Polypores / Free/Slope / Cosmic Ground

There can’t be many more uniquely productive kitchen-run label operations in London than Polytechnic Youth and Deep Distance right now, as highlighted on these pages with an almost embarrassing frequency.  With a snowballing of adroitly-attuned A&R activity of late, vinyl pressing plants are just about coping with the prolific pace dictated by Dom Martin’s sibling imprints.  Such speed does though require the obsessive surveillance techniques of a devout collector and a fully primed PayPal account to keep-up with both outlets’ activities.  Moreover, for critics trying to document such a relentless output necessitates the occasional bundled round-up… like this one.

Polypores – Timeholes 2

Having been released in a run of just 100 physical copies in insert-stuffed private-press-style sleeves – which sold out within a half an hour of going on sale – it might reek a little of record geek elitism to be telling you about Polypores’ Timeholes 2 (on Polytechnic Youth) at all.  Yet given its ongoing digital existence on Bandcamp, it still feels ripe for analysis.  Following on from 2016’s debut physical release – The Fialka Transmissions on Polytechnic Youth – Stephen James Buckley’s one-man electro-noire explorations take a murkier route on his second vinyl outing under his Polypores guise.  Dropping the beats-driven propulsion of last year’s aforementioned LP, whilst retaining some of its dystopian undertow, Timeholes 2 is an immersive nine-track suite of wordless cinematic soundscapes built with smudged-together synths, various vintage gadgets, rudimentary sampling and – literally – worn-out tape.  In crude cross-referencing terms, its alphabetised “Timehole A” to “Timehole I” essays feel like low-key outtakes from the ‘80s sci-fi film scores of James Cameron and John Carpenter mixed with dashes of early-4AD ethereality and Ambient-era Eno layering.  Although initially less arresting than The Fialka Transmissions, over repeated spins Timeholes 2 actually reveals itself as a much more rewarding record, full of hidden details which expertly balance mood-conjuring creepiness with elegiac calmness.

 

Free/Slope – Daydream Melodies

Contrastingly, Daydream Melodies, the inaugural LP from Free/Slope (a Deep Distance co-release with Greece’s Sound Effects Records), is a far more luminous and uplifting affair, though still not short of its own sonic mysteries.  As the first official appearance from the solo project of Daniel Fridlund Brandt (Animal Daydream/My Brother The Wind) from Gothenburg, Sweden, this aptly-named album drifts into the more exotic yet most tuneful realms of Deep Distance’s broad kosmische and psych landscapes.  Almost entirely self-played (with Brandt on bass, guitars, synths, organs and drum machines) aside from guest sax from Patrik Roos and a brief disembodied vocal insert from Robert Mehtälä, Daydream Melodies amalgamates a wide range of influences into a cohesive whole.  Soaking-up splashes of Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis, the amniotic ambience of Ashra’s New Age Of Earth, buckets of less fashionable late-‘70s Can and early-‘80s Tangerine Dream and the bottled-up sonic bliss of Spiritualized’s Lazer Guided Melodies, the LP flows along with a purposeful yet liquescent balminess.  Whilst it’s perhaps a music hack’s cliché to suggest that Daydream Melodies unspools as if conceived as one sublime continuous undulating piece, it’s hard not to recognise that its ten gathered tracks interlock with an uncanny and impressive intuition that suggests this is a promising ongoing concern to keep a close ear on.

 

Last-up but no by means an afterthought, is the first of two summertime mini-albums from Germany’s Cosmic Ground (also on Deep Distance).  Birthed from yet another lone-male set-up, The Watcher packages-together two side-long pieces from Dirk Jan Müller.  Featuring two off-cuts from 2016’s Roman numeral anointed III LP, this release makes for a choice between-album-fix for existing converts and a more digestible taster for curious newcomers to this scholar of the influential Berlin School of electronic journeying.  The epic 18-minute title-track on side one is a remarkably epic hypnotic affair; rising from ghost-in-the-machine burbling through a long sprawl of plucking retro-futuristic robo-rhythms before fading out through bird noise-like twittering and mournful dronescaping.  The slightly shorter flipside is the equally essential “Vaporized Artifacts”, which although constructed with the same analogue synth-led building blocks goes for deeper, more driving and darker latticed grooves, with subterranean bass-line sounds underpinning the enveloping bustle of top-end pulsations.  For those of us not paying enough attention previously to Cosmic Ground, picking this up is a good way to start paying amends.