Didn’t new music used to come out on a Monday? With the charts tallied up for release on a Sunday? Ah, simpler times. What’s for sure is that you can still listen to music on a Friday. It can be old music, new music, borrowed music, blue music, whatever you like. But seeing as we like to sing the praises of contemporary artists, we're sticking with the new stuff for now.
Technically not all of the music chronicled below is fresh - there are a couple of reissues in there, and people who were at Sacrum Profanum festival 2018 may have already had a go on Fire! Orchestra’s ‘Actions’ - but it’s certainly all good enough to have new light shone on it on this New Music Friday, New 6th March, New Year of our Lord 2020.
A new run of African Head Charge reissues have been getting us all hot and bothered of late. The collaborative project of On-U Sound bossman Adrian Sherwood and Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah, African Head Charge’s music uses the techniques of dub as an anchor for innovation in a manner similar to Dennis Bovell and Andrew Weatherall (RIP). Their albums are all potent, heady experiences, but perhaps none more so than 1990 debut LP ‘Songs Of Praise’. For this re-released version of ‘Songs Of Praise’ we are also showered with bonus beats, a double-sided poster and an illuminating interview with Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah.
Despite coming up to almost three decades as a band, Cornershop are as playful and pointed as ever on new LP ‘England Is A Garden’. Wryly invoking both Rudyard Kipling and Linton Kwesi Johnson in the album’s title, ‘England Is A Garden’ sees Tjinder Singh et al delivering some of their most effervescent, melodious work for some time. Tracks like ‘No Rock: Save In Roll’ and ‘St. Marie Under Canon’ cross-pollinate the swagger of T. Rex with a vivid and invigorated bookishness pitched somewhere between Jarvis Cocker and ‘Graceland’-era Paul Simon. In a world of fakery, Cornershop keep it real.
"One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords and you're into jazz." Swap out the ‘chords’ for ‘track’ from this inimitable Lou Reed quotation and you’ve got yourself a design for Fire! Orchestra’s new LP ‘Actions’ - though it might have irked Reed that ‘Actions’ is an album that very much lives in jazz territory. Recorded at the 2018 edition of the Sacrum Profanum festival, this set finds Mats Gustafsson and his gang tackling Krzysztof Penderecki´s seminal ‘Actions For Free Jazz Orchestra’ score. Across an unbroken forty minutes the group lilt between amorphous outer-jazz, grumbling drones, hiccuping saxophone takes and a whole array of other avant styles.
The cover of Holden & Zimpel’s ‘Long Weekend’ EP may be rather similar to Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’, but that’s pretty much where the similarities between the records end. You see, rather than muscular indie-pop, ‘Long Weekend’ is a set of expansive electronica that bleeds into kosmische and experimental techno. Reliable synth dude (James) Holden mans the electronics here, but real harmonic thrust is provided by the reed playing of (Wacław) Zimpel. The overall vibe is kind of like a Laraaji exploration reconfigured by Luke Abbott.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a whole glut of new-school psychedeliacs emerge from the valleys of Wales. Artists such as Cate Le Bon, Hen Ogledd and LA Priest, all of whom have roots in Wales, have each pushed the British psych-pop lineage in different directions. To that list we can add Islet, whose third LP ‘Eyelet’ (clever…) recently dropped on Fire Records. There is a smoky dreaminess to tracks like ‘Good Grief’ and ‘Geese’ which draws equally from Stealing Sheep, Super Furry Animals and Carmen Villain.
On her third LP ‘Out Of My Province’ singer-songwriter Nadia Reid continues to pedal her elegant, heartfelt brands of folk balladeering and Americana. Reid joins forces with Matthew E. White and his Spacebomb crew here, and their sturdy playing helps to elevate Reid’s stirring songcraft. Some of ‘Out Of My Province progresses with the stately grace of Courtney Marie Andrews, but other moments - ‘Best Thing’, for instance - touch on the cinematic orchestrations of late Joni Mitchell and ‘Sea Change’-era Beck.
Neither Jicks nor Pavement for Stephen Malkmus this time around, who flies solo again on ‘Traditional Techniques’. Well, not entirely solo - the indie-rock legend is aided by arranger Chris Funk (The Decemberists) and guitarist Matt Sweeney (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Chavez). Still, to all intents and purposes this ten-track set is Malkmus alone. He uses the space to present us with his own off-beat version of Americana, though some tracks also veer off into something like The Incredible String Band territory. Vocally Malkmus remains as whimsical and erstwhile as ever.
Fans of Japanese fiction may well be familiar with Kindaichi Kosuke, a detective created by Seishi Yokomizo who seems to be a kind of Poirot figure (correct me if I’m wrong). Japanese film-and-TV composer Kentaro Haneda was a big Yokomizo fan, so in 1977 he assembled a crack-team of fellow musicians to create an album that channelled the Kosuke vibe into music. The Mystery Kindaichi Band, as they ended up being known, served up ‘The Adventures Of Kindaichi Kosuke’, a set of library-disco instrumentals equal-parts sleek and bumbling. The cast-list of ‘The Adventures Of Kindaichi Kosuke’ will make for interesting reading for anyone who digs Japanese music of the era - the players here have credits on records by (among others) Haruomi Hosono, Akiko Yano and Eri Ohno.
Meghan Remy has been doing U.S. Girls for a long while now. The project first emerged in the late 2000s, and early records like 2008’s ‘Introducing…’ were spectral and ultra-lo-fi anti-punk experiments in the Sonic Youth mould. Fast-forward to the present day and Remy’s sonic palette has expanded considerably - 2018’s outstanding ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ saw her applying a feminist punk ethos to girl-group, library-funk, leftfield synth-pop and much else besides. New U.S. Girls LP ‘Heavy Light’ finds Remy bridging the gap between her past and present by re-tooling some of her early work in a variety of new styles. While ‘Heavy Light’ may be richly harmonious, Remy delivers everything here with the same raised eyebrow and low-lit anger one found on Lana Del Rey’s ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’.
New LP ‘Conference Of Trees’ is something of a change of pace for Pantha Du Prince. We’re used to the German producer delivering deft, folksy tech-house in the John Talabot/Bonobo mould, and some of ‘Conference Of Trees’ still works that particular channel. However, we also get some notable excursions into ambient, drone and new-age composition here, with drums completely done away with entirely on the album’s first three tracks. As such, ‘Conference Of Trees’ offers the listener both a deep listening experience and the release of rhythm.