Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
Like Batman in drag, the second part of May’s new albums round-up has more than its fair share of surprises. While none of the LPs reviewed here will be donning a mask to fight crime tonight, or be wearing their pants and trousers the wrong way round, they will keep the world safe from tired, formulaic sounds. By JOHN BITTLES
For instance, Hot Chip conjure up a riddle or two on the fantastic Why Make Sense?, Man Power dons a cunning disguise to sneak out impeccable house, Glenn Astro brings the Spiderman quips with Throwback, Cio D’Or skulks in the shadows with the deep techno of All In All, and Terranova pull up in the huge tank of house beats that is Restless to blow delinquents away. And that’s not all, as we have fourteen more albums to make you realise that crime doesn’t pay.
Speaking of superheroes, when they’re on form there are few bands who can match the unbridled delights of Hot Chip. Six albums in and they still haven’t lost their touch! Just listen to the electronic funk of Huarache Lights for all the proof you need. The lead single opens the band’s new album Why Make Sense? with a groove which is as catchy as the flu. Easily one of the singles of the year, if you can’t dance to this then your life must be extremely miserable indeed. From here the goodies hit you like a hurricane; Cry For You is a heartfelt ballad that suddenly springs into a loose-limbed groove, Dark Night recalls the lonesome disco of Johnny Jewel, Easy To Get is the sound of Chic with a geeky edge, while Need You Now is, quite simply, out of this world. One for handbag dancers, closet ravers and sensitive disco deviants everywhere. 9/10.
There has been a long history of secret identities in dance music, from Underground Resistance, to Burial and all sorts of strange aliases in between. Mysterious producer Man Power is a bold new addition to this rank. This May sees the release of a self-titled LP that exposes everything good about house music in 2015. Throughout its 11 tracks the album manages to touch upon a huge assortment of genres and themes. For instance, Boys Beware is sedate, dark disco of the highest order, French Basic is gorgeously retro sounding house, Bielstiener is a melancholy delight, and Forget To Remember builds from an almost ambient beginning into a Pet Shop Boys style bomb. Bringing to mind the likes of Mylo, DJ Koze and even Orbital in the ability to meld pop sensibilities to instrumental grooves, whoever this Man Power may be, they have just brought out one of the most enjoyable dance albums of the year. 9/10.
Combining the Teutonic drive of Toy with the airy spaciness of Ride, Land Gone sees the London-based band Novella enter the album market in rather fine style. They seemed to disappear without trace after 2012’s excellent self-titled EP, yet Land Gone heralds the group’s return with ten tracks of shoegaze inspired indie rock. Something Must Change is a glorious mess of squealing feedback, crashing drums and vocals which walk the fine line between impassioned and nonchalant with aplomb. Sentences is a sunny C86 inspired jaunt, Two Ships is a mosh-pit inducing roar, while Younger Than Yesterday fizzes with a vivid sense of yearning to expose a band of both subtlety and depth. With guitar music in a bit of a rut right now, it is bands likes Novella who make going to gigs worthwhile. 8/10.
After the somewhat uninspiring Hotel Amour album from 2012, house veterans Terranova hit peak form with their new long-player Restless. Back on Cologne imprint Kompakt, the record sees the core duo of Fetisch and &ME collaborate with a stellar selection of friends. The Stereo Mc’s Rob Birch provides hushed vocals on the dramatic opener Tell Me Why, Cath Coffey adds depth to the darkly compelling Twisted Souls and Bon Homme’s voice lends Restless Summer an enchantingly mournful air. Yet it’s not all about the guests, since the instrumentals more than hold their own; Goldilocks is a steady house shuffler for modern times, Kepler 186F will rock any club and Watch Me is a Laurent Garnier alike techno bomb. More groove-some and house based than expected, Restless is a smooth, polished listen that is a more than pleasant way to pass the day. 8/10.
I was almost put off Kellion – The Stories Of A Young Boy by the press blurb which describes the album as „The story of a young boy who was born into a mysterious world he explores with curious eyes, ears and hands“. Yet, moving beyond the pretension I cautiously hit play and was immediately won over by the dubstep-infused electronica contained within. At times sounding like a cross between the deep bass-scapes of Shackleton and strange pagan electronics of Boards Of Canada, Long Arm has managed to collate a variety of sounds and influences into something entirely his own. The title-track is a simply stunning piece of music, while Frozen Sea is the sound of Ninja Tune doing folk, House In The Woods has a seriously funky groove, and Night Of The Million Crickets is a glorious elegy to a lost way of life. Surprisingly great! 9/10.
Fans of techno music so deep you could get lost within its grooves forever, are going to find lots to love in the smooth textures of All In All by Cio D’Or. Reminiscent of the experimental sound-designs of Tin Man or Donato Dozzy, this is easily one of the most rewarding techno albums of recent years. Tomorrow Was Yesterday builds from a Basic Channel-style beginning until it suddenly erupts into a gorgeous chorus of strings. Now Is Ever contains a piano line which slowly rises above a menacing synth throb, X1 is so sparse that occasionally you even forget it’s there, while Zepto rounds things off with a low-end ominous throb. This is an album of stunning depth that will suck your mind right into its echo-laden world. Seriously, I can’t recommend this enough! 9/10.
Having made a name for himself with a series of killer mix tapes and by producing the likes of Kendrick Lemar and Joey Bada$$, this month sees the strangely named Knxwledge drop his debut LP. Hud Dreams is out now on Stones Throw and features no less than 26 (yes, 26) instrumental hip hop skits. Each track is relatively short, meaning they can resemble sketches at times, yet overall the record works well as a whole. Recalling Dan The Automator’s work on the first Dr. Octagon album, this is a rich and smoke-filled affair, far too good to only find favour with hip hop headz. With more than a hint of DJ Krush or DJ Shadow, the record’s ample use of blues and soul samples make it a rich and rewarding listen for those who like their beats soul-drenched and mid-paced. 8/10.
Anyone eager for quality house music is strongly advised to check-out Balance Presents Fur Coat. The mix sees the Barcelona-based duo release their first ever commercially available compilation. And quite a nice little listen it is too! Long associated with labels like Get Physical, My Favorite Robot and Crosstown Rebels, the album sees the duo create a set made up of deep, heady music which will transfix anyone who likes elongated, languid grooves. The mix opens with the dense funkiness of the Mathew Jonson & The Mole remix of If by Ostgut Ton artist Tobias before moving into deep house and techno territories with an almost religious zeal. The Âme refit of Phuture Bound by Akabu, Efdemin’s remix of Phosphenes by Simon Flower, O.T.H. by Roman Flügel and Mariposa by DJ Koze are just some of the gems to be found here. While it will never challenge the boundaries of the DJ mix Balance Presents is a killer collection of sublime house. 8/10.
Sounding fresh, exciting and fun, Glenn Astro’s debut LP Throwback is a firm kick in the teeth for all those naysayers who claim that house music has nothing left to say. Both retro and futuristic, the album pulls together a wealth of samples and influences to give us a series of sounds that are filled with a wide-eyed sense of wonder. Jazz flourishes mix with disco grooves, while ambient soundscapes give way to funky 4/4 beats in a set which constantly surprises and delights. Computerkiller has a bit of a French touch vibe, Shit Iz Real is a Blockhead-style head nodder, You Can’t Groove most certainly can, while Kilometer Disco instantly raises a smile. Out now on Tartelet, Throwback dispenses with the po-faced brutality of the majority of what is classified as ‚outsider house‘ to create a record which is a real blast from beginning to end. 8/10.
This month we’ll finish with the eerie lullabies and glacial ambiance of Sleepstep (Sonar Poems For My Sleepless Friends), the brand new album by talented Russian artist Dasha Rush. A wonderfully dark and haunting work, the record’s sixteen tracks perfectly capture that moment between wakefulness and sleep. Constructed to be listened to in one sitting, this is about as far away from the world of pop music as it is possible to get. Spectral sounds jump in and out of the speakers, while an air of something sinister in the dark permeates the entire LP. A fine meeting of techno and ambience, Dasha utilizes the best of both worlds to exquisite effect. Full of misheard murmurs and whispers, if you put this on as you travel to work your daily commute will never appear the same again. 9/10.
A special mention must also go to: Chassis by Psychic Reality – Downbeat, blues, dub, pop and more combine on an album which is both undeniably unique and an awful lot of fun, 7/10, FabricLive 81 by Monki – Book-ended by the bona fide classics Rich In Paradise and Kinetic (what do you mean you don’t know these songs?) the mix sees the Radio 1 and Rinse FM DJ serve up a winning mix of dance floor funk, 8/10, Horizontalism by Fink – A dub version of last year’s Hard Believer album sees Fin Greenall renew his interest in electronic music with enchanting results, 7/10, MCIII by Mikal Cronin – The 3rd album from the Californian troubadour is a somewhat disappointing affair. All the ingredients are there, but it never quite clicks. Shame! 6/10, Communist Dub by I-LP-O In Dub – Perhaps not the catchiest of aliases for Pan Sonic’s Ilpo Väisänen, yet we can forgive when he produces beautifully messed-up electronic music such as this, 7/10, Nature by Valet – Sounding like the disgraced lovechild of Mazzy Star and The Antlers, Nature is a record steeped in spectral wonder, 7/10, Madtech 02 – Ibiza by Various – A bumper 26 track compilation of no nonsense house bangers from Kerri Chandler’s esteemed label, 7/10, Mute Swan by Braille – Fucked-up dance music for come-down kids and bittersweet evenings spent alone, 8/10, and Lighthouse by Fenin – Seven tracks of rich dub techno, good enough to bring out the inner groove in anyone, 8/10.