It’s New Music Friday, New Music Friday, gotta get down on New Music Friday. Everybody’s looking forward to the listicle, listicle.
(You should give Rebecca Black’s recent stuff a go. I’m not kidding - it’s pretty good!)
There are some big hitters in the mix this week. Denzel Curry, Dev Hynes, J Hus, Squarepusher, Animal Collective - these are figures at the apex of their respective fields. I like to think that this feature is a good leveller though, a celebration of the fact that great music is being made across the board by artists of all genres and reaches. I mean, where else are you going to find a record of electroacoustic drones given equal-billing with an LP that hit #1 on the pop charts?
Flat Worms’ new LP ‘Antarctica’ was conceived prior to the global coronavirus pandemic - a world which, though barely a couple of months gone, feels entirely alien to us now. Those were cold times, with climate change and political unrest and myriad other pressures fogging the minds of many. While COVID-19 has created a neighbourly warmth even as we stay apart from one another, the concerns of the recent past haven’t really gone anywhere. On ‘Antarctica’ the Californian band channel the anxiety of a burning world into some meaty noise-rock. The fact that Steve Albini was at the control desk for ‘Antarctica’ only adds credence to Flat Worms-Big Black comparisons.
Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats both come to their new link-up ‘Unlocked’ off the back of banner years in 2019 - the former dropped his acclaimed fourth studio LP ‘Zuu’ while Beats backed up ubiquitous social media coverage with dozens of productions that included full-lengths for Rico Nasty and 03 Greedo. The pair prove perfect foils for each other on ‘Unlocked’, with KB’s chunky and slightly chaotic instrumentals setting things up before Curry knocks them down with his raggedy, pinched flow. No matter what state the world is in, there will always be an irresistible alchemy to the pairing of a jumped-up rapper with simple, snappy beats.
He’s a busy boy, that Dev Hynes. Back in 2019 the polymath artist took a break from turning out neo-r ‘n’ b masterpieces as Blood Orange to score Melina Matsoukas’ underground movie hit ‘Queen & Slim’. Going by his full name of Devonte here, Hynes' 'Queen & Slim' OST is a baroque and ornate set, one that draws both from chamber music and the more recent classical stylings of Johann Johannson. However, as is appropriate for a film with some pretty dark content - a couple go on the run after Daniel Kaluuya’s character shoots a policeman - the strings sour to unsettling drones on cuts like ‘Opening’.
Despite only releasing new LP ‘Be Up A Hello’ in January, Squarepusher continues to push squares at an impressive rate. However, the producer’s new EP ‘Lamental’ isn’t quite as frenetic as its predecessor, an album which featured some olympics-standard button-bashing. Only ‘The Paris Track’, with its gurgling 303 line and persistent drumbeat, comes close to the hyperspeed contortions of ‘Be Up A Hello’s ‘Nervelevers’ or ‘Terminal Slam’. In ‘Detroit People Mover’ we even experience the relative novelty of ~~ambient Squarepusher~~. With drums absent, the focus on this tune shifts to pluming, harmony-rich keyboard lines. ‘Lamental’ is a good change of pace for this ever-intriguing artist.
A new Animal Collective release will always cause a flurry of excitement in these parts, especially when it’s one that revisits arguably the band’s most fruitful creative period. ‘Ballet Slippers’ focusses on live recordings taken from the band’s tour around their definitive 2009 LP ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’. I was lucky enough to catch Animal Collective a couple of times on that run, and the way that they blended tracks from the new album with older cuts to create long, vivid jams was ecstatic. It came off like a modern-day Grateful Dead, something that made even more sense when the Dead gave Animal Collective blessing to repurpose their music on the ‘Fall Be Kind’ EP which rounded out that year - the first time that Jerry Garcia and the gang had ever agreed to be sampled, by the way.
You’ll know by now that we love a good drone down at Chateau Norman. Kaffe Matthews’ new LP ‘foreigner’ falls, broadly, into this category - the album is made up of two pieces whose drones ebb and flow across each side of the record. However, Matthews is an electroacoustic artist at heart, and as such her unbroken soundwaves are more erstwhile than the powerful sloughs of, say, recent New Music Friday entrants Golem Mecanique or Stephen O’Malley. These organ-led tracks hang in the air like spectres - Sarah Davachi’s recent ‘Pale Bloom’ LP contained something not dissimilar.
This is the only conspiracy that you need right now. Of course, J Hus’ chart-topping ‘Big Conspiracy’ has actually been out in the world since January, but it gains entry to this list on account of the LP’s first physical pressings landing this week. The one born Momodou Lamin Jallow proves himself the king of afroswing once again on tracks like ‘Cucumber’ and ‘Play Play’, the latter of which features the similarly ascendant Burna Boy. However, there’s also plenty of range here, with Hus touching road rap, Drake-ish sing-songs, neo-soul and more across ‘Big Conspiracy’s fourteen tracks.
Quelle Chris tends to drop a new LP around this time of year, so it’s no surprise to find out that the rapper is readying the ‘Innocent Country 2’ full-length for a late-April release. In the run-up to ‘Innocent Country 2’, Mello Music Group have got together a vinyl pressing of the record’s 2015 predecessor - and if the sequel is anything like the first edition then we’re in for something special. Produced entirely by Chris Keys, this is hip-hop whose soulful swing frequently gives way to something darker and more pensive. Chris keeps pace throughout, his ruminations pitched somewhere between billy woods and fellow Detroiter Black Milk.
Synth fanatics of the world, rejoice! For Glossy Mistakes have brought forth a new edition of Tito’s LP ‘Quetzalcoatl’. This 1977 record is one of those rare gems which is fawned over by people in the know, regularly trading for megabucks on the vinyl black market. ‘Quetzalcoatl’ certainly is a unique listen, with the Mexican Tito blending contemporaneous kosmische sounds with folkish psychedelia, sci-fi synth tones and passages of spoken word across the record. Given that spiritual music and kosmische are back in vogue at the moment, the time feels right for ‘Quetzalcoatl’ to be brought back down to Earth.
Yeeeeahhhh I’m gonna take my horse to the … oh sorry, wrong cowboy thing. ‘Red Dead Redemption II’ is, of course, not a Lil Nas X song but a stupendously successful video game. The ‘Old Town Road’ singer also had absolutely nothing to do with the game’s music - that was largely handled by Woody Jackson, a man who also composed for the first ‘Red Dead Redemption’ romp as well as ‘Max Payne 3’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto V’. Jackson’s modern-day Spaghetti Western score certainly added to ‘Red Dead Redemption II’s air of cinematic grandeur. His music is presented here alongside further soundtrack contributions from Arca, Colin Stetson, Senyawa and others. Can’t nobody tell me nothin’.