Snapped Ankles cover CAN’s ‘Bel Air’ on Record Store Day Violations EP (The Leaf Label EP, 2018)

“On their sublime debut ‘Come Play The Trees’ you hear the group proffering buzzing drones, the kind of ritualistic psychedelia that future pagans will whirl round sacrificial bonfires to, David Bowie jamming with Neu! on the nihilistic impenetrability of ‘Johnny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin’, sinewy synth lines gleefully vying with clattering percussion, and a general sense of a group channeling dark impulses through psychic rifts known only to a select few.” – Electronic Sound

Snapped Ankles‘ mysterious debut Come Play The Trees was one of the stranger albums I reviewed for Electronic Sound last year, and in its weird tones I heard something akin to The Residents mixed with a bit of Suicide. Anonymous, urgent, vibrant and one of those drawdropping crossover albums that blends synths and rock together like they always belonged together.

The band have prepped a politicised four-track 12″ EP for Record Store Day that takes tracks by The Fugs, Joey Beltram and overlooked Eighties cult band Comateens and plays freely with the lyrics to make their messages more relevant to a modern world that’s evidently going to – or possibly already gone to – the dogs.

The EP is rounded out with a version of CAN‘s ‘Bel Air’, originally from 1973’s Future Days, which takes the serene, hypnotic Californian chill of the original and adds a sinister edge, its repeated references to dressing gowns jabbing pointedly at Weinstein’s alleged Hollywood misdemeanors.

Check out the video for the band’s blistering take on The Fugs’ ‘CIA Man’ here.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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Documentary Evidence 2017 Top 10 Albums: 1. James Holden & The Animal Spirits ‘The Animal Spirits’

One album this year stood apart for me and it was this record by former progressive house DJ James Holden, an endeavour that the word ‘epic’ was presumably designed for.

Assembled by Holden as bandleader and with his own electronics as the backbone, The Animal Spirits was executed through improvisations that were faithful to the questing spirit of jazz, specifically the spiritual music crafted by the likes of Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and Don Cherry, and the similarly transcendent cycles of Moroccan trance music.

Electronics should act as a inflexible handbrake on pure improv, or at least that’s what we’re meant to believe, but Holden isn’t a typical electronic musician – not only did he build his own hand baggage-sized modular synth, but he also wrote his own software that was integrated with his drummer’s playing to ensure that he could keep up with the rest of the band. The fact that Holden would go so far as to work with a renowned physicist on the theory behind how a duo of musicians impact one another through errors in their playing, and then figure out how to program that, and then make it fit into a band concept, underlines just how different Holden is. There is a vibrant electronic jazz fusion scene going on right now, spearheaded by Holden and his Border Community imprint, Floating Points and others, but The Animal Spirits still stands apart.

I interviewed James for Electronic Sound. The interview took place at his studio near Turnham Green, a compact space filled with modular kit where The Animal Spirits was realised in what must have been an intense series of sessions. Holden is an educated, softly spoken, thoughtful individual. You get the impression when speaking to Holden that he’s only devoting part of his brain to the conversation – not because he’s disinterested, as he was perhaps the most engaging interviewee I sat with this year, but because he’s partitioned off the rest of his brain to resolve some new, complex algorithm simultaneously.

I’m convinced that, in years to come, people will consider The Animal Spirits to be a pivotal electronic music album, one that freed up synths from the linear shackles of rigid sequencers; don’t wait for everyone else to catch up – enjoy it now. Listen to The Animal Spirits here.

Buy Electronic Sound at www.electronicsound.co.uk.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Documentary Evidence 2017 Top 10 Albums: 5. Moon Hooch ‘Live At The Cathedral’

“The trio of Mike Wilbur, Wenzl McGowen and James Muschler may well have just written a whole new playbook for modern jazz.”
– Electronic Sound

It’s warm, sunny evening in July and I’m in a quiet little hotel near the Champs Elysées in Paris, with the loud and uncompromising sounds of New York trio Moon Hooch blasting out at neighbour-bothering volumes.

This was one of those albums that hit my inbox and initially went straight into the trash folder, only to resurface later when my editor at Electronic Sound put it on my list of things to cover that month. I felt like such an idiot for deleting it. Loved by luminaries like Iggy Pop and recorded here in the cavernous environs of the Cathedral of St. John The Divine in New York, Moon Hooch make an unholy punk-jazz racket that is entirely in the NYC tradition of James Chance & The Contortions. It’s bratty, electronically-augmented and wildly inventive, twisting New York’s venerable jazz legacy into incredibly creative new shapes.

Electronic Sound can be purchased at www.electronicsound.co.uk

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Documentary Evidence 2017 Top 10 Albums: 7. Floating Points ‘Reflections – Mojave Desert’

“Sam Shepherd seems set to become one of his generation’s musicians to watch, and a potential legend in the making.”
Electronic Sound

Floating Points‘s Elaenia was my favourite album of 2015 by far, and was responsible for me beginning to realise that fusing electronics with jazz wasn’t quite as naff as everyone had told me it was. Consequently I was ridiculously excited to get the chance to review Sam Shepherd’s latest album for Electronic Sound, an album where he had moved from solo artist to de facto band leader.

Reflections – Mojave Desert is a major progression on from Elaenia, where the addition of extra musicians has allowed Shepherd to more precisely express what he was clearly to do back in 2015 but couldn’t when his only tools were samples and electronics. To fully understand the exacting process Shepherd went through to create the five tracks on the album, an accompanying film showed the group performing and collecting sounds amid the breathtaking backdrop of the Joshua Tree National Park.

The result is an album full of finely-wrought atmospherics and complex arrangements that showcases Shepherd’s strong appreciation of jazz music history and his ability to push things in a thoroughly modern direction.

Listen to Reflections – Mojave Desert here.

Electronic Sound can be purchased at www.electronicsound.co.uk.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Documentary Evidence 2017 Top 10 Albums: 10. BRZZVLL ‘Waiho’

“An album of genuinely memorable riffs on jazz’s essential spirit.”
Electronic Sound

I’ve had another year of getting to write about incredible music, and choosing my seasonal top ten albums this year was especially difficult.

To kick things off, I’ve selected BRZZVLL‘s stunning Waiho, the new album from a Belgian seven-piece group who take the infinitely flexible template of jazz and infuse that with everything from hip-hop to the edgy big-band funk espoused by Talking Heads when they’d more or less doubled their line-up.

I reviewed Waiho for Electronic Sound.

Listen to Waiho here.

Buy Electronic Sound at www.electronicsound.co.uk.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Electronic Sound 34

Issue 34 of Electronic Sound is now available. Focussing in on the world of soundtracks to coincide with the release of Blade Runner 2049, the latest issue includes an exclusive 7″ containing extracts from Louis and Bebe Barron’s genre-defining soundtrack to the sci-fi landmark Forbidden Planet.

My major contribution to the latest issue was an interview with Clint Mansell. Mansell was formerly a member of Pop Will Eat Itself, a band I got into in the mid-90s thanks to a friend at the after-school office jobs we both had, whereupon he plied me with each and every one of their releases up to that point. So smitten by PWEI was I that I did that very 90s thing of buying a t-shirt to show my allegiance, a lovely navy blue Designers Republic thing containing the cartoon band mascot. I was wearing that t-shirt the day I started university, which attracted the attention of another freshman who recognised the logo; we’ve been lifelong friends ever since.

This is a longwinded way of saying that Mansell’s music really matters to me, and so getting the chance to speak to him was a real privilege. Mansell’s inclusion in the Electronic Sound soundtrack issue arises because of his post-PWEI work as a composer for the films of Darren Aronofsky and Duncan Jones’s, developing scores for the harrowing Requiem For A Dream, Moon and the upcoming Mute. And speaking of Mute, which I often do of course, Mansell is pictured in a Mute ‘walking man’ logo in the photos accompanying my feature, and this issue includes a new interview with Mute founder Daniel Miller.

Elsewhere in this issue I wrote a short piece introducing the work of Lithuanian electronic producer Brokenchord, whose new album Endless Transmission is a robust, trip-hop embracing work of great weight. I also wrote short reviews of albums by livesampled piano duo Grandbrothers, the sexually-charged Blade Runner-inspired debut album from Parisian François X, a slinky 80s-inspired R&B album by Submerse, a thoughtful new LP from Aris Kindt and a grainy industrial / minimal release by Vanity Productions issued through Posh Isolation, one of my favourite small labels. To round the issue out, I reviewed the Front & Follow label’s fantastic ten year anniversary compilation Lessons, and surveyed the varied career of Auteurs founder Luke Haines through a new 4-disc box set. Having written the press release and an interview to support the release of Alka‘s The Colour Of Terrible Crystal on Vince Clarke‘s Very Records, it was pleasing to see the album get a deservedly positive review in the latest issue.

You can pick up a copy of the new issue at www.electronicsound.co.uk

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound

Electronic Sound 33

Issue 33 of Electronic Sound is now available, complete with an extensive cover feature on Gary Numan and an interview with the inimitable Sparks. The special print edition with 7″ includes a two-part Meat Beat Manifesto remix of Gary Numan’s ‘My Name Is Ruin’.

I wrote two features for this issue. The first was an interview with Sanaya ‘Sandunes’ Ardeshir about her Different Trains 1947 live collaboration with Liverpool’s METAL, Jack Barnett from These New Puritans and Darren ‘Actress’ Cunningham; Different Trains 1947 takes Steve Reich’s 1988 composition Different Trains but changes its context from being about American and European train journeys during World War II to being about the thorny topic of Indian independence and partition from Pakistan. You can catch Different Trains 1947 at the Barbican in London on 1st October.

The second feature was an interview with Graham Sutton about his band Bark Psychosis and their landmark post-rock album Hex. I love features like this and the Different Trains piece above, mostly because they cover topic areas I knew very little about before picking up the phone to speak to both Ardeshir and Sutton. Bark Psychosis were a band I was aware of from reading The Wire in the 1990s but who had never quite made it from my Long List – of bands I’ve read about, know I must listen to, but never have – to the Short List. The objective of the Bark Psychosis feature was to lift the lid on a band and tell its story, which I humbly think we did rather well.

Elsewhere in issue 33, you’ll find my reviews of new albums from Mary Epworth, Mute alumnus Zola Jesus, a remix compilation on Sheffield’s wonderful CPU imprint, Khalil and a lovely new record from Jaws Of Love, the solo debut of Kelcey Ayer from Local Natives.

Electronic Sound can be ordered here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound