark and occasionally oppressive, full of lurking dread and inescapable destruction. The use of a jaunty Optigan loop on ‘The Coming Of The Triffids’ provides a brief moment of levity before its wonky music hall leanings are quickly rearranged once more into nightmarish drones and murky tones. Moments like ‘Shadows Before’, ‘Shirning’ or ‘…And Further On’ range from near orchestral atmospherics to ephemeral, dread-inspiring low-frequency tension. It is this unpredictable, haunting variety of sounds that marks this out as arguably Lally’s most definitive statement to date.

The Day Of The Triffids by Rupert Lally was released by Bibliotapes on April 17 2019. All fifty of the cassettes are now sold out but the tracks will be available at Lally’s Bandcamp page from April 23 – rupertlally.bandcamp.com

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Øyvind Torvund – The Exotica Album

To paraphrase David Byrne, upon diving into Norwegian composer Øyvind Torvund’s remarkably broadminded The Exotica Album you may well ask yourself: how did I get here?

‘Here’ is a place where early electronic experimentation collides with Hollywood’s heavily romanticised vision of the South Pacific. The album was composed by Torvund at the behest of the Bit20 ensemble, conducted by Trond Madsen, and features wildly inventive synth contributions from Jørgen Træen alongside Kjetil Møster’s expressive sax.

‘Here’ is a place where you can hear the musique concréte of ‘Ritual 2’ sipping mai tais next to to the beautiful, retro-luscious swoon of ‘Starry Night’ with R2-D2 tending the Tiki bar; where the rapid flip-flop between noise and melodic intricacy of ‘Waking Up Again’ makes for an especially vivid tone poem; where the water-like synth sprinkles, pizzicato strings and xylophone of the enthralling ‘Rainforest Morning’ pitches your hammock at the centre of a tranquil sonic oasis.

By the time you reach the end of the springy ersatz synth bird calls, bongos and strings of ‘Out Of The Jungle’, you’re ejected back into a normality that comes as massive disappointment after spending the best part of an hour inside Torvund’s vivid vision of exoticism.

The Exotica Album by Øyvind Torvund is out now on Hubro.

Words: Mat Smith

Justin Wright – Music For Staying Warm

The first thing that popped into my head during Justin Wright’s Music for Staying Warm was an interview with, believe it or not, Vangelis. In Sounds magazine in 1976, James Wynn gaped at the tone palette Vangelis conjured – not from a limitless synthesizer – but from the comparatively monochromatic Fender Rhodes piano, which produced “lyrical vibes, vibrant bass, an amazingly accurate music-box sound and all sorts of other things.” Listening to Wright’s work for (supposedly) string quintet, I scrambled to see who overdubbed oboe, bass clarinet, and… voices? Was there a harmoniser pedal?

Wright tastefully extracts a wide range of colors from his cello and the rest of the ensemble. Natural harmonics, bridge mutes, bow positioning, and other traditional trickery cause the listener to wonder which stringed (or non-stringed) instruments are in the band.

A major contributor to the colors of ‘Warmth’ is the recording studio. In ‘Modular Winter’ the low-register viola melody would be lost were it not for microphone placement. The solo cello in ‘Improvisation’ is offset by a much more reverberant violin. Panning and echo effects cradle ‘In Sunlight’ in wispy harmonics that waft around the ensemble like dandelion seeds.

The interplay between harmonic effects and melody also gives ‘In Sunlight’ the only real dissonance on the album. Everything else basks in diatonic comfort and first-inversion optimism. Any ‘motion’, i.e. phrase repetition, exists to reinforce the grounded, frozen-in-time atmosphere.

Speaking of time-freezing, five words that repel my synthesizer colleagues are “Check out my drone piece.” Fortunately, the tracks here labelled ‘Drone’ are not endless tones that force the listener to wager when a musician will fall asleep and drop their instrument. They contain phrases. They move. ‘Drone III – Saudade’ tells an almost Schubertian tonal story. It is warm.

The final movement’s ‘Taps’-like melody gently lays us in a bed of reassuring Coplandic harmonies and enough plagal cadences to keep one eye on the heavens. The listener is indeed ‘Staying Warm’ “…and all sorts of other things.”

Music For Staying Warm by Justin Wright is released by First Terrace Records on April 5 2019.

Words: Reed Hays

(c) 2019 Reed Hays for Further.

Graham Dunning – Music For Climbing Walls

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Graham Dunning reminds me a little of Billy’s inventor father in Gremlins – except that Dunning’s inventions actually work. His Mechanical Techno method is just as contrarian as the mechanical Mammoth Beat Organ he built with Sam Underwood, here using a modified turntable that allows several looping locked-groove records to be played on the same axle, while also mechanically triggering analogue synths, along with drum machines and real percussion.

With that technique, one might expect Music For Climbing Walls to sound inherently quirky, full of unavoidable wonkiness, but the result is anything but a mess. Tracks like ‘Kestral Selection’, ‘Build My Gallows High’ or ‘Void Worm’ deliberately make no effort to hide the little clicks that occur on the loops, but that’s about the only thing that betrays the complicated process that Dunning uses.

Is Dunning making a statement about the ease with which any wannabe electronic musician can produce a track while riding the bus to work? Or is he reminding us that early dance records were anything but straightforward studio creations? Either way, and irrespective of its methods and motivations, Music For Climbing Walls contains some of the most thrilling, authentic and original acid house-revering dance music around today.

Music For Climbing Walls by Graham Dunning is released by LTR Records on April 12 2019.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Ralph Heidel // Homo Ludens – Moments Of Resonance

Ralph Heidel belongs to a new generation of musicians for whom the supposedly hard borders between genres mean very little. In the case of his debut album, we find him deploying his classical studies from Munich’s celebrated Academy of Music alongside the saxophone he began playing before he was a teenager, melded in with occasional bursts of the sort of glitchy electronics and bold synth strokes that modern classical musical seems to embrace most easily.

Ambitious, evolving tracks like ‘Kadiköy Shimmer’ or the serene ‘Während die Feigen’ or the thrilling, feisty punk-funk-with-strings of ‘Blurred Idiosyncrasy’ are peripatetic, expansive affairs, covering so much ground that it’s often hard to keep up. From austere orchestrations to bleating sax, questing piano runs and droning, distorted electronics, when viewed as a whole, Moments Of Resonance can be something of a dizzyingly complex affair, sometimes taking a reflective stance on pieces like ‘Our Kingdom’ and at others bordering on a noisy intensity that nods to the rapture of fire music.

It is a testament to Heidel’s gutsy vision that these eight pieces can hold together so well in spite of their purportedly incompatible genetic codes, placing him neatly into today’s vibrant and unapologetic fusion scene.

Moments Of Resonance by Ralph Heidel / Homo Ludens is released by Kryptox Records on April 5 2019.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Takahiro Mukai – Paraponera Clavata

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Prolific doesn’t come close: with forty releases to his name since arriving in 2014, Osaka’s Takahiro Mukai makes everyone else’s output seem, well, pretty amateur. His latest album for UK cassette imprint Cruel Nature continue’s Mukai’s exploration of a refracted, splintered form of electronic music, one principally informed by the limitless pulses and twitches of minimal techno but nudged toward its expansive, borderless frontiers. To be able to deliver this level of output and still produce something that’s consistently engaging without continually repeating yourself is Mukai’s principal conceit.

The tracks here range from the insectoid scratching of ‘#207’ to the crazy elasticity of ‘#210’, through to the robust rhythms of ‘#211. You get the impression that it would be all too easy for Mukai to settle into the predictable beats and tropes associated with the thirty plus year legacy of techno, and tracks like ‘#218’ carry an energy and urgency that is perpetually on the edge of coalescing into something firmer. ‘#212’ has a skittish, irrepressibly elusive quality with sounds that seem to spring at you from obscure angles, while ‘#214’ sounds like a malfunctioning machine trying to pick up any trace of a signal on some barren alien landscape.

Paraponera Clavata by Takahiro Mukai is out now on Cruel Nature Records.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.