Tag Archive: Tobacco


February was another month divided in terms of the quality of music releases. I’ll start with the most disappointing releases and build to the best.

First is the self titled début album from Win Win, a trio comprising of XXXchange (Spank Rock), Chris Delvin (of Baltimore DJ duo Devlin and Darko) and visual artist Ghostdad. I’m afraid there’s very little to recommend about this album, outside of its excellent singles ‘RPM’ feat. Lizzi Bougatsos from Gang Gang Dance and ‘Interleave’ featuring Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip and the dreamy yet creepy diversion of ‘Distorted Reality 3’. Everything else is insipid and uninspired house and electro by numbers. A real shame coming from XXXchange, a man whose productions on Spank Rock’s ‘YoYoYoYoYo’ marked him out as someone who could conjure up successful unexpected combinations. On a more positive note I stumbled across the self titled début album by Discodeine at the end of the month and wholeheartedly recommend it anyone looking a new dance music album.

Next up is Beans’ fifth album ‘End It All’ and though there is the odd track , the mournful almost foghorn-like synthetic backing laid over with more rapid fire rhythms of ‘Electric Bitch’, Tobacco delivers his usual analogue buzzsaw synths sound and electro beats on ‘Glass Coffins’ a good match for Beans & the thumping electro beats and grinding synth noises of ‘‘Blue Movie’, that is really great on this album the overall quality is quite low with Beans’ vocals feeling bolted on and often feeling a million miles away from the instrumental, which dominates  instead of complimenting them. I’ve never felt fully convinced of Beans’ ability to perform consistently over a whole album and this is evidence that this time round he can’t but can still produce moments of great chemistry.

A slight improvement again is Asian Dub Foundation’s ‘The History of Now’. This is an album pulling in two directions. On the one hand the band seems to be consolidating its established sound but other tracks promise or display alternatives to or twists on their formula. This could frustrate both newcomers and some long-term fans (I found it a bit frustrating).It is a formula the band have pursued, honed and adapted over the years and it may be starting to wear thin. The last time the band tried to step away from the formula wholesale they produced their only bad album the over-produced and lifeless ‘TANK’. Though ‘The History of Now’ doesn’t stoop to that low, it gets close on ‘Where’s All the Money Gone?’ and ‘This Land is Not For Sale’, it isn’t the band’s finest hour either. A good ADF album, but nothing to match ‘Rafi’s Revenge’, ‘Community Music’ or the underrated ‘Enemy of the Enemy’.

Now to move on the albums that did shine last month. First up: Mogwai’s ‘Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will’. This a great mixed bag from Mogwai (a band that has been criticised in the past for producing overly samey music across an album) featuring both the familiar epic post-rock tracks that made them an internationally known force and new directions for the band including using a vocoder and development of Neu! and New Order style rhythms and grooves on ‘Mexican Grand Prix’ and ‘George Square Thatcher Death Party’. I’ve read a lot of negative things about the use of the vocoder and more vocal tracks on this album and can’t say I agree with these opinions. The vocoder is employed subtly and sparingly and Stuart Braithwaite’s vocals have always been a good addition to Mogwai’s music and suit the song he sings on here. Overall I think this is Mogwai’s best album since ‘Happy Music for Happy People’ (2003) and comes highly recommended.

Half American half French quartet Paris Suit Yourself produced a stunning début album in ‘My Main Shitstain’. I honestly can’t think of anything to add to last month’s recommendation of this album, you read can that here. Its one of those that you need to buy!!

Finally there was Toro Y Moi’s new album ‘Underneath the Pine’ which from its chiming and droning intro track right through to the last rhythmic charge of ‘Elise’, it does no wrong. A fantastic concoction of ’80s style funk rhythms and grooves matched with emotive soundtrack backing and the glorious rush of good pop music, a leap forward from his impressive début ‘Causers of This’. The best album I’ve heard so far this year.

Spotify Playlist:

February 2011 playlist

Coming up on Sonic Fiction in March:

  • The third and last part of Vier’s Three Decades of Techno.

  • A new quarterly column Skipped, Flipped and Missed which will explore the career of an artist who is either underrated or overrated and the reasons why that is. This month’s discusses electronic music pioneers Cabaret Voltaire.

  • Primal Scream’s – ‘Screamadelica’ is in this month Classics Critiqued.

March Recommendations:

Cornershop – ‘and the Double O Groove of…’ (Ample Play) 14th March

Cornershop return with an album that has been six years in the making and is a collaboration with previously unknown female vocalist Bubbley Kaur and fuses Punjabi folk with lo-fi hip-hop. As well as their usual blend of traditional Indian sounds and Western styles, this album adds a further twist as Punjabi folk is usually written by men about women but these songs are written from the female standpoint.

Primal Scream – ‘Screamadelica: 20th Anniversary Edition’ (Sony) 14th March

Primal Scream re-release their Mercury Prize winning classic album to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The album comes in both Limited Collectors and Deluxe Editions.

Wagon Christ – ‘Toomorrow’ (Ninja Tune) 14th March

Luke Vibert returns to his Wagon Christ moniker for his latest album of ‘stoned exotica, ridiculous vocal samples, toothsome puns, swinging rhythm and the psychedelic groove’. There’s not a dull moment on this 15 track strong album, preview and buy it a week early here.

Dadawah – ‘Peace and Love’ (Dug Out) 21st March

This was reissued last summer but I failed to get around to mentioning this exceptional dub-reggae album. At the time I could only find tracks on Youtube to listen to it may be different for this re-pressing.

John Foxx and The Maths (Metamatic) 21st March

The return of electro legend John Foxx in collaboration with Benge (aka The Maths). I’ll be honest I’ve only heard the lead single ‘Shatterproof’ but it was an incredible impressive showcase for these two master of the analogue synth world.

Micachu & The Shapes with the London Sinfonietta – ‘Chopped & Screwed’ (Rough Trade) 21st March

This album is a recording of a one-off live performance between these two unique artists. Micachu and The Shapes début album ‘Jewellery’ impressed critics back in 2009 and their scrap heap percussion and awkward yet infectious melodies found a perfect home on last year Congotronics compilation. This record could be a very different kettle of fish, recorded live last year with an orchestra most famous for reinterpretations of classic Aphex Twin and Squarepusher tracks.

Liam’s Albums of the Year 2010

I think its been a very strong year for music overall and a step up from 2009, though there’s been some high-profile disappointments e.g. Four Tet, MIA, Maximum Balloon etc the real musical landscape seems in a very health state and I think our review of the year bears this out. We’ve both tried to consider what and who has defined the year as well as our own tastes.

1. Oneohtrix Point Never – ‘Returnal’ (Editions Mego)

In any other year this wouldn’t have been anywhere near my Albums of the Year list but discovering Ambient music and  ‘Returnal’ itselfs excellence plus Oneohtrix’s dominance of year make this one un missable album.

2. Gorillaz – ‘Plastic Beach’ (EMI)

In terms of song based albums this was incredibly strong from the word go. Add to this the concept behind the album, its environmental message and the incendiary return of Bobby Womack. ‘Plastic Beach’ hangs together while cover an incredible range of musical genres including classical, Oriental, hip-hop, grime, electro, pop and rock to name but a few.

3. El Guincho – ‘Pop Negro’ (Young Turks)

El Guincho stepped his music up several gears on this his second album. Taking in Spanish pop, hip-hop, South American music and 80’s heartthrob Luther Vandross. This gave the album its unique sound combining crisp, heavy but danceable rhythms with a glossy production resulting in an album that always puts a smile on your face.

4. Konono No.1 – ‘Assume Crash Position’ (Crammed Discs)

This is another summer blockbuster, this time from Congo. Five years on from their début Konono No.1 returned and seemed to have completely flipped their formula on its head. Instead of the persistent distorted thumb pianos occupying the top of the mix they changed places with waves of reverb drenched sound that had previously hidden beneath them. This changed the sound dramatically creating a more relaxed atmosphere.

5. Mark McGuire – ‘Living with Yourself’ (Editions Mego)

2010 was a busy year for Mark McGuire as well as releasing Emeralds critically acclaimed ‘Does It Look Like I’m Here?’ he produced this his first properly distributed solo release. There’s a lot more space in this than Emeralds latest and ambience and melody share equal billing on this great guitar record.

6. Flying Lotus – ‘Cosmogramma’ (Warp)

With ‘Cosmogramma’ FlyLo has transcended any of the generic tags applied to his music. Yes there are snatches of hip-hop, jazz, chiptune, funk and soundtrack music sometimes all at once but the sound can never be pinned down. It may not quite live up to the hype that preceded it but its ambition takes it close.

7. Big Boi – ‘Sir Luscious Left Foot…’ (Def Jam)

I wasn’t a big fan of ‘Speakerboxx’ Big Boi’s side of the OutKast’s 2003 double album. But ‘Sir Luscious Left Foot…’ is completely different album stuffed full of phat, funky beats that could only come from a member of Atlanata’s finest.

8. Sun Araw – ‘On Patrol’ (Not Not Fun)

18 months ago I hadn’t even heard of Sun Araw, but since hearing his music for the first time this spring I’ve been pretty much addicted. This latest album brings new depth to his dub-infected beats and shimmering wah-wah freak outs. The atmosphere and noises go to the next level and I await his next full length journey with bated breath.

9. Lindstrom and Christabelle– ‘Real Life is No Cool’ (Smalltown Supersound)

Lindstrom took a break from his usual cosmic disco dabbling to create a credible pop record with irrepressible Christabelle. Despite its catchiness and production gloss Lindstrom still provides surprises and twists not traditionally found in pop. The highlight of this outstanding collection is the Dr. Dre aping ‘Lovesick’.

10. Matthew Dear – ‘Black City’ (Ghostly International)

Matthew Dear returned this year with a concept album that hung together brilliantly and restored the faith of those critics who’d deemed his earlier effort ‘Asa Breed’ erratic. The conceptual arch of the record made a real difference and makes for a darker but no less thrilling experience.

11. Hot Chip – ‘One Life Stand’ (EMI/DFA)

In some ways Hot Chip are their own worst enemies and this would have charted higher if it had more of the unpredictability of ‘Made In The Dark’. Having said that this record strikes a balance between warm and sweet and sentimental and sickly. Not an easy achievement by any means.

12. Errors – ‘Come Down with Me’ (Rock Action)

When this album I heard about this album I didn’t get that excited but as the release drew nearer I revisited their début and realised it was much better and warmer than I remembered. I had feared Errors would become a forgotten second tier post-rock band but instead they stepped up a gear with an album packed with highlights. Go see them live and buy the album you won’t regret it!!

13. Jamie Lidell – ‘Compass’ (Warp)

This album was definitely a grower at first half the material failed to make an impact on me; however repeat listening has paid dividends. Lidell has returned to his schizoid genre and mood hopping and this album benefits massively, from dust ball hip-hop of ‘The Ring’, the super deep bass of ‘She Needs Me’ and the desolate beauty of the title track.

14. The Black Dog – ‘Real Music for Airports’ (Soma)

Another great ambient album in that’s had a few (Oneohtrix, Emeralds etc), this time taking on the inventor and king of ambient music Eno himself and succeeding. Created using field recordings made in airports combined with synths, bass and beats The Black Dog blew Eno’s utopian ideal out of the water.

15. Baths – ‘Cerulean’ (Anticon)

I’ll admit that I’ve not been taken with Chillwave as it swept all before it in last year or so. Though Bath début album touches on similar sounds and ideas I believe (as do some journalists) that he isn’t a part of the genre. Baths cover everything from ambient instrumentals through to tracks featuring his angelic vocals and everything in between, his beat slip and slide with the elastic and liquid music that plays around them.

16. These New Puritans – ‘Hidden’ (Domino/Angular)

These New Puritans showed up a lot of their fellow ‘innovative’ indie bands this year by delivering this combination of medieval sounding brass and woodwinds, children’s choir and dancehall beats. It could have been a disaster but instead band leader Jack Barnett’s proved he is a great composer of ground breaking music.

17. Evan Caminiti – ‘West Winds’ (Three Lobed)

Since the end of last year and hearing Sunn O)))’s I’ve discovered more and more drone/doom metal music including Earth, Zaimph and Caminiti’s other project Barn Owl. This album is best of this year’s release and features seven of incredibly provocative pieces including one of my favourite tracks of this year ‘Glowing Sky’.

18. Janelle Monae – ‘The Archandroid’ (Bad Boy/Atlantic)

Like Flying Lotus Monae attempted to produce an ambitious sci-fi concept album and overall she succeeds, however during the second half of the album elements don’t gel as well and the last track could do with  being half as long. There are still many great moments but for now Monae shows the potential to become a truly great artist.

19. Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Twisted Fantasy’ (Mercury)

This album would have easily been in my  Top Ten if it had only been released a couple of months earlier the lack of time to listen to and digest this means it just straps in because of its ambition and this point what seems to be a high proportion of great tracks.

20. Sleigh Bells – ‘Treats’ (Columbia)

When I first heard Sleigh Bells demos I’ll admit that I wasn’t 100% sure what all the fuss was about, I loved ‘Infinity Guitars’ but other than that they didn’t inspire. However, they’ve proved me wrong with this début album that blends cute pop vocals and melodies with crunching guitars and huge beats. A refreshing slap in the face from a band with a lot of potential to expand!!

Honourable mentions:

LCD Soundsystem – ‘This is Happening’

Caribou – ‘Swim’

Holy Fuck – ‘Latin’

Tobacco – ‘Maniac Meat’

Pocahaunted – ‘Make It Real’

Review of the Year – Observations

Two words seem to have loomed large for me musical this year Ambient and African. Both These types music that were almost completely new to me at the start of the year. Ambient music has actually helped change my perception of what music can be, I’d often dismissed it in the past as it wasn’t attention grabbing enough but I was missing the point. Though I still actively listen to it, I also use it while I work to help me focus (Brian Eno’s ‘Ambient#4: On Land’ is particularly good for this). Ambient has changed the way I choose what music to listen to and judge whether its good or not, I can appreciate subtlety much more.

Meanwhile I’ve gone from only having heard Konono No.1 and Amadou & Miriam to hearing King Sunny Ade, Tinariwen, Tony Allen, Fela Kuti, Mulatu Astake and compilations featuring Afrobeat, Funk and traditional music from Ghana, Nigeria, Benin and Togo. I’ve been most impressed by ‘African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds from Benin & Togo 70s’ (Analog Africa) which is pretty much as the title suggests, only don’t be expecting an African Hawkwind.

Finally I’ve noticed there’s been a massive increase in quality remix albums, it had seemed that they’d been completed derided and I couldn’t remember the last good/great one I heard. This year has been a bumper year, Health ‘Disco2’ is the pick of bunch 24 great and varied electronic remixes that putting the originals in brand new contexts. We were also treated to remix albums of Caribou (‘Swim Remixes’), Gonjasufi (‘The Califph’s Tea Party’), Errors (Celebrity Come Down With Me’), Bear In Heaven (Best Rest Forth Mouth’), the latest instalment in RVNG Records Frkwys series of remixes and collaborations that saw Juan Atkins, Hans-Joachim Irmer (Faust) and Gibby Hayes (Butthole Surfers) remixed (admittedly awful) psychedelic rock band Psychic Ills to stunning effect.

Vier’s Albums of the Year

20. The Knife, MT. Sims and Planningtorock – Tomorrow, In A Year (Brille): This was never going to be easy. The Knife don’t do easy. The first disk fights the listener at every step. It is confrontational, violent and refuses respite. It beats you into the place of  Charles Darwin, consumed by nervous excitement and anxiety as you walk on alien territory. The second disk offers some humanising introspection and displays The Knife’s (and their collaborators) powerful song writing ability to turn even routine biological observations into heartbreaking poetry. Tomorrow, In A Year isn’t enjoyable, it isn’t supposed to be. Much like Darwin’s vocation, you don’t have to like it or understand it but you must respect it and its objective.

19. Walls – Walls (Kompakt): Haunting and emotive, Walls’ blend of distant thumps and skewed vocals make a compelling, slow-grower.

18. Jatoma – Jatoma (Kompakt): A late entry to the list has given Jatoma a low position nonetheless the cloaked threesome’s debut deserves to be listened to. The sparkly, modulating synths and exacting drums hark back to Cluster and Kraftwerk and on the straighter dance tracks ‘Durian’ and ‘Bou’ the influence of The Field is channelled into gauzy loops and arpeggios.  This and Walls fit Kompakt perfectly and point the way to the next era of the Cologne label.

17. Washed Out – Life Of Leisure (Mexican Summer): This debut is the sound of summer nostalgia. Revealed by the cover’s lilac dream, warm washes of synths and the sighs and lilts of Ernest Greene’s drenched voice.

16. Caribou – Swim (City Slang): Opening with seasick standout ‘Odessa’, Swim is steady and deceptively dark. The accomplished production places an interesting stereo field on the tracks, giving the instruments and rhythms a side-to-side, rocking feel, which works impressively well both at home and in clubs – something few dance albums have fully mastered.

15. Holy Fuck – Latin (Young Turks): The four-piece adeptly construct tracks that are direct yet reveal deeper layers and sounds on repeat, demonstrating that as well as effected soundscapes they can make confident songs.

14. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA): Of all the albums on the list This Is Happening was the most troublesome. When it hits it proves James Murphy is an incredible composer, lyricist and singer (tender crooning replaces the snot) and it proves LCD are an incendiary unit. So their third album should be top 3 but, but… when it doesn’t hit its pastiche-y, uninspired and, worst of all, irritating, because it could be fucking great if only those influences, which were previously sown together with love and affection, were not so glaringly obvious now. The total of their sum parts made LCD exciting yet for This… it is as if Murphy collected those sum parts then went missing but, but… even if for One Touch, Dance Yrself Clean and I Can Change alone it still deserves a place in the top 20.

13. Marc Houle – Drift (M-nus): The Techno Priest delivers an intense lecture in experimental techno as Drift travels from the suffocating winter darkness to the onset of spring. As the ice recedes Houle’s mood has lightened: the tracks develop playfully, analogue synths are tweaked and melodies shine. An eloquent representation of December’s freeze.

12. Black Dog – Music For Real Airports: Composed of field recordings and recalling Autechre and Plastikman, Music For Real Airports recreates an alienating environment where disconnected bleeps, beats and deep bass drums meet brittle hi-hats and ambient atmospherics that oppose Eno’s 1978 utopia.

11. El Guincho – Pop Negro (Young Turks): In direct contrast to Drift, Pop Negro is an aural Um Bongo – refreshing, bright yellow and highly addictive. El Guincho sings in his native, both joyous and yearning, Spanish, while intricate compositions of bouncing melodies, 808 claps and Latin pop are so full of life you bounce back to summer, Um Bongo in hand.

10. Harmonious Thelonious – Talking (Italic): German techno, Minimalism and African percussion are not the most obvious partners but Talking combines these influences with ease. The producer’s debut is a trance-inducing collection of hypnotic rhythmic patterns and danceable voodoo atmospheres. Its pulse is driven by African rhythms and European electronics that create a challenging, playful and deeply idiosyncratic record.

9. Zola Jesus – Stridulum II (Souterrain Transmissions): After sitting on the boundaries of my usual taste I checked out this release after she gained support from Fever Ray, with whom she shares a kinship of producing cathartic and oppressive yet seductive reassurances you want to selfishly take for yourself.

8. Magda – From The Fallen Page (M-nus): After the first listen I was disappointed that this wasn’t as varied or as distinctly ‘Magda’ as her much praised mixes are. With repeated listens her debut reveals her personality is more delicately placed alongside tongue-in-cheek glimpses of Italian horror movie sounds, dark atmospherics and awe-inspiring basslines.

7. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal (Editions Mego): For me Returnal brings to mind GAS. Drum-less synthesiser constructs have the air of classical music’s rise and falls and dignified ambience but where GAS is isolation, Lopatin’s creations evoke a dreamy silvery trees and ghostly voices blanketed by a thick fog.

6. Matthew Dear – Black City (Ghostly International): Dear’s third album under his birth name sees him fully immersed in the role of the seamy narrator that Asa Breed hinted at. The thick Talking Heads-indebted productions and bodiless utterances swallow his voice as he recounts strangely alluring tales of desire and sleaze.

5. Konono No.1 – Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs): Similar to other list entries the songs on Assume Crash Position instantly hit, giving out a warm, uplifting feel while endowing an ample amount of depth, breadth and emotional resonance. The Congolese group prove that artists don’t need the best equipment money can buy to create impressive music.

4. Marcel Dettmann – Dettmann (Ostgut Ton): Lovers of deep, warm techno should listen to this Berghain resident’s debut. Dettmann is an effortlessly lean example of present-day techno structured with an elegance that only German artists are achieving.

3. Ellen Allien – Dust (Bpitch Control): It isn’t the perfectly skewed electronic pop of Berlinette but thankfully it’s not the unrelentingly dull Sool. Allien is back doing what she does best. Belying her attention to detail, Dust is a collection of playful and immediate hymns to love, sex and dancing.

2. Pantha du Prince – Black Noise (Rough Trade): With a cover that isn’t what it first appears, the songs within unfurl and open up to reveal a meticulous mix of haunting chimes and clusters of percussion that build into something dark and forceful, giving Hendrik Weber’s Black Noise a sound that always seems to be on the edge of erupting into something devastating.

1. Thomas Fehlmann – Gute Luft (Kompakt): This took the pole position on the ‘Best Album’s Of The Year….So Far’ June piece and it remains there six months on. Though composed as a soundtrack to real-time documentary ‘24 Hour Berlin’, Gute Luft plays like a loving tribute to Fehlmann’s partner Gudrun Gut. Drums shuffle and rebound, claps and basslines thrust hips, synths bathe, sing, slink, embrace and reminisce, creating a perfect example of sensuous and dreamy elegance.

Mixes of note:

  • DJ Kicks: Apparat (!K7) (which features a new track from Telefon Tel Aviv, the first Joshua Eustis has made since Charlie Cooper passed away in 2009)

  • Ben Klock – Berghain Vol. 2 (Ostgut Ton)

  • Marcel Dettmann – Berghain Vol. 4 (Ostgut Ton)

  • V/A – Fünf (Ostgut Ton)

Honourable mentions:

  • Reboot – Shunyata (Cadenza)

  • Efdemin – Chicago (Dial)

  • Greie Gut Fraktion – Baustelle (Monika Enterprise)

Spotify playlist:

Sonic Fiction’s Albums of the Year 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of the Year – Observations

Due to the wealth of Berghain and Ostgut Ton releases I’ve been inspired to listen further to the spiritual forefathers: Basic Channel, GAS and Pole etc., all of whom I missed the first time round, owing to being at primary school. As discussed in my minimal techno piece these artists composed some of the most vital and interesting music of the nineties and are still essential: their material has birthed the recent dub-techno stirrings from Berlin and elsewhere. Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock, the Action Man poster boys of the resurgence in metallic, intense and climatic Berlin-centred techno, have released one effortless album, an EP and a handful of mixes. Listening to these is an education and an exciting preview of what is to come.

After reading the Kosmische Musik book (see below) I listened to Harmonia with Zuckerzeit and Tracks and Traces standing out. I went back to most of Cluster’s catalogue and found Sowiesoso and their 1977 collaboration with Eno to be the best introduction to the genre, though all are worth checking out.

On another note, 2010 has been absolutely dominated by doorstop. For a genre that was spawned from the underground we have witnessed a depressing inevitability in it going mainstream: advert soundtracks and daytime Radio 1 plays, guest spots and interviews (She-devil Fearne Cotton and dullstent! Skills!). It is everywhere, omnipresent, ubiquitous, all-pervading, as such I cannot hear, read or type that word anymore without wanting to burn it . Worst still is that duckstep is so ball-achingly tedious, a fact no one has critically addressed as everyone is falling over themselves praising the most monotonous and lifeless sound that has plagued this year’s musical landscape. Perhaps in 2011 it will go back from whence it came.

Books

Earlier this year I read Krautrock: Cosmic Rock and its Legacy, which is a comprehensively-written collection of the German Kosmische Musik artists. The author and journalists contribute an overview of Germany and the mindset of the generation born during and after WWII to put the work of the artists in a fascinating context. Also on the list was Anna Funder’s Stasiland, a collection of moving stories of those who lived under Communist rule in East Germany interspersed with Funder’s retrospective view (the book was published in 1997) on the regime, the people who upheld it and those who it destroyed and how Leipzig (where the Stasi headquarters were based) and Berlin have dealt with the effects of the Berlin Wall falling and the full extent of the regime being uncovered. Both are entirely worth reading.

This month I’ll start with the disappointments, new albums from M.I.A. and School of Seven Bells both failed to deliver. Recent controversy aside M.I.A. gave us a lazy collection of half arsed songs and hide behind noise and dissidence or lightweight pop fluff. Lightweight was also a word that sprang to mind while listening to ‘Disconnect from Desire’ by School of Seven Bells, rather than experiencing a spiritual experience removed the daily wants or mores. Instead I found a cold, limp wash of sound that made little of the impact that the mainstream music media praised it for. In fact I’ve found that the critical acclaim afford to their début was also some what misplaced. I’d recommend checking out “We Fell to Earth” by We Fell to Earth a much deeper and darker proposition but one of that thrills and chills a lot more than School of Seven Bells. Better still Amazon.co.uk just dropped the price to £4.99!!

Following on from Big Boi’s brilliant new album comes his protegé Janelle Monae and her album “The Archandriod” a concept album set in the future in which she plays the character Cindi Mayweather and veers between rap, classical, folk, funk, rock and many other genres and hybrids across 18 tracks. Though definitely over the top, Monae skillfully handles these schizophrenic breast and her versatility is a trump card showcasing an amazing vocal and songwriting talent.

Tobacco added to last year’s excellent Black Moth Super Rainbow (BMSR) “Eating Us” with “Maniac Meat” a seat of the joyride filled with greasy, distorted beats and bass lines, Beck guest slots, sticky, sweet analogue synths and some great song titles. There are too many titles to list here but here’s some selected highlights ‘Constellation Dirtbike Head’, ‘Lick the Witch’, ‘Unholy Demon Rhythms’ and ‘Grape Aerosmith’. I’d have to agree with Pitchfork’s suggestion that its nessels somewhere between Boards of Canada’s “Geogaddi” (a reference that had stuck me listening to BMSR) and El-P’s “Fantastic Damage”, matching the psychedelic synth swirls of the former with the dirty hip-hop beats of the later.

Finally I rounded the month out with Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Returnal” a mesmerising piece of ambient music, filled with wave after wave of synthetic sound and evoking images of oceans and distant memories. “Returnal” is a contender for album of the year.

Spotify playlist (plus some August extras):

July 2010 playlist

Recommendations for August:

El-P – “Weareallgoingtohellmixx3” (Gold Dust) 2nd August

Lloyd Miller and The Heliocentrics – “Lloyd Miller and The Heliocentrics” (Strut) 2nd August

Various Artist – “Afro Beat Airways: West African Shock Waves Ghana & Togo 1972-1978” (Analog Africa) 9th August

Matthew Dear – “Black City” (Ghostly International) 16th August

!!! – “Strange Weather, Isn’t It” (Warp) 23rd August

Mogwai – “Special Moves” (Rock Action) 23rd August

Bruce Haack – “Farad: The Electric Voice” (Stones Throw) 30th August

Maximum Balloon “Maximum Balloon” (Polydor) 30th August

June was a month of extremes for my listening and buying habits.

It began with the purchase of two ambient music albums, the first was this year’s ‘Music for Real Airports’ by The Black Dog and the second was my favourite Brian Eno ambient record ‘Ambient 4: On Land’ from 1982. The connection between the two being that The Black Dog album is their own re-imagining of Eno’s critically acclaimed album ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’, which popularised the concept of ambient music. I won’t go into any more detail about the Eno and The Black Dog albums as I will explore ambient music more fully in August.

In the second half of June the swing-o-meter swerved into a noisier place. Again it was something old and something new that caught my attention. The former being Liars’ ‘Drum’s Not Dead’ from 2006, which the more I hear the more I understand why it gained such critical praise and is viewed as an important album for American alternative rock. Liars certainly know when to hit hard and when to allow the audience a breather, something I think I had always missed before. A tribal and troubling atmosphere informs the record and binds together an eclectic collection of songs. The latter was ‘Treats’, the debut album by Sleigh Bells that demands to be played loud. What surprised me most about ‘Treats’ was the variety of styles covered within what seems a limiting set-up and aesthetic the duo have chosen. Hats off to them for producing such an impressive work, and possibly the debut of the year, that lives up to the hype and is a breath of fresh air .

The final week brought another dramatic swing with the previewing of Big Boi’s (OutKast) new solo album, ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’ which is out today. His buoyant sound makes what is arguably the best commercial hip-hop album that been released for a year or two and I believe that it should have followed ‘Speakerboxx/The Love Below’ or could even have been the ‘Speakerboxx’ disc. I had also felt that Big Boi was the less talented OutKast member but he’s proving to be Andre 3000’s equal. The spotlight is on Andre 3000 as we wait for his solo album and the next OutKast album and on this evidence I can’t wait!!

Spotify playlist:

June Playlist

June Playlist

Recommended Releases – July:

Big Boi – ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’ (Mercury) 5th July

Health – ‘Disco 2’ (City Slang) 5th July

Autechre – ‘Move of Ten’ (Warp) 12th July

M.I.A. – ‘MAYA’ (XL) 12th July

Janelle Monáe – ‘The Archandroid’ (Baby Boy/Atlantic) 12th July

School of Seven Bells – ‘Disconnected from Desire’ (Full Time Hobby) 12th July

Tobacco – ‘Maniac Meat’ (Anti-) 12th July *

Walter Gibbons – ‘Jungle Music’ (Strut) 19th July

Propaganda – ‘A Secret Wish (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)’ (Salvo) 19th July

Charanjit Singh – ‘Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat’ (Bombay Connection) 19th July

* Put back two weeks from 26th June

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