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Womanly virtues: Lambchop

similar style before changing direction some way into the recording process. NIGEL WILLIAMSON

DOMINIQUE LAWALRÉE First Meeting

CATCH WAVE LTD/ERGOT

9/10 Melancholic minimalism from Brussels outpost Belgian composer Dominique Lawalrée has slipped under the radar for decades now, though his music is of a piece with much minimalist and systems practices of its time – he started recording and composing in the 1970s, self-releasing his albums on Editions Walrus. He counted among his fans Gavin Bryars, Carla Bley and Brian Eno, who apparently considered Lawalrée for inclusion in his Obscure Records series of experimental and modern classical music. Part of the charm of Lawalrée’s work, and perhaps why he never broke through into broader consciousness, was the obliquely personal nature of his albums, which sometimes felt like improvised sound diaries, or like incremental explorations of deeply individualistic themes – there’s a hermeticism to much of Lawalrée’s work that’s incredibly engaging, but requires some patience to break into. That said, the longer pieces on First

Meeting, such as “Le Secret Blanc” and “Le Maison De 5 Elements”, share a gentle splendour with peers such as Bryars, Michael Nyman and Harold Budd, also gesturing toward the material released on another Belgian outpost, Les Disques Du Crépuscule, or artists like Deux Filles and The Durutti Column. A beautiful rediscovery. Extras: 8/10. Excellent liner notes from Catch Wave owner Britton Powell. JON DALE

THE OTHER PEOPLE PLACE

Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café (reissue, 2001) WARP

8/10 Welcome repress of a tender techno classic Reissued by popular demand after vinyl copies began changing hands for upwards of £100, this is not an album that should be judged by its cover or its title, both of which evoke the kind of insipid electronic easy-listening that was rife at the turn of the millennium. In fact, Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café is the work of James Stinson, one half of revered Detroit electro duo Drexciya. But that doesn’t tell the full story either. Whereas Drexciya were stern and mysterious, hiding their

identities behind a dense Afrofuturist mythology, Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café is a deeply personal album, full of sensuality, heartache and yearning. It deploys Drexciya’s minimalist analogue toolkit to very different ends: brisk, scuttling rhythms present a stoical front, but the synth melodies ooze warmth and melancholy. Stinson even ventures the occasional vocal – although his voice is rich and deep, it’s also hesitant and wounded. “Let Me Be Me” is classic ‘tears on the dancefloor’ stuff, powerful enough that it’s still regularly used by DJs as an emotional set-closer today. Tragically, Stinson died of heart complications in 2002, just as his career seemed to be entering a productive new phase. This album stands as his crowning achievement. Extras: None. SAM RICHARDS

RADIO STARS

Thinking Inside The Box ANAGRAM

8/10 Complete output of new-wave powerpoppers Formed by former members of Jet, John’s Children and Sparks, Radio Stars came together in the wake of punk and got swept up in the net of new wave despite playing little more than speeded-up glam rock. This box is a pretty definitive excavation of their archive, featuring the band’s two studio albums, Songs For Swinging Lovers and Holiday Album, released on Chiswick in 1977 and 1978, respectively. There’s also a disc of singles and outtakes (including a song from 2016), and another of Peel Sessions and a BBC concert. There’s lots to enjoy here. On both LPs, the band demonstrate a sharp sense of melody tied to a very mid-’70s sense of mischief (songs about dead Elvis, foreign food and boredom), but while the debut is tied to a powerpop format, the follow-up is a little more ambitious, including a spoken-word contribution from Graham Chapman, a Beatles cover (“Norwegian Wood”) and a song about depression (“I’m Down”).

REVELATIONS DOMINIQUE LAWALRÉE Writer of sacred music: “I did truly make the experience of meeting God personally”

W

ORKING from a quiet enclave in Brussels, composer Dominique Lawalrée released 10 albums between 1975 and 1985 that traced out a personal take on minimalism and the ‘musique d’ameublement’ of Erik Satie. “I was trained as a classical musician and I’ve always been interested in avant-garde composers,” Lawalrée recalls, “I was very influenced by them.” Brussels offered other artistic

fields to work alongside: “I also had close relations with painters and writers,” he continues. “At the end of the ’70s, there was in Brussels a creative scene and a bright opening from press and listeners.” Lawalrée helped foster this community with the release, on his Editions Walrus imprint, of a double LP featuring music by himself, Robert Fesler, Eric De Visscher and sound artist Baudouin Oosterlynck, whose recent 1975-1978 box on

Metaphon is an unheralded outsider gem. Everything changed for Lawalrée, though, with a 1994 pilgrimage to Medjugorje, “a small village in Bosnia-Herzegovina”, where many claim to have seen visions of Mary. “I did truly make the experience of meeting God personally,” he marvels, “and I’ve been, step by step, led to write sacred music. Now what I was composing had a precise goal: a function in the liturgy.” JON DALE

Highlights from Disc Three include the wonderful singles “Dirty Pictures”, “No Russians In Russia” and “Johnny Mekon”, plus assorted follow-ups, while the Peel Sessions and radio concert bring out a good sense of the band’s live toughness. Extras: 7/10. Singles, live tracks and Peel Sessions. PETER WATTS

STEVE ROACH

Empetus: Deluxe Edition PROJEKT

8/10 American progressive synth classic exhumed for its 30th birthday A vast physical and cultural distance separates built-up Berlin from the cactus-strewn Californian desert, but as German musicians like Edgar Froese and Klaus Schulze refined their cascading synth experiments throughout the ’70s, a young head from La Mesa was listening with intent. A motorcross rider in his youth, Steve Roach soon turned his attention to a different kind of machine – the synthesiser. Roach’s early stock-intrade was a cascading, rhythmic synth music that drew lines between the Berlin School and the nascent US new-age sound, and he seldom did it better than he does on Empetus. Opener “Arrival” sets the tone, a dense mosaic of melody that simultaneously evokes jet-engine motion and a calm serenity. “Conquest” is comparatively rugged, adding piston-like percussion and an urgent melody that suggests the pursuit or peril of an ’80s action flick, while “Twilight Heat” explores the sort of lush fourth-world textures that Tangerine Dream perfected on Hyperborea. However complex his layering, Roach has a sure melodic hand, one that modern synth revivalists would do well to study. Extras: 7/10. Digital download of two bonus tracks that prove Roach can also do abstract: take the 46-minute “Harmonia Mundi”, a majestic tranceout as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon. LOUIS PATTISON

Lawalrée: a precise goal in mind

Uncut may 2017  
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