Tag Archive: 2010


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

February continued where January left off only upping the ante of quality releases.

Hot Chip proved yet again to be masters of studio and stage when they delivered their new album ‘One Life Stand’, which has been rightly hailed as their most consistent effort to date and features too many catchy tunes to count. Watching them perform at Leeds Academy I could see they had continued to exponentially improve their already impressive live shows. Hot Chip demonstrated they have gained the confidence to exhibit, without arrogance, a combination of songcraft, dynamics, performance and adaptation that hit the highest levels possible.

I also invested in a Rough Trade exclusive version of the Lindstrom and Christabelle album ‘Real Life is No Cool’, as mentioned in January’s post, and was delighted with the package that also included a second disc of six remixes and a third featuring Lindstrom’s (slightly over long and repetitive) version of the carol ‘Little Drummer Boy’. These New Puritans’ album is another essential purchase and has forced me to reassess this band and I will be revisiting their debut ‘Beat Pyramid’ on Spotify soon. I continued my spending spree on new music with Zombie Zombie member Etienne Jaumet’s album ‘Night Music’, which is a brilliant distillation of techno, krautrock and horror film music that spooks and thrills in equal measure.

I also caught up with couple of release from last year. The first being Mos Def’s ‘The Ecstatic’ which deserved a place on my ‘albums of 2009’ list. Though, like all of his albums, it has a New York feel, the key difference here is that it traverses from Bollywood to Nigeria and finds Mos eschewing his wordy rapping and long tangents for short, sharp bursts of sound. The second of these releases was ‘Inspiration Information Vol.3’ by Mulatu Astatke and The Heliocentrics, a combination of Astatke’s own genre Ethio-jazz (a fusion of jazz and traditional Ethiopian melodies and harmonies) and The Heliocentric’s blaxploitation style of funk. This is must for fans of African music, The Herbaliser and The Cinematic Orchestra. Astatke’s new album ‘Mulatu Steps Ahead’ is out on 29th March and features The Heliocentrics as guests. The quality present on ‘Inspiration Information Vol.3’ is at such high level, it’s another big recommendation.

Finally I rounded off the month with a couple of classic krautrock reissues in the form of Can’s ‘Tago Mago’, an incredible double album that veers from taut funk inspired rock to paranoid synths scapes over its duration. The other was ‘Pheadra’ by Tangerine Dream. An album that many credit as a major inspiration for ambient music and modern dance music producers including Lindstrom and Prins Thomas.

This months Spotify playlist:

February 2010 playlist

February 2010 playlist

To check out in March:

Errors – ‘Come Down with Me’ 1st March

Tuung – ‘And then we saw Land’  1st March

Gonjasufi – ‘A Sufi and a Killer’ 8th March

Gorillaz – ‘Plastic Beach’ 8thMarch

Liars – ‘Sisterworld’ 8th March

The Knife – ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’ 8th March

Madlib – ‘Medicine Show Vol.3: Beat Konducta in Africa’ 22nd March

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh 29th March

Mulatu Astatke – ‘Mulatu Steps Ahead’ 29th March

Method Man/Ghostface/Raekwaon – ‘Wu Massacre’ 29th March.

Also plenty of posts to look forward to on this blog. I’ll be covering hip-hop culture, non-musicians and a new regular feature re-evaluating classic and cult albums of the past.

This is the first in a series of more informal posts where I share my thoughts and feelings about each month. Other entries that will form this blog’s main content are imminent, so keep checking back.

January hosted a mixed bag of album releases for me. However, it has left me feeling that it’s one of best starts to a musical year for quite a while and following months promise many more treats.

On the one hand, this month provided some disappointments in the form of long-awaited and much anticipated albums by Four Tet (who is this imposter?), RJD2 (who seemed to be trying to marry his two career paths thus far and the results were mixed) and Jaga Jazzist (a band that the more I listen to the more I realise they are incredibly hit and miss). Still even in these perceived failures there was hope and signs of great creativity. Jaga Jazzist in particular are immense and a force of nature when on form.

However, I was caught out by those that I’d not expected much from. Manchester’s Delphic impressed with an album full of strong tunes that managed to neatly dodge the cliches usually associated with indie-dance. Meanwhile the misunderstood (even I didn’t get them first time round) These New Puritans blew me away with fine songwriting, complex arrangements and insanely high production values!! I also enjoyed the dizzying highs of ‘Real Life is No Cool’ by Lindstrom and Christabelle and newly converted Ableton Live lover Blockhead finally added new colours and moods to his excellent production palette with his album ‘The Music Scene’.

I’ve yet to get out to a gig or club night in 2010 but there’s plenty lined up, including Hot Chip in a week’s time.

Back again in March with my February thoughts and feelings.

A Spotify (http link then Spotify URL) playlist for you to enjoy the acts mentioned above:

January 2010 playlist

January 2010 playlist

and due to unresolvable editing issues here is the Spotify playlist for the Albums of the Year 2009 post:

Albums of the Year 2009

Albums of the Year 2009

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