Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
There have been some pretty huge albums released over the past few weeks. From the return of Depeche Mode and The Jesus And Mary Chain, the schizoid pop of Goldfrapp and the electro funk japery of, er, Jamiroquai spring 2017 seems to be the season for massive LPs. But what of the fantastic albums by artists which aren’t heavily advertised, or don’t command reviews in the broadsheets? By JOHN BITTLES
This week I will be giving the underdogs their chance to shine by highlighting some of the fantastic records which may have been lost in the crush. We have the full phat bassquakes of Bug Vs Earth, the melancholy electro of TenGrams, the lonesome folk of Julia Holter, the strange electronica of Clark and Varg, and tons more.
So before overly hyped new records by Slowdive, Gorillaz, Unkle, Ride and Alt-J hit the shelves and steal all the plaudits, we had better begin.
Those who like their music noisy and full of attitude are in for a treat this spring as eardrum botherer The Bug teams up with ambient noise legend Earth for an album which gently caresses your head one minute before digging its nails in the next. In other words, it’s pretty great! Concrete Desert is out now on Ninja Tune (who else would have the balls to release this?), and finds Kevin Martin and Dylan Carlson adopt the Bug Vs Earth alias to give us ten bassbin battering jams. Opener, City Of Fallen Angels is wonderfully atmospheric, lulling the listener into a sense of quiet contemplation before the crashing guitars, ominous synths and overpowering bass of Gasoline blasts its way straight to your gut. Next up, Agoraphobia is a cool guitar led drone, which resembles Spacemen 3 if they were immaculately stoned, while Snakes Vs Rats is the sound of urban menace, moral panics and knife fights. Other picks include the dark dystopian throb of American Dream, the heady low-end squelch of Don’t Walk These Streets, and the deconstructed dubstep of Hell A. Aurally thrilling, and heavy as hell, Concrete Desert is a record which will either delight, or alienate your friends. 9/10.
Every so often an album will arrive, seemingly out of nowhere, which completely takes your breath away. One record to have this effect on me is the excellent Outerspace Blues by TenGrams, which seduces and entices over eight meticulously constructed electro grooves. All the knowledge and skill accrued during long and varied careers (the pair of Alessandro and Davide Piatto have been in the electronic music game since the 1970s) can be heard in the record’s hardware heavy, funk filled jams. The title track opens proceedings in spectacular style, its sci fi samples and meticulous construction bringing to mind the deep aural textures of Convextion or B12. Other gems include the Tin Man-style acid-flecked house of Please, Wash My Brain Again, the gorgeous synth crunch of Triffids Love, the soft techno pulse of Don’t Do Drugs, and Everyone Is Worth Saving’s richly evocative groove. Out now on David Piatto’s own N.O.I.A. Records imprint, Outerspace Blues is a highly emotional album sure to add a touch of class to any stereo. 9/10.
Following the success of Villager’s Where Have You Been All My Life?, Domino Records officially launch their new Documents series of live studio recordings with a fabulous new album from Julia Holter. Named after a song from her earlier album Ekstasis, In The Same Room is rich, evocative and finds the vocalist in mighty fine voice. Recorded at RAK Studios in a mere two days, the record features Julia and her band (Corey Fogel on drums and vocals, Dina Maccabee on viola and vocals, and Devin Hoff on double bass) pairing back highlights from previous albums, and in the process giving them an emotional resonance that is hard to ignore. Songs like Silhouette, How Long?, and City Appearing sound so intimate it almost seems as if they are being performed right in your room. Lucette Stranded On The Island meanwhile fuses Julia Holter’s hushed vocals with gentle pianos to stunning effect, while the eight minute long Vasquez is a wonderfully reflective musical sigh. Heartfelt, and beautiful, In The Same Room is a record more than willing to hold your hand any time you’re feeling sad or blue. 8/10.
Nordic Flora Series Pt. 3: Gore-Tex City is Swedish artist Jonas Rönnberg’s third album under the Varg moniker to be released in the past 12 months. In lesser hands this might merely be an example of the laws of diminishing returns. If anything though, Gore-Tex City is a more fully realised LP than any of his previous works. If you are able to ignore the hideous cover, what you’ll find is an ambient techno album full of personality and depth. Opener Champagne Ceremonies is a song full of sci fi soundscapes and a sense of mournful longing which tugs on your soul. From here, the album explores a series of darkened alleyways, spectral visions, and a sense of creeping unease over thirteen mesmerising tunes. Picks include the deranged, yet inspired pairing of hypnotic beats and tranquil pianos on Red Line (114 Östermalmstorg – 127 Vårberg), the Vangelis synth and bass pulse of Gore Tex, and the electro squelch of Red Line II (127 Sätra C) 4. Techno fans with open minds should dive right in! 8.5/10.
Houndstooth artist Paul Woolford dons his Special Request alias once again this spring to mix the 91st segment of the celebrated FabricLive series. A producer who is the master of many styles and genres, when you first approach a new Paul Woolford release you’re never quite sure what you’re going to find. His mix for London club Fabric showcases the wealth of sounds in his repertoire. The mix starts off in glorious IDM mode, with Special Request’s own Telepathic Dog merging perfectly with Caustic Window’s Cordialatron, before the abrasive electro pop of Solitude by DJ Stingray introduces some booty shakin‘ grooves. From here, tough techno from the likes of Polygon Window, Dexter, and Alden Tyrell flit seamlessly between the glacial electronica of Claro Intelacto, the drum n‘ bass rumble of Dillinja, and more, before tracks by ASC, Mika Vaino, Carl Craig and Abul Mogard end things on an ambient high. Propulsive and deliciously sordid, FabricLive 91 is guaranteed to get the party started in any room. 8/10.
This month we’ll finish with Warp artist Clark who returns to the label for the electronic trickery of his eight LP. Death Peak is a disorientating, yet immersive listen which immediately grabs your attention and refuses to ever let go. While Chris Clark has never quite been able to rid himself of his Aphex Twin and Autechre fixations, his music has grown since 2001’s Clarence Park to establish a singular a voice all his own. The results, as evidenced on Death Peak, occasionally touch on the sublime! After a brief intro, Butterfly Prowler bursts from the speakers with a series of bleeps, beats and choral voices which thrill to the core. Next, Peak Magnetic sounds like Lone lost and teary at a rave. Also be sure to check out the dramatic swell of Catastrophe Anthem and the political rage of closer Un U.K. A word of warning though, this is about as far from easy listening as it’s possible to get. And, while some tracks seem more disposable than necessary in an album a mere 40 minutes long, this is still a worthy listen for unsettled times. 7/10.
A special mention must also go to: Endless by Tale Of Us ・ House duo Matteo Milleri and Carmine Conte eschew the beats entirely on their debut LP with the melancholy rich ambiance of Alla Sera, Ricordi, and Destino starring in an album full of gorgeously horizontal hues, 9/10, Providence by Nathan Fake ・ Released back in March, the Ninja Tune artist’s fourth album showcases a producer pushing the envelope to rediscover his sound, 8/10, Incidents by Mr. C ・ The one time Shamen vocalist and house legend makes a very welcome return this month with the acid drenched flavours of his new LP, 8/10, 8AM by Teengirl Fantasy ・ No, not a collection of all your favourite boybands! Instead Logan Takahashi and Nick Weiss give us a record of hazy electronics and downbeat moods, 8/10, Emblematic Ruin by Verge ・ Irish producer Andre Gough debuts on Shifted’s Avian imprint with a killer extended EP of melancholic techno drones, 7.5/10, Doris And The Daggers by Spiral Stairs ・ Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg has been quiet of late (this is his first solo album in eight years), but the ten art rock pieces which make up Doris And The Daggers will reward those fans with the patience to wait, 7/10, Dots And Pearls 4 by Markus Fix ・ Groove filled house and tough techno combine in a mix which showcases all that is good about Sven Väth’s Cocoon Recordings, 8/10, and Lo-Fi by Computer Graphics ・ After a short break, Dream Catalogue re-emerge from winter hibernation with the experimental house and soft melodic thud of Russian artist Alexey Devyanin’s fab new LP, 8/10.
And let’s not forget: Emergence Remixed by Max Cooper ・ How do you improve upon an album like Max Cooper’s Emergence, which is one of the most startling and beautiful albums of electronica you are ever likely to hear? You don’t! Instead, reworks by Christian Lfler, Rival Consoles, Vessels, Patrice B舫mel, John Tejada, etc keep the stunning melodies of the originals, but steer them ever so slightly towards the floor, 9/10, Mind Merge by Orlando Voom & Juan Atkins Present Frequency vs Atkins ・ Two legends of techno team up for an album which, even at its harshest is a master class in funk, 8/10, Songs For William 3 by Ulrich Troyer ・ The final part of Ulrich Troyer’s ‚experimental dub‘ trilogy is a gorgeous thing indeed. Playing it on repeat will help you forge a lifelong friendship with your ears, 8.5/10, Read Between The Lines by Klute ・ Four years after his last LP Tom Withers returns with his 8th album under the Klute moniker, a record which runs the full gamut of drum n‘ bass, 8/10, Silk by HVOB ・ Trance tinged house and pop heavy electronica combine on a record full of vocal delights, 7/10, Before Music There Is Blood by Soundwalk Collective ・ The trio of Stephan Crasneanscki, Simone Merli and Kamran Sadeghi arrive on the legendary Apollo Records with a record of lengthy, atmospheric pieces to snuggle up to on long, sleepless nights, 7/10, and Galvany Street by Booka Shade ・ The one time dance floor energisers step away from the club sounds with which they made their name for an album of dark electronic pop, 6.5/10.