Few artists take minimalism as seriously as Spanish / Venezuelan composer and producer Alexander Molero. A single synthesizer, the Yamaha CS-60, decisively shaped both the sound world and musical structure of his debut album Ficciones del Trópico. Which is no mean feat considering the textural and conceptual depth of the release. On it, Molero turns the Berlin school of electronics' fascination with the exotic – as displayed on Edgar Froese's Epsilon in Malaysian Pale, Tangerine Dream's "Fauni Gena" and, above all, Popol Vuh's Aguirre-soundtrack – back on itself to separate fact from fiction. By working with the vocabulary established by the krautrock pioneers, Ficciones del Trópico is as much a take on the West's view of South America – as it is a South American take on the West.
In the end, it is all cyclical. Even the most programmatic vision will ultimately reveal the preferences of the composer:
"For me, identity is given by what you are looking for and where you are come from, finding the balance between what you are and what you want to do. When composing, certain perhaps folkloric impressions always come to my mind. However, at the moment of expressing them, they will take on a form of their own. They do not resemble the truly traditional - it is a personal impression."
Read our Alexander Molero interview.
Justin Miller's first album release under his Kultures alias starts off with a hushed, almost shy synth sound on the right channel and a brittle guitar chord on the left. A sweet drone in a bittersweet minor mode, paints shimmering raindrops in the air while a deep, resonant bass, pushed forward by a soft shaker loop, makes its entrance, warm and bouncy, as if to announce a slow motion dance. "I was adding up all of the hours", Miller sings, the drums setting in, padded by a gentle delay, the song starting off as its own dub version.
We're only ten seconds into "Favorite Number", the opening of his Kultures LP, and the extent of his obsession for the perfect song, the perfect sound, a wholly immersive experience has become fully apparent, which, as he tells us, simply won't adhere to conventional hours:
"When I'm really locked in on songwriting, my schedule involves waking up late and going to bed even later. The goal is to maintain as much mental and emotional freedom as possible in order to allow new ideas to express themselves."
The remarkable thing: "Favorite Number" isn't even the stand-out song on the Kultures LP. Or, to be more precise, it is one of many stand-out moments on an album filled with dreamy anthems and moments of glorious fragility. This music is intimate and sensitive, but it certainly isn't small – the fact that Miller names "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" as one of his influences is an indication of just how big his realm of influences for this project has been.
Read our Kultures interview.
You can't reduce Krautrock to the motoric beat, Michael Rother has always maintained. Rother, who, as part of Neu!, established that very motoric beat as a trademark of Krautrock, may have had a historical bone to pick, since his guitar work in Neu! occasionally failed to draw the same admiration as the drumming of Klaus Dinger. But he has a point: It was the intricate interweaving of harmony and rhythm, above all, which allowed the music to leave the confines of traditional rock far behind and set the controls for the heart of the sun.
German duo Zement (or Z3M3NT, as they sometimes like to present themselves) have perhaps arrived at an even deeper understanding of this philsophy as Rother and his congenial creative partner, the late Klaus Dinger. Their pieces are driven by the motoric pulse – airy, weightless, yet insistent – but it is the constant melodic and harmonic variation, the sensual exchanges between vocoded words, garlands of chiming sequencers, bonedry guitar stabs and astral synthesizer melodies, which awards them their meditative quality.
The tracks on their third full-length Rohstoff are slightly less epic than on previous efforts, but, in a way, this only makes them more hypnotic: As long as the beat is pushing you forward, there is no need, no desire to go anyplace else.
Read our Zement interview.
Made Kuti's initiation into music started at an early age. Little wonder - he was born into a musical family: His grandfather was Fela Kuti, his father Femi Kuti, who defined two generations of Nigerian afrobeat. "I lived in the New Africa Shrine in a Lagos for a while and watched him perform 4 times a week, every week, all year. I can only imagine the amount of music absorbed all those years," Made remembers, "The bass, sax, trumpet, drums, piano were all instruments I saw him use in his band. So I naturally grew a childish interest in all of them and asked to learn how they all worked!"
Later, he followed Fema Kuti into the famous Studio Zarma in Paris, where Kuti recorded classics like Day by Day. It is fascinating, therefore, that, almost 15 years after Day by Day, both father and son returned to Zarma to each realise their latest album project.
The results are fascinating: Fema's "Stop the Hate" is free flowing and smooth on the surface, Made's For(e)ward has the rebellious spirit, grand gestures and infinite energy of the younger man. Together, they are not so much Yin and Yang, but more like two sides of the same coin. It should be more than appropriate, therefore, that Partisan Records are offering the two releases as a combined double album titled Legacy +.
Read our Made Kuti interview.
We have no way of knowing what music will sound like in 20 years from now. But chances are high that Corin Ileto's vision comes pretty close: Ultra-detailed sound sculpting combines with faint traces of traditional instruments, pure timbral ecstasy blends with bone rattling rhythms, constantly morphing structures create emotional hyperlinks which hack straight into the listener's neural network. This, above all, is what makes singles like "Mnemosyne" so instantly appealing and alien at the same time: They capture you on a primal level while sounding like nothing you've ever heard before.
Read our CORIN interview.
Jeff Mills's Axis Records defined techno. Although he would venture into house as well and take the occasional detour into ambient territory, Mills has mostly remained faithful to his vision, choosing to keep it alive by constant evolution. Already his 2015 multimedia release Exhibitionist 2 saw a change of direction, when he embarked on unconventional improvised duos with drummer Skeeto Valdez, followed by his breathtaking EP with the late master timekeeper Tony Allen, Tomorrow Comes The Harvest. Two new releases on Axis now dive deeper and more overtly into jazz than anything he's ever released before.
Teaming up with keyboarder Jean-Phi Dary, Mills himself turns into a 21st century Max Roach, guiding the music from behind his drum machines, while Dary lays down complex chords as a basis for blissful solos. The beauty of the surface is deceptive: In the realm of cross-pollination between electronic club music and jazz, this is as challenging as things get, a perpetually shapeshifting and course-changing journey where no piece ends where you expect it to and listening conventions are endlessly questioned.
Read our Jeff Mills interview.
Read our Jean-Phi Dary interview.
Raffaele Attanassio's Nuovo Futuro is even more outspokenly jazz than The Paradox, remiscing in the great 70s cross-over works, when progressive electric rock and jazz became inseparable.
But Attanassio does mean business when he speaks about a new future in the title of the record. In the ensemble pieces, realised with a ferociously tight trio of instrumental virtuosos, he focuses on dynamics and energy. On three different version of his solo piece "Equilibrio Dinamico", meanwhile, he creates more refined emotions with electronic means, as if contemplating the music in an empty studio at night. The result is a vast and enveloping cosmos which is as inviting to enter into as it is addictively hard to leave.
After a string of intensely effective pure techno records, Attanassio seems to have found his calling in a music which allows his self-declared turbulent mind to fully express itself :
"The creative process of a track or an album is always different for me. It obviously depends on the result you want to achieve, the sound you want to create, and the message you want to convey to people. I think the creative process of my new album Nuovo Futuro on Axis Records was one of the simplest and most effective: improvisation. Why yes, it's a studio album - but it's all completely improvised."
Read our Raffaele Attansattio interview.
Emily Wolfe wanted her choruses to be able to compete against the biggest in the business. For a musician who lives and breathes rock n roll, that may sound like a strange ambition. But then, bizarre combinations are at the heart of her personal style – and they're nowhere as explicit as on her upcoming sophomore full-length Outlier, on which fuzz and noise smudge up the pretty face of her catchy melodies, pulling it through thick layers of dirt. The effect is bewildering: The added roughness makes these to-the-point pieces sound even more accessible, the choruses even more cinematic than ever.
Where do these songs come from? In our feature about songwriting, Emily reveals that she doesn't have the full answer herself:
"It's a spiritual process. A lot of times I wonder if songs already exist and the song picks the person. Like writers are just vessels for a song that already exists. That's my perspective on the spiritual side."
Read our Emily Wolfe interview.