Review: When you use words like "prickly", "abrasive" and "uncompromising" it's rarely flattering. Consider Kim Gordon's exceptional powerhouse long form one of the exceptions. As far removed from music for the masses as you could hope for, it takes a particular talent to deliver work like "No Record Home". Labels such as punk certainly apply, but it's less about mouths gushing spittle amid the deafening screams of guitars and raucous vocals, and more about overall attitude. No change there for this co-founder of the mighty Sonic Youth then. Loud and intelligent, forthright and yet heartfelt and tender in its own unforgiving way, it's as far removed from wall of sound discordance as it is anything you could describe as remotely over-explored. Marrying the bloody-lipped electro of Peaches and body blow lows of EBM with gritty rock 'n' roll chords, those looking for originality that oozes repeatability should consider their hunt over, for now at least.
Review: It's taken a while, but finally Thom Yorke's impressive third solo album, "ANIMA", is available on wax (and in a fetching shade of orange, too). A future classic that continues the legacy he started with XL Recordings back in 2006 (with his solo debut The Eraser), ANIMA is well worth picking up, as Yorke and co-producer Nigel Godrich offer up evocative, off-kilter songs built around the twin attractions of the Radiohead man's distinctive vocals and skewed backing tracks rich in layered electronic noise, body-bending sub-bass, discordant synthesizer parts and intriguingly jaunty drum loops. Highlights are plentiful throughout, from the creepy, lo-fi ambient swirl of "Last I Heard (...He Was Circling the Drain)" and "Dawn Chorus" (a blissfully dewy-eyed early morning soundscape), to the low-slung, post-trip-hop hum of "I Am A Very Rude Person" and the fizzing, jazz-fired thrust of "Impossible Knots". Melancholic, yes. Deep and self-effacing, of course. Nihilistic, not really. Percussive futurist sub-pop is back.
Arctic Monkeys - "Leave Before The Lights Come On"
The Newell Octet - "Baby I'm Yours"
Review: A brand new studio recording of the now live smash "Leave Before The Lights Come On" shows Alex Turner and gang further honing their songwriting craft with a track which could well turn out to be one of their finest.
Review: The last ten years have seen no shortage of bands with their delay pedals set to stun intent on capturing an aura of dreamlike radiance. Yet Texas 'pop-noir' troupe Cigarettes After Sex are no ordinary shoegazers, for a variety of reasons - frontman Greg Gonzalez' androgynous and dulcet tones may be part of the appeal, yet moreover it's the quality of the songwriting here, which never falls prey to the style-over-substance traps of their peers. Indeed, this debut is more than enough to justify the considerable hype around this outfit, being a collection of ditties as sultry as they are atmopsheric.
Review: Niv Ast only has one other release to their name, a self-released album that landed no less than five years ago. Now Snap, Crackle & Pop have tapped up the mysterious producer for a striking record that matches modern 4/4 styles with new wave grit, leading in with the seriously moody "Quebec / Makolet". "Disco Monroe" has a slower tempo to appeal to the chugger crowd, with a seductive French vocal hovering over the top of the steady trucking rhythm section. Khidja tackles "Quebec / Makolet" on the flip, injecting some spaced out processing into the original to create an otherworldly version that does a great service to the source material. Mr TC then pings "Disco Monroe" out into a heavily dubbed hinterland, where the delay feedback and reverb decays rain down heavy over a slow, fractured beat.
Review: It's been ticking on three years since Cate Le Bon gave us Crab Day, the Welsh singer-songwriter's third album before now. With horns very much a focal point in Le Bon's unique sound throughout the album, it's their fusion with synths that really accent their impact. Breezy, post-90s jazz numbers that nudge at memories of shoegaze and The Cranberries make their way into early sections of the album too, with playful French pop gestures finding their way through motifs of art rock and New Yorkian post punk and new wave. Given a slighty different slant as it's sung through a welsh guise, Le Bon's ability to carry celtic-like themes through her music furthermore adds to a subtle mysticism in her sound that's playful and bluesy with a folk touch.
Review: If you're new to the Alex Giannascoli's world then make yourself comfortable - chances are, like us, you'll be here for a while. There are so many tangents, threads and stylistic shifts of shape it's possible to dive into his back catalogue and spend years never getting bored. It's now far quicker to understand what we're talking about, though, thanks to his latest album. There are multiple personalities at play here than you'd think could be coherent, but coherent this record is. Opener "Walk Away" sounds like an overview of the whole thing - growing from desperate cry into a grandiose, captivating thing of real beauty via reversed-out backing track and looped lyrics. All very Beta Band. From there we're locked-in, through the shimmering melodies of "Taking" to "Sugar"'s deep, tense atmospheric crescendos and vocoders. Ending on the stunning brass-accented blues rock of "SugarHouse (Live)", it's as complete a record as you could ask for.
Review: God bless Metronomy. Pioneers of a dance-indie crossover that was less garish and day-glow hued than the Nu Rave movement dominant back then. Their sixth full-length comes in the 10th anniversary year of their first, and proves the band have grown and fine-tuned, rather than got lost and forgotten why they came out to begin with. Despite clear development, though, the spirit of that inaugural effort is still here, and arguably in more generous helpings than any outing between then and now. Equal parts playful and earnest, there's plenty here to fall in love with. Single-worthy outings like the bouncy, floor-filler "Salted Caramel Ice Cream" and the appropriately titled pairing "Wedding" and "Wedding Bells" are confident and big room sounding. "The Light" veers into dubbier, more introverted directions, whereas "Upset My Girlfriend" shows them at their most heart-achingly beautiful and human. Exquisite, as usual.
Review: Emotional Response welcome Detroit's Fuxa to the label with a mini-album that takes their trademark pyschedelic guitar and synth instrumental rock and showcases the more spiritual and ethereal creativity running within. Specially curated from Fuxa's two recent digital only albums - "Dirty D" and "Frequencies for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Healing" - this special 8 track selection sees each album represented on one side of vinyl. Highlighting band leader Randall Neimann's talent, a mastery of the studio that creates a wall of (mellow) sound that envelops and encases in equal measure. While very much Randall's band, the colloborative nature of the project sees numurous artists appear, with members from Mazzy Star, Add N To (X), Dean & Britta, Spiritualized and founding member Ryan Anderson all providing willing support to seek his primal sound. Noteworthy too is his first appearance as lead vocalist. It is the uplifting to hear his voice on the celebratory Shout Out Loud, the paean of Dream (Don't Give Up) and finally the blissedout-surf-psychedelia of Amen. Dirty Frequencies is a welcome departure for the label, a pyschedelic turn in the mold of the Nick Nicely (ERS005) release, but all the better for it because these sounds and ideas deserve to be heard. An inner trip yes, but really a celebration of the deeper part of the soul - a way to connect.
Review: Horton Jupiter has been skirting around various cosmically-inclined outfits for many years now, but this release marks his first outright solo venture, and where better for it to blast off from than the celestial circus sideshow of Bahnsteig 23? The record launches in a fit of kosmische bravado, all nagging arpeggios, warbling leads, sustained guitars and a healthy dose of drama. "Eclectic Day" is certainly a fitting title. "Smokin' The Roach" is an equally bombastic affair, although with a chirpier disposition and some Italian-sounding vocals, and then "The Box" finishes the EP off with a grungy trip through bongo beatdowns and fuzz guitar for those who like their psych music with a vintage twist.
Review: The legendary Dead Can Dance return with their first studio album in six years! Coming from a school of Australian music pioneers that include Severed Heads and Essendon Airport among their class, this latest missive sees the duo maintain their psychedelic, exotic and mystic sound, with hints of witchcraft and ritualisms eternally abound. The album pays homage to Dionysus, Greek God of wine, fertility and religious ecstasy, and naturally the album oozes these qualities itself. Across the LP Brendan Perry plys his hand to a mass of instruments heard as otherworldly to the west, with a specific set stemming from the Balkans with an ensemble use of zournas, gadulkas and gaidas. Meanwhile Lisa Gerrad's exquisite voice remains as haunting as it ever was, be up front in the mix or lurking amongst the album's lush atmospheres. The Dead Can Still Dance.
Review: Emergent duo Broken Arrows were previously spotted lurking around Giallo Disco back in 2015, so you should have some idea of the kind of lurid late night machine sleaze they like to get their hands dirty with. They've now slid over to the sympathetic but marginally more techno-minded Vivod imprint with a new clutch of deviant heaters for those adventurous dancefloor spaces where B-movie sounds reign supreme. "Female Predator" is a tough EBM-tinted workout with plenty of jack in its stack, while "Fear Eats The Soul" takes a more synth-wave approach with some speech samples thrown in for good measure. "Edge Of Darkness" is a more tense affair that pings arpeggios around a minor key refrain, and then "Basic Structure" whips out the hardest track on the record, a lithe industrial stomper laden with rhythmic noise and a mean synth bassline that will hit your solar plexus like a battering ram.
Review: From the moment opening track "Giving Up" hits you with its timeless pop rock romanticism you're immediately transported to some bygone era, when the charts really meant something, everything on the radio inspired boy-meeting-girl, vice versa, or indeed non-binary-meeting-non-binary. You know - when things were right with the world. Dangerously close to pastiche, the quality of the songwriting and infectious instrumentation elevate this second long form from Chicago's greatest hope(s) to a whole other level. Listen to the brass work on "Rhododendron", a jaunty walk in the park after that surprisingly good first date. "Valleys (My Love)" anthemic chorus and lilting strings. The crooning guitars of "Before I Know It". These tracks pay homage to golden era love songs, when mainstream was experimental because so little had come before. And yet they all stand up today - mesmerising proof that fashions come and go, but style is omnipresent.
Review: After appearing on the first Calypso Records release out of Mexico last year, Colossio returns to the fray with a whole EP of sleazy jams for the warm up crowd to get nasty to. "Moto" is a grinding crossover track that features dirty garage guitars to match the low-slung synth undulations and sizzling disco beat, while "Fe" throws the windows open for a ranging cut centred around all kinds of instrumentation played with a post-punk looseness. "Ansia" keeps things nervous and atmospheric without skimping on party energy, and then Man Power swoops in for a remix of "Moto" that keeps things spooky while injecting a swinging groove into the mix.
Review: Snap, Crackle & Pop does the business once again as Berlin-based producer Curses steps up with the distinctly 1980s new wave stylings of "Another View". It's the kind of track that will have lovers of early The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy et al dancing in a hazy fever dream where early goth and indie meets with contemporary beats. "Together In The Dark" makes the point even clearer with a brooding trip through languid guitar, beyond the grave vocals and scuffed drums. Inga Mauer takes an entirely different tact with her remix of the latter track, conjuring up a particularly chilling acid daemon to jangle the nerves before The Golden Filter spook out "Another View" with heavy doses of reverb.
Review: Thomas Leer was mainly active in the late 70s and early 80s, dropping two singles on Cherry Red that provided the source material for the two original tracks on this Emotional Rescue reissue 12". Opener "Saving Grace" is a rich, bombastic blast of synthwave, all chugging arps and massive leads, while "Tight As A Drum" heads into more psychedelic territory, using strange gating techniques and deft FX to create a wondrous, shimmering bed for Leer's poetic chat over the top. Bringing an inventive angle to the release, the label signed Bullion up for two wonderfully warm, wobbly remixes. Honing in on the weirder qualities of Leer's work, these modern interpretations make a perfect bridge from the old to the new - highly recommended!
Review: We're now over thirty years on from the era in which the Reid brothers were a headline and riot creating hype machine, yet if 'Damage And Joy' proves one anything, it's that the strange cocktail of insouciance and nihilism with which they made their reputation is an evergreen thing. This collection of surprisingly upbeat garage-rockers and languid ballads is carved in the same alluring classicist shapes that the brothers have made their trademark, yet the band - aided and abetted by collaborators like Sky Ferreira and Isobel Campbell - sound alarmingly vivacious for ones who've made their name through narcotic cool, whilst these songs bear an indelible imprint of melodic charm and three-chord rawness.
Review: Where were you seven years ago? School? High school? College? First job? Last job? Whatever the answer it's certainly not the same place as Efterklang were, and still are. The Danish trio have never been of this world, yet give us so many opportunities to consider the emotion and passion this world offers. The first album to be fully written in their native tongue accentuates those qualities - dreamy soundscapes, different and decidedly bewitching intonation. It's an epic journey, with the likes of "Uden Ansigt" among the most epic, like Bon Iver's vocals slow dancing with the soaring instrumentation of Sigur Ros. "Havet Lofter Sig" ups the beauty, fittingly on the shortest track - gentle pianos, unnaturally pitched backing voices and baritone lead creating real yearning, proving nothing great lasts forever. Or longer than a couple of minutes. Cutting to the chase, it's a mesmerising work you're sure to have on repeat.
Review: It's fair to say that when The National release an album the Cincinnati originating supergroup garner the same type of attention that Radiohead once drew. With some futuristic production techniques creeping its way into the band's engineered sound, a new expressionism in the group's sound on "I Am Easy To Find" makes its way into the open, if only subtly. With the opening passages of "You Had Your Soul With You" sounding something like Battles' "Atlas", the music breaks down into a fanfare of traditional yet supercharged folk instrumentations; with drums, spoken word, strings in all their various forms, and the familiar smokey drawl of Matt Berninger's voice sitting snugly on top of subtle drum machines and synthesisers. Super ballads and sincerity.
Review: Minnesota couple Low have been around the block, lets say roughly 25 times, and it's been the Seattle-based Sub Pop label that's really become home to their music after several drops for the ambient-laced Kranky. I mean, hey, some have even called their music 'dinner party epochal'. Static and noise and other more experimental techniques in production provide a livid colour to this album, take in "Dancing in Blood" for example, with its industrial and subdued goth influences, or the pumping white noise and distortion of album opener "Quorum". Further down the tracklist is "Fly", a naturally melancholic number but far from depressive, with this track in particular hitting a sweet spot in the same way Massive Attack's "Teardrop" does. Very cool LP.