Sometimes there is no more powerful music than that marked by delicacy, quietude, and understatement. Look no further than Chantal Acda’s Let Your Hands Be My Guide as proof, for it’s one of the most beautiful recordings issued this year. Ably supported by Nils Frahm, Peter Broderick, Gyda Valtysdottir, and Shahzad Ismaily, the Belgium-based, Dutch-born Acda (who has recorded under the Sleepingdog moniker since 2006) has released a collection that in certain moments is so lovely it verges on overwhelming.
Belgian quartet 74 Miles Away combine the talents of a jazz pianist, production duo and flautist to create a heady mix of old and new that taps into everything that makes you feel good about jazz, soul and beats. Having released on Cologne’s MPM and London’s Brownswood, their latest release comes with the support of Brussels’ Laid Back, and sees the quartet delve deep into their influences and current interests. Across eight tracks, Gear Change covers dedications to greats like Bob James and Weather Report, ’80s boogie and modern beats without ever sounding clichéd. The title cut is a particularly funky highlight, sure to perk up anybody’s day.
Jüppala Kääpiö - Excerpt from a concert in Finland, April 2013
Ha- ha, I was fooled into thinking Jüppala Kääpiö was indeed a Finnish folk group beavering away on portable electronic gadgets and handheld instruments in a little log cabin in dense forest somewhere far from Helsinki. In fact the only real Finnish deal about Jüppala Kääpiö is the name: the Belgian-based act is actually made up of Japanese sound artist Hitoshi Kojo and Swiss singer Carole Kojo. The music they play is based on environmental themes and folklore traditions drawn from various countries and if I listen carefully, I swear I can hear something almost like Okinawan folk music: light, sunny and on the playful side.
The good folks at Miasmah are set to release yet another incredibly moody, exquisitely detailed album, this time by Kaboom Karavan. It’s called Hokus Fokus and sees Bram Bosteel amplifying the surreal and filmic qualities of his music, evoking both terror and immersion with structural suspense and textural versatility. The album sounds aggressively modern, with its interplay between abstraction and narrative, but it also sounds anachronistic at times, with the creepy Kreng-like atmospherics heading straight into a pre-WWII smokehouse of clunky Tom Waits rhythms and sinister vaudeville theatrics.
The track features vocal from Francois De Meyer (one half of the duo), who does a sterling job in both content and delivery. It’s so much more than just a recycled sample which, these days, too many producers seem to rely on, as the vocal interweaves with chugging bassline to create moments of really punch and harmony.
On ‘The Monster Swim’ there’s clever sampling shot through layers of delay, uprising vocal crescendos, textured breakdowns and a snare that hits into the classic lurch from the very first hit. It’s got that ribboned, running arpeggiator sound to it in places that hints of rainy rooftops, disturbing wind up toys and androids fighting for the truth but to me, it’s just really pretty the way he manages to wrap all of those things up in the one three minute package without it ever sounding tired.
To paraphrase the label: since moving from Belgium to South London, DYNOOO’s changed his aural tact a bit, leaving behind the semi dancefloor excursions of his previous material, instead turning to a more considered and stylized, VHS era kind of synthetic approach that feels steeped in previous decade’s visions of the future. ‘Marazul’ is the very first taste of the Mesh N2 Air material and it definitely finds DYNOOO in a playful melodic place, with his chiming lead lines intersecting and cutting their weird rugs over the top of thin, gritty percussion.
'11th Hour' opens the EP with a beautifully carved intro of muted, sensual synths and a blunted percussion beat that immediately picks out a swinging, London-centric rhythm. As the distant yearn of afterhours city lights emerges, the intro melts into a fluid-yet-funky roller, a languid longing for the urban twilight hour.
Simply put, Zsa Zsa La Boum’s ‘Something Scary’ is a definitive New Beat track - it’s got the darkly suggestive vocal samples, a proper rotter of an industrial jack beat, churning acid tweaks and a hook to kill for, never mind that soaring breakdown. Quite honestly, we’d take this over any Chicago acid or house from ‘88 that you’d care to throw down, any day of the week.
Mystery delivery! Whoever sent this two-faced gem of Germanic duality, I applaud you though I question how you received my location. I always had a suspicion the SS was watching from afar. But I’m too boozy from the post-WWII glug of “I Can Die Happy,” its winsome Gerswhin glee finding Hardt drunkenly laughing with me as she looks me dead in the eyes and artfully replies “It is written in the stars, you are full of shit.” We’ve only just met but she gets me, if I were a GI with slicked backed hair in Vichy France.