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Maxwell Sterling
Turn of Phrase
AD 93
Catalogue Number
Release Date
April 23, 2021


Quietly, AD 93 has reshaped itself into one of the experimental underground’s boldest labels, a home for artists releasing far-out full-lengths. That reputation is burnished by Maxwell Sterling's alternately abstract and regal compositions on “Turn of Phrase”.

Most listeners’ minds might default to the track record AD 93 (formerly Whities) has for releasing sleek, percussive, high-definition club 12”s from the likes of Avalon Emerson, Bambounou and TSVI under his Anunaku alias. But this year was AD 93’s busiest yet, by some distance, and the widened range of the music bore few traces of smoking areas and drink tokens.

Biosphere, Venus Ex Machina, Christoph De Babalon, Vivian Koch, Leif and Moin (aka an expanded and rechristened Raime alongside Valentina Magaletti), were amongst those who posted up with albums over the past 10 months and change. There was the newly-minted sub-label Lith Dolina too, collating the works of IVVVO and bundling up a beautiful compilation of relatively unsung producers on ‘Brabuhr Q-IH’. At the end of 2021 the parent label will release Sky H1’s long-awaited debut album.

Alongside all this, composer Maxwell Sterling's debut flush on the label arrived in springtime, seemingly timed for the green shoots of global recovery. It hasn’t stopped captivating since.

There’s a sense of memory slippage to this LP; somewhat baroque in tone — exceedingly ornate and yet mysteriously melancholic — timbres and melodies collide and combust, simultaneously recalling both electronic-avant-garde approaches and the holy music of the ancients, composed in decaying, cryptic manuscripts. It’s almost as if Sterling set about to make the perfect aural accompaniment to AD 93’s in-house designer Alex McCullough’s artwork: binding the synthesised and organic, with poetry coiling around the margins.

“Turn of Phrase”’s natural state is fluidity, both in oozing textures and in the way Sterling’s music appears to ritually de- and re-assemble an orchestra, instrument by instrument and player by player. The title track rolls out labyrinthine arps with a hint of Philip Glass minimalism at their muddied foundations, as synth stabs elevate the track into a muggy atmosphere, intermittently venturing into a slow-motion pocket dimension along the way. Elsewhere, scraping strings give way to reverent bliss on ‘Rage Aria’ and ‘Tremble Happy’ glides with stately poise.

Fragments of vocals, littered at will across the trail of the album, coalesce on the penultimate track and LP highlight ‘Tenderness’, which pulls a remarkable feat by enlisting transgressive fashion icon, poet and recording artist Leslie Winer to enunciate carefully across nearly 8-minutes, as if reading from an unfurled parchment scroll. For an album so often windswept and wire-crossed, it has the cleansing effect of cold water to the face. It brings into question Maxwell Sterling’s admission that the record was made using a set of “strict rules” — on the contrary, “Turn of Phrase” seems to shirk convention entirely.

Artwork designed by Nicola Tirabasso
Mastered by Rashad Becker

Digital Tracklist

Maxwell Sterling

AD 93

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Electronic and Electronica

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Experimental and Noise

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Album of the Week

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