This week: negative space, outright euphoria and 88 precision-tuned tambura

By in Features





Essential weekend listening.

This week’s rundown is by VF’s Kelly Doherty and Becky Rogers, alongside contributors Annabelle Van Dort, Emily Hill and James Hammond.

Yussef Dayes

Black Classical Music



Yussef Dayes has carved such a respected niche for himself over the last few years that it almost comes as a surprise that he’s only now releasing his debut album. Black Classical Music sees the VF alumnus build upon his work so far and push against the boundaries of his neo-jazz category. Made up of 19 tracks of spotlessly produced, live-feel genre-crossing, Black Classical Music largely builds around Dayes’ ever-excellent drumming whilst pulling in forward-thinking funk grooves, gentle R&B-leaning textures and welcome guest vocals from the likes of Jamilah Barry and Masego. A wide-reaching and impressive debut.–KD

Alabaster Deplume

Come With Fierce Grace

(International Anthem Recording Co)


Mancunian saxophonist-poet Alabaster DePlume returns with his third offering on Chicago’s International Anthem and it’s an improvisionary, avant-garde suite guided by the spirit of exploratory collaboration. Come With Fierce Grace brings together many of the leading lights of the UK experimental music scene, featuring appearances from drummer Sarathy Korawar, Sons of Kemet co-founder Tom Skinner and Margate-based Guinean musician Falle Nioke, whose dulcet tones shine on the West African-influenced opener “Sibomandi”. A companion to 2022’s Grace, DePlume’s compositions are imbued with gentleness, overflowing with compassion and earthiness, transmitting an ethos of togetherness and light.

Minor Science

Absent Friends Vol. III



Berlin-based DJ and producer Minor Science has donned labels such as Taskers AD 93, London’s very own The Trilogy Tapes and now joins the ranks of the Barcelona-based Balmat. Building on his Absent Friends series which has taken various different forms over the years from sprawling mixes and beyond. The music for volume three is modern classical–a series of tracks recreated from live performances. With a hauntingly powerful use of negative space and contrasting use of electrical instruments, it moves between the sonic tones of stripped-back piano chords.–EH

Catherine Crister Hennix

Solo for Tamburium

(Blank Forms Editions)


Blank Forms’ fourth release in their ongoing survey of Catherine Christer Hennix’s expansive archive unveils an absolute stunner in Solo for Tamburium. As Hennix’s most recent major work, this LP finds the Swedish polymath working with an instrument of her own creation that controls a suite of 88 precision-tuned tambura. With the strings of tambura controlled in this manner, the essence of the instrument is certainly present but augmented and tuned through Christer Hennix’s lens. It appears as an effervescent entity in a collision of overtones that work around a central idea of “divine equilibrium”. Essential listening from a luminary composer.–JH

James Blake

Playing Robots Into Heaven



James Blake returns to his roots on Playing Robots Into Heaven. Following years of pop experimentation and collaborations with some of hip hop and R&B’s biggest names, Blake dips back into the raw club energy of his early EPs on this sixth LP. Led by the storming “Big Hammer” (doing exactly what it says on the tin), Blake unleashes a wobbly, challenging and highly danceable collection that breathes life into the primarily dormant post-dubstep sound. The trademark Blake balladry is still present but, distributed between capricious electronic structures, they serve as earned breathers. A return to not assumed form.–KD


Mid Air



The xx’s Romy was inspired by the queer clubs that offer her community and connection for her debut solo album, Mid Air. Self-described as “emotional music to dance to”, Mid Air finds a sweet spot between house, trance and Euro-dance. The joyous use of Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s “La Vita” proclamation of “My mother says to me, ‘Enjoy your life!’” in “Mid Air” and “Enjoy Your Life” puts Mid Air’s outright euphoria to the forefront. It’s a late addition to The xx’s solo output, but a strong one at that.–BR


Private Recordings, August 1970

(Dark Entries)


With his crystalline falsetto and unapologetic queerness, Sylvester remains one of disco and soul’s most influential trailblazers. A commanding force of nature on Patrick Cowley’s camped-out synth productions, Sylvester is responsible for some of the boldest and most innovative dance music ever created. On this new release from Dark Entries, Private Recordings, August 1970, we hear Sylvester in a new light—stripped back, at his piano singing the jazz, blues and gospel of his youth. This gorgeously intimate collection contains Sylvester’s earliest known recordings, showcasing the raw, unbridled talent of this future icon.–AVD

Abigail Toll

Matrices Of Vision

(Shelter Press)


Built up as part of post-graduate studies and premiered live in Berlin last year, Matrices of Vision serves as an impressive outlet for Abigail Toll’s compositional ingenuity, as she sounds out a collection of data sets within this extended work. Utilising the aesthetics of data that relate to trends in Swedish higher educational trends, channelled into sound Toll and collaborator Rebecca Lane find a way to map this data into the harmonic series. With Toll performing electronics and flute, she’s joined by Lucy Railton’s cello, Rebecca Lane’s woodwind and Evelyn Sailor’s voice for a slow burner that pushes the ensemble sound out of the comfort zone.–JH


The Mix Out Session (Soichi Terada, Makoto, Kuniyuki And Benedek)

(Sound Of Speed Records)



After the success of Satoshi’s Ambivalent Selected Works 1994-2022 album released back in March via Sound of Speed, three tracks get the remix treatment for a special dance floor sampler. Soichi Terada transforms “Coastlines” into house-y vibes brimming with positive and joyful moments. LA-based producer Benedek, who previously teamed up with Satoshi and Makoto on “After New Dawn” is reimagined by Japanese legend Kuniyuki who spins two new renditions. The first is a slightly beat-down ethereal number whilst the second works with heavier percussion and a deeper bassline, adding more weight and more direction towards dancefloor grooves.–EH

Olivia Rodrigo


(Geffen Records)


Olivia Rodrigo’s long-awaited sophomore effort GUTS has finally arrived and it’s everything we could’ve wanted. Where SOUR was Rodrigo teetering on adulthood with relatable tales of heartbreak, GUTS breaks into a new realm of isolation, bonding through a collective female experience. No track holds the record back. “get him back!” recalls early 00s rap-pop with a synth-heavy edge, soft-spoken “lacy” ties together country acoustics and stunning harmonies, while lead single “vampire” sees Rodrigo at her very best. GUTS is proof that the sophomore slump is nothing but a myth.–BR