The Best Albums Of October 2020
Featuring Rian Treanor, Working Men's Club, Adrienne Lenker and more...
Bonjour, Norman Records™ reader! And welcome to our overview of the ten most leet LPs that came out this last month!
I promise you - nothing here is suxxor. In fact, everything pwns! The skillage is truly indisputable, from Actress’ nocturnal electronics to the house-inflected post-punk awesomeness of Working Men’s Club. It doesn’t matter whether j00 are a complete n00b when it comes to these artists or teh biggest music fan of all time - all of these albums are for teh win! Sew, without further ado, let's start le epic roundup of albums from October 2020 xD
‘Karma & Desire’ is another netherworld masterpiece from Actress. This is an album which floats up to you out of a dense fog, its muffled loops and beats drifting as if dosed with valium. Anyone familiar with Actress’ previous output will know that the sense of curious, pregnant detachment is one of the things which makes his low-lit music so utterly beguiling. To those of you for whom ‘Karma & Desire’ may be your first engagement with Darren Cunningham’s music, think of it as pitched somewhere between the greyscale beauty of Burial, the phantom-boogie of Funkineven and the enigmatic strangeness of Dean Blunt.
Is this thing ‘songs/instrumentals’ or ‘songs’/‘instrumentals’? Like, am I meant to talk about this as a single, two-part Adrianne Lenker album, or two separate records that are being sold in the same package? It’s confusing. What I do know is that both the ‘songs’ and ‘instrumentals’ LPs in question here are well worth your time. Big Thief chief Lenker retreated to a woodland cabin at the start of the Coronavirus in order to tape this music, Bon Iver-stylee. It’s a move which pays off in spades - not only does the cabin’s remoteness complement the knotty, thoughtful acoustic balladry of ‘songs’, the field recordings Lenker made while there form the canopy which is built over the freeform ‘instrumentals’ numbers.
Given that Autechre spent the latter years of the 2010s dropping sessions and live albums galore, it was easy to forget that the duo hadn’t actually put out a studio LP for four years prior to the release of ‘SIGN’ earlier this month. The pair of Rob Brown and Sean Booth hit the highs here, delivering a typically singular work which touches on everything from glitching electronica to post-grime. The momentum of all those interim releases even spurred the pair on to issue ‘SIGN’s companion LP ‘PLUS’ but a few days later.
The things which make clipping.’s ‘Visions Of Bodies Being Burned’ a perfect listen for spooky season extend beyond the album’s grizzly title. A companion piece to last year’s ‘There Existed An Addiction To Blood’, this LP finds clipping. building tracks out of horror movie tropes - be they the gruesome subject matter or, in a more literal sense, the sounds (squeaking gates, John Carpenter-esque synths) that one might expect to find in a slasher flick. From here the group swirl everything from industrial music to horrorcore, drill ‘n’ bass to snap into their confrontational, abrasive core sound. It all comes together on a record which thrills and chills in equal measure.
When I heard Rian Treanor’s ‘File Under UK Metaplasm’ I was sure that it would be the most innovative record that I heard in October (more on that in a mo, by the way). However, Kiko Dinucci’s ‘Rastilho’, an album which came out early in 2020 but has now made it to vinyl, actually gives ‘File Under UK Metaplasm’ a run for its money on that front. The two LPs are worlds apart sonically - where Treanor uses MIDI synths and programmed drums, Dinucci works largely with acoustic guitar and voice, claiming influence as much from hardcore punk as he does the six-string styles of his native Brazil - but in their brilliant strangeness, their delightful mix of complex playing and kinetic immediacy, the albums are alike.
Two decades into his long and distinguished career, Travis Stewart continues to forge fantastical new musical worlds as Machinedrum. ‘A View Of U’ is the latest demonstration of the project’s brilliance. This album sounds like a gleaming city on the hill, something shining bright on the horizon. These futuristic beats mine trap, hip-hop, drum & bass and r & b, with guests such as Freddie Gibbs and Sub Focus hopping in for the ride.
‘File Under UK Metaplasm’, the second studio LP from Sheffield computer musician Rian Treanor, emerged at the very start of October 2020. A month on, I still can’t get enough of this thing - it’s a truly mind-blowing album. Even more so than Treanor’s hugely impressive previous work, ‘File Under UK Metaplasm’ distinguishes itself for how it splices together a wild array of influences - Tanzanian Singeli, grime, techno-dancehall, the sort of futurist electronica that his label Planet Mu has long been associated with - yet still sounds quite unlike any other music we’ve heard in a long, long time. At a historical moment where it feels like there’s not much excitement in the world, ‘File Under UK Metaplasm’ is an incredibly invigorating listen.
This Is The Kit, and this is the album. ‘Off Off On’ is a biggie for the Kate Stables-helmed project - having signed to Rough Trade for 2017’s ‘Moonshine Freeze’, Stables has levelled up and can now count herself on the way to indie major leagues. It’s a good job, then, that this album shows off the very best of what This Is The Kit has to offer. These songs pull off a great trick by managing to sound both slightly ramshackle and also deftly arranged, sort of like a really fantastical machine that someone has built in their garden shed. As a ballpark reference, think of ‘Off Off On’ as somewhere between BC Camplight and ’Actor’-era St. Vincent.
Soul Jazz is probably best known as a reissues label, but sometimes the imprint sign up new acts too. Case in point - Trees Speak, a Krautish band out of Arizona who are now on their second LP for Soul Jazz. ‘Shadow Forms’ is another leap into the cosmic void for this outfit, one which blends an array of styles into a whole which is at once quietly ambitious and also strangely homely. Kosmische synth, expansive spiritual music in the Sun Ra/Laraaji lineage, library jazz, Khruangbin-esque desert noodling and driving Motorik rock can all be discerned across ‘Shadow Forms’.
We waited ages for Working Men’s Club to drop an album - they were threatening their debut LP for at least a year prior to the release of this eponymous record. Good thing, then, that the Calder Valley outfit made good on the promise of their early singles/EPs with an absolutely slamming set. The band are part of that seemingly inexhaustible slew of angst-punk groups emerging from the UK at the moment, but what Working Men’s Club have which the others don’t is an ability to cross-pollinate that sound with elements of acid house and early rave music. As a result, ‘Working Men’s Club’ is as much New Order as it is Joy Division.