Top Five Releases || July

Various Artists - Crown Ruler Sound compiled by Jeremy Spellacey [Spacetalk] 

Jeremy Spellacey, a New Zealander residing in Melbourne, is co-founder of “music agency” Crown Ruler and is highly-regarded within the crate-digging community primarily for his ability to unearth obscure, vintage gems.  Following on from the fantastic Jeremy Underground compilation, Beauty, on Spacetalk last year, label co-founder and one half of Psychemagik, Danny McLewin, approached Spellacey just over a year ago to put together the next.  Crown Ruler Sound is an excellent compilation made up of fifteen rare records from all across the globe, from Trinidad - Italy - Zambia to New Zealand and beyond with all sorts of jazz-funk, boogie-era disco, electro-reggae and afro-soul flowing through. 

Spacetalk is a label run by Paul “Mudd” Murphy, Simon Purnell and Danny McLewin and is a sub-label to the outstanding Claremont 56 and Leng Records.  Talking about his first ever compilation like this, Spellacey said, “I think its fair to say it’s a collaboration between Spacetalk and Crown Ruler. I supplied the music and was involved in the decision making from a creative perspective but Simon did most of the legwork coordinating everything [licensing] and Danny spent day and night combing through various images for the artwork.”  Interestingly they ended up going with a painting from a National Geographic magazine from the 90s. 

Crown Ruler has many dimensions to it.  The online store specialises in sourcing vintage records that are like gold dust and it also has a touring and promotion side to it.  Recently Crown Ruler has built up some momentum having had their first record released, a reissue of ‘Zulu’ by Focus, a slice of South African boogie, which might I add is Phonica's most essential reissue of 2017.  Now with this fantastic compilation to add to the books Crown Ruler are certainly on a hot streak! 

The Crown Ruler Sound compilation has managed to reach number one over on the Juno chart across all genres so make sure you snap up the wonderful gatefold double LP while you still can!

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Holovr - Likemind 05 [Likemind]

Amazingly, unbelievably, after a twenty-one year absence, one of the, if not THE most legendary of the many incredible blink-and-you'll-miss-it ambient techno labels of the 90's has returned.  For those of you who don't know Likemind - this label commands eye-watering prices on discogs for good reason - if dancefloor techno ever got as star-gazing and tear-inducing and as downright beautiful as this, please let me know...

That all said, one would think it impossible for any new Likemind release to compare, given the weight of expectation and legend that it's brief stint garnered it in the 90's... wisely then, they turn to probably the one artist currently imbuing techno with as much emotion as the Likemind guys (who count in their number a 'rumored' former Malaysian race car driver!) did back then - Holovr.

So does the music stand up... yes.  Both tracks follow a relatively similar narrative, but when you've got a narrative like this, it would feel obtuse to stray from it.  Broken, tripping rhythms circle yearning pads, slowly coming into focus as gorgeous acid lines take you deeper and further.

I have only one complaint - and that is these tunes didn't take up a whole side at 33rpm each.

Basically - an absolute must-buy.  For the drifters.

Buy: Vinyl

Gerd Janson & Shan - Surrender [Regraded]

Harry Agius, or Midland as he is better known is responsible for a host of standout tunes over the last decade of underground clubbing history.  From remixing Caribou’s ‘Sun’, producing ‘Trace’ and ‘Your Words Matter’ on Will Saul’s Aus Music with fellow Leeds compardre, Pearson Sound (or Ramadaman as he was known then), to setting up his own label in 2013 -  he has always been one to push boundaries; chopping around the house/techno crossover.  In Graded he provided himself with a platform to expand his tastes and feelings, unleashing a slew of underground techno beaters.  The double-sided vinyl, ‘Archive01/Realtime’ is about as infectious as they come. 

Last year he changed it up once again and created a sister-sub label, ReGraded, promising more disco and sample based material and he delivered just that.  ‘Final Credits’ was announced track of the year by Mixmag amongst other outlets, and with good reason.  Since then, Hubie Davison’s ‘Sanctified’ has done the business and now a collaboration between Gerd Janson & Shan looks to follow suit as a third release. 

‘Surrender’ is full of raw energy and looping hype, a total crowd pleaser.  It samples sped up, joyous vocals borrowed from 1981 smasher Rainbow Brown’s ‘Till You Surrender’ and compliments them in a big way, generating a huge ‘hands in the air’ moment in a club or festival dancefloor near you soon.  Indeed, it seems to be a recurring theme for ReGraded to trump all competition when it comes to summer anthems as the label goes from strength to strength.  Word has it that Midland drew inspiration from one of Gerd’s closing sets a while ago at Berlin’s Panorama Bar to start the imprint in the first place; his gripping vitality and sheer prowess on the decks shone through to the crowd and on to Harry from the side lines so this release has a bit of a love story to it.

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

DsorDNE - Tristi di Rabbia [Blacksilk Records]

Music is a prime medium for conveying the atmosphere of spaces and landscapes.  There’s a power in which sonic tones conjure the essence of the environment from which they’re created.  No example of this is more prominent than how the aura of derelict post-industrial scenery is channeled through harsh, gritty sonic tapestries.  One only need to point to places like Detroit, Berlin and works like Orphx’s latest album which aims to capture the plight of their hometown, Hamilton in Canada.  The underground scene of ‘80s Turin has its roots in this same nihilist reaction to degenerative physical and social landscapes. 

DsorDNE, led by key members Marco Milanesio and Roberta Ongarno, were born from Turin’s gloom in 1985.  With an output mainly made up of heavily experimental post-punk synth music and instrumental soundscapes, they built their fan base on an underground ethos of releasing cassettes through fanzines in the underground scene.  The project fizzled out in the mid 90s along with their affiliated label, HEX, but not before they released their highly distinct experimental synth-wave album, È Un Sole in 1994. 

Blacksilk is a newly founded platform and label run by Marc Ash.  Focusing on obscure experimental electronic music the label appears to be curating a distinct gloomy signature, which fits well to the contemporary trends of its home city, Berlin.  Worth checking out is the electrifying acid cuts on the recent Plodiv release.  For the third release Blacksilk have unearthed and selected three originals to reissue from the whole span of Dsordne’s cassette archive, accompanied with two reworks from two artists at the helm of Berlin’s contemporary take on all things post-punk and industrial: Phase Fatale and Unhuman.

Together the heavily synth-orientated tracks maintain a sweet balance of cold-wave experimentation, haunting vocals and industrial dread.  The reissue is aptly completed with artwork by Silent Servant, who has re-interpreted a gothic Orthodox icon from National Museum of Art in Bucharest, “reprocessing it in his own distinctive macabre-surrealist style” in a vein not dissimilar to the artwork on his Jealous God imprint. 

‘Tristi di Rabbia’ is a slow-paced ethereal track making use of an über-dramatic female vocal that mourns after.  The, composed with heavy drones, ‘Love is My Eversion’ is a delirious track made of coarse textures and unearthly tremors that centre around a creepy drone-fueled vocal.  The flat, bouncey synth is monotonous but the breakdown gives a brilliantly jarring switch-up.  ‘Guardami’ also has a slow trudging bassline but is equally as exciting.  Holding aura of despair, this dark electro sci-fi cut is stilling with its dramatic synth sounds.

On the B-side come the two industrial reworks, both more dance-floor orientated.  Phase Fatal’s remix of ‘Aria’ is melancholic yet energizing.  Dense metallic textures with plenty of jarring clangs, and then juddering synth lines which conjure an image of some manic hell-raising helicopter.  This is a slow yet powerfully electrifying trip.  Unhuman’s remix is the most violent track but still has a fun positive feel.  With shredding flat kicks and charged voltage, it’s got true EBM groove.  Of all the vocals on the EP, the faint Italian lyrics on ‘Rimani’ are the most touching with their mournful mystique.

Buy: Vinyl / Digital

Christopher Groove - Secret Garden (Ricardo Villalobos Remix) [OFFLINE]

New Austrian label OFFLINE Records, run by Brad Wilder and Christopher Groove, invited Ricardo Villalobos to remix Groove’s ‘A Secret Garden’ on the label’s debut EP, and the result is a cracker.  The fourteen minute long mix is the cheeky brother of Groove’s track.  Retaining the haunting vocals and foreboding, drilling rhythm of the original, The Villalobos edit is a twisted and magical reinterpretation.  Villalobos stretches and reshuffles the progression, subtly shifting the emphasis unpredictably beneath the maintained, trudging march. 

The track is defined by minimal, gurgling acid lines, bouncy percussion, and a brooding baseline, but whilst it plays with the dark and scary mood, it sneaks up on you as a pretty lively dance track.  The moodiness of the bass and the ghostly vocal sample is balanced by elasticated synths, compacted hi-hats and cheeky, woody drums chucked about throughout.  The track builds incrementally into a complex cacophony of rolling sounds spinning around one another, and almost topples into happy and light, but is darkened by persistent nudging depths below.  Atonal, held chords like warning beacons punctuate it at points, and the overall effect is mischievous and surprising.  This is a perfect meeting point between Villalobos’s ambient work and his dance tracks, and is a lovely complement to Groove’s original- get excited about more to come from OFFLINE records.

Buy: Vinyl

Chosen by Ben C, Matt J, Oli L, Fred D & Dora T