Tag Archive: The Pop Group


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

Classics Critiqued – May 2012 – Tricky – “Maxinquaye” (Island Records, 1995)

This month’s selection for Classics Critiqued comes from an artist who often divides opinion and has admitted that since the release of the seminal “Maxinquaye” he has tried to “kill all that Maxinquaye bullshit”. In this article I will explore not only the album’s sound, but also the main points of discourse surrounding it. Including its perception as “a coffee-table album”, the switching of gender roles employed on the album, the music’s dissonance and of course whether it deserves its classic status.

The story of “Maxinquaye” starts many years beforehand in 1990 when Tricky was working with Bristol trip-hop innovators Massive Attack under the name Tricky Kid. He featured on their début single ‘Daydreaming’, the first time anyone heard of a half whispered, half rapped vocal style. Tricky would contribute to a majority of the tracks on Massive Attack’s landmark début album “Blue Lines” (1991) and the follow-up “Protection” (1994) before “Maxinquaye” would see the light of day. Tricky had offered his debut single “Aftermath” to Massive Attack for inclusion on “Blue Lines” but the trio weren’t interested in “its hollowed-out hip-hop blues”. ‘Aftermath’ lay untouched for two years before Tricky’s cousin encouraged him to get his own record deal, this came surprisingly quickly with Island Records signing Tricky in 1994 after gaining their attention through a self released white label of ‘Aftermath’. Suddenly Tricky had an album to produce and no knowledge or skills to make it with, as ‘Aftermath’ had been produced by Mark Stewart (ex-The Pop Group singer & On-U Sound alumni).

Island hired Mark Saunders as a sound engineer for the album’s recording sessions which began in Tricky’s home studio in a time when this mostly unheard of. In a 2007 interview, Saunders describes the unorthodox approach that Tricky took to creating “Maxinquaye”, “We basically made a record out of different bits; the spare parts of other people’s records… every track was built around a bit of somebody else’s track, or a combination of quite a few, and so the traditional method of starting by programming drums didn’t apply”. The floor would be littered with records which Tricky would pick up and hand to Saunders for sampling and the tracks would be a result of the disparate elements being pitched down and edited until they made some sort of musical sense or Tricky was happy with the track.

It was also unclear early on what contribution Tricky’s ex-girlfriend and vocalist Martina Topley-Bird would be making to the record as she’d become a central part of it. Saunders recalls that Tricky was no more orthodox with his use of Topley-Bird “She would come into the studio, murmur, ‘Hi,’ and he would hand her the lyrics that he’d just scribbled out and say, ‘Go and sing it’.” There was no preparation and no notation, Topley-Bird came up with her “hair standing up on the back of your neck” melodies on the spot”. The next stage was the addition of parts by musicians James Stevenson (guitar), Pete Briquette (bass) and techno-rock band FTV who featured on ‘Black Steel’, a cover of Public Enemy’s ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos’. Saunders also contributed guitar parts and edited keyboards that Tricky improvised into the tracks.

When the album came out in February 1995 with very little radio play it shot to No.2 on the album chart and was hugely critically acclaimed, garnering rave reviews and featuring in many end of year polls on both sides of the Atlantic. Tricky had commercially and critically arrived but he hadn’t wanted to and wasn’t interested in fame and success, as he stated in a recent interview with The Guardian, “I thought I’d be an underground artist, I had no idea it was going to do that and I was not ready for it.” In his opinion success ruined “Maxinquaye” and turned it into “a coffee-table album”, which has annoyed him since. It some ways it’s easy to understand why the album has fallen victim to this as on the surface it’s a smooth, smoky and jazzy album that lopes along at a crawl for most of its duration, the perfect soundtrack for the dinner party set. However, it’s what’s under that surface that gives the album its vital edge, the spiky guitar riffs, reverse effects, lo-fi sample and paranoid vibe that critics loved at the time and at present. This is why Tricky despairs, his vision wasn’t to create a companion piece to “Blues Lines” but to make the other side of its smooth, seductive coin. He wanted to step out of their shadow.

One of most interesting facets of “Maxinquaye” is the switching of gender roles that runs through the album and is especially pronounced on ‘Black Steel’ when Martina Topley-Bird sings “I’m a black man”. Tricky wanted her to sing on the majority of the songs as he saw his lyrics as “my mum speaking through me; a lot of my lyrics are written from a woman’s point of view”. Most of the tracks have a soft and supple sound that’s very feminine for music written by a man and for what’s essentially a hip-hop record. This makes a unique proposition even today.

So now for the biggest question is “Maxinquaye” a classic album? The answer is yes and no. There are many things to admire in this ambitious and singular album: its sonic adventurousness to its lyrical challenges of sex and gender roles. However, 17 years on from its original release the album feels to me to be an album to admire and analyse not one you instantly feel an emotional connection to or recognise as an out-and-out classic. On the other hand how many people were able to get their head around “OK Computer” the first time they played it? With that in mind please let me know your thoughts on “Maxinquaye” in the comments below or via our Twitter.

Listen to “Maxinquaye” here.

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

Pere Ubu – “The Modern Dance” (Radar Records, 1978)

This month’s selection for Classics Critiqued is similar to April’s Classics Critiqued choice “Y” by The Pop Group. Like “Y”, “The Modern Dance” is an album that regularly receives critical praise (it has been featured in 24 different critics’ charts) but it and Pere Ubu still seem in the shadow of their more accessible peers. “The Modern Dance” was the début album by Pere Ubu who had formed out the ruminants of Cleveland, Ohio garage rock band Rocket from the Tombs in 1975. Ubu founders David Thomas (vocals) and Peter Laugher (guitar) (replaced by Tom Herman when he died of drug and alcohol abuse in 1977) were joined by Tim Wright (guitar/bass) (replaced by Tony Maimone (bass/piano) in 1977 after he left to form no-wavers DNA), Allen Ravenstine (synths) and Scott Krauss (drums) in the band’s original line-up. Together they “combined art and garage rock – synth whines, cut-up tape loops, atonal howling and chronic distortion”. They released their first three singles on Thomas’ Hearthen label between 1975 – 1977.

These quickly established the band as one that was difficult to pigeonhole. They were instantly “recruited to ‘punk’ then gathering momentum as journalists continued to talk up the CBGB scene while monitoring the early stirrings of insurrection in London.” All this despite the prog rock like structure of “30 Seconds Over Toyko” and Thomas’ assertion that “our ambitions were considerably different from the Sex Pistols”, he saw punk as puerile and destructive, “Pere Ubu didn’t want to piss on rock music; they wanted to contribute to it, help it mature as an art form”. By 1978 and the release of “The Modern Dance” the band were primed to show the world they weren’t part of the reductive punk movement but closely related to their early ’70s inspirations such as Roxy Music, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Neu!, The Stooges, Brian Eno and The Soft Machine as well as their current peers The Residents, Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, A Certain Ratio, Scritti Politti, The Pop Group and Public Image Ltd.

An important thing to remember when listening to Pere Ubu is that they formed in Cleveland, Ohio, which was in the ’70s a shadow of its former glory as a giant in the iron industry. This permeates the music with a strong sense of solid concrete and a metallic feel. The band described their music as “industrial folk” and like their peers in Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool their music spoke of the landscape in which they lived without actually referring to it lyrically. The harshness of Ravestine’s synths, the razor-sharp, mechanical riffs of new guitarist Tom Herman and the motorik rhythm section all added to this feeling of industrial buildings and decay as a back drop to their music. The band “waxed lyrical about the area in their first interviews: ore-loaded barge floating down the Cuyahoya; steel foundries pounding flat-out night and day; the glare from the blast furnaces bruising the night in hues of green and purple; belching chimneys and lattices of piping silhouetted against the sky.” “We thought it was magnificent … like going to an art museum or something” recollected singer David Thomas 20 years later.

The band saw music as multi dimensional and used Ravenstine’s synth and tape loops to invoke images in the mind’s eye. “I’ve always been into music more on a visual than aural level.” David Thomas said of Ravenstine in a NME interview in 1978, “He’s at the core of Ubu, I suppose. He’s a very unusual synthesizer player. He’s very purist with it, and he doesn’t even have a keyboard – instead he has a touch tone dial. He doesn’t want to combine anything musical with the synthesizer, because he feels – and rightly so, I think – that it’s a new instrument and should be treated as such.” Drummer Krauss agreed “He’d make a noise like a five-pound can with a whole bunch of bumble bees inside” said “Krauss then he’d change the wave form and it’d sound like a beach with a load of people on it. Ten seconds later, it’s flip to a freight car noise. The imagination-activating level was absolutely amazing.”

However, the music wasn’t all doom and industrial gloom. The Cleveland sense of humour came into play in the band’s lyrics. “Thomas is more of an ‘actor’ than a musician for whom surreal lyrics and student humour attenuate the dramatic force of the performance. Within the sound there is also a feeling of resigned fatalism, collective madness and rational fear.” Thomas’ vocals aren’t that a typical rock front man he “wails, yelps, gargles” and exploits the full gamut of human vocal sounds to enhance and underline the emotion he’s expressing. “Thomas never got “the modern dance”. The emotions were real, but everything else was a joke, just like the music which has a good laugh as well with, skipping along amid the destruction and anxiety as the singer asks to be humoured – “it was just a joke mon.”

All this combined to make an album that from the opener ‘Non Alignment Pact’’s “furious, deafening bacchanal of cryptic slogans, ungainly vocals, discordant strumming, electronic distortions and primordial pulsations”, through the title track’s sound “of primordial organic funk…which evokes the smoke of factory chimneys and the ordered structure of the production line”, the sweeping menacing winds of ‘Street Waves’ evoking the miasmic gust after a nuclear explosion, propelled at supersonic speed by a stop-start rhythm and invoking a prophetic vision of the apocalypse. Finally finishing with ‘Humor Me’’s jangly jesting undercut by the lyrics and atmosphere of despair.

For such a complex album that combined the world’s art and garage rock or as the band punningly put it “avant-garage”, it has gone on to be a direct or indirect influence on many bands and artists since. The most obvious of these would be the Pixies. Their sound, surreal lyrics and the appearance of singer Black Francis all echo Pere Ubu. It’s unlikely that the earliest works of TV on the Radio would have been the same without a trail having been blazed for them and modern underground rock bands like Liars and Oneida plough a similar furrow to that explored on “The Modern Dance”. Cult rocker Julian Cope also covered ‘Non Alignment Pact’, which seems to be an acknowledgement of the band’s importance by one of their post-punk peers. Like “Y” by The Pop Group mentioned at the start of this column, “The Modern Dance” tests the very boundaries of what music, particularly rock music, is capable of before it becomes a tuneless mess. It won’t be the easiest listen ever but “The Modern Dance” will reward those who stick with it and consume all of its intricacies.

You can listen to “The Modern Dance” here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotify playlist:

The Pop Group – Y

March was a slightly disappointing month overall. For a start I’ve been unable to even hear more than a minute of the tracks on John Foxx and The Maths – ‘Interplay’, which I was looking forward to hearing and has received many good reviews. If I’m able to check this out later this year I will feature it in a future “2011: Through my biased eyes”.

The biggest disappointment that I did get to hear was Micachu and The Shapes live collaboration with the London Sinfonietta “Chopped and Screwed”. I have to say I wasn’t sure what to expect from this combination but despite creating a dark and heavy atmosphere on many of tracks that helped glue the album together there was almost always something missing. There were moments that rose to the occasion, “Low Dogg” was the highlight with its massive stabby string riffs that pushed this great stomper of a track along. Having the best and clearest chorus/vocal melody of the album compliments it perfectly. It’s certainly an intriguing album and it may well grow on me. I found that by the third listen I was warming more to its Peter and The Wolf meets ramshackle percussion and skewed electronica vibe. If  this sounds up your street check it out, but I feel it may be  an acquired taste.

Another album that presented a novel concept was Cornershop and Bubbley Kaur’s (a previously unknown Punjabi folk singer from London) “The Double O Groove of”. The idea was simple: use Punjabi folk’s melodic and harmonic ideas combined with lo-fi hip-hop beats with the added twist that Punjabi folk is usually written by men about women but these songs are written from the female standpoint. This translates very well on 60% of the album ‘The Biro Pen’ with  its killer piano licks and Motown guitar and the infectious ‘Topknot’ are particular highlights. However, 40% (‘Don’t Shake It’, ‘Once There Was a Wintertime’, ‘Double Decker Eyelashes’, ‘9/11 Curry’) really lets the side down, the high’s are dizzying and the lows are in the doldrums – insipid and uninspiring.

This month’s salvation comes in the form of “Toomorrow” by Wagon Christ aka Luke Vibert. It would be easy to dismiss this album as a repetition of everything (quirky vocal samples, jazzy breaks, hip-hop beats, Rhodes piano, acid squelches – all thrown in Vibert’s psychedelic blender) that Vibert has done before as Wagon Christ and there is some truth to that. However, he has produced an eclectic album full of great tracks (there’s not a duffer to be found) that will please long term fans and those new to this long term dance music fixture. For fans of the most esoteric output by Ninja Tune, Warp and Planet Mu!!

You can read my Classic’s Critiqued of Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica” here and I will cover Dadawah’s ‘Peace and Love” at some point after I’ve bought it later this month. Until then I managed find a track from the album on Spotify and add it to the March playlist below.

Spotify playlist:

March playlist

Coming up this month on Sonic Fiction:

MP3 Mix Madness: A mix of song combinations that have occurred on my MP3 player when set to Shuffle in last 18 months.

Classic’s Critiqued – “Y” by The Pop Group – critics love it, but it’s rarely mentioned outside of reviews of reissues and almost never referenced as an influence by bands. I explore why and more…

April Recommendations

Moon Duo – “Mazes” (Souterrain Transmissions) 4th April

This is one of three April releases I’ve already heard (the others are Low’s “C’mon” and TV on the Radio’s “Nine Types of Light”) and I throughly recommend them all. I first stumbled on Moon Duo (Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shijps side project with his partner, Sanae Yamada -on keyboards) late last year and liked what I heard. On this their début album proper they take things up a couple of levels.They fashion a great combination of Motown, The Velvets, Neu!, garage rock and Spacemen 3 and yet even with all those retro references the album sounds fresh and exciting. Moon Duo revitalise rock music when it seemed (for the most part) to be beyond the pale.

Low – “C’mon” (Sub Pop) 11th April

A great album that demonstrates Low experimenting with poppier sounds on the first half of the album and ‘Something Turning Over’ while the reminder of the album revisits older sounds and influences but does so while providing some great songs. Some Low fans won’t (and don’t) like the poppier material but I think it can be seen as another string to their bow and not a conscious attempt to sell out. This is not a band producing Top Ten hits, but one dripping its toe into unknown waters and successful completing an experiment. The fact this album was recorded in a Duluth (Low’s home town) church gives the slow more open tracks and fantastic atmosphere and ambience and complaints some great songs.

Ponytail – ‘Do Whatever You Want All The Time’ (We Are Free) 11th April

I don’t know a lot about Ponytail but listened to guitarist and founder Dustin Wong’s first solo album last year and was an interesting if not wholly satisfying work. However their new track “Easy Peasy” is very impressive as is the artwork by Eye from the Boredoms, so I’ll be checking this out.

TV on the Radio – ‘Nine Types of Light’ (Polydor) 11th April

Refreshed from their hiatus TV on the Radio return with what I believe is a mellow flipside to the intense but upbeat “Dear, Science”, the atmosphere is relaxed without being horizontal or turning into wallpaper music. The band hasn’t lost its personality, it’s just represent a different side of it. I was surprised that ‘Will Do’ was the first track they allowed people to listen to but now it makes a lot of sense within the albums context. Prince and “Speaking In Tongues” by Talking Heads seem good reference points, as does some modern R&B music. Highlights are the slow burning ‘Killer Crane’,‘New Cannonball Blues’ Prince style falsetto and quick, dirty funk guitar and superb opener ‘Second Song’.

tUnEyArDs – ‘w h o k i l l’ (4AD) 18th April

This is tUnEyArDs first step into the world of big studio production after her no-fi début album ‘BiRd-BrAiNs’. The single ‘Bizness’ was a first slice of upbeat ukulele driven pop. I’ve not heard anything else from the album but early reviews suggest vocals feed through modular synths and a strong World music influence across the album. An intriguing blend if even there was one.

Dennis Coffey – ‘Dennis Coffey’ (Strut) 25th April – Detroit funk legend returns with a guest filled new album that celebrates the music of the city. More info at Strut Records.

Prefuse 73 – ‘The Only She Chapters’ (Warp) 25th April

This album marks a significant development in Prefuse’s approach to music-making – this is very much a compositional, as opposed to loop-based, work. He also calls upon the vocal talents of several different female artists, most notably Broadcast’s late Trish Keenan and neo-goth torch singer Zola Jesus, but also Faidherbe, Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Nico Turner and Niki Randa. As its title suggests, this is an album that foregrounds and explores the idea of the feminine, right down to the artwork, which comes courtesy of illustrator Yuko Michishita.

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

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

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

Bands/Artists/Releases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New band tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albums we hope finally see the light of day in 2011

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

Spotify playlist:

Preview of 2011

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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