Switched On – Two Synths, A Guitar (And) A Drum Machine (Soul Jazz Records)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Soul Jazz describe their new compilation as ‘a new collection of current D-I-Y post-punk bands shaped by the mutant sounds of no wave, punk funk and New York Noise bands from the late 70s and early 80s that collided with the world of underground dance music found at the Paradise Garage, Mudd Club in New York City’.

This also incorporates influences from the UK – Manchester and Sheffield along with a bit of London – and makes for an open musical policy leading to a wide range of beats and rhythms.

What’s the music like?

Invigorating. The collection has such a wide range but is impeccably laid out, so that a noise-heavy track like Toresch’s Tocar can be followed by the cool keyboards of Becker & Mukai’s La Rivière des Perles.

Soul Jazz have cast the net far and wide to come up with a selection of 15 tracks from around the globe, so while New York and the UK hold the key for source material, the ear can track just how far those influences have travelled.

It’s great to see an appearance for Zongamin, whose elastic Underwater Paramid is a more recent track from the long running band. It comes after one of the best vocals on the collection, the distinctive call to arms from LA band Automatic giving Too Much Money pride of place at the front of the compilation. Not all the vocals are as endearing as theirs – Ixna’s Somebody Said will be too shrill for some tastes!

Elsewhere Gramme hit the centre of the dancefloor with a great bass line on Discolovers – excellent vocal too – while New FriesLily and Charles Manier’s Sift Through Art Collecting People are propulsive propulsive groovers. Meanwhile Niagara explore dubbier territory with Ida, as does Black Deer’s Baseball Shorts, taking in even wider perspectives. Wino D expands the mind still further with the final Untitled, drifting away in a spacey cloud of atmospherics at the end.

Does it all work?

It does. Soul Jazz know more than most record labels how to make a good compilation, and the abundance of notes that goes with the music is the icing on the cake. For that reason – not to mention the eyecatching artwork – a physical purchase is the way to go.

Is it recommended?

Yes, enthusiastically. If your shelves already groan under the weight of Soul Jazz releases then you are advised to add a few hundred grams more to the mix. An excellent set of tunes that will introduce you to some new names.

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You can hear clips from the compilation and purchase from the Soul Jazz shop, Sounds Of The Universe

Switched On – Deutsche Elektronische Musik 4 (Soul Jazz Records)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Deutsche Elektronische Musik has proved to be an enterprising series from Soul Jazz Records, with its packaging proving to be every bit as colourful and quirky as the music it presents. While the mention of Krautrock will make readers think of bands such as Can, Neu! and Popol Vuh, the crate diggers at Soul Jazz present some of the lesser names alongside these luminaries.

It proved an effective formula on the first three volumes, each offering a double album’s-worth of treats, and the fourth looks set to offer similar rewards.

What’s the music like?

A great deal of fun. One of the great things about this set of tracks is the feeling that the rules have been pushed to one side. Anything goes, and as a result the variety of grooves, colours, riffs and moods range far and wide.

To offer a few highlights, Agitation Free offer a lovely bit of pastoral cheerfulness with Laila, Pt. II, a mood which could also be levelled at Between’s Triumphzug Kaiser Maximilian I. Can’s I’m So Green is typically excellent, with a shuffling groove, while Michael Rother’s Flammende Herzen expands really nicely from a dreamy interlude to a more driven groove.

My Strand-Eyed Girl from Virus is very Doorsy, with that late 1960s psychedelia feel, and E.Mak impress with their more modern sounding Tanz In Den Himmel, and its hazy block chords. On the stranger side of the fence sit the German psychedelic band Kalacakra, with a long, drone-led ritual of goblin like voices. Meanwhile Roedelius offers a nice, woozy instrumental in the beatless Halmharfe – the lack of beats immediately compensated by Dzyan’s descriptive drum workout Dragonsong.

Finally Günter Schickert applies a really excellent beat and guitar panning for Suleika, a track which has already found favour with the likes of Richard Fearless, then Witthüser & Westrupp apply some dreamy meandering for Schöpfung (1. Mose 1), before it grows into a more athletic wig-out.

Does it all work?

Not all of it will be according to taste, but that is part of the appeal with this series – Soul Jazz include so many different free standing styles that it would be almost impossible to like them all. This instalment is noticeably more relaxed in its grooves than the last, but the musical positivity is still ever-present.

Is it recommended?

Wholeheartedly. If like me you already owned the first three volumes of this excellent series, there is no need to hesitate about the possibility of adding a fourth. It is another history lesson cum late night party soundtrack.

Stream

Buy

You can hear clips from the compilation and purchase from the Soul Jazz shop, Sounds Of The Universe