Norman Records is in the house tonight, everybody just have a New Music Friday time.
Sorry for party rocking, but we’ve gone big this week. Carly Rae Jepsen! Coil! Jon Hassell! Fiona Apple! These are shining stars of popular musical history, leaders in their respective fields. They’ve all delivered fine records which we chronicle below, but what’s perhaps even more impressive is that the newer acts in the mix - Courtney Marie Andrews, Laurence Pike and so on - match them with their upstart efforts.
Let’s get ridiculous.
Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated Side B
Like a lot of people for whom ‘Emotion’ entered their lives in their early 20s, I absolutely ride for Carly Rae Jepsen. She’s a pop treasure, and I hope to hear her making life-affirming synth-pop bangers for many years to come. As was the case with ‘Emotion’, Jepsen’s 2019 LP ‘Dedicated’ now receives an accompanying ‘Side B’ collection compiled of previously-unreleased tracks from the album’s sessions. ‘Dedicated’ traded out a little of ‘Emotion’s technicolour punchiness to usher in a slightly more mature and contemplative style, and ‘Side B’ continues in this vein.
Courtney Marie Andrews - Old Flowers
I really cannot stress enough just how good a songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews is. If you don’t have her music in your life then you need to rectify that post-haste - her plucky, heartfelt songs of love and loss greet you like old friends whether you’re on your first, fifth and fiftieth listen. Andrews’ new LP ‘Old Flowers’ may be her rawest work to date, dealing as it does with a particularly turbulent break-up. The emotional turmoil punctures her countrified brand of Americana - on ‘Old Flowers’ the stylings of Angel Olsen and Bruce Springsteen we heard in Andrews’ previous records are abstracted into something more impressionistic.
Autotelia - I
Autotelia’s ‘I’ is the first LP made by this new outfit composed of TOMAGA’s Tom Relleen and The Oscillation’s Demian Castellanos. It’s also the latest excellent record to emerge from a kosmische synth scene that is going through a boom period right now. Spacemen 3, Dalham and of course Hans-Joachim Roedelius all come to mind when listening to this thing - the psychedelic influences of the former are probably what convinced Rocket Recordings (Goat, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs) to snap up ‘I’.
Coil - Astral Disaster Sessions Un/finished Musics Vol. 2
Coil made a hell of a lot of music in the sessions for their 1999 LP ‘Astral Disaster’. This is the second of the seminal industrial outfit’s ‘Astral Disaster Sessions Un/Finished Musics’ records after the first volume emerged in 2018, and like that set what we have here are some alternate versions and rare mixes of tunes that made ‘Astral Disaster’s final cut. It sounds like, y’know, Coil, which means that a lot of these tracks come off like Nurse With Wound fighting Cabaret Voltaire at the bottom of the sea.
Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters
It’s the one you’ve all been waiting for. Surely you’ve heard by now that Fiona Apple’s ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’ is being lauded as one of 2020’s standout LPs. The idiosyncratic songwriter’s first LP for eight years, ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters’ has received universal acclaim from critics and fans alike since it emerged back in April. We’ve had to wait a while for this thing to make it to vinyl, but now our patience has paid off. The day is finally here - prepare to experience one of the strangest, boldest and most brilliant collections of songs you’ll hear for some time.
Jessy Lanza - All The Time
You’ll struggle to find someone who doesn’t like Jessy Lanza’s music. Since she emerged back in the early 2010s the Canadian’s charmingly off-beat brand of dance-pop and bedroom r ‘n’ b has proven very difficult to resist. Lanza sticks to her guns on third LP ‘All The Time’ - working with Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan once again, Lanza’s synth-based ditties shimmer with a wistfulness that is part-hypnagogic dreamstate, part-pure personality. While slow jams dominate ‘All The Time’, Lanza also reminds us that she’s a dab hand at creating dancefloor delights by folding footwork and house into the album on a couple of tracks.
John Foxx and The Maths - Howl
Synth-pop bigmen John Foxx and Benge join forces - along with Hannah Peel and Robin Simon, the latter of which used to play with Foxx in Ultravox - for their fifth LP as John Foxx & The Maths. The music they make on ‘Howl’ comes off like a more unpredictable take on the austere electronic stylings with which Foxx made his name back in the 70s and 80s. Stephen Mallinder’s recent ‘Um Dada’ LP comes to mind when listening to this thing, while rocky electric guitars give tracks like ‘Tarzan And Jane Regained’ a bit of a Nine Inch Nails feel.
Jon Hassell - Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two)
Even though Jon Hassell is lauded as a greatly important artist, one gets the sense that even then we undersell his influence. The Fourth World style that Hassell ushered in with records such as 1977’s ‘Vernal Equinox’ has had an incalculable effect on so many genres down the years - ambient, house, plunderphonics, you name it. Even though he’s now well into his 80s, Hassell’s new LP ‘Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume 2)’ proves that there are few others who can create soundscapes so fractured and yet so vivid, so hallucinatory.
(It’s also worth noting that, according to his friend Brian Eno, Hassell has fallen on hard times of late due in large part to some long-term health conditions. A GoFundMe page has been set up for him by his god-daughters.)
Laurence Pike - Prophecy
Laurence Pike is very much an artist in Hassell’s image. A freeform drummer who is known for his work in groups including Szun Waves and PVT, Pike’s music runs Hassell’s Fourth World dialectics through the organic explorations of free jazz. ‘Prophecy’, Pike’s third solo LP in as many years, was born amongst the bushfires which ravaged his homeland of Australia earlier this year, circumstances that remind one of Ian William Craig’s ‘Red Sun Through Smoke’ (wow, there sure are a lot of bushfires at the moment aren’t there. Pretty bad!). This is an earthy and incantatory collection of instrumentals which befit a record with such a title.
PJ Harvey - Dry
Yes, we know PJ Harvey’s ‘Dry’ is not a new album - after all, the LP has been a seminal alt-rock tome ever since it emerged back in 1992. However, the excitement about this new edition of ‘Dry’ is that it marks the record’s first vinyl pressing for more than two decades, which seems an awfully long stretch in these reissue-heavy times. The LP has also been given a remastering job, meaning that Harvey’s grungy broadsides rip through the speakers with an even greater intensity than they did the first time around.