She wore a New Music Friday, the kind you find in a (first-)hand (record) store (called Norman Records).
No Prince this week - though Mr. Love Symbol will get a mention in the Ulver write-up - but there’s plenty of new generation talent in the mix. Prince may never have made any music that you could wholeheartedly describe as prog, but the albums below from Tigran Hamasyan and Motorpsycho share something of his technical pyrotechnics and aesthetic ambition. Aside from that we’ve a variety of noisy rock LPs, one not so noisy one from Widowspeak, synth-pop of different stripes and Angel Olsen’s spare ‘Whole New Mess’. I was working part-time selling records by Grimes, and my boss was Mr. Phil Leigh...
Angel Olsen - Whole New Mess
Angel Olsen’s ‘Whole New Mess’ isn’t all that new after all. You see, this LP largely finds the vaunted singer-songwriter reworking numbers from ‘All Mirrors’, the brilliant full-length she released back in 2019. However, that album’s synth-age-Gainsbourgisms are cast to the wayside here, leaving Olsen with little more than her guitars for company. The result is an LP which brings cinematic scope to the spectral balladry she displayed earlier in her career on tracks like ‘White Fire’.
Belbury Poly - The Gone Away
Ghost Box Records fans, rejoice! For Jim Jupp, label co-founder and the brains behind Belbury Poly, hath brought forth a new album entitled ‘The Gone Away’. And lo, this time he’s in a kosmische mood, easing up on the hauntological effects and samples from old BBC TV shows in order to foreground some delightfully playful synth work. Verily, ‘The Gone Away’ is one for those who enjoy the dulcet tones of Plaid and Seefeel and such things like these.
Bully - SUGAREGG
“What is a ‘SUGAREGG?’” I hear you ask. Well friend, you’ll have to listen to the third LP from Nashville’s Bully in order to solve that particular puzzle. The Alicia Bognanno-led outfit’s second album for Sub Pop does their label proud by delivering a set of anthemic, grungy rock tunes - indeed, Bully taped ‘SUGAREGG’ at the same studio in which Nirvana laid down ‘In Utero’. Crunchy, sparky and very loud indeed, ‘SUGAREGG’ is a riot.
Girls In Synthesis - Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future
Those of you who are craving the visceral thrill of live music more than ever at the moment may want to steer clear of ‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future’, the debut LP from Girls In Synthesis. Not because it’s a bad album - far from it, in fact - but more because one can only imagine the mayhem that this London three-piece cause when they play live, and listening to the album might get you all hot under the collar for that experience. The serrated-edge noise-rock whirlwinds of ‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future’ look to Preoccupations and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs.
Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song
Kelly Lee Owens may proclaim her new LP to be full of ‘Inner Song’, but thankfully for the listener there is just as much sound being projected outward as inward here. Across this album Owens moves between contemplative electronica ballads ala former collaborator Jon Hopkins, some textural synthetic experiments and harder club tracks that verge on the Berlin sound of Ostgut Ton. In a pleasingly unexpected turn of events, John Cale guests on the beatific ‘Corner Of My Sky’.
Motorpsycho - The All Is One
Prog-metal aficionados Motorpsycho return to noodle fearsomely once more. Even by the standards of this Norwegian outfit ‘The All Is One’ is an ambitious record - the five-part album centrepiece ‘N.O.X.’ alone runs to over forty minutes. ‘The All Is One’ is the final instalment in the band’s ‘Gullvåg’ trilogy, so if you dug what Motorpsycho did on ‘The Tower’ and ‘The Crucible’ then you’ll likely be able to get behind this one as well. I should have saved my ye olde chat for ‘The All Is One’ instead of using it all up on the Belbury Poly album, shouldn’t I...
The Heads - Reverberations Vol: 2
The Heads return, a few months on from the first ‘Reverberations’ volume, with another set of psych-rock taped at the edge of the universe. Well, not actually at the edge of the universe - at a 2001 gig at Bristol’s Thekla club, to tell the truth. Still, the band manage to get suitably far-out on this album, their souped-up take on the Spacemen 3/Brian Jonestown Massacre schtick still sounding suitably monolithic despite the rawness of the live recordings.
Tigran Hamasyan - The Call Within
Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau all rate Tigran Hamasyan, so he must be doing something right. On ‘The Call Within’ we find the piano über-prodigy delivering music which blurs the boundary between techy jazz, post-rock and full-on prog. It’s a style that has a spiritual connection to the aforementioned Motorpsycho album but, sonically, is closer to artists like The Physics House Band.
Ulver - Flowers of Evil
Dream if you can a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But wait … what if those blooming flowers are, in fact, ‘Flowers Of Evil’? And what if the whole situation is being soundtracked not by Prince but by the Norwegian outfit Ulver? To be honest, ‘Flowers Of Evil’ comes a lot closer to the sound of The Artist Formerly Known As than Ulver’s early records did, trading out their old black metal style for a soaring, moderately Gothic brand of synth-pop equal-parts The Cure and Talk Talk.
Widowspeak - Plum
Widowspeak’s ‘Plum’ has a great album cover, and it backs that up with some of the more winsome indie-rock that we’ve heard this year. The band largely float along in that slightly slack, slightly dreamy mode which one also hears in the music of Deerhunter, though Widowspeak’s sound is more clear-headed than the work of Bradford Cox et al. What I’m trying to say is that ‘Plum’ is a quintessential Captured Tracks release, and that’s never a bad thing for a record to be.