Still Lost Inside The Velvet Trail: March New Album Reviews Pt. 2.

Music | Bittles‘ Magazine

Have you heard the new Madonna record yet? Terrible! The entire time I was listening to it the only thing I could think was »That poor woman!«. Whoever advised her that songs like Bitch I’m Madonna were a good idea deserves to be locked in a room with Mark Ronson for an entire day. Luckily there is some fantastic new music out there which more than makes up for the inane racket created by the Peter Pan of pop. By JOHN BITTLES

For example we have Vessels, Fort Romeau, Phildel, Mu-Ziq, SCNTST, Mike Simonetti and more bringing out albums which ably counteract all the shit you find in the charts. You might also notice that this week begins a brand new trend where I give each album a rating out of ten. The powers that be were against it, and have made numerous attempts on my life, but until I get bored of it, this new regime is here to stay.

So, put on your cowboy hat, ensure your whiskers are well groomed, that the cat is fed, and let us begin…

Dilate VesselsThis week we’ll start with an album which has been rocking my stereo ever since it came into my life. Dilate by former math rockers Vessels sees the Leeds-based four piece move away from the post rock of their previous output and into the world of groove-some techno and late night electronica. This is so good one listen can give you an erection for a week (not clinically proven). Demanding loud, repeated plays, Dilate is a complete joy from beginning to end. Opener Vertical excels with some deep, dark beats, heralding the arrival of a glorious wave of synths that are so exhilarating they recall the majesty of Laurent Garnier at his very best. From here the album contains so many outstanding moments that it is hard to know where to start. There’s the slow-build, euphoric rush of Elliptic, the hands in the air techno of Attica, the heart-stopping grandeur of On Monos, to name but a few. If you haven’t heard of Vessels before then trust me when I say this is the best thing you may ever hear. 10/10.


Fort Romeau600Also excellent, and out on the 31st March, Londoner Mike Greene follows up his excellent Kingdoms LP which came out on LA’s 100% Silk in 2012 with the jaw-droppingly good Insides. Once again recording under the Fort Romeau moniker, his second album finds Mike further exploring a rich, funky world of deep-sounding house. Apparently inspired by the concept of “slow listening” Insides contains eight tracks of the type of lush, textured analog house that makes the heart swell in awe at the wonder of it all. Opener New Wave is like a deeply melodic collision between Caribou and Larry Heard, while Folle is so enchanting that it makes the perfect soundtrack to a nice, warm hug. Upping the pace a little, the title track revels within a jackin’ groove, Not A Word sounds like Natalie Portman whispering seductively in your ear, Lately is exquisitely crafted trance, while Cloche makes for a heart-stopping finale. In case you haven’t got the picture yet, this is a stunning album that will enrich your life. 9/10.


Phildel qiNext up we have some beautiful piano ambiance in the form of Qi by the supremely talented Phildel. The Disappearance Of The Girl from 2013 was a remarkably emotional collection of heartfelt songs which spoke directly to the soul. The follow-up cuts out the vocals for the most part and highlights the artist’s piano playing, together with her ability to create an atmosphere instead. What this adds up to is a beautiful and melancholic body of music which will work at dinner parties, cuddling with loved ones, or late-night reflections of the soul. For instance, second track Icarus is a song filled with such a sense of sadness and despair that, on first play, it reduced me to tears. Some of the shorter pieces such as Dragonfly Keeper, Piano B and The Kiss can feel more like sketches rather than fully realised songs, yet if you allow yourself to be swept away into Phildel’s rich, romantic world then you are in for a real treat. 8/10.


Atom nationAs anyone who knows me will attest, I have a huge man-crush on the Atomnation label. I have been getting counselling, but how can I get better when they keep releasing music as good as Portable Sunsets‘ sophomore album Bless? The album’s tracks exist in the world between ambient, trance and house to wondrous effect. The title-track gets things off to a spectacular start with a heady synth line and a seductively low BPM. From here we are treated to an exquisite listening experience where Portable Sunsets pushes swathes of melody to the fore. Crosby has a central chiming riff, a cheeky Aphex Twin-style sample and a thoughtful air. The top tunes continue with the epic trance of Ledges (sounding like vintage PVD), while Islander Version is simply beautiful and Screen Presence ends the album with a dramatic flourish that stirs the heart. Sublime house music for those with soul! 8/10.


Pale-Blue-Cover600x600Fans of Italians Do It Better, shimmery disco, or the Drive soundtrack are going to adore the sultry majesty of The Past We Leave Behind by Pale Blue. Pale Blue is the new alias by the legendary Mike Simonetti, and is the debut release on his newly formed 2MR (2 Mikes Records) label. Those who are aware of Mike’s previous output will know what to expect here; dreamy electronica with heartfelt vocals, disco sleaze and an over-arching air of wistfulness which could make even a grizzled old punk cry into his beer. Tracks such as The Scars, Tougher, Dusk In Parts and One Last Thing simultaneously manage to sound like a Giorgio Moroder record from the early 70s and something refreshingly new. Disco deviants and die-hard romantics should dive right in! 7/10.


Matthew E WhiteMatthew E. White’s debut album Big Inner seemingly came out of nowhere in 2012 to win over the hearts and minds of folkies, hipsters and indie kids alike. The follow-up, Fresh Blood, has just been released and sees the singer further develop his soft, seductive, oddball repertoire. Sounding like a lost soul record from the 60s, Fresh Blood is a relaxed, feel-good affair that could charm the leg of a donkey. Rock & Roll Is Cold combines jangly guitar, an almost spoken-word vocal and a sing-along chorus to create a four minute smile-inducing slice of heaven. Holy Moly further seduces, while Feeling Good Is Good Enough is a quietly devastating story about a couple attempting to rekindle a long burnt-out flame. Album highlight, Love Is Deep, meanwhile, is a deep, sensual ode to the joy of love. Like a long, warm cuddle, this is an album to replace those worn out Barry White records for all you Casanovas out there. 7/10.


dsr135_In Fields_Phantoms - copieAfter killer releases on I’m A Cliché, La Belle and Daniel Avery’s Kill Em All, this March sees analogue-loving London duo In Fields enter the world of the long-player with the loose-limbed funk of Phantoms. The album excels in presenting a rough, ragged form of house with a deep, driving dynamic and a serious sense of groove. Made to get asses moving and dance floors firing, this is next level shit which is the perfect melding of man and machine. You can imagine Andrew Weatherall rinsing the likes of Speakeasy, Stage 14, or Out From The Cold to simply devastating effect. Yet, the record never feels one dimensional or one-paced thanks to moments of quiet reflection and some mid-paced gems. For instance, Serpentine bristles with a sense of cosmic funkiness, Get Loose has an elastic sounding bassline which is like a massage for the mind, while Omega ends the album with a subdued piano refrain. All of which makes Phantoms a bona fide treat. 9/10


µ-ZiqPlanet Mu boss Mike Paradinas returns to his Mu-ziq alias after last years Weird Drift album as Heterotic with the edgy IDM of the XTLP. A compilation of tracks from two previous EPs, together with one brand new tune, the record is a beguiling mix of fractured beats, swirling atmospherics, and just the slightest hint of nostalgia. Long gone are the days of angular experiments in the domain of noise, as Mike’s music now explores a more sedate, clean and gentle world. XT opens proceedings as a six minute long moment of heart-stopping beauty, Ritm is a misty eyed ode to the past, while Taxi Sadness combines snaking breakbeats and morose synths to create a track which lingers long in the mind. We also get the synth-pop delight of Pulsar, the euphoric rush of Monj2, the devastatingly beautiful RPG and the languid dub groove of Tambor. Containing more moments of outstanding beauty than a trip around the world, XTLP is a record which deserves to be heard by all. 8/10.


Michal Lewicki600Further downbeat delights can be found in Ton, the rather lovely and not very imaginatively named debut album by Michal Lewicki. Already in good record shops and download sites, the record contains eleven tracks of soft, pastoral techno which may not set the dance floor alight, but come into their own on headphones, or the stereo at home. Tracks like One, Onno and the Gidge-esque Nodobra stand out, yet this is an album which is wonderful to listen to from beginning to end. There are hushed beats and spell-binding melodies aplenty in a quiet, understated album which slowly, but surely worms its way into your affection. And that is no bad thing! 8/10.


even temperEven more electronic goodness is on offer on Worriedaboutsatan’s new LP Even Temper. Better known as Ghosting Season, Even Temper sees the duo re-adopt an earlier moniker to give us eight tracks of soundtrack- inspired darkness. The wonderfully titled I’m Not Much, But I’m All I Have opens the album with a melancholy piano refrain and a quiet, menacing air. This mood is further developed with the eerie synths on Sleep Of The Foolish, the alien melodies on Church Of Red and the spooky vocals on MV Joyita. Ideal for playing in darkened bedrooms when all feels wrong with the world, this has a wonderfully spectral and otherworldly feel which sucks the listener right in. Far too good for goths, make a beeline for this if you like a bit of blackness in your life. 7/10.


Uffe-Radio Days600x600Next up we have some trip hop delights in the form of Radio Days, the debut album by Uffe. The album presents the listener with a succession of slow, languid grooves, in a set which pulses with a steady, down-tempo vibe. Curtains starts things off with a sequenced jazz flourish, while Die For You (I Won’t) resembles something released on mid 90s Mo‘ Wax.
Space Loop brings a welcome injection of funk, I Can Show You High injects the soul, while tracks like Saw You Laughing, Lemon Nights and For A While explore instrumental hip hop, electro and lounge music in turn. While not exactly essential, Radio Days at least sounds like nothing else hitting the shops this month. For that fact alone it is more than worthy of your time. 6/10.


scntst 600A special mention must also go to: Late Night Tales by Jon Hopkins – A gloriously heady mix of ambient, jazz and late night electronica that is a beautifully laid-back affair 8/10, MDR Compilation by Various – A deep and edgy techno compilation on Marcel Dettmann’s label which collects eight previously unreleased tracks by Answer Code Request, Anthony Parasole, Norman Nodge and more 8/10, Sonnet by Benoit Pioulard – Like Mogwai without the noise, Sonnet is a delightfully wistful collection of instrumental dreams 6.5/10, Das Unheimliche by Honzo – Tough, tough techno for tough, tough boys (and girls) which is perfect for those who find solace in Aphex Twin’s more unlistenable moments 5/10, Also by Also – I was really excited about this team-up between Appleblim and Second Storey, but apart from the deep bass throb of Ashford Swaithes it left me somewhat under-whelmed 5/10, Puffer by SCNTST – A truly stunning audio collage with elements of ambient, house, techno, garage and more vying for your attention 9/10, and The Race For Space by Public Service Broadcasting – Utilizing instrumental rock and electronica together with vintage samples from the space programme makes for a surprisingly satisfying and unique listening experience. Highly recommended! 8/10.


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