Yes, that’s right, it’s the end of the week again, and we’ve got together another fine spread of lockdown listening for you.
Big albums, small albums, short albums, tall albums, they’re all here. A few are somewhat troubled (BC Camplight, Disembowelment) while others - White Poppy’s ‘Paradise Gardens’, for instance - seem blissfully free of worry. Some of them are over and done on one slab of wax while Pole’s triple-album set ‘1 2 3’ is so vast that it requires a box to hold it all together. This is the dawning of the Friday of New Musicius.
Usually you get Offset or Quavo ‘Shortly After Takeoff’, but there are in fact no Migos in sight on the new LP from inimitable singer-songwriter BC Camplight (Brian Christinzio). This album completes a trilogy that also includes ‘How To Die In The North’ and ‘Deportation Blues’, and like those records there are things weighing heavy on Christinzio’s heart here - ‘this is’, in his words, ‘an examination of madness and loss’. However, BC Camplight records have an almost Vonnegut-esque knack for lacing humour and heft together, and ‘Shortly After Takeoff’ is as likely to floor you with quick wit as it is with devastating subject matter. Think Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Carrie And Lowell’ as reimagined by Jens Lekman.
Roman number three - surprise boy in bed, and um … disembowel him! No, I don't like that “bowel” in there … gut him!
Barely five weeks before Sideshow Bob devised the latest diabolical scheme with which he intended to slay his nemesis Bart Simpson, a set of similarly long-haired Australians also had Disembowelment on the mind. Their 1993 debut LP ‘Transcendence Into The Peripheral’ also shared Bob’s predisposition for grandeur and showmanship - though rather than indulging in some light operetta, Disembowelment channelled their energy into a set of absolutely brutal death-/doom-/black-/stoner-metal hybrids. Relapse have now reissued the record across two vinyl. Ah, le mot juste …
When I first got this in to write about, I briefly mistook it for another record from John Dwyer’s freaky-deaky solo psych endeavour Damaged Bug. However, Lightning Bug are unlike Damaged Bug in both make-up and sound. ‘October Song’ is a hugely arresting record from the NYC five-piece, one that sometimes laps the shore of shoegaze but also pushes outwards from the genre into skyscraping dronescapes. Audrey Kang’s wistful vocals only add to ‘October Song’s’ sense of ethereal beauty.
Like BC Camplight, Lorenzo Senni’s music is at once playful and humorous yet also strains with great emotion. The difference lies in the execution - whereas Camplight crafts indie-rock tunes, Senni opts for a deconstructed take on 90s trance. ‘Scacco Matto’, Senni’s first LP in six years and also his debut full-length album for Warp, finds the producer further investigating the synaptic resonances of this much-maligned sound even as he conjures stormy electro-scapes.
While it feels like a lifetime ago, the period when folk returned to conquer all is really quite recent - we’re talking late-00s, a point when acts like Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver shifted records of cooing acoustic balladry by the bucketload. Other Lives remember how it was, and on their new LP ‘For Their Love’ the Oklahoma group are determined to give the sound a new lease of life. Tracks like ‘Hey Hey I’ and ‘Lost Day’ are the sort of stirring lilts that will do very well in the next festival season, whenever that may be …
Some pieces of music that start with ‘1 2 3’ - Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’, that Feist song from the iPod advert, Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo No. 5’. Mute’s new Pole boxset ‘1 2 3’ is similar to none of those songs in any way, something you may well be pleased to know (not me - I’m an apologist for all three). You see, the trio of albums that Pole released in the late-90s/early-00s are really rather original things that push dub sonics out into the ambient netherworld. Kind of like Basic Channel if they did away with all of the techno and just focussed on the dub.
Quelle Chris & Chris Keys’ 2015 collab LP ‘Innocent Country’ is one of the strongest records in either artist’s discography. As such, it makes sense that the pair would link again for a sequel, though ‘Innocent Country 2’ has taken perhaps a little longer than expected to make it out into the world. No matter - this is another set of pointed jazz-hop from the pair, one where beats lull you in before the bars hit you with real talk. The guestlist here, which features artists like Earl Sweatshirt, Merrill Garbus, billy woods and Homeboy Sandman, is testament to the high esteem in which both Chris’s are held by their peers.
Whatever is going to pass for Summer this year is hoving rapidly into view. As such, you’ll need a new set of jams to listen to as you gaze out of the window and dream about all the fun you could be having outside. RVG’s ‘Feral’ could well be that album. The Australian group’s sophomore LP is a nice mish-mash of a few rock styles that were popular in the 90s - shoegaze, psych-rock, jangle-pop. However, urgent vocal performances ground the record, preventing an otherwise dreamy listen from completely drifting off into the ether.
As a rule, any album with Freddie Gibbs on it is worth your time. Gangsta Gibbs is but one of the features on ‘What Kinda Music’, the new collaborative LP from jazz drummer Yussef Dayes and Tom Misch, a singer-songwriter who does a sort of TikTok-generation take on blue-eyed soul. Rocco Palladino and Kaidi Akinnibi are the other guests on ‘What Kinda Music’, an album of the kind of vibier-than-thou neo-soul flexes that one might expect from a duo with such a lackadaisical approach to question marks. Like RVG’s ‘Feral’, ‘What Kinda Music’ is an album that would have been the sound of the Summer in a less extraordinary year.
Here is another record in which vibe is of paramount importance. With its fondness for shoegaze tones and washed-out textures, White Poppy’s ‘Paradise Gardens’ is not dissimilar to the Lightning Bug album mentioned above. However, whereas Lightning Bug use reverb and delay to create surging emotional rushes, White Poppy’s Crystal Dorval drifts off into a sort of sun-dappled dreamland. There’s Grouper in here, but also the kaleidoscopic reveries of ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’-era Animal Collective.