Tag Archive: Asian Dub Foundation


This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

The Pop Group – ‘Y’ (1979, Radar Records)

This month’s selected Classics Critiqued  is a post-punk masterpiece that has bemused and divided critics and music fans alike for over 30 years. The Pop Group a four piece from Bristol consisted of Mark Stewart (vocals), John Waddington (guitar), Garth Sager (guitar/occasional saxophone), Simon Underwood (bass) and Bruce Smith (drums), what their line-up lacked in originality was made-up by the melting pot of influences they utilised. An (almost) completely untutored musical collective (Waddington the only trained musician) they burst onto the music scene and made the cover of the NME before they’d ever released a single. Yet the best was still to come as the band cooked up their début album with British dub producer Dennis Bovell.

‘Y’ was released at a time when punk music had become repetitive and had failed to achieve its goals, bands such as Public Image Limited, Wire and Gang of Four were emerging and attempting to explore new paths. The question on everyone’s lips was ‘Where Next?’ The Pop Group answered emphatically ‘everything!’ and unleashed a sound that took on free jazz, dub, reggae, funk and 60’s beat poetry. This monstrous maelström heralded a new era of music outer limits and ‘Y’ served as a prime example of how far the term ‘music’ could be stretched within becoming tuneless. As Bruce Smith told the NME, September 30 1978, “we want people to question as much as possible. All the rules, conceptions, everything…. It’s a question of setting yourself free and not worrying about inhibitions and people saying you can or can’t do that.”

With all these elements flying around the mix The Pop Group needed a steady hand to guide them through recording ‘Y’, someone who understand the band’s hybrid sound and could translate their chaotic live sound into a cohesive and more palatable one on record. Dennis Bovell an experienced British dub producer who also love rock music and had a good grasp of jazz was the man given this job. Bovell recalls the band “were loose and they needed to tighten up. In their own right they’re all great musicians… The thing that was not together about The Pop Group was the guitars. And then Mark Stewart would drift across the frame of the thing. And being near to a seven-footer, and having that kind of voice tone that commanded, ‘You will listen to me’… those were the elements that made it very interesting and made me want to do The Pop Group.” Despite this enviable task the album is incredible well produced harnessing the band explosive grooves and allowing the ‘free’ elements space to roam but not meander. The dub influence is employed throughout but sparingly with the use of space and reverbs, delays and a deep throbbing bass sound the key examples. Bovell even went as far as describing “Simon Underwood and Bruce Smith, they were the Sly and Robbie of the post-punk period – tight”.

The band didn’t only question what was permissible musically but also lyrically, Stewart didn’t believe in “the compartmentalization of experience that places ‘politics’ here and ‘poetry’ over there.” The band cited Rimbaud, Burroughs, and Blake, as much they did King Tubby, Funkadelic and Neu! This poetry was matched with Stewart trademark howl and provocative political subject matter; they were “questioning everything, challenging everything, right down to the core of personal relationships and the relations between the audience and the band.” Stewart described “Thief of Fire as being about “idea of grabbing at something really far away. Finding out about things you thought you weren’t meant to find out about or allowed to find out about, prohibited knowledge. It’s the Prometheus legend, but I twisted it to be about going into the unknown areas. I remember people saying stuff like ‘To be alive is not enough; I want to live. So it was against all the constrictions.” The lack of constrictions applied to the clashing political ideals the band adopted and discussed from “Wilhelm Reich’s libidinal liberation, Antonin Artuad’s threatre of cruelty, Situationism’s revolt against boredom” all this collided and was added to their fiery “Dionysian protest music”. The band viewed themselves as the next in a long line of “politically engaged avant-garde artists” including the Dadaists, the Surrealists through “to 1960’s movements such as Fluxus and Situationism who saw radical art and political revolution as inseparable.”

Such is the uniqueness of The Pop Group’s fusion of disparate genres that there aren’t any bands/artists that could be said to have been directly influenced by the band. In fact, whenever a new band emerges who take on post-punk influences they roll out the same familiar names Gang of Four, Talking Heads, Public Image Limited and Joy Division, The Pop Group never seem to get a look in. However, they have indirectly influenced and had a hand in the creation of the Bristol trip-hop sound. Stewart lived with and mentored Tricky helping him create his first demos and début album ‘Maximquaye’ and was friends with Daddy G of Massive Attack (he is mentioned in the sleeve notes of ‘Blue Lines’ and worked “behind the scenes on “Heligoland”). Another band who Stewart is friends with in Asian Dub Foundation who’ve fused drun’n’bass, dub, hip-hop, Indian music and rock for 20 years and could be seen to carrying the torch that The Pop Group lit with ‘Y’. More recently Italian dance duo Crooker’s remixed the band’s 1979 single ‘We Are Prostitutes’ to much praise from Stewart. This and the rapturous response to the band reformation last year, show this is a band that are still very relevant and may yet produce another incredible statement. Watch this space.

Spotify playlist:

The Pop Group – Y

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Classics Critiqued

This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Primal Scream – “Screamadelica” (1991, Creation Records)


For this month’s Classics Critiqued I’ve chosen what is often viewed as the album of the rave era: Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica”. The album rescued the band from a potential split, won them the first Mercury Music Prize in 1992 and has been included on nearly every Best Albums of All Time list for the last 20 years. Earlier this month the album was given a grand 20th anniversary reissue complete with a replica tour t-shirt, DJ slipmat, 50 page Perfect bound book, DVD documentary and two bonus CDs. I will explore the album’s creation, its legacy and the influence its groundbreaking fusion of styles has had on music since.

The album began life in 1988 when the band’s manager, label boss and lifelong friend Alan McGee took Bobby Gillespie (vocals), Robert ‘Throb’ Young (guitar) and Andrew Innes (guitar) clubbing to experience the Rave/Acid House phenomenon that had started to sweep through the UK that same year. Being punk purists at heart they were unimpressed at first but further visits revealed to them a new revolutionary sound that could replace the “sexless, ambitionless” indie rock that their peers were playing. As the band immersed themselves in this new life style three pivotal albums were released which proved guitars and dance beats were meant to go together:  “Bummed” (1988) and “Thrills, Pills and Bellyaches” (1990) by the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses’ self titled debut album from 1989. These albums contained similar elements to those that would feature in Primal Scream’s larger melting pot. The Happy Mondays mixed funk’s groove and swagger, Shaun Ryder’s poet laureate lyrics and snatches of riffs and rhythms stolen from disco, soul and pop classics of the ‘60s and ‘70s in their albums’ psychedelic stew that stirred a nation from its slumber. Meanwhile the Roses sound was slimmer and slicker but still grooved like James Brown (‘Fool’s Gold’ wholly lifted the ‘Funky Drummer’ breakbeat). Primal Scream were obviously listening as they worked for 18 months on an album that surpassed both these bands finest efforts.

“Screamadelica” is an album that chimed in so well with the time that it should sound dated, as much of the rave era music does now due to the genre’s cheesy sounds, which have been superseded by the constant forward march of technology. A common misperception of the release is that it is a rave album as opposed to an album influenced by rave music’s spirit. Bobby Gillespie has recently pointed out, (the) “three big albums for the acid house crowd were “Screamadelica”, the Monday’s “Pills ‘N’ Thrills” and The Stone Roses’ first album, and none of them really were acid house. They were rock albums that had a dance feel. We had never wanted to do a straight-up, out-and-out dance record either. Ten banging piano dance tracks would have been boring. The piano on ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’ isn’t like that. It’s not Italian piano house, its more Jelly Roll Morton – sexy, slinky.”

If further proof was needed “Screamdelica” begins with ‘Movin’ On Up’, an homage to the sound of the Rolling Stones. It was produced by Jimmy Miller who had produced the Stones from “Beggars Banquet” (1968) to Goats Head Soup” (1973). It is followed by an acid house take on acid rock pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators classic ‘Slip Inside This House’. The album’s centrepiece (and penultimate song, there are two versions) ‘Higher Than The Sun’ is a sprawling dub track featuring ex- Public Image Limited bassist Jah Wobble and production by chill-out room favourites The Orb. A majority of the songs are underpinned by deep funk bass lines and the album’s title hints at the influence of psychedelic-funk innovators Parliament-Funkadelic. Also there’s its most laid back moments are the “country-rock pastiche” of ‘Damaged’ and ‘Shine Like Stars’” twinkling comedown.

This melting pot of musical fusions could have become an overcooked mess were it not for Primal Scream’s skilful writing team of Gillespie, Innes and Young and the talent of their celebrated co-producer Andrew Weatherall (whose remix of ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’, renamed ‘Loaded’, launched the album properly in 1990) and programmer Bill Nicholson (music technology was still a complex and unpredictable beast 20 years ago). The combination of revolutionary technology and technique was matched with Primal Scream reaching previously unimaginable levels of song writing. They were transformed from a run of the mill indie-rock band to creators of songs that still resonate today and may do so well into the future, thanks in part to the reissue of “Screamadelica”.

“Screamadelica” cannot claim a direct influence on individual acts as it’s an album that is unique, a true one off. Its influence has instead been to inspire what Gillespie has described as “deconstructing the band!” defying barriers between rock and dance music and ideas. Without “Screamadelica” there would be no LCD Soundsystem or The Rapture and Asian Dub Foundation would not have found favour with an accepting media and audience. In 1991 there was no dominant alternative music scene in the UK (coincidently Nirvana’s equally seminal “Nevermind” was released in the same week as “Screamadelica”) and this allowed freedom for a band like Primal Scream to create their complex masterpiece unhindered by what was in fashion or which scene was most popular. The ripple effect of its release is still being felt now, as with LCD Soundsytem et al, and the new reissue should ensure that there is another generation of rule breakers inspired by its brilliance.

Spotify Playlist:

Primal Scream – Screamadelica (20th Anniversary Edition)

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.

2011 through my (biased) eyes: January

January (and indeed 2011) kicked off reasonably well with ‘Red Barked Tree’ by Wire, a fine combination of subtle dreamy tracks that recalled shoegaze and new wave particularly Bill Nelson’s Red Noise (‘Please Take’, ‘Adapt’, ‘Down to This’) and a more typical Wire sound (‘Smash’, ‘A Flat Tent’ and ‘Two Minutes’ . The highlight of this was ‘Moreover’ with its creepy synth intro slashing guitar riff and effected vocals building in intensity throughout the track ending in a final crescendo. I was initially wrong footed by the dreamy songs, they completely the opposite to image of Wire I have and I was unsure of how they sat in Wire’s career arch. However, a little reading filled in a some gaps in my Wire particular the second phrase of their career in which they secretly pioneered a sound similar to that of the shoegaze bands that would follow them. For me the jury is still out in this way album, though the band do prove not purely trading on past glories. I will be revisiting this album later in the year to try to make my mind up about it.

Another post-punk band Gang of Four returned to the fray this month with ‘Content’ their first album since reforming in 2004. Unfortunately I feel this album is a massive disappointed, hackneyed and lazy reliving and ruining of past glories. For a band that has for so long riled against retro revivals and giving their audience an easy ride, it seems I (and possible many other fans) had Gang of Four all wrong. Minus the original rhythm section and with Andy Gill on production the band has become a pale imitation of its self. Jon King regularly lets the band down on the vocal and lyrically front undermining any political points he may be making, Gill fares better but still lacks the sharpness of his prime and rhythm section is one half lifeless (drummer Mark Heaney) and one part session muso of slap bass duties (bassist Thomas McNeice). These elements all combine to ruin what was which an amazing formula and reduced to a sub par Duran Duran/INXS played by Gang of Four.

Deerhoof were the next band to release a new album in January and I have to say that like Wire they produced a mix bag stylistically speaking. The album veers from Spanish flavoured tracks such as ‘Que Dorm, Nomes Somia’, ‘I Did Crimes for You’ and ‘No One Asked to Dance’, the chugging sprightly guitar powered riff-a-rama of ‘Let’s Dance the Jet’, ‘Secret Mobilization’ and the slightly mellower ‘C’Moon’ and the indie electro of ‘Super Duper Rescue Heads’ and ‘The Merry Barracks’ and a couple more genre de tours too!! This is a band who often can’t sit still for one song and I had to listen to each one several times to really start to get a hold on them, however Deerhoof’s music isn’t difficult possessing much rhythmic and melodic skill and dexterity. I’ve checked out some of band’s back catalogue (and will continue to) and I feel that through this album has some great highlights to maybe feels a little laboured and is maybe a transition to the bands next break through.

The first début album of year to blow my socks off this year is ‘Violet Cries’ by Esben and the Witch, traditional song structure is almost exclusively abandoned in favoured of tense post-rock style structures of building intensity and massive drops. The band has taken massive steps forward since their début E.P. and gothic-folk just won’t cut it as description. True theres goth influences I can hear Siouxsie and The Banshees in a lot of the melodies and textures used across this album, ‘Light Streams’ hints at Battles influence in its spiky guitar arpeggios and exploding drums. ‘Marine Fields Glow’ is a torch that recalls Portishead at their finest and the records ambition is pure Kate Bush. I have a feeling that this could rival These New Puritans – ‘Hidden’ as an ambitious album that successful combines many influences, though I’ll admit that Esben and the Witch’s influences are less varied and diffuse, the two albums share a similar medieval atmosphere.

The Dirtbombs returned with a novel concept album that really could have gone either way. Ten years after they released ‘Ultraglide in Black’ their album of Detroit soul and funk covers they released another celebration of Detroit’s musical history ‘Party Store’ there revising of classic Detroit techno tracks. Starting with a grease, grinding garage version ‘Cosmic Cars’ the album doesn’t really take off until track three ‘Good Life’ which combines heavy drum machine back beat, busy post-punk chicken scratch guitar, funk bass-line and singer Mike Collins falling a little short of the originals vocal heights. ‘Strings of Life’ ups the ante once again but is probably the closest to the original. ‘Alleys of the Mind’ continues a good run of tunes and returns to the grime of ‘Cosmic Cars’ but more successfully. The album’s centrepiece a 21 minutes plus version of ‘Bug in the Bass Bin’ features it composer Carl Craig jamming along on a modular synth and despite its length is the highlight of album, powering it through the remaining three tracks.

Talib Kweli made his return as an independent artist with new album ‘Gutter Rainbows’, a return to form after the overly commercial and guest heavy ‘Eardrum’  (2007). Kweli seems to more at ease and freer, the album’s tone and variety a sign that he may have been under pressure from Warners while making ‘Eardrum’. It’s also telling that all the guests and producers who appear on this album aren’t established major label artists/producers and I think that’s a big contributing factor. The quality on the album only really drops once for ‘How Do You Love Me’ which is a little too limp and sloppy amongst tracks that have a lot more bit and depth. The major highlights are ‘Cold Rain’ (production by Currency producer Ski Beats) and Jean Grae’s appearance on ‘Uh Oh’, however its Kweli whose personality comes across strongest, on what could be his best album yet.

I’ll be adding three new bands to our preview of the year and a new pages that will act as new music and film release schedules.

Just a couple of things to add before we move on to February:

1) You can find links to music news, album streams, our posts and more on our Twitter.

2) We’ve been scratching our heads trying to work out a way that we can share our playlists we more people (Spotify has its limitations). If anyone knows of an app/piece of software/website where we can create playlists from a legal database of music, please feel free to post in the comments or our Twitter. We have thought about Grooveshark but it’s not technically legal and is being sued by many record companies so may not last. iTunes is obvious one but I’ll be honest I don’t like it. So to recap, it has to be free, legal and with a pre-existing database of music that is updated regularly.

Spotify playlist *:

January 2011 playlist

*More tracks to be added as they become available

February recommendations

Asian Dub Foundation – ‘A History of Now’ (Cooking Vinyl) 7th February

ADF return with their seventh album the follow-up to the brilliant ‘Punkara’ (2008), the title track (available at the band’s website for your e-mail address) suggests it business as usual these innovators and that’s no bad thing, lets hope there’s plenty more on the rest of the album.

Beans – ‘End It All’ (Anti-Con) 14th February

Anti Pop Consortium member Beans returns with an album of 13 tracks by 13 different producers and with a smattering of guests. Producer’s include Four Tet, Bumps (Tortoise’s drummer), Tobacco, Clark and many more. T.V. on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe sings on the track ‘Mellow You Out’ which is a promising preview for the album. I’ve personally found Beans solo material hit and miss though I’ve lost touch with his solo activities in the last few years, however I think this could prove an interesting record.

Paris Suit Yourself – My Main Shitstain (Big Dada) 14th February

The début album from French-US collective (the first ‘rock’ band to sign to Big Dada) is one that is incredibly impressive while also suggesting areas that could be expanded on in the future. The first knock out album of the year stakes out similar territory to garage-funk band The Make-Up but with a more modern and street wise hip-hop edge. Though vocalist Luvinsky Atche doesn’t sound like Saul Williams his half sung, half spoken vocals are. The Pop Group and PiL also seem like good reference points for tracks such as ‘Decadence’ and ‘Yesterday Make You Cry’.

Mogwai – ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’ 14th February (Rock Action)

Another Mogwai album another great album title. Having a few tracks off the album I can honestly say that I think the boys are back up their with their best albums. As is always the case the development from the previous records is subtle and can take a few listens properly present themselves but they are there. More vocals is something they haven’t tried since ‘Happy Music for Happy People’ and its stands up and adds a more human feel and another layer of texture and harmony to the bands sound. Particularly highlights are the corroded guitar drones of ‘Rano Pano’ and the motorik groove of ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ (a real departure for the band).

Win Win – ‘Win Win’  14th February (Vice)

A three-way collaborative project comprising XXXchange (Spank Rock), Chris Delvin (of Baltimore DJ duo Delvin and Darko) and visual artist Ghostdad. Their self titled album is out on Vice on 15th February and features Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Andrew W.K., Naeem and Blaqstarr (Spank Rock) and Lizzie Bougatsos (Gang Gang Dance) to name a few. Having only heard one single its hard to say how this sound, however given the people involved its safe to assume it’ll be dirty but sleek and eclectic yet danceable.

Toro Y Moi – ‘Underneath the Pine’ 21st February (Car Park)

Toro Y Moi follows up last years excellent début album – ‘Causers of This’ with an album full of live instrumentation a straight up 80’s funk and pop influences. ‘Still Sound’ and ‘New Beat’ bristle with elastic energy and bounce. An album to brighten up the winter just ahead of spring rebirth.

Wow, 2010 was quite a year for music and Sonic Fiction, personally I think it was a really great year for music of all types and blog managed to grow massively in the second half the year when we doubled our views from the first half of the year. Thanks to anyone who has taken a look, enjoyed and commented on our pieces. I have to say though that in some ways the end of the year was frustrating reading end of year polls and finding tons of reviews of albums I hadn’t listened to in my bookmarks. Still I’ve decided not to stress about as even some of my favourite journalists haven’t found the time to listen to everything.

In 2011 we hope that Sonic Fiction can continue to grow both in terms of quality of writing and views. We aim to continually improve but want to make this a more conscious effort from now on. We’ve launched a Twitter account which will enable us to link readers to articles, albums, playlists etc and provide the real interactivity that we want with Sonic Fiction. I think that when we started the blog, we were just relived that it was (finally) up and running but as time has gone on a set of aims has emerged. We really want to start debates about the points that we are making and we hope that with the help of Twitter and even better writing we can do so. If anyone has any suggestions of further ways we can encourage this please let us know. We also have a new bi-monthly column launching in February (when we’ll be one year old) that will reassess the perceived reputation of artist(s), a period of their career or a genre, we don’t have a title but if anyone has a suggestion just Twitter it or put it in the comments section.

Ok, so looking forward into the New Year here’s list of the various cultural happenings we are looking forward to this year:

Bands/Artists/Releases

There’s a trio of returning post-punk legends (two of them this month) in the shape of Gang of Four’s (first album in almost 16 years) ‘Content’, Wire release new album ‘Red Barked Tree’ and The Pop Group return with a new album later in the year, which will possibly feature The Bug, Keith Levene (ex Clash and Public Ltd guitarist), Micheal Rother (Neu!), Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire) and DJ Assault or not.

There’s ‘Violet Cries’ the debut album by spooky, folky goth types Esben and The Witch, a band I saw a lot of potential in last year but failed to mention.

The explosive agit-prop of Asian Dub Foundation is always welcome in my flat and on the evidence of the title track so will new album ‘A History of Now’ out 7th February.

A week later Mogwai’s fearsome noise will pollute speakers the world over with new album ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’.

I always get excited about new PJ Harvey album but haven’t even listened to one since ‘Tales from the City, Tales from the Sea’, so we’ll have to see if ‘Let England Shake’ changes that.

There’s also the much anticipated collaboration/remix album by Gil-Scott Heron ‘We’re New Here’, though the description I read on FACT doesn’t fill me with confidence.

The Knife have hinted via their newsletter of new material emerging sometime in 2011 and in other Scandinavian news, Bjork has said that new music will be “ready in a few months”.

Finally Primal Scream celebrate the 20th anniversary of ‘Screamdelica’ with a tour and impressive looking 6 disc box set on March 7th. There will also be smaller edition more info as I get it.

New band tips

  • OoOOo – self titled debut E.P. was one of the top releases of 2010, next release much anticipated.

  • Balam Acab – debut E.P. ‘See Birds’ was one of the top releases of 2010, to be issued on CD in February.

  • Factory Floor – this industrial dance outfit’s early singles impressed, an album is being recorded.

  • Dels – Big Dada’s new hip-hop hope delivers debut album produced by Joe Goddard (Hot Chip) early in 2011.

  • Laurel Halo – made waves all over the internet last year and seems to have the talent to back up the hype!!

  • Yanqui – I was very impressed by this post-rock bands self titled debut E.P. and think there’s real potential for development into something bigger and better.

  • The Samps – another impressive self titled debut E.P. from these sample lovin’ duo, kind of like a sampled based Chin Chin cheesy yet irresistible.

  • Games – this Oneohtrix Point Never side project launched with their debut release ‘We Can Play’ on the super hip Hippos In Tanks late last year and it was packed with great tunes that promises their debut album might just be as good as Oneohtrix’s own material.

  • Blondes – synth based Brooklyn duo who after the success of their ‘Touched’ E.P. should release a debut full length that takes their ‘bedroom space disco’ sound even further out.

  • Win Win – a three way collaborative project comprising XXXchange (Spank Rock), Chris Delvin (of Baltimore DJ duo Delvin and Darko) and visual artist Ghostdad. Their self titled album is out on Vice on 15th February and features Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Naeem (Spank Rock) and Lizzie Bougatsos (Gang Gang Dance).

  • Floating Points Ensemble – the side project of producer Floating Points have already received critical acclaim for their spat of electronic jazz infected 2010 releases, a debut album on Ninja Tune awaits in 2011.

  • Holy Other – The haunting track ‘Yr Love’ leads to a potential album this year. The electronic music producer’s blend of gauzy vocals, 808 claps and swampy delays creates a highly emotional feel, which hopefully will materialise as a complete release.

  • White Car – Having released two EP’s last year this exciting industrial dance duo are currently putting the finishing touches to a début album to be released later this year.

  • Suuns (pronounced ‘Soons’) – This band’s début album ‘Zeroes QC’ manages the ineviable task of  combining post-punk and post-rock influences into a cohesive, tuneful and confident and all without sounding like overblown and bloated rock.

  • Breton – This South London have been saddled with the unfortunate description of ‘post-punk dubstep’ but don’t let that put you off. It’s true that they combine influences from those genres but a quick visit to their MySpace will show that they transcend these distinct sounds to make their unique style. With only one 12″ the potential is definitely there and only time will tell if it can blossom further.

Albums we hope finally see the light of day in 2011

Missy Elliott’s long anticipated ‘The Block Party’, the second Madvillain album, the new Mouse on Mars album; a new album by audio-visual dons Coldcut is due and The Avalanches much, much, much anticipated follow to ‘Since I Left You’, yes I believe this is coming soon.

Spotify playlist:

Preview of 2011

Recommendations

Wire – ‘Red Barked Tree’ (Pink Flag) 10th January

Wire return with their 12th album (and first without guitarist Bruce Gilbert), the bands own description makes it sound like business as usual but this no bad thing!!

Deerhoof – ‘Deerhoof vs Evil’ (Polyvinyl) 25th January

American indie-rockers return with their 11th album, following on from their great contribution to Tradi-Mods vs. Rockers: Alternative Takes on Congotronics’ late last year. You can hear tracks from the album via Soundcloud now and in each week leading up to release.

Gang of Four – ‘Content’ (Groneland) 25th January

Post-punk legends return with their first new album since reforming in 2004. Heavily published by the bands fund raising efforts which included giving away vials of blood to fans with the album. Should be interesting as the two tracks I’ve heard so far have gone from great to so-so.

Talib Kweli – ‘Gutter Rainbows’ (Talibra) 25th January

Talib’s first independent release after the fall out from ‘Eardrum’ lead to leaving Warner Bros. early signs are good and come in the form of the Ski Beatz produced ‘Cold Rain’. You can hear the track and read more details here.

Esben and the Witch – ‘Violet Cries’ (Beggars Banquet) 31st January

Quietly gathering support from The Quietus to the Guardian through last year and expected to produce one of the debuts of the year. Will their folky gothic pop live up to the hype?

I hope to have some more music, plus television and film recommendations next month.

Coming up in January we have a piece on slow music (more interesting than that sounds), the return of Music Is Improper with the second part of its history of techno and ‘Doolittle’ by the Pixies is this month Classic’s Critiqued.

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