Tag Archive: The Fall


‘Ersatz G.B.’, The Fall’s 29th album spends most of its time battering the listener around the head with snare drums, heavy bass, guitar and Mark. E Smith mostly incoherent vocals. The rest of the time it takes the opposite approach and doesn’t manage to impress then either with tracks like ‘Happi Song’ and ‘Laptop Dog’ sounding like pale jangly and barely there indie. The one track that does rise to the occasion is ‘Monocard’ which with its Corroded guitar riffs, heavy bass and a synth that goes whistling to resonate reminds me of Mogwai’s excellent ‘Rano Pano’ from earlier in the year. Try harder next time, please Mark E. Smith and co.

Though “Tragedy & Geometry” the new album from Steve Hauschildt doesn’t compete on the same level as his main project Emeralds, it not without its moments and has enough quality tracks and variety to keep most synth enthusiasts happy. Though the base elements (warm pads, twinkling melodies and more arpeggios than you can shake a stick at) remain more or less the same throughout the entirety of the album. There’s a good selection of moods on offer ranging from mellow to happy, dark and edgy to spacey sci-fi lullabies. This album should be enough to keep Emeralds fans going until the band return next year.

It’s difficult to describe Chris Watson’s new album ‘El Tren Fantasma’ and really do it justice thought this review by The Quietus does a pretty good job. Without any musical instruments involved describing what I hear makes it sound boring. “El Tren Fantasma” is far from boring it’s an atmospheric journey full of peaks and troughs, loud and quiet, mellow and unsettling moments. Watson manages to place you in the centre of his journey as venture across Mexican through different terrain taking in all times of day and types of life, a fascinating experience. Before hearing this album I’d only heard Watson’s brilliant “Stepping Into The Dark” album, “El Tren Fantasma” shares the same ability to switch from heavy and dark sounds to light and airy sounds and find different moods and atmosperes to match. However the new album feels more musical, which seems an odd thing to say about two albums completely made of field recordings. But thats what I hear and much of Watson’s work with Cabaret Voltaire blurred the thin line-up between musical and non-musial sound. I’d throughly recommend “El Tren Fantasma” as an experience that should be tried at least once, it won’t be for everyone but I think it will surprise many people.

“Replica” the new album by Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN) is a transitional record that sees Daniel Lopatin attempting something new for him. This album doesn’t contain the slowly evolving and enveloping synth drones of his early work or the dense computer edited sound of ‘Returnal’, it’s heavily focused on vocal snippets and percussive sounds and textures that recall the Fourth World music of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno. At the same time the noise that had previous encroached on the edges of Oneohtrix Point Never sound now plays a much more central role. For reverb soaked synth or piano melody there is either subtle hum or overwhelming thickets of noise to counter act them. This may sound off putting, like Lopatin is sabotaging his own perfectly good tracks, but it never feels this way, he gets the balance right and knows what works when. He creates tension and release, whereas previous he only created one or the other in a single track. This twinned the brevity of many of tracks points to a move towards ‘pop’ music, admittedly its ‘pop’ at its most abstract and it in no-one way represents modern pop music the genre its self but OPN has never attempted to do so much in so little time. Lopatin is no longer allowing sounds to just natural drift and resolve themselves he’s using all his old tricks and elements with new ones that both compliment and contrast with them. The percussion instruments and micro edited percussive vocal sounds give a new purpose to his music and place it firmly in its own unique place. I feel there’s plenty more to be discovered and will revisit it in a one-off post in January next year.

Spotify playlist:

November playlist

Coming up in December on Sonic Fiction:

Sonic Fiction Writer’s Top Ten Album’s of Year and Observations 2011

October was dominated by Bjork’s return after a four year break and the exciting news that her album “Biophilia” would be released with imaginative, synaesthesia-inspired iPhone/iPad apps. New Polish production duo Viadrina released their club-orientated “Bodymind” EP. The EP is a three-track collection that gives tech-house a new twist and the title track features one of the best vocal performances of recent techno releases:

Unfortunatly I was unable to listen BNJMN’s “Black Square”.

Here’s a round-up of last month’s recommendations.:

Zola Jesus – “Conatus”

This is a disappointing album so I’ve only presented the highlights. Second track ‘Avalanche’ has its foundations in “Stridulum”. The moody atmospherics and deploring vocals link to “Conatus”’ predecessor while the softer use of these elements bridges us to the album’s overall sound. The strongest track is ‘Vessel’ which recalls “Homogenic” or a gloopier ‘Enjoy’ from Bjork’s “Post”.

‘Ixode’ features an infectious 4/4 electro beat and synth pop pulses amid Jesus’ indecipherable, layered chanting then there’s a fantastic octave leap that pins you into your seat as a thwacking bass drum hits you. From ‘Ixode’ we segue into ‘Seekir’, which sees an ecstatic Zola Jesus raising her arms in a moment of victory as the bubbling bassline calls you to celebrate on the dancefloor before we are pulled into the dull murk of later tracks.

“Conatus” is imbued with crisper production and benefits from having the same-y claustrophobia and high drama that made up “Stridulum” dialled down. Yet if listened to in one session the album flags and suffers from repetitive tempos and themes. Her voice remains a force of nature but there is something lacking in this release. All of Zola Jesus’ songs share the same DNA: a high percentage of woe, a percentage of industrial clangs, a percentage of gloomy chords and a percentage of either hope or desperation. “Conatus” is more enjoyable if a few key tracks, such as ‘Vessel’ and ‘Seekir’, are downloaded and consumed in small bites. Despite Zola Jesus’ clear talent “Conatus” unfortunately seems destined to be broadcast over the system in Urban Outfitters.

Bjork – “Biophilia”

‘Thunderbolt’’s malevolent bass line and electronic drums provide a wild, tense energy underneath a female choir that flock around Bjork’s half sung, half spoken questioning of the human tendency to wish for miracles and plea for universal understanding. First single ‘Crystalline’ recalls the intimacy and fragility of “Verspertine” and once again demonstrates Bjork’s innate use of beautiful harmonies. ‘Crystalline’ is filled with the delicate, glassy timbres courtesy of a bespoke gameleste and fizzing electronic drums before a jungle breakbeat unexpectedly explodes out of the ether in proud celebration of Bjork’s return. The breathless swell of ‘Cosmogony’’s chorus conveys in one track the album’s overall sense of childlike wonder felt when considering the universe’s incredible creation and vastness. Bjork creates an uneasy balance between unsettling and calm in ‘Hollow’. Lulling vocals and a dreamy choir are interrupted by horror-film organs and staccato, digitalised drums. Crashing into life after the tender beauty of ‘Virus’ and ‘Sacrifice’ is the confrontational “Homogenic”-like ‘Mutual Core’, which could easily be the voice of Mother Nature scolding her selfish inhabitants or a song for the heartbroken.“You know I gave it all/ Trying to match our continents/To change seasonal shifts/ To form a mutual core//You know I gave it all/Can you hear the effort”  she admonishes as bass sounds and furious beats roll and thunder around her in thrilling bursts.

“Biophilia” has links with her 2007 album “Volta” and 1997’s “Homogenic” but where “Volta” bursts at the seams with sound, “Biophilia” is, for its endeavour to correlate science and nature with the patterns and structure of music, a restrained and spacious listen. Her voice and words anchor emotions to the science and the thread of innocence and wide-eyed fascination that runs through her celebration of the universe prevents any feeling of pretence or aridity. Even after a four year hiatus “Biophilia” underlines how greatly superior Bjork is from the majority of popular music and, regardless of the way the album has been delivered, she continues to electrify and surpass.

http://www.kompakt.fm/releases/looping_state_of_mind/embedded

The Field – “Looping State of Mind”

‘Is This Power’ opens with krautrock drums and a gorgeous, ecstatic loop that could be enjoyed for hours build and build into a thrilling drop after 5 minutes. Breaking down to an arpeggiated bass line, resonant melody and shuffling drums The Field the expertly pulls the main loop back in and the track endlessly continues. Techno DJ and producer Marcel Dettmann remarked that if you “composed a loop that you could to listen to repeatedly then it’s a good loop”; ‘Is This Power’ embodies this statement. Next track ‘It’s Up There’ recalls his début album “From Here We Go Sublime”. Live drums push through liquid, slowly evolving synths and as with the previous track this song drops at 7 minutes to a dancing bass line and percussion to evoke the grooves of LCD Soundsystem’s “Sound of Silver”, making ‘Its Up There’ the funkiest thing Axel Willner has ever produced.

Techno in its simplest form is music that can built using just a few loops and The Field expands on this method effectively; multiplying shimmering loops of vocals, synths and drums into one luscious, infinite circular track. The layers on ‘Arpeggiated Love’ develop into a vast wall of sound where each instrument feels knitted together until a twinkling synth indicates a quick release and we are left with a singular voice calling out. Feeling the most loose and organic of the release, title track ‘Looping State Of Mind’ is a new direction. Balearic house and smooth guitars interlace with rushing percussion and synth drones that drop in and out in unexpected ways. ‘Then It’s White’ comes as a relief after the frenzy of the title track. Marrying human fluency with technology the track creates a strange combination of bliss and sombre. The piano and mournful, computer-warped voice subtly calls to mind Apparat while confirming The Field’s expanded production ability.

The Field has returned with his third album for Kompakt. “Looping State Of Mind” neatly builds on the landscapes of his previous releases “From Here We Go Sublime”,  a collection of icy yet deeply affecting techno tracks, and “Yesterday and Today”, which covers a warmer krautrock-indebted area, to merge the best of both into a beautiful seven track blend of warm synth arpeggios, droning, pulsing pads and that  Kompakt schaffel. The eponymous loops feel like they could last forever; building and dropping.

Spotify playlist:

October playlist

Recommendations – November

Tresor Records – “20th Anniversary” (7th November, compilation mix, Tresor Records)

Two decades ago Tresor and its founder Dimitri Hegemann cultivated an essential Detroit-Berlin relationship, giving an important platform to techno and thus many heralded Detroit DJs and artists. This “20th Anniversary” compilation, mixed by Mike Huckaby, surveys the label’s expansive and integral Detroit-Berlin catalogue with 22 tracks from techno luminaries such as Robert Hood, Drexciya, Jeff Mills, Surgeon and Cristian Vogel.

Oneohtrix Point Never – “Replica” (7th November, Software)

Oneohtrix returns with the follow-up “Returnal” (2010) the winner of my Album of the Year 2010 on his own Software label. Though I’ve already listened to the album a couple of times I’ve yet to form any solid ideas about it. However I do think its a confident stride forward into a more overtly ‘pop’ (in the loosest sense of the world) direction. It still sounds like OPN but is possibly his most varied and upbeat collection to date.

Cabaret Voltaire – “Johnny YesNo Redux (Boxset” (14th November, Mute)

I’ve been a fan of the Cabs for many years but my rediscovery of them earlier this year has forced me to reassess their importance and the brilliant music they made. In addition to this they also released several videos via their video label DoubleVision. “Johnny YesNo” was the most famous of these and has now been reissued with a new version of the short film short in L.A. and a new soundtrack from Cabs founder Richard H. Kirk plus a CD of additional unreleased material in addition to the original film and its soundtrack.

Marcel Dettmann – “Conducted” (14th November, mix CD, Music Man Records).

Berlin-based DJ and techno producer Marcel Dettmann has gathered the work of his contemporaries Morphosis, Redshape and Shed and two of his all time favourites tracks ‘Sundog’ by Reel By Real  and Cheeba Starks to create only his second commercially available mix to date, following the lauded “Berghain 02” from 2008. According to the distributors, the mix is being sold as an “extensive package”, which will include an “extensive booklet” boasting sleeve notes, two accompanying 12”s and interviews conducted by Marcel Dettmann.

Check out this interview with Marcel Dettmann:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCGVV_ywnTg&feature=player_embedded

The Fall – “Ersatz G.B.” (14th November, Cherry Red)

The 29th studio album from Mark E. Smith and co., there’s no clue in the press release as to how it will sound but one we can rely on is the how John Peel once described the band “always the same, always different”.

Steve Hauschildt – “Tragedy & Geometry” (14th November, Kranky)

The new solo album from Emeralds synth player Hauschildt comes out on Kranky and will be his best distributed solo release to date. I have to honest, I haven’t heard any of Hauschildt’s previous releases but suspect it’ll be heavily influenced by the ‘kosmische musik’ of Tangerine Dream, Cluster and Ash Ra Tempel.

Chris Watson – “El Tren Fastasma” (14th November, Touch)

Not the sort of release that generally excites, the new album from sound recordist and ex-Cabaret Voltaire member Chris Watson promises much. Made up of recordings on the now retired Ghost Train cross-country route in Mexico ten years, the pre-release track ‘El Divisadero’ has proved more musical than you’d imagine and along with a recent interview on Pitchfork has wetted my appetite ahead of this release.

In recent months I’ve been trying to reduce the size of the ‘2010 through my (biased) eyes’ series because I didn’t want them to become a dispassionate list of what I had listened to that month. As they have mostly concentrated on new releases this post will round up other music I have enjoyed recently.

The Fall – ‘Perverted by Language’ (1983), ‘Extricate (1990) & ‘The Infotainment Scan’ (1993) (Reissued by Castle Communications)

An interesting selection of Fall albums. The first, ‘Perverted by Language’ was the start of the Brix Smith era when the American guitarist joined the band and began a relationship with Mark E. Smith and the last album before Mark E. Smith went into overdrive with the constant hiring and firing of band members. Brix’s influence, which would later assist the band in achieving their highest album chart positions and adopting a more Americanised commercial sound, is barely traceable on this release save for her vocals on ‘Hotel Bloedel’. Indeed ‘Hotel Bloedel’ is the exception in what is an album full of great songs and guitar/bass riffs and Smith on top lyrical form. ‘Extricate’ was the beginning of the Fall exploring computer technology and modern synthesisers (previously they had only used cheap organs) and there is a new sheen to their sound yet this doesn’t detract from the sharp riffs and even sharper lyrics. Despite the common perception of Mark E. Smith as the group’s dictator on ‘Extricate’ and ‘The Infotainment Scan’ he competes with and allows space for keyboardist Dave Bush and collaborators Coldcut on single ‘Telephone Thing’.

Solex – ‘Solex vs. Hitmeister’ (1998), ‘Pick Up’ (1999), ‘Low Kick and Hard Bop’ (2001) (Matador), ‘The Laughing Stock of Indie Rock’ (2004) (Arena Rock Recording Co.) & ‘Amsterdam Throwdown, King Street Showdown (2010) (Bronzerat)

Solex (aka Elizabeth Esselink) is an artist that I have been curious about since hearing ‘Solex One Louder’ on a Matador compilation back in ’99 from her excellent debut album ‘Solex vs. Hitmeister’, which blends together an eclectic selection of samples sourced from the record shop Esselink owns. This is music that works where it shouldn’t and is danceable to boot! The formula is refined and given a jazzier edge on ‘Pick Up’ and ‘Low Kick and Hard Bop’ and though the latter is a little repetitive it is worth a spin. On ‘The Laughing Stock…’ a dramatic change occurs with pared-down samples and Esselink taking centre stage playing guitar and keyboards and sharing vocals with new collaborator Stuart Brown, which was disappointing and didn’t come together. This and ‘Amsterdam Throwdown…’ made with Jon Spencer and Cristina Martinez showcase a bluesy downbeat and upbeat feel respectively. I recommend ‘Solex vs. Hitmeister’ and ‘Pick Up’ but feel that despite some great moments ‘Low Kick and Hard Bop’ and ‘Amsterdam Throwdown…’ are overly repetitive but if you like the first two albums check them out.

cLOUDDEAD – ‘cLOUDDEAD’ (2001) (Anti-Con)

Created by Doseone, Why? and Odd Nosdam, three members of the Anti-Con collective/record label, the eponymous album sounds unlike anything on any hip-hop album before or post its release and the material the members have made individually. The atmospherics range from sinister to pastoral and the lyrics from simplistic to wordy and metaphorical and this unique sound draws upon ambient music, electronica, the experimental rock of The Residents, Frank Zappa and includes hints of Cluster or Faust’s moments of krautrock clarity. Think Boards of Canada and that only tells half the story. The tracks were originally released on six double sided 10” singles which were intended to be listened to in order which explains why the album shifts focus every couple of tracks, though this can happen within a song too. Due to this the album is not the easiest of listens but the effort is worthwhile.

Subtle – ‘A New White’ (2004) ‘For Hero: For Fool’ (2006) & ‘Exiting Arm’ (2008) (Anti-Con)

Rapper Doseone of cLOUDDEAD formed Subtle in 2001 with friend and percussionist Jel. Later the band expanded to feature Dax Pierson (keyboards), Marty Dowers (woodwind), Jordan Damrymple (guitar) and Alexander Kort (cello). Three years on the band debuted with ‘A New White’, an album that consolidated the achievements of cLOUDDEAD and gave their ideas a greater concise song-based style. They only really began to establish a sound that was their own on ‘For Hero: For Fool’ which balanced tongue twisting raps, wonky backing vocals, warped electronics, psychedelic guitars and beats that ranged from solid hip-hop to liquid rock. ‘For Hero: For Fool’ is probably the hardest Subtle album to get your head around but your efforts are greatly rewarded. ‘Exiting Arm’ saw a more stripped back and consistent sound while keeping enough variety to maintain interest until the end. The closing track ‘Providence’ reminds me of the track of the same name by TV on the Radio, a coincidence as Tunde Adebimpe contributed to ‘Yell & Ice’ a remix album of ‘For Hero: For Fool’. Who knows where Subtle will go next but the future seems bright.

Tony Allen – ‘Black Voices’ (1999) (Planet Woo/Comet), ‘Lagos No Shaking’ (2006) (Honest Jon’s), ‘Homecooking’ (2009) (Planet Woo/Comet)

An interesting selection of albums from the man who Brian Eno said is ‘perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived. ‘Black Voices’ is a remix/dub album by Doctor L of previous Tony Allen tracks. It occasionally feels a few years behind in terms of techniques and technology but is still a great album that brilliantly marries Afrobeat rhythms with modern dance music. ‘Lagos No Shaking’ sees Allen return to Afrobeat after many years experimenting with other styles interestingly ‘Isa Nla’ and ‘Lo Sun’ contain a Talking Heads-esque touch. For last year’s ‘Homecooking’ Allen switches styles again working with the cream of London’s hip-hop talent like rapper Ty and Matthew Herbert collaborator Eska in which the organic hip-hop meshes with his natural breaks perfectly and like all great drummers he knows when to go for it and when to lay off and let a track breath.

King Sunny Ade  – ‘Best of the Classic Years’ (2003) (Shanachie)

This compilation collects some of King Sunny Ade earliest and most brilliant work in the genre of juju, a form of Nigerian music he helped develop and make popular in UK and US in the 1980s. His clean guitar tone and technical ability are a joy to listen to and may well be an influence on modern bands such as Vampire Weekend and Foals. Sunny Ade and his band expertly balance virtuosity and danceable grooves and even long tracks such as ‘Synchro System’ and ‘Inbanuje Mon Iwon’ never get boring or predictable.

Philip Jeck – ‘Surf’ (1999) & ‘Sand’ (2008) (Touch)

Jeck is an expert sample manipulator who uses his own avant-garde turntablism techniques to change the speed of recordings and then overlap and mould them via effects. ‘Surf’ is literal in the evocation of the sound of the surf at a wave’s edge, yet doesn’t sound like a lot of ambient music that exploits the actual movement and rhythms of this. ‘1986 (Frank was 70 years old)’ approaches the idea of surf from a different angle, seemingly utilising a surf rock record to create a new abrasive texture that propels the song forward. Nine years later Jeck produced ‘Sand’, which appears to be related to ‘Surf’ in conception and he again pushes the definition of ambient music into new territory.

Spotify playlist:

Through my (biased) eyes: Catch #1

Though April was thin on the ground in terms of new releases and reissues, I still managed to discover and enjoy a large range of music.

First up were two March releases. The first from Erykah Badu was ‘New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)’ the second in her trilogy of New Amerykah albums. The first is the excellent ‘New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)’ from 2008, which focused on politics, war and ghetto violence but for Part Two, Badu switches to discuss love in all its forms. At first this extreme left turn makes the album feel too slight but it is a fully formed, ambitious work of depth that will reward amply for those who give it time.

Next is Mulatu Astatke’s new release ‘Mulatu Steps Ahead’ which sees the founder of Ethio-jazz do himself proud with an album of subtle, slow burning grooves that centre on the downbeat tracks he explored on ‘Inspiration Information Vol.3’ with The Heliocentrics.

Noise was the genre that ran through the month with new efforts from Nice Nice and Growing. The former’s ‘Extra Wow’ (their first on Warp Records) is propelled by the motorik rhythms associated with early Kraftwerk and Neu! but far from being plagiaristic the band uses them as a springboard for developing their own sound. I was impressed with ‘Extra Wow’ and how everything just clicked into place after finding their initial singles underwhelming. Growing have long been an established feature on the noise scene since they formed in 2001, developing from a wispy ambient drone-based sound to creating walls of harmonically and rhythmically complex noise that emanates from their banks of analogue equipment. Latest album ‘Pumps’ adds new member Sadie Laska on vocals and drum machine rhythms are included for the first time. ‘Pumps’ has some great tunes yet feels like a transitional album, though it prompted me to investigate their previous works like ‘Vision Swim’, mini album ‘Lateral’ and ‘All the Way’.  The detailed harmonic waves of sound, dense rhythms created without drums blew my away and fortunately weren’t the headache-creating treble fests I had anticipated.

I also caught up with Caribou by buying his new album ‘Swim’ and my favourite ‘The Milk of Human Kindness’. Both are brilliant examples of modern psychedelia. I won’t go into too much detail about Caribou now as later this month I will be discussing him in the follow-up to the Psychedelia: The Return piece published in February. In a similar vein I picked up on a newcomer called Toro Y Moi who is Chaz Brunwick, a South Carolina based producer. His debut album ‘Causes of This’ is rightly being praised. Though he is being grouped with glo-fi/chillwave artists such as Washed Out and Neon Indian, and there are hints of this in the music, it reminded me of Animal Collective and Four Tet’s early 2000s era.

I finished April by buying Norwegian cosmic disco producer Prins Thomas’ self titled debut album, The Fall’s ‘Post-TLC Reformation!’ from 2007, which I found underwhelming (though almost all Fall albums are grower and/or have enough moments to justify having them) , and ‘Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk and Fusion in 70s Ghana’. I also listened to a highly recommended ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’, The Fall’s new album, the HEALTH single ‘USA Boys’ and MIA’s new song ‘Born Free’. Unfortunately it and the accompanying video’s true subject have been overshadowed by the misperceptions about the video’s metaphor and the controversy surrounding the violence.

Watch the ‘Born Free video below:

http://vimeo.com/11219730

I would love to hear what people who visit Sonic Fiction think of it. Any ideas on how I can improve the content are welcome. Critiques and debate are what I want Sonic Fiction to be about.

Spotify playlist (HTTP link, then Spotify link):

April 2010 playlist

April 2010 playlist

Recommendations for May (potential the best month of year…so far):

Flying Lotus – ‘Cosmogramma’  (Warp) 3rd May

Black Dog – ‘Music for Real Airports’ (Soma) 10th May

Foals – ‘Total Life Forever’ (Transgressive) 10th May

Holy Fuck – ‘Latin’ (Young Turks) 10th May

Walls – ‘Walls’ (Kompact) 10th May

Ellen Allien – ‘Dust’ (Bpitch Control) 17th May

Konono No.1 – ‘Assume Crash Position’ (Crammed Discs) 17th May

LCD Soundsystem – ‘This Is Happening’ (DFA/EMI) 17th May

Jamie Lidell – ‘Compass’ (Warp) 17th May

Crystal Castles – ‘Crystal Castles (2)’ (Polydor) 24th May

Effi Briest – ‘Rhizomes’ (Blast First Petite) 24th May

plus a couple that slipped me by:

David Holmes -‘The Dogs Are Parading – The Very Best Of’

Solex + Jon Spencer + Cristina Martinez – ‘Amsterdam Showdown, King Street Throwdown’

March was another strong month and began with my first gig of the year watching the brilliant Errors at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. I’d had the pleasure of seeing them at the end of 2008 at The Faversham (also in Leeds) and was looking forward to hearing their new material live. Errors didn’t let me down and played with a new confidence and clarity showcasing just how strong a set of songs they have and how underrated they are. Listening to their debut album ‘It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever’ the day before the gig brought home to me how much I’d underrated it myself and how I’d misjudged it as having a cold, overcomplicated sound.

At the gig I bought the new album ‘Come Down with Me’ and it’s been a regular feature on my stereo since. Initially it seems they haven’t progressed much from their debut but repeated listening reveals a melodically stronger proposition imbued with the same confidence displayed during their set. If you enjoy post-rock and the more demanding genres of synth-led music and want to hear something different then I recommend Errors whole heartedly.

The following week I got my hands on the new Gorillaz album ‘Plastic Beach’ and was not disappointed by the contents within. It is some of best work Damon Albarn has ever created, representing a synthesis of all that he has learnt and experienced in the Gorillaz’s life span and his earlier career with Blur. The beautiful orchestral tracks that bookend the album and some of the arrangements across the album hinted at lessons learnt while composing the Chinese opera ‘Monkey: Journey to the West’ in 2007. While album highlights ‘On Melancholy Hill’ and ‘Broken’ hint at The Kinks influence that was so crucial on early Blur albums. The major differences with ‘Plastic Beach’ compared to other Gorillaz albums is that it never feels like Albarn is relying on his many guests, instead they are perfectly assimilated into the music and the album is composed as a conceptual whole and should be listened to as such. In the accompanying DVD, Albarn talks to Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon, who guests on the album, about how listeners now consume music in a fragmented way and so he was trying to create something diverse enough so that tracks worked in isolation and as one suite. It wasn’t easy to pick but my favourite guest is Bobby Womack. He is probably the most surprising inclusion but a touch of genius and his contributions are not only musically outstanding but help cement the pieces together. I’ve yet to access all the on-line extras but can’t wait to as I feel this will complete the experience that Albarn and his creative partner Jamie Hewlett have realised.

Aside from this, I’ve begun to unravel one of the most frustrating bands I’ve ever encountered… Liars. The NYC-based experimentalists are a band I was drawn to on the release of their 2001 debut ‘They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck A Monument on Top’. I enjoyed it’s terse post-punk racket but I have pretty much ignored them since 2004, finding them increasingly difficult to like.

After recently stumbling upon their allmusic.com page I became curious about what they had done since and listened to three of their albums, still frustrated but intrigued by what I heard so I bought the 2CD edition of their new album ‘Sisterworld’ and these songs thrilled me. It shows the band emerging from the murky production that was so difficult to pierce and demonstrates their skills. From Siouxsie and the Banshees-style slivers of guitar to full on pulverizing punk, Liars have created a great record of depth, breadth and welcome unpredictability. The remix disc provides new perspectives on the material and though not all of them are successful, it’s certainly worth the extra money, as is the clever packaging. ‘Sisterworld’ drew me to listening to the old Liars albums and so far my previous conceptions of them were wrong, with the exception of their second album ‘They Were Wrong, So We Drowned’ (2004).

To round off March, I purchased February’s Gil Scott-Heron comeback ‘I’m New Here’ and Wire magazine’s Album of the Year 2008 ‘London Zoo’ by The Bug. Both interestingly have had the tag dubstep lazily tossed in their direction by some journalists. There is a hint of truth to this but it’s by no means an explicit influence. Scott-Heron’s album casts his voice in a blues mode, which he hasn’t previously explored and the production compliments this as well as playing on his influence on hip-hop and trip-hop – this possibly being the cause of the dubstep label. ‘I’m New Here’ explores an intense emotional terrain and is definitely a lights out at 3am listen.

The Bug (Kevin Martin) has as recently as November 2009 declared, when speaking about his King Midas Sound project with FACT magazine, that his music has nothing to do with dubstep. ‘London Zoo’ has more in common with ragga/dancehall yet Martin makes the sound his own with a unique production style and his understanding of reggae and how to execute it appears to, outside of Jamaica, be unequalled.

Somehow last month I had looked over mentioning Lonelady, whose album I have delved into. ‘Nerve Up’ mixes austere post-punk influences like early REM, Gang of Four and Joy Division with spare drum machine beats and her singular voice to immense effect.  I also failed to mention the new album by The Fall ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’ and though I haven’t heard it, they are always worth checking out.

Spotify playlist (HTTP link, then Spotify link):

March 2010 playlist

March 2010 playlist

Recommendations for April:

Nice Nice – “Extra Wow” – 5th April

Gil Scott-Heron – “Winter in America” (reissue) – 12th April

Caribou – “Swim” – 19th April

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