February was another month divided in terms of the quality of music releases. I’ll start with the most disappointing releases and build to the best.

First is the self titled début album from Win Win, a trio comprising of XXXchange (Spank Rock), Chris Delvin (of Baltimore DJ duo Devlin and Darko) and visual artist Ghostdad. I’m afraid there’s very little to recommend about this album, outside of its excellent singles ‘RPM’ feat. Lizzi Bougatsos from Gang Gang Dance and ‘Interleave’ featuring Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip and the dreamy yet creepy diversion of ‘Distorted Reality 3’. Everything else is insipid and uninspired house and electro by numbers. A real shame coming from XXXchange, a man whose productions on Spank Rock’s ‘YoYoYoYoYo’ marked him out as someone who could conjure up successful unexpected combinations. On a more positive note I stumbled across the self titled début album by Discodeine at the end of the month and wholeheartedly recommend it anyone looking a new dance music album.

Next up is Beans’ fifth album ‘End It All’ and though there is the odd track , the mournful almost foghorn-like synthetic backing laid over with more rapid fire rhythms of ‘Electric Bitch’, Tobacco delivers his usual analogue buzzsaw synths sound and electro beats on ‘Glass Coffins’ a good match for Beans & the thumping electro beats and grinding synth noises of ‘‘Blue Movie’, that is really great on this album the overall quality is quite low with Beans’ vocals feeling bolted on and often feeling a million miles away from the instrumental, which dominates  instead of complimenting them. I’ve never felt fully convinced of Beans’ ability to perform consistently over a whole album and this is evidence that this time round he can’t but can still produce moments of great chemistry.

A slight improvement again is Asian Dub Foundation’s ‘The History of Now’. This is an album pulling in two directions. On the one hand the band seems to be consolidating its established sound but other tracks promise or display alternatives to or twists on their formula. This could frustrate both newcomers and some long-term fans (I found it a bit frustrating).It is a formula the band have pursued, honed and adapted over the years and it may be starting to wear thin. The last time the band tried to step away from the formula wholesale they produced their only bad album the over-produced and lifeless ‘TANK’. Though ‘The History of Now’ doesn’t stoop to that low, it gets close on ‘Where’s All the Money Gone?’ and ‘This Land is Not For Sale’, it isn’t the band’s finest hour either. A good ADF album, but nothing to match ‘Rafi’s Revenge’, ‘Community Music’ or the underrated ‘Enemy of the Enemy’.

Now to move on the albums that did shine last month. First up: Mogwai’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’. This a great mixed bag from Mogwai (a band that has been criticised in the past for producing overly samey music across an album) featuring both the familiar epic post-rock tracks that made them an internationally known force and new directions for the band including using a vocoder and development of Neu! and New Order style rhythms and grooves on ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ and ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’. I’ve read a lot of negative things about the use of the vocoder and more vocal tracks on this album and can’t say I agree with these opinions. The vocoder is employed subtly and sparingly and Stuart Braithwaite’s vocals have always been a good addition to Mogwai’s music and suit the song he sings on here. Overall I think this is Mogwai’s best album since ‘Happy Music for Happy People’ (2003) and comes highly recommended.

Half American half French quartet Paris Suit Yourself produced a stunning début album in ‘My Main Shitstain’. I honestly can’t think of anything to add to last month’s recommendation of this album, you read can that here. Its one of those that you need to buy!!

Finally there was Toro Y Moi’s new album ‘Underneath the Pine’ which from its chiming and droning intro track right through to the last rhythmic charge of ‘Elise’, it does no wrong. A fantastic concoction of ’80s style funk rhythms and grooves matched with emotive soundtrack backing and the glorious rush of good pop music, a leap forward from his impressive début ‘Causers of This’. The best album I’ve heard so far this year.

Spotify Playlist:

February 2011 playlist

Coming up on Sonic Fiction in March:

  • The third and last part of Vier’s Three Decades of Techno.

  • A new quarterly column Skipped, Flipped and Missed which will explore the career of an artist who is either underrated or overrated and the reasons why that is. This month’s discusses electronic music pioneers Cabaret Voltaire.

  • Primal Scream’s – ‘Screamadelica’ is in this month Classics Critiqued.

March Recommendations:

Cornershop – ‘and the Double O Groove of…’ (Ample Play) 14th March

Cornershop return with an album that has been six years in the making and is a collaboration with previously unknown female vocalist Bubbley Kaur and fuses Punjabi folk with lo-fi hip-hop. As well as their usual blend of traditional Indian sounds and Western styles, this album adds a further twist as Punjabi folk is usually written by men about women but these songs are written from the female standpoint.

Primal Scream – ‘Screamadelica: 20th Anniversary Edition’ (Sony) 14th March

Primal Scream re-release their Mercury Prize winning classic album to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The album comes in both Limited Collectors and Deluxe Editions.

Wagon Christ – ‘Toomorrow’ (Ninja Tune) 14th March

Luke Vibert returns to his Wagon Christ moniker for his latest album of ‘stoned exotica, ridiculous vocal samples, toothsome puns, swinging rhythm and the psychedelic groove’. There’s not a dull moment on this 15 track strong album, preview and buy it a week early here.

Dadawah – ‘Peace and Love’ (Dug Out) 21st March

This was reissued last summer but I failed to get around to mentioning this exceptional dub-reggae album. At the time I could only find tracks on Youtube to listen to it may be different for this re-pressing.

John Foxx and The Maths (Metamatic) 21st March

The return of electro legend John Foxx in collaboration with Benge (aka The Maths). I’ll be honest I’ve only heard the lead single ‘Shatterproof’ but it was an incredible impressive showcase for these two master of the analogue synth world.

Micachu & The Shapes with the London Sinfonietta – ‘Chopped & Screwed’ (Rough Trade) 21st March

This album is a recording of a one-off live performance between these two unique artists. Micachu and The Shapes début album ‘Jewellery’ impressed critics back in 2009 and their scrap heap percussion and awkward yet infectious melodies found a perfect home on last year Congotronics compilation. This record could be a very different kettle of fish, recorded live last year with an orchestra most famous for reinterpretations of classic Aphex Twin and Squarepusher tracks.

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