Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Listogeddon: My Top 35 Albums Of 2016



It's not often that I find myself venturing into political diatribe or any kind of outburst of cultural anguish on this site; life is, after all, too short to actively seek out terrible music. But 2016 twisted the definition of acceptability and community so far beyond the pale and in so many different directions that it seems almost reckless to not rely on what makes us the happiest in amongst all the darkness people have had to endure this year. That is not, I should say, a validation of the belief that bad political situations spurn great music and, in reality, no one actually believes that further systematic demoralisation of women and ethnic minorities is worth a killer new Black Flag album. But the power of music's vindictive, comforting and sensitive nature feels strikingly relevant this year, whether it be dealing with the heartbreak of the death of a loved one on Touche Amore's Stage Four or complete uncertainty of the future on Solange's A Seat At The Table. Death is, of course, a sort of tragic navigator through the themes and resonance of much of the music released this year; there are several records in this list which, if not completely informed by it, are indeed shaped by it. True and depressingly enough, oftentimes in 2016 it felt like the end of T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men was starkly accurate.

Nevertheless, it's the sheer joy of music that End Of Year lists attempt to exhume and, although the exercise of list-making has been made not much short of redundant thanks to certain publications' insistence to post a new one every three days, personal, independent lists still, I believe, delve right to the heart of what music means to people. A quick bit of clearing up is almost always required to try and at least slow the deluge of anger that these lists seem to inspire in their respective comments sections, so for the sake of clarity:

- These albums are not ranked based on any kind of points system or science. They are ranked simply based on how I felt about them at the time of putting together the list.

- I absolutely LOVE most (if not all) of these records, and think every one of them deserves your ears at least once.

- True enough, some of them may be ranked higher because the societal resonance, entwined with the song-writing, creates a uniquely beautiful sense of personality and prophecy. Ultimately though, I tend to enjoy records that have some kind of wholesome sense of resonance more anyway.

One final thing; although I've been a fan of dance and electronic music for the past six years or so, 2016 was the year in which that interest grew hugely beyond just checking Resident Advisor once a fortnight. There are dozens of mixes, compilations and 12" singles which I haven't included here that I will cover in a piece comprising of my favourite dance and electronic music of 2016 at some point over the next couple of weeks (everybody needs to know about Objekt's Kern Vol. 3).

Without further ado, here are my favourite 35 albums of 2016. Due to time constraints (working in retail over the Christmas period is the absolute worst) I've listed the first 20 with a genre description of each and have written in much more depth about the top 15. As always, I hope you find something you enjoy. Here's to more killer releases and not so much death of heroes and nihilism in 2017.

Until next time,

Jack x

35. Basmu- Draped In The Obsidian Black Cloak Of The Abyss (Black Metal)
34. Touche Amore- Stage Four (Melodic Hardcore/ Post- Hardcore)
33. Roly Porter- Third Law (Electronica/ Ambient)
32. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam- I Had A Dream That You Were Mine (Indie/ Rock)
31. Urfaust- Deep Space Meditation (Black Metal)
30. Elucid- Save Yourself (Hip-Hop)
29. Danny Brown- Atrocity Exhibition (Hip-Hop)
28. Charles Bradley- Changes (Soul)
27. Wildernessking- Mystical Future (Black Metal)
26. Demdike Stare- Wonderland (Techno/ Experimental/ Electronica)
25. Altarage- Nihl (Death Metal)
24. Warpaint- Heads Up (Indie/ Rock)
23. Peder Mannerfelt- Controlling Body (Experimental/ Electronica)
22. Mark Korven- The Witch OST (Soundtrack/ Classical)
21. Mr. Lif & L'Orange- The Life & Death Of Scenery (Hip-Hop)
20. Wrekmeister Harmonies- Light Falls (Post-Metal/ Sludge/ Acoustic)
19. Modern Baseball- Holy Ghost (Emo/ Rock)
18. Oranssi Pazuzu- Varahtelijah (Black Metal/ Psychedelia)
17. PUP- The Dream Is Over (Indie/ Rock/ Punk)
16. Every Time I Die- Low Teens (Hardcore)

And thus, we make our way into my favourite 15 albums of 2016. I implore you to indulge in these.

15. Milk Teeth- Vile Child

We're at the point now where the conversation about the saturation of '90s rock revivalism has eclipsed talking about the bands who are actually doing it, but to write Milk Teeth's debut LP Vile Child off as merely another bolt in that cannon would be a great disservice. This is alternative rock delivered exactly as it should be; lo-fi and raw but blood-pumping and anthemic. It's bolstered by a stella performance from front-woman Becky Blomfield whose coming-of-age style tales of forlorn sass ('Burger Drop') and suffocating depression ('Kabuki') are far more heartfelt than many of the nostalgia acts who surround Milk Teeth.

14. Noname- Telefone

Telefone is the first full-length project to be released by Chicago rapper Noname (previously Noname Gypsie), and is ten tracks of completely gorgeous, lavishly produced and neo-soul indebted hip-hop that sees Noname develop an unmistakeable identity as well as approach subjects like mothership, drinking problems and police brutality in a personal but powerful way. It's almost David Lynch- esque in the way it exposes every day lives as far more complex and hard than any amount of money or propaganda can hide.

13. Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool

With the brilliantly paranoid A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead returned and became pretty much exactly what we needed them to be in 2016. With anti- immigration sentiment in the West reaching bile-flooded fever pitch and the increasingly prevalent notion of a police state looming, Thom York & co.'s most insecure record in a decade was also their most wholesome, cohesive and immersive effort probably since Amnesiac.

12. Nails- You Will Never Be One Of Us

The year was dogged by controversy for Nails following the release of their third full-length. Cancelled tour dates, dismissal of European gigs and some questionable language in twitter spats lead many fans to become disenfranchised. However, when discussing the music, none of that takes away from the disgusting density, furious bile-driven sentiment and head-crushing power of You Will Never Be One Of Us. As expected, the record is ten tracks long and clocks in at just under twenty minutes in run time, but also as expected, the fist-clenching nihilism and undeniable grooviness the trio have made their trademark is here in endlessly thrilling abundance.

11. Car Seat Headrest- Teens of Denial

Car Seat Headrest, the project helmed by Will Toledo, have released twelve records since 2010, but Teens of Denial is the one that feels the most fulfilling, expansive and ground-breaking. Together with his band mates, Toledo has applied a healthy (and much needed) sense of progression to the Pixies/ Weezer-esque revivalism with razor sharp and bleak tales of self-deprecation, heartbreak and substance abuse. Teens Of Denial is, more than anything else, the sound of a young man in crisis, but it just so happens that that young man may also be something of a song-writing genius.

10. Marissa Nadler- Strangers

On her seventh full-length LP Strangers, Marissa Nadler built from the ground upwards. Taking simple, acoustic structures and beefing them up with soaring atmosphere and intriguing poeticism about memories, loss and identity, she created a work of near impossible beauty. It's an album that swoons from the intoxicating 'Skyscrapers' into the sprawling cosmos of 'Hungry is The Ghost' throughout with a natural grace and, even though much of the record's lyrical content deals in insecurity, it's eleven tracks feel ultimately like a sigh of relief and self-comfort.

9. HECK- Instructions

Enough has been written already about how Instructions, the pretty much flawless debut LP from twisted hardcore maniacs HECK (formerly Baby Godzilla) has put to bed the idea that the band were always chaos-over-substance. For those of us who have always found promise in the band's dysphoria, this record was a capitalisation and harnessing of what really made this chameleonic, shatteringly disjointed music so creatively special. The quartet entwined their spasmodic bursts of Dillinger Escape Plan- esque violence with hulking, Southern-fried riffs and seemingly politically and personally satirical lyrics to a formula as raw and rough as it rivalled some of the best in the game. And the closer 'I. See The Old Lady Decently...' has to be heard to be believed.

8. A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It From Here... Thank You For Your Service

Another record surrounded by the tragedy of loss in 2016 due to the death of core original member Phife Dawg in March, legendary Hip-Hop crew A Tribe Called Quest's final LP was always going to be a moving and charismatic effort. In reality, it can stake a claim for (besides Midnight Marauders) being the best thing the group have ever put to tape. The crisp and vitalised production gave these tunes a raucously fresh and modern spirit as well as wholesomely capturing the band's centrally melodic, blissed out and eclectic old-school vibe. The group's vocal and lyrical dynamic was as brilliantly diverse and full of camaraderie as their very finest work, and after all this time Q-Tip still proved himself as one the game's most skilled and prophetic MC's.

7. David Bowie- Blackstar

In a year marred by the death of several cross-generational heroes, there are a few records that stand out as milestones of prophecy, grief and a near-perfect perspective of using art FOR something. Perhaps the most reverential is David Bowie's Blackstar. Enough has been written about the coded language, nifty foreshadowing and ultimate tragedy of Bowie's final record (he passed away just two days after its release). It was also an old-school Bowie record in the sense that all of the hunger for pushing boundaries and the deep understanding of genre and style-hoping interactivity meant that it had all the markings of Bowie at his most artistic and human.

6.  The Dillinger Escape Plan- Dissociation

Though thematically the Dillinger Escape Plan's 7th LP Dissociation doesn't concern itself with the band's imminent split, the announcement would that it would be their final album certainly helps to shape it as what might be their masterpiece. It's their most challenging, changeable and aggressive album since 2004's Miss Machine, and yet the band's terrifying skill, accomplishment, engagement and emotion that seeps into all its pours creates a very tangible beauty. The heart-breaking orchestral bent of the closing title track and its repeated refrain of "finding a way to die alone" is all encompassing as a pin-point for what an absolute journey this album is, and the band's career has been.

5. Ka- Honor Killed The Samurai

Few genres are as shaped by, embroiled in or symptomatic of societal resonance than hip-hop. New York MC Ka found himself a victim of the wrong way this stick can be wielded earlier this year via the New York Post, but his LP Honor Killed The Samurai flawlessly depicted what was so wrong about that piece and so beautiful about his art. Over a selection of ten mesmerising, near beat-less instrumentals he laid a raw, chilling and in some ways vindictive narrative about lives surrounded by poverty, crime and systematic discrimination. Entwined with the concept of Japan's legendary Samurai culture, Honor... is a work steeped in research and a sense of both self and past, and serves as a righteous middle finger to smear campaign tactics.

4. Solange- A Seat At The Table

It's probable that not many people expected the first LP in eight years by Solange Knowles to be pretty much perfect, but there are elements to A Seat At The Table which make it absolutely essential listening in 2016. The experiences, emotions and stories Knowles tells, all delivered with a soulful, layered approach to lyricism and unifying symbolism, are affecting even as a listener who is almost entirely removed from the subject matter. The record is 21 tracks long (several of those being utterly necessary skits like 'Tina Taught Me' and 'Daddy Was Mad') and over the course of this sees Solange confronting the loss and confusion she feels about the increasingly uncertain place of black women (and indeed, black people) in America's future, but it's also a total celebration of black culture. It's probably the record that feels most relevant for this year.

3. Oathbreaker- Rheia.

Rheia., the astonishing third full-length from Oathbreaker is another record that it's probably fair to say not a huge amount of people were anticipating in 2016. However, this really is one of those Jane Doe moments that requires the listener to, after listening to this from start to finish, take their headphones off and sit alone in a dark room and absorb what they've just heard. It's a work that combines agonising pain with serene but soulful fragility and crust-laden sludge. With a backbone comprised of the bleakest of blackened hardcore and gorgeously stripped back atmospheres, it's carried most proficiently by a vocal performance from Caro Tanghe that will go down as one of the most memorable in modern metal (not least for the harrowing finale to 'Second Son Of R.').

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds- Skeleton Tree

As has been reported a-thousand fold, most of the material on Skeleton Tree was written and finished before the disastrous circumstances of Cave's son's death, but surrounded by that context the record took on new levels of heart-breaking atmosphere. The largely stripped back instrumentation was wrought with a deep-seated sense of longing and remorse, the piano melody on the tear-jerking duet 'Distant Sky' and the hopelessly mellow 'Girl In Amber' being particularly guilty of tugging the heart to the bottom of one's stomach; though neither of these are quite enough preparation for the desperation of 'I Need You'. At every turn it becomes a devastating realisation of loss, and just like Bowie's Blackstar it's the humanity and expression of that realisation that really makes this album a master-stroke.

1. Swans- The Glowing Man

So here we are again. There are many readers who may find the fact that Michael Gira's Swans' final album in their current incarnation tops this list unreasonable, and true enough, The Glowing Man isn't the most progressive or planet-destroying record they've released since their reformation. What this record does have though is a transcendental sense of finality and purpose that make it feel like the most gargantuan and fitting end to this stage in the band's story. The link between atmosphere and song-writing is more cohesive and fist-clenchingly thrilling than on the albums like The Seer or even Soundtracks For The Blind, from the sprawling brilliance of 'Cloud Of Unknowing' and the nightmarish tension and tribalism of 'The World Looks Red/ The World Looks Black' to the noise-rock on God-sized steroids of the title track and the illustrious post-punk bounce of closer 'Finally, Peace'. The song-writing is as memorable as it's ever been, giving the album more of a feel of the band reaching the absolute zenith of what they've perfected rather than succumbing to easy exits and a loss of ideas. No one knows what the future holds for Swans, but the post-apocalyptic hue of The Glowing Man suggests that they've ended this sphere of nihility on a perfect high.


















Monday, 12 December 2016

LISTEN: Imbium- Bethany


'Bethany' is the new single by Sussex, UK based quartet Imbium, who describe their sound as being a product of "a love of fine wine and old school rock 'n' roll music". Clocking in at just over five minutes, 'Bethany' is a breezy, reverb-laden piece of revivalist pop-rock that bounces straight out of 1989 and the ensuing Brit-pop craze. With Beach Boys-informed harmonies and a penchant for flavours of grunge-tinged fuzziness, it's an anthem which is pulled off with more authenticity than many of their peers manage.

You can listen to the song via the band's Soundcloud page.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Objekt- Kern Vol. 3

Image result for objekt kern vol. 3
Artist: Objekt
Album: Kern Vol. 3
Record Label: Tresor 
Release Date: 15th July 2016

In an age where dance music and club culture is one of the most viable gauges of forward-thinking youth abandon and streaming services continue to expand, it makes sense that the art of the mix is ever progressing as well. Berlin-based producer TJ Hertz (aka Objekt) has, since his break-out 12" Cactus/ Porcupine in 2012, become an embodiment of the notion that even in a digital age a vast gap exists between the act of searching for music and the actual listening experience. Kern Vol.3, his debut mix CD, supplies the backbone to the argument that DJ-ing shouldn't be easy, and that the smashing of expectations has somewhat become more exciting on the dance floor than fluidity. 

Squeezing thirty-six tracks into just over an hour and fifteen minutes, timing and judgement of execution is pivotal for Kern Vol.3, but it never really causes one to lose focus or track of textures, beauty of time signature changes. Thematically there's a certain sense of disconnection. Many of the transitions, like the stopping dead of the tape between Seldom Seen's 'So So So' and Final Cut's monstrous 'The Escape', don't really make sense, but the tension and eventual eruption is completely seductive. 

Whether the mix picks up a banging momentum or pauses for breath, the breaks and gaps often become part of the process. The off-kilter, sax-indebted bounce of Birdland's 'Can U Dance To My Edit?'- in turn a fitting mantra for the entire mix- blends seamlessly into Pollon's atmospherically infectious 'Lost Souls'. The mind-frying acid of TX81Z's 'Googol' into Polzer's searing 'Static Rectifier' is a prime example of the aforementioned pace this record gains. 

Arguably the most wilfully deconstructive segment comes a few moments later. The gorgeous, classical bent of Ondo Fudd's 'Blue Dot' arrives with pin-point precision, a transmission from a time and place lost in a whirlwind of techno chaos. It's only to be subsequently upended a few minutes later however, with a fusion of Rully Shabara's disturbing vocal melt-down 'Faring' and the dramatic drones of Yair Elazar Glotman's 'Oratio Continua'. 

Kern Vol.3 can seem uncompromising both on paper and in practise, but amid all the alien focus, sensitivity is never completely lost. There's plenty of eerie dystopia in the synth work of Echo 106's '100M Splutter', and the blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance of Anna Caragnano & Donato Dozzy's 'Love Without Sound' is every bit as reflective as it should be. The deep-end becomes a little too drawn-out within the last fifteen minutes or so, but does very little to degrade Hertz' often faultless understanding as a DJ. It's a mix that ultimately makes its focus the contrast between the light and the dark, the beautiful and the ugly, and in retrospect there aren't many better suited to giving the uninitiated a way in than TJ Hertz. 

8/10

Thursday, 8 September 2016

R.I.P. Fabric: A Commemorative Playlist



Image credit: Ewan Munro Flickr 

Just this morning, London night-life and youth culture was delivered a heavy blow in the closure of Fabric, perhaps the country's most esteemed venue for electronic music and enjoyment. After a six-hour hearing and vehement, heartfelt support for the club from a multi-tude of venue attendees and DJs alike, Islington Council imposed the verdict, citing two drug-related deaths which took place in June of this year as the chief reason. It described the behaviour of the club's drug-search policy as "inadequate and in breach of the license".

The news has largely been greeted by widespread anger and sadness. To many, Fabric's closure is a signifier of a wider agenda of the Establishment, the latest step in an ongoing campaign against the capital's culture which has seen the decline and closure of many smaller clubs and venues across the city over the last decade or so. Hessle Audio head-honcho Ben UFO- who's addition to the Fabric Live mix CD series is one of the most lauded- tweeted that this was "the end of a long and cynical campaign against the club by the police and Islington Council which started a long time before these recent deaths". Similarly, producer and DJ Bok Bok wrote: "This isn't really about drugs or door searches. Another step towards a city full of extortionate, empty properties and all privatised space".

The inherent argument about drugs and user safety is bound to be more contentious, but the idea that the closure of a night-club somehow makes younger people safer, especially in 2016, seems rather mute. In a world where drugs in the hand of street criminals accounts for a severe portion of drug-related injury and addiction, limiting one's options in terms of community and care-centric safe-spaces is counter-intuitive. The sense of unity that existed at Fabric has been cited by regular club-goers as being rather unlike anywhere else; in a passionate article by April Clare Walsh for FACT magazine, she makes the assertion that "from it's welcoming atmosphere to its zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment, Fabric was a place for unity".

Thankfully, it seems as though attempts to curtail and re-define London's culture has been dismissed on a powerful level. In a statement he gave this morning, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said "this decline must stop if London is to retain its status as a 24-hour-city with a world class night-life". There's support flooding through from people of many different persuasions and backgrounds, and it seems that people back action, whether it be through lobbying the club's constituency's local MP Emily Thornberry or donating to the Nightlife Matters campaign.

From a purely musical perspective, Fabric's importance and influence cannot be understated. Since first opening on the 21st October 1999 it has been host to some of electronic music's most legendary sets and performances. From its regular Saturday night residents Craig Richards and Terry Francis, to regular appearances from the likes of iconic, forward thinking masterminds like Ricardo Villalobos, Robert Hood and Marcel Dettmann, it has been a place to celebrate the most pounding, challenging and immersive electronic music has to offer. It has achieved wonders for the art of the mix as well via it's long- spanning FabricLive CD series, which for me was a pivotal, romantic board from which to dive into a sub-genre which has now become one that I hold very close to my heart. Ben UFO's Fabric: Live 67, for example, was a gaping gateway into not just the music for me, but the way in which boundaries can be pushed and expectations dissolved in the way records can be played together and bounced off of each other.

With that in mind, I've decided to create a playlist of tunes that I discovered through the legendary Fabric mix series. The playlist starts with The Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks', which was played as a closer by the late John Peel in one of the earliest editions to the series, and has since gone down as a defining moment in London clubbing history. It ends on The Walker Brothers' 'Nite Flights', which Simian Mobile Disco rounded their set off with. The epic sense of sky-gazing melody and doom-laden lyrics seem futuristically bleak. All of theses tunes, from the slinky, irresistible garage of Persian's 'Feel Da Vibe' to Mumdance & Novelist's banging off-kilter grime on '1 Sec', are responsible for some of the most profound moments of listening realisation I've had thus far.

The closure of Fabric may represent a thickening grey cloud over the city and youth's cultural heritage, but the music will always be profound to those who whom it sound-tracked formative experiences for, and people like me, who may not have delved so deeply into the music without it.

You can listen to the playlist via the Spotify web player HERE.



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Kitchen Sink: 5 Recent Records Reviewed

Image Credit: basietrane Flickr


Greetings all, 


Cheers, as always, for sticking with me and tuning in this time. Here are five brief reviews of albums released this year that I've been listening to a lot over the last couple of weeks or so. Most of them have been released within the last couple of months, with the exception of Radiohead, which came out in May. I would have loved to have given all these full reviews, but due to work and other commitments I haven't been able to. Hopefully there'll be another one of these within the next fortnight or so. I hope you find something you enjoy here. Happy reading! 

Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
XL Recordings, 10th May 2016

Just as lead-off single and album opener 'Burn The Witch' , with its dramatic strings and creeping underbelly suggested, Radiohead's 9th LP A Moon Shaped Pool finds them on haunting, remorselessly bleak and immersive ground. The album of theirs it shares most kinship with sonically is 2001's Amnesiac but in keeping with their most-lauded, rock-orientated '90s output thematically, it's the soundtrack to a keenly felt and deeply personal crisis of self in a time that seems to be drowning in existential doubt and gloom. It's their most coherent, fluid and organic album since Hail To The Thief; the wintry expansion of 'Daydreaming'  blending seamlessly into the soft but propulsive apocalypse of 'Decks Dark' is a prime succession early on. Even the less beat-centric tracks ('Desert Island Disk', 'Glass Eyes') come across as more wholesome and immersive than anything on The King Of Limbs. It's a beautiful, sumptuous album for late nights alone and, more importantly, it seems like Radiohead have become exactly what we need them to be again at exactly the right time. 

8/10

KA- Honor Killed The Samurai
Iron Works, 13th August 2016

In almost all of its sub-genres and idiosyncracies, Hip-Hop is an art form. Whether it be Future's codeine-drenched mumblecore or R.A. The Rugged Man's skull-duggery, all of it is designed to reflect and induce feelings, fears, and in the case of the more verbose rappers, actual proper stories. Despite what the New York Post  might attempt to tell you, veteran firefighter-by-day and dark-hearted narrator-by-night KA is one of the most dextrous in the game, and Honor Killed The Samurai might be the best rap record of the year so far. Impeccably cohesive, sewn together by a thorough mining of Samurai culture, wisdom and largely beat-less, cold and beautifully sad instrumentals, Honor... is a depth-ridden transmission from bleak, ground-level New York. Taking in his stride a life brought up in poverty, a community stricken with violence, police aggression and the need for humanitarian care and hope, KA's husky delivery suits the distance and despair on offer here perfectly. A masterpiece. 

9/10

Noname- Telefone
Self-released, 31st July 2016

Chicago MC Fatimah Warner (formerly performing under the guise Noname Gypsy) last burst in the wider-world's attention proper via her appearance on 'Lost', a track on Chance The Rapper's 2013 break-out mixtape Acid Rap. Telefone is her debut full-length venture under her new moniker and any notion that she might be riding the tip of a commercially acclaimed wave is due to be crushed by the sense of vigour, identity and talent which seeps from the pours of this 10-track tape. Backed throughout by smooth, glistening neo-soul production and endearingly reverent features and vocal hooks, Telefone carries itself with a touch of F. Scott Fitzgerald elegance and class masking personal malcontent and depressed honesty behind the facade of wealth and stardom. Setting this layered and textured precedent, Warner meanders her way through heartfelt nostalgia ('Diddy Bop'), race relations and political anguish ('Casket Pretty') and multiple but captivating odes to vice and romance while barely pausing for breath. All of it is delivered with strident character and candid wordsmithery that ensures Warner has set the foundations for a new identity all of her own. 

You can download Telefone for free HERE

8/10

Zomby- Ultra
Hyperdub, 2nd September 2016

Given that he's prone to being deliberately obtuse, one wonders how much of an idea of Zomby's it was to leave listeners wanting on his new full-length, Ultra. The star-gazing but doom-laden synth loops of opener 'Reflection' hint at something approaching an odyssey, but unfortunately for the most part this record falls short. Atmospheres and loops either out-stay their welcome without much in the way of progression (the aforementioned opener, 'Fly 2') or are so short that they feel half-finished ('Burst', 'Freeze', 'Yeti') and void what impact they may have had at their respective beginnings. The unstable, light-and-dark see-saw of 'E.S.P.' is a highlight, as is the layered, grime-leaning collaboration with Darkstar, 'Quandary'. 'Sweetz', however, a collab with Burial, is disappointingly dry and dissonant to the point of lacking direction. There's a small handful of tracks with real promise here, but ultimately there's not much to sink one's teeth into.

5/10

Jute Gyte- Perdurance 
Self-released, June 6th 2016

Man. It's all very well saying that that you like extreme music, or music that sets out to "challenge" you, but even baring those considerations in mind it's hard to imagine anyone with a palette strong and prepared enough for Jute Gyte's Perdurance. Definably a one-man black metal project from Missouri, the music on offer here is more akin to a sleep paralysis- induced nightmare soundtracked part by David Lynch, part by a possessed puppy. Opener 'At The Limit of Fertile Land' sets the stall out early with grinding out-of-tune guitar dissonance, fingernails-down-a-blackboard wails and forays into mindless electronic scree and ambience without ever really amounting to anything other than barbarism. There's some chunky grooves applied here and there but by the time centre-point 'Like The Woodcutter Sawing His Hands' comes around the commitment to discomfort is almost TOO exhausting to see the rest of the record out in one sitting. And none of that even approaches the utter horror of closer 'I Am in Athens and Pericles is Young'. Do I find this album commendable for its visionary ugliness? Absolutely. Will I ever listen to it again? Probably not. 

You can download the record from Jute Gyte's Bandcamp on a name-your-price basis HERE

4/10

Thanks for reading guys! Next time: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Teenage Fanclub and some more black metal, probably. 




Friday, 19 August 2016

Tombs- All Empires Fall


Image Credit: Samantha Marble Flickr


Artist: Tombs
Albums: All Empires Fall
Record Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: April 1st 2016


Amongst the plethora of bands in any given genre there are always those who seem to constantly have an understanding of quality control. Brooklyn's black/sludge/post-metallers Tombs have just three full-lengths to their moniker, but their driving ambition and staunch lust for experimentation mean that they've already grasped the art of pushing the boundaries without ever really sounding uncomfortable. 

All Empires Fall, a five-track EP which succeeds 2014's frankly stunning Savage Gold sees them pushing the boat out further into electronic, dystopian atmospheres and waters, finding them caught in the cross-hairs between Darkthrone and Vertical- era Cult Of Luna. In 'Obsidian' they've produced one of the finest, most scathing Black Metal assaults of the year. Furiously bleak and cascading, Mike Hill's hoarse shrieks cut right to the bone. 'Last Days of Sunlight' slows the tempo to a hypnotic, tribal crawl soaked in cavernous reverb. 

'Deceiver' starts life as a pulsating, singly-note synth-driven slice of dark futurism before evolving into a rollicking, mid-paced death 'n' roll banger, and closer 'V' reaches celestial heights as it progresses. 

Evolution and progression in BM, although vibrant, has been lauded and propositioned to the heavens at this point. Bands like Tombs, who get their heads down and are unique on their own terms, and the ones who we can trust with said evolution. All Empires Fall may not be as coherent as, say, 2011's Paths of Totality, but its expansive vision and brutal, tangible song-writing make it a fully engrossing listen. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'Obsidian', 'Deceiver', 'V'
For Fans Of: Inter Arma, Marduk 


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Wild Beasts- Boy King

Image Credit: Adam B Flickr


Artist: Wild Beasts
Album: Boy King
Record Label: Domino Recordings
Release Date: 5th August 2016

Kendal quartet Wild Beasts' prospective attitude towards sex and sexuality has always tip-toed along the line between garishness and sensuality, between blunt suggestion and a multi-layered literacy. Their fifth full-length LP Boy King recorded in Dallas and helmed by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans) comes equipped with statements from lead vocalist Hayden Thorpe like "it was time to put on the leather jacket", and "we've become the band we always objected to being". In an interview with The Quietus, Thorpe put forward Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral and The Weeknd's Beauty Behind The Madness as chief influences, citing sex as both self-deprecation and as hyper-carnal outrage. Thematically, Boy King indulges in lad culture in the most strikingly direct way, but it's not for want of a healthy (and very necessary) dose of subversion either. 

Taking as its stock male sexual entitlement as weakness, insecurity and depravity, on this record it's arguable that Wild Beasts' randiest wanderings get their most tangible and repulsive expression here. On the surface it presents itself as the kind of bravado and braggadocia that holds a mirror up to ugly club antics. The songs do recoil from that aesthetic more often than not, but they also embrace it. The real question is how far do the band go to denounce the hubris of the male front, and do they do it convincingly? 

For the most part the answer is that they're self-aware, introspective and understated enough to pull the trick off with texture and dexterity. On 'Tough Guy', perhaps the filthiest, most riff-centric moment the band have laid to tape thus far, Thorpe is almost immediately self-deprecating as he sings "you know the route well, you follow the old path, to a new Hell". The subtle but essential vocal chemistry between Thorpe and co-vocalist Tom Fleming rears it's head clearly on lead-off single 'Get My Bang'; "That's how I get my bang", coos Thorpe before Fleming counters with "we're going darker ages". 

Album highlight 'Celestial Creatures' is not so much a rejection of depravity as a positioning of it upon a lofty pedestal ("You're a deity, and I have nothing but my beliefs"). Its imagery of champagne-sipping angels glides perfectly aside the album's most beautifully kaleidoscopic moment compositionally. '2BU' is the first example of Fleming taking on lead vocal duties and he hones in on rather terrifying, stalker-ish sensibilities as he croons "I hope you run... Let's hope I don't find you first... You know that I'm the worst". Most apocalyptic and degrading of all is 'He The Colossus', a double-edged sword of lust and accountability, arrogance and self-pity; "Do I dare to desert the universe, lest I become He The Colossus?". 

Chief offender of Wild Beasts' not being sufficiently subversive is the unreservedly shallow 'Eat Your Heart Out Odonis'. Elsewhere 'Alpha Female', despite its deconstruction of male entitlement is lyrically lazy. Although Boy King is a brash and seemingly unrepentant piece of work in many ways, look closely enough through the cracks and the group's deliberate exercising of short-comings and embarrassment are intricately and interestingly dealt with. And as ever, it leaves one wondering whether the band's understanding of human nature at its most base and identifiable will ever run dry. 

7/10

Key Tracks: 'Celestial Creatures', 'He The Colossus', 'Get My Bang'
For Fans Of: Glass Animals, Radiohead