Bittles‘ Magazine | Record Review
So, now that we are on the brink of World War 3 due to the Ukraine crisis there is only one thing the politically apathetic among us can do; listen to some damn fine music and pretend that all is good with the world. Luckily, to help with this, we’ve had some pretty fantastic releases over these last few weeks with top albums by Jungle, Submerse, Honeyblood, Fhloston Paradigm and more hitting the shops and download sites. By JOHN BITTLES
And if you want to be political, and listen to great music, then can I suggest you get yourself a copy of the ›Grassroots‹ compilation of Ukrainian artists where you can sate your appetite for cool tunes, and help a good cause.
This month we’ll start with an album so summer sounding it may as well have been recorded on a beach, wearing flip flops and complaining about the sun. ›Jungle‹ is the brilliant self titled debut by a band, seemingly, at the very top of their game. The duo formerly existed in a haze of mystery, preferring to keep their identities secret from prying eyes. A joy from start to finish, the record should see the group step firmly into the big time, and will feature on countless albums of the year round-ups. Happy, euphoric and with a groove so good you want to woo it and take it home to your Mum, the tracks on here are funky as fuck and full of unmitigated fun. ›Busy Earnin’, Julia‹ and ›Lemonade Lake‹ stand out, yet every song rocks and picking highlights simply dilutes the enjoyment. In a very strong month for albums this one has undoubtedly been the one I’ve played the most.
Now that we have entered a post XX world it seems like there are more quiet indie types releasing slow introspective music than at anytime since the days of Slowdive and The Cocteau Twins. London based four-piece Woman’s Hour manage to excel in an oversaturated market due to the sheer delicateness of their songs, which, together with the puresense of beauty in their music makes them much more than mere copyists. ›To The End‹ burns with a quiet longing, while ›In Stillness We Remain‹ has an almost funky groove, and ›Two Sides Of You‹ is a stunningly beautiful ode to the power of love and loss. The latter’s repeated refrain of ›And If I Call You, I Will Call You By Your Name‹ gradually worms its way into your heart until it seems as essential as air. A truly spine-tingling album for those long, dark nights of the soul.
Next up we have ›The Phoenix‹, the debut album by the legendary King Britt under his Fhloston Paradigm alias. Another early contender for album of the year, the records’ futuristic Detroit style techno with its ever developing undercurrents of bass is a thing of singular beauty. It is wide in scope and brimming full of jaw-dropping moments that feel like they will stay with you forever. After the brief introduction of ›Portal 1‹ the album opens properly with the twisted sci-fi of ›Race To The Moon‹. From here we embark on an intergalactic journey, taking in the hazed funk of ›Chasing Rainbows‹, the lush futurism of ›Never Defeated‹ and the brazen drums of ›Never Forget‹, with plenty more to get excited about in between. And while a lot of techno music can sound somewhat cold and isolating, ›The Phoenix‹ positively bristles with emotion making it more than worthy of your time.
Yet another synth-pop duo out seeking fame and fortune are New York residents Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, otherwise known as Phantogram. ›Voices‹ is the dancefloor destroying follow-up to previous LP ›Eyelid Movies‹ which furthers their punishing yet lovely electronic sound. And very good it is too! More rock sounding than most rock bands this is not synth pop to play when you want to sit around the house feeling sorry for yourself. This is music that screams at you, urges you to dance, and then entices you to go out and commit a crime. Tracks like ›Black Out Days, The Day You Died,‹ and› Howling At The Moon‹ are ballsy delights giving the album a fresh invigorating feel with their crushing beats and impassioned vocals. Reminiscent of a more focused Sleigh Bells, Phantogram could well be your new favourite band.
Just out on the Berlin based ›Project: Mooncircle‹ label is the gloriously deep and chilled ›Slow Waves‹ by multi-talented producer Submerse. ›Slow Waves‹ is a more than fitting title, as what we get is a too short thirty minutes of trip hop beats, slowed-down melodies and stoner intellectualism so good it recalls the glory days of ›Ninja Tune‹ and ›Mo Wax‹. For instance, the dislocated synth on ›Math.‹ is a head-nodders dream, ›VHS.chords‹ contains a hip swaying hip hop beat, while ›Struck Out‹ ends the record with three minutes of exquisite aural bliss. With a trip hop revival strongly on the cards Submerse is leading the way for laidback beats.
Fans of loud guitar music will find tons to enjoy with Honeyblood, and their self-titled debut album which creates a beautiful racket of noise. The Glaswegian duo have been much praised in these climes, yet the combination of the countrified vocals, crashing drums and screeching guitars means they more than live up to the hype. A blast live, the album sees them ably capture the raw rock dynamic of their ramshackle gigs, meaning you can now listen to these songs without getting hassled by ‘cool types’ trying desperately to mosh. ›Fall Forever‹ and the wonderfully vindictive lyrics of ›Super Rat‹ open proceedings with a spectacularly exciting and spiteful air. Tracks like ›Bud, Choker‹ and ›All Dragged Up‹ meanwhile, are sure-fire party starters that still manage to retain a cutting air. Sure, the world might be drowning in bright young duos with good looks and a Black Keys fetish right now, yet Honeyblood are more than talented enough to be around for a very long time to come.
If Honeyblood aren’t quite hipster enough for you then you should probably check out ›Liminal‹, the debut album from melancholy soul-terrorists The Acid. Fans of ominous contemplative lyrics, gut shattering bass and tear inducing music will find much to love in the album’s gloriously dense electronic feel. Spacious programming from former break-beat don Adam Freeland and production wiz Steve Nelepa combine majestically with the wounded sounding vocals by Ry X to make this one of the most exquisitely downhearted albums you will hear all year. Imagine Burial jamming with The XX and you are close to imagining their sound. Beautifully paced and vocally involving ›Liminal‹ is emotional indie music for the post-dubstep world.
Fans of deep as fuck techno should be thanking their industrial Gods this month in praise of the release of ›Fabric 77‹ mixed by none other than ›Berghain‹ mainstay Marcel Dettmann, Out on the 18th of August the album is a bleak, tough, yet surprisingly groove-some trip into the world of all things techno. ›Arthure Iccon‹ by Ryan James Ford opens the mix in dramatically atmospheric fashion before cuts by the likes of Answer Code Request, Norman Nodge and Marcel himself make sweaty chests everywhere pound in delight. Recalling the excellent Sandwell District edition of a few months ago this mix is definitely not for the beginner, but it will find a lot of love from those who like their music with lots of echo, dub and delay. Another quality mix from ›Fabric‹!
›Tell Me I Belong‹ is the rather fab debut album by Brooklyn-based and cunningly named Jim-E Stack. What first becomes apparent upon pressing play is that Jim-E’s jazz background seems to have given him a wonderful ear for creating rhythmically complex songs that overflow with ideas and emotional peaks. Utilising an assortment of influences to create something soothingly laid-back, elements of hip hop, house, ambient, soul and rave combine beautifully to create a sound 100% his own. Best listened to as an immersive whole, the tracks ›Below‹ and ›Reassuring‹ still manage to stand out due to their heart-stopping piano lines and nostalgia inducing trip-hop beats. A great little album for those times when you just want to lie back and chill.
Easily the heftiest package of the month comes in the form of ›Tour De Traum VIII‹, mixed as ever, by the wonderful Riley Reinhold. What you get for your hand-earned cash is over 10 hours of vital music that covers all elements of the electronic world. And with fantastic trance-tinged tracks by the likes of Extrawelt, Max Cooper, Dominik Eulberg, together with a wealth of top tunes by hordes of relative unknowns, this is definitely fantastic value for money. While the average listener may never get around to playing every track on here the two sublime mixes by Riley are more than worthy of your time. Their five hours duration flies by due to the subtle and skilful mixing that lends both sets an absorbing and emotional feel. Fans of European house and techno are in for a real treat here.
So that’s it for this month. And to think we almost didn’t have time for: ›Sankey’s 20 th Anniversary Album‹ by Darius Syrossian – a hot and sweaty double CD with disc 1 containing all new tracks by club resident Darius himself, ›Grassroots: United Over Ukranie‹ – a nice little double disc highlighting Ukrainian artists and containing glorious ambience, beefy techno and all sorts in-between, ›The Voyager‹ by Jenny Lewis – the type of gorgeous pop that you didn’t think was even made anymore, and the ›Gasoline‹ comp by Comeme – a mad, yet fantastic collection of grin inducing funky house.