I switched on the radio the other day and the bombardment of crap tunes almost made me give up on music for good. Little Mix, Pitbull, Bastille and more callously abused my poor little ears until I found I could do nothing but curl up into a ball pleading ‘Turn it off, turn it off’. Needless to say the friends who had come over for dinner were not very impressed! BY JOHN BITTLES
For four days and four nights after this little episode I locked myself in a darkened room listening to nothing but The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth and The Cure in an attempt to make up for the horror I had endured.
Yet, after this mini breakdown I was able to pull myself together and give the joys of new music another go. And what a revelation that was! Hesitantly I let new sounds into my life and discovered the lush atmospherics of Fenster, the superior hip hop of Joe Kickass, the psychedelic rock of Lorelle meets the Obsolete, the funky house grooves of Magic Touch and so much more! And lo, my faith in new music was once again restored. Now, I present to you the cream of the crop; the records that have made me passionate about new music once again. Hope you enjoy!
Now that Spring is in the air what we all need is some music to reflect the cheer that the sun has finally brought into our lives. Palermo House Gang by Magic Touch takes the classic house template of the mid 80s and gives it an extra dollop of sunshine perfect for putting a smile on your face. I Need That Magic, Passion and It’s Love instantly have you wiggling your booty, even if, like me, you’ve only got a skinny little ass. A special mention must also go to the 13 minute House of Intuition which is fucking ace! If only all music was this good then the world would cease to be a cold and miserable place. Also out on 100% Silk this month is II by Golden Donna which contains seven wonderful tracks of proto-house goodness. Only someone very foolish wouldn’t want to check this out.
If, like me, you’ve become rather bored of the bragging and posturing that makes up 98% of modern hip-hop then The Average Joe by Joe Kickass may just be the album to win you back round. Recalling the skewed sonics of Roots Manuva the second long-player from the strangely named Joe Kickass has fab lyrics, devastating production and a sense of musical dynamism that make the record a head-nodders’ delight. With a flow reminiscent of Method Man tracks such as Switch, Crossfader and Superhero Stuff are real standouts on an album that’s a pretty fun listen and will almost make you believe that you grew up in the Bronx. That it is almost good enough to re-establish my love of rap probably tells you all you need to know.
The dream team pair-up of the month goes to Marcus Worgull and Danilo Plessow who make up Kompakt’s playmates of the month Vermont. Their self-titled debut album contains a wealth of gentle melodies, soft beats, and krautrock grooves perfect for sunny mornings. Danilo Plessow, otherwise known as Motor City Drum Ensemble works in perfect tandem with house music luminary Marcus Worgull to create fourteen tracks that explore a world of melodic ambience with no more than the hint of a beat. Tracks such as Sharav, Dynamik and Elektron glide by with such a sense of warmth that they could successfully calm down a demented fox. Together the duo have created an album of contemplative beauty that gently edges its way into your heart.
Altogether more raucous is Chambers the new album from Mexican psych Gods Lorelle meets the Obsolete. As you probably know any album mastered by Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 fame is going to be a little bit special, and this record really doesn’t disappoint! Waves of hypnotic psychedelic noise confidently seduce the listener until all thought of resistance has been thoroughly erased. Raw, dirty, yet thoughtful and definitely not polite, this is just the type of rock music that could convince kids that it IS cool to pick up that guitar. Tracks such as The Myth of the Wise, It’s Different Now and Music for Dozens do stand out, yet it is a complete blast to play the entire album in one go. Oh, and the band toured the UK to pretty devastating effect last year. So if they are ever playing in a town near you be sure to catch them live.
Coming after many years in the electronic music business, Max Cooper’s debut album Human is a varied listen that reflects a skilled producer at the top of his game. Opening with the evocative strings of Woven Ancestry the record then goes on to explore a wide range of musical styles and genres. More at home with subtle techno and deep trance not all of these experiments in sound work. Yet when they do the music is pretty damn sweet! Numb has a stilted garage vocal over a mournful Aphex Twin style synth while Automaton is a gorgeous trance delight recalling James Holden at his very best. In contrast Seething is a track of industrial noise that does nothing except destroy the mood and Adrift’s chopped-up vocal samples very quickly annoy. Overall though the hits far outweigh the misses in an album for which the skip button will come in useful every once in a while.
The whole skewed RnB scene is so hipster that one listen is enough to give you an ironic attitude and an angular haircut for life. Yet, if it is done well then some of the music is more that worth the risk of funny looks on the way to work. Out now on the ever excellent Ki Records, UR, the debut album by London duo Colo is a case in point. Rather than hiding behind a wall of couldn’t be bothered irony the duo have skilfully crafted a musically indulgent delight. Nick Smith’s soft vocals are backed by some wondrous sounds that recall the stilted beauty of Massive Attack at their very best. Take Mine, The View From Nowhere and Salsa are all obvious highlights, though listening to the entire album in sequence is a beautiful thing indeed. Not just for the scenesters!
After a gap of six long years German experimentalists The Notwist return with the angsty and groove-some Close to the Glass. Not since Kid A has rock music so successfully experimented in electronica as the band create an ambitious record that constantly surprises in its diversity of sounds. Signals and the title track open proceedings with a swirl of bleeps and beeps that combine perfectly with Marcus Acher’s mournful voice to create something you could dance to, almost. Seven Hour Drive and Kong are a thrilling mixture of Garage and Krautrock while From One Wrong Place to the Next sees the band in a more reflective mood. It is this willingness to try new things and push the sonic boundaries together with a rare musicality that makes Close to the Glass a very special album indeed.
Celebrating five years in the music business Jonny White’s No.19 Music label brings you a brand spanking new compilation of deeper than deep dancefloor bombs. Art Department, Louie Fresco and Nitin all feature in the aptly titled 5 Years of No.19 Music, a collection that will satisfy just about all of your house music needs. While not likely to bend the rules or push templates, the music on No.19 has a sense of melody and soul which takes it out of the merely functional 4/4 cliché. Eric Volta’s remix of Art Dept. is an early highlight while Nasty Boys by Aquarius Heaven and dOP is ghetto house that simply has to be heard to be believed. There is so much great house music out there right now that it would be easy to allow this comp to slip you by. That though would be a great mistake!
Recalling the quiet atmospherics of The XX and the druggy charm of The Velvet Underground, The Pink Caves, the second album from Berlin-based Fenster is a bit special. Sounding sombre and chilled the music hides some pretty dark David Lynch-like lyrics sung with aplomb by twin vocalists JJ Weihl and Jonathan Jarzyna. True Love is a perfect case in point with a gorgeous ambience that stirs the soul mixed with some rather chilling lyrics concerning some nefarious goings-on. Continuing this theme The Light also has a real gothic chill with its Nick Cave like vocals and softly booming bass. This is a dark and gloomy affair that gradually worms its way under your skin until you can’t help but feel at home within its welcomingly spectral world.
Remix albums are noxiously fickle beasts! For every great tune you have to sift through countless functional reworks whose only reason for existence seem to be to make you give up on life. Seabed – Remixed from R&S artists Vondelpark sees four tracks from the mostly down-tempo Seabed given multiple dancefloor makeovers. Factory Floor open the set with their remix of California Analog Dream which is a driving yet beautifully open interpretation that recalls Hardfloor at their peak. In contrast the Falty DL remix of Closer is a spooky beat-laden beast while the John Roberts version of Always Forever is a trippy epic that is certain to enrich your dreams. Debukas’ version of the same track successfully introduces some piano house into the mix and is another highlight of the set. Sure the Bullion and Happa remixes of California Analog Dream and Dracula may be a bit shit but with some great tunes this is one remix album that is a lot better than most.
Also well worth a listen is the latest of the Infinity Dub Sessions by Deadbeat which gives us eight dub-techno style tunes featuring the world-weary vocals of dub genius Paul St. Hilaire. The album’s eight tracks are perfect for nodding your head, sparking up a spliff, or just getting lost within the walls of echoing bass. The semi-spoken reggae-tinged vocals of Paul add a focal point within the album’s echoing booms that help tracks such as Hold on Strong and What the Heck Them Expect (now that’s a title!) move beyond the usual confines of the dub-techno mould. For those who like their music deep and dark then welcome to your new best friend.
Some rather tasty tech-tinged goodness can be found on the Don’t Be Leftout mix CD which has been lovingly compiled and mixed by best buds Matt Tolfrey and Ryan Crosson. Out at the end of March, (or the 28th April for those awaiting the digital) the album acts as something of a showcase for Matt’s own Leftroom label. Luke Solomon, Pezzner and Ricardo Villalobos all feature with killer tracks and remixes. Yet the mix isn’t one to rely on big names with Your Smile by Beneditto and Farina feat. Jaw being one of the best house tunes I have heard all year. If you don’t like house music then this is unlikely to win you over! But, for those who do, this mix represent a solid hour and a half of deep, grooving fun.
So that’s it for this month! Special mentions must also go to; Cocoon Neun mixed by Chris Tietjen which is a cool dancefloor centric mix for techno-heads everywhere, Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 fame with his self-titled debut album – a soft, focused folk-tinged listen that‘s as melancholy as it is good, and Glow by Tensnake – the plodding sound of someone who has completely given up on house, and every bit as bad as that sounds. Do yourself a favour and avoid!
| JOHN BITTLES