Tag Archive: Peter Broderick


Kirsty’s Reviews

Disappointment of the month

Michael Mayer – “Mantasy” (Kompakt)

Michael Mayer’s “Mantasy” opens with ‘Sully’ a panoramic, ambient track whose romantic feel utilises chimes, circling textures and floating strings. However this is a lone standout in an otherwise disappointing album. The central tracks ‘Baumhaus’, ‘Rudi Was A Punk’ and ‘Voigt Kampff Test’ pass by without providing interest for a listener and are utterly forgettable. ‘Baumhaus’ is an irritating mix of Disney birdsong, harps and woodwind that sounds like an inadvertent parody of the soundtrack music Mayer was inspired by. The title tracks fair’s no better, its Italo disco rhythm, spiky bass line and simplistic, cloying synth melody is again annoying in its unadventurous and overly repetitive nature. The track is close to insulting by its inclusion on a commercial album. Other tracks are not worth commenting on such is their deficiency in imagination, charm, emotion or energy. “Mantasy” is so indistinct and beige that after ten tracks this listener has being bled dry trying to like it or find something complimentary to say.

Dino Sabatini – “Shaman’s Path” (Prologue)

Dino Sabatini’s album “Shaman’s Path” is a ten track expedition through his ‘personal interpretation of the sounds of Africa’. Consisting of entrancing drum patterns and slow-moving hypnotic textures that are firmly rooted in the basis of deep, atmospheric techno “Shaman’s Path” isn’t a club-orientated album. Throughout the release, Sabatini deploys an atavistic and at times sensual mood.  Drum smacks sound like skin being slapped and entrancing melodies unfold on rolling bass lines. Propulsive, dubby loops and mysterious atmospheres combine with rough textures, thickly layered wooden percussion and syncopated bass drums. The sinister album opener ‘Soul Capture’ sounds like a subterranean cave exploration, the primal cries on the minimal ‘Ritual’ create an unsettling, claustrophobic feeling while the droning, reverberating techno of ‘Parallel Perception’ and ‘Totem’ recall Scuba’s work. The heavy processing of metallic scrapes and rattling beats in ‘White Witch’ are underpinned by creative use of African percussion that stretches far beyond simply throwing Djembe samples over a house loop. While “Shaman’s Path” is presented as Sabatini’s version of the continent’s sounds do not think of it as a safari or a flight over the Sahara. Sabatini takes us into an Africa at nightfall, an environment that is dense and almost suffocating with humidity. The album’s beautifully sequenced tracks possess a thoughtful, experimental character and the album’s focused style creates a cohesiveness collection and a seriousness that makes each track, each detail feel more profound. Little changes in the album’s fixed narrative with hypnotic atmospheres only counteracted by Sabatini’s extraordinary sound design. It is an album listeners have to concentrate on and allow it to envelope the room but if you follow the “Shaman’s Path” it will go the distance.

Release of the Month

Norman Nodge – Berghain 06 (Ostgut Ton)

Perhaps the most reserved member of the Ostgut Ton/Berghain unit is Norman Nodge, who considers himself a family man foremost, a lawyer second and DJ last. Since 2005 Norman has played the Berghain floor monthly and has several releases on fellow Berghain DJ Marcel Dettmann’s MDR label and on Ostgut Ton. Nodge’s style often combines classic Detroit and UK techno with Chicago house and touches of avant-garde or ambient sounds, which infuse his mixes with cleverly contrasting softer and harder shades. It’s not surprising that “Berghain 06”, which was recorded live in the eponymous building, is constructed on these many elements. The renowned Jeff Mills’ ‘Keeping Of The Kept’ sits alongside the work of younger producers like Patrick Gräser (Answer Code Request) and the secretive Birds Two Cage. Gräser’s ‘From Foreign Territories’ is one of three exclusive unreleased tracks on this mix; the others coming courtesy of the aforementioned Birds Two Cage and Mark Broom. Nodge stretches the typically cold concrete and sandpaper textures of the Berghain sound to include lighter tracks in the form of Architectural’s ‘Looking Ahead’ and a warm Mokira remix by the always popular Redshape. With arguably the most varied track listing for a Berghain mix yet, Nodge is convincing in his courage to try new combinations. The listener is taken from the mellow beginnings of ‘Gase’ by Birds Two Cage whose warm ambient washes are followed by a percussive battering from Oni Ayhun. “Berghain 06” then kicks into gear with Patrick Gräser’s ‘From Foreign Territories’. Its relentless, determined beats and see-sawing beeps crank up the pressure until it reaches a peak time explosion with Hauntologists, Staffan Linzatti and the Jeff Mills track weaving into the mix. Next are the dark but jacking beats of Silent Servant’s scratchy ‘Untitled A1’ and a Planetary Assault Systems remix for The Nighttripper. Architectural’s ‘Looking Ahead’ moves the mix into a rich, darkly atmospheric direction; perfect for Norman Nodge’s DJ style. Mark Broom’s exclusive track ‘Vault 5’ is a techno workout to push heart rates up. ‘New York Minds’ by Tim Taylor & DJ Slip lightens the mood with a touch of rap vocals underneath a pulsing electro beat. Nodge continues to move into a playfully hypnotic territory. A squelchy El Gato #9 track picks up the pace while a flying Radioactive Man cut reconnects the listener with the blissful start of “Berghain 06”.  The final track, Legowelt’s incredible remix of “Rainy Day Juno Jam” by Xosar gives the mix that little bit of something extra and beautiful to close the chapter.

Liam’s Reviews

Disappointment of the Month

Sinkane – “Mars” (DFA)

The debut album by Sinkane kicks off with the delicious wah-wah funky guitar, shuffling hi-hats, walking bass line and high and air vocals of ‘Runnin’ a superb pop nugget to open “Mars” with. The quality stays high for ‘Jeeper Creeper’ with its Afrobeat guitar melody, subtle hand percussion, and bass guitar which underpin psychedelic synths and guitar chords that echo out with long delays creating a hypnotic effect. However, Sinkane takes his first misstep on ‘Lady C’mon’ with heavy use of Vocoder spoiling the lush backing track. ‘Makin’ Time’ is worse with Vocoder and cheesy lead guitar and saxophone, spoiling a well put together lush back tracking. Things pick up again with the funky African tinged guitar of ‘Warm Spell’ and jungle atmospheres and great horns of ‘Love Sick’. Things go awry again on the title track which can only be described as a jazz nightmare. The album finishes with its longest and most meditative track ‘Caprundi’. Though there are some tracks on “Mars” such as ‘Runnin’ a majority of the album feels like a disappointment, however it will be interesting to see Sinkane develop in the future.

Peter Broderick – “These Walls of Mine” (Erased Tapes)

The latest album from Peter Broderick is his most ambitious yet and it doesn’t fail to impress. Broderick augments his usual instrumentation of piano, violin, guitar, bass and drums with full utilisation of studio technology, especially with relation to his vocals. This playful experimentation is what makes Broderick stand out instead of sounding like yet another singer-songwriter and he never sacrifices a good tune for the sake of this experimenting. The album opens with ‘Inside Out There’s distant delayed vocal and guitar loop before Broderick’s lead vocals and harmonies enter. He adds violins and melting synth riff around 2 minutes in to enrich the track. The single ‘I’ve Tried’ use all of the tools in Broderick’s box expertly employing echoing drums, subtle bass guitar, reverberate vocals, a synth pad and in the latter half of the track his trademark violin. Next up is the minimal ‘Proposed Solution to the Mystery of Soul’ which simple features Broderick singing over his own humming, occasional percussion and watery sounds, it’s an uncomplicated but brilliantly effective track. Things step up a notch on ‘When I Blank I Blank’ with its deep funk bass and rhythm guitar and hip-hop beat, a new style for Broderick that he tackles with aplomb. On the next on two tracks Broderick gets creative the first ‘These Walls of Mine I’ is a spoken word track, ‘These Wall of Mine II’ adds busy piano, violin and hip-hop with Broderick reciting the same lyrics again, a nice trick that works a treat. The next track ‘I Do This’ uses the two vocal techniques speaking over the verses section and singing the chorus’. Overall “These Walls of Mine” is Broderick most ambitious album yet and it may prove to be his best yet with some time to fully process its complex and diverse songs. For it recalls Jamie Lidell’s “Compass” (2010) an album full of similarly complex and diverse yet accessible songs that experimented within the constraints of popular music. If you’re already a fan of Broderick’s work you’ll find plenty to satisfy you here, if you’re not it then try “www.itstartshear.com” from earlier this year, which combines Broderick’s trademark sound with the beginnings of ideas that are expand upon on this release.

Black Moth Super Rainbow – “Cobra Juicy” (Rad Cult)

“Cobra Juicy” is Black Moth Super Rainbow’s (BMSR) fifth studio album and their first to be self released. Initially much of the album sounds like the band’s previous material, but repeat plays reveals the subtle differences. In fact, the opener and single ‘Windshield Smasher’ opens with a glam rock beat a first for the band before corroded guitar stabs, then vocodered reverb heavy lead vocals and light synth arpeggio kick off the song proper. ‘Like A Sundae’ recalls the band’s poppier moments with its summery vibes. The dirty guitar stabs return for ‘Hairspray Heart’ accompanied by the band’s trademark Vocoder and head nodding hip-hop beats. ‘Psychic Love Damage’ and ‘We Burn’ introduce country guitar to the band’s sound blending it with down beat drums, analogue synth and light use of Vocoder. ‘Gangs in the Garden’ improves on the BMSR template with funky synth bass, ghostly melodies and a head nodding hip-hop beat. ‘The Healing Power of Nothing’ and ‘Dreamsicle Bomb’ create a more minimal and echo variation on BMSR template before ‘I Think I’m Evil’ returns the band to distorted lo-fi hip-hop territory. The albums close out with the ghostly synth and soar away chorus of ‘Blurring My Day’ (surly a future single) and the Flaming Lips inspired sweeping synthetic pop of ‘Spraypaint’. All-in-all BMSR have delivered another great album full of surreal, horror influenced lo-fi pop.

The Herbaliser – “There Were Seven” (Department H)

The Herbaliser return with their first album in four years and the band are back on form after the solid but unspectacular “Same As It Never Was” (2008). On that album it seemed as if the band was trying to evolve their sound into a more commercial soul inspired direction. However, now they return to their classic cinematic funk and hip-hop sound while also finding ways of moving it forward. As early as the opening track ‘Return of the Seven’ fuzz guitar is the first new element to introduce itself, the band then sprinkle this sound liberal across the albums remaining tracks. Next up is ‘The Lost Boy’ a down tempo smoky jazz number that reminds me of ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ the title track of band’s brilliant 2002 album. ‘Welcome to Extravagence’ shows the band’s next evolution with its lush, ripping distorted guitar swoops, heavy beats, dub delay and siren. It’s the first time the band have attempted a dub track and it’s 100% successful even adding the band’s signature cinematic sounds and modern production. ‘Mother Dove’ picks up where ‘Welcome to Extravagence’ finishes take with it the lush, ripping distorted guitar swoops and slowly adding in a string section its quickly followed beat box beats and a strong lead violin line. Later in the track twanging guitars, another layer of drums and combative synth bass up the tension. The final twist comes when the track breaks down to acidic synth, piano, drums and vocal sample before a theremin melody and the guitars return leading the string lead outro. Next up is ‘Zero Hill’ the first of three upbeat hip-hop tracks featuring Canadian rap duo Twin Peaks. Next up is ‘Take ‘Em On’ a classic piece of Herbaliser chase music with flighty flute and honky and skronking brass taking the lead. There are a few more tracks in the classic Herbaliser style – the emotive synths, deep space bass and cutting scratches of ‘Setting Up’, ‘What You Asked For’s cinematic stylings and ‘Move As One’ with its desolate guitar chords, wobbling organ, pumping bass, break bat and French melody, all recall vintage Herbaliser moments. There’s one final evolutionary move by the band and it’s the duo of horror film referencing tracks ‘March of the Dead Things’ and ‘Deep in the Woods’. Overall “There Were Seven” is a stunning addition to the Herbaliser’s back catalogue, the band show they both move forward and deliver tracks in their classic style maintaining a balance that keeps everyone happy.

Ekoplekz – “Intrusive Incidentalz Vol.2” (Punch Drunk)

“Intrusive Incidentalz Vol.2” picks where last year’s “Vol.1” had left with much experimental and delay drenched analogue synth textures bouncing around your stereo. However, there are subtle changes in the sound employed on that previous edition. In fact, subtle is the key word here with Ekoplekz using subtler sounds and a lot less of his trademark scathing synth sounds than usual. He allows the tracks to breath, there are more spaces between the delay and a return to the melodies that were much more prominent on his first album “Memowreckz”. ‘Trubshaw Test’ with its ascending synth melody underpinned by a descending bass line and ‘Effluvia’ with its bell like melody, hissy shifting synth sounds and sparse dub effects are both great examples of this more melodic approach. On both ‘Ultra Warble’ and ‘‘Abyss Ababa’ Ekoplekz threatens to add a four to the floor rhythm that both tracks are calling out for but at the last moment he just lets the momentum peter out, which is disappointing as the build up feels great but the pay off never comes. In a less competitive month “Intrusive Instrumentals Vol.2” would have been a Release of the Month, but instead this album has to settle for a well deserved joint third with Daphni.

Daphni – “Jiaolong” (Jiaolong)

“Jiaolong” is the debut album from Caribou aka Dan Snaith side project Daphni and is firmly ensconced on the dance floor. However, this isn’t a generic house record attempted by someone trying their luck at the genre. For start with the last Caribou album “Swim” Snaith attempted to make “liquid dance music” and for the most part succeed too. Plus, in a recent interview with FACT magazine revealed that he’d been clubbing and enjoying dance music since his teenage years back in Toronto. One of the tracks on the album ‘Ahora’ every sounds like something from “Swim” remixed by a DJ. The rest of the album separates itself from Caribou releases with a strong Afrobeat influence that’s applied directly on ‘Ne Noya’ and implied throughout the album, the album has a lighter and bouncier sound than Caribou has and feels supple and fluid throughout with bags of energy and grooves aplenty. Analogue synths and drum machines dominated every track and are expertly employed, giving every track a warm and dynamic feel. Highlights from the album include ‘Yes, I Know’ with its pumping house beat, driving, resonant acid synth bass, soulful vocal sample and up tempo horns, ‘Ne Noya (Daphni Mix)’ with its live drums and Afrobeat vibes, ‘Ye Ye’s buzzing synth bass, rattling hi-hats, bell-like melody and unpredictable and the irresistibly funky groove of ‘Springs’, though the remaining tracks are very good and will no doubt grow on listeners over time. “Jiaolong” is one of Snaith’s finest albums to date in a serious impressive back catalogue and gives strong competition to Blondes and Matthew Dear for the top dance music album of 2012.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” (Constellation)

Before I begin this review properly I should say that though I’ve admired Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s music since I first heard of them back in 1998, I’ve only heard a few of their songs and therefore can’t compare this album to their back catalogue.

The first album in ten years by Godspeed You! Black Emperor opens with the epic “Mladic” a 20 minute track that achieves more in its first half than most band’s achieve over a whole career. Its begins with feedback and a slowly looping spoken word sample then a guitar melody enters quickly followed by a violin and thumming bass, the song steadily gains in intensity the violin playing long held notes that simmer at the top of the mix, soon joined by out of tune and off beat guitar notes that act as a counterpart. Around 3 minutes 30 seconds in an acoustic guitar emerges providing a solid rhythm for the track. Again the track builds in intensity, with electric guitar ratcheting things up another notch. The drums finally kick in at 7 minutes and 30 seconds an almost Arabic guitar riff leading the way. This riff becomes gothic and sparser around 12 minutes in with the drums pounding and clattering away in the background. There’s a apocalyptic feeling break down at 13 minutes, before a drone begins at 16 mins with violins spiralling and guitar see-sawing above it. The track finally ends with harmonised guitar feedback and random clomping percussion. Second track ‘Their Helicopters Sing’ is a multi layered six and a half minute drone track utilises hissing noise, deep bass, agitated violin, wet guitar harmonics and what sounds like bag pipes to create a constantly shifting soundscape. ‘We Drifted Like Worried Fire’ is another 20 minute epic which starts with ghostly violin drone and melody before a third dreamy violin part takes the track to another level before giving way to a melodic guitar line and simple bass part. A minute later the drums come in bringing with them a sparse vibraphone melody, slow shifting noise guitar and finally a long arching violin melody. These ascend and build tension until a brief break down at eight and a half minutes. The second half of the song begins with a shift from intense guitar to the return of the violin this time back by orchestral sounding drums and percussion, at fourteen minutes this changes to a marching beat with cello and violin dominating distant shards of discordant guitar. Then at fifteen minutes the song suddenly backs free with guitar and violin leading a surge that continues (apart from a brief breakdown) to the songs climax five minutes later. The final track ‘Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable’ begins with long ascending drone that is slowly added to by what could a processed guitar or synth, this then gives way to crusty guitar chords and feedback that grow to a immense peak through the middle section of the song. A slow analogue synth drone takes the album to its conclusion. While I can’t compare this album to Godspeed’s earlier work I feel it’s safe to say they haven’t lost anything in the last decade and this album would stand next their first three. It’s a shame more band’s aren’t as ambitious and breath taking as Godspeed.

Top Release of the Month

Flying Lotus – “Until the Quiet Comes” (Warp)

The much anticipated new album by Flying Lotus starts as it means to go on with subtle shuffling beats of ‘All In’ with bells and chimes that lead the way harmonically and melodically. These elements become the glue that holds together this elemental, organic and sophisticated release from the highly regard Flying Lotus. For much of his career he has balanced ghetto fabulous beats, drum ‘n’ bass/UK Bass music undertow with his families’ roots in jazz and spiritual music and this continues on “Until the Quiet Comes”. However, it’s the cool jazz and calm spiritual music that is the dominate force whereas previously it had played second fiddle to the glitches, electronic breaks and huge bass rumble of the current music scene. Not that the modern glitches and deep penetrating bass lines and beats are absent, they just play a subtler supporting role with the exception of the ‘Sultan’s Request’ and its thick, brittle digital sounding synth bass, which gets twice as heavy in the second half of the track. The album also sees Flying Lotus utilising vocal samples and guest vocalists much more effectively, a particularly good example is Thom Yorke’s contribution to ‘Electric Candyman’ in which Yorke’s vocals are expertly and sparingly used, whereas they appeared anonymous on “…and the world laughs with you” from “Cosmogramma” (2010). “Until the Quiet Comes” initially feels like it might greater longevity than “Cosmogramma”, which though it really hit home on the first couple listens, its impact dulled over time. It was also a busy and demanding listen, whereas space is utilised throughout “Until the Quiet Comes”, which allows the listener to “fixate on any one sound and extract feeling from it.” Time will tell if this feeling becomes reality but one thing’s for sure Flying Lotus has delivered a more than worthy follow up to what often viewed as his masterpiece.

Wow, this year has been an exceptional musically and its been so difficult to narrow down these Top Ten Releases of the Year..so far and Honourable Mentions. Aside from the releases in this feature I’ve been enjoying releases by Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahms, Blockhead, Quakers, Andrew Bird, Errors, Black Bananas, Air, Islet, and Laurel Halo.

Honourable Mentions

Ital – “Hive Mind” (Planet Mu)

Ital’s debut album makes for an interesting listening experience, though this is dance music, it’s unlike to set many dance floors alight. However, this doesn’t make it the album a failure; in fact its inverting of house and techno music structures is a thrilling and disorienting experience. Though by no means a direct comparison its seems that Ital is attempting something similar to Axel Willner aka The Field though Willner inverts the structures of techno, Ital disrupts and stretches them to their limits. Another indirect reference point is that of Cabaret Voltaire’s 80’s era music (and founder Richard H. Kirk’s work as part of Sweet Exorcist, recently anthologised by Warp Records) this seems to a constant in the drum and the influence crops up most obvious on ‘First Wave’ with added disorienting rhythms and synths. The most obvious direct influence outside of dance music is the kosmiche musick of Cluster, Harmonia and to a less extent Tangerine Dream, in fact ‘Floridian Void’ (the highlight of the album) sounds a little like a dark techno take on fellow American kosmiche musick enthusiast Emeralds. I feel sure that the debate about ‘Hive Mind’ will continue throughout the year as it could well turn to be one of those albums the confounds and confuses as much as it thrills and provokes thoughtful analysis.

Clark – “Iradelphic” (Warp)

“Iradelphic” occupies similar sonic territory as the music put out by the Ghost Box label, especially the most recent album by The Belbury Poly, so it seems appropriate that Ghost Box co-founder Julian House produced the artwork for the album. The album combines folk elements such as acoustic guitars, double bass, acoustic drums and strings with synth drones, arpeggios, electronic drums and percussion and psychedelic effects. The icing on the cake is the vocals of Martina Topley-Bird who provides vocals on ‘Broken Kite Footage’, ‘The Pining Part 2’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Open’. The album divides itself into two song types of track more song based and more drone based soundtrack music/palette cleansers and Clark switches effortlessly between the two showing his diversity as an artist. Another string to his bow is that even the song based material features unexpected twists and turns to keep the listener on their toes. With “Iradelphic” Clark confirms himself as deserving of a place among Warp’s most vaulted artists, his varied career to date has rarely seen a drop in quality, he is the equal of Aphex Twin, Autechre and Boards of Canada.

Forward Strategy Group – “Labour Division” (Perc Trax)

“Labour Division” is the debut album by U.K. techno duo Forward Strategy Group following a series of EP’s that have garnered much attention on the techno underground. The album begins with a tension building intro track ‘Indent’ before this really get going on the electro tinged ‘Mandate’ with its arpeggiated, tough bass synth underpinning delay heavy synth FX’s and minimal drums and hi-hats, a real techno juggernaut. From then on scene is set and the duo switch from the disjointed industrial rhythms of ‘Mandate’ and ‘Elegant Mistakes’ (which fits perfectly into Perc Trax current developments) and out and out techno thumpers all filled with tense and taut atmosphere, found sound and influences of 80’s electronic music and experimental post-punk sounds. Tension only lets up on ‘Nihil Novi’ a lighter and more spacious track that features noises that cut through the drums sound and like a steam train. Though “Labour Division” serves first and foremost as functional techno album with plenty of tracks that will be spun in DJ sets, there is also enough experimental sound design and percussion sounds and patterns that it sometimes recalls peers Factory Floor and Carter Tutti Void live electronic mutations. “Labour Division” is an album through and through, properly paced and conceptually put together not like a majority of techno albums that are either an extension of a DJ set or DJ tools. Like their label boss Perc and his own album “Wicker and Steel” Forward Strategy Group are leading the way in innovative techno music.

El-P – “Cancer for the Cure” (Fat Possum)

In some ways this is business as usual for El-P, all the usual signifiers are in place, his lurching, crushing beats, massive dirty synth bass-lines, stuttering vocal samples, stabbing instrument samples. However, one that’s no bad thing and two I believe this is an artist who subtly evolves his sound with each new release. The first difference that jumps out at me is that whereas in the past there were only hints of film music influences on El-P’s production’s “Cancer For The Cure” makes this explicit with a majority of the tracks shot through with a dystopian atmosphere akin to John Carpenter’s soundtracks to “Escape From New York” & “Assault on Precinct 13”. Further to this the album repositions El-P as “a real hip-hop focused musician rather than a beatmaker”; the musicality is turned up to ten and so this already heavy music makes an even greater impact. The album also features a couple of El-P’s most minimal and spacious tracks to date in ‘Stay Down’, ‘Sign Here’ and ‘The Jig Is Up’, in addition to this melodic vocals feature on ‘For My Upstairs Neighbor’, ‘Oh Hail No’  and ‘Works Every Time’. The album feels more thematically together than “I’ll Sleep When Your Dead” (which was great album) and this makes the album feel like it’ll maintain it impact over a longer time. “Cancer For The Cure” runs Killer Mike’s (El-P produced) “R.A.P. Music” and Thee Satisfaction’s “awenaturalE” close for best hip-hop album of year..so far!!!

Symmetry – “Themes for an Imaginary Film” (Republic of Music)

On ‘Themes for an Imaginary Film” Symmetry aka Johnny Jewel and cohort Nat Walker (of Chromatics and Desire) cover a huge range of emotional and musical ground utilising banks of synths, drum machines, guitar, piano, orchestral percussion, Bassoon, Cello and Viola. Despite the vast array of moods and instruments on show the duo create a cohesive and impressive album that wastes non of its 2 hour running time. Though some of material and sounds used recall Johnny Jewel’s many other projects there much evidence of his application of more compositional techniques found film scores and he weaves this into this ambitious album with aplomb. From the song titles to some the sounds selected the album screams film score however this no mere pastiche, more a humble doffing of the cap to the many great score composers that have gone before. In addition to this is the fantastic sound design which ranges from lush, warm and beautiful through to cold, spiky and dissonant, Symmetry and their equipment can feel you with dread, put a smile on your face and everything in between. “Themes for an Imaginary Film” is an amazing achievement that could have so easily failed to live in to its ambition but instead goes above and beyond simply being a tribute to soundtrack music as it captivates and thrills the listener in equal measure. Two hours of instrumental music (with the exception of the last track) won’t be for everyone but it’ll be worth it for those who stick with this incredible album.

Top Ten Releases of the Year… so far 2012

10.       Mirrroring – “Foreign Body”  (Kranky)

Mirrroring is a collaboration that was bound to happen sooner or later between Liz Harris aka Grouper and Jesy Fortino aka Tiny Vipers whose individual styles are so obviously complimentary it was only a matter of time before they worked together. “Foreign Body” is the breathtakingly beautiful result of said collaboration and brings together the transparent drones of Harris’s songs with the picked acoustic guitars and soft vocals of Fortino. Their sound is both gentle and yet thoroughly engaging, it may be lighter than much drone music but it isn’t light-weight. The dynamics employed across the whole album are one of the most striking things about it and demonstrate these are skilled artists able to exercise control while never strangling the life and emotion from a musical idea. The two best examples of this are ‘Cliffs’ which builds to a peak at the halfway stage before repeating an even better version of the song for its second half and ‘Mine’ which starts with a simple drone and acoustic guitar combination builds to a peak and then gradually twists itself into ever more complex shapes. It’s difficult to find the words to describe this astonishing album; it has to be heard to be believed.

9.         Thee Satisfaction – “awe naturalE” (Sub Pop)

In “awE naturalE” Thee Satisfaction have delivered an energetic album filled tracks that both provide amply bounce need for a hip-hop jam but also manages to subtly subvert both traditional methods of creating sounds and challenge the overly simplistic ‘soulful’ vocals used so liberally in hip-hop music. It refreshing to hear an act pushing the limits of hip-hop while still managing to make music that moves your body. The fact that these tracks are stuffed to the gills with soulful vocals, jazzy tunes and an expressive emotional palette makes an engaging and entertaining listen. The half an hour run time demands that the album be played again immediately and is the album is equal satisfying and reveals more of its charms with each repeat listen. Never out staying their welcome and yet able to go distance on the longer tracks Thee Satisfaction will be a welcome addition to your music collection.

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8.         Peter Broderick – “http://www.itstartshere.com” (Bella Union)

This album picks up where Broderick left off with his last solo release “Music for Confluence” and features the same basic instrumentation acoustic/electric guitar, piano and violin. However, there are subtle and not so subtle ways this album manages to differentiate its self from “Music for Confluence”, firstly this isn’t a film soundtrack and thus allows Broderick more freedom of expression. The most obvious ways this freedom is expressed is the album brighter and sometimes more upbeat sound and the fact that Broderick’s lead vocals (which sometimes sound a little like Arthur Russell) dominate whereas only backing vocals were present on “Music for Confluence”. In fact the album features a lot more melodic materials full stop and married with Broderick’s expert use of harmony, reverb and others effects to create atmosphere it makes for much more dynamic material. Throughout the album Broderick successfully tightrope walks between accessibility and pushing the listener beyond their expectations. He achieves this not only with his melodic work and use of effects but also unpredictable song structures on ‘With The Notes on Fire’ (like two songs in one), ‘Colin’ (which initially sounds like the rest of the album before the introduction of percussion pushes the song in a new direction) and ‘Asleep’ and its use of crowd source readings of the lyrics from around the world that disorient and delight in equal measure. “Music for Confluence” is a great album and “http://www.itstartshere.com” is its equal and perfect companion piece.

7.         Blondes – “Blondes” (RVNG INTL)

Blondes self titled debut album sees the duo marrying together modern dance music influenced by the likes of The Field, Gui Boratto and other Kompakt techno alumni and modern Ambient and hynagogic pop acts such as Laurel Halo, Teengirl Fantasy and Rene Hell amongst others. Blondes manage to fuse these two opposites together in way that plays to the strengths of both, you never feel the dance elements are getting bogged down by the atmospherics or that the atmospherics are dominated by the dance elements. The duo encompass a range of emotions across the album from the brighter tracks like ‘Gold’ and ‘Amber’ to the dark and subdued ‘Pleasure via drowned Kraftwerkian synth work on ‘Business’ and foggy tension of ‘Water’. One of the album’s strength is that despite the amount of recycling there is (every second track is a re-versioning of the previous track) the variety on show is impressive as is the duo’s ability to keep the listener engaged and excited by these same/similar elements. Repeat listens reveal more and more detail and that music is underpinned by a subtle influence from the classical minimalism of Steve Reich and Meredith Monk (who the duo sample on ‘Lover’). All in all a great debut album that promises plenty for the future.

6.         Ekoplekz – “Westerleigh Works EP” (Perc Trax)

This EP has been talked about/marketed as Ekoplekz’s first venture into dance floor territory and listening to it you can hear why. However, Ekplekz still keeps his trademark sounds front and centre but the EP uses space more effectively and percussive sounds and deep bass provide the forward motion need. Of the three originals ‘Ekoplatz’ sounds most like his previous material while being underpinned by techno bass and percussion, the other two ‘Narco Samba’ and ‘Xylem Teardrops’ fill more stripped and danceable, while Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire) remix of ‘Ekoplatz’ follows a similar template but adds electronic woodblocks, more structural dynamics and some of Kirk’s own idiosyncratic dub sounds. A highly recommended release for those into the darker side of dance music.

5.         Drokk – “Music Inspired by Mega City One” (Invada Records)

This album uses just one synth as its primary mode of composition but Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and BBC composer Ben Salisbury manage to make limitation the mother of invention creating everything from intense drone heavy soundscapes to arpeggio led tracks via more delicate and reflective moments. In many ways the album bears comparison with this year’s other imaginary soundtrack album “Themes for an Imaginary Film” by Symmetry and though it’s not as ambitious as Symmetry’s album its equally as satisfying a listen. Drawing on many classic synth soundtrack staples such as John Carpenter, Vangelis, Walter/Wendy Carlos and with hints of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and other T.V. music from the 70’s and 80’s. However, repeat plays reveal this isn’t an album that merely imitates and pays homage but reaches the same heights as those great synth soundtrack composers, the album throbs with the tension of a Carpenter score, while Vangelis arpeggios abound and experimental sounds that the Radiophonic Workshop and Walter/Wendy Carlos are thrown in at the appropriate moment and to keep the listener guessing. If Symmetry’s album is the Hollywood blockbuster then “Drokk…” is a homemade marvel and all the better for it.

4.         Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music” (William’s Street)

Killer Mike and El-P’s collaborative is called “R.A.P. Music” with good reason, it does everything that a modern hip-hop album should. The album has a consistency rarely present on guest and producer heavy albums while it manages to cover a lot of sonic and emotional territory without anything feeling off or put on. The music veers from huge sounding synthetic bangers (‘‘Big Beast’, ‘Southern Fried’ and ‘R.A.P. Music’) to emotive epics (‘Ghetto Gospel’, ‘Reagan’ and ‘Anywhere But Here’) via Southern rap flavoured tracks (‘Willie Burke Sherwood’, ‘Untitled’ and ‘Jo Jo’s Chillin’) and Killer Mike’s flow is just as diverse ranging from the enunciated words of ‘Reagan’ to the super speedy ‘Southern Fried’ and every point in between. What “R.A.P. Music” shows is that when hip-hop is stripped down to its core and rebuilt from button up, in addition to this despite his confident persona it’s clear that Killer Mike isn’t an egotist. He tells stories about other people in his life and discuss wider political issues, the lyrical themes that have been central to hip-hop since 1982 but feel so rare in 2012. “R.A.P. Music” is the first landmark hip-hop release of 2012 and I’m optimistic this can be a very good year for the genre as a whole.

3.         Orcas – “Orcas” (Morr Music)

The debut album from this Seattle duo (Rafael Anton Irisarri (The Sight Below) and Benoit Pioulard’s (aka Thomas Meluch) leaves me lost for words, one of those albums that difficult to describe without selling it short. However, I will endeavour to paint a picture of this heartbreakingly beautiful music. The dominate sounds are plaintive piano, twanging to ethereal guitars and vocals and various crackles, hums and heavily processed electronic sounds. These simple elements are manipulated to create different textures, atmospheres and emotions across nine tracks. Though the duo have created a sound of their own there are some influences/inspirations suggested by the music including Peter Broderick & Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie’s soundtrack work, the noise abstract pop of Broadcast (who are covered on the album) and indirectly reminds me of the latest Oneohtrix Point Never album “Replica”. All this is held together by the song writing touches that are subtly weaved throughout the album helping this album raise above more generic ambient and experimental music releases.

2.         King Felix – “Spring EP” (Liberation Technologies)

The “Spring EP” picks up where Laurel Halo left off with the “Hour Logic EP” last summer, though she has some tricks up her sleeve and the music is a lot harder to pin down. Here the rhythms wiggle and squirm restless and constantly shifting not settling into a smooth groove, this is one of the things that makes the EP so exciting you’re never quite sure what’s coming next. The first three tracks are all a variation on the same theme, Halo is so inventive within this limitation that the listener is never bored by the central theme. I’m not an expert on techno but it seems to me that Halo has carved out her own style while referencing the glory years of early Nineties Detroit techno. The other crucial difference between this EP and “Hour Logic” is that whereas many of the tracks on the previous EP sound submerged beneath water this is Halo least veiled work to date; she lets the tracks reveal themselves and breathe, all the elements able to exhibit themselves equally. The “Spring EP” is a fantastic addition to Halo’s discography.

1.         Julia Holter – “Ekstasis” (RVNG ITNL)

The first thing that marks “Ekstasis” out from both last year’s excellent “Tragedy” and her peers music is the brightness of its sound, gone is the shadowy and foggy atmosphere’s replaced by a sharp and incisive production job to revival today’s most intelligent pop stars. While it’s true that Holter’s not going to be the next million selling pop star this album’s production positions this music as “pop” and the abundance of hooks and melodies only reinforces this point. Then there’s the effortless feel of a lot of the music, despite many of the tracks being over 6 minutes in length. There’s no feeling of over indulgence even when a saxophone rears its head on ‘Four Gardens’ and ‘This Is Ekstasis’ everything here earns its place and makes sense within the context of the songs. It would be tempting to compare Holter to her many contemporaries within the hypnogogic pop genre especially her friend and collaborator Nite Jewel. Though her use of delay and reverb create similar feelings/images the musical and lyrical content aims instead to transport the listener further back than the 1980s and into the ancient world which Holter is so interested in. With “Ekstasis” Holter has created her own sound world that seems to subtly reference pre-existing sounds/genres and rhythms without ever sounding directly like anything you’ve previously heard. An artist who can switch with ease between different sounds and sections without breaking a sweat or alienating the listener, Holter is an artist with a bright and long future ahead of her.

In a slight change from the usual I’ve included a section on releases that we didn’t recommend but liked (to varying degress) during January and February. The other change is that the post was getting so long that we’ve created a separate post for March’s recommendations.

Some releases we missed in January and February

Air – “La Voyage Dans La Lune” (Astralwerks Records)

This new soundtrack album for the George Melies short film of the same name is a return to form for Air who seemed to have lost their way in the last few years. Though the album sticks to a lot of soundtrack staples timpani, strings, brass, analogue synths and signifiers it’s still an effective and enjoyable listen. The album is reasonable varied but tracks generally fall into two camps that more obvious soundtrack pieces based around piano, timpani and strings – ‘Astronomic Club’, ‘Retour Sur Terre’, ‘Moon Fever’, ‘Who Am I Now’ (which strongly recalls Popol Vuh’s soundtrack work) and closing track ‘Lava’ and more upbeat groove driven tracks – ‘Seven Stars’ with its heavy bass groove & flapping drums pattern, the thundering drums and the prog rock sci-fi synths of ‘Parade’ and ‘Sonic Armada’ and ‘Cosmic Trip’s twinkling synths, driving bass and breakbeats. Though the album loses direction and fails to deliver its ideas towards the end it’s still well worth checking out, especially as it comes with a DVD of Melies masterpiece.

Nina Kraviz – “Nina Kraviz” (ReKids Records)

Russian DJ Nina Kraviz has released previously for Cocoon and Bpitch and played DJ sets in some of Europe’s best-known clubs with a residency at Moscow’s Propaganda club. Her self-titled and self-produced debut album serves to solidify the progress made so far without deviating from the emotive deep house she is known for. “Nina Kraviz” is a highly personal and intimate album; her voice, usually the first take recording, dominates over deep house grooves and luxuriant synthesisers. The album’s highlights, such as ‘Working’, ‘Fire’ ‘False Attraction’ and the chilly techno of ‘4 Ben’ (which is rumoured to be dedicated to her boyfriend Ben Klock, the DJ and producer) showcase Kraviz’s knowledge of constructing DJ sets that build and drop then punch at the right moment. ‘Working’ is one example of her ability to tease the audience by gradually and urgently elevating the tension then ending on a sudden climax. Overall, though, “Nina Kraviz” is hit and miss; a few inclusions, such as ‘Taxi Talk’ and ‘Choices’, don’t add anything to the album’s narrative and for the number that don’t quite deliver it is perhaps too long at 14 tracks. Transitioning from DJing and producing 12”s to releasing an album can be a difficult feat; “Nina Kraviz” proves this. While not an essential techno/house release it is evident that Kraviz has worked hard to try to make the album sit together like a cohesive DJ set and the highlights are a testament to this, making it a release that is worth checking out.

Black Bananas – “Rad Times Xpress IV”  (Drag City)

Black Bananas is a new project from Jennifer Herrema (ex-Royal Trux) that maintains the line-up of previous project RTX but subtle changes the bands overall sound. Where previously the dominate sound was a lo-fi take on rock ‘n’ roll and classic 70’s rock they are replaced by a sound derived from the 70’s P-Funk pioneers Parliament/Funkadelic. The guitar techniques of P-Funk guitarist Eddie Hazel are particularly prominent though this is no bad thing another influence that instantly jump out are the Dub of King Tubby and Lee ‘Scratch Perry. What’s most surprising and indeed pleasing is the album’s pop music feel where I expected an overly lo-fi album covered in fuzz and the smeared sound that lo-fi recording creates I was instead present with a mix that was balanced between the dirty elements and those with more clarity. Herrerma hasn’t changed over the years and though the music content has shifted slightly the lyrical content remains the same, she’s a rock ‘n’ roller and always will be this isn’t a real problem on this album and suits the music well. This isn’t ‘serious music’ per se and shouldn’t be treated as such, it’s a dirty pop thrill and all the better for it. If this a permanent change of direction then Herrema may well find a seam that she dig into, if not then at least we have this gem of an album. Check out the album’s title track here.

Claro Intelecto – “Second Blood” EP (Delsin)

“Second Blood” is an elegantly slow, almost seductive EP released on the Netherland’s Delsin label, which is also home to Redshape and analogue-loyal techno producer Morphosis. The title track contains static hisses and an agile, skulking synth that is pulled along by the considerate use of side-chaining on every bar which gives the bass line a cushioned effect under airy chords. ‘Heart’ is woozy and lethargic, recalling Wolfgang Voigt’s GAS in its use of placid ambience and the barely-there bass drum.  At 115bpm, ‘Voyeurism’ is the EP’s fastest track. The softly pumping chords and arpeggio synth line are near dub-techno. After the lethargy of the two previous tracks the seductively grooving bass line gives ‘Voyeurism’ a spirited potency while a round bass drums push the track forward. “Second Blood” is a brilliant downtempo techno EP from an artist who infrequently releases material.

Ekoplekz – “Dromilly Vale EP” (Public Information Records)

Ekoplekz’s new EP for Public Information is a more abstract and sounds similar to some of the tracks on his “Intrusive Incidentals Vol. 1” album from last year. This combined with a structural arcs were tracks start off relatively sparse before building into dense collages of synths, organ and sound effects. If I had to pick highlights (the whole EP is excellent) they’d be the dissonant ‘Jugglin’ Fer Jesus’ (which title is a play on Ekoplekz hero’s Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Sluggin’ Fer Jesus’) and ‘Clayton Freak’ with its slow creepy feel of horror movie and BBC Radiophonic material. The whole EP is shoot through the Ekoplekz own brand of dub delirium and is all the better for it. The bonus tracks are well worth the price of an e-mail address, one being a Dub mix of the EP’s other BBC Radiophonic Workshop influenced track ‘Dick Mill’s Blues’ and ‘Rotamotion’ a lighter bubbling take on the dark dance material of Ekoplekz’s recent “Westerleigh Works EP” for Perc Trax.

Biggest Disappointment of the Month

Harmonious Thelonius – “Listens” (Italic Records)

The abrasive combination of American minimalism’s condensed patterns, European melodies and African-inspired rhythms that made “Talking”, Harmonious Thelonious’ (Stefan Schwander) debut album, sound so raw, urgent and exceptional are replaced by a more accessible, light South American-style palette and a larger focus on melody. Yet the mix is overly compressed leaving “Listen” sounding flat and airless with nothing to allow the melodies to shine or excite. It is my understanding that the album was recorded in a studio yet audience noise can be heard in the background, which seems like a poor attempt to inject interest into lifeless tracks. As with his previous album, Schwander’s passion and knowledge of these musical styles are clear and while there are glimpses that prove there is more territory to explore in this direction, there is very little, save the rich, complex ‘Drums Of Steel’ and ‘Trans-Harmonic System’, that has the grit, energy and, ultimately, the excitement of “Talking”.

Sleigh Bells – “Reign of Terror” (Mom & Pop)

A disappointing return for an act that promised so much two years ago. ‘Reign of Terror’ won’t be getting many repeat plays by me. It’s not all bad in fact the band show that they’ve progressed with new ethereal sounds and digital synths a recurring presence throughout the album. However, the band rarely convince on ‘Reign of Terror’ which is severely lacking in the ‘can’t get out of brain’ hooks department, the whole thing comes off a little flat. In addition to this the band’s love of 80’s hair metal aesthetics quick becomes grating, the opening track (‘True Shred Guitar’)  a particularly cringe worthy example of this with its crowd noise and the AC/DC riff that follows falls flat too. Nothing on this album comes close to what the band had previously achieved though it shows that they aren’t one trick ponies it’s just their other tricks aren’t that good unfortunately.

Olafur Arnalds – “Another Happy Day OST” (Erased Tapes)

Olafur Arnalds soundtrack for the film “Another Happy Day” does what it says on, fulfilling its purpose though a majority of the songs failure to translate without the images it accompanies. This by no means a bad album and the highlights, the haunting ‘Poland’, the creepy and foreboding ‘Out to Sea’ and the opener ‘Land of Nod’ are all great additions to Arnalds back catalogue. However the rest of the album leaves a little to be desired, yes they work on a functional level and there’s nothing wrong with that but they don’t rise to the heights of Arnalds last album ‘… And They Escaped The Weight of Darkness’ (2010). Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the closing track ‘Everything Must Change’ after spending half of the track six and a half minute length bringing the tracks main elements (twinkling piano, scratchy pizzicato violin, a deep doomy bass line, clattering reverb heavy percussion and ghostly voices and violin) only for when the whole thing starts to coalesce to drop everything to a lone violin, a massive anti climax that destroys the tension and energy that had been built up.

The Belbury Poly – “The Belbury Tales” (Ghost Box)

“The Belbury Tales” is a very 50/50 album while some tracks are little more than good facsimiles of their influences others (especially in the album’s second half) manage to rise above being the sum of their parts and match more recent production techniques and style particularly hip-hop style breakbeats into an already heady and complex brew. The first half of the record suggests good ideas with its mix of elements but fails to deliver sounding flat and unimaginative, it’s hard to pinpoint why these tracks fail whereas the second includes a handful of gems. These include the gorgeous interweaving synth melodies of ‘Summer Round’, the fuzz coated ‘Chapel Perilous’, the irresistibly funky ‘Goat Foot’, and the chilling ‘My Hands’. The first reference point that springs to mind is Broadcast and The Focus Groups “…Investigate Witch Cults of The Radio Age” but with a the use of guitars, bass, drums, ocarina, zithers and melodica adding energy and a wider colour palette. When the album hits its heights it’ll put a smile on your face but for the remainder of the tracks its just mildly diverting.

Loops of Your Heart – “And Never Ending Nights” (Magazine Records)

“And Never Ending Nights” is true to traditional kosmische musik artists, in particular, Cluster whose albums were created using a small palette of instruments, sounds and textures.  In the absence of drums, the synthesiser arpeggios create the rhythm. Thick basslines are balanced by synths that shimmer, cut and swell; fast arpeggios provide mantra-like qualities over ethereal pads. In “And Never Ending Nights”, Axel Willner has provided another example of the German electronic music practice of letting the music flow albeit in a controlled manner, which creates most of its tension, while, as with his main project The Field, showcasing his skill in restrained and effective song writing.  The album is a lesson in simplicity and stripped composition and the mid-section provides the highlights; ‘End’ and ‘Cries’ are two of Willner’s most emotive compositions yet while ‘Neukölln’ and  ‘Lost In The Mirror’ are the most transparent in revealing the German influences. The former, named after a Berlin district, features the voices of young children speaking German under layers of synths that gently swell and wobble in the style of Cluster and aesthetics of Harmonia.

Peter Broderick – “http://www.itstartshear.com&#8221; (Bella Union)

The new album by Peter Broderick picks up where he left with his last solo release “Music for Confluence” left off and features the same basic instrumentation acoustic/electric guitar, piano and violin. However, there are subtle and not so subtle ways this album manages to differentiate its self from “Music for Confluence”, firstly this isn’t a film soundtrack and thus allows Broderick more freedom of expression. The most obvious ways this freedom is expressed is the album brighter and sometimes more upbeat sound and the fact that Broderick’s lead vocals (which sometimes sound a little like Arthur Russell) dominate whereas only backing vocals were present on “Music for Confluence”. In fact the album features a lot more melodic materials full stop and married with Broderick’s expert use of harmony, reverb and others effects to create atmosphere it makes for much more dynamic material. Throughout the album Broderick successfully tightrope walks between accessibility and push the listener beyond their expectations. He achieves not only with his melodic work and use of effects but also unpredictable song structures on ‘With The Notes on Fire’ (like two songs in one), ‘Colin’ (which initially sounds like the rest of the album before the introduction of percussion pushes the song in a new direction and ‘Asleep’ and its use of crowd source readings of the lyrics from around the world that disorient and delight in equal measure. “Music for Confluence” is a great album and “http://www.itstartshear.com” is its equal and perfect companion piece.

Contender for Debut Album of the Year

Ital – “Hive Mind” (Planet Mu)

Ital’s debut album makes for an interesting listening experience, though this is dance music, it’s unlike to set many dance floors alight. However, this doesn’t make it the album a failure; in fact its inverting of house and techno music structures is a thrilling and disorienting experience. Though by no means a direct comparison its seems that Ital is attempting something similar to Axel Willner aka The Field though Willner inverts the structures of techno, Ital disrupts and stretches them to their limits. Another indirect reference point is that of Cabaret Voltaire’s 80’s era music (and founder Richard H. Kirk’s work as part of Sweet Exorcist, recently anthologised by Warp Records) this seems to a constant in the drum and the influence crops up most obvious on ‘First Wave’ with added disorienting rhythms and synths. The most obvious direct influence outside of dance music is the kosmiche musick of Cluster, Harmonia and to a less extent Tangerine Dream, in fact ‘Floridian Void’ (the highlight of the album) sounds a little like a dark techno take on fellow American kosmiche musick enthusiast Emeralds. I feel sure that the debate about ‘Hive Mind’ will continue throughout the year as it could well turn to be one of those albums the confounds and confuses as much as it thrills and provokes thoughtful analysis.

Top Release of the Month

Blondes – “Blondes” (RVNG ITNL)

Blondes self titled debut album is one that hard to do justice to without its sounding like a repetitive bore-fest, which it is far from. The duo fit into both the modern dance music camp alongside the likes of The Field, Gui Boratto and other Kompakt techno alumni and alongside modern Ambient and hynagogic pop acts such as Laurel Halo, Teengirl Fantasy and Rene Hell amongst others. Blondes manage to fuse these two opposites together in way that plays to the strengths of both, you never feel the dance elements are getting bogged down by the atmospherics or that the atmospherics are dominated by the dance elements. The duo encompass a range of emotions across the album from the brighter tracks like ‘Gold’ and ‘Amber’ to the dark and subdued ‘Pleasure via drowned Kraftwerkian synth work on ‘Business’ and foggy tension of ‘Water’. One of the album’s strength is that despite the amount of recycling there is (every second track is a re-versioning of the previous track) the variety on show is impressive as is the duo’s ability to keep the listener engaged and excited by these same/similar elements. Blondes have not only created a contender for Debut Album of the Year but an early contender for the Album of the Year itself.

January was a surprisingly busy month with the music industry stopping only to catch its breath over Christmas and New Year before getting back into the swing of things straight away. Annoyingly there’s has been a lot of confusion over two of the albums we recommended so we’ve not been able to pass comment on Harmonious Thelonious “Listens” and Loop of Your Heart’s ” And Never Ending Nights”.

Biggest Disappointment of the Month

Matthew Dear – “Headcage EP” (Ghostly International)

Matthew Dear’s “Headcage” EP is not so much a disappointment as a mixed bag that doesn’t quite achieve its aims though overall Dear comes out on top. The title track sets the tone with the influence of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell’s Fourth Music and modern synth music artists Oneohtrix Point Never and Laurel Halo. In fact ‘Headcage’ reminds me of ‘Head’ by Laurel Halo only 95% of mix hasn’t been drowned in reverb. The biggest disappointment is ‘In The Middle (I Met You There) feat. Johnny Pierce the song starts well enough with Dear’s pitched vocals and moody synths but when the music drops and Pierce’s vocals come in it’s a big letdown from then on. Things pick up a little with ‘Street Song’ the lead synth melody recalling Oneohtrix Point Never and Dear producing some pleasing tricks with his vocals, however these ideas aren’t developed fully and the song peters out. Finally ‘Around A Fountain’ reaches the heights of the title track with heavily compressed percussion, sighing backing vocals and Dear’s processed lead vocals dominating the intro before the lead vocal enters and gives the track a central focus, this is glues the track together. The track recalls similar influences to the others and Talking Heads. Though not firing on all cylinders on this EP it still feels like Dear will probably deliver on his new album “Beams” due later this year.

Oliveray – “Wonders” (Erased Tapes)

The début album by Oliveray (aka Peter Broderick and Nils Frahms) switches between vocal lead folk songs and ambient instrumentals, though even the folk tracks are grounded in ambience. Multi instrumentalist Broderick’s guitar/violin compliment Frahms vocals and piano even when Broderick push into harder or more abstract sounds. Though I prefer the instrumentals (Frahms voice is still growing on me) their cover of ‘Harmonics’ by Efterklang and album closer ‘Dreamer’ both hit the spot. Of the ambient pieces organic opener ‘Growing Waterwings’, the effects heavy ambience of ‘Piano in the Pond’ and the desolate twanging guitar and soft reverbed piano of ‘Hiding Hydiration’ stand out. Though this album doesn’t match Broderick’s recent solo album “Music For Confluence” (or A Winged Victory for the Sullen self titled début which also featured Broderick) it’s well worth investigation. I’ve only scratched the surface of both these artists vast back catalogues and so this may well turn to be one of the finest efforts of their repetitive careers to date and the album does feel like a grower.

Ekoplekz – “Westerleigh Works EP” (Perc Trax)

This EP has been talked about/marketed as Ekoplekz’s first venture into dance floor territory and listening to it you can hear why. However, Ekplekz still keeps his trademark sounds front and centre but the EP uses space more effectively and percussive sounds and deep bass provide the forward motion need. Of the three originals ‘Ekoplatz’ sounds most like his previous material while being underpinned by techno bass and percussion, the other two ‘Narco Samba’ and ‘Xylem Teardrops’ fill more stripped and danceable, while Richard H. Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire) remix of ‘Ekoplatz’ follows a similar template but adds electronic woodblocks, more structural dynamics and some of Kirk’s own idiosyncratic dub sounds. A highly recommended release for those into the darker side of dance music.

Early Contender for Debut Album of the Year

Islet – “Illuminted People”

Islet’s “Illuminated People is a confident and self-assured debut album from an ambitious band fusing together influences that seem to range from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Fuck Buttons via the Boredoms, shoegaze and folk music. The opening one-two punch of ‘Libra Man’ and ‘This Fortune’ perfectly demonstrate the band ability to bring together these influences to forge their own sound and also that their not just about the sonics but the tunes too. The briefly slacken the pace of the intro of ‘Entwined Pines’ before the drums double up and the tension builds before dropping to a Cocteau Twins style verse before post-punk guitars and synth grind away for the second of the song. ‘What We Done Wrong’ repeats the same trick but with male and female vocals play off each other. Islet show they can do subtle and simple on the folk-y ‘We Bow’ and soft vocals and feedback of  ‘A Warrior Who Longs to Grow Herbs’. The album gets even more eclectic in its second half with two post-rock style songs in ‘Filia’ and ‘Funicular’, the drum machine and tropical sounding synths of ‘Shores’ and the album closer ‘A Bear On Its Own’  with its creepy stabby synth outro, stuttering organ and duelling male and female vocals. My only really complaint is that one of the male vocalist struggles to make his notes in a way that grates other than that this is an impressive and memorable debut album from a band who could have a bright future.

Top Release of the Month

Errors – “Have Some Faith In Magic” (Rock Action)

Errors have been steadily evolving their own sound since their début EP back in 2006 and new album “Have Some Faith In Magic” is no different. What’s interesting about this album is how it seems to refer more modern influences such as James Ferraro and the chillwave/hypnagogic pop acts he has inspired so the newly introduced vocals come coated in reverb and sometimes other effects and there’s a simmering quality and multi coloured feel to the music. In addition this the band fine melodic and structural sense is not only still in place but has moved on another step, enough that they attract attention outside of their cult fan base. Particularly potent tunes include the single ‘Pleasure Palaces’ and its dance floor grooves which remind me of Washed Out and Blondes, the spritely soul inspired rhythms of ‘Barton Spring’ and ‘Blank Media’’s one of the simplest songs the band have written, which they pull off with aplomb. Elsewhere there’s almost rock guitar on opener ‘Tusk’ which also introduces one of the albums dominate sounds that of the twinkling arpeggio, however the songs are so varied that this recurring sound doesn’t grate. I had high hopes for this album after hearing ‘Magna Encarta’ and ‘Earthscore’ and Errors have met them and overcome the problems commonly associated with making a bigger leap in the evolution of a bands sound. They’ve written music that not only moves them forward but also seems primed for the bigger stages they’ll play on this year, after one play it feels this album and band can only get better.

Recommendations – February

Marcel Dettmann – “Landscape” out now (Music Man Records)

Released on the same label as his “Conducted” mix and following on from the “Translation” EP, the key feature of ‘Landscape’ is a muted melody that swells and deflates under Dettmann’s trademark thudding and scraping drums, providing a pivotal building-to-peak-time track for a DJ to throw in a set. A remix from the upcoming Answer Code Request pushes ‘Landscape’ into the pure peak time territory that the original teases the listener with.

Harmonious Thelonious – “Listens” out now (Italic)

Italic will release the follow-up to 2010’s Congotronics influenced ‘Talking’ with an new album that we at Sonic Fiction hope continues this artist’s unique combination of “American minimalism vs. African drumming vs. European sequencing”.

Blondes – “Blondes” 6th February (RVNG Itnl)

The début album from one of our favourite new acts on Sonic Fiction on RVNG Itnl who are shaping up to be the label of year (can’t wait for Julia Holter and the Sun Araw/The Congos collaboration albums later this year). The album collects together the duo’s pureistic and all analogue 12″ singles from last year plus a extra disc of remixes featuring the likes of Laurel Halo, Rene Hell and Teengirl Fantasy among others. Despite this pureistic approach this isn’t dance music by numbers and seems to incoraparate some influences from ambient music and the kosmische music of Cluster and their current peers such as Halo and Hell. Stream Blondes album here.

Loops Of Your Heart – ‘And Never Ending Nights’ 13th February (Magazine Records)

After his career ascension with “Looping State Of Mind”, The Field (Axel Willner) has created the side project Loops Of Your Heart. “And Never Ending Nights” is immersed in German influence and celebrates the country’s tradition of musical restraint that is exemplified in kosmiche musik names such as Cluster and Harmonia. The sampled voices of children speaking German on the lead track “Neukölln”, named after the Berlin district.

Peter Broderick – “http://www.itstartshear.com” 20th February 2012 (Bella Union)

Broderick’s new solo album is called “http://www.itstartshear.com” because though he has no problem with people downloading his music, Broderick sees the problems with pieces of information and artwork that can go missing and complete the experience. So he’s set-up a website where everything to do with the album can be accessed by anyone whatever format they’ve bought/got the album in.

Produced by Nils Frahm (Broderick’s partner in Oliveray) at his Durton Studio in Berlin and Broderick says “it is my first project on which the sonic timbre of the songs was treated equally as important as the music itself. I have been in awe of the sound on the many records coming out of Nils’ studio over the last couple years, so I thank him deeply for helping me to explore a richer, wider sonic landscape.”

Ital – “Hive Mind” 20th February (Planet Mu)

The début album from Daniel Martin-McCormick under his Ital guise is an album that early reviews and pre-release track suggest stretches the definition of dance music. Made up of five longform tracks that build upon last year 12″ releases on 100% Silk and takes his dirty, dubby and psychedelic sound further out. Tracks like ‘Floridian Void’ seem to bring together sounds from Martin-McCormick’s entire career thus far from the solo synth based noise project Sex Worker, through the brutal dance-punk of Mi Ami and with the D-I-Y attitude of his first band the hardcore punks Black Eyes. This is dance music in structure but not by design.

Sleigh Bells – ‘Reign of Terror’ 20th February (Mom & Pop)

The second album from Sleigh Bells promise more of the noisy pop of their début “Treats” but with a darker more gothic edge added to the overall tone. The main changes seems to be that pre-release tracks “Born to Lose” and “Comeback Kid” is that though the tracks are less in-your-face than before they still possessed extraordinary power. Meanwhile the Alexis Krauss’ vocals have become more ethereal adding a new creepy edge to the music.

Olafur Arnalds – “Another Happy Day OST”  27th February (Erased Tapes)

Like label mate Nils Frahms Olafur Arnalds is a young modern classical pianist with a prolific output. This latest release provides the soundtrack for Sam Levinson’s “Another Happy Day” starring Ellen Barkin and Demi Moore and features the beautiful and delicate ‘Poland’.

Belbury Poly – “The Belbury Tales” 27th February (Ghost Box)

The fourth album from Belbury Poly (aka Ghost Box co-founder Jim Jupp) is a heavily influenced by 1970’s folk-prog acts such as Caravan though in a recent FACT interview Jupp said he hadn’t made a prog album per se but that “While the sound and feel of British prog is an influence on The Belbury Tales, it’s only one element. It’s not a prog rock album, I don’t think; it has just as much to do with TV soundtracks, library music, kosmische and psychedelic rock.” The four clips that are available to stream via Soundcloud certainly fit this description. FACT say the album fits into the Belbury Poly and Ghost Box aesthetic but with a more organic and live feel thanks to the contributions of guest musicians Christopher Budd (bass and electric guitar) and Jim Musgrave (drums) a first for a Belbury Poly release. Jupp also adds zithers, melodica, ocarina and sampled vocals to the mix. The clips leave the listen intrigued but we’ll have to wait to find out what the whole album sounds like.

Honourable Mentions

Death In Vegas – “Trans Love Energies”

This album came out nowhere back in September and knocked me for six, a great comeback album if ever there was one. Admittedly it’s not always the subtlest of albums, both in terms of wearing its influences on its sleeves and in terms of its sometimes simplistic nature. However, these complaints are minor with Richard Fearless finding a balance between his art-rock and electronic music influences and blending them into a visceral whole. Though it may not be the most original album released this year it’s a joy to listen to and Fearless show he’s still a master of his music domain. His whispered vocals (which sometimes recall Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers) and those of collaborator Kate Stelmanis (Austra) are the icing on the cake. It is well worth getting the 2 CD edition too, which features remixes and instrumental versions of album tracks plus five non-album tracks all of which equal the quality of the album itself.

Spank Rock – “Everything Is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar”

After 5 years Spank Rock returned this year with a second album ‘Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar’. This combines tracks that consolidate what Spank Rock achieved on previous album ‘YoYoYoYoYo’ and while moving into new areas like four-to-floor dance music, grungy distortion and Can sampling single ‘Energy’. Spank Rock also tries out singing on ‘The Dance’, ‘Baby’ (on which he achieves an excellent Prince impersonation) and ‘Energy’ and does so with aplomb. The triple dance floor whammy of ‘The Dance’, ‘#1 Hit’ and ‘Turn It Off’ are the biggest departures but also the greatest successes. During the second half of the album the majority tracks recall ‘YoYoYoYoYo’s’ electro sound but here it’s been expanded and built upon to incorporate tribal vibes, industrial touches, grungy distortion and on ‘Baby’ a phat funk groove. Like on his debut, Spank Rock pushes the envelope of electro hip-hop successfully bringing together disparate elements and combining them as if they should be together. An excellent album full of energy, humour and electro.

DELS – “GOB”

Dels produced an authoritative debut album that balances catchy, memorable tunes with experimentation, unexpected twists and turns and a signature sound on a complete and engaging record. The first half is full of heavy hitting, bouncy electro inspired tracks but the second half to the album covers more serious topics including the recent political problems in the UK, rape and domestic violence. Dels is able to change the pace and the atmosphere to suit these changes in subject and this is proof of an artist with more than one string to his bow and great future ahead of him. Dels is a hip-hop artist with substance to match his unique style.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – “A Winged Victory for the Sullen”

A Winged Victory for the Sullen is a collaboration between Adam Wiltzie of Texan ambient duo Stars of the Lid and contemporary pianist Dustin O’ Halloran and their self titled debut album is where their two styles meet in the middle. The music shifts in and out of focus as the two musicians interact, knowing when to play together and when to let the other have space, when to build a wave of sound and when to leave room between them. One of the remarkable things about the album is how cohesive it sounds, as if the duo had been working together for years and understood each other’s every musical move and how to compliment it. The reason for choosing this album is best summed up by Sam Cleeve of Drowned in Sound “While Wiltzie and O’Halloran both have their obvious contemporaries to draw parallels between (Hammock; Eno/Frahm; Arnalds), this emotive disc balances a hushed intimacy and vast expanse that places it in a unique sonic terrain.”

Toro Y Moi – “Underneath the Pine”

Back in February I described Toro Y Moi’s “Underneath the Pine” in the following way, “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 riffs and grooves matched with emotive soundtrack backing and the glorious rush of good pop music, it’s a leap forward from his impressive début ‘Causers of This’” Since then I’ve had more time to contemplate the album and its subtleties, discovering the stylistic similarities to Stereolab (who featured in his mix for The Quietus) and deepening my admiration for the lush atmospherics present in the tracks and the way that the singles ‘New Beat’ and ‘Still Sound’’s infectious upbeat energy contrast with the album’s more thoughtful moments such as ‘Good Hold’ and opener ‘Intro/Chi Chi’. On the surface “Underneath the Pine” is full of simple pleasures but reveals more and more with each new play.

Top Ten Album’s of the Year

10. Battles – “Gloss Drop” (Warp Records)

 As with any Battles release there’s a lot to take in and one listen simply won’t cut it in terms of any real in-depth analysis. The trio made a good first impression proving they can do great things without former member Tyondai Braxton, whom was always seen as a key band member. This is definitely a Battles album yet they’ve shed some of the uptight, over thought jazz-prog that had previously manifested itself in a frustrating way. This is a looser, freer band. Drummer John Stanier is able to make his techno influences much more explicit, this and the Carribbean/Latin/Calypso touches that are littered throughout the album add a new rhythmic interest and lightness of touch that are both great new additions to the Battles sound. This isn’t a band trying to play techno or calypso through; rather they are trying to fold these influences into their already established sound. Another interesting facet of the sound is that on many of the tracks feature ambience and background sounds that evoke grey concrete that is juxtaposed with the lighter and happier calypso influenced melodies and riffs. ‘Gloss Drop’ is a bold statement from band that could have collapsed but has instead shown a new strength.

9. Chancha Via Circuito – “Rio Arriba” (ZZK Records)

This album by an Argentine hip-hop producer Pedro Canale fuses J Dilla-esque beats to traditional Columbian cumbia percussion samples, melodies and vocal samples to create a heady and humid hybrid that recalls walking through the South American jungle after dark. Like all the best hip-hop producers Canale has a deep understanding of the music that he is sampling but doesn’t respect it to the point that it limits his innovation. His music and grooves feel organic but also as if they’ve been subtly subverted in his sampler. “Rio Arriba” isn’t all about the beats. He uses atmosphere to evoke a time and place and is one of the only new hip-hop producers I’ve heard who achieves this to such a high level, you don’t just hear the time and place either but feel the emotions of the singers and the instrumental tracks so brilliantly convey. It’s difficult to properly describe Chancha Via Circuito’s music but with “Rio Arriba” he has created the debut album of the year.

8. The Horrors – “Skying” (XL Records)

I’ll admit to never having been taken by The Horrors and other than the excellent track ‘Sea Within a Sea’ I didn’t see what all fuss was about with their last album “Primary Colours”. However, their new self-produced album “Skying” finds them striking a balance between clear melodic lines and thick, swirling psychedelia. Previously the band sounded muddy with the melody submerged low in the mix. There’s also a new feeling of purpose to tracks like ‘Still Life’, ‘Moving Further Away’ and ‘Endless Blue’. The band combine the motorik rhythms of Neu!, the English psychedelia of late 80s Julian Cope and the power ballad dynamics of Simple Minds (not something I thought I’d ever be recommending) into a punchy pop-rock package. They’ve left behind the restrictions of recreating gothic post-punk sounds and the doom laden, muddy psychedelia of previous albums and have emerged as a band that delivers where once they merely promised.

7. Tune-Yards –“Who Kill” (4AD Records)

Tune-Yards delivers on what was hinted at on her debut album ‘Bird-Brains’. Strong vocal performances and use of vocal layering are ever present as are the hip-hop rhythms that dominated her debut. She also brings a host of surprises, the processing of vocals through a modular synth, pop melodies that pack a punch and a day-glo sound indebted to both African music and dub yet at the same time all of her own. Though the album dips towards the end ‘Doorstop’ and ‘You, Yes You’ show there are yet more directions in which Tune-Yards’ sound can be developed. In addition to this the album reflects its time through its politically engaged lyrics and of protests both personal and local. In a year dominated by protests and political upheaval, “Who Kill” provided a vibrant soundtrack. All-in-all this is a great album from a unique artist.

6. The Field – “Looping State of Mind”  (Kompakt)

This year Axel Willner delivered another great album as The Field and continued to evolve his glacial techno sound. His music is now warmer and more organic (see ‘Arpeggiated Love’ and ‘Burned Out’), while his grooves have become funkier and more human recalling those found on LCD Soundsystem’s “Sound of Silver”. The best way I can think to describe “Looping State of Mind” is LCD Soundsystem grooves matched with the inverted dance structures and Tangerine Dream influenced kosmische music of The Field’s typical productions. A match made in heaven.

5. Tamikrest – “Toumastin”  (Glitterhouse Records)

This is another great Taurag album that throws down the gauntlet to Tinariwen (who’s “Tassili was a massive disappointment). Though there’s a lot of familiarity to the Tamikrest sound these young men find a way of subtlety incorporating new influences into the template. From the funk bass that underpins ‘Tidit’ and ‘Tarhamanine Assinegh’ to the Western rock guitar of ‘Adjan Adaky’ and magnificent closer ‘Dihad Tedoun Itran’ via the regular and clever employment of female vocals as a counterpoint to a very male sound, this shows there is more to Taurag than fans already know. The band masterfully conquers both the more groove based and moody and downbeat material with confidence and ease. This is great album from a band full ideas who’ve possibly yet to reach their full potential.

4. Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2” (Capitol/Grand Royale Records)

With this album the Beastie Boys returned to form creating their best album since “Hello Nasty” (1998). They went back to basics and came up with a collection of short punchy songs full of energy, hooks and humour. Though the album is a thoroughly Beastie Boys creation they do seem to have rebooted their sound, with the help of producer Philippe Zdar, concocting a new synthetic retro-futuristic Beasties sound. The album’s 16 tracks whizz by in a blur and it’s hard to pick out favourites in this heady brew but if pushed I’d go for ‘Make Some Noise’, ‘Non Stop Disco Powerpack’, ‘Too Many Rappers’ feat. Nas, ‘Don’t Play No Game I Can’t Win’ feat Santigold and excellent instrumental ‘Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament’. The only disappointment is that ‘Tadlock’s Glasses’ finishes far too soon.

3 . Mark McGuire – “Get Lost”  (Editions Mego Records)

At first “Get Lost” seemed like business as usual for Emeralds guitarist Mark McGuire, All the typical traits of McGuire’s guitar playing are present especially his fuzzy lead lines and repetitive yet hypnotic delay heavy rhythm patterns and guitar-synth drones aplenty. However, the more I listened to the album, the more it became clear it was almost a direct relative of the collaborative work of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp particularly 1975’s brilliant ‘Evening Star’ album. The colourful washes of sound swirl around the stereo image and immerse you but are perfectly balanced with the melodic lines that weave in and out of them. I didn’t think that McGuire could equal last year’s amazing “Living With Yourself” but with “Get Lost” he’s managed it and combined the best elements from all his previous releases into a cohesive whole.

2. Apparat – “The Devil’s Walk” (Mute Records)

On his new album Apparat displayed a new skill for writing immediate and engaging material, a difficult balance that has been masterfully struck without surrendering any of this enigmatic artist’s mystery. The album doesn’t instantly recall Apparat’s previous solo work and has more in common with the Moderat project he formed with Modeselektor in 2009, specifically the dark gothic atmosphere that pervades throughout. It seems appropriate that Apparat should switch to Mute Records for this release as many of tracks indirectly recall Depeche Mode at their finest and Apparat’s vocal even sounds like Marc Almond (Soft Cell) minus the camp edge. Apparat’s greatest achievement here is combining modern production techniques with strong song writing. His song are now more memorable and emotionally evocative.

1. Gang Gang Dance – “Eye Contact” (4AD Records)

A breathtakingly ambitious album featuring North African guitars, club beats, Indian pop vocals, grime and electro synth bass, and twisted synth arpeggios all working together where they could fail spectacularly. There’s a new found clarity and a massive step-up in the quality of the tunes on ‘Eye Contact’, this is the album Gang Gang Dance have been threatening to make and impresses instantly whereas previous songs were either growers or too awkward to be properly embraced. After a few listens it becomes clear there’s some strong links to “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective (who are both friends and contemporaries of Gang Gang Dance). The use of psychedelic electronics and rhythms rooted in hip-hop are present on both albums. However, Gang Gang Dance add plenty to this and produce their own unique sound, which is an upbeat opposite to the melancholy of Animal Collective. An interest coincidence is that “Merriweather Post Pavilion” was Sonic Fiction’s Album of the Year 2009 and ‘Eye Contact’ takes pole position for this year. From opening 11 minutes epic ‘Glass Jar’ to the closing ‘Thru and Thru’ with its twisting snake charmer like Eastern melody, tribal percussion and clubby beats and synths via the Sade-esque ‘Romance Layers’ beats the heart of exhilarating experimentation meeting the forward rush of club music and the exoticism of traditional music from around the world. As No.1 in my list there is no higher recommendation!

Spotify playlist:

Sonic Fiction Top Ten Album’s of the Year

Observations

Just like last year two words have loomed large for me this year: Ambient and African; and I have continued my exploration of these types of music. I’ve found myself getting deeper into Ambient music both old and new, especially with FACT publishing their 20 Best Ambient albums in the summer with Steve Reich and Pat Metheny’s – “Electric Counterpoint”, Main’s – “Firmament II”, Bobby Beausoleil soundtrack for “Lucifer’s Rising” and “Ambient 3: Day of Radiance” by Brian Eno and Laraaji  amongst my favourites so far. A spate of new releases towards the end of the year that I’ve enjoyed include “Music for Confluence” by Peter Broderick, “Tragedy” by Julia Holter and “Glimmer” by Jacaszek, “El Tren Fantasma” by Chris Watson, “Replica” by Oneohtrix Point Never and “Tragedy and Geometry” by Steve Hauschildt of Emeralds.  On the African side of things I started the year with the purchase of the Congotronics vs. Rockers compilation album, which was swiftly followed by the debut album of the Kasai Allstars and though I wasn’t listening to much African music during the summer I followed the progress of the Congotronics vs Rockers tour via their blog and towards the end of have enjoyed Analog Africa’s “Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso”, a great compilation covering the rich and varied music of this small and obscure country during the ‘70s.

Some releases have taken a little longer to grower on me than others for instance “A Creature I Don’t Know” by Laura Marling narrowly missed out on being part of my Honourable Mentions yet it has slowly but surely grown on me since its September release. I also recently revisited Laurel Halo’s “Hour Logic” EP and went from liking it to loving its infectious energy matched with abundant atmosphere. I’ve also been on and off with a few artists/albums the main culprit being Maria Minerva who I’ve liked and then found dull and then liked and then found dull again. Albums by The Rapture and Megafaun have also failed to fully convince me, though they still could.

Sonic Fiction’s predictions for up and coming new bands/artists for 2011 mostly seemed premature as many of artists with now release their debut albums next year. Still DELs and Balam Acab produced good debut albums and Laurel Halo and Blondes both had a steady stream of releases, maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

Still to come this week Vier’s Album’s of the Year and Observations.

by Liam Flanagan (Sonic Fiction editor)

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