The 10 Best Albums You May Have Missed in August 2020
Our latest celebration of the records that appear to have slipped your attention this past month, you fools.
August is winding up, so it’s time for us to cast our eye back at the past few weeks and give a shout-out to a few records we’ve loved.
You know the drill by now - these ten albums are all excellent but, for one reason or another, haven’t quite received the coverage that they deserve. The net’s cast wide once more in terms of genre, with spiritual jazz odysseys and synthesiser explorations cosying up to experimental rock records and hardcore rave traxx. Let us come together, in these unprecedented times, and crank these particular Soulja Boys.
J. Zunz - Hibiscus
“Music for long nights [and] for drawn curtains”. That’s how our Daoud described J. Zunz’s ‘Hibiscus’ in his 8/10 review of the record a few days ago, and he hit the nail right on the head there. J. Zunz mastermind Lorena Quintanilla channels Zola Jesus, Ben Frost and Johnny Jewel on ‘Hibiscus’, the result being a set of frosty, gothic electronic compositions that hover on the edge of synthetic songcraft and something more abstract.
Young Jesus - Welcome To Conceptual Beach
Young Jesus don’t really have much of a presence in the UK, which is a shame because they’ve been one of the most consistently interesting U.S. rock bands of the past decade. On their fifth studio LP ‘Welcome To Conceptual Beach’ the LA quartet create expansive, impressionistic music which takes in tender art-rock in the Talk Talk mode, Steve Reich’s rhythmic minimalism, Radiohead’s conceptual ambition and Slint-esque post-rock. Topped off by some deft vocals, ‘Welcome To Conceptual Beach’ is a wonderful and dynamic listen.
Belbury Poly - The Gone Away
‘The Gone Away’ is away with the fairies. Seriously, we’re not joking - for his latest Belbury Poly LP, Jim Jupp has delved into the weird and wonderful world of British fairy lore for inspiration. It’s a premise which immediately places ‘The Gone Away’ alongside the fabulous work of Folklore Tapes and Jupp’s own Ghost Box Records imprint, but the album’s electronica stylings actually usher it into more of a kosmische zone. Plone, Boards Of Canada and Gilroy Mere all come to mind as points of comparison for this delightful record.
Girls In Synthesis - Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future
To paraphrase Belle & Sebastian, Girls In Synthesis want to dance. Mind you, that’s about as far as you can stretch any links between this London trio and the seminal Scottish indie-popsters. On debut LP ‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future’, Girls In Synthesis deliver an album of passionate noise-rock that combines the righteous invective of IDLES with Sex Swing’s motorik menace. Dancing to ‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future’ would be possible, though you’d likely have to content yourself with some Ian Curtis-style body-jerking.
Bent Arcana - Bent Arcana
John Dwyer goes jazz? Not quite, but Bent Arcana is also damn sight closer to jazz than anything else in the garage-rock luminary’s extensive back catalogue. This record finds the Thee Oh Sees busybody leading a star-studded cast of players - members of Sunwatchers, TV On The Radio and Flying Lotus can be heard noodling away on this thing. What they manage to come up with is a set of freeform nocturnal rockscapes reminiscent of electric-era Miles Davis, though certain tracks move 'Bent Arcana' into the more Neu!-ish territory that seasoned Dwyer followers will have parsed in some of his previous work.
Girl Friday - Androgynous Mary
As well as having arguably the best band name/album title combo of the month, Girl Friday's ‘Androgynous Mary’ is also a winning LP of warm-hearted rock tunes. The LA band’s melodious takes on slacker rock and twee-punk will have one thinking of Guided By Voices, Mitski and Girlpool. Throw in some lyrics that oscillate between anthems of personal resistance and odes to friendship and ‘Androgynous Mary’ becomes an extremely easy album to get on board with.
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids - Shaman!
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids are a group who’ve been on-off since the 70s but have been on a particularly great run since they signed to Strut Records back in 2016. ‘Shaman!’ is their latest album(!!) for the label(!!!), and like ‘An Angel Fell’ and ‘We Be All Africans’ before it this record finds the group delivering stirring spiritual jazz numbers that run with the spirit of Gil Scott-Heron, Shabaka Hutchings and Horace Tapscott. Highlight ‘When Will I See You Again?’ is a perfect meditation for this pandemic-ravaged era.
Hamilton Scalpel - Hamilton Scalpel 2: Airfoil
Hamilton Scalpel’s ‘Hamilton Scalpel 2: Airfoil’ wins the award for hardest club tackle of August 2020 - to be honest, it wasn’t even close. Calum Macleod, the single figure behind Hamilton Scalpel, is generally seen wreaking havoc as part of Scottish duo Clouds. On ‘Hamilton Scalpel 2: Airfoil’ we hear Macleod maintaining that group’s hardcore neo-rave energy and cross-pollinating it with the retro-futurist pirate sound of Basic Rhythm and Low End Activist. Lovely stuff.
Suzanne Ciani - Music For Denali
Down the years Suzanne Ciani has deservedly become known as a premier exponent of early synthesizer music. However, the new Finders Keepers release ‘Music For Denali’ demonstrates that Ciani’s early work was characterised as much by delightful piano textures as it was bleeps and bloops. A soundtrack to a 1973 film about an attempt to ski down the Alaskan mountain Denali, ‘Music For Denali’ is one for fans of Laurie Spiegel and Claude Debussy alike.
Serpente - Fé / Vazio
Serpente’s music uproots and suspends the archetypal sounds of the dancefloor, but you still wouldn't really describe the producer’s new LP ‘Fé/Vazio’ as a deconstructed club album in the Arca/SVBKVLT sense. Rather, what we have here is a set of lumbering rhythms which lurch forward as if driven on by some unseen phantom. ‘Fé/Vazio’ recalls parts of the Nyege Nyege Tapes/Príncipe discographies as much as it does, say, Cabaret Voltaire or Fever Ray or These New Puritans.