New Music Friday: the top releases this week Featuring Ian William Craig, Alfa Mist, Helen Money and more...
It’s fine isn’t it. It’s all absolutely fine. On this Incredibly Normal And Ordinary Friday, 20th March, year of our Lord 2020, we turn our attention once again to new music. Who knows how release schedules will pan out over the coming months, but, for now at least, records are still coming out at a rate of knots.
Times like these make people turn to music even more than usual - for comfort, for companionship, for exorcising demons. The dozen new records that we’ve rounded up below cover all bases, ranging from the featherweight ruminations of Brian & Roger Eno, Alfa Mist and Ian William Craig to the harsh extremities of Golem Mecanique, Helen Money and Lightning Bolt. As we navigate a truly unsettling epoch, let the music below be a balm to your changing moods. Stay safe everyone.
Alfa Mist hails from London, but his new record ‘On My Ones’ doesn’t necessarily sound like the work of someone from The Big Smoke. Sure, track-titles such as ‘Newham Village’ rep his ends, but musically Alfa Mist’s introspective piano dabblings owe as much to the solo keyboard work of Horace Tapscott and Keith Jarrett as they do the current London jazz crop of Ezra Collective, Joe Armon-Jones et al. ‘On My Ones’ is an EP to muse over, rain snaking down the windowpane.
Rahhhhh this is the stuff. Last week we went deep on Stephen O’Malley’s doom-drone opus ‘Auﬂösung der Zeit’, thinking that we’d not hear music of such unrelenting power for some time. We were wrong - enter Golem Mecanique’s ‘Nona, Decima Et Morta’. Golem Mecanique head-honcho Karen Jebane serves up almost forty minutes of music here, and bar the flip of the record in the middle it’s an unbroken affair. Jebane and her compadre Marion Cousin undulate between unsettling organ throbs, twisted drone-folk and screeching, grizzled hellscapes. ‘Nona, Decima Et Morta’ even comes with a seal of approval from O’Malley himself.
Nominative determinism dictates that Helen Money should be a rapper. However, much like fellow avant-garde creator Sarah Hennies, Money follows her own path. ‘Atomic’, Money’s second LP for Thrill Jockey, is a typically daring and audacious set from this singular creator. Anchored by her cello playing, Money runs her instrument through a vast array of pedals, effects and manipulations. The result is a set music as ominous and foreboding as ‘Atomic’s cover. One for fans of Sleep, Anna Von Hausswolff, Grouper etc.
Baltimore is having a moment right now. In light of JPEGMAFIA’s recent success the world is starting to pay attention to a city which has long boasted one of the healthiest underground musical communities in the United States. It’s a good time, then, for scene stalwarts Horse Lords to drop their fourth LP ‘The Common Task’. This is a set of knotted experimental rock that hiccups and jerks delightfully. The way in which each different instrumentalist attempts to tie the others up in knots owes a debt to the math-rock of Don Caballero, but the band’s sensibility is far more groove-orientated and some of the liquified guitar lines draw obliquely from Tuareg blues. The more playful edges of Battles’ discography are a good comparison for ‘The Common Task’.
Even in times of relative stability Ian William Craig’s music has an air of mournful beauty about it. However, the exceptional circumstances surrounding the recording of his new LP ‘Red Sun Through Smoke’ - the Canadian forest fires of 2018 which brought about the death of Craig’s grandfather - imbue this record with almost unbearable poignance. The likes of Keeley Forsyth, Sarah Davachi and serpentwithfeet are invoked by ‘Red Sun Through Smoke’, but Craig mourns where they would brood, his tones beatific, beautiful, heartbroken.
Lightning Bolt’s ‘Hypermagic Mountain’ is an LP that might help you get out any pent-up energy you have at the moment due to, oh I don’t know, not going outside or constantly checking the news or whatever. Originally released in 2005, this reissue of ‘Hypermagic Mountain’ augments the frenzied screes of Brians Chippendale and Gibson with an informative booklet. The gruesome twosome are at their wildest here, veering close to The Mars Volta in their helter-skelter riffage but still falling on the side of noise-rock rather than prog.
Fans of neo-jazz luminaries BADBADNOTGOOD should get very excited about ‘Visions’. You see, this LP has been forged by Matthew Tavares and Leland Whitty, two of the group’s founding members. Whereas BBNG’s music often grounds itself in rhythm or harmony, ‘Visions’ is a slightly more abstracted affair, leaning into free-, spiritual- and chamber-jazz stylings. That said, a cut like ‘Visions Of You’, with its rolling hip-hop drum shuffle and woozy strings which enter around the halfway point, could have turned up on BBNG’s ‘IV’.
“Hang on”, we hear you ask, “isn’t that the woman from The Lonely Island’s ‘Jack Sparrow’ video?” Why yes, yes it is. You see, Myrkur is the musical alias of Norwegian actor Amalie Bruun. Generally the project has tended towards black metal, but on the third Myrkur LP ‘Folkesange’ we find Bruun settling on an ethereal and ornate chamber-folk style. With its baroque strings and reverb-smudged ambiences, ‘Folkesange’ sounds like the sort of thing you’d put on to watch a boat full of elves push off for Valinor.
When my brother and I meet up, we lay low. Play a bit of football, watch a bit of TV, nothing major. The brothers Eno, on the other hand, use family get-togethers as an opportunity to whip up masterful ambient-classical records. ‘Mixing Colours’ is Brian & Roger’s first collaborative LP for a few decades, but they get right back into the groove of working together here (probably something to do with them sharing DNA, I’d imagine). Beautiful, light-touch environmental music to help you zone out.
It took Paul Webb, the former Talk Talk fellow behind Rustin Man, seventeen years to follow up 2002’s ‘Out Of Season’, the collaborative LP he made with Beth Gibbons. As such, it’s pleasantly surprising to find that Webb has dished up new Rustin Man full-length ‘Clockdust’ barely thirteen months on from 2019’s ‘Drift Code’. Much like ‘Drift Code’, ‘Clockdust’ is a set of quirky old-world pop that conjures mental images of dusty music-halls and motionless carousels. Try, if you will, to imagine Gilbert And Sullivan being covered by Jarvis Cocker at his most cerebral - then you’re in the right ballpark.
Shinichi Atobe’s ‘Heat’ was a sleeper hit in the clubs back in 2018. The producer himself is a mysterious figure who shuns the spotlight, something that certainly contributed to the sense of intrigue around this LP. However, ‘Heat’ is a great house record on its own terms, its grooves rippling like asphalt baked by the midday sun. DDS, the Demdike Stare-helmed label that gave ‘Heat’ its first run, have now made the wise call to repress the album.
We’re only a couple of months in, but already the 2020s feel profoundly, unfathomably different to the 2010s. As arguably the definitive British act of the Teenies - and the producers of, in our opinion, its best album - one wonders what Sleaford Mods will make of this new world. With all the old rules done away with, now feels like as good a time as any to reacquaint oneself with the band’s 2015 LP ‘Key Markets’, repressed on fetching red/white splatter-wax by their own Extreme Eating imprint. At a time of such profound political upheaval, hearing a bloke mouth off about Nick Clegg over some dollar-bin synth-punk beats feels almost empoweringly petty, a reminder that reality will return one day.