‘Remember remember the fifth of November’. It’s that time of year again when we celebrate a man who nearly blew up the houses of parliament with bonfires, fireworks and toffee apples. Fawkes was a terrorist before that term existed. Today, it’s being bandied about to describe anyone who demands a right to online privacy and anonymity.
The UKGov are in debate about banning the app Telegram – the internet messaging service that provides end-to-end encryption whereby your communications can’t be snooped on by third parties or exposed in data breaches. Now, we know following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that our data is not being protected in the way it should be by certain big tech companies so when we make a choice to take that responsibility on ourselves by using a service that does ensure our data is safe and we’re told that this makes us terrorists, fundamentalists and right-wing extremists, something seems amiss…
This month we have a selection of music that’s bound to really get your sparklers going. We’ve got Miami bassline, Norwegian hyper pop and music from Bristol’s pirate radio stations of old. Seeing as Colin Bond (C.B) is off jaunting up a mountain this week and has instead phoned his recommendations in; I’ve stepped in as guest editor and am joined by a motley crew consisting of Trev Elkin (T.E), Mike Turner (M.T), Mike Mazonowicz (M.M) and Bill Cummings (B.C).
*All artist names and album titles are linked to their Bandcamp release.
Growing up in Florida through the 80s and 90s has left me with a love for Miami Bass Hip-Hop and if it’s dirty and crass, then all the better. Basside are from Miami and they are re-inventing Miami Bass. The bass is thumping and hits you in the chest like it should, the lyrics are raunchy and fun with hooks like “New York to Miami/no bras no panties” and lyrics like, “Even when I’m wrong/my sexy baby make me feel like I’m in a Drake song/He tells me that I’m pretty/and he likes to touch my titties/and he’s good with his hands/and he’s good with my kitty.” And that’s about all I can type without getting too graphic.
The Fuck It Up EP was recorded by superstar producer SOPHIE in 2016, but these tracks floated around on bootlegs and mixtapes before finally getting official release earlier this spring. If you are looking for a modern update on 2 Live Crew and L’Trimm with a touch of Weekend and Missy Elliott, then Basside is exactly what you need. (M.T)
Over the last few weeks of October, I was overtaken with autumn vibes that made me nostalgic for some of the introspective, grungy, downtempo bands I used to listen to more frequently in my late teens. Bands like Slint, Unwound, Pile and Failure. Then I discovered Household Gods which is actually a supergroup of sorts seeing as it’s comprised of members of Slint and Unwound. Perfect, I thought! I really hope it doesn’t suck. The band have only released one album so far and thankfully it doesn’t suck. It’s got the riffs and the feels and all the autumn vibes. I’m a fan. (K.H)
Set to see the light of day next week, on the evidence of the public tracks so far with their debut album Pure Particles Newport trio The Bug Club are delivering a treat of raucous, smile-inducing garage rock. Their latest cut ‘My Baby Loves Rock and Roll Music’ has an affectionate fuzzy charm and singalong quality that references The Velvet Underground and Johnathan Richmond, in a cheeky way. While ‘The Fixer’ is a riot of hyperactive riffs that will leave you singing wryly sardonic lines like “lend me the record that reminds me I’m not dead” before descending into a breakdown. The Bug Club are delivering the fun, with the feels and the black humour that is making the world ok for two minutes, and we are here for it! (B.C)
She might well hail from Nashville – the home of country music, but Tristen’s modern spin on rock-pop shows you why it’s known as Music City not Country City. Aquatic Flowers is spinning its own path. The wistful ‘Die 4 Love’ sits next to the propellant ‘Complex’ and the Laurel Canyon-esque ‘Looking For Love’. An album of ebb and flow, lyrically astute and melodically perfect, it’s great for chilling out to but won’t ever let you relax for too long. (M.M)
Regular readers will no doubt remember we paid a visit to Kush Arora’s Only Now last March in the form of the epic road trip that was his Anamnesis collab with Beneath the Ruins. Where Anamnesis was a dubby excursion into rust-belt blues, Indian Unclassical Vol. 1 gives a similar treatment to the traditional India raga. The album features contributions from several noted exponents of Indian classical such as Kamaljeet Ahluwalia, Sheela Bringi and Rajib Karmakar. Arora adds deep layers of dream-like menace to the source material, mixing occasional bursts of weird percussive noise into slow-burning, nocturnal soundscapes. (C.B)
Where to begin when describing this album? A couple of hundred words really can’t convey the relevance of the lived experience of its creator, Isabelle ‘Izzy’ Thorn, whose soul is poured over its lush layers. Her first release on the ever-reliable Memorials of Distinction label, Pluperfect Mind is a (sometimes overwhelming) space where time appears to pass inconsistently. Reflecting on a period spent in solitude in the North Wessex Downs while Thorn began her gender transition, her work is as stunning as it is painful, complex and insightful.
With comparisons to Julia Holter, Katie Dey, Lyra Pramuk or perhaps Ben Frost’s soundtracks, the diverse musical strands that make up Pluperfect Mind emerge and fade and re-emerge in a constant process to become concrete and permanent. There is a warmth and emotional honesty to Thorn’s otherwise cool, crystalline vocals. Her breathy, beautiful articulation of these hidden thoughts and longings is held in contrast to the temporal ambiguity and drama unfolding around her.
The closing song, ‘Pluperfect Mind’ provides a hopeful conclusion enhanced by Thorn’s voice gliding upwards, its light piercing vast clouds of abstract choral echoes. (T.E)
Rock heavyweights, Part Chimp are back with their new release Drool. The title and artwork perfectly encapsulate the band’s frantic, primal energy. Many have speculated that they’re the loudest band in the UK and lets face it, there wouldn’t be much joy in seeing Part Chimp play quietly. Opening track ‘Back from the dead‘ gives listeners a taste of the consistent, thundering noise that the band has become known for. Fans of the Melvins should know this band and if you go see them live just make sure you take your earplugs. (K.H)
Portland’s Collate are the most interesting, unflinching, and effortless post-punk band in America, period. They are becoming known for their lo-fi, Swell Maps-style production, clanging Gang of Four guitars and bass straight from Delta 5 or Lilliput. The group present post-capitalist, neu-cold-war paranoia, and chopped-up, modern cultural wasteland lyrics with the vocal approach of The Fall and Oh-OK filtered through Devo but sung through a can with a string leading to a microphone. And this is only track one (‘Medicine‘) of a two-song 7-inch.
The b-side ‘Genesis Fatigue‘ (which I can only wonder if it might be a nod to art-rock weirdos Tunabunny and their album Genius Fatigue) is a yelpy, snotty-nosed, jerky, dance track that pulsates in all the wrong ways with a cowbell-laden, Liquid Liquid style groove. Collate releases tend to sell out quickly, so I wouldn’t wait on this one. (M.T)
Released last week Every Fig is a Dead Wasp, is the awesome debut album from Lunar Vacation out on Keeled Scales (Sun June, Katy Kirby, Buck Meek). Their sideways view of songwriting surfs the lines of garage rock, indie pop and psych-laden odysseys. The track ‘Peddler’ displays the group’s spindly guitars and wistful vocals that burst into a devoted chorus like a love letter written in bold colours, it shows off the band’s deft ability to juxtapose their personal themes with universal tunes.
The standout song is ‘Mold‘, which is entwined with the dreamy, lovelorn vocals of Grace Repasky and Maggie Geeslin. This is paired with hip-swaying percussion, hooky guitars that journey through a catchy bright chorus (“open the door to let the light in”), and an uncertain outro that sounds like opening the door and letting the sun rays in. The album is a bittersweet gem that intersects the garage pop of Alvvays and catchy psychedelia. Lunar Vacation are a charming delight that will take you on a colourful and unexpected trip. (B.C)
Kashena Sampson returns four years on from her debut, and with Time Machine the growth of sound places her with some of the best in the country genre. Songs like ‘Little Spot Of Sun’ sound like they were created in the 70s but somehow manage to be totally contemporary, while the gospel-y ‘Old Bones’ rips your heart out Time Machine is a classic in the making, with songs, musicianship, and wonderful vocals that take you away to another place and time. (M.M)
An interesting one here, and the last of the year’s releases on Bricolage. Two years in the making apparently, ‘Breaking Ice’ is a fractured landscape of field recordings and unidentifiable instrumentation that somehow add up to way more than the sum of their parts. Is it a diary? A scribbled confession? Or a dying ice age?
The highlight for me has to be ‘lots of little fires, yes, the sea, the rainbow, lightning and the moon, lots of little fires’, which has to be a contender for Best Title Award 2021. It features tremulous pianos and weird buzzing and draws comparisons with Haiku Salut’s recent work. It’s an album you’ll want to spend time with. (C.B)
It has taken a pandemic and escalating climate emergency for us to appreciate that long-haul travel is (and probably always was) a bit of a privilege. Still, looking through 20-year-old photos I find myself hankering to return to Japan, a truly remarkable and disorienting island of contradictions. However, Floating World, the debut album from French-born visual artist and musician, Clémentine Blue, is a pretty good substitute.
A curated vision of her own solo journey to Japan a few years ago, the project consists of nine pop-leaning synth-based compositions, with an accompanying limited edition zine cataloguing Clémentine’s explorations along Japan’s mountains, ancient forest trails, Buddhist temples and pilgrimage routes.
Fans of Laetitia Sadier’s solo work or Jane Weaver will find lots to love here. Blue imprints the enigmatic essence of both ancient and modern Japan, using a mix of field recordings, sampled local instruments and synths that rain softly over swelling pads and a latticework of organic textures. Blue’s airy vocals express wonder and discovery of the self and our connection with nature. Album highlights include the rumbling, dark, longing for adventure in ‘Black Sea’, as well as the body-positive, porcelain sheen of ‘Shells’ and ‘Koya-san’ – the coolest song about a temple you’ll hear this year. (T.E)
I missed a trick when I didn’t feature Death is Not the End on the record label picks a couple of months ago. I hadn’t discovered them then. They’re home to a wealth of interesting, rarities that I look forward to spending more time delving into. Bristol Pirates is an album of recordings taken from cut-ups of broadcasts from the 1980s up to the early noughties from (unsurprisingly) pirate radio stations based in Bristol. It’s a relic of rave history that’s a must-listen for anyone who was and continues to be part of that culture. (K.H)
When you think of Atlanta, it’s a city of R&B and Southern hip-hop, and the last thing you really think of is probably 80s batcave, synth-driven horror-goth. Entertainment has been one of the go-to southern goth bands that all the cities with actual goth scenes like Los Angeles and New York tend to call on when touring the south.
Entertainment are more on the atmospheric end of the goth spectrum, drawing a lot from early Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Kaleidoscope-era, dark minimalism. Yes, chances are if you spotted the band in the real world they would usually be dressed in black, and yes, the singer looks a bit like Kiefer Sutherland from The Lost Boys, but that really only adds to the icy charm. So set the strobe light on the lowest setting, get a fresh pack of cloves, and turn off the lights and bliss out. (M.T)
Sassy 009 aka Sunniva Lingård recently released her mixtape Heart Ego via Oslo-based label Luft Recordings. From her bedroom, Sassy 009 produces her finest material yet with a weightless hyper pop release that invites you into her vast, limitless, postmodern world in her head and beguiles at every turn. With echoes of early Grimes or Bjork, ‘Bluerace car’ takes you on a skittering and hypnotic trip through the back streets of a future landscape.
‘Here comes the weekend‘ sees the Oslo-based musician enter a new realm of the dance floor as she sends tremors through its ceilings with her evocative vocals, crystallised synths sweeps and pinpoint beats. Oscillating with a foreboding atmosphere somewhere between early Billie Eilish and the foreboding of Portishead. It’s intoxicating and an ever so slightly uneasy listen. (B.C)
There’s something wonderfully eccentric about Kate Vargas’ uniquely titled album Rumpumpo. Whether it’s the nonchalant slacker rock of ‘Honeydripper’ or the acoustic ‘Everything Forever’ it’s Vargas’ voice that the star of the show. A raspy thing of beauty, the New Yorker uses her vocals to deliver heartfelt emotion, raw passion, and some lovely melodies. With song titles like ‘Spit 3 Times’ (a bloody marvellous old school blues sounding tune) and ‘Glorieta To The Holy Place’. The music is as endlessly interesting as it sounds like it should be. (M.M)
A clutch of off-kilter, spontaneous, idiosyncratic comings together that could never have existed, In Reverse is the debut solo album from artist Melinda Bronstein (The Leaf Library, Absentee, Wet Paint). Both discomfiting and primal, its ten songs connect directly to your basal ganglia with vocal drones and repetitive keyboard patterns.
There is a lot about loss and conflict, unsurprisingly as the songs were recorded in snatched moments of inspiration between March 2020 and February 2021. If you look for it, though, you can also find hope and playfulness in the spiralling phrases of ‘Something/Lost’, even if they hide in the shadows cast by the more seriously bizarre-sounding stuff, like ‘Make/Love’. Then more restful, almost meditative sentiments flicker gently through ‘Taking/You’, with piano keys sending slow, rippling circles, barely breaking its surface tension.
These intimate streams of consciousness, cut down from hours of experimentation, were never meant to be an album. But like the musical serendipity in Ian William Craig’s analogue tape loops or Grouper’s emergent waves of sound, the intuitive choices that go into making the final, finished pieces is, in itself, an art form. (T.E)
October’s entry in Cannell and Ellis’s series of monthly EP’s finds them in the mood for an eerie tale or two with their friends. Film-maker Milène Larsson presents an adventure with ‘Näcken’, while songwriter and composer Adrian Crowley takes us on an unsettling journey into the mind of a man who slowly turns blue one summer in New York.
There’s are a couple of pitch-black excursions into the field recordings of Chris Watson, of Cabaret Voltaire and David Attenborough fame. ‘Cloaked by Raven’s Wings’ pits staccato strings against a great miasma of skronking corvids, while tawny owls and roe deer flit in the unreliable torchlight of ‘Within the Forest Darkness’. Cannell and Ellis weave something truly enigmatic around these mysterious, primal sounds. (C.B)
Graduating from being one-half of Birds of Chicago to being the whole of Allison Russell, the singer-songwriter has crafted a genuine masterpiece with her debut solo album, Outside Soul. With its deeply personal lyrics and mix of musical styles, like the excellent blues-jazz opener ‘Montreal’ and the Americana-gospel-rock of ‘4th Day Prayer’, Russell keeps you on your toes and constantly surprised. (M.M)
DJ Alkemy enlists his cohorts from Fire Team Alpha for a spooky slice of funky Halloween fun. Featuring MCs like Shark (Ontario, Canada), Illtone (Michigan, USA), Oskeptical (Florida, USA), Es (Ontario, Canada) and Pun Ra (Wales, UK). Retooling Vincent Proce’s memorable spoken word sample from Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller‘, this fresh and popping collaboration shows off Newport DJ Alkemy’s inventive ability to work with cut-up beats and samples. Alkemy pairs it with swag reminiscent of The Avalanches and the hard-hitting bars of Run The Jewels. Fantastic fun. (B.C)
Nothing beats a good gospel choir. That’s a fact, you can check it if you like but you’ll find I’m right. Try listening to a ten-minute guitar solo by some prodigal string genius – you’ll be impressed but you won’t come away feeling as whole, as fulfilled and as unified as going to see a gospel choir. Pastor T.L Barrett was 27 when this album was recorded in 1971 with an after-school choir.
Barrett would later come under scrutiny for orchestrating a pyramid scheme in 1989 but after repaying 1.2 million dollars a decade later, he received an honour from the Illinois House of Representatives for his contributions to Chicago’s civic life; Reinforcing, that life is always more complicated than a heroes and villains narrative allows for. (K.H)