In recent months I’ve been trying to reduce the size of the ‘2010 through my (biased) eyes’ series because I didn’t want them to become a dispassionate list of what I had listened to that month. As they have mostly concentrated on new releases this post will round up other music I have enjoyed recently.

The Fall – ‘Perverted by Language’ (1983), ‘Extricate (1990) & ‘The Infotainment Scan’ (1993) (Reissued by Castle Communications)

An interesting selection of Fall albums. The first, ‘Perverted by Language’ was the start of the Brix Smith era when the American guitarist joined the band and began a relationship with Mark E. Smith and the last album before Mark E. Smith went into overdrive with the constant hiring and firing of band members. Brix’s influence, which would later assist the band in achieving their highest album chart positions and adopting a more Americanised commercial sound, is barely traceable on this release save for her vocals on ‘Hotel Bloedel’. Indeed ‘Hotel Bloedel’ is the exception in what is an album full of great songs and guitar/bass riffs and Smith on top lyrical form. ‘Extricate’ was the beginning of the Fall exploring computer technology and modern synthesisers (previously they had only used cheap organs) and there is a new sheen to their sound yet this doesn’t detract from the sharp riffs and even sharper lyrics. Despite the common perception of Mark E. Smith as the group’s dictator on ‘Extricate’ and ‘The Infotainment Scan’ he competes with and allows space for keyboardist Dave Bush and collaborators Coldcut on single ‘Telephone Thing’.

Solex – ‘Solex vs. Hitmeister’ (1998), ‘Pick Up’ (1999), ‘Low Kick and Hard Bop’ (2001) (Matador), ‘The Laughing Stock of Indie Rock’ (2004) (Arena Rock Recording Co.) & ‘Amsterdam Throwdown, King Street Showdown (2010) (Bronzerat)

Solex (aka Elizabeth Esselink) is an artist that I have been curious about since hearing ‘Solex One Louder’ on a Matador compilation back in ’99 from her excellent debut album ‘Solex vs. Hitmeister’, which blends together an eclectic selection of samples sourced from the record shop Esselink owns. This is music that works where it shouldn’t and is danceable to boot! The formula is refined and given a jazzier edge on ‘Pick Up’ and ‘Low Kick and Hard Bop’ and though the latter is a little repetitive it is worth a spin. On ‘The Laughing Stock…’ a dramatic change occurs with pared-down samples and Esselink taking centre stage playing guitar and keyboards and sharing vocals with new collaborator Stuart Brown, which was disappointing and didn’t come together. This and ‘Amsterdam Throwdown…’ made with Jon Spencer and Cristina Martinez showcase a bluesy downbeat and upbeat feel respectively. I recommend ‘Solex vs. Hitmeister’ and ‘Pick Up’ but feel that despite some great moments ‘Low Kick and Hard Bop’ and ‘Amsterdam Throwdown…’ are overly repetitive but if you like the first two albums check them out.

cLOUDDEAD – ‘cLOUDDEAD’ (2001) (Anti-Con)

Created by Doseone, Why? and Odd Nosdam, three members of the Anti-Con collective/record label, the eponymous album sounds unlike anything on any hip-hop album before or post its release and the material the members have made individually. The atmospherics range from sinister to pastoral and the lyrics from simplistic to wordy and metaphorical and this unique sound draws upon ambient music, electronica, the experimental rock of The Residents, Frank Zappa and includes hints of Cluster or Faust’s moments of krautrock clarity. Think Boards of Canada and that only tells half the story. The tracks were originally released on six double sided 10” singles which were intended to be listened to in order which explains why the album shifts focus every couple of tracks, though this can happen within a song too. Due to this the album is not the easiest of listens but the effort is worthwhile.

Subtle – ‘A New White’ (2004) ‘For Hero: For Fool’ (2006) & ‘Exiting Arm’ (2008) (Anti-Con)

Rapper Doseone of cLOUDDEAD formed Subtle in 2001 with friend and percussionist Jel. Later the band expanded to feature Dax Pierson (keyboards), Marty Dowers (woodwind), Jordan Damrymple (guitar) and Alexander Kort (cello). Three years on the band debuted with ‘A New White’, an album that consolidated the achievements of cLOUDDEAD and gave their ideas a greater concise song-based style. They only really began to establish a sound that was their own on ‘For Hero: For Fool’ which balanced tongue twisting raps, wonky backing vocals, warped electronics, psychedelic guitars and beats that ranged from solid hip-hop to liquid rock. ‘For Hero: For Fool’ is probably the hardest Subtle album to get your head around but your efforts are greatly rewarded. ‘Exiting Arm’ saw a more stripped back and consistent sound while keeping enough variety to maintain interest until the end. The closing track ‘Providence’ reminds me of the track of the same name by TV on the Radio, a coincidence as Tunde Adebimpe contributed to ‘Yell & Ice’ a remix album of ‘For Hero: For Fool’. Who knows where Subtle will go next but the future seems bright.

Tony Allen – ‘Black Voices’ (1999) (Planet Woo/Comet), ‘Lagos No Shaking’ (2006) (Honest Jon’s), ‘Homecooking’ (2009) (Planet Woo/Comet)

An interesting selection of albums from the man who Brian Eno said is ‘perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived. ‘Black Voices’ is a remix/dub album by Doctor L of previous Tony Allen tracks. It occasionally feels a few years behind in terms of techniques and technology but is still a great album that brilliantly marries Afrobeat rhythms with modern dance music. ‘Lagos No Shaking’ sees Allen return to Afrobeat after many years experimenting with other styles interestingly ‘Isa Nla’ and ‘Lo Sun’ contain a Talking Heads-esque touch. For last year’s ‘Homecooking’ Allen switches styles again working with the cream of London’s hip-hop talent like rapper Ty and Matthew Herbert collaborator Eska in which the organic hip-hop meshes with his natural breaks perfectly and like all great drummers he knows when to go for it and when to lay off and let a track breath.

King Sunny Ade  – ‘Best of the Classic Years’ (2003) (Shanachie)

This compilation collects some of King Sunny Ade earliest and most brilliant work in the genre of juju, a form of Nigerian music he helped develop and make popular in UK and US in the 1980s. His clean guitar tone and technical ability are a joy to listen to and may well be an influence on modern bands such as Vampire Weekend and Foals. Sunny Ade and his band expertly balance virtuosity and danceable grooves and even long tracks such as ‘Synchro System’ and ‘Inbanuje Mon Iwon’ never get boring or predictable.

Philip Jeck – ‘Surf’ (1999) & ‘Sand’ (2008) (Touch)

Jeck is an expert sample manipulator who uses his own avant-garde turntablism techniques to change the speed of recordings and then overlap and mould them via effects. ‘Surf’ is literal in the evocation of the sound of the surf at a wave’s edge, yet doesn’t sound like a lot of ambient music that exploits the actual movement and rhythms of this. ‘1986 (Frank was 70 years old)’ approaches the idea of surf from a different angle, seemingly utilising a surf rock record to create a new abrasive texture that propels the song forward. Nine years later Jeck produced ‘Sand’, which appears to be related to ‘Surf’ in conception and he again pushes the definition of ambient music into new territory.

Spotify playlist:

Through my (biased) eyes: Catch #1

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