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Xela For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights

Label: Neo Ouija

John Xela does it up right for us old farts-chilled, melodic, complex IDM, as intricately detailed as later Autechre, but with infinitely more groove and soul. Coming in somewhere between Bola and Boards of Canada, Xela's debut for Metamatics's prolific imprint teems with spatial effects, textured sounds and emotional atmospheres ranging from icy ambience to warm headnodders with funky and heady beats that would probably sound great with a mushroom smoothie. While a few tracks are less than stellar, the majority of the album is an invigorating, if not uplifting, listen. Read more » 

Stewart Walker Live Extracts

Label: Persona

Stewart Walker's departure from his usual isolation-induced compositions may be a function of his recent Discord collaboration with Geoff White. While Walker's past releases have resounded with a divergence from others, Live Extracts finds him working within his older, tech-derived frameworks in new ways. Walker lets loose: the truly live sound of the album lends more to booty-whomp than a desire to pore over the meaning of the conceptual title. A tendency towards polyrhythmic overlays streams an amorphous eventfulness through each beat sequence. Read more » 

David Toop Black Chamber

Label: Sub Rosa

David Toop makes the kind of music you'd expect from someone who recorded for Eno's Obscure imprint, writes essential books like Ocean Of Sound, and contributes to The Wire. His aesthetic is uniquely eclectic and exotic, intelligently designed, conceptually rigorous and ambient in the best way. That he's creating music this challenging (and disturbing) 30 years into his recording career testifies to both his fecund imagination, and to masterly collaborators like Tom Recchion, Lol Coxhill and Terry Day. Read more » 

Ugly Duckling Taste the Secret

Label: Emperor Norton

Wow, what a fun record-perhaps the most entertaining and enjoyable release of the year so far. The overall sound and feel of Taste the Secret is straight out of the early '90s (and that's a good thing). Ugly Duckling don't use the golden era as mere window dressing-they exemplify it with witty rhymes and dusty production that's packed with breaks and fills that keep the beats from stagnating. Meanwhile, MCs Andy and Dizzy keep the fun-factor high from beginning to end, kicking skillful and hilarious rhymes. Read more » 

Swamburger The Roots of Kin

Label: Eight Dimension

From the beat quality all the way up to the lyrics and delivery, this is a top-notch album. You could tell Swamburger was up for good things after his guest spot with BMF and Beef Wellington of Orlando's Eighth Dimension crew. The Roots of Kin seals the deal. Conscious rhymes and a quick delivery bring to mind groups like Binary Star, Zion-I, Digable Planets and early De La Soul, while Swam occasionally picks up the speed to rolling Outkast flavor. Funky guitars dominate the beats, which hint at an experimental electronic style. Read more » 

The Gas man Remedial

Label: Planet M

Christopher Adam Reeves (a.k.a. The Gasman) apparently derives his recordings from cut-up old classical reel-to-reel tapes which he further mutates via a cheap PC. Around half his tracks have precedents in late-'80s/early-'90s rave, but Remedial particularly intrigues when The Gasman's music-making process produces ghostly aberrations not dissimilar to the reprocessed 1930s ballroom music on The Caretaker's Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom. Read more » 

Splinter Group Blowing Down Blue Sky

Label: W.D.T.H.C.

While I'm about as technologically masterful as a toddler with a push toy' embrace, and am schooled in, theories of improvisation and experimentation. Which is frustrating when I enjoy artists like Splinter Group, yet have no idea how they created such intricate sound exploration. Basically, the process involved two members selecting beats to be programmed by engineer Wayne Peet, which were then fed back to the group to expand on as they envisioned. Each piece-anchored by Kaoru on vocals-is a marvel, building layer upon layer of sound to create a harmonious whole. Read more » 

Rima This World

Label: JCR

Capable of the most abstract, contorting broken beat rhythms as well as straightforward-yet-immensely-soulful house music, Dominic Stanton (who produces as Domu) is currently at the top of his game. Teaming up with Enrico Crivellero (a.k.a. Volcov) as Rima, Stanton drops a luscious full-length sitting between those two extremes, with jazz fusion playing a major role. Silky vocals backed with mashed-up production meet angular broken beats, and the album drips with live performances from luminaries like Kaidi Tatham and Ian O'Brien; tracks are steeped in the Chicago/Detroit/London tradition. Read more » 

Opiate Sometimes

Label: Morr Music

Opiate, the solo project of Thomas Knak (a Bj?rk collaborator and also a member of trios System and Future 3), only partially lives up to its moniker. The overall effect of the fuzzy fluctuations on the six-track Sometimes EP is sedative, but instead of dulling the senses, it reveals (on repeated close listens) an airy, intricate mesh of textures. Fitting the Morr Music modus operandi, acoustic overlaps form the EP's sun-speckled springboard. But unlike so many post-clicks 'n' cuts/glitch composers, Knak is ever so deliberate. Read more » 

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