The 10 Best Albums You May Have Missed in July 2020
Our latest celebration of records that might have slipped under your radar in the past month.
Notably, there are a few records by some longer-in-the-tooth artists in this month's roundup of overlooked records.
Crass, Jon Hassell and Shirley Collins have all been around for decades at this point, while Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, The Rapture’s Luke Jenner and a few of the participants in the Keleketla! LP are pretty seasoned performers as well. Balance that out with a younger guard that includes debut full-lengths from Asher Gamedze and Nicolas Bougaïeff and you’ve got yourself a selection for all ages.
Laurence Pike - Prophecy
Laurence Pike’s music is testament to how, if you spend enough time honing your craft, you can carve a lovely little niche out for yourself in music’s world of limitless possibility. The drummer/composer, who also plays in the groups Szun Waves and PVT, creates unusual and vibrant music in which his abstracted free-jazz kit-work is offset by Fourth World sonics, spiritual atmospheres and worldly avant-gardisms carved from both electronics and voice. ‘Prophecy’, Pike’s third solo album in as many years for The Leaf Label, finds him questing for answers in the wake of the bushfires which devastated his home nation of Australia in recent times.
Nicolas Bougaïeff - The Upward Spiral
Too often in the world of modern club traxx, ‘innovation’ is a byword for ‘watering down’. For all the high-falutin aims of those wanting to ‘deconstruct’ or ‘evolve’ dance music, frequently one finds that this is done at the expense of, you know, the music being danceable. However, Nicolas Bougaïeff has spent a few years demonstrating that it is still possible to create unusual techno tracks that also slam to high heaven. ‘The Upward Spiral’, Bougaïeff’s first full-length album, maintains that spirit through nine pieces of post-Surgeon goodness. Hard as bricks.
Shinichi Atobe - Yes
Like Bougaïeff, Shinichi Atobe is also a producer of innovative DJ tools. Unlike Bougaïeff, Atobe tends towards a far softer sound palette, one that draws more from Theo Parrish’s deep house, the Balearic sound of Safe Trip and the steady roll of minimal techno. Under the auspices of the enigmatic Atobe these sounds are yoked together into a vivid, hypnotic whole on new LP ‘Yes’. The feeling you get when listening to these tracks is that of being half-cut in the mid-afternoon sun.
Luke Jenner - 1
What with the euphoric beats, angular guitar work and pleading vocals, the music that Luke Jenner makes as part of The Rapture has long had a redemptive quality to it. On ‘1’, Jenner’s first solo LP, he leans into those beatific tones to create a beautifully watercolour art-pop collection. It’s clearly a record that’s been born from struggle - songs like ‘Asshole’ process trauma in a commendably forthright manner - but also one that finds solace in community, music and faith. The slow-burn instrumentals, which nod to Lou Reed, New Order and Perfume Genius, frame Jenner’s experiences with beauty and grace.
Keleketla! - Keleketla!
The eponymous debut LP from Keleketla! is surely July’s most chops-heavy album. Shabaka Hutchings, Joe Armon-Jones, Sibusile Xaba and Yugen Blakrok are but four of the vaunted musicians to contribute here, while the album was masterminded by Coldcut and also contains some of the last recordings laid down by the late, great Tony Allen. As one might expect from such an international cast list, ‘Keleketla!’ is an incredibly rich blend of sounds - Afrobeat, gqom, jazz, soul and electronica are just a few of the styles folded in across the course of the album.
Three Queens In Mourning & Bonnie Prince Billy - Hello Sorrow Hello Joy
Terrifying album cover alert! Probably not one to hang on your wall, but certainly one to keep in your record player, ‘Hello Sorrow Hello Joy’ finds Three Queens In Mourning covering a selection of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy tracks before the man known to his mates as Will Oldham returns the favour on the flip. The BPB side also includes an original number from Oldham. Stylistically ‘Hello Sorrow Hello Joy’ is all very alt-folk - trilling harmonies, rumbling guitar, that sort of thing.
Asher Gamedze - Dialectic Soul
There are similarities between Asher Gamedze’s ‘Dialectic Soul’ and a couple of the other records in this list - the South African musician moves in the same jazz circles as some of the participants on the Keleketla! LP (vocalist Nono Nkoane appears on both albums), and there is a slight crossover in sensibility between ‘Dialectic Soul’ and Laurence Pike’s ‘Prophecy’. However, Gamedze’s music also has a greater sense of fluid motion about it than those albums, adhering more strongly to classic jazz principles yet pushing them into exciting new realms. One to file next to Makaya McCraven and Onyx Collective.
Crass - Normal Never Was (rLr / Glasser Remixes)
After decades in the game Crass continue to throw their weight behind righteous causes - the proceeds from sales of ‘Normal Never Was’ will go to the domestic abuse charity Refuge. The music here is a pretty exciting prospect, featuring as it does remixes of material from their seminal 1978 LP ‘The Feeding Of The 5000’ from XL Records/Everything Is Recorded bossman Richard Russell (RLr) and art-pop luminary Glasser. Both deliver ruptured pieces of industrialism here, though Glasser’s ‘Do They?’ leans more towards blown-out sonics while post-punk lilt of RLr’s ‘Bomb’ has both Pere Ubu and The Slits to it.
Jon Hassell - Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two)
You can’t knock the Hassell. You really can’t - even well into his 80s and reportedly suffering from health and financial problems, the groundbreaking Fourth World artist continues to create fantastically deft art-music which, despite its avant-garde qualities, remains accessible and welcoming. Peter Zummo, Laraaji, Brian Eno in his ambient mode and the most abstract end of the Tom Waits back-catalogue are all invoked by Hassell’s new LP ‘Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two)’, though once again this is really a record in a league of its own.
Shirley Collins - Heart's Ease
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Three Queens In Mourning may be leading lights of folk’s more recent history, but Shirley Collins is an OG who came up in the genre’s 60s heyday. After taking several decades off from making music she’s come back in recent times, and new LP ‘Heart’s Ease’ is her latest collection. This is a gorgeous, shimmering thing, one where the combination of Collins’ earthy singing style and sparkling acoustic guitar give these tracks a slightly magic-realist quality even as Collins spins yarns of the people.