Category: New Wave
Gary Numan isn’t music that normally gets reviewed on Sonic Fiction and I have to admit to having been more interested in the man’s personal struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome as a musician and human than a Numan fan, with the exceptation of his biggest hits. However, in recent years my interest has been piqued and now that Numan’s back and more high profile than he has been for years I checked “Splinter” and decided to give it a review.
The album was written during and after a period of years of depression that Numan experienced and as such the album is full of songs that talk about fear of getting older, struggling with having children, the depression and its affects including how his marriage almost broke up. So while the lyrical content is fascinating but on a similar thematic lines the music is very diverse ranging from the “creaky, gothic atmosphere of ‘Where I Can Never Be’ to the minimalism of ‘Lost’ via the dramatic, poisoned string arrangements of ‘The Calling’, monster disco floor-filler ‘Love Hurt Bleed’, the ultra catchy ‘Who Are You’ and slow build anthems ‘Everything Comes Down to This’. Numan even digs back into his with the brooding and relentless title track recalling the sound of his debut album “Replicas” (1979).”
The album opens with ‘I Am Dust’ which begins with clanging percussion a feedbacking synth and guitars thatfeel both digital and dusty. Numan’s lead vocals and a screaming digital lead synth enter for the first verse, a hi-hat pattern drops part way through and gives the rhythm forward momentum. Then there’s a breakdown/bridge before the epic, tortured sounding chorus. When the verse kicks back in there’s a full rhythm track and ripping synth riff in place and the track powers forward!! The rhythm also gives the bridge and chorus an extra lift and more synth layers, there’s some a little more joyous in the chorus now. Next up is ‘Here in the Black’, scraping sounds and synths rise out of the dark, they give way to the dramatic strings, pizzicato synths melody and heavy guitar riff and thick bass. Everything drops away then Numan enters again singing in a whisper over thumping industrial beats, synths and deep bass. The second section returns with the strings amping the drama further and a vocal synth part cutting for a delay covered solo. Numan enters for a nasally lead vocal part, then everything drops away again. The verse section and whispering vocals enter again, halfway through a great drum break enters before the song is lifted up again for the instrumental chorus and then the nasally vocals.
‘A Shadow Falls On Me’ opens with deep echoing bass drum and cracking industrial snare/clap, swiftly joined by a feminine sounding vocal from Numan and treated detuned sounding lead synth. Hi-hats drop in around one minute in to fill out the beat and drive the track forward. Cruching guitar kick in for the last minute as a delicate melody falls over the top of tough backing track. ‘We’re the Unforgiven’ combines fizzing distorted electronic snare, subtle stuttering electro drums and cascading lead guitar during its intro. The intensity builds with the entrance of two rhythmic synths lines. Then everything falls away to make way Numan’s vocal on the first verse. Again synths build the intensity before things drift away and a synth and guitar briefly solo. The guitars and dirty synths take over the with a huge filth riff for the last two minutes of the song. The album closes with the emotive ‘My Last Day’, its opens with distant filtered percussion and synth textures that crawl along underneath reverb heavy piano and Numan’s lead vocals. Around two minutes the synth comes into view properly for a moment then everything is filtered away and the piano and vocals take over again. Three and a half minutes in the synth lead rises again and the percussion is unfiltered and tumbles beneath the piano and synth lead. There’s a yearning to the synth and piano melodies offset by the tribal percussion.
With “Splinter” Numan has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. A man once paralysed by depression emerges to deliver a great throughly modern album that doesn’t attempt to cash in Numan’s 80’s legacy or newly heralded position as a influential figure for everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Basement Jaxx. This is Numan’s (and collaborator Ade Fenton) truimph, so lets hope it isn’t anyone seven years before we get another one.
I’ve been a fan of Factory Floor since discovering them back in 2009 when The Quietus began championing their cause. Since then the trio have collaborated with the likes of Simon Fisher Turner, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti, released a series of astonishing 12” singles and remixes and stunned many a gig and festival audience. All this has lead to one of most highly anticipated albums of the year and it doesn’t disappoint.
The album opens with ‘Turn It Up’ which sets the scene for the rest of the album perfectly. It opens with electronic percussion that’s swiftly followed by a bass drum, processed male vocals and intense electronic cowbell. Nik Colk’s vocals join the male vocals and the track starts to feel like a minimal Arthur Russell production but more industrial in feel. Chattering techno hi-hats cut in upping the tension. The vocals get increasingly more processed and alien as the track progresses recalling those of Laurel Halo circa ‘Logic Hour’. Next up is ‘Here Again’ which begins with a synth arpeggio that fades in and out of view. Live drums kick playing in a breakbeat style and female vocals echo out. The track reminds me of Chris & Cosey who Factory Floor have collaborated with. There a great clap that comes in around two minutess in. Another arpeggio comes in to play counterpoint to the original in the third minute. the second half of the track is dominated by lots of descending delay effects, rolling toms and chattering hi-hats Colk’s vocals hovering just above.
The single ‘Fall Back’ combines a thumping acoustic bass drum, throbbing synth arpeggio and slap in the face electronic snare and toms during its intro. Colk’s vocals cut in coated in thick effects (pitched shifted, with maybe some reverb). The chattering hi-hats kick in around 2 minutes in and give the track extra forward momentum and a faster feel. I love the way the intensity builds and when the acid bass that kicks in part through with its great spluttering, squelchy sound. ‘Two Different Ways’ is an great track that shows off the band ability to make you dance as it does their industrial intensity. It starts off with electronic bass drum and snare, backing huge synth arpeggio, toms roll in and out and hi-hats tease, the female vocal drops in coated in reverb. Wood blocks kick in with a funky rhythm around three minutes in. Wet, gloopy delay effects drip over the mix around the four minute mark, then the track finds yet more momentum with the synth bass arpeggio growing stronger and stronger as the track progresses.
The album finishes with the one-two punch of ‘Work Out’ and ‘Breathe In’. The former picks up where ‘Two Different Ways’ left off as electronic drums and percussion thump and patter while a stabby bass synth plays over the top. Tom-toms fall all over the place. Colk’s vocal echoes out creating a harmony. In second half there are more delay effects and an arpeggio that add variety and intensity, as does noise mixed in with the hi-hats and synths. A funky more resonate synth enters around 5 minutes adding extra movement and impetus to the track. The latter is the perfect end to the album and strongly recalls Cabaret Voltaire in their mid 80’s electro prime. A thick bass synths starts things off before being swiftly joined by a tough acoustic four to the floor beat and intermit processed vocals. The vocals are used as samples rather than typical use of lead vocals.
All-in-all Factory Floor have created a great debut album that both lives up to the four years of hype that preceded it and is also surprisingly accessible compared to what I (and most critics) had expected. Go out and get yourself a copy of “Factory Floor” you won’t regret it.
Doctor Zygote – “Grupo Zygote” (Black Acre)
Doctor Zygote is a hip hop and instrumental beats based producer of music. Alongside DJ Jazz T he runs Boot Records, and also Zoot Records- a new sister label geared towards instrumental music. Alongside an unnamed rapper he is a member of STRANGE U.
Factory Floor – “Factory Floor” (DFA)
After two years of singles and build up it seems that the band will finally release their much anticipated début album in May 2013 on DFA records. The album will be preceded by the single ‘Fall Back’ eight and a half minutes of slow burning dance floor intensity.
Janelle Monae – “The Electric Lady” (Atlantic)
The follow-up to Monae’s debut album “The Archandroid” (2010) has been announced and is preceded by the single “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu.
Mum – “Smilewound” (Morr Music)
Morr Music press release:
You don’t need to be Freud to regard teeth as a delicate issue. They can make joy look joyous and pain look painful, and on the cover of the new múm album they do both at the same time. As “Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is Okay” (2001), “Finally We Are No One” (2002) and “Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know” (2009) “Smilewound” is another example of the band’s art of juxtaposing two conflicting meanings and taking advantage of the energy created through the tension between both.
Sparser in sound than many of its predecessors, “Smilewound” is an airy, relaxed record. The múm-core-duo of Örvar and Gunni doesn’t make you laugh out loud (except maybe for the quirky vintage Arcade-sound-start of “When Girls Collide”), but it will make you smile often – despite the heavenly voices singing about violence in one form or another in most songs. Musically, múm’s capability to build playful electronic sound-ornaments around simple melodies is in full bloom. And these days they know that trimming the ornamentation can strengthen the melody. Take “The Colorful Stabwound”: an aguish drum’n’bass piece and”Smilewound” gets close to a straight pop-song. Even that isn’t very close, but it combines its rhythmic strength with a simple yet effective piano-line and the soothing lushness of a female voice to something compelling that follows you like the smell of a delicate eau de toilette. Or “Candlestick” which started out as a little ditty strummed on an acoustic guitar many years ago and has grown into this bouncy piece of synth-pop that changes its musical colours every couple of beats until you feel comfortably dizzy. Perfect pop in very fancy clothes. No wonder that antipodean pop-princess Kylie Minogue wanted to collaborate with múm on the “Whistle”, the main song in 2012-movie “Jack & Diane”.
Recorded in, among other places, the band’s practice-space, an old baltic farmhouse and on the kitchen-table after dinner, the album was produced by múm themselves. And being the revolving collective they are, it comes as no surprise that we see the return of former member Gyda. Defining satellites as part of the core fits nicely with the band’s penchant for ambivalence – in fact that’s part of the album’s charm.
Youngblood Brass Band – “Pax Volumi” (Tru Thoughts)
The latest is the band hope to complete the new album in autumn 2012 with a release planned for the the new year accompanied by an extensive world tour by this excellent live act!!!
Release of the Month
Cosmin TRG – Gordian (50 Weapons)