Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
Now that we have moved to a monthly format I have had lots of time on my hands. Rather than trying to listen to numerous albums a day I have been able to take my time and get to know the nuances of some hand-picked gems. This month I will be dissecting some of the the best LPs to hit the shops so far this year. We have the haunted electronica of Pye Corner Audio, the emotion rich indie rock of Twilight Sad, the fuzz-filled psychedelica of Toy, Deerhunter’s immaculate return, and lots more. By JOHN BITTLES
So, make sure you are emotionally and psychologically prepared, and let us begin…
Fans of timeless sounding electronica are in for a treat this month with the eagerly anticipated return of Pye Corner Audio. Hollow Earth is out now on UK label Ghost Box and finds Martin Jenkins conjuring fifteen deep electronic masterpieces where traces of house, techno, dub and ambiance merge. Conceived as a sequel of sorts to the spectral pulse of Stasis, Hollow Earth, according to the press notes “takes subterranean exploration and submerged psychologies as its theme”. The title track gets things off to a divine start, mournful synths merging with spacious atmospherics and evocative melodies to create a song which should be soundtracking a moment of wonder too beautiful to put into words. Next, Descent adds a slightly ominous air to proceedings, its tension offset by a gentle melody line. Other highlights include the spine-tingling Italo house groove of Mindshaft, the hauntingly beautiful ambiance of Imprisoned Splendour, the slow-paced squelch of The Seventh Labyrinth, and the elastic synth pulse of Buried Memories. Spellbinding from beginning to end, Hollow Earth is nothing short of sublime. 10/10.
Scottish rockers The Twilight Sad step back into the limelight this month with It Won’t Be Like this All The Time. With James Graham’s evocative vocals thrust to the fore, the album is a glorious cocktail of melancholy post-punk anthems which contain enough emotional force to have you crying into your pint one minute, howling at the moon the next. The fabulous (10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs) opens the album in stunning style, huge synths, a killer bass groove and passionate vocals combining to create a track which hits you like a punch to the gut. The Sonic Youth style Shooting Dennis Hooper Shooting follows, its quiet-loud dynamic impressive to behold. In an album full of highlights make sure to check the lullaby-like poppiness of The Arbor, the driving krautrock groove of I/m Not Here (Missing Face), the stadium sized Auge/Maschine, and Girl Chewing Gum’s breathless build up of passion and noise. Warning, The Twilight Sad are for life, not just for Christmas. 9/10.
Echospace regular and dub techno legend CV313 returned to the album format in January with the spacious soundscapes of Glass City Sessions. Formed of five long tracks this is the type of music made for listening to with your mind open and your eyes closed. Based on live recordings created in “an old dingy warehouse about 10 miles out of downtown Detroit”, the album finds Stephen Hitchell merging beats, atmospherics and bass to fashion a record which sounds as timeless as the sea. Opener Belle Isle Symphonics is a fathoms deep groover. Whether heard as part of a warm up set in Berghain or on headphones on the way home from the club it is all but guaranteed to send shivers creeping up the spine. Next, Masonic Mystic is even deeper, creating an unsettling yet mesmeric atmosphere over its fourteen minute running time. On the second disc, Stars Above Elmwood is the album’s highlight, a dub techno master-class of low end bass and melancholic chords. Of the other tracks, Two Way Inn is a heady slice of ambiance, while Eloise’s Theme ends things on a spectacular high. Available only on vinyl, make it your mission to track this down. 9/10.
Usually by the time bands get to their eight album the creative juices have dried up and the struggle to remain relevant in an uncaring world has taken its toll. Not so indie rockers Deerhunter whose new LP Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is dynamic and assured. With vocalist Bradford Cox in fine voice throughout, the album merges wide-eyed romanticism, heavy hearted nostalgia and science fiction lullabies with aplomb. Death In Midsummer opens the album with some Bob Dylan style strumming and a soft wistful air. The song’s crisp, clean sound means it is as close to pop as the band have ever come. Next, No One’s Sleeping utilizes electronic atmospherics and some retro guitar to craft a tune which eagerly tugs at the soul. Further in, the synth-pop strut of Greenpoint Gothic, the bitter-sweet oddness of What Happens To People?, the Grouper style loveliness of Tarnung and the deranged majesty of Nocturne all stand out. For those who say that indie music is devoid of ideas Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is a much needed slap in the face. 8.5/10.
Brighton based band Toy have been creating a buzz for a few years now. Their self-titled debut from 2012 is still a firm favourite of mine, while their live sets are a furious build up of groove and noise. Early 2019 finds the group delivering what may well be their best album in years. Happy In The Hollow is out now via Tough Love Records and is full of blurry psychedelic jams. Reminiscent of Psychic Ills, Spacemen 3, or a stoned Brian Jonestown Massacre, Toy can be fierce and heavy one minute, spacey and tranquil the next. The album opens with the twin assault of Sequence One and Mistake A Stranger, where hazy keyboards and restrained guitars accompany Tom Dougall’s vocals to create a mesmerising musical stew. From here, Energy brims with rock n‘ roll swagger, Last Warmth Of The Day is so laid-back it almost sounds like it needs a nice lie down, The Willo is seven plus minutes of rich psychedelica, while You’d Make Me Forget Myself sounds like a lost shoegaze anthem. An album that sucks you in over repeated plays, Happy In The Hollow is all the better for sounding like a record lost in time. 8/10.
A special mention must also go to: Twenty Five by Dole & Kom – After twenty five years in the game, German duo Dole & Kom present their debut LP. Lush and melodic, it is an album you will find yourself returning to again and again, 9/10, Hypnagogia by BNJMN – An album of lush ambiance and beguiling techno from Ben Thomas, which is hypnotic and deep, 8.5/10, Back To Mine by Nightmares On Wax – Warp stalwart George Evelyn presents a selection of funk, soul, house and hip hop which will lift the spirit of even the most jaded of souls, 8/10, Sasami by Sasami – Out early March on Domino, the Cherry Glazerr synth player’s debut solo album is a bewitching mix of heartfelt confessional and slacker rock cool, 8/10, A Different Forest by Hauschka – Volker Bertelmann arrives on Sony Classical with an album of mournful piano pieces. Beautifully evocative, this is the the perfect soundtrack to watching the rain fall from the sky, 8/10, Who Else by Modeselektor – Back with their first album since 2011, the duo merge electronica, techno, grime and more on a fresh, invigorating record which refuses to sit still, 7.5/10, Encores 2 by Nils Frahm – At times overwhelmingly beautiful, the second volume of Nils‘ Encores series could make your heart sing, 8.5/10 and Being Water by Lali Puna – Out early March on the always wonderful Morr Music imprint, this dreamy five track EP is all but guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Also, be sure to check Dave DK’s epic remix of Wear My Heart which closes the record in stunning style, 8/10.