2021 Albums

2021 was book-ended by some amazing ambient albums. From Hotel Neon and Warmth back at the start of the year to some fabulous compilations and artist albums by familiar faces at the tail end. During the summer we were all let out to play again, so the ambient blanket was cast side in favour of something slightly more ‘upbeat’. As always, another stellar year. Expensive though, as all the lockdown albums came out this year. All ultimately worth it. Next year, I’ll reduce my vinyl budget significantly.

My 2021 album list. Unlike last years aberration where there was a Top 11, this year I went for a dozen.

12. Various Artists – Pop Ambient 2021. I’ve been buying this series since the early noughties. The last couple of years were a little weaker but this years edition is a return to form. The rota this year included Blank Gloss who put out the wonderful Melt in 2021. The vinyl is mixed unusually.

11. Nils Frahm – Old Friends, New Friends. 3 vinyl releases in 2021. Tripping with Nils Frahm, Graz then this. It might be a compilation of some old, some new but it’s my favourite release of his this year. Nils continues to cost me a fortune.

10. Stray Theories – This Light. A gorgeous lush album again. I always find it odd it sits in the ‘Ambient Post-Rock’ genre in some streaming platforms. To me it’s another warm blanket. I’ve followed his releases for a number of years. Hugely underrated guy is Micah.

9. James – All the Colours Of You. Another year, another pop masterpiece from James. Still one of my favourite bands even after countless studios albums. Watched them perform much of the album at the Isle of Wight festival and it cemented how good the album was in my mind. It was released the day after my 50th birthday. It’ll remind me of that time.

8. Various Artists – @0. A Ninja Tune compilation that arrived late in the year without much fanfare. A beautiful album supported by a mixed version by Mixmaster Morris and Coldcut. Proceeds from the album going to mens mental health charities. Lots of great artists, lots of great tunes and a great vinyl package. Autumn Leaves, however, makes yet another appearance on the mix version (not on the vinyl 👍).

7. Bobby Gillespie & Jehnny Beth – Utopian Ashes. I buy all Primal Scream releases, so this was a given. It’s a breakup album and all the stages associated with that. An album I played a lot over the summer months. Includes the wonderful Remember We Were Lovers.

6. A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Invisible Cities. I’m listening to this as I write. While it might not scale the heights of Atomos (we may never hear the likes again) it is nevertheless a great standalone album. It was the score to a multimedia production which I remember reading about at the time. I was delighted when it got a full release of its own.

5. Max Richter – Voices 2. This might have been leftovers from the Voices project but it is equally as good an album. If anything, it is a more relaxed experience, less epic in parts and importantly for me, voiceless. I read Max Richter said it provides room to breathe, it does.

4. Sasha Luzoscura. It has been great watching this project develop. Sasha curated a Spotify playlist during lockdown. There were 4 x 2 hour mixes on OpenLab radio. 2 shows at the Alexandra Palace once lockdown eased and this album in May. A beautiful ambient and breakbeat DJ mix at the time the world was opening up again.

3. Jon Hopkins – Music For Psychedelic Therapy. I don’t own this album yet as the vinyl doesn’t come out until Feb ’22 (pre-ordered natch). Probably the album I’ve listen to more than any other this year. Impressive given it only got a release in October. The album I always hoped Jon Hopkins would make. He does ambient very well indeed.

2. Cheval Sombre – Days go By. The 2nd of his 2 full album releases in 2021 arriving late May. I’ve listened to this a lot over the summer months. Very much in the same vain as….

1. Cheval Sombre – Time Waits For No One. Sounding more Sonic Boom than Sonic Boom. A friend bought me this thinking I’d like it. He was right. I ended up getting Days Go By as well. My favourite musical discovery in 2021 and also my favourite album. Sorry it took so long to get onboard.

Notable mentions go to Hotel Neon, Warmth, The Specials, The Coral, Mogwai, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Admiral Fallow, Blank Gloss and Sonic Boom for his remix album ‘Almost Nothing Is Never Enough’. Incidentally, the only gig I went to in 2021.

Until next year.

Jaykits 16

16 years of these, 16 years of ‘ambient’ music. I still get a lot of enjoyment from putting the annual mix together. This year it was more difficult to do as I didn’t listen to nearly as much music of that genre. Albums by Bobby Gillespie, The Coral and Luzoscura by Sasha were staples over the summer. Saying that, there was still great ambient albums peppered throughout the year. From Hotel Neon and Warmth right at the start of the year to the pair of Cheval Sombre albums in the Spring/Summer ending with Jonsi, Jon Hopkins and the immense @0 compilation on the Nina Tune label in November, it was still a year for stellar releases.

I hope you like volume 16. I was unsure what it would be like when I first started gathering tunes, but i’m really please how it turned out. Happy listening.

Jaykits vol. 16

1.     ‘Love Theme From Jesmond Dene’ – SL Walkinshaw
2.     ‘Time’- Michael E
3.     ‘Cirrus’ – Warmth
4.     ‘Towards a Distant Shore’ – Hotel Neon
5.     ‘The Mind Scans and Maps the World Behind’ – Tilman Robinson
6.     ‘Virga’ – Blank Gloss
7.     ‘The Celestial City’- A Winged Victory for the Sullen
8.     ‘Floodgate’ – Ryan Teague
9.     ‘Dreamsong’ – Cheval Sombre
10.  ‘Because This Must Be’ – Nils Frahm
11.  ‘He Was My Gang’ – Cheval Sombre feat. Sonic Boom
12.  ‘Elevated Pastures’ – Chinyami
13.  ‘Cryonics (Part 7)’ – Motionfield
14.  ‘Follower’ – Max Richter
15.  ‘Breaking the Horizon (Eluvium Broken Mix)’ – Michael Price
16.  ‘Hedione’ – Jonsi
17.  ‘Yin-Yang’ – Felsmann + Tiley
18.  ‘Remember We Were Lovers’ – Bobby Gillespie & Jehnny Beth
19.  ‘Pink Soldiers’ – Theme from Squid Game

The Wonder Years 5

Spring is in the air and we’ve been organising stuff, loads of stuff. Thankfully, this has involved my music collection. Mrs W has graciously let me get all my CDs out of boxes and they are now displayed in 2 massive units.

Also, ALL my house 12s are now out on show and accessible. No more guessing which box a tune is in. No more emptying a cupboard to find an elusive bit of vinyl I thought I had. It’s like Christmas, the one we never had last year.

Being as I am, I decided to organise the vinyl by record label. I have a ridiculous amount of 12s on Hooj Tunes, Fluid Recordings, Eve Records etc. Many of the tunes I hadn’t seen in years. I started pulling out some vinyl and then a mix was forming in my mind. Fast forward a week and here is the mix. Most of the tunes are still in good condition, so not too much crackling and no skipping. They cover 1994 to last year. I decided to use a record from Joris Voorn’s recent Global Underground mix. I don’t hear much house these days but the Willaris K track is outstanding. It was the tune they used to promote the mix before it came out. Apart from that, the mix is all olden but golden.

The tunes:

‘Want Me Need Me’ (FOS Full Dynamic Mix) – Justine (1994) Digweed used to play this during 1994. That point where he and Sasha were interchangeable in their music. I loved this time. I must check what ever became of the Fathers of Sound.

‘Atom Bomb’ (Doomsday Mix) – DJ Pierre (1997)
Atom bomb, outta control etc. Twisted put out loads of good dark, deep garage/house. The Doomsday mix has always been THE mix. A big Danny Tenaglia favourite. Incidentally, it’s his 60th birthday this week (March 2021). Mad to think.

Much Betta Man – Mindtrap (1998)
This is a Eddie Vedder vocal and a big drum roll. I heard Sasha play it at an Essential Selection thing on the radio one night. It was a difficult bit of vinyl to track down. I never heard it played out.

Carbine (Escape Remix) Tungsten (1999)
Been trying desperately to remember where I heard this tune. It might’ve been a Global Underground, NuBreed or Renaissance. I bought it irrespective and the Escape Remix is still outstanding. Dark and progressive.

Lacuna (Original Mix)Tocharian (2001)
Another one of these I can’t remember where i heard it. I do remember Hernan Cattaneo playing it at a night in Edinburgh I was at. Sounded great out of a big sound system. Also, dark and progressive.

Pure Frictions GrooveVoyager (1999)
This is some tune. Needs pitched down to -6 to be acceptable. This is from Northern Exposure 3 (Expeditions). It could only be a record Digweed played. A joy to mix with. Darker than the ocean floor.

Black AM (King Unique Dirty Dub) Watkins (2001)
Sharam’s After-hours Toronto mix for Global Underground was where I heard this. However, I heard this on a Dave Seaman mix as well. It’s the King Unique Dub but includes a vocal sample to break up the prog of the last few tunes. King Unique put out a lot of good records during that period.

The Whoop (Dr. Slinky McVelvets Anadin Prescription)The Self Preservation Society (1995)
The Rhumba Club, This remind me of that place, those nights. It reminds me of that period but still sounds great now. One of those tunes I’m glad I own.

4AM (Marc O’ Tool Mix)Ballroom (1999) Dave Seaman Melbourne GU mix. I think it’s quite a beautiful record for a house tune. I see it was used by Tiesto further down the line. Probably one of his downtempo numbers.

Cobaki Sky (Joris Voorn Edit) Willaris. K (2020) Taken from the Joris Voorn Global Underground Rotterdam mix at the end of last year. Beautiful, lush tune. I don’t own this on vinyl so there was jiggery pokery to get this thing on the mix.

Sufi (Original Mix)Mavi (2001) I heard this on Nick Warren’s Renaissance Revelation Mix. Both his and Danny Howells mixes were excellent and are still enjoyable now. Proper progressive record. One of these journey in a tune types. A nice way to end.

I think of all the money spent on these records but still prefer to have the memories they provide. I hope you enjoy the mix.

2020 Albums

Music took on an even more important part in my life during 2020. Often providing solace and always providing joy. I spent a lot of time and money on vinyl as well as time spent on my own mixes this year. It was all worth it.

I could’ve had a top 50 list but here’s my favourite albums of 2020. I’ve got 11 for some reason.

11. Michael Rother – Dreaming. This took me by surprise. I heard a track from the album courtesy of Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone. The ‘Krautrock’ legends first album in many years they said. Not a hint of krautrock about it. Lovely downbeat stuff.

10. Olafur Arnald – Some Kind of Peace. I didn’t like the lead tune ‘Woven Song’ but once in the context of the album it made more sense. This is a beautiful album and seems to have influences from many places.

9. FSOL – Cascade 2020. My first Record Store Day purchase this year. My favourite FSOL tune turned into a full album 20 odd years later. Cascade Part 1 permeates throughout.

8. Joris Voorn – GU43 Rotterdam. It’s been many a year since I spent a lot of time listening to a house mix. The last Global Underground left me cold (Patrice Baumel – pretty heavy duty stuff) but this is a masterpiece. 100+ tunes over the 2 CDs. It’s totally inspiring stuff and pushed me to put a mix together. Sadly, not quite to this standard.

7. Fontaines DC – A Hero’s Death. I loved Dogrel, but after listening to this, that album feels like them just getting started. I love this album. Musical, catchy and mature.

6. Nils Frahm – Empty. Glad this got a vinyl release later in the year. A surprise arrival early in the year with no fanfare. Lovely piano work. His ‘Tripping’ gig on Mubi is amazing. It shows just how hard he works in a live setting.

5. Sonic Boom – All Things Being Equal. Really pleased to have Sonic back making the stuff i’ve always loved. Listening to this, it was like he was never away.

4. Goldmund – The Time It Takes. Keith Kenniff never disappoints. This grew on me over a period of time and still gets better with every listen.

3. Ghostpoet – I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep. Lockdown will always be synonymous with this album. Lyrically clever and with loads of hooks.

2. Max Richter – Voices. Reminds me of the summer. As with all of Max Richters proper artist albums, it is full of emotion. I won’t lie, I prefer the voiceless version but I have made a point of listening to the human rights version a few times as I did buy the vinyl.

1. Bruce Brubaker and Max Cooper – Glassforms. Loved it from when I first heard it and love it now. The piano work of Brubaker and the electronics of Max Cooper is a beautiful combination. I’m playing it again now as I write this. I can only hope they collaborate again.

Notable others include Doves The Universal Want, MotionfieldAlways There, Jonas Munk – Minimum Resistance, Sigur RosOdin’s Raven Magic and TineidaeExo.

Already pre-ordered for Jan/Feb 2021:

  • Tripping with Nils Frahm (Jan)
  • As The Love ContinuesMogwai (Feb)
  • Invisible CitiesA Winged Victory For The Sullen (Feb)

Looking back – The 1990s

Watching Top of the Pops 2 on BBC4 one Friday evening, I was delighted to find they’d finally moved onto the 90s. The show was a retrospective of 1990 and included TOTP performances from MC Tunes vs. 808 State and Orbital amongst others. Orbital’s performance of Chime included the plugs for their synths sitting unplugged in plain view. It mentions that Orbital never performed again on the show. It didn’t hinder them with their career.

The show got me thinking back to the 1990s. For me, a decade that was musically dominated by house music. Over the last few months I’ve also spent time listening to John Digweeds Bunker Sessions. He’s been playing some classics in his mixes. Tracks like Joe RobertsLove Is Energy (DOP Mixes) and Disco EvangelistsDe Niro. I dug out the Joe Roberts tune and found myself rummaging through the rest of my 90s tunes. I realised that some of these tunes I’d never used in a mix. So I made a mix. These are the tunes:

Schleichende Erkenntis – Sandmann. Sasha, Phoenix Festival 1997. First tune in a 4.5 hr set he did with John Digweed. I stayed for the duration, even as David Bowie was playing the main stage. This tune took a long time to track down, repeatedly referenced as ‘Unknown – Unknown’ or ‘ID’ in tracklists.

The Band (Original Mix) – Marco Zaffarano. Sasha, Twilo NYC 1997. All about the scales. Clearly I wasn’t at Twilo, I heard it on the wireless.

Heaven Knows (Galvatron Dub) – Angel Moraes. John Digweed, Essential Mix, Tall Trees 1995. ‘Deep Deep Down, all the way down’. A time and place.

In Front – Wan’ It? – NY Connection. Sasha, Essential Mix, Jan 1994 and Renaissance 2nd Birthday Party March 1994. All these years later, I’m still delighted to have this on 10″. It has stood the test of time well.

The Teazer – Solitaire Gee. Sasha, Rhumba Club June 1994. The only place I ever heard this getting played. As breaks and drum rolls go, this is epic. Can I have the rhythm?

Heart of Imagination – Sasha. Sasha, everywhere during 1995. This is a double A-Side with the more commercial Be As One. It builds to a massive piano breakdown.

Change (Brothers In Rhythm Mix) – Daphne. John Digweed throughout a lot of 1995. Typical Brothers In Rhythm vocal sound of that time. It makes me smile when I hear it now.

Run (Z2 Mix) – Ecano. I never heard this getting played out. To be fair, it was 1999 and I wasn’t going to clubs much at this point. Along with Size 9 (Josh Wink) – I’m Ready, one of the longest breaks I’ve heard. The drumroll goes on and on….

I thoroughly enjoyed putting this together. I apologise in advance for the condition of a few of the records.

If you fancy a listen:

15.1

I was going to do a blog about all the good music I heard during Q3 2020. However, given the weather went south once October started, I thought a mix would better showcase the tunes.

I spent time out on the bike as always but also enjoyed taking in the fabulous sunsets September often brings. Although, I’ll miss the summer, the sunsets are too late for an early to bed merchant like myself.

Up the hill.

The spot of choice is a hill south west of home and provides an uninterrupted view over the mountains to the west. During September the sun sets between the mountains. I’ve yet to encounter another person at the spot I go to. Happy with that.

Sunset from Mailer Hill, Perth.

The baw sometimes comes with.

This mix reflects time spent watching the sun go down during September. Good times.

  1. ‘Sonar’ – Nils Frahm
  2. ‘QP-06.33’ – Quiet Places
  3. ‘Atlantis’ – Forrest Fang
  4. ‘Recumbent Speech’ – Ezra Feinberg
  5. ‘Yet Another Reason To Be Still’ – Endless Melancholy
  6. ‘In Search Of Sleep’ – Aiden Baker
  7. ‘Aguas Frescas’ – LNZNDRF
  8. ‘Exit’ – Auscultation
  9. ‘Chorale Parts 1-4’ (Voiceless Mix)’ – Max Richter
  10. ‘That’s How You Get Hurt’ – Courtney Marie Andrews

Jaykits Vol. 15

It’s the time of the year that my annual ambient mix (The ‘Jaykits’ Series) gets put together. I’ve no idea why I do this in August/September when the end of year would make more sense. Maybe next year I’ll rectify this.

As always, I’ve loved putting this together. A majority of this was formed of the lockdown walks, often in the evening sun. The field recordings were either recorded in my garden or out in the woodlands of Perth (as was the cover photo). The early days of lockdown meant the bird song was just that bit more prominent and easy to capture. Reverb has been added to the field recordings and used throughout the mix.

In terms of the music, selecting the tunes was easy. The first track chosen was the The Slow Descent Has Begun by A Winged Victory for the Sullen from The Undivided Five. The album came out at the start of November 2019 by which time Jaykits Vol. 14 was done. After that the tunes on the mix are presented in some sort of chronological order. Motionfield, Jonas Munk and Federico Mosconi were early year favourites. The rest has been released since the world changed. That is except for the Virginia Astley track. The title track From Gardens Where We Feel Secure is included. I will forever associate that time with her album. A classic from the early 80s that I was lucky enough to discover this year. The mix finishes with Bella Ciao (Version Lenta) from Money Heist. We discovered that show during lockdown. It will long live in the memory.

I very much hope you enjoy.

Jaykits Vol. 15 – 1hr 11mins

Intro – Blackbird field recordings May/June 2020

1. CoastsLoscil

2. Always There Part 9Motionfield

3. Eastern HorizonsJonas Munk

4. Il Tempo Della Nostra EstateFederico Mosconi

5. From Gardens Where We Feel Secure – Virginia Astley

6. All Human Beings Part 3 – Max Richter

7. Blacklight TrailTineidae

8. Fleeting PremonitionASC & Sam KDC

9. Abyss Forms (i) Eluvium

10. The Slow Descent Has Begun – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

11. Visit Me Mogwai

12. Mad Rush Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper c/w Blackbird field recordings

13. For Now I Am Winter (Nils Frahm Rework) Ólafur Arnalds

14. No Sleep No Dream’- Gia Margaret

15. Bella Ciao (Versión Lenta de la Música Original de la Serie la Casa de Papel / Money Heist) – Manu Pila

2020 April-July: Hello Old Friends

As lockdown continued, time spent listening to music on the daily walk became even more important. I discovered some old albums (Virginia Astley – ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure’), uncovered some new (ExoTineidae,  more to follow…) but most of all listened to new releases from some familiar names. Three albums in particular will remind me of this period:

GlassformsBruce Brubaker & Max Cooper 

VoicesMax Richter

All Things Being EqualSonic Boom

I’ve talked about the monumental Glassforms before so I won’t bore again. It’s all here →  Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper – ‘Glassforms’

Voices by Max Richter (of ‘Sleep‘ fame amongst many others), had been much hyped if you follow his work. The album is themed around the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Beautiful passages of music emerge out of short readings from the declaration. All Human Beings (the lead single) is peppered throughout, sometimes ushered in by an ‘Everyone has the right….’ spoken word extract. It’s Max Richter, so it’s layered with strings and piano, just the way i like it.

There’s a download with the vinyl where you not only get the original but also a ‘voiceless’ version. That version has been soundtracking my sleep for a few weeks now. It’s gorgeous, can’t recommend it enough.

Around my birthday Sonic Boom (aka Pete Kember Spectrum/EAR and former Spacemen 3 founder) released All Things Being Equal. The first proper Spectrum/solo album since Forever Alien back in 1997. I’d continued to buy his work through the Experimental Audio Research (EAR) phase. Some work was blissful ie. Mesmerised and even Phenomona 256. It all went a bit dark from The Koner Experiment through Millennium Music, Data Rape and Live at the Dream Palace. He was making music with oscillators and, if i remember right, Speak & Spell machines. By the time he released Pestrepeller (my last EAR purchase) I was pretty much done collecting his music as the albums were becoming an increasingly challenging listen (Try Continuum, the album after Pestrepeller, it’s darker than the ocean floor). I saw him in East Kilbride of all places doing a gig with the oscillator front and centre. You had to be a diehard.

IMG_1201

He’d drifted a bit from memory over the intervening years until this release. He did release the War Sucks EP many years back which still displayed the early Sonic Boom/Spectrum sound, the sound I loved. So, All Things Being Equal was a bit out of the blue. It has all the hallmarks of a Sonic Boom album. It reminded me a lot of the Soul Kiss (Glide Devine) and High, Lows & Heavenly Blows era, as well as Recurring, the final Spacemen 3 album. He’s touring in March 2021, playing Stereo in Glasgow. Hopefully, gigs will be a thing again by then. I never realised Sonics music was missing from my life until I heard this album. Welcome back, I hope there’s plenty more to come.

Lockdown has eased, perhaps prematurely, but i’ll still be out with the headphones, far from the crowds gathering tunes for Jaykits Vol. 15. It’s shaping up nicely.

Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper – ‘Glassforms’

In really simplistic terms, this is pianist Bruce Brubaker beautifully interpreting the music of Philip Glass with Max Cooper providing the electronics and atmospherics. However, there is nothing simplistic about this phenomenal album. What Bruce Brubaker provides is the core of the album, its heart. What Max Cooper brings is the atmosphere and the monster cinematic moments. These two worlds collide perfectly.

It’s based on music by Philip Glass, but it is a ‘re-invigoration, re- contextualisation, post-modernisation,’ explains Brubaker. ‘It’s not a re- mix, it’s a new set of clothes!’. The technical element Max Cooper brings is beyond me. Apparently, he has developed his own tool/system/software with Alexander Randon which takes live feeds from the piano and transforms them into new forms. I don’t understand it, but I don’t need to. The joy is for the listener.

The main pieces are linked by various Preludes (1-5). If Philip Glass is your thing then you’ll be aware of the music interpreted, in their ‘standard’ format. There are 2 stand out moments on the album. The meandering Two Pages and the 13 minute epic Mad Rush. When Mad Rush releases, it is one of those moments that’s makes you stop and listen and wait for the hairs on the back of your neck to settle down. That has happened on each of the dozen or so listens I’ve given this album. Metamorphosis 2 is subtly enhanced, but never to the detriment of the original. Less is more, but the impact is huge.

If there is a better album in 2020 I look forward to hearing it.

I’ve pre-ordered the vinyl for it’s release on July 3rd. Incidentally, our wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to me.

 

Listen on Spotify:

Virginia Astley – ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure’

Thank you Gideon Coe. During mental health awareness week, Gideon Coe played Virginia Astley – ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure‘ (1983) in its entirety on his 6 Music ambient themed show. No interludes, no bantz, just as it was intended. If, like me, this album is new to you and you want a reference point, think The KLF ‘Chill Out’.

From Gardens is as British and summery as an album can get. It is split into 2 ‘movements’, Morning and Afternoon. It’s full of fabulous field recordings of church bells, sheep and owls to name a few. The field recordings act as transitions to the next flute or keyboard led tune. They continue on as loops in the background as the next piece starts. The whole thing forms as whimsicle masterpiece.

Many melodies sound familiar and create a feeling of nostalgia in this listener. I was humming the tunes as the album played out on 6 Music despite never having heard it. Immediate albums often loose interest fairly quickly. However, this is still going strong and I’ve no doubt will continue to.

I’ve played this a few times out on my lockdown walks in my local woodlands. It’s perfect for that. One of the benefits of lockdown is noticing nature more (when my headphones are not in). It’s inspired me to record more summer sounds. I’m currently collecting the many sounds of the blackbird for my end of year mix. Recorded from my garden where I’ve felt secure for the last few months.

If you want to purchase this you’ll have to shell out, as the CD is about £40. The vinyl seems mythical. It was reissued a few years later with the ‘Melt the Snow’ instrumentals. They’re enjoyable but they don’t enhance the core of the album. It’s not on Spotify, but thankfully YouTube has it hosted. Enjoy this.