More from 2010
You may remember this here blog’s recent year-end roundup post freely acknowledging that there were a lot of intriguing 2010 releases that were still in the pile marked “to hear”. Naturally, the Christmas season – with all it’s accompanying free time and Albums of the Year lists – provided a great opportunity to catch up on some listening. Often, this meant finally giving a serious listen to things that reputable sources had been bigging up for months. In other cases, it meant tracking down physical copies of recent releases by favourite artists. Most of all, though, it meant having lots of great new (and old) music to listen to. Here are three of the most notable discoveries…
Forest Swords – Dagger Paths (Old English Spelling Bee) LP
It’s ridiculous that the Bubblegum Cage III slept on this one for so long. Perhaps the association with a record label primarily known for pumping out lo-fi nostalgia rock was the off-putting factor here. Dagger Paths has been described as a cross between the modish “hynagogic pop” sound and Burial-style avant dubstep. The hypnagogic comparison doesn’t really ring true, though. There’s no sign of fuggy 80s pop pastiche here. Furthermore, despite being connected with on one of the US underground’s hippest imprints, Forest Swords is a British artist and – more to the point – Dagger Paths is a thoroughly British sounding record. Much of the music presented on this mini album is strongly reminiscent of pioneering UK post-rock acts like Scorn and Moonshake (and if it recalls an American band, it’s the UKPR-flavoured Nudge, whose As Good as Gone was this hear blog’s Album of the Year in 2009). Apparently, though, it was post-punk that was the major influence here. Certainly, there’s a bit of the Fall sound here, most clearly audible in those Stephen Hanley-esque bass stylings.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, Dagger Paths is right up this here blog’s alley. So much so, in fact, that it definitely would have made it into the 2010 top ten if it had been given a fair hearing before that list was compiled. Apologies to all the people who recommended it earlier in the year.
Forest Swords – “If Your Girl” (an Aaliyah cover!)
Grasslung – Sincere Void (Root Strata) CD
Again, this is an album that some extremely hip listeners were pushing last year and one that nobody among BBCIII’s massed editorial ranks actually got around to hearing until January. Doh! So much beauty ignored for so long!! Basically, Sincere Void is a more analogue-focused take on the recent Fennesz sound. In fact, opening track “Scarred Hands They Drifted” could be straight off Venice. That chord sequence sounds seriously familiar. What this album most closely recalls, though, is the Tim Hecker-influenced guitar atmospherics of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s Love is a Stream – which makes sense because it was released on Cantu-Ledesma’s Root Strata label.
So, while this may not be one of the more original releases of recent times, it is one of the loveliest. Yep, definitely should have caught onto this one sooner. Apologies, again, to all those who recommended it way back when.
The Fall – The Wonderful & Frightening World of The Fall [Omnibus Edition] (Beggars Banquet) 4CD + book
This is the big one, in more ways than one. Four CDs of remastered album tracks, singles, B sides, rarities, radio sessions and live recordings orbiting the serious gravity of what anyone who isn’t a twat knows to be The Fall’s best album. At the end of 2010, it was looking like Editions Mego’s 2LP pressing of Fennesz’s Endless Summer was going to take the prize for Not Only Re-Issue of the Year but Also Best Re-Issue Evar! Well, this one is even better. The Bubblegum Cage III doesn’t usually discuss re-issues in a best-of-the-year context but this one is just too darn choice to pass up on.
The only real quibble here is that the oral history presented in the accompanying book seems designed specifically to reinforce well-established but short-sighted critical dogmas, when it should have been the perfect opportunity to challenge these very dogmas. Wonderful & Frightening…, according to the history presented here, represents the beginning of The Fall’s “pop period” – catchy choruses came into play as never before, producer John Leckie made the band sound clean ‘n’ tuneful and “Bug Day” was just a bit of filler. This, of course, is bullshit. In reality, Wonderful & Frightening… is essentially a better realised Hex Enduction Hour – an onslaught of monumental avant rock barbarism and sparse, abstract melancholia. Are tracks like”Lay of the Land” and the contemporary single “No Bulbs” really any more approachable, than “Totally Wired” or “How I Wrote Elastic Man”? The stuff about Leckie putting the band in tune is particularly galling, as he famously did the exact opposite – knocking all the guitars slightly out of tune, to give the band a bigger, rawer sound. Oh well, British rock historians have never let reality get in the way of a good party line, have they?
Still, it goes without saying that this is a 100% essential purchase for all Fall fans and anyone with a serious interest in rock history. Huge. The hugest.