Another month gone, and thus time again to wrap up the best music I’ve heard recently – and once again, there is a lot of it. Not quite enough to make it to twenty songs, mind, but more than enough to be considering and discovering.
Tuesday Ten: 339: Tracks of the Month (July 2018)
2018 in Review
Once again, too, there is the distinct feel of variety and artists apparently being freer to go off and do their own thing, as barriers between styles continue to tumble down. There is music here from artists I’ve discovered at gigs, previously unknown-to-me artists that have come through on promo e-mails, and there are bands I’ve listened to for years. Hopefully there might be something new to you, too.
As usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
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Track of the Month
Joy as an Act of Resistance.
The current political stasis in the UK has been so desperately depressing, led by the Governing party tearing themselves apart over whether they support EU membership or not, even when the question was apparently “settled” in an advisory referendum. The really sad part, though, is the xenophobic, sometimes racist rhetoric that has been unleashed in the aftermath, as if a divisive vote over whether our country should continue to participate in the wider world and economy has given carte blanche to be ignorant, rude or worse.
So thanks, then, to IDLES for a reminder of the other side of the coin, the country that I know. A reminder that we in the UK are a country of immigrants, where we depend on them for a great many cogs to turn in our economy, but more importantly, that they are people like us, too. The song itself is an excellent skewering of anti-immigrant rhetoric, as a result, and it’s an insanely catchy song, too – with a sweet video showing the titular Danny Nedelko (a Ukranian friend of the band) dancing, larking about and making friends with everyone and anyone in an unnamed British City.
How I’ve managed to miss this up to now, I’d love to know. To me, they seem to be taking the ritualistic experiments of Rotting Christ on their recent album, and taking it to a logical extreme – one where the ominous textures of extreme metal are there, but the music is a ritualistic re-imagining of the past, and the results are absolutely staggering. There is chanting, thundering rhythms, a variety of other instruments, throat singing (!) and more. It’s also easy to see why a recently announced London show sold out so fast.
Side-projects in the wider industrial sphere are nothing new, of course – in fact, while I think about it, is there another genre where there is so much restless creativity? The result being all these side-projects – and this isn’t even Tom Shear’s first. In another away day from his main project Assemblage23, he has teamed up with Mari Kattman (Day Twelve, Mari & The Ghost, and a fairly frequent collaborator with iVardensphere), for a swooning, (for the most part) down-tempo sound that certainly has more than a nod to a certain movement from Bristol. The first single, which appeared on Electronic Saviors: Vol. 5, has a dramatic, headline-grabbing sweep and a sweetly melancholic air. Happily, the rest of the album is as good, which is out at the end of August.
You Have Been Protected
These guys were a new one on me when I got a promo through (and a recommendation as “something I’d like”), and I’m rather glad I took the plunge on this one. In short, they are a Leeds-based post-punk band, and as is usual in this style there are nods to the pioneers of old, but there is also here a perhaps more muscular, direct sound. The lead single Modern God is a great example of this. A metal-heavy low-end propelling the song forward, with deep, foreboding vocals in the verses giving way to a memorable, catchy chorus. A band I’d like to try and catch live at some point, too, that’s for sure.
Into the Sun
Into the Sun
The latest signing to Artoffact is something of a change, perhaps – a band best described as outstanding industrial-art-punk-metal whose previous material, particularly the rampaging Almost Gone, kicks like a field of mules. This new track from their upcoming album is perhaps a teeny bit more restrained, but not by a lot – rolling drums thunder through the mix, guitars rip out of the speakers like sharp knives, and it switches into a breakdown at one point that sounds like an entirely different song. There are a lot of ideas here, barely contained within five minutes, and I’m now fascinated to hear the rest of this. They also apparently played London earlier in the year, but I totally missed that one – and I have the distinct feeling I really missed out.
Perversions of Humankind
I’ve struggled a bit to get into previous ADULT. material, but there was something about this song that hooked me immediately. The punchy synth hooks and rhythm appeal hugely, and the vocals work really well with the song, that from the groups’ comment about the album, appear to suggest an album about introspection, self-doubt, and progress – and more importantly how those things intertwine. But at face value, this track has a cold, direct power to it, like a gaze that you can’t look away from.
from when i wake the want is
from when i wake the want is
One of my finds of the year, without a doubt, is Kathryn Joseph. She was the support to Mogwai at Meltdown, and performed a mesmerising thirty-minute set that I wanted to last even longer. Yes, there are a few nods to Tori Amos – tremulous vocals, clever piano work, quirky song titles – but those were quickly forgotten as I was drawn further into her music, a sensuous, otherworldly sound that demands repeated listens. I’ll doubtless be writing more about this, when the album is released in a couple of weeks time (and be warned, the video for this song is Not Worksafe).
Honey (feat. Sasha Grey)
It kinda blew my mind a little when listening to this group for over twenty years now – although I must confess I’ve lost touch a little bit of late, and this new single took me by surprise. The dreamy, woozy synths here dig into the psychedelic influences Richard Fearless has long since involved in his work, and Sasha Grey’s subtle, almost sleepy vocals work really well too – perhaps even better than her rather unheralded work in the experimental group aTelecine. Is this Fearless moving into another new realm?
Northern Chaos Gods
Northern Chaos Gods
Ok, so there’s no Abbath, but this still sounds like Immortal. It absolutely blasts out of the traps, providing exactly the kind of base Black Metal that I would always expect from the band, complete with the slightly odd lyrics and fantastical imagery. Indeed, various previous things reappear (Ravendark, Blashyrkh), but somehow without ever tearing down the previous myth – this feels genuinely like the remaining band members simply providing what the fans may want, without ever pushing things too hard or experimenting.
Love Is Magic
Love Is Magic
It’s only been three years since his last album, but somehow it feels so much longer – even though I’ve seen him perform a frankly staggering show at the Royal Albert Hall and release a side-project with Wrangler (Creep Show) in the meantime. After his previous two solo albums that have dealt with bitter loss and getting older respectively, this new song perhaps points toward a more positive album to come. Well, kinda. The title doesn’t seem to be ironic, either, instead this is a song that appears to be about taking the chances that come your way, that love really can be something great. The wry observations are still there, the gallows humour, hell, everything I already love about Grant’s songs. Bring on the album.
“Indonesian Post-Rock” is not a scene I’ve come across before, but on this evidence, perhaps I should be looking out for more, as this is great. It ticks all the boxes of post-rock that I’ve long loved, with elegance, beauty and drama all fighting for space amid short songs, and perhaps also reminds that post-rock is one of those genres of music that can come from anywhere. There are no geographical boundaries, or restrictions on language, of course, as often there isn’t any of the latter, and also perhaps it is palatable to regimes of all stripes, as music without vocals cannot be protest music, right? I’m fairly sure there is none of the latter here, mind, this is simply pastoral beauty.
Actually, funnily enough, Summer Effect isn’t the only band from the Far East that have piqued my interest recently. An American friend pointed me toward this chaotic Chinese band…who I could perhaps describe as post-punk-post-rock-electro-metal-avant-garde chaos. But even that would be selling them short. Amid the sonic carnage here – it takes a few listens to fully appreciate what on earth is going on – there is an eerie precision to the detail, in some respects similar to the approach that Battles took on the masterful Mirrored (where expected styles were hot-wired and grafted onto something entirely different), but there is less of the playfulness of that band as much of this takes a darker tone. This track – after a short intro track, this is the nine-minute opening track proper – is a barrage of rolling rhythms, thumping breakdowns, electronic experimentation and the distinct sense of a band expanding their horizons to a staggering extent.
Thin Hidden Hand
I wasn’t taken with Statiqbloom like many were last year – for me they were that bit too close to outright Skinny Puppy worship, frankly. That said, this new song – from a new EP – is at least trying to take things a bit further, even if the Puppy notes are still there. Vocals are very much second fiddle to the complex depth of the electronic wizardry on show here, with layer-after-layer of elements tossed into a mix that while combustible, is kept under control and nothing is obscured. The song isn’t band, either, and certainly more memorable for me than what I’ve heard so far from them.
Panic Lift struck me as one of those bands who probably should have gained a wider audience than they did in the first place. A bit of a sporadic release schedule – until now it’s been four years a time between albums, but this time it has been only two, and there is a feeling of urgency to this new album from the off that suggests the band themselves feel the same, as if they need to grab their chance while on Metropolis with both hands. The single Street Lights is, perversely, a more mellow track than the songs that surround it on the album, with processed, multi-tracked vocals and a slower pace that for sure isn’t aimed at the dancefloor (for that I’d be using the hammerblow beats of album opener Meat For The Queen), but in these days where the club-play isn’t so important, I don’t see why this would be a problem anyway. A solid return, this, from a band more should know about.
Sagaraki De (Hagazussa Version)
Hagazussa – A Heathen’s Curse OST
(music not yet available online)
One thing that being on various promo lists does do is bring to your attention bands you’d otherwise never have heard. Here’s the latest in a long line of such bands, one that delves into the otherworld of droning, doomy sounds and that unsettling feeling of sounds that are at points at the limits of one’s hearing. There are extraordinary bass frequencies here, and a lot of this doesn’t appear to be coming from guitars, but instead other instruments and presumably analogue synths too that culminate in a difficult, challenging listen. Needless to say I won’t be recommending this to my wife, but I suspect this will be of interest to many of my readers who do like a release that makes them work for the payoff.
The Light of Armageddon
Icon of the Adversary
(music not yet available online)
After what could charitably be described as a troubled past decade for the band – two periods of hiatus, occasional live performances, most of the band leaving (only Nero Bellum remains of the original line-up now), drug and other legal issues – I must confess that I’m rather surprised that the band are returning now. That said, their sound evolved in the mid-2000s into an impressive industrial/aggrotech/black metal hybrid that genuinely sounded different to everyone else (and the albums Crwn Thy Frnicatr and We the Fallen were both enormous leaps forward on their earlier work). I rather missed the album Order of the Shadow: Act 1, mind, so the appearance of this new release has me perhaps a little concerned. But going on what I’m hearing, at least, this is a strong return, at least if you like this kind of thing. The most striking song for me is The Light of Armageddon, which sounds like it is live from the battlezone as the kick drums rattle like machine gun fire, guitars and synths squalling through the mix, and Bellum’s vocals screeching through it. Yeah, so this will divide opinion, I’m sure, but it is for others to make up their own minds.