Review: Is this pop? Is this experimental? These are the thoughts that will have crossed many minds when encountering the kind of baffle Jai Paul offers. A guy who seems intent on creating curveball works of art, "BTSTU" in many ways is minimalist stuff, save for the concepts behind the sounds. Or at least its structures give the illusion of minimalism. From the first waterfall of synth to the way in which vocals are allowed to (quite literally) speak for themselves - a multitude of characters with one voice - it's at once bound for the charts and your bookshelf of classic works.
Review: Over the course of her three year solo career, London-based Australian Carla Dal Forno has steadily moved from a dark, stylish and bleak all-electronic sound to something a little warmer and more organic in tone. On "Look Up Sharp", her third album, she continues this trend, complimenting her usual lo-fi drum machines and synths with low-slung post-punk bass and the kind of pastoral, traditional instrumentation more often associated with folk music (think flutes, recorders, clarinet etc.). It's a curious blend, but one that works wonderfully well throughout the album, and especially on those songs to which she adds evocative, often melancholic vocals.
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: 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: The best thing since the Klaxons or Bloc Party have arrived. black midi! The student art rock band are bringing a new youthful energy and slight of malice back to the arena of post-indie inspired alternative guitar and synth music. They make this overtly known from the start with the supercharged opener that is "953", introducing an album that is said to have laid down eight of the record's nine tracks in just five days. Drums are fast and skittering, rhythms are dancey and guitars keep it Madchester jangley. "Speedway" (is that a wry Prodigy reference?) is among the album's highlights alongside the punk-funky "bmbmbm" and the short but trippy "Years Ago". With a 100 per cent backing by UK music institution Rough Trade: meet this generation's newest sensation.
Autarkic - "Screaming (To Be With You)" (feat The White Screen)
JD Twitch - "Dalbouka"
Sneaker - "I Looked For You"
Die Orangen - "Rattling Ghosts"
Review: After teaming up to release the scintillating works of C Cat Trance in their original 80s form on Screaming Ghosts, Emotional Rescue and Malka Tuti join forces once again to deliver a ludicrously talented roster of remixers who catapult John Rees Lewis' cult group into thrilling new spatial and temporal zones. Autarkic decides to go for the full-tilt cover version on "Screaming (To Be With You)", with ample help from The White Screen, while JD Twitch roughs up "Dalbouka" into a quintessential slab of ethno-motorik body music. Sneaker's take on "I Looked For You" emphasizes the atmospheric tension in the original, giving the track a cinematic scope, and Die Orangen's "Rattling Ghosts" finishes the record on an appropriately ominous, subtly industrial tone.
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: Considering their penchant for spinning yarns and the cinematographically-suited nature of much of their work, it's surprising "Days Of The Bagnold Summer" is only Belle & Sebastian's second shot at a movie score. The last was 2001's '"Storytelling", accompanying Todd Solondz's movie of the same name, and they certainly did a good job then. So, high expectations this time round. For those unfamiliar, their latest foray into the film world partners the directorial debut of Simon Bird, best known to many as one of "The Inbetweeners". The flick, an adaptation of Joff Winterhart's 2012 graphic novel, chronicles the life and times of a teenage metalhead and his single mother. The album perfectly accompanies but also contributes to that tale. Highly emotive instrumental tracks and classic B&S songs-proper, this OST is destined to go down well with the band's true believers.
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: The mighty Cherrystones originally dropped the crackling party heat of "Blood, Campari & Sand" on his own Bandcamp page, and now he's doing the right thing and committing it to wax via Duca Bianco. It's a vital, funk-rooted jam that revolves around dusty drum licks and piano, as badass as it is considered. "Meta Weta on the flip is equally cool in its execution, this time using some uneasy synth pulses that reverberate between the laconic step of the beat. Drawing on library music, Giallo and deep-digging grooves from the outer reaches, Cherrystones once again demonstrates his knack for off-kilter tackle to get the freakier party set moving in approval.
Review: Following the runaway success of their Mercury Music Prize nominated 2014 debut album, Jungle moved to Los Angeles to record the follow-up. It didn't work out for a variety of musical and personal reasons, so they headed back to London and recorded "For Ever" instead. While some of the lyrics reflect on their musical and personal issues during that time, the resultant songs are as soulful, polished and jaunty as you'd expect. Check, for example, the sun-kissed disco-pop of "Heavy California", the sumptuous lo-fi soul shuffle of "Cherry", the head-nodding grooves and lyrical melancholy of "Happy Man" and the grandiose, bittersweet brilliance of "House In LA".
Review: Emotional Rescue did the diggers another great service by gathering up the recorded material from Bordeaux synth-pop outliers Takenoko, and now they're sweetening the deal even further with this EP of wild style mixes from Dresden maverick Sneaker DJ. Picking three of the strongest tracks from the L'Amour Est Mon Arme collection, he comes up with three drastically diverse end results to suit the most adventurous selectors. The "Maquette" mix of "Lee Harvey Oswald" has a wonderfully lo-fi finish that accentuates the DIY new wave angles of Takenoko, while the "Traaans" mix of "Trans Amor Express" becomes a trippy, brittle beat excursion that should appeal to lovers of oddball 80s dub mixes. The "Dynamic" version of "John Wayne" finishes the record off in bombastic fashion, all boxy beats and powerful synth lines punching out underneath the quintessential wavey vocals.
Review: It seems everyone has their own story when it comes to Cat Power; from first albums purchased, to seeing her perform live on stage with a broken ankle, all the while never ceasing to maintain her blissful air of elegance and withdrawn charisma. Chan Marshall's latest album, six years from her last, provides her debut on Domino, bringing with it three defining aspects, most notably a collaboration with Lana Del Rey on title track "Woman". A Rihanna cover version of "Stay" also makes an appearance mid-way through while tinges of auto-tune inside "Horizon" only add to her continuous extension of folky, blues & roots Americana.
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: 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.
Review: When bands hit album four, two things can happen - or three. Some suffer from a crisis of creativity, opting to regurgitate or, worse still, stagnate. Others opt for reinvention, with as many getting it right as going well off-piste, alienating faithful fans in the process. The lucky ones, meanwhile, hit the nail on the head with their most accomplished and complete work to date. Consider Frankie Cosmos among the lucky ones, then, not that luck had much to do with it. Recorded in their New York hometown, everything about the record feels comfortable in that there's nothing forced, and yet it engages and grabs from the off. Lilting, lo-fi rock 'n' roll odes to love, life and the genre itself, anyone who's ever wondered what Cate Le Bon might sound like having a pancake breakfast with The Orielles should grab a seat at this table.
Review: Troubadour for the dejected, rejected, never-did-fits, Ezra Furman deserves to be ranked among the greatest songwriters of our time. On "Twelve Nudes" he takes the hard-learnt lessons of previous records and channels that anger, desperation, euphoria, fear and hope into an impassioned call to arms - his finest since "Perpetual Motion People". In many ways, this is a far more positive outing, too, or at least one that largely keeps the focus on big noise. "My Teeth Hurt" and "Thermometer" are ferocious, head-banging whirlwinds. "Evening Prayer aka Justice" throws fists to the air with protest-esque pride. "Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone" offers Northern Soul-leaning drums and rhythms. Of course, there's still room for freaky, introspective rockabilly melancholia - namely "I Wanna be Your Girlfriend". Like Furman himself on-stage, it's unashamed and unwilling to compromise, making for one of this year's finest bloody-lipped, sweat-soaked rock 'n' roll records.
Review: The Soft Cavalry have arrived, a new project of husband & wife duo Steve Clarke and Rachel Goswell. Their debut, self-titled album has been described as falling somewhere between Pink Floyd, Talk Talk and R.E.M. To put it another way; slow motion stoner surf rock meets subtle shades of folk and washed-out Shoegaze. Dancier and straight-laced drums primed with disco energy also find their way into tracks like "Bulletproof". The album finds its unique space in seemingly being able to create a new study into cosmic folkology; perfectly weighted with atmospheres that drift across and through the album's many dimensions.