Well well well, look what the cat dragged in. If it isn't New Music Friday, standing in the corner looking sheepish, cap in hand, voice a-tremble as it asks for its weekly Norman Records bulletin back.
What do we reckon, dear reader? Should we give ol’ NMF another chance? After all, it has served us well in the past hasn't it? Has it not, for all of the insubordination and bad attitude, opened our ears to some of our favourite records of recent times? Sure, it's not perfect, but then again what is in this crazy little thing we call life?
OK NMF, you're back on the squad. Mind you, I’m sticking my neck out for you here - to tell you the truth, most of the old guard don’t want you around here no more. So don't screw up!
Alva Noto - Xerrox Vol. 4
Here’s the deal with Alva Noto’s ‘Xerrox’ records; Noto mastermind Carsten Nicolai tracks down a bunch of samples, then copies them and dubs them and generally messes around with them until they’ve morphed into these strange, haunted textures. He then wafts some of his signature etherised electronics over the top, and voila! You have yourself a set of wistful, majestic, spectral soundscapes. ‘Xerrox Vol. 4’, the latest of the Xerrox records to emerge via Raster Noton, sees Alva Noto delivering the goods once again.
Amnesia Scanner - As Tearless
How did Amnesia Scanner get a picture of my mother-in-law on the cover of their new album?! (‘That's your one’ - Les Dawson Joke Department ed.) Mind you, the lurid, unsettling image which graces the sleeve of ‘Tearless’ proves to be a strangely apt representation of what lies within. This Berlin-based duo have cultivated a reputation for torrid electronics over the past few years, and on ‘Tearless’ Amnesia Scanner manage to create another set of end-of-the-world anti-pop. There is a thrilling sense of the uncanny to much of ‘Tearless’ which places it in the orbit of The Knife’s most challenging work.
CS + Kreme - Snoopy
Hot on the heels of their excellent split EP with Blazer Sound System, Aussie pair CS + Kreme return to The Trilogy Tapes for a double-album of foggy leftfield excursions. Hype Williams is the comparison which most immediately comes to mind when listening to ‘Snoopy’ - the music here has the same archness, its lackadaisical electronics underpinned with a similar air of unease, as the seminal musings of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland. There is also a shared undercurrent of iconoclastic experimentalism to ‘Snoopy’ which reminds one of This Heat.
Darkstar - Civic Jams
There is always a part of me which wants to scream Darkstar’s band name in the same way Karen O did the chorus of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs single ‘Art Star’. (damn, the YYY’s absolutely slayed at the start didn’t they). Not only would this be unpleasant to anyone within earshot, it also wouldn’t really do justice to Darkstar’s dusky brand of electronica. ‘Civic Jams’, Darkstar’s first LP in a half-decade, is another pleasant bit of low-lit moodiness from the duo. As is often the case with their records, ‘Civic Jams’ nods to early Mount Kimbie and Nicolas Jaar.
Jennifer Touch - Behind The Wall
What’s ‘Behind The Wall’? Why, it’s Jennifer Touch of course! If you like your synths synthy and your waves wavy, this collection of retro electro-pop ditties will surely be to your taste. Touch claims influence from (among others) The Human League, but ‘Behind The Wall’ skews towards the scuzzier, more industrial end of the band’s discography than it does ‘Don’t You Want Me’, and a few tracks even verge on D.A.F.-style EBM. Touch herself is a fine focal-point for ‘Behind The wall’, her vocals icy and impassive throughout.
Jockstrap - Wicked City
There's some very bold stuff going on on ‘Wicked City’, the Warp debut from London duo Jockstrap. The pair don’t so much incorporate musical styles into their sound as smash them together with delirious abandon. This EP lurches between maximalist hyper-pop in the vein of Sophie's early singles, ornate chamber arrangements, speaker-blowing electronics and deft piano balladry - sometimes all within the course of a single song. ‘Wicked City’ is a hell of a statement from a group who will surely be worth keeping tabs on in the coming years.
Nídia - Nídia
The prolific Nídia follows up her excellent recent Príncipe LP ‘Não Fales Nela Que A Mentes’ with a new set of hybridized club tackle. The quartet of tracks which make up this eponymous EP are more forthright than those of ‘Não Fales Nela Que A Mentes’, eschewing that full-length’s more painterly and impressionistic tracks for a set of of a booming dance numbers which swirl together Kuduro, Batida and drumline techno. The ‘Nídia’ EP is one to keep in reserve for when the discotheques reopen.
The National - High Violet (Expanded Edition)
You'll surely be acquainted with The National’s ‘High Violet’ by this point. After all, the 2010 LP remains both a classic of modern Americana and the record which made The National into the all-conquering arena-rock group that we know today. ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘England’, ‘Afraid Of Everyone’ and the rest still sound great on ‘High Violet’s new expanded edition, but the real treat is a selection of bonus tracks and live takes with have never made their way to vinyl until now.
Wire - 10:20
This one was meant to come out on Record Store Day before all of that stuff went south. Mind you, Wire have managed to release ‘10:20’ in the orbit of the RSD’s backup LOVERECORDSTORES event, so I guess it still counts. Half of the album was recorded in 2010, the other half in 2020, hence the title, ‘10:20’ features reworked versions of both past and future (at the time of recording) Wire tracks as well as possibly the only studio take of live staple ‘He Knows’. When it comes to Wire it's probably easier to list the acts who sound like them - Guided By Voices, Ought, Protomartyr - as opposed to the other way around, such is the enduring influence of the seminal art-punk group.
Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher
Oooooooh I reckon you’ve probably got wind of this one already, but for the cheap seats - new Phoebe Bridgers LP! It’s called ‘Punisher’! It’s the hotly-anticipated follow-up to ‘Stranger In The Alps’ and her stuff in boygenius and that Better Oblivion Community Center thing she did with Conor Oberst! Oberst is on the album, as are Nick Zinner and Lucy Dacus and a bunch of other famous-ish people! ‘Punisher’ kind of sounds like The Smashing Pumpkins, Mitski and occasionally a bit like Beirut! It’s probably going to make Bridgers into bonafide indie-rock royalty!