2017

So, 2017. Like 2016 but worse. Political incompetence, dishonour and deceit in UK and US governments. “Social murder” – inequality exposed in the Grenfell Tower fire and its aftermath. “Economic murder” – evidence of a correlation between austerity policies and mortality rates. Evidence that austerity is hardest on the poor, black people, women, people with children, the disabled and their carers. Another warning – this time by a group of 15,386 scientists – of catastrophic climate change, resource depletion and mass extinction (pictured above – the only good news is the top left graph that shows how global action reduced ozone-depleting CFCs). And yet this year also produced a lot of good music, writing and ideas. This is a list of some things that made it less insufferable, less pointless and less hopeless.

Mark Fisher – Acid Communism
The death of Mark Fisher in January was a tragic start to the year. In remembrance, a quotation from his book Capitalist Realism was installed as a mural at Goldsmiths College, London, where he taught in the Department of Visual Cultures.

Acid Communism is the book on emancipatory politics that Fisher left unfinished. ‘Acid’ relates to the cultural aspect, a counter-movement to capitalist realism, destroying its appearance of a ‘natural order’:

De-psychedelization is an aspect of capitalist realism that reduces everything to the imperatives of business and to neurotic psychological interiority. (2012)

And ‘communism’ means building a vision of a new kind of socialist society, making the ‘impossible’ attainable:

…its realisation still lies ahead of us, provided we accept that what we are fighting for is […] the construction of an alternative modernity, in which technology, mass production and impersonal systems of management are deployed as part of a refurbished public sphere. Here, public does not mean state, and the challenge is to imagine a model of public ownership beyond 20th century-style state centralisation. (2014)

Acid Communism was one of the subjects spoken of in Mark’s memorial service. The idea has been developed in relation to the Labour Party membership that has been revived under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, as Acid Corbynism. Repeater Books plan to publish an anthology of Fisher’s writing on the subject, and there is an online archive of this work at https://egressac.wordpress.com/ I’m currently reading Derek Wall’s book about Elinor Ostrom, an economist whose research on polycentric governance of complex economic systems might be useful in realising the new model of public ownership that Mark Fisher imagined, beyond markets and states.

AudioBoyz – The Rise Of Gqom (Hypermedium)
In contrast with the previous releases on Hypermedium by EVOL and Patiño / No God Ritual which engaged with sound art theory and performance, this EP is clearly aimed at the dancefloor. From Durban, South Africa, it’s bouncy and banging music, made with pared-down arrangements of punchy polyrhythmic drums, vocal samples and synth stabs.

Roland Kayn – A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound (Frozen Reeds)
I admit, I’ve not yet managed to listen to all 16 CDs in one 14-hour session. Kayn was a pioneer of cybernetic music, creating generative systems with modular synthesizers. Although his scores and the equipment he designed to realise them are pretty complicated, these pieces might sound fairly simple at first, because they seem to be composed of few elements. But there is almost no repetition, and that’s where the complexity is. It’s a document of Kayn’s success in setting up systems that create sounds and change them in interesting ways over long timescales. There is detail of different kinds at different scales. These are astronomical sounds – vast, diffuse, ominous, inhuman, impressive.

Jaap Vink – s/t (Recollection GRM)
Jaap Vink taught at the Institute of Sonology in Utrecht in the 1960s, where he would have crossed paths with Roland Kayn. Vink focused on algorithmic music and electronic synthesis – similar stuff to Kayn, but from a different angle. This is a collection of work produced between 1968 and 1985 that sounds years ahead of Kayn’s album which dates from 2009.

The Ba-Benzélé Pygmies (Bärenreiter-Musicaphon, 1965)
Amongst old music that was new to me this year, two albums stand out. One is Improvisations for Cello and Guitar (ECM, 1971) by David Holland and Derek Bailey – this was the first Bailey album that really clicked with me. The other is music from West Africa. After I’d tweeted a link to a track from Musiques du Cameroun (Ocora, 1965), a reply from Charles Turner – author of the book Xenakis in America – said that album had been the only thing on his turntable from 1973–74, and he recommended checking out the Bärenreiter label. Very generously, he gave me a rip of the Ba-Benzélé pygmies LP recorded by Simha Arom. It sounds like nothing else, both weirdly alien and eerily familiar. There are solo instrumental/voice pieces and polyphonic choral music with percussion, songs of celebration and sorrow, lullabies and mythological stories. The liner notes include descriptions of the society and the music’s role in it, a musicological analysis, maps, and photos. In July, NTS radio did a good show based on West African recordings from the British Library Sound Archive: https://www.nts.live/editorial/british-library-sound-archive

Kara-Lis Coverdale – Grafts (Boomkat Editions)
Grafts is a piece in 3 parts, starting with piano, organ and dulcimer in a soft church-like echo, carefully placed and subtly manipulated. The middle section is like Philip Glass or Steve Reich – cinematic music made of phasing piano arpeggios, with bass, pads and choral voices. It gets increasingly hazy as it transitions to the final part based on soft warm loops, like a track on Selected Ambient Works Volume II, which slowly swells and fades. Gorgeous.

NYZ – FLD RCRDR / MCRTNL (Entr’acte)
Dave Burraston has been productive since winning a fellowship, working with Chris Watson and Richard D James and working at Moog and EMS studios, amongst other things. These two CDs represent two central aspects of this activity – field recording and modular/algorithmic synthesis. FLD RCRDR has recordings as its main source, and MCRTNL is synthesized sound, but both also make use of sequencing and processing with cellular automata systems. Each track is a little electronic world of sound. Burraston at his best. These albums beautifully suit Allon Kaye’s current product design for the label too. http://noyzelab.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/nyz-fld-rcdr-mcrtnl-dual-cd-release.html

Anastasia Kristensen – Boiler Room Berlin 6th birthday
Listening to this electro/techno set and seeing how happy Kristensen is bouncing behind the decks is an antidote to all the bad stuff for an hour. This mix of new and old music is good too: https://www.residentadvisor.net/podcast-episode.aspx?id=598

Saplings Records
In response to climate change and habitat loss, Fis (Oliver Perryman) has set up Saplings Records. The label will produce no physical formats but will plant a hundred trees for each album sale. An EP by Fis and Rob Thorne is the first release. https://saplingsrecords.bandcamp.com/

Graham Dunning, Tom White and John Macedo – Live Balls (The Black Plume Editions)
There’s been a lot of good releases on cassette this year: Ewa Justka – Acid Smut (Fractal Meat Cuts), Jay Glass Dubs – Dislocated Folklore (The Tapeworm), Kate Carr – From A Wind Turbine to Vultures (And Back) (Flaming Pines), EVOL – Tunnel Flop (anòmia), Allon Kaye – ATDK 1—Crime (Entr’acte), various artists – A Can of Worms (The Tapeworm), plus a few more mentioned below. One of my favourites doesn’t actually have any tape inside it. Based on a collaborative live performance with Graham Dunning and Tom White, John Macedo produced a limited series of cassettes containing lots of small coloured balls that jiggle around inside as it’s played. Other unusual music-related objects of note were Mark Fell’s political tea towel , Conditional’s Computer Music patch, and GOHV’s Chemicalistic Phlugm.

AGF aka poemproducer aka Antye Greie – SOLIDICITY
This album demonstrates the range of Antye Greie’s artistic practice. The first track starts with sounds of mosquitos, recorded in Finnish woodlands, that are then edited, processed and structured into musical forms. Next is an arrhythmic tribute to Rosa Luxemburg, then music made with a pure data patch connected to fungi. In these and in the other tracks about cryptocurrency, migration and politics there is an alignment between the subject of the work, its sound and its means of production.

tuuun – AA0001 (fluf)
Simple repetitive parts made from crisp and deep 808 drum sounds combine into a more complex rhythm. Against these drums an irregular but persistent pitched percussion is foregrounded, with some randomized hiss and an occasional acid squelch. Stephen McEvoy is the person behind both tuuun and fluf. He did an interesting project about tinnitus earlier this year, involving a survey of people’s experience of tinnitus, which I took part in. A summary of the findings was later shared with participants, together with music based on the data which is due for release on the MEDS label next year.

SDEM – MIXEDSIGNALGENERATORS (.meds)
A fluorescent green cassette by Tom Knapp, whose Mophoc Rez EP (Ge-stell) should have been on my list last year. It’s a piece to keep returning to because it’s difficult to work out what’s going on or to even remember what you just heard. MIXEDSIGNALGENERATORS is also ambiguous, comprising two sides of music concrète made, as the title suggests, from a variety of sources: field recordings, synthesized sounds, instruments, and all kinds of processing. Comparable in structure and quality, but with a completely different set of sounds based on physical tape manipulation, is Chew Cinders (Midnight Circles) by C. Reider. Another similar work of two extended parts, this one made of  digital sounds, is Diverted Units (Holodisc) by Maria W Horn. 

Alan Moore – Jerusalem (Liveright, 2016)
I got this book as a present last Christmas, but only recently finished reading it. It’s split into 3 books and like Moore’s only other novel, Voice of the Fire, it’s set in Northampton, where he lives. Halfway through the first book, The Boroughs, the disorientation caused by chapters introducing new characters in different eras, each point of view told in their own language, and the hyper-orientation of detailed descriptions of the local streets became overwhelming. So I put it down and had a break to read a couple of other books (Ann Pettifor – Just Money: How Society Can Break the Despotic Power of Finance; Mike Savage – Social Class in the 21st Century). Picking it up again, the threads that connect the chapters became clearer, and it got easier to read. The lines converge to an end-point where the subject of the book becomes the book itself. Jerusalem is the story of a specific place and its people and a general philosophy on life and death.

Iku Sakan – Human Wave Music (Natural Sciences)
Konrad Sprenger – Stack Music (PAN)
Layered harmonic arpeggios of hammered metallic string sounds. Fractal drones. Human Wave Music sounds like physical modelling synthesis, whilst Stack Music is made with computer-controlled physical instruments playing patterns based on the Euclidean algorithm. The titles of Iku Sakan’s tracks – ‘Serotonin Rainbow’, ‘Warm Glow’ – match their soporific sound, whilst the classically-named pieces by Konrad Sprenger – especially the longer ones, ‘Finale’ and ‘Rondo’, which include organ – can be more unsettling when they stray into the uncanny valley of mechanical performance.

Machine Woman – New Sept (MMODEMM)
New Sept is on a set of 5 cassette singles. A short and perky little track, it’s less complex than ‘Camile From OHM Makes Me Feel Loved‘ from the When Lobster Comes Home EP (Technicolour) but just as good. Like most of Machine Woman’s music, it makes me smile and makes me want to dance.

Peter Seligman – Dropup (Moss Archive)
This sounds like melted-down music, reduced to constituent parts that jostle against each other, re-combining into new monstrous forms that lurch around menacingly.

Various Artists – Misapplications (Conditional)
Calum Gunn’s label Conditional shows its strength and breadth with this compilation of computer music. This album includes something by all 19 artists on its catalogue.

Visible Cloaks – Reassemblage (RVNG Intl.)
Reassemblage is influenced by a film of the same name by Trin T. Min-ha. Using synthesized eastern instruments, the compositions have a Japanese aesthetic of simplicity and asymmetry. The more recent Lex has more of the same sound design.

Errorsmith – Superlative Fatigue (PAN)
Party, my body”

Other things that got played a lot:

  • Autechre – JNSN CODE GL16 / spl47
  • Dillon Wendel – Pulse / High
  • Equiknoxx – Mark Ernestus Remixes
  • Giusto Pio – Motore Immobile
  • Hafez Abdel Rahman – Sudan Tapes
  • Kevin Drumm – Bandcamp subscription
  • Kindohm – decera
  • Lee Gamble – Mnestic Pressure
  • Lutto Lento – Dark Secret World
  • oxhy – respite unoffered
  • Porya Hatami – Monads
  • Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – Two Orb Reel
  • SW. – The Album
  • The Necessaries – Event Horizon
  • Thomas Brinkmann – Retrospektiv
  • Tony Conrad – Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain
  • Various artists – Ishq Ke Maare: Sufi Songs from Sindh and Punjab, Pakistan
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New music

Two new bits of music out this month:

Joe Evans, who released my first two albums on the Runningonair label, has put together an album of remixes of an old and previously unfinished track of his from the 90s called ‘More Than Machine’. There’s a variety of responses to Joe’s instructions to deconstruct the original, including remixes by Ekoplekz, Stephen Chistopher Stamper, Howlround and Clive Henry. My approach focused on the drum sample in the track’s 6/8 breakdown section and re-used the original MIDI files with different instruments. Proceeds from the albums sale go to an anti-slavery charity. https://runningonair.bandcamp.com/album/more-than-machine-remixes

I’m very pleased to have two new pieces out on the FLUF label as part of its AA series which has so far included music by tuuun, Empathic Window, bamboo and Calum Gunn. AA0006 is two tracks made with sonification of environmental data. Each track is based on two sets of data. ‘0006A’ uses two time series of monthly readings of global average surface temperature as measured by the Met Office (HadCRUT4, 1850-2017) and NASA (GISSTEMP, 1880-2017). ‘0006AA’ is made with daily measurements of greenhouse gases by NOAA – C02 (1979-2017) and CH4 (1983-2017). In both tracks, the main measurements (°C, ppm/ppb) are converted to pitch in MIDI files. The second track also incorporates the time of day at which each reading was taken – this is used to set the duration of each note. Sounds were made with Razor synth and the Fluid R3 GM sound font in Szforzando. These two tracks are the latest in a larger body of work based on sonification of data that represents the state of the world today and how it’s changed over the years. There’s an album in the pipeline – more details on this soon.

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Dark Ages

A short playlist of music I’ve been reminded of by current events. Most of this is music I’ve liked since I was younger that seems more relevant now than it did at the time.

Dead Kennedys – Nazi Punks Fuck Off. With today’s news of the demonstration in Charlottesville, the latest example of the rise of the far-right in the US, this track came to mind instantly.

Propagandhi – Less Talk More Rock. Just as Dead Kennedys wrote Nazi Punks in reaction to the neo-fascists attending their gigs, Propagandhi wrote this one against homophobes.


Sun Ra & His Arkestra – Nuclear War. In reaction to president Trump banning transgender people from the US military, Bandcamp supported the Transgender Law Centre by donating all its share of sales on 4th August. One of the things I bought on Bandcamp that day was this.

SNFU – Black Cloud. Looming over us all now, thanks to US and North Korean political leadership. Another nuclear-apocalyptic song, this one with a really nice vocal melody.

NoMeansNo – Dark Ages. Describes the general bleakness of living in late capitalism in 2017. I’ve always liked the biblical style of language in NoMeansNo’s lyrics, with dark imagery and tales that centre on humanity’s flaws. Small Parts Isolated and Destroyed is a good example of this, and it’s one of my favourite albums. It’s only after buying that Sun Ra single and exploring his other music that I realise how much of an influence he’s had on NoMeansNo.

Joy Division – Leaders of Men. Another beautifully bleak song about torment and hopelessness.

Napalm Death – Multinational Corporations. Around the time I was doing my A-levels I painted a mural for a friend on his bedroom wall, and in return he paid me with a couple of Napalm Death albums, one of which was SCUM. My copy is the orange version. Multinational Corporations is the first track, a simple anti-capitalist anthem.

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On. The whole album is a thoughtful reflection on hard times, and the title track represents many of its observations on class, politics, race, the environment, employment, love and war. I used to think the title was a question, but it’s a declaration: THIS is what’s going on. It’s grim, but it leaves you with hope.

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Ladybower camp

It rains more often than not at the place where we usually go camping, in some woods near Ladybower reservoir, but this time the weather was good. We’ve been coming to this same spot for 20 years now. Other than building a fireplace out of stones and burning wood that’s dropped naturally, I hope we’ve had a minimal impact on this environment. Over time you see the wood itself also changes; this time we found a newly-felled limb from a beech tree near the fire place, which created a gap in the canopy that let the early evening sunlight in. It’s too green to use now but it will be good for the next camp.

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Classical Music Complexity

An article in The Guardian today discusses music and complexity. In
Don’t apologise for classical music’s complexity – that’s its strength‘, Alan Davey writes that “the inherent beauty, complexity and mystery of classical music will see it endure”. He’s arguing against those who doubt that “as a genre it would survive the shortened attention spans of the Twitter generation”.

A problem with this argument is the assumption that classical music is uniquely complex. A genre label as broad as ‘classical’ includes music of a very wide range of complexity, and it would be as easy to find examples of simplicity in classical music as counter-examples of complexity in another genre. As such, complexity cannot be “its” strength. Davey’s argument is that classical music’s complexity can be appreciated with time and effort; you get out of it what you put in. But that could be said of almost anything. The belief that ‘only classical music is complex’ comes from putting too little time and effort into other kinds of music.

Although it is no more or less complex, classical music does tend to be longer. Having a greater duration means you can fit more in, so it can allow for greater complexity but that doesn’t mean it necessarily is more complex. In other words, duration is a significant factor but it is a poor measure of complexity. The tests I’ve done using audio compression algorithms to measure the complexity of different kinds of music support this.

Currently I’m working on a research project for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to investigate the barriers that prevent people from studying classical music and performing arts at university. The problem is that these courses tend to be filled with young people from wealthy White families, who are more likely to make it into a career, and that there are pay gaps due to gender, social class and ethnicity that only increase throughout professional life. The evidence I’ve seen so far suggests that if there is a threat to the survival of classical music, then it is connected with the socio-cultural and economic factors that have made it exclusive and elitist.

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Kolapse

Tobias Reber has released Kolapse, an album of remixes from his previous album Kola (iapetus, 2013). I remixed the track Piñata.

My approach was to try to keep the sounds mostly the same but change the timing. Tobias said the original track has the tempo 100 bpm, but it’s quite hard to hear this because each instrument – kick drum, pitched percussion and metallic sounds – has a different rhythm. I split each of the stems into fragments, sorted the fragments in various ways, then arranged them on a new tempo. For example, the kick drum stem was split into just over 1500 fragments, and sorted in order of information content as measured by the quantity bytes per second: b/s = file size of each fragment (bytes) divided by duration (seconds). You get different results depending on the file type. With uncompressed file types like WAV the b/s measure is proportional to duration, irrespective of the audio content, whereas with compressed files such as FLAC the b/s reflects the audio content. This technique was developed from my research into audio complexity, which explores how different information-based measures of complexity deal with different kinds of sound.

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2016

After all the crap that’s happened this year, it seemed like there wasn’t much point in writing an end-of-year list. Given the deaths of so many musicians, the rise of authoritarian nationalism and xenophobia in Europe and the US, and the continuing climate catastrophe with its decimation of habitat and loss of species, then writing about music seemed about as futile as “dancing about architecture”. But in choosing to engage with music we contribute to one form of economic activity or another, which has consequences in the ‘real world’ (that made-up place from which creative and intellectual people are supposedly isolated). Music is therefore political because it is a culture through which we interface with society and a medium to express those interactions. It becomes more so when the opportunities for people to engage in music are threatened by some of the recent developments in social, economic and environmental conditions. To put it more simply: music makes the world better, and to that extent it matters. Despite – or because of – the fact that it’s been such a shitty year, there’s been a lot of good music in 2016. This isn’t really a ‘best of’ as much as a list of some things that have interested me and moved me, with a few words on how and why.

In terms of buying and selling music Bandcamp is great. Its simple design works well, and it offers a better deal for artists. For those reasons, I’ve tried to buy music this way whenever possible, and I’ve included these links below. For streaming music Resonate looks good. It’s a new cooperatively owned streaming service where you only pay for what you listen to, and you get to own what you listen to most.

One artist who’s made the most of Bandcamp’s subscription service is Kevin Drumm. As Al English said on Twitter, “The Kevin Drumm @Bandcamp subscription is a gift that keeps on giving.” In this case it works because Drumm is prolific (currently there are 79 releases available to subscribers) but without sacrificing quality control. Similarly, Jim O’Rourke has put out a steady stream of music on his Steamroom Bandcamp, although this doesn’t have the option to subscribe.

My favourite musical discovery this year is a 12″ from 1981 – Shauri Yako by Nguashi N’Timbo with L’Orchestre Festival of Zaire. The musicianship and production are incredible. If this doesn’t get you in a good mood, I don’t know what will. I found this in a list of recommendations by members of Vibracathedral Orchestra, and you can grab a download of the EP here.

Kindohm – RISC Chip (Conditional). An album made with TidalCycles live-coding software. I first heard this on the Conditional Radio #8 radio show on Resonance Extra, and had to ask host Calum Gunn to identify the track that had caught my attention with its changing patterns of pounding beats (it was 32 Bit Falcon). Mike Hodnick has generously shared the code he used to make the album: https://github.com/kindohm/risc-chip

Beatrice Dillon – Curl / Karen Gwyer – Common Soundproofing Myths (Alien Jams). This makes me want to move. I also like Karen Gwyer’s Prophase Metaphase Anaphase Telophase EP, named after phases of mitosis (cell division). It reminds me that when I used to work as a biology technician, I would demonstrate mitosis by cutting and staining the tips of garlic roots, mounting them on microscope slides to see the cell nuclei pulling apart (like this).

Fis – From Patterns to Details (Subtext). Fis’s Speech Spirits EP, with remixes by Oren Ambarchi and Kassem Mosse, was amongst my favourites of 2014. Whereas that EP sounded like urban industrialisation, this album develops Fis’s broader theme of ecology, with influences including soil science and permaculture. Like Paul Jebanasam’s Continuum, also released this year on Subtext, this is cinematic music, and it’s not an easy listen. It’s the sound of the Anthropocene – the geological era demarcated by humanity’s pollution; it sounds like a tortured earth as species struggle to survive and adapt.

Hieroglyphic Being – This Isn’t Your Typical 90’s Era Techno / IDM Revisionist View (Technicolour). This Is 4 The Rave Bangers is a track that pretty much does what it suggests. The album The Disco’s of Imhotep is equally good, but its tracks are less structured than this single – they start and end suddenly, changing without having a clear direction.

Sote – 10inch04 (Repitch Recordings). More banging techno, like the Hieroglyphic Being single, but these are actual old-school tracks from the 90s unearthed from the back-catalogue of Iranian producer Sote.

Rian Treanor – Pattern Damage (The Death of Rave). The 2nd release from Treanor, following A Rational Tangle which was a favourite of mine last year. This EP has similarly Razor-sharp sounds providing a minimal palette along with fractured bouncing rhythms.

Graham Dunning – Auxon (Seagrave). This is an album compiled from Dunning’s live performances of mechanical techno over the past couple of years. Whilst the technical ingenuity and skill are impressive, the quality of this music stands on its own. Solid techno.

Ancient Methods – A German Love (Metaphysik). On a split single La Saignée with Theologian, A German Love is a dark industrial track built on a tale about a date that “started off like really nice but ended horribly.” As the tale unfolds, the words that refer to self-harm and masochism are cleverly cut-up and repeated, transforming the subject from the girl to the country.

Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe – Cognition / Observation (DDS). Deep, echoey modular synth workout in two parts. The first track sounds very similar to a piece of music I was working on a couple of years ago, except this is much better.

Eric Frye – On Small Differences in Sensation. The title of this album got my attention because it relates to some things I studied for my PhD. It comes from a classic paper on psychophysics by C.S. Pierce and Jared Jastrow (1885) which explores the idea of the ‘just-noticeable difference’ developed by Gustav Fechner in Elemente der Psychophysik (1860). Eric Frye’s album explores just-noticeable differences, with variations in sounds that test the limits of perception and challenge the listener’s identification of musical structure.

Drøne – Reversing Into the Future (Pomperipossa Records). A collaboration between Mark van Hoen and Mike Harding, this is a single long-form piece of music called This Strange Life made from field recordings and electronic sources.

Machine Woman – Genau House (Where To Now?). Soft synth pads, vocal snippets, and hard beats combine in these tracks about love and pain.

EVOL – DO THESE (Presto!? Records). An album of solo synth playing frantic filtered sequences, with a nice matching red mug. EVOL also released HARDCORE vol. 1 – 11 hours of new/rare music and a video, including 11 ALSO THESE tracks, and 3 new versions of Opus17a – variation #9 is made with pitched percussion, #10 with a squelchy acid bassline and kick drum, and Easter Opus with vocal samples. Like DO THESE, Right Frankfurt, a clear vinyl 12″ on Diagonal, has a warmer and more analogue sound, as if EVOL are using a new synth.

Jung An Tagen – Das Fest Der Reichen (Editions Mego). Beginning with blasts of filtered noise, this album then introduces a complex glassy arpeggio, a bit like Martin Neukom, before morphing into stranger sounds. Abstract and academic, the music has developed from the Virtual Institute Vienna, a research group of interdisciplinary artists.

Calum Gunn – Unorganized Music (Tsuku Boshi). If music is organised sound, then…

NYZ – DRN4 (.meds), ALG118B (ComputerClub) & DRNH (Gamma Mine). All 3 albums released on cassette, these are Dave Burraston’s music made with cellular automata and other algorithms on a wide variety of electronic hardware. Mostly these aren’t the busy and complicated kind of algorithmic music you might expect to hear, given their technical background. Rather, these are subtle drones that have more in common with the minimalism of Eleh or Elian Radigue.

Jay Glass Dubs – III (Seagrave). Quality spaced-out dub. Pared down to a bare minimum of instruments and reverb-soaked delays.

Goto80 – 80864. TR-808 beats + Commodore 64 chiptune sounds = 80864. Nice graphic design too, with a colour theme from the 808 and a 12″ sleeve like a floppy disc.

Rashad Becker – Traditional  Music of Notional Species vol. II (PAN). I really liked vol. I, and this is more of the same, but even more uncannily synthetic-animalistic.

Russell Haswell – PANTHER nO!se (Haswell Studio). After flirting with danceable music on the Diagonal label, Haswell is back to doing what he does best – full-on noise. It’s almost impossible to describe these sounds, and I guess that’s kind of the point. This is music that exceeds our ability to fit it into the conceptual categories of traditional musical language. Best just to turn it up and soak it in.

S. Olbricht – ZZM EP (UIQ). Mellow techno from Lee Gamble’s label. This EP was a real grower. It’s the sort of thing you could dance to at a club and chill out to afterwards. UIQ released a few good EPs this year, including Renick Bell’s algorithmic music which you can see and hear and demo of: http://empty-lake.u-i-q.org

Peder Mannerfelt – Controlling Body (Peder Mannerfelt Produktion). This album is mostly built up from manipulations of vocal sounds provided by Glasser. The track BZ Reaction refers to the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, a chemical oscillator that is often used as an example of non-linear thermodynamics, and which generates self-organizing fractal patterns.

Oren Ambarchi – Hubris (Editions Mego). Krautrock-style excursions with two long-form pieces of music separated by a short guitar-based composition. Made with the collaboration of many musicians including Jim O’Rourke, Ricardo Villalobos, Mark Fell and Keith Fullerton-Whitman. Each adds a layer to the constant driving patterns that build in intensity.

Autechre – elseq. (Ae_store). Autechre continue to stun, with a huge digital-only album of tracks that sound more closely connected with their recent live work, recordings of which are also available at the Ae_store.

Jens Harder – Alpha …Directions (Acte Sud). This book covers 14 billion years of history from the inception of the universe just before the big bang to the present day Anthropocene era. Harder builds this immense narrative through layouts that combine hand-drawn reproductions of images from science, religion and art. As he explains in an interview, “I always had the wish to show not only the development of the world, but also the development of our view on the world.” This is the first in a trilogy of books, and it focuses on the physical, chemical and biological complexification of our world. Beta will cover human history, and Gamma will imagine a future beyond that.

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