Walk Away – Degrees of Freedom

Walk Away was released in 2019, but feels a lot more 1999. Degrees of Freedom are a Bristol-based duo, comprised of Kyo on the vocals and production by Break. They bring a deliciously old-skool flavour to their releases which span dub and reggae, and are definitely worth checking out. Walk Away is a bit of an outlier stylistically, but a real nice track.

Bonus track: I came across Degrees of Freedom on Leon Vynehall’s DJ-Kicks compilation. The man is a master crate-digger – August is an Angel was the fruit of that particular labour

U Already Know – DJ Seinfeld

DJ Seinfeld has announced his second full length album Mirrors will be released on Ninja Tune in September. The first single, U Already Know is out now and hints at a bit of a shift in style.

Whistful female vocals are still in, but his signature dusty style is out, in favour of punchier electro elements. If this is any indication of what the rest of the album will sound like, I’m very much there for it!

My thoughts on his debut album Time Spent Away From U here.

Party Line Vol.1 – Chat Desmond

Today I’ve got an almost unreasonably deep EP from Canadian newcomer Chat Desmond.

If you only listen to one track, make it Gotta Light. In one sense, it is a mournful duet told in three parts; the male vocal takes us to four minutes in, before Gladys’ Knight’s familiar laments takes its place (the sample of DJ Koze’s Pick Up fame). Finally the two vocals greet each other in a touching finale. It is a really creative take on two samples that have probably been never been anywhere near each other before. But for all that beauty, it has another side – Gotta Light is basically a bit of a banger. The vocals are underpinned by this addictive acid-tinged bass line. Progression after progression leaves you on the tip and wanting more. Tune.

A couple more tracks to mention. The opening number Hiding From Love is another nice deep number. And as an added bonus you get a crash course in Year 1 of Philosophy undergrad.

Another to check out is Pinch Me, which is now the cause of me mentioning Beyoncé for the first time on this blog. Chat Desmond gives her Sweet Dreams the Cyril Hahn / Destiny’s Child treatment; a delightfully twisted, dark reimagining of the track.

All in all, looking forward to a Vol. 2.

As ever, a big shout out to Ben Gomori and his Turned On podcast for the tip.

Rare, Forever – Leon Vynehall

I’m not going to not post Leon’s 4th album am I?

It is… interesting. Moody, ominous soundscapes that set out to disorientate are the order of the day. Rare, Forever is more reminiscent of Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders’ sprawling Promises than it is of say, his debut album Music for the Uninvited, or the follow-up Rojus. But where Promises is reminiscent of a daydream, in Rare, Forever we meet the nightmare. A rare bright spot is An Exhale, which really does feel like a relief after the intensity of Worm (& Closer & Closer). None of this is to say that the release isn’t engrossing, but if you are coming to Leon to feel uplifted after a tough Winter then look elsewhere.

You can read more of my thoughts on Snakeskin ∞ Has-Been here, or his previous album Nothing Is Still here.

Bonus track: An Exhale reminds me of this number by Kenton Slash Demon. Enjoy

Tin King – Ultraista

You know when a song comes onto your shuffle and you realise how much you need it?

Tin King is the work of electro-pop three-piece Ultraista (one of whom is Nigel Godrich, long-time Radiohead producer).

It has a feverish energy. No chorus/verse structure. Instead they go for continuous drumming, walls of sound and stream of consciousness lyrics depicting a disorientating high speed city life. It’s as bold as it is pretty.

Promises – Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra

If you are any kind of music fan, this has to be the sort of artist combination that will pique your interest. Floating Points is respected as one of the most talented and original electronic music producers out there. Add in Pharoah Sanders, an all-time legend from the world of jazz, with experience that stretches back to the sixties. Top it off with The London Symphony Orchestra. Et voila.

So, does Promises live up to the big-name billing? Yes, probably in ways you wouldn’t imagine. Think of the album as your companion on a spiritual journey, or a meditative splurge. Either way, let it surround you. Let the atmospheric synths, and the mastery and artistry of the players cast a spell.

It took five years to create and you can see why. It is the kind of album that does not come around very often.

Bonus track: this Tape Notes podcast episode is a deep dive into Floating Points aka Sam Shepherd’s production process for his last album Crush. I found his process pretty mind-blowing – I didn’t realise the extent to which an electronic music producer’s craft can be in the actual creation of instruments. He goes into detail on how he has built and tweaked his setup. A lot of it will go will probably go over your head (as it did mine), but the dedication is plain to see.

Love Or (I Heard You Like Heartbreak) – Prequel

Prequel’s debut album sits somewhere between Laurence Guy, Leon Vynehall and Romare. Not a bad place to sit.

As you would expect from a long-time Rhythm Section producer, the style is heavily influenced by jazz, and draws from a number of ‘world’ influences – he is described as having a ‘keen crate-digger’s ear’. Love Or (I Heard You Like Heartbreak) is a really engaging listen, and the execution is classy as hell. Enjoy.