‘Ersatz G.B.’, The Fall’s 29th album spends most of its time battering the listener around the head with snare drums, heavy bass, guitar and Mark. E Smith mostly incoherent vocals. The rest of the time it takes the opposite approach and doesn’t manage to impress then either with tracks like ‘Happi Song’ and ‘Laptop Dog’ sounding like pale jangly and barely there indie. The one track that does rise to the occasion is ‘Monocard’ which with its Corroded guitar riffs, heavy bass and a synth that goes whistling to resonate reminds me of Mogwai’s excellent ‘Rano Pano’ from earlier in the year. Try harder next time, please Mark E. Smith and co.

Though “Tragedy & Geometry” the new album from Steve Hauschildt doesn’t compete on the same level as his main project Emeralds, it not without its moments and has enough quality tracks and variety to keep most synth enthusiasts happy. Though the base elements (warm pads, twinkling melodies and more arpeggios than you can shake a stick at) remain more or less the same throughout the entirety of the album. There’s a good selection of moods on offer ranging from mellow to happy, dark and edgy to spacey sci-fi lullabies. This album should be enough to keep Emeralds fans going until the band return next year.

It’s difficult to describe Chris Watson’s new album ‘El Tren Fantasma’ and really do it justice thought this review by The Quietus does a pretty good job. Without any musical instruments involved describing what I hear makes it sound boring. “El Tren Fantasma” is far from boring it’s an atmospheric journey full of peaks and troughs, loud and quiet, mellow and unsettling moments. Watson manages to place you in the centre of his journey as venture across Mexican through different terrain taking in all times of day and types of life, a fascinating experience. Before hearing this album I’d only heard Watson’s brilliant “Stepping Into The Dark” album, “El Tren Fantasma” shares the same ability to switch from heavy and dark sounds to light and airy sounds and find different moods and atmosperes to match. However the new album feels more musical, which seems an odd thing to say about two albums completely made of field recordings. But thats what I hear and much of Watson’s work with Cabaret Voltaire blurred the thin line-up between musical and non-musial sound. I’d throughly recommend “El Tren Fantasma” as an experience that should be tried at least once, it won’t be for everyone but I think it will surprise many people.

“Replica” the new album by Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN) is a transitional record that sees Daniel Lopatin attempting something new for him. This album doesn’t contain the slowly evolving and enveloping synth drones of his early work or the dense computer edited sound of ‘Returnal’, it’s heavily focused on vocal snippets and percussive sounds and textures that recall the Fourth World music of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno. At the same time the noise that had previous encroached on the edges of Oneohtrix Point Never sound now plays a much more central role. For reverb soaked synth or piano melody there is either subtle hum or overwhelming thickets of noise to counter act them. This may sound off putting, like Lopatin is sabotaging his own perfectly good tracks, but it never feels this way, he gets the balance right and knows what works when. He creates tension and release, whereas previous he only created one or the other in a single track. This twinned the brevity of many of tracks points to a move towards ‘pop’ music, admittedly its ‘pop’ at its most abstract and it in no-one way represents modern pop music the genre its self but OPN has never attempted to do so much in so little time. Lopatin is no longer allowing sounds to just natural drift and resolve themselves he’s using all his old tricks and elements with new ones that both compliment and contrast with them. The percussion instruments and micro edited percussive vocal sounds give a new purpose to his music and place it firmly in its own unique place. I feel there’s plenty more to be discovered and will revisit it in a one-off post in January next year.

Spotify playlist:

November playlist

Coming up in December on Sonic Fiction:

Sonic Fiction Writer’s Top Ten Album’s of Year and Observations 2011

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