Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
This week has seen Putin unleash his new weapon against the West in the shape of the merciless »Beast From The East«. Of course, there is no better way to last out a snow storm than with a warm blankie and some good tunes. Therefore, this week I will be singing the praises of some new records which are not only shockingly good, they will make you feel all cosy inside. By JOHN BITTLES
We have some gorgeous ambiance from Recondite and Kenneth James Wilson, the lo-fi house delight of Palmbomen II, some dreamy indie from Soccer Mommy, the dub techno atmospherics of Shoreligths, and lots more.
So, before the Beast starts breeding, we had better begin…
After his excellent The Evening Falls album, Kenneth James Gibson returns to Cologne label Kompakt with the melancholy drenched soundscapes of his new LP. Originally conceived as an imaginary soundtrack, In The Fields Of Nothing is out on the 9th of March and according to the press release was inspired by “the steep ridges and stony paths of the San Jacinto mountains, staring at the star-studded dome or gazing into the quiet horizon of dawn”. The results are a rich, varied record full of depth and soul. Opener Hearing Unheard sounds dense and uneasy, a tension sitting heavy in the air. Much like Nick Cave and Warren Ellis‚ wonderful soundtrack for Wind River the song conjures images of open landscapes and claustrophobic lives. Next up, Far From Home is a mournful, yet beautiful track which suddenly springs into song halfway through. Other picks include the drone and piano interplay of Her Flood, the string-soaked strum of Further From Home and the heartbreakingly poignant eleven minute closer Unblinded. In short, In The Fields Of Nothing is a keeper, the type of record you want to take home to meet your mum. 9/10.
In 2017 Kai Hugo aka Palmbomen II released four 12” EPs on the Beats In Space imprint entitled Memories of Cindy Parts 1-4. This February saw Tim Sweeney’s record label return to the tracks, rebranding them as a double CD package. While the aforementioned Cindy’s identity is still something of a mystery, the songs dedicated to her memory focus on tender, unhurried house music with a beautifully retro sounding lo-fi air. Pure Tibet is an early highlight, gentle vocals over a one note synth line allowing the soft focus melody pride of place. Gorgeously atmospheric, this is the type of track which risks bringing on tears and outbreaks of hugging when played at any house party or warm up set. Further in, Seventeen sounds like a loved up Boards Of Canada after a night at Love From Outer Space, Pyrotechomarco is a spooky acid laced groover, Ultimate Lovestory Fantasy is a fantastic slice of Larry Heard style deep house, while Are You Friends With Amber? is a bleep heavy take on shoegaze. Beautifully realised from beginning to end, Memories Of Cindy is full of misty eyed nostalgia and the lushest of beats. Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a copy or two. 9/10.
Best known, perhaps, for emotive 303 laced jams on Acid Test and smooth deep house for labels like Innervisions, Bavarian producer Recondite changes the pace somewhat for his fifth LP. Full of melody rich ambiance and shuffling hip hop grooves, Daemmerlicht is out now on Lorenz Brunner’s own Plangent Records and finds the artist in reflective form. Rarely moving away from the sedate, the record is superbly focused and melds together wonderfully to create a body of work which entrances, taking the listener into a fully formed aural world. The title track opens the record with gentle, stuttering beats, unhurried percussion and a heartfelt melody. Resembling the subtle house purr of Leif, this is a track which demands repeated plays. Next up, Durch Den Hohlweg moves into soundtrack territory, its beat free sonics steeped in detail and atmosphere. Other picks include the spooky trip hop of Hoehlenlichter, the spectral beauty of Am Tag Danach and Unten’s tension heavy dirge. While the record will have limited appeal as a club based tool, Daemmerlicht’s melancholy tinged soundscapes act like a massage for the mind. 8.5/10.
Following well received releases on Orchid Tapes and Fat Possum Records, the superbly named Soccer Mommy returns to the latter with the lof-fi slacker musings of her new album. Long held up as one to watch by those in the know (Hi Aunt Jean!) Sophie Allison’s music as Soccer Mommy recalls the jangly pop of Aberdeen or Blue Boy one minute, the melancholic reflections of Phoebe Bridgers the next. Her first album proper, Clean retains the bedroom pop aesthetic fans have come to know and love. Quiet and intimate, the album’s ten songs reflect on love, loss, anger and more with Sophie’s distinct blend of world weary swagger. Early highlight, Cool combines a huge chorus with cutting lyrics and restrained ferocity to craft a winning slice of indie joy. Also be sure to check out the emotional guitar stirrings of Flaw, Last Girl’s 60s sounding cool and the widescreen epic Scorpio Rising, which builds to a crescendo worthy of Snow Patrol. Like a friend who is always there for you when you lose your cool over a boy or girl, Clean is a record you will want to have by your side. 8/10.
Over the last five years London imprint Houndstooth has become a byword for forward thinking dance music. Whether exploring bass heavy electronica through the low end assaults of Akkord, Call Super and Kahn, deconstructed pop music with the spectral beauty of Snow Ghosts and Aïsha Devi, or the futuristic house of Second Storey and Marquis Hawkes, everything the label releases is top drawer. This month Houndstooth celebrate their fifth birthday with Hound5tooth Five Years, a bumper 15 track compilation of deep, heady tunes. Available now as a free/name your price download here, the album collects hits, rarities and new tracks to give us a delicious sounding aural stew. Highlights include the motorik crunch of Vetiver by Snow Ghosts, the rich IDM of Call Super’s Black Octagons, Max Cooper’s glacial remix of In Autumn Arms by Guy Andrews and the gloriously epic Deep Wave version of Glass Body by Soft As Snow. It’s all good though, making Hound5tooth Five Years an enticing prospect for any electronic music fan. 8.5/10.
This week we’ll finish with the deep dub techno and spacial ambiance of Shorelights. A collaboration between Rod Modell of Deepchord & Echospace fame and Walter Wasacz and Christopher McNamara from the audio visual crew Nospectacle, Shorelights explore a nocturnal world of dense atmospherics and gently undulating bass. Out now on Subwax BCN, Ancient Lights is the follow up to the rural reflections of Summer Cottage Soundscapes which came out late last year. The opening salvo of Lake Not Ocean and Ipperwash Beach conjure a world of impressions, from isolated landscapes, breathtaking vistas and the quiet menace of walking hurriedly down darkened streets. Hansen’s Island meanwhile, gives us our first sighting of a beat, as over gently lapping waves we get sucked into a deeply hypnotic groove. The pace picks up further on the spacey techno crunch of Lighthouses, before dropping right down for the final crescendo of ambiance which is Love’s Crashing Waves and Fell From The Sky. A deeply immersive listening experience, Ancient Lights is tailor made for taking a break from your mind. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Lies Are More Flexible by Gusgus – Icelandic veterans Gusgus make a welcome return to our stereos this month with their unique brand of melody rich pop and techno, 8.5/10, Closer To The Stranger by Ilyas Ahamed – Trippy and undeniably dreamy, these eleven songs will keep you fine company during long, lonely nights, 8.5/10, Bosconi Stallions Vol. 2 by V/A – A triple vinyl compilation of good chunky house music featuring thirteen tracks of club slaying grooves, 8/10, No Fool Like An Old Fool by Caroline Says – Caroline Sallee’s sophomore album is full of laid back guitar led jams which will appeal to fans of Jen Cloher or Kurt Vile, 7.5/10, Red, White & Zero by East Man – Out now on Planet Mu, this collection of bass heavy raps and beats from Basic Rhythm’s Anthoney Hart is brutal, electric and great, 8/10, Gordon Raphael by Gordon Raphael – Psychedelic tinged rock music which merges elements of Talking Heads, R.E.M. and Interpol with aplomb, 7/10 and The Biophonic Boombox Recordings by The Nightcrawlers – Compiled from over 40 cassettes which the synth ensemble released over their long career, The Biophonic Boombox Recordings is a must for fans of spacey ambiance and early electronica, 8/10.
And let’s not forget: My Way My Rules by Güero – Out now on Robolledo’s always excellent You And Your Hippie Friends imprint, Güero’s debut LP is like a massive dose of Viagra for anyone partial to a bit of house, 9/10, Relative Positivity by Relative Positivity – Not much is known about the creator, or creators, behind this album of deep, bass heavy house and techno grooves, yet the one thing I can tell you is that it’s great, 8.5/10, Out Of The Dust by Hior Chronik – An album of melancholy soundscapes which linger long after the record has come to an end, 8/10, Drown by Fritz Kalkbrenner – Prolific Berlin native Fritz Kalkbrenner returns with an LP full of lush melodies, epic flourishes and emotion rich beats, 8/10, Ensenity by Emel – Emel Mathlouthi’s Ensen album receives the remix treatment from Cubenx, Ash Koosha, AGF/Delay and more, 8/10, Make Way For Love by Marlon Williams – Lovelorn and romantic, these eleven tunes will make any Richard Hawley fan go a little weak at the knees, 7.5/10, Moaning by Moaning – This much hyped LA trio burst onto the scene with the riotous swagger of their debut LP, 7/10 and Music For The Long Emergency by Polica + Stargaze – Berlin chamber orchestra Stargaze team up with American synth pop revivalists Polica for a rich, emotion drenched full-length, 8/10.