Lost Inside The Velvet Trail: March New Album Reviews

in Bittles' Magazine/Platte

Music | Bittles‘ Magazine

To say that there is some great music out this month is like saying that Jeremy Kyle is a bit of a twat, (if you don’t know who this guy is, then lucky you). There are fantastic new albums by the legendary Marc Almond, sublime bass pressure from Scuba, Pearson Sound and Also, funky-assed trip-hop from Romare, spectral folk from Marika Hackman, lush house from Vincent Floyd, and so much more. By JOHN BITTLES

In fact, there are so many great new records that I couldn’t fit them all into one article, so I’ll be reviewing fab new offerings by Phildel, Matthew E. White, Fort Romeau, Uffe, Mu-ziq and more next week. So, with all this to get through we’ll keep the introduction brief, and dive right in.

SCUBA_claustrophobia_digiAs I have been bothering my neighbours with this over the last few weeks it seems only fitting to begin with the jet black rhythms of Claustrophobia by bass-bin destroyer and producer extraordinaire Scuba. One of the great things about Scuba is that, as a listener, you are never quite sure what strange sonic adventures he is going to present you with. Over the years his productions have veered from dubstep, to bass music, big beat, techno, ambient and house. Created on a Function One sound system Claustrophobia is out on the 23rd of March and sees the Hotflush boss merge ambiance, killer production and booming bass with the euphoric rush of rave. Levitation opens the record with a low menacing throb, paving the way for the deep yet brutal technoisms of Why You Feel So Low. Building to a crescendo at the three minute mark this track is so good it could make a believer of your Nan. From here we get the clicks and clanks of Television, the 90s rave of PCP, the echoing dubscapes of All I Think About Is Death and the overwhelming bleakness of Needle Phobia to name but a few. Produced with such a sense of sonic depth it hurts, this is a rich, varied LP that successfully manages to utilize the sounds of the past to create something which sounds like the future knocking on the kitchen door. Unbelievably good!

MarcAlmondVery different, but equally great is The Velvet Trail, the eagerly anticipated new album from torch singer extraordinaire Marc Almond. After strong hints that 2010s LP Varieté would be the last to feature his own original material it is a pleasant surprise to see the legendary singer return. Persuaded out of self-imposed retirement by Chris Brade, the result sees the duo give us 15 songs of dramatic, extravagant pop which brims with such a sense of epicness that it is hard not to get swept away. With Marc in fine voice throughout, the album ably exposes why his absence would have been a great loss to the music world. Zipped Black Leather Jacket shimmers with pent-up emotion, while Scar is a song of raw romanticism that could melt even the stoniest of hearts. Marc Almond has always been a talented balladeer, and by delving into the deeply personal he has produced what is probably his best work in years. Die hard romanticists and those who swoon at the idea of music in minor key should prepare themselves to be enraptured by 55 minutes of sublime melancholic pop.

marika-hackmanAs we all know folk music can be a bit crap! Ok, I take that back, folk music can be unrelentingly rubbish and crap. Yet it is records like the wonderful We Slept At Last by Marika Hackman that take this genre of music into strange, disquieting places and allow occasional doubters like me to keep the faith. With twelve tracks that bewitch and enchant Marika takes us on an emotional and somewhat eerie journey into a David Lynchian world where you are never quite sure what is or isn’t real. There are moments of outstanding spectral beauty on here, with songs such as Drown, Ophelia, Undone, Undress and Let Me In both captivating and unsettling in turn. Throughout the album there is an almost pagan feel, which, together with lyrics that contain a surprising amount of depth lends the whole affair an unforgiving and jagged edge that is as welcome as a breath of fresh air.

PerasonLike Scuba, (who was reviewed earlier), David Kennedy is a British producer who continues to push the boundaries of electronic music as far as they will go. As Ramadanman and Pearson Sound he has crafted some of the most forward thinking sounds to come out of this fair isle. This month sees the release of his self-titled debut long-player under his Pearson Sound moniker. And what a cracker it is! Asphalt Sparkle sets the tone with a quiet yet menacing air, the low-end bass seemingly coming out of nowhere to stimulate and unsettle the nerves. Glass Eye meanwhile, is a percussive jam which introduces some eerie synths at the halfway mark to strangely unnerving effect. Gristle may be an experiment too far, yet the surreal head trip of Crank Call, the droning boom of Headless and the almost IDM vibe of Rubber Tree help keep the album right on track. Situated firmly in the bass music camp, this is both experimental and funky as fuck. And how many records can you say that about!

ZENCD218_PACKSHOTAfter a duo of marvellous EPs on Black Acre it’s fair to say that expectations for Romare’s debut album were pretty darn high. Luckily, right from the off, Projections doesn’t disappoint! Out now on the ever on point Ninja Tune, Projections is a coherent and smile inducing journey into the world of funky trip hop beats and jazz samples that recall the glory days of Mr Scruff. With an engagingly playful air these tracks are pretty much guaranteed to get feet-a-tapping, heads-a-nodding and booties-a-shaking, even among those who may, unexpectedly, have found themselves dead. Inspired by „elements of American/African culture“ tracks like Work Song, lead single Roots, Lover Man and Prison Blues are chock full of wit and invention. Perfect for home listening and club play alike, Projections is the go to record for those who have worn out their copies of Endtroducing and Headz.

PHLP_05_CoverDaniel Avery’s Drone Logic album was easily one of 2013’s best! So it was with giddy excitement that I pressed play for the two discs‘ worth of remixes of tracks from said LP. Titled New Energy (Collected Remixes), the record is a fast and furious techno-influenced set perfect for darkened clubs and freaky dancers everywhere. As with all remix collections there is the odd duff track to skip through, yet Factory Floor’s remix of Drone Logic is good enough to make you forgive the tunes which do not work. With CD1 being the better of the two, highlights include the deep house textures of Roman Flügel’s refit of All I Need, the techno throb of Øs version of Naive Response, the rave-tastic synths of KINK’s Knowing We’ll Be Here and the epic grandeur that Ricardo Tobar injects into These Nights Never End. A little too one-paced for some, yet if it is a set of dance floor destroyers you are after then New Energy should be right up your street.

PrintIf that sounds like a little too much for you, respite can be found within the retro-inspired pop of Jeff Özdemir & Friends. Jeff Özdemir is one of those talented chaps that you sometimes read about in magazines; he plays keyboards in Faruk Green, runs his own record label and owns the 33RPM record store in Kreuzberg, Berlin. In his spare time he also records soulful pop songs with a delightfully oddball edge. Jeff Özdemir & Friends collects some of the very best of these over 19 soft and languid cuts that sound so laid-back you half expect the music to stop at any minute so it can have a little nap. With a strong 60s influence throughout, this is a nostalgia-inducing and absorbing album which shows Jeff’s to be a mighty fine singer indeed. Fans of the soft psychedelia of Foxygen, Beach Boys or Temples will find lots to enjoy here!

Vincent FloydA special mention must also go to: Zehn mixed by Chris Tietjen Cocoon mainstay collects 36 classics from the label’s back catalogue and mixes them into a spell-bindingly deep techno journey that is top-class from beginning to end, Skargard by The Persuader Skargard sees the return of revered techno producer Jesper Dalhbäck with fourteen tracks which veer from delicate to banging in the blink of an eye, Moonlight Fantasy by Vincent Floyd Rush Hour Records further their pedigree for reissuing lost classics with ten tracks of Mr Fingers style house which pulses with such a sense of warmth that it is impossible not to love, and Spring Sampler by No. 19 Music Jonny White’s No. 19 imprint releases a compilation of ten new tracks perfect for introducing a druggy, slo-mo vibe to the dance floor.

| JOHN BITTLES