Review: Canadian sonic experimentalist Tim Hecker has long been a celebrated exponent of the ambient art form. Since the mid 1990s, he's released a series of acclaimed albums that blur the boundaries between art, music and experimentation, concocting stunning soundscapes through the use of simple melodies, dense, FX-laden instrumentation and alien chord sequences. On the oddly-titled "Ravedeath, 1972", he continues his one-man journey into the echo-laden heart of soundscape electronica. His compositions are at times quiet and fragile ("No Drums"), at others bold and queasily discordant (the two-part "Hatred Of Music"), but they're rarely less than breathlessly beautiful. The three-part "In The Air" is, in particular, quite stunning.
Review: Tim Hecker's music has a way of consistently confounding expectations thanks to his ever shifting nature, and Virgins is no exception. While 2011's Ravedeath 1972 felt weighed down by its sandblasted sound that brought to mind a ravaged landscape, and last year's Instrumental Tourist was filled with subtle Eastern influences, Virgins comes with a sound that feels somehow elegiac; opener "Prism" places cacophonous organs stretched to infinity, while "Radiance" is as close as Hecker will get to the sound of an angelic chorus. Other moments prove more introspective, such as "Live Room Out", and the sullen piano keys of "Black Refraction". It's an album with the same instantly timeless quality of Fennesz's Venice, and comes highly recommended.
Review: "Harmony In Ultraviolet" is Tim Hecker's sixth album, Hecker's other albums appear on Alien 8, Mille Plateaux, EN/OF, and Fat Cat Records. "Harmony..." is a continuation of Hecker's interest in spectral communications, noise, impressionist musics, thresholds of listening pleasure/pain, and the limits of digital composition. This album is a significant development of his song-craft, challenging the usefulness of descriptors such as ambient, drone, metal, noise and electronic music. The New York Times has described his work as foreboding, abstract pieces in which static and sub-bass rumbles open up around slow moving notes and chords, like fissures in the earth waiting to swallow them whole.
Review: British experimental musician Luke Younger returns to PAN following up 2015's difficult yet riveting opus "Olympic Mess". Composed in the Essex countryside, he once again shapes samples and field recordings into new forms. Movement is an overarching theme - sound collages are assembled and dismantled, and temporal and spatial boundaries fluctuate - on an album that questions the structures around us. We're enjoying the abrasive and textural sonic soundscapes on "Capital Crisis (Ne City Loop)", the droning and hypnotic slo-mo techno of "Leave Them All Behind" with its intoxicating effects, the musique concrete of "Toxic Racecourse" which treads more familiar territory of Helm's work - as does the avant-garde imaginary soundtrack "You Are The Database".
Review: With the addition of Sally Pilkington to Hen Ogledd, the band - now three albums young - go from trio to quartet. Hen Ogledd (or 'The Old North' in Welsh) this time around transgress from their acoustic origins and sound heard more-so on Bronze from 2016 to now flirting and experimenting with an electronic tip (nerds may spot that space echo delay) with high and hollering vocal performances still standing out in their indie, synth pop style. Find some Welsh poetry and spoken word on "Gwae Reged o Heddiw" and "Transport & Travel", while elsewhere "Sky Burial" hits those melancholic sweet spots, and it's as if Enya inspirations are in there somewhere. A patchwork of witty, evoquial, sweet intelligence.
Review: Since she burst on to the experimental music scene three years ago, percussionist, composer and sound designer Sarah Hennies has proved particularly adept at creating conceptual pieces that are more accessible and breathtakingly beautiful than similar exercises devised by her peers. "Reservoir 1: Reservation", is a fantastic example. Apparently part of a trilogy based on "the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind", the piece sees Hennies and her fellow Meridian collective members take turns to deliver unique percussive sounds and textures to the accompaniment of Phillip Bush's mesmerizing piano motifs. It's undeniably minimalist in its approach, but utterly beguiling: a beautiful work that may one day be spoken of in hushed tones.
Extreme Love (with Lily Anna Haynes & Jenna Sutela)
Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt
Evening Shades (live Training)
Bridge (with Martine Syms)
Godmother (with Jlin)
Review: When it comes to working with voice and voice alone there's few artists out there that can really dissociate speech and its connection with the brain. Proto is the third full-length album by composer and sound artist Holly Herndon, and it brings out on onslaught of sounds that will keep you rooted in your seat. Opener "Birth" for example sounds something like a poor soul struggling with the deepest of emotions and most spellbinding of speech impediments. The music embraces rave and extreme cut up techniques with bass music and a myriad of experimental beats, ideas and philosophy. Much like SOPHIE's music there are so many reference points to discover; with our best comparisons being Enya, Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" and the cluster of music coming out of experimental label PAN. The album also features a collaboration with Planet Mu's Jlin with the gnawing beatboxes of "Godmother". What a trip to redefine what we might one day call 'prototypical' - but for now, take a deep breath and dive into the multi-dimensional abyss.
Review: Over the last few years, the team behind the Moog Sound Lab has encouraged a range of forward-thinking electronic musicians to come and jam on its obscure (and very rare) Modular 55 System prototype. The latest edition in the ongoing series of session recordings sees intergalactic Afro-futurist Hieroglyphic Being treat us to The Replicant Dream Sequence - an eight-part modular electronic treat that moves from drowsy, surprisingly colourful ambience ("Seq 1") and foreboding deep space soundscapes ("Seq 3"), to dreamy electronica ("Seq 4") and hypnotic EBM (standout "Seq 6", which also features his distinctive spoken vocals), via blistering techno ("Seq 8", "Seq 2"). Unlike many of his own releases, the sound is sparkling and crystal clear, allowing the quality of his compositions and arrangements to shine through.
Review: It would be fair to say that Ernest "Ernie" Hood was ahead of his time. During the early 1970s, he was one of the few musicians in Portland, Oregon to embrace synthesizers. He was also a keen zither player and in his spare time made nostalgic field recordings of suburban neighbourhoods that matched those he grew up in. All of these things came together on his sole solo album, "Neighborhoods", an obscure - but rather brilliant - set that still sounds miles ahead of its time. It has a nostalgic tone, but is as evocative and atmospheric as you'd expect given the sonic ingredients Hood spooned into the mix. First time on CD too, now you can appreciate a louder, clearer reproduction of Hood's far-sighted sounds.
Review: Given that five years has passed since the last HTRK full-length, "Psychic 9-5 Club", it's perhaps not that surprising that the duo's new album, "Venus In Leo" sounds notably different from its predecessors. While the pair's emotionally charged, melancholic approach remains in tact, the dubbed-out downtempo pop that marked out "Psychic 9-5 Club" has been replaced by a drowsier, ethereal sound seemingly inspired by a mixture of the Cocteau Twins, The Durutti Column, Massive Attack's "Mezzanine", David Lynch film soundtracks and sunrise-ready, slow motion dream pop. The results are uniformly inspired, with Jonnine Standish's heart-felt, soft focus vocals sounding particularly emotive and evocative this time round.
Review: 30 years after ditching the Humanoid alias in order to form Future Sound Of London with Garry Cobain, Brian Dougans has decided to resurrect his rave-era solo project. The result is "Built By Humanoid", a delightfully skittish, off-kilter album of raw, ragged and mind-altering cuts whose wayward, out-there electronics were partially created using two custom-built synthesizers that Dougans co-designed. The resultant album is breathlessly brilliant and magnificently mind-mangling, with the veteran producer conjuring up cuts that giddily join the dots between Aphex Twin's most intense moments, the acid-fired "Braindance" of Ceephax Acid Crew, the doom-laden ambient and IDM oddness of Future Sound Of London and the sweaty breakbeat rush of early UK hardcore.
Review: "The Practice Of Love" is Jenny Hval's seventh full-length, and it's the sort of listen that can wash over you while you get lost in a reverie, or take you on a deeply involving inward journey if you tune in to the lyrics. Her voice is angelic, and muses on subjects like growing old, our place in the world, and the notion of intimacy. Highlights are plentiful throughout, from the fantastically strong title track with its vulnerable and tender spoken words, folky synth lullaby "Thumbsucker" and "Accident", which could well be a rave comedown with its lilting trance chords and dreamy keys. Quite the trip.