Review: Given that Fantastic Man's last outing on Kitjen, 2016's "Galactic Ecstasy", was one of his more interesting and on-point releases to date, hopes are high for this belated return to the German label. First up in "Solar Surfing", a spacey affair built around stuttering machine drums, intergalactic electronics and a thickset bassline. Acid-fired workout "Native Power" follows, with psychedelic TB-303 lines and minimalist bleeps riding a flowing electro groove, before closing cut "Avocado Conception" sees the Australian combine Balearic-minded synthesizer flourishes and bubbly acid lines with a slower groove. Like the rest of the EP, it's ear pleasing but surprisingly off-kilter.
Review: Faze Action last teamed up with Zeke Manyika, formerly of 80s funksters Orange Juice, for the effervescent "Mangwana" back in 2016. Now they're back in collaboration for more classically rooted house music with a deeply infectious African twist. "Kubatana" is punchy where it counts, but it's a light and springy proto house burner first and foremost, with Manyika's vocal sounding as smooth as silk in the middle of the mix. "Hapana" is equally rich in musicality and personality, albeit on a more simmering, meditative tip. On the B side, "Kubatana" gets reworked by Rudy Midnight Machine and Paradise, who turn in distinct versions without losing the overall 80s aesthetic that powers the release.
Review: Peculiarly, Fasaan offshoot Chalice has lain dormant since the label's first release appeared in stores back in 2014. Happily its Swedish parent label has decided to pull out all the stops for this comeback 12", gathering together six tracks from artists based across Europe and beyond. At six tracks deep there's not enough space to go into detail about every track, but suffice to say they're all loose, warm, quirky and generally lo-fi in feel. Highlights include the dreamy analogue synth-funk of Ruf Dug's "Cassette Boogie", the poignant, emotion-rich synth-wave warmth of Fahcrur Riaz Hazbullah's "Muriam", the clicking beats and intergalactic synth flourishes of "Heina" by Ruutu Pois and the frankly foreboding loose-house creepiness of "II Y A" by Dublin's Compassion Crew.
Review: Unlike most dubbed with the "Scandolearic" tag, Farbror Resande Mac boasts impeccable Balearic credentials. This album for Full Pupp offshoot Horisontal Mambo follows impressive EPs for both Aficionado and Is It Balearic, and is made up almost entirely of the kind of softly spun, saucer-eyed fare created to soundtrack Ibizan sunsets and Adriatic sunrises. The beats largely shuffle and pulse, the guitar lines tumble down, the synthesizer melodies shuffle, and the chords wrap themselves around your consciousness like a favourite duvet. In other words, it's a superb collection of evocative, emotion-rich music for those who like their grooves sun-kissed and horizontal.
As He Fell Through The Sunrise (feat Olivia Lincoln) (3:44)
Aurora (Siren Song Of A Counter Culture) (4:10)
Let Go (4:34)
Truffle Majic (3:32)
Rise & Funk (feat Olivia Lincoln) (6:51)
Lift Off (part 2) (7:12)
Comedown Cosmonaut (3:23)
Review: Theo Conrad (better known for his work under the Paxton Fettel alias) has long been one of Greta Cottage Workshop's most intriguing artists. His first full-length for the Devon imprint, Everything Stays The Same, inhibited similar territory to the classic deep house/downtempo/soul/jazz fusion of fellow West Country dwellers The Rurals. This follow-up is, if anything, even better. Described by the label as "instrumental contemporary jazz-funk", the album sees Conrad combining loose jazz breaks and jazzy synths with the kind of rich grooves, fireside textures and dreamy electronics more often found in vintage deep house productions. It's a formula that results in a string of brilliant tracks.
Review: Created over the course of 2017, Calendar Project saw Feverkin creating 12 tracks and corresponding videos in an audio/visual diary that reflects the moods and feelings of the month. Created using his talented musicianship, Foley sounds and everything within his resources, the US artist created something truly unique capturing the momentum of the seasons we all experience together. Now available for the first time on vinyl, the album's timeless brushstrokes hit just as hard; the soft focus two step of "March", the balmy Lemon Jelly style twinkles and shimmers of "May", the dusty sunset haze of "July", the list goes on... A genuinely singular album.
El Abrazo De La Selva (The Embrace Of The Forest) (4:46)
Carauari (Carauari) (7:57)
El Hechicero (The Soothsayer) (3:03)
Hombres Trueno (Thunder Men) (3:38)
Danca Do Corpo (5:14)
Remontando El Purus (Sailing The Purus) (7:54)
Hassell, El Oso Hormiguero (Hassell The Ant-Eater) (2:05)
Hombres Lluvia (Rain Men) (3:48)
Adios A Puerto Espana (Adieu To Puerto Espana) (4:03)
Review: In our eyes, it is no exaggeration to claim that Finis Africae's recent reissues on Japan's EM have been partly response for the recent resurrection of Balearic, exotica, and deeply textured ambient music. The last three reissues on EM have all seen great success in terms of copies sold and feedback from game-changers such as the Mood Hut mandem, and the label's close relationship with Honest Jon's gives this music an even higher send of cultural relevance to the scene of today. Amazonia was first released in 1990 on Musica Sin Fin, and it very much sounds like it was made yesterday; this is timeless music that has the ability to please just about any ear, or any sort of digger. Containing gentle beats and harmonic patterns, Juan Alberto Arteche managed to create a world of his own, where time and space is lost, and the melodies and rhythms take us back to a primeval state. Yes, we like this a hell of a lot. Contender for leftfield reissue of the year? Perhaps, and it's only February!
Review: Something of a departure for this soulful Ninja Tune troubadour, this stripped down and spare record essentially does exactly what it says on the tin,in all forms except being quite as cheerful as the club setting suggests - this is a collection of blues ditties written with almost puritanically obsessive zeal in that idiom and put down at home by Fink at home in Berlin with only a guitar, an amp and a few microphones. In stripping down his songwriting to the bare essentials, the gritty vitality of his approach reaps rich rewards, arriving at what is unquestionably his finest work yet - a soulful, heartfelt and understated record that plays to his strengths without any of the trappings of studio trickery, and expands from its minimal modus operandi with power and impact.
Review: Back in the heyday of the Scando-Disco scene, Jann Marius Dahle had a flurry of records as Fjordfunk and under his own name. Rightly recognised by the leaders in that scene, he's been quiet for the best part of 20 years, but now he returns with the stunning, fully-rendered wonderment of "Infinite Zest". This is an album bursting with colour and musicality, as gorgeous instrumentation meets with tenderly executed disco with a distinctly Norwegian mood. From the starry-eyed synth interplay of "Alina" to the noodling funk of "Nussing", Marius Dahle's skill as an arranger and producer is a revelation. A well-deserved, long awaited return to the fray from a rightful peer of Prins Thomas, Lindstrom et al..
Hands, No More Mosquitos, Calamine, Tangle (live in Copenhagen)
Review: Released back in 2003, Rounds was the third LP from Kieran Hebden as Four Tet and perhaps the first long player that widely established him as a pioneering voice within electronic music. Though it doesn't feel like a decade since it was released, Domino celebrate the album's tenth anniversary in requisite fashion here, reissuing it in double LP format and slipping in a CD of Four Tet performing live in Copenhagen in 2004. Listening back now, it's easy to understand why Rounds is viewed as an early classic in the Four Tet canon, transferring his love for free jazz records to a beat template that's more palatable on the ear (Fact pickers might want to know that Hebden recently revealed to Pitchfork the LP was made entirely from samples) "She Moves She" still sounds absolutely haunting too!
Review: If you were judging Kieran Hebden's 11th Four Tet studio album merely on the way it's presented, you'd immediately think he'd spent the last two years immersed in early '90s ambient house albums. While it's unlikely he's done that, it's fair to say that New Energy does owe a debt to classic electronica sets from that period. For all the exotic instrumentation and subtle nods to post-dubstep "aquacrunk" experimentalism and chiming, head-in-the-clouds sunrise house, the album feels like a relic of a lost era. That's not meant as a criticism - New Energy is superb - but it is true that his choice of neo-classical strings, gentle new age melodies, sweeping synthesizer chords and disconnected vocal samples would not sound out of place on a Global Communication album.
Review: A collaborator alongside Jason Swinscoe in the Cinematic Orchestra, Phil France is responsible for some of the most beautiful music created in recent times. Co-writing and producing on the albums Everyday, Man With a Movie Camera, Ma Fleur and the triple award winning soundtrack for The Crimson Wing nature documentary, France's skills have always extended beyond his basslines. Relocating from London to West Yorkshire, France is said to have taught himself how to swim in a local spa built in the former home of Charles Waterton, a 19th-century naturalist and explorer. The recording of the strings and drums was done in Amsterdam and Manchester. Originally released in 2013, the album may not have received all the recognition it deserved then; but this reissue on Gondwana should help spread the word of such a wonderful and evocative album.
Review: Back in the mid 1980s, Jun Fukamachi decided to establish his own label, Nicole. It didn't last very long. In fact, the imprint only ever put out one record: a promo-only collection of untitled instrumentals called '86 Spring & Summer Collection: Instrumental Images. Here, that hard-to-find set gets the reissue treatment for the first time. Heavily influenced by mid-1980s film and TV soundtracks, contemporaneous new age ambient and expressive experimental jazz, the synthesizer and drum machine heavy collection sounds like it was designed to showcase Fukamachi's library music credentials. Crucially, though, it contains some superb, life-affirming compositions that should thrill those who have been enjoying the previous reissues of both WRWTFWW and Holland's Music From Memory.
Review: Apart from having one of the best and most singular names in electronic dance music, The Future Sound Of London have been one of the pillars of modern UK dance music, pushing through a mixture of house, techno, and breaks since the early 1990s - and, in fact, some of their tunes like "Papua New Guinea" are still getting regular play time in clubs today. While they have released a huge amount of music over the last 25 years, they've got an equally vast amount of unreleased gold in their treasure chest, a collection of tracks that have seen the light of day thanks to the present Archived series. This week it's time for the series' eighth instalment, another twelve unmissable bundles of electronic delight. However, this is a lot more than just a compilation, and the tunes work their fine mixture of melodies, breaks and electronic beats into a sublime collection of sounds. If you're into vast and explorative music with a cutting-edge, you needn't look any further.
Review: Greg Foat and Warren Hampshire are two the UK's most interesting minds when it comes to contemporary jazz experimentation, and their recent partnership for Athens Of The North feels like exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment. With both artists capable of producing many alternate forms of jazz and additive rhythm, Nightshade: Library Music Vol.1, feels like one of their more introspective pieces of work to date, and allows both of them to stretch their aesthetic to its very limits, focusing more on the subconscious atmosphere created by the instruments rather than cheap thrills based on beats and 'dance'. This is a connoisseur's album, and we're glad that this kind of gear is still landing on our shelves. Bless.