I like music. Music good. Records nice.
(I’m feeling a bit fuzzy-headed this Friday. Might have to bear with me on this one.)
As is often the case with these New Music Friday listings, there’s all sorts of different styles represented in this here roundup. In the ten records listed below we run the gauntlet from Dylanesque singer-songwriters (Kevin Morby, Matt Berninger) to club fare both old and new (Kino-Moderno, Anz). Between those poles there are leftfield hip-hop triumphs, hauntological electronics, a couple of returning heroes and plenty else besides.
Anz's stock has been rising in the UK’s clubsphere for a few years now. As such, it’s great to see the London-born, Manchester-based DJ/producer recognised with a release on Hessle Audio, and Anz seizes the opportunity with both hanz (sorry) on ‘Loos In Twos (NRG)’. This is a record of deft DJ tools which nestles in neatly alongside the work of labelmates like Pearson Sound and Bruce while pushing up against the edges of the Hessle sound - the snappy breaks and handclaps on tunes like ‘Gary Mission’ twist up acid and Drexciyan electro.
There were whispers, there were murmurs, and now there’s a new actual factual Autechre album! Those who know their onions when it comes to Warp-school electronics will tell you that there may be none better than the Rochdale duo. Leaders in their field for a good few decades now, ‘SIGN’ is business as (un)usual for Autechre, mashing together an array of electronic stylings in order to craft bold new sonic worlds. In the month when spiritual descendent Rian Treanor has dropped one of 2020’s boldest records, it feels fitting that Autechre should be in the mix too, reminding everyone of who started this whole thing off.
Here at Chez Norman we love Concretism so much that we released the artist’s 2014 debut LP ‘Town Planning’ through our own Public House Recordings. Since then the project of one Chris Sharp has become a fixture on Castles In Space, a label which has proven to be a perfect fit for his shimmering brand of electronics. Concretism’s soundtrack for animated series ‘Dick and Stewart’ pairs him with Richard Little, the brains behind Scarfolk and thus another voice from the hauntological frontlines. Sharp’s freighted kosmische, by turns soothing and unsettling, proves a perfect foil for Little’s uncanny animations.
For years I kept reading his name as Kevin Moby. Despite the fact that Kevin Morby is 1) not bald, 2) not an electronic musician and 3) not … yeah, the more facetious side of me went into listening to his new LP ‘Sundowner’ braced for an album of dinnerpartytronica. What I got, in fact, was spare, yearning alt-country and indiefied Americana - something I would surely have known to expect if I’d been paying attention to Morby’s rise these past few years. Off the back of ‘Sundowner’, I’ll certainly be keeping a closer eye on him from now on.
Open Mike Eagle has been one of the most thought-provoking artists in the U.S. rap underground for well over a decade at this point. However, as densely confessional as his music can be, he may never have made anything quite as bruised as ‘Anime, Trauma and Divorce’. This is an LP which kind of does what it says on the tin, with the artist born Michael Eagle II tackling the breakdown of his marriage over muted, woozy production from the likes of Black Milk and Gold Panda.
‘Serpentine Prison’ is almost too perfect a title for the debut solo LP from the singer of The National. I mean, it’s the sort of phrase a bot would generate after you’d fed it all the lyrics from ‘Trouble Will Find Me’. The music within doesn’t throw up too many surprises either - while there are a few more acoustic guitars here than you find in the work of Matt Berninger’s day-job, by and large ‘Serpentine Prison’ is more of the stoic, poetic Americana balladry with which The National have made their millions.
Surprise! I’d got it into my head that this lot were a college rock band ala early R.E.M., but they’re not! Surprise Chef are in fact an Aussie outfit who do a fine line in woozy instrumental psych-rock. Khruangbin comparisons come easily throughout ‘Daylight Savings’, the band’s second studio LP, as do nods to the less jazzified bits of the BADBADNOTGOOD discography. For those who are seeking out the very chillest of vibes, ‘Daylight Savings’ is the one you want.
Writing a good indie-pop tune is a delicate balancing act - you want the hooks to be sweet and welcoming without the song falling into saccharine whimsy. It’s a tricky one to get right, and as such it’s all the more impressive that The Phoenix Foundation hit the nail on the head again and again on their new album ‘Friend Ship’. The New Zealand band find a similar pocket to Metronomy or Peter Bjorn & John here, their delightful songcraft winning you over with its offbeat sense of charm.
Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s career trajectory bears similarities with those of Arthur Russell and Laraaji. Having spent years in relative obscurity, the past couple of decades have seen the appreciation that this singular practitioner so deserves finally come his way. Glenn-Copeland’s music is also like Russell’s and Laraaji’s for the manner in which it moves through a variety of styles - gospel, new-age, house, soul - while maintaining a warm, empathetic core. ‘Transmissions: The Music Of Beverly Glenn-Copeland’ is a career retrospective which brings together tracks from cult-classic records like ‘Keyboard Fantasies’ (1986) with a smattering of new material and live recordings.
The remix of ‘Rift’, the 1993 track by Kino-Moderno, has been uploaded to YouTube by a channel called HeavenlyHouse. The uploader’s name is an apt introduction to this swooning, shuffling dancefloor delight, and it provides a neat way into this eponymous set of reissues from the outfit. Along with ‘Rift’s original version, remix and a flip of ‘Sync You’, there’s also a ‘Future Mix’ of Kino-Moderno’s ‘Into The Future’ to take into consideration - that’s previously-unreleased tackle, dontcha know.