Tag Archive: Deerhoof
‘A Man Alive’ is the fourth album from Thao Nguyen with her project The Get Down Stay Down (she also records as half of Thao & Mirah) and is one of the most personal to date. A large amount the lyrics deal with absence specifcally her father’s absence. These lyrics are a stark contrast to the albums thrashy party music. There is a bittersweet sense throughout the album that binds it together and rewards the listener with repeated listens as their understanding deepens and the layers are peeled away.
Merrill Garbus (aka Tune-yards) is on board as producer and contributes a lot instrumentally and back with backing vocals throughout the album. There is a lot of similarities between Thao’s vocal delivery and sonic and stylistic choices when compared to Tune-yards back catalogue. The use of lo-fi and distorted fuzzy production and funky, tribal rhythms that have a hint of Afro be about them I just two similarities. However, these similarities don’t spoil a brilliant album and is like a more direct version of Tune-yards “Nikki Nack” that sometimes suffered from overstuffing every song with elements and thus could be a very overwhelming experience. Another useful reference point is that of Deerhoof who combine serrated indie/post-punk guitars with Afro beat rhythms and poppy vocal melodies and have a similarly lo-fi aesthetic.
The album opens with ‘Astonished Man’ with a down tempo beat and vocals opening the track, then heavy buzzing synth bass joins in and push the track forward. In the chorus there’s a cool hook played by what sounds like a badly tuned guitar. Everything is very raw and lo-fi in a good way and reminds me of Deerhoof. Though Thao can create a more complex melody. Continuing in a similar vein is ‘Departure’ with its opening minimal sound set just a drum machine some percussion and vocals but then we get stabs of guitar and a deep thick synth bass joining in. At points in the chorus vocals to become a little grating and recall that of Garbus’ wI personally I don’t have a problem with Garbus’ vocals but I understand how they can annoy some people. ‘Departure’ is also the track where the lyrical theme begins With the shouted line “Half of all my blood in vain,” standing out. ‘Guts’ with its down tempo sparse beats and organ the only things accompanying the vocals, continues the lyrical theme with Thao stridently declaring “I’ve got the guts/ I don’t need my blood.”.
Next up is ‘Fool forever’ which opens with a tightly wound guitar playing across fast skittering drums while the vocal moves steadily over the top. This then breaks down temporarily before the riff returns to be joined by another riff played on very distorted organ, the jittery feel of the track is amplified by these elements combining. The Ballard-like ‘Millionaire’ Recalls ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Thao playing the part of Karen O. That this time the word is not directed at a lover but her father, “Oh daddy, I broke in a million pieces/ That makes you a millionaire.” The song opens with a sparse guitar melody and held organ delayed chords backing an almost bare Thao. A bass drum keeps time far in the background. Around 20 seconds in with the guitar and organ making a musical change to play soaraway chords for Thao to sing a long reverberant melody over. This structure is repeated throughout.
‘Meticulous bird’ puts us back on the upbeat tip with driving drums kick in the track off. Screeching synths play, counter point to the vocals weaving in in and out of the verse and chorus. The track is little difficult to listen to at first but once you get used to it actually works very well. It also another example of contrasts of sweet and serrated views on this album.The album closes as it began with a down tempo track and also brings back the main lyrical theme on The album closes as it began with a down tempo track and also brings back the main lyrical theme on ‘Endless Love’ where Thao sings a simple melody (sample lyrics include “I’ve got an endless love/ no one can starve,” and the chorus'”I don’t want it/ I don’t want it/ Carve it on out of me.”) over a sparse bass line and beat its Garbus on backing vocals again. The track provides very mellow end to the album though this is offset by nasty fuzzy guitar solo wind its wonky way through the middle of the track.
Let me know what you think of ‘A Man Alive’ in the comments or via Twitter.
Disappointment of the month
Albert Swarm – Wake (Ceremony Recordings)
“Wake”, the debut album of the Finnish producer Pietu Arvola, meanders and rolls on without direction. It is stagnant and, bar the closing song “Moths and Moth Catchers”, devoid of anything remotely memorable. All seven tracks follow the same arrangement: it begins in an infancy stage where unnameable sounds drift and float then elements are slowly added and expanded until reaching a plateau for the final minute or so then it comes to an end. Everything sits in the same frequency range, leaving little space for the songs to breathe and settle. This sounds less like a stylistic choice of a suffocating atmosphere and more of flattening over-compression. Except for sections of ‘A Dream That Glistened’ and ‘Moths and Moth Catchers’ there is a lack of melody, a hollow void where something enticing should be. Sadly the only thing that even comes close to the emotion found in the strangely operatic and heart-wrenching ‘Familialities’ from Swarm’s “Held” EP from 2011 is ‘Moths and Moth Catchers’, which utilises a chordal structure to underpin, and emphasise, a much longed-for melody. This last song is the point where “Wake” finally comes alive and makes a play for the listener’s attention.
Barker & Baumecker – “Transsektoral” (Ostgut Ton)
Sam Barker and Andreas Baumecker’s debut album is purposed to travel the spectrum of electronic music. Both established figures within Berlin’s techno family, Barker is known for co-running the Leisure System nights and his razor-edged electronics as Voltek. Baumecker, meanwhile has headed up the record label Freundinnen and worked as a resident DJ and booking agent for Berghain. Having previously collaborated on 2010’s “Candyflip” and the notable “A Murder of Crows” EP in March, “Transsektoral” collates 11 new tracks from the pair. Ranging in tempo and texture, the album pushes a sleek but rough sound injected with contemporary and past techno with a dose of IDM/electronica dynamics.
A track like the chilling, buzzing ‘Crows’ seems to build in reverse and, as with the rest of the album, feels like a polished jam, taking unexpected twists and turns that sound like a result of spur-of-the-moment decisions. Silvery spurts of ambient music can be found in the twinkling, bubbling tracks ‘Sektor’ and ‘Tranq’. Disciples of Ostgut Ton’s techno arsenal will be at home in the awesomely punishing shunt of ‘Buttcracker’ and ‘Silo.’ “Transsektoral isn’t without flaws: ‘No Body’’s uninspired ghostly garage feels three years old and the finale ‘Spur’ tips the scales of sentimental into a cloying syrup. Yet the dark and skippy ‘Schlang Bang’, ‘Trafo’’s hyperkinetic race and the aforementioned standouts create the kind of well-paced experience that lends itself to a DJ set. Their debut may not be flawless but it does come close. With its infectious sense of fun and masterfully undercooked programming “Transsektoral” finds the sweet spot between old-school dance music energy and the modern techno aesthetic.
Steffi – “Shraper” EP (Ostgut Ton)
Steffi’s 12″ for Ostgut Ton reveals three tough, energetic tracks to add to her collection of evolving productions. After the many intimate house and techno moments on her debut album “Yours & Mine”, Steffi provides further flashes of her fine techno sound for “Shraper”. The eponymous first track (A-side) combines a simple yet effective driving beat and scraping, scratching percussion with a whomping bass line and a thin, yawning synth line to hypnotic effect, cranking the energy levels right up. The string version of the second (B-side) track ‘Tank’ is a ride around Panorama Bar with a mellow mood created by a deeper bass, bouncing metallic hats and a bell pattern added underneath a silkier version of the synth melody from the opening track. The Beat version of ‘Tank’ builds and builds with fewer elements namely a demanding bass drum, fast16th hats and percussion, a neat DJ tool to bring any dance floor together.
Release of the month
John Tejada – “The Predicting Machine” (Kompakt)
On his eighth solo album, John Tejada shows his enduring acclaim is entirely deserved thanks to his singular variety of smart melodic house and techno. ‘The Predicting Machine’ cycles through ten tracks that effortlessly and elegantly weave lean electronics and pounding, yet sparse, beats and emotive melodies. On last year’s “Parabolas”, he restricted himself to a narrow palette of sounds, perhaps as a way to highlight his expertise with detail, but on “The Predicting Machine”, his second consecutive release for Kompakt, Tejada runs wild, excitedly and purposefully pulling sounds from an assorted catalogue of eras and styles and it is this wide-eyed enthusiasm that makes him and Kompakt such a perfect match. “The Predicting Machine” covers a lot of ground yet perfectly summarises Tejada’s deeply focused approach to music making. Opener ‘Orbiter’ sculpts bleeping hooks and thick fogs out of its aquatic groove. The knowingly titled ‘A Familiar Mood’ returns the listener to the percolating tech house that made Tejada’s name. ‘An Ounce of Perception’ introduces a limber, Kompakt schaffel-inspired rhythm then descends into a 7 minute long gleaming melody, which leads the listener into spiraling arpeggios on ‘Winter Skies’.
A moment of sheer magic occurs when the opening bars of the anthemic tech-house track ‘The Function And The Form’ begin. Its fizzing melody and growling bassline lifts “The Predicting Machine” up a level. The vintage beat and the incredible, rich modular synth textures surrounding it play out joyously. The sparkling arpeggios that kick in at around the 2:30 minute mark are a masterful touch. Following the track is the ‘90s jacking cut ‘Stabilizer’. ‘Horizon to Horizon’ possesses a wet, elastic rhythm underneath a near classical arrangement. The soothing closer ‘When All Around Is Madness’ chimes with effervescent clouds of synths. When it comes to effortlessly and beautifully conveying emotion in music no one gets close to John Tejada’s finely tuned melodies or his instinctive musicality. Every one of his tracks is an inviting and wondrous soundscape filled with luxurious and elegant detail. “The Predicting Machine” will see a high ranking position in the end of the year charts on Sonic Fiction.
Disappointment of the Month
Nick Edwards – “Plekzationz” (Editions Mego)
“Plekzationz” is Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz’s first release on Edition Mego the legendary Austrian experimental electronic music label and his first since 1994 under his own name. The album is made up of 4 long form tracks all around 15 or 16 minutes in length, this is in stark contrast to Edwards other work as Ekoplekz which generally short to average songs lengths and this has always seemed suitable for the noisy and intense natural of the music. In fact, oddly enough the first two tracks ‘Chance Meets Causality Uptown’ and ‘No Escape From ‘79’ feel like three Ekoplekz tracks that have been loosely joined together, the join between the tracks show through and I think these tracks should have been 6 separate 5 minute tracks rather than two 15 minute tracks. The album takes a turn for the worst on track three ‘Inside the Analogue Continuum’ which struggles to separate itself from the other tracks on the album and indeed much of Ekoplekz back catalogue and doesn’t really get going almost seven minutes in when a bass drum and rhythmic noises give it a sluggish forward momentum. The surprisingly use of a drum ‘n’ bass break at the end gives the track a belated shot of energy but it’s too little too late for the worst track of Edwards impressive career to date. The album final track ‘A Pendent’s Progress’ however turns the tide with its slimy acid fried delayed synth slivers, dub siren and metallic percussion that reverberates out with a long tail. The track is classic Ekoplekz just stretched out over 15 minutes, in the second half more instrumentation is added and the gets busier and denser with a great feel that seals the deal. Unfortunately “Plekzationz” is a flawed release and fails to match the brilliance of Ekoplekz back catalogue. Though ‘A Pendent’s Progress’ is well worth downloading via Boomkat.
Sun Araw – “The Inner Treaty” (Sun Ark/Drag City)
“The Inner Treaty” picks up where last year “Ancient Romans” left off for Sun Araw. Like “Ancient Romans” this is patchy album on which Sun Araw tries to expand his basic palette with very mixed results. The first half of album is the most frustrating as tumbling electronic drum patterns and busy percussion fight for attention amongst the wah-wah guitar and synths which veer from stabby to psychedelic. ‘Like Wine’s disparate elements briefly coalesces into a hypnotic engaging loop but then everything falls apart again and the song ends. The second half of the album isn’t much of an improvement, though with ‘Treaty’ Sun Araw keeps things simple in the drums and percussion department with the other instruments given space to breathe and development organically. The organic, psychedelic synth that comes in around 2 minutes is an inspired touch and off sets the other instruments perfectly. However, after this great example of what he does best Sun Araw undoes his good work with ‘The Summum’ the fastest and densest track of his career to date and that left me completely cold. The album closes with ‘And I’ another disappointment that features 80’s electro synth bass, dubbed out guitar and drums backing Sun Araw’s vocals. I’ve been a big fan of Sun Araw for two and a half years now but feel he’s really failed to deliver an album that comes close to any of his first four albums, yes there are good tracks on both “Ancient Romans” and ‘Treaty’ from this album. But I feel this is an artist who has run out of effective ways to develop his once distinctive sound.
The XX – “Coexist” (Young Turks)
“Coexist” is the long awaited second album from the XX the quietly unique band that first emerged back in 2010. Much has been made of the ever sparser sound employed on “Coexist” and though there’s no doubt that there are a certainly a few tracks that bare this out, I think there are other interesting developments. Firstly there a few tracks (‘Angels’, ‘Chained and ‘Sunset’) that feel rushed where the music might have felt urgent in the past. This gives the feel that the band is either bored of their previous slow style or uncertain of how good their songs are. I feel it maybe the latter as even after a few plays the songs don’t stick in my head as much as those on the XX’s self titled debut album and though Jamie XX tries out some new effects and production techniques at times they feel distracting rather than complimentary to the music or vocalists. ‘Reunion’ and ‘Swept Away’ seem like missteps into ambient house influenced dancefloor tracks that are an ill fit for the vocals and lyrical content of the songs. The album is by no means a complete failure and my own misgivings could well be endearing traits for others. I think hardcore fans of the XX will find much to love but others may find that the hype doesn’t match up to the reality for “Coexist”.
Animal Collective – “Centipide Hz” (Domino)
The new album from Animal Collective is a significant departure from their previous album “Merriweather Post Pavillion” (Sonic Fiction’s Album of the Year 2009) whereas that album was sampled based and entirely electronic with slow to mid paced songs, “Centipide Hz” enschews this to become Animal Collective most ‘rock’ record to date. With Panda Bear back on the drum stool that album kicks off with ‘Moon Jock’ a stomping, crashing, intense combination of drums, guitar, off kilter vocals and Geologist’s out of this world effects. The album continues with the lighter but no less disorienting “Today’s Supernatural” the album’s obvious single the angular sound of which owes something to the band’s 2007 album “Strawberry Jam”. For the next track ‘Rosie Oh’ the pace drop for the first time and the track recalls a warped version of the Beach Boys, if they lived under the sea instead of surfing on it. This same sonic blueprint is employed again on ‘Pulleys’. The upbeat rhythms, crashing drums and guitars are back on ‘Applesauce’ joined by warped synths for a potential future single due to its catchy chorus. The bucolic and organic sounding ‘Wide Eyed’ recalls XTC in their prime and is Deakin’s first songwriting credit for the band, featuring the man himself on lead vocals and promising much for future contributions. “Father Time” floats in out if synth fog and static sounding Hawaii in a psychedelic heat haze. Panda Bear’s big moments comes with “New Town Burnout” with its pattering electronic drums, hornets nests of spiky guitar drone and a stop-start lead vocal from the man himself, the song is one of strongest melodical and harmonic on the album and bares the most relation to those on “Merriweather Post Pavillion”. After the nutty synth sounds of ‘Monkey Riches’ and epic video game soundtrack music of ‘Mercury Man’ the band settles into the home striaght the aforementioned under water pop of ‘Pulleys’ and the stomping, splashing start-stop rhythms and padding percussion of finale ‘Amanita’. Overall “Centipide Hz” is a hard album to define with the band covering a lot of ground over its 50 minute plus length, oddly it also feels longer and more meandering then the much slower “Merriweather Post Pavillion”. In fact, though there are some great indivdual moments on “Centipide Hz” its doesn’t feel like it convinces as an album. Animal Collective have always managed to complete coherent and conceptually strong albums in the past but here only tenourous links are made using radio static and fictional indents, which fail to tie the whole album together. All-in-all Animal Collective reach some real highs worthy of their reputation but can’t replete it over the whole of ‘Centipide Hz’.
Clark – “Fantasm Planes” (Warp)
The “Fantasm Planes” E.P. picks up where Clark new album “Iradelphic” left off; in fact three of its tracks are reworkings of tracks on “Iradelphic”. The E.P. kicks off with the first of three new tracks ‘Fantasm Planes’ which matches a flute melody with dancehall beat and thick analogue synths lines. Next up is the first of the three reworks ‘Henderson Swooping’ with its picked acoustic guitar and moon boot sized dancehall drums. ‘Com Re-Touch/Pocket for Jack’ takes the original ‘Com Touch’ synth melodies but brings down the tempo and back them with heavy drums before a new guitar line and synth and drum backing drop in for the second half of the track. The third and final reworking is ‘Secret Slow Show’ featuring the vocals of Martina Topley-Bird backed by acoustic guitar, tumbling drums before the track is complete turned on its head for the final quarter of the track with distorted acidic electronic drums kicking in. The remaining two tracks on the E.P. are brief instrumentals ‘Brigitte’ with its slow moving metallic synths and misty psychedelic vocals and ‘Dove in Flames’ an organic and minimalistic synth instrumental. Overall Clark’s delivered another superb release and worthy companion piece to the excellent “Iradelphic”.
Gaslamp Killer – “Breakthrough” (Brainfeeder/Ninja Tune)
The debut album of DJ and Brainfeeder signee The Gaslamp Killer is an instrumental hip-hop triumph that instantly recalls classic DJ Shadow and Dan the Automator and contemporaries like horror-core hip-hop duo Gangrene (aka the Alchemist and Oh No). The album mixes The Gaslamp Killer’s love of Turkish melodies, psychedelic rock and dread filled synth atmospherics backed by acoustic hip-hop beats and breaks. It’s a heady brew but the Gaslamp Killer utilises his DJ skills to perfectly balance. In less skilled or knowledgeable hands this could have turned into an unappealingly sonic stew. He also expertly manages the contributions of the many collaborators that include Gonjasufi, Computer Jay, Mophono, Adrian Younge, MRR, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Daedelus and fellow Brainfeeder signing Samiyam. An exciting thread of tension runs throughout “Breakthrough” with little let up in the nerve shredding strings and dread-filled organ and synths. It’s difficult to pick out individual highlights as the quality doesn’t drop across the whole album and it feels like it was made as a piece, almost like a DJ set with each track of equal importance. “Breakthrough” is another stellar release from the Brainfeeder/Ninja Tune axis and the Gaslamp Killer deserves to be as highly praised as a producer as he is as a DJ.
Deefhoof – “Breakup Song” (ATP)
On their 13th album Deerhoof have succeeded in converting themselves into a alternative rock party band. Though the band could never been accused of slacking in the rhythm department, they’ve gone all out here to create an album that keeps you moving while still providing melodies and hooks aplenty and emotional content to stop the album becoming a vapid collection of indie dance tracks. In fact, the band are so convincing as a party band that tracks like ‘The Trouble with Candyhands’, ‘Flower’ and ‘Theres That Grin’ could easily be mistaken for edgy Cuban/funk/hip-hop jams. There’s not a duff moment to be found on this every track is solid gold pop nugget, not a note or beat is wasted and your dripping with sweat by the end of this half hour work out!!!
Cat Power – “Sun” (Matador)
The new album from Cat Power instantly separates itself from here previous releases due to the strident and confident style in which it’s performed. Cat Power has never been an artist who you’d associate with the word confident, she has always hidden within her music, shying away from the spotlight. But on “Sun” she has no fear, she strong despite all the personal problems she’s been through since her last album “The Greatest” (2006). The album’s production (Cat Power produced it herself and the album was mixed by Phillippe Zdar of Cassius fame) and use of electronic drums and synthesizers also marks it out too. The album starts as it means to go on with the strident drums and chiming guitars ‘Cherokee’, this swiftly followed by the deceptively titled ‘Sun’ with it foggy synths and dark atmospheric guitar strums the perfect backing for Cat Power. Next up is the swaggering single ‘Ruin’ with its funky, driving chorus full of cutting guitar and lizard like bass and drums, it’s the track with most pronounced Zdar influence. Speaking of production both ‘3,6,9’ and ‘Always on my Own’ are the most impressive display of Cat Power’s production abilities with great layering and interplay between her own multi tracked and panned vocals. The mid section of the album from ‘3,6,9’ to ‘Manhattan’ drop back to Cat Power’s more typical slower tempos but the atmospherics and beats add something not heard on previous Cat Power albums, she isn’t retreating to her comfort zone, she’s developing her trademark sound. The remaining provide a great ending trio with ‘Silent Machines’ kicking things off with a thumping electronic bass drum and gliding guitar riff, followed by the epic but never wasteful ‘Nothin’ But Time’ which features Iggy Pop intoning deep, dark backing vocals from 5 minutes in. The album lands its final blow with the bruising and dark ‘Peace and Love’. From start to finish “Sun” is an astounding return from artist whose every release is further evidence that she deserves exposure to a far greater audience.
Release of the Month
Kid Koala – “12 Bit Blues” (Ninja Tune)
The latest album from the prolific Kid Koala takes a basic concept, expands on it and executes it to perfection. That concept is an album built around samples from old blues records put together using his trusty turntables and newly acquired Emu SP 1200 sampler. When I heard about this concept my initial thoughts were that this might be an overly dour album but Kid Koala proves me wrong with an album packed with hip-hop bangers that blow the cobwebs away!! Chirping synth and a vocal sample that says “the kids in rare form tonight” kick off the album before stride piano and boom-bap hip-hip beats enter to start off ‘1 bit blues’ properly, these elements turn out one of running themes throughout the album. But Kid Koala keeps the interest going with blistering guitar riff, analogue synth swiggles, sci-fi effects and a huge array of expertly deployed vocal samples. The highlights on the album range from the aforementioned opener, ‘4 bit blues’ where a down tempo hip-hop beat backs pitched down slurring vocal samples, heavy bass, brass and stride piano, ‘7 bit blues’ with its head nodding beat raucous guitar licks and subtle scratching and ‘8 bit blues (Chicago to NY to LA)’ with its expertly scratched vocal samples, neck breaking hip-hop beats and huge horns stabs. Kid Koala’s major achievement with “12 Bit Blues” is marrying modern sound elements such as the synths and the SP 1200 sampler beats with samples that date from close to a hundred years ago. As usual Kid Koala uses his turntables subtle to make the samples his own and add a modern rhythmic edge to his tracks. “12 Bit Blues” is a superb album that matches his career high “Carpel Tunnel Syndrome” and “Some of my Best Friends are DJs” track for track!!!
Albert Swarm – “Wake” (Ceremony)
The Finnish producer released his ornamental debut EP “Held” last August on the Brooklyn-based Ceremony Recordings. While Swarm’s sound leaned more towards ambient on that release, his debut album “Wake” will see his music taking a dark turn that is driven by percussive elements and bass lines. The press release promises a “momentous shift towards dark, meditative techno.” All seven tracks on Wake are previously unreleased. Listen to the first single ‘Moths & Moth Catchers’ below.
Barker & Baumecker – “Transsektoral” (Ostgut Ton)
This collaboration between Sam Barker (aka Voltek) and Andreas Baumecker, sees two experimentalists stitching together elements sliced from dub, techno, glitch and ambient to create a debut album that is being released on the lauded Ostgut Ton label. The duo have collaborated before on this year’s “Candyflip” and “Murder of Crows” EPs for Ostgut Ton. Barker has releases on Tresor, while Baumecker ran the record labels Freund and Freundinnen. The pair are closely linked with Berghain, the Berlin techno Mecca from which Ostgut Ton is run. Barker runs a night there called Leisure System and Baumecker is a resident DJ. Their ambition with “Transsektoral”, a press release claims, was “to travel across the entire electronic music spectrum… reflecting different iterations of techno from all angles.” The non-album track ‘Analogical’ offered a healthy dose of grinding, hissing machine sounds, which indicates the direction “Transsektoral” will take. The debut will be available on CD and vinyl on 10th September. ‘Analogical’ can be downloaded for free on their Soundcloud page.
John Tejada – “The Predicting Machine” (Kompakt)
One of the most accomplished producers in electronic music today is releasing “The Predicting Machine” on Kompakt. As with its predecessor, “Parabolas”, the album will contain “a carefully arranged body of work exhibiting stunning amounts of musicality while dauntlessly delving into the depths of its own sound.” As an architect of story arcs within tracks, John Tejada builds on the smallest of surfaces, finding grandness in every detail and every track of Tejada’s sends the listener on a drive through landscapes and synthesised spectacles. This album is one to be very excited by. The wonderful first two singles ‘The Function And The Form’ and ‘Radio Channel’ can be streamed below.
Animal Collective – “Centipede Hz” (Domino)
The follow-up to “Merriweather Post Pavillion” Sonic Fiction’s Album of the Year 2009, comes on the back of a lengthy break for the group in which they’ve released solo albums and the “ODDSAC” “audio-visual” album. The album will see the band abandoning the sampled based, purely electronic sound of “Merriweather Post Pavillion” in favour of tracks that came together from the band jamming together in their rehearsal space. This was the result of the band deciding to all move back to Baltimore to write the album something the band hadn’t done for a several years. Much is expected of this long awaited and highly anticipated album, can the band deliver?
Cat Power- “Sun” (Matador)
The first new studio album from Cat Power since the critically acclaimed “The Greatest” (2006). In a surprising move the album is producer by Phillipe Zdar of Cassius, Cat Power has said of the album “You have a huge responsibility with the things you’re trying to create to do your best… There’s pressure – not from critics or anything like that, but to do something that means something in your heart. And you wanna do it the way you wanna do it … I wanted to prove that I could depend on myself, musically, because I hadn’t been playing guitar or piano in like five years and… it was just this feeling that you’re not growing if you’re not doing something creative”.
Deerhoof – “Breakup Song” (ATP)
The prolific Deerhoof return with an new album just eighteen mouths after the last one. The album is their eleventh and is described by drummer and songwriter Greg Saunier as “…a sensational record of Cuban-flavored party-noise-energy music. We called it Breakup Song, but don’t expect a bunch of Grammy-baiting sob stories, OK? In Deerhoof’s thesaurus, freedom’s just another word for feeling good again and raising hell and getting away with it. Stick with us and the bad guys with guns will never catch up.”
Nick Edwards (aka Ekoplekz) – “Plekzationz” (Editions Mego)
Confusingly the man known as Ekoplekz has decided to release this new album under his own name but keep the theme that runs many of his album and song titles – inserting Eko or Plekz and z’s instead of s into the titles. The album features four long form tracks and has been described by FACT magazine as “a lo-fi affair, recorded on a four track and nodding to classic dub and grotty No Wave.” Of course there will be more Ekoplekz releases in the meantime so keep checking back.
The XX – “Coexist” (XL/Young Turks)
The XX return with their second album two years after the slow burning success of their self titled debut album. Much has changed in the time between the two albums, many of bands songs became T.V. dramas and advert staples and Jamie XX has been busy remixing, producing solo material and spending his weekend’s DJing all over the world. Like, Animal Collective there’s a lot expected of “Coexist” unlike Animal Collective, the XX don’t have the years of development and experience to fall back. Will “Coexist” live up to the high expectations of fans and media alike?
Kid Koala – “12 Bit Blues” (Ninja Tune)
A year on from the brilliant “Space Cadet” album/comic book OST and comic book the Canadian turntablist follows it up with an album which uses the classic SP1200 sampler as it main musical weapon of choice and used it to create a warped version of the blues. Initial physical copies come with a cardboard hand-powered turntable kit.
Sun Araw – “The Inner Treaty” (Sun Ark/Drag City)
The ever prolific Sun Araw follow up last year hit-and-miss “Ancient Romans” with new album “The Inner Treaty” prerelease track “Like Wine” promises an album that plays more to Sun Araw’s strengths but details about the album are non existent, so we’ll have to wait and see. One things for sure Sun Araw always delivers a hand of brilliant tracks per album.
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 *:
*More tracks to be added as they become available