Tag Archive: TV on the Radio


IMT5084389LP

Nevermen are a trio consisting of Doseone (Subtle, 13&God, cLOUDDEAD), Faith No More’s Mike Patton, and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. The project initiated around 2008, after Doseone had appeared on the 2006 album by Patton’s Peeping Tom project, and Adebimpe guested on ‘Yell&Ice’ (2007) an album by Subtle. The trio announced that they were working on music together in 2008, and in 2009 Doseone announced that they had named themselves the Nevermen and had signed to Lex Records, also home to Subtle. All three members kept busy with their other commitments, most notably Faith No More’s reunion, so fans had to wait until 2015 before hearing the first taste of the group’s music. Singles “Tough Towns” and “Mr. Mistake” finally appeared in 2015, with the latter sporting a remix by Boards of Canada. The self-titled album by Nevermen (who had removed “the” from their name) finally appeared on Lex (in the U.K.) and Patton’s Ipecac label (in the U.S.) in February 2016. It was hard to know what to expect coming into this album between three unique collaborators though an interview with The Quietus had revealed that the group openly rejects the idea of having a frontman, and all three members contribute equally.

The consistent things throughout the album are the tag team effect used by the vocalists, the atmosphere of the tracks which are either icy intense or angry punky adrenaline rushes. It is easy to discern who created which part of the music and what role each vocalist is playing and the roles are always suited that vocalist. However, this never feels like a bunch of elements that are disperate but a whole as if this had been a band that around the years. There is quite an industrial feel to the album, not in terms of the genre Industrial music but the sound palette is quite metallic and there’s a lot of serrated then cutting guitar and synth sounds. The trio skilfully combine hip-hop, metal/rock and punk trash throughout the album.

The album opens with a cold metallic drone, then drums and vocals kick in with Tunde and Doseone the most prominent voices. For the verse Mike Patton take over for a few lines, then Doesone chips before Tunde finishes the verse., this an approach used throughout most of the album. The verse gives way to tribal drums and thin synth melodies of the chorus. Heavy guitars kick back in the second verse ramping up the tension before the drop to a bare guitar melody and bassline rumbling in the background. The sonic assault of the music and trio of tag teaming vocalists could be overwhelming in the hands they said this comes across as a strong album opener.

Up next is the Heavily treated drums and rushing synths of ‘Treat ’em Right’ these underpins trio of vocalists throughout the song’s introduction. Everything drops out to give way for a new more complex and percussive hip-hop rhythm before shifting into a rock style section with trebly guitar melodies. There is barely time to get to grips with one section the track before the next is upon you but is exciting instead of irritating. ‘Wrong Animal Right Trap’ combines thunderous drums and super distorted vocals that give way to heavy punky guitars and bass with the three vocalists harmonising before tag teamming through the rest of the song.

Tough Towns’ begins with a shifting synth atmosphere that fades in, eventually joined by glacial hip-hop beat and Tunde and Doseone harmonising. The track is very cinematic and atmospheric with a creepy vibe. It utilises a whole different tempo and tone to the other material so far, showing that the group is far from a one trick pony. The shift in tone and tempo continues on album centrepiece ‘Hate On’ with its spooky opening harmonies from Tunde which then break down to bells playing a sparse melody and icy atmosphere. A slow and loping beat and more vocal harmonies takeover before speeding up given way to a deep bass and slowly evolving vocal melody. A bit see processed percussion pushes the section forward as more synths join in underneath the vocals. The album the shifts between the more up tempo distorted and tense material and atmospheric slower tracks.

This is definitely album that can only really be made in the last decade, a modern melding of multiple genres and production techniques that pulls no punches. Compare to Young Fathers & Saul William’s “Martyr Loser King”. Along with Adrian Younge’s “Something about April II” this is an essential release in 2016. Go get it!

Let me know what you think of “Nevermen” in the comments or via Twitter.

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Liam’s Top Ten Albums of the Year… so far

Honourable Mentions

Peaking Lights – “936” – is  a lo-fi take on Dub that manages to cover a lot more ground than many of their more lauded peers. I can understand why the band have been compared to fellow Not Not Fun artist Sun Araw as they share many of his similar aesthetics (humid, reverb and delay heavy sound) and principle instrumentation (extended guitar lines, organ, repetitive but meandering vocals). Tom Tom Club also seems like a good reference point particularly for the vocals and ‘All the Sun That Shines’ and ‘Bird of Paradise (Dub Version)’. Definitely an album that’s worthy of soundtracking this summer like ‘On Patrol’ by Sun Araw soundtracked last summer.

Mogwai – “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” – a 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).

Talib Kweli – “Gutter Rainbows” –  a return to form for Kweli after the overly commercial and guest heavy ‘Eardrum’  (2007). Kweli seems to more at ease and freer, the album’s tone and variety a sign that he may have been under pressure from Warners while making ‘Eardrum’. It’s also telling that all the guests and producers who appear on this album aren’t established major label artists/producers and I think that’s a big contributing factor. The quality on the album only really drops once for ‘How Do You Love Me’ which is a little too limp and sloppy amongst tracks that have a lot more bit and depth. The major highlights are ‘Cold Rain’ (production by Currency producer Ski Beats) and Jean Grae’s appearance on ‘Uh Oh’, however its Kweli whose personality comes across strongest, on what could be his best album yet.

Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two”

The Beasties Boys return to form after two patchy albums, full of short punchy songs that for the most part share a minimalist, lo-fi approach. It’s the Beasties gone back to basics and with found a new lease of life that explores new territory (for them) while remaining 100% Beastie Boys. Established with love this, new converts may well join the cause – all in all a triumph from restless creators always looking to evolve.

Dels – “GOB”

Dels has produced an authoritative début album that balances catchy, memorable tunes with experimentation, unexpected twists and turns and a signature sound that he can manipulate to give the album a curve. He starts with the heavy hitting, bouncy electro inspired tracks but the second half to that album covers more serious topics including the recent political problems in the U.K. and rape. Dels is able to change the pace and the atmosphere to suit these changes in subject and this is proof of an artist with more than one string to his bow and great future ahead of him. A Hip-Hop artist with substance to match his unique style.

Top Ten

10. White Denim – “D” – Though it may not be the album of the year I rashly predicted at the start of the month, though it has to be said ‘Anvil Everything’ and ‘Drug’ were pretty exciting tracks to be released in the run up to release. However this album is by no means a wash-out, it begins with a slightly misleading slice of Southern Rock but some reveals a diverse range from an ever developing and maturing band. From the wah-wah funk of ‘Burnished’ to the emotional ‘Street Joy’ via Latin rhythms of ‘River to Consider’ and many points in between this album is well worth investigation and like other White Denim album will probably prove to be another grown, rewarding repeated listening.

9. Low – “C’Mon” – A great album of two halves that sees Low experimenting with poppier sounds on the first half of the album and on ‘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. Once again Low show the patience and subtlety can go along way in a music world that seems constantly looking for something innovative and over simulating.

8. Chancha Via Circuito – “Rio Arriba” – A great hip-hop album that potential points a new way forward and demonstrates that there are really skilled producers working out the mainstream and America who can compete with their U.S. contemporaries. A breath of fresh Columbian air, this producer neatly side steps the comparisons to Jay Dilla to crave out his own unique style.

7. Tamikrest – “Toumastin” – Another great Taurag (desert blues) album that throws down the gauntlet to Tinariwen (whose next album is out 29th August). Though there’s a lot of familiarity to the Tamikrest sound these young men find a way of subtlety incorporating new influences into the template. From the funk bass that underpins ‘Tidit’ and ‘Tarhamanine Assinegh’ to the Western rock guitar of ‘Adjan Adaky’ and magnificent closer ‘Dihad Tedoun Itran’via the regular and clever employment of female vocals as a counterpoint to a very male sound, this shows there is more to Taurag than fans already know. The band masterful conquers both the more groovy based and moody and downbeat material with confidence and ease. A great album from a band full ideas and possible yet to reach their full potential.

6. TV on the Radio – ‘Nine Types of Light’ – This acts as a laid back sunny counterpart to their previous album ‘Dear, Science’ (2008). However, this isn’t an album that should be considered light or lacking in substance. Instead it’s a successful move into new territory for a band that continues to develop, improve and with this show that may just be one of the best bands of the last ten years. The album’s brighter moments indicates a softer R&B influence though in the latter stages of the album the band show their darker side on tracks like ‘Forgotten’ that strongly reminds me of the dense atmosphere of second album ‘Return to Cookie Mountain’  (2006) but always demonstrates what they have learnt since about space and light and shade. An album that proves sweet and sour can co-exist and that light is variable alternative not corporate cop-out.

5. Paris Suit Yourself – “My Main Shitstain”‘ – An eclectic début album is held together by a similarly punk spirit and commanding vocalist Luvinsky. The band produce a unique blend of street music that takes from soul, punk, post-punk and hip-hop while subtle embracing modern technology. The band is unafraid to wear to heart politically and graphically on its sleeve and are obviously confident in their own ability and style!! The world is there’s and I fully expect them to take it and make it their own.

4. Toro Y Moi – “Underneath the Pine” – 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, expert use of effects processing and the glorious rush of good pop music, a leap forward from his impressive début ‘Causers of This’. In the past its been difficult to pin down Toro Y Moi’s sound and find useful reference points but recently mid 90’s Stereolab seems apt for this playful experiment in pop music.

3. Wagon Christ – “Toomorrow” – It would be easy to dismiss this album as a repetition of everything that Vibert has done 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 hardcore Vibert fans and those new to this long-term dance music fixture. A must for fans of Ninja Tune, Warp and Planet Mu most esoteric output!!

2. tUnE-yArDs – “w h o k i l l” – tUnE-yArDs delivers on what was hinted at on her début album ‘Bird-Brains’, strong vocal performances and use of vocal layers are an ever-present as are the hip-hop rhythms that dominated her début. She also brings a host of surprises, the processing of vocals through a modular synth, pop melodies that pack a punch and day-glo indebted to both African music and dub yet at the same time all of her own. Though the album dips towards the end ‘Doorstop’ and ‘You, Yes You’ show there are yet more directions in which tUnE-yArDs sound can be developed. All-in-all a great album from a unique artist.

1. Gang Gang Dance – “Eye Contact” –  A breathtakingly ambitious album that brings together North African guitars, club beats, Indian pop vocals, grime and electro synth bass, twisted synth arpeggios are all bought together and work where it should fail spectacularly. There’s a new found clarity and a massive step-up in the quality of the tunes on ‘Eye Contact’ this is the record that their last album should have been and impress instant, whereas in the past songs were either growers or too awkward to be properly embraced. Interestingly after a few listens it becomes clear there’s some strong links to “Merriweather Post Pavilion” by Animal Collective (who are both friends and contemporaries of Gang Gang Dance) the use of psychedelic electronics and rhythms rooted in hip-hop are present on both albums. However, Gang Gang Dance add plenty to this and produce their own unique sound. An interest coincidence is that “Merriweather Post Pavilion” was Sonic Fiction’s Album of the Year 2009 and this is currently in poll position for this year. Will it still be No.1 in December?

Spotify playlist:

Liam’s Albums of the Year 2011 … so far

Vier’s Top Five Albums of the Year 2011… so far

5. Lucy – “Wordplay For Working Bees” (Stroboscopic Artefacts) Lucy bypasses the traditional form and structure of techno for his début album. IDM, drones, oblique ambience and dub-techno combine to create a foreboding atmosphere filled with unusual timbres and textures. Partly composed of field recordings from Berlin’s streets and parks, the album’s title plays on the busyness of the crowds assembled on the city streets. The recordings tangle amongst disembodied vocals and abstract noises which build a sense of dissonant melancholia. When the 4/4 rhythm of  ‘Bein’ breaks out of the ambient climate it feels exotic and somehow forbidden as does album closer ‘Ter’ which filled with pattering percussion building to a stunning, hypnotic climax that contrasts the album’s darkness.

4. Planningtorock – “W” (DFA) Planningtorock’s (Janine Rostron) second album is rooted in the expression of her sexuality, which is conveyed by the swagger and sweaty atmosphere that recall the cabaret clubs in her adopted home of Berlin. The lascivious drawl of her pitched-down voice (as demonstrated with: “I know my feelings” on opener ‘Doorway’ and “I’m a believer of circular/suckular love” on ‘Manifesto’) coupled with staccato strings and thick, sensual orchestration makes “W” a powerful and rewarding release.

3. Morphosis – “What Have We Learned” (Delsin/Morphine) Composed entirely with analogue equipment and recorded over three days, Morphosis’ first full-length is a collection of gritty, percussive clatter that recalls the dirtier side of Krautrock. Built on round bass drums and foggy static with assertive grooves and synths that engulf the listener, “What Have We Learned” is the techno release of the year.

2. Gang Gang Dance – “Eye Contact” (4AD) Building from the suggestions of bright pop displayed on a track such as ‘House Jam’ from their previous album “Saint Dymphna”, Gang Gang Dance have condensed their eclecticism and strengthened the pop melodies to create a highly impressive and ambitious fifth album. Singer Lizzie Bougatsos works her voice as instrument, in a way that justly recalls Karin Dreijer Andersson and Bjork, weaving it among the layers of polyrhythmic dance beats, electro-indebted synth riffs and glassy arpeggios. Key track ‘Mindkilla’ combines unhinged world-dance grooves with Bougatsos’ menacingly singing the lullaby ‘Mockingbird’, which encapsulates Gang Gang Dance’s approach for “Eye Contact”: ecstatic and woozy with an undercurrent of threat.

1. Nicolas Jaar – “Space Is Only Noise” (Circus Company) Much has been said of 22 year-old Jaar’s prodigious talent and his first album is rightly garnering critical acclaim. Blending Ricardo Villalobos-esque intricacy with jazz-influenced piano, super-slow techno rhythms, obscure French film dialogue, saxophone and Nicolas Jaar’s own surprisingly deep voice, the album is over-confident but endearingly so. At points coolly sexy (‘Keep Me There’ and the title track), delicate and wistful (‘Too Many Kids…’ ‘I Got A’) and ambient palate-cleansing washes “Space Is Only Noise” is a diverse, self-assured and engaging album and it is a testament to Jaar’s skill that he has delivered such a promising début in place of what could otherwise have been a pretentious clutter.

Honourable mentions:

Wolfgang Voigt – “Kafkatrax” (Profan) In typically eccentric fashion, Voigt has super-imposed his face on to Austrio-Hungarian writer Franz Kafka’s head for the artwork of Kafkatrax. The strange merge goes further with the music contained inside. Every sound except the bass drum is taken from a German audiobook of Kafka’s work, the samples of which Voigt has then sliced, layered and stretched to create several voices speaking in fragmented words and vowels. The abstract stratification of the samples re-produce the paranoia present in Kafka’s writing while Voigt’s experienced hand in intangible dance music knits the sounds into four alien yet groove-filled techno tracks.

http://www.kompakt.fm/releases/kafkatrax_1/embedded

http://www.kompakt.fm/releases/kafkatrax_2/embedded

Spotify playlist:

Vier’s Albums of the Year 2011… so far

Important Announcement

Before I discuss last month’s releases and recommend some for May, I have an important announcement about Sonic Fiction’s immediate future. After much thought I’ve decided to scale back the amount of the work I do for the blog. I need to spend more time pursuing my career in music and so must dedicate time to practising, learning, writing and recording. However I didn’t want to abandon the blog and waste the hard work getting it to its current position, so instead of it ceasing to exist I will keep the regular features (this column and Classics Critiqued), along with our Writer’s Albums of the Year… So Far in June and Writer’s Albums of Year/Observations in December. In addition the bi-monthly electronic music column Music Is Improper will continue to be published.

Thank you,

Liam Flanagan (Sonic Fiction Editor)

_________________________________________________________________

The biggest disappointment of April was the new Prefuse 73 album ‘The Only She Chapters’. Guillermo Scott Herren’s second concept album in a row is another failure. This certainly seemed an interesting idea on paper and the first big move away his trademark sound, an ambient album celebrating women. Unfortunately Prefuse falls into a lot of the pitfalls of ambient music producing a indistinct album that washes over and pass you by. Many of the vocalists featured don’t stamp their authority on the songs and could be easily swapped out for vocal samples. The album is aesthetically glued together with interludes and united by a consistent sound, however there are people who make this music and do it better. It’s back to the drawing board for Prefuse 73 to reinvent himself again.

Another disappointment was the lastest self titled album from Detroit funk guitarist Dennis Coffey. Despite being a well played and executed album that is precisely what makes it so disappointing. The album is dominated by Coffey’s soloing and he even suffocates Paolo Nutini’s contribution to ‘Only Good for Conversation’. By the end of the album the perfect funk playing and constant mid song soloing gets boring on an album that is actually reasonably varied while still remaining cohesive aesthetically. I’m sure that Coffey fans with find much to love, but this album left me cold.

Our first choice that delivered on its pre-release promise was Ponytail’s “Do Whatever You Want All the Time”. From the blissful, surging ambient art-rock of opener ‘Easy Peasy’ to the closing motorik repetition of ‘Music Tunes’ the band produce a breathtaking post/art-rock album that although recalling Neu!, the Boredoms, Battles, Foals and many other post-rock and krautrock bands some manages to only sound like Ponytail. It’s refreshing to hear a rock band ripping up the rule book with abandon, while not taking them too seriously or forgetting to write some tunes.

Moon Duo fashion a great combination of Motown, The Velvets, Neu!, garage rock and Spacemen 3 on their new album ‘Mazes’ 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.

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 a fantastic atmosphere and ambience and complaints some great songs.

TV on the Radio’s – ‘Nine Types of Light’ acts as a laid back sunny counterpart to their previous album ‘Dear, Science’ (2008). However, this isn’t an album that should be considered light or lack in substance. Instead it’s a successful move into new territory for a band that continues to develop, improve and with this show that may just be one of the best bands of the last ten years. The album’s brighter moments indicated a previously unheard R&B influence though in the latter stages of the album the band show their old darker side on tracks like ‘Forgotten’ that strongly reminds me of the dense atmosphere of ‘Return to Cookie Mountain’ but always demonstrates what they have learnt since about space and light and shade. An album that proves sweet and sour can co-exist and that light is variable alternative not corporate cop-out.

Finally Tune-Yard’s – ‘w h o k i l l’ tops last month’s recommendations, standing out for its unique sound and instantaneous-ness. Tune-Yards (aka Merrill Gerbus) delivers on what was hinted at on her début album ‘Bird-Brains’, strong vocal performances and use of vocal layers are an ever-present as are the hip-hop rhythms that dominated her début. She also brings a host of surprises, the processing of vocals through a modular synth, pop melodies that pack a punch and day-glo sound indebted to both African music and dub yet at the same time all of her own. Though the album dips towards the end ‘Doorstop’ and ‘You, Yes You’ show there are yet more directions in which Tune-Yards sound can be developed. All-in-all a great album from a unique artist and just in time for summer.

Spotify playlist:

April 2011 playlist

Coming up this month on Sonic Fiction

Music Is Improper: We Have No Fathers – an exploring how Kraftwerk represented their generations reinvention of Germany.

Classics Critiqued – A Tribe Called Quest – ‘Midnight Marauders’ or ‘People’s Instinctive Travels and The Paths of Rhythm’ – I haven’t decided which to cover yet.

May Recommendations

Mark McGuire – ‘A Young Person’s Guide to…’ (Edition Mego) out now

This 2 CD compilation of songs from previously released and limited edition releases that McGuire has been constantly racking up in last few years was moved forward a week so fell between recommendations. Having had a quick listen I can whole heartedly recommend this to fans and newcomers alike its covers a lot of ground from lengthy all out ambient pieces to McGuire’s trademark double delay tricks, well worth investment.

Beastie Boys – ‘Hot Sauce Committe Part 2’ (Capitol/Grand Royal) 2nd May

Another album I’ve already had the pleasure to hear and another that I won’t hesitate in recommending. The Beasties return to form after two patchy albums, full of short punchy songs that for the most part share a minimalist, lo-fi approach. It’s the Beasties gone back to basics and with found a new lease of life that explores new territory (for them) while remaining 100% Beastie Boys. Established with love this, new converts may well join the cause – all in all a triumph from restless creators always looking to evolve.

Dels – ‘GOB’ (Big Dada/Ninja Tune) 2nd May

Back in January Dels was one of our New Band Tips for 2011 and he has delivered an authoritative début album that balances catchy, memorable tunes with experimentation, unexpected twists and turns and a signature sound that he can manipulate to give the album a curve. He starts with the heavy hitting, bouncy electro inspired tracks but the second half to that album covers more serious topics including the recent political probs. in the U.K. and rape. Dels can change the pace and the atmosphere to suit these changes in subject and this is proof of an artist with more than one string to his bow and great future ahead of him. A Hip-Hop artist with substance to match his unique style.

Gang Gang Dance – ‘Eye Contact’ (4AD) 9th May

The New York odd balls return with a new album for a new label and its promises to take the adventurous, exotic sound of ‘Saint Dymphna’ one step further. Having heard exploratory opener ‘Glass Jar’ and the rave influenced ‘Mindkilla’ I think they may well have achieved said expectation, but we’ll have to wait and see for a little while longer.

Mountains – ‘Air Museum’ (Thrill Jockey) 9th May

I listened to a track from Mountains previous album ‘Choral’ but didn’t really feel it at the time. However it may just have been a case of bad timing, as the dark ambient/drone sound that Mountains specialise in has dominated critics end of year lists in the last two years. On the evidence of ‘Thousand Square’ (the only pre-release track released for the album) they may well leap-frog the likes of Emeralds with a richer, more powerful and unique sound.

Austra – ‘Feel It Break’ (Domino) 16th May

Another new act that I discovered recently, though the trio have been compared to Fever Ray and this is an understandable comparison, they are a different proposition. They match bracing dance beats with gothic emotive vocals that evoke Kate Bush (the ethereal vocals of ‘Cloudbursting’ era Bush) and Wendy Rae Fowler of We Fell to Earth. Early signs are good, so I look forward to having the full album.

Thurston Moore – ‘Demolished Thoughts’ (Matador) 23rd May

Sonic Youth guitarist and Noise rock legend Moore returns to the territory he explored on his last solo album ‘Trees Outside the Academy’ which was an acoustic only effort. This time he’s joined by Beck (in the producer’s chair) and accompanied by violin and cello. Moore has said that Beck’s contribution to the record helped shape the sound of the album and judging by Beck’s recent production credits, this has me excited at a collaboration between these two heavyweights of 90’s alternative rock.

White Denim – ‘D’ (Downtown) 3oth May

White Denim are a band who’ve improved with every release but seem to have gone relatively unnoticed despite producing considerably better and more original music than many of their peers. Hopefully this will all be corrected with the release of their third album ‘D’ which is already gaining many column inches and deservedly so as the two pre-release tracks ‘Anvil Everything’ (super fast liquid riffing) and the Beta Band-esque ‘Drug’ certainly live up to hype. Could be a surprise contender for Album of the Year or not!?!

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.

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