The 10 Best Albums You May Have Missed in April 2020
Our latest celebration of records that might have slipped under your radar in the past month finds the Hodge beautifying the club, Arash Moori blowing up the workshop, Savage Mansion and Irma Vep delivering different takes on the Scottish indie-rock tradition and much more besides...
The overlooked albums roundup is back, baybayyyy!
There’s a lot of music, isn’t there. Sometimes it kind of feels like there’s too much music - as much as you want to, you can’t listen to it all, and one new discovery tends to lead to a dozen more you may never find time to experience.
We know how it is. That’s why we do these lil monthly roundups, casting our eye over the scores of records that come through our office each month and letting you in on some rare treats you might have missed in all of the excitement around that new Strokes album. Find ten of April’s choices morsels below.
In 2017 the electroacoustic composer Kaffe Matthews moved to Berlin, a choice which made her a foreigner in her country of permanent residence - a new experience for her. On the ‘foreigner’ LP Matthews captures the dislocation of adapting to life in a new culture in a run of eerie, shifting-sands organ drones. This unsettled music hangs in the air like a phantom - Éliane Radigue and Alvin Lucier come to mind.
The drummer of group Savage Mansion is Romeo Taylor, an artist who has found something like fame recently by releasing absolute ragers like ‘The Kingdom Of Scotland’. Savage Mansion’s music is an altogether different affair - led not by Taylor but singer-songwriter Craig Angus, the group deal in a sort of robust and full-throated take on the indie stylings of fellow Glaswegian acts Belle And Sebastian and Breakfast Muff. Tracks like ‘Taking The Four’ also push on to grungier pastures, though melodies remain strong even as the guitars fuzz up.
‘The experience of repetition as death’. Must be an album by someone else who writes listicles! The new LP from cellist Clarice Jensen doesn’t really deal out much in the way of repetition - at least, not as far as we can discern. Rather than recurring cells or looped motifs, this record slips and slides on a series of brooding drones that sometimes coalesce into the kind of fragile, beautiful music one associates with the Icelandic school of Jóhann Jóhannsson (with whom Jensen collaborated during his lifetime) and Hildur Guðnadóttir.
Bristolian producer Hodge has been moving outwards from the club for some time now, looking to new age, ambient and Balearic as ways to expand a sound rooted in both techno and soundsystem culture. ‘Shadows In Blue’, Hodge’s long-gestating debut album, benefits immensely from this broadened palette. While the dancefloor cuts here are deft futuro-rollers in the vein of Nathan Micay, ‘Shadows In Blue’s real joys are the wide horizons of tracks like ‘The World Is New Again’. ‘Shadows In Blue’ is one of a number of recent records to emerge from Britain’s DJ underground which embrace texture and tone as well as beats - see K-Lone’s ‘Cape Cira’, another April drop, on this count.
As you’ll know if you remember your GCSE chemistry, exothermic reactions are chemical combinations which push heat outwards. The term is extremely appropriate for this new set from Arash Moori, an artist who first caught our attention with the 2015 LP ‘Heterodyne’. Where the electronics of its predecessor sprawled and spluttered, ‘Exothermic’ is taught and merciless, its beats serving up the morphing frenzies of Arca while low-ends monster you like Szare joints. Hot to handle, this.
Irma Vep’s ‘Embarrassed Landscape’ shares similarities with the aforementioned Savage Mansion LP. Both records have roots in the fertile Glaswegian DIY rock scene, and both are made by bands which coalesce around the talents of a principle singer-songwriter - in this case one Edwin Stevens. However, Irma Vep’s music has more of a sense of fevered ecstasy about it, one that brings comparisons with both The Velvet Underground and Richard Dawson. The trilling ululations within also remind me of John Johanna’s ‘I’ll Be Ready When The Great Day Comes’, a rare treat of an album released back in the Before Times of 2018.
There’s a certain kind of hip-hop fan who will have got all hot and bothered when news broke of a sequel to Quelle Chris & Chris Keys’ 2015 LP ‘Innocent Country’. You see, while this pair of Chrises may not be the sort of artists who trouble the mainstream, in the underground circles that revere the likes of MF DOOM, Earl Sweatshirt and Danny Brown these guys are held in very high regard. ‘Innocent Country 2’, which dropped towards the end of April, reminds us why - these beautiful beats and languid bars contain multitudes.
Space prog, blackened kosmische, post-metal - whatever you fancy calling it, the latest album from the Finnish metal collective Oranssi Pazuzu is an inventive triumph of nightmarish heavy music. Oranssi Pazuzu have a knack for toying with rhythm and pace just as much as they love eclectic genre-bending. In this instance motorik meets breakneck thrash and shoegaze sprawls bleed into hypnotic space-rock. ‘Mestarin kynsi’ is like watching a Ridley Scott film on a bad trip, all sci-fi atmosphere with a chilling concept of cosmic claustrophobia. For those into their left-field psychedelia and/or extreme metal, you may have found an early favourite album of 2020.
Tito’s ‘Quetzalcoatl’ came to us as if from another dimension. We don’t mean this in terms of its origin story, though the Mexican artist’s 1977 LP was rare enough for us to believe it might have blasted off forever. No, it’s more that the sound of this thing also has an otherworldly quality to it, offering up a sort of peyote-hazed take on kosmische that is made all the more potent for Tito’s frequent spoken-word interjections. As such, ‘Quetzalcoatl’ acts as a sort of bridging record between Roedelius and Cankun.
Echium’s ‘Disruptions Of Form’ is proof that electroacoustic composition can be beautiful as well as challenging. These tracks shift across the frequency range, rushing up swells of sub-bass before etherising synths into ambience. While there’s an almost academic level of skill involved in the creation of this music, you never get the feeling that ‘Disruptions Of Form’ is indulging in art for art’s sake - every sound here adds to a sense of amber-suspended beauty, one shared by other drops on sferic and Huerco S.’s West Mineral Ltd. imprint.