Recent Listening Round-Up
The massed editorial staff of this here blog hasn’t had time to come up with any proper reviews recently, so here’s a round-up of what’s been on the office turntable over the last couple of months.
Belong – Common Era
A superb development of the submerged pop style Belong has hinted at in the past. Some fans are claiming this album isn’t “drone” enough and that the band should do more stuff like October Language. They are wrong: October Language was a pointless exercise in brazen Fennesz copyism; Common Era is something quite unlike anything else.
James Blake – James Blake
The backlash is unwarranted. James Blake is a genuinely impressive collection of sometimes shockingly sparse post-dubstep productions. Sure, Blake’s sad-sack vocals are sometimes a bit much (“I Never Learned to Share”) but – for the most part – the inventiveness of his production style outweighs the slightly forced emotionalism.
Burial – Street Halo
Signs of progress here, albeit slow progress. Still, Burial is the kind of artist who moves at his own pace. And even if this was just more of the same, that wouldn’t make it any less beautiful. Streets ahead of even the best of the rest of the post-dubstep crowd (see above).
Kate Bush – Director’s Cut
Hmmm… Kate has re-recorded songs from her two weakest albums (The Sensual World and Red Shoes) and turned the bass up really high to make sure the new recordings sound nice and “analogue”. Why one of the great pioneers of creative digital pop production should feel the need to do this is a bit of a mystery. Also, one might question whether the problem with those albums was actually to do with the production or whether the songwriting was, in fact, a bit sub-par. To be fair though, a good deal of the material here is vastly improved by the new, more understated arrangements, especially “This Woman’s Work”.
Lawrence English – Kiri No Oto
Lovely vinyl reissue of English’s CD from a couple of years ago. Oceanic digital textures.
Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
These Brooklynites have come a long way since their free-noise beginnings. Eye Contact is pretty much their pop move – sounding, at times, like an utterly demented Black Eyed Peas attempting world music. In a good way, obviously.
Hype Williams – One Nation
How does this duo’s stoned amalgam of lo-fi 80s and 90s references manage to sound so irritating and so seductive all at once? There’s some kind of evil genius at work here but Hype Williams is giving few clues as to what the true nature of that genius may be. There isn’t even a tracklist!
In Serpents & Seas – Notes from the Quiet Household
Notes from the Disquiet Household, more like it! Finely calibrated, Nurse with Wound-style spookiness from this duo featuring the always-excellent Esperik Glare. Available by donation from the relevant Bandcamp page.
Kellarissa – Moon of Neptune
Phenomenal second solo album from Destroyer’s current keyboard player. Exceptionally classy minimal synth pop that will appeal to fans of Nico and Zola Jesus.
Kellarissa – “Undock”
Mountains – Air Museum and Koen Holtkamp – Gravity/Bees
Over the last few years, Brooklyn’s Mountains duo has produced a stream of consistently satisfying albums in the post-Fennesz/Greg Davis mold. Air Museum represents a fairly decisive move into the analogue realm. Sometimes the results sound like old Mountains tracks played entirely on vintage synths, sometimes they sound like Sonic Boom’s Experimental Audio Research project and sometimes they sound like crap. Not a bad album, as such but certainly a dispiritingly unimaginative one. Mountains man Koen Holtkamp’s latest solo effort is similar but a bit rawer and ultimately a great deal more satisfying. When Holtkamp’s guitar manages to drown out the droning synths, it gets seriously awesome.
My Bloody Valentine – Lost Tracks & Rare Cuts
Basically, the famous Unreleased & Rarities bootleg cut to vinyl. Featuring “Kevin Song” and “Bilinda Song”, now retitled “Just Like Us” and “The Time of Day” (by whom, it’s hard to say). Pretty much essential for all serious MBV fans.
My Bloody Valentine – “Just Like Us” aka “Kevin Song”
BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa – Space Finale
The analogue underground could learn a great deal from this record. This audibly-digital electronica epic goes further out into the cosmos than most contemporary drone rockers could ever dream of.
Max Richter – Infra
Possibly his best yet, perhaps because it’s his most polarized. An extremely effective juxtaposition of gorgeously melodic strings and tense, dissonant electronics.
Secret Pyramid – The Silent March
If you like Flying Saucer Attack and Lovesliescrushing then you need to know about Vancouver’s Secret Pyramid. This expansively beautiful cassette release should be available for download from his blog once the tape sells out.
Shackleton – Fireworks
More darker-than-dark dubstep from the deep down depths. Shackleton’s Fabric mix suggested an artist treading water. This double 12″ represents a fearless recommencing of his sub-aquatic explorations.
Tape – Revelationes
Absolutely bloody wonderful new album from the Swedish post-rock/electronica trio. These boys have got the tunes, they’ve got the textures and they’ve even got really nice cover art.
Tape – “Companions”
Moritz von Oswald Trio – Horizontal Structures and Vladislav Delay Quartet – Vladislav Delay Quartet
The latest album from the Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound man’s cyber-jazz trio is a great deal warmer and more human than you might expect. At times it sounds like a “live band” take on the early Rhythm & Sound material – a perception reinforced by the presence of regular R&S vocalist Paul St. Hilaire on guitar. The debut album by the quartet led by MVOT percussionist Vladislav Delay, on the other hand, is as dark and alienating a record as you could hope to hear. Any time things threaten to get a little nice, Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio blasts the whole thing to hell by unleashing a storm of harsh, metallic drones.