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Staff reviews this week

Good or bad, here's what we think of this week's crop of new releases.

Please note: All views expressed are those of individual staff and not Norman Records as a whole.

Various
Christophe Lemaire Presents: Can’t You Hear Me – African Nuggets & Garage Rock from Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

9/10 according to our Ant

You'd have to actually be some kind of nugget to glance at the title of this record and not know what you're getting - so my work here has been done for me. In a sense so has yours because if like me you're a relative noob when it comes to this stuff, there's no need to go crate digging - thanks to Christophe Lemaire for raiding Eothen Alapatt's collection and expertly curating this fabulous collection of gems.

This is the only record I've been cranking up to eleven in recent months where my wife hasn't questioned my sanity. She even went as far as saying she enjoyed it! The Ice Queen hath been melted.
And what human couldn't resist these funky, psychedelic garage rock grooves. Loads of dudes trying to be like Jimi Hendrix and that. It's joyous, infectious celebratory music (with the odd protest song).

If you've ever wondered what WITCH, Born Free, Peace, Chrissy Zebby Tembo, Paul NgoziRevolutions etc. sound like then here they are, all on one bloody great 2LP. Pure class.

  • Format(s):
    Double LP, £22.49

Alessandro Adriani
Crow / White Swan

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

9/10 according to our Ant

Apparently this is the first release in Mannequin’s Death Of The Machines 12” series of dancefloor weapons, but is actually released after the excellent ‘Mother’ 12” by Jasss. Anyways, you may or may not know that Alessandro Adriani is the man that steers the Mannequin ship and also records as Newclear Waves.

The first side of the 12” comprises an almighty remix of ‘Crow’ by Mick Wills who after a run of 12”s on DJ Hell’s International Deejay Gigolos has been pretty quiet on the production front until fairly recently; appearing on a coupla compilations with Melvin Oliphant aka Traxx as M.o.m.O. but he’s been doing superb remixes in the meantime for the likes of J.T.C, Hunnee, John Heckle, Elect. Pt.1 (RIP) etc. The ‘Crow - M.W. Cut’ has a delicious sleazy, druggy sound, proper 4am lost in the smoke and strobes vibe. If you dug Ian Hicks ‘VIY’ tape on Clan Destine then I totally recommend getting your mitts on this track and pumping it into your skull as loudly as humanly possible. It’s a gargantuan, all consuming, monster, epic tune, gently propelled by muted, shimmering percussion, dubby snares and draped in foggy, psychedelic synths with a smattering of acid.

Underneath ‘White Swan’ is a right filthy bugger that lifts off with creepy, distorted static, sci-fi/ horror synth that’s like 69’s (Carl Craig) ‘Desire’ on a bad trip. A pounding woody kick drum provides the momentum alongside cracking snares, and the whole thing chugs along in fine EBM infected techno style.

  • Format(s):
    12", £8.99

Manuel Göttsching
E2-E4

16 people love me. Be the 17th...

9/10 according to our Ant

At last the official 180g vinyl reissue of this eternal classic has landed in celebration of its 35th anniversary. I was 3 years old when this was released and had never even heard it until like eight years ago or something. Imagine my surprise while cruising along with my man Brett in his vehicle, we got into a conversation about Ash Ra Tempel, when he goes “Have you ever heard Manuel Göttsching - E2-E4?” I replied “No, I don’t think so”, he hits play and I’m like “What the fuck!!!” I had no idea that cherished Balearic house anthem E2-E4 by Sueno Latino had totally ripped this off. You can see why, Larry Levan used to spin Göttsching’s original at the Paradise Garage and I guess they just made it a bit more dancefloor compatible. Manuel can’t have been too pissed off about it though, as he recently performed it live with Sueno Latino and put it out on wax.

If you’ve never heard this record then you really need to seriously consider rectifying that as soon as possible. It’s mesmerising loop is pure proto-house/techno, it goes on for just under an hour and is totally magical. Soul-stirring, good vibes all the way... Until…the guitar gets a bit widdly prog rock for my ears during the later parts, but it’s totally forgivable because the rest is just so freakin’ amazing. I reckon my Dad would think that guitar action is spectacular.

  • Format(s):
    LP, £21.49
  • Artist: Manuel Göttsching
  • Label: MG.ART

Arnold Steiner
Mood Sequence

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

9/10 according to our Ant

Miami electro institution Transient Force label founder Arnold Steiner must be over the moon to score a release on Juan Atkins legendary Metroplex imprint. Is there any higher honour? It has to be said it’s well deserved. Steiner has been a force to be reckoned with, both through his label's output and productions under his own name and as AS1 on labels like Shiprec and The Exaltics Solar One Music.

The ‘Mood Sequence’ EP offers up 3 cuts of futuristic electro in the classic Metroplex mode, backed with a remix from the big man Juan himself. ‘In The End’ is first up, with a gnarly, gritty Drexciyan bassline, sharp snares, bleeping melody and sci-fi synth.

The titular track goes in a touch harder with booming 808’s and icy synth work. ‘Inertia Collision’ could be mistaken for vintage Model 500 with f/x laden vocal and astro themed lyrics. Juan Atkins is joined by Kimyon Huggins for a superb remix of ‘Mood Sequence’. Keeping key elements of the original intact with added bite and a bassline fatter than your momma’s big booty.

Immaculately produced throughout and highly recommended to devotees of vintage Model 500, Drexciya, DJ Stingray as well as more recent producers like Dez Williams, Q-Chip, Carl Finlow etc.

  • Format(s):
    12", £9.99

Ultimate Painting
Dusk

7 people love me. Be the 8th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

Ultimate Painting are an example of one of those times where the side project becomes the main band. These members of Veronica Falls and Mazes would be hard pressed to find time for any other musical projects these days with the runaway success of this prolific thing.

If stuck think of them somewhere between an English Real Estate and an English version of the Velvet Underground’s third album. They jangle languidly on ‘Song For Brian Jones’ which superbly demonstrates the power of having two guitars chiming away without a care in the world. This is the nicest song I’ve heard them do and it makes me very happy indeed. The album is full of other minor pop successes which reference such experts in the field such as the Clientele and the Zombies, ‘Monday Morning, Somewhere Central’ is like the Hollies as re-imagined for a post lo-fi world and ‘Who Is Your Next Target’ is kind of like a really happy version of Elliott Smith strumming away seemingly without anything to bother him. 

Ultimately Ultimate Painting come across as a simplified version of the Clientele. They don’t quite write such lavish songs, their melodies aren’t always timeless and their lyrics don't quite hit at the same autumnal heartstrings but they have a lovely and patient laid back sound and this is always used to their advantage. When they write a great song such as ‘Set Me Free’ the sound is as clear and fresh as a morning breeze.

A really nice collection of songs for fans of 60s influenced beat pop.

  • Format(s):
    CD, £11.49
    LP, £17.99

The Early Years
II

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

2008 seems a long time ago but that is in fact the last time the Early Years dipped their heads above the precipice. This is their first album in ages and they burst out of the traps on the title track as if those years of pent up energy have exploded in a five minute burst of kraut influenced psych rock. The track is an absolute blitzkrieg of ambition held back only by it’s vocal similarity to some Joy Division song or other. Never mind it adds a bit of warm nostalgia to proceedings.  

That's about as visceral and raw as it gets though as they spend the remainder of the album trying to blend krauty guitars and krauty synths into entertaining new shapes. ‘Out of Signal’ is an after-the-lord-mayors-show slow burner which showcases the bands ability to blend wobbly psych guitars with pulsating electronics. This is not going to be a comparison everyone is happy with but they remind me of what would have happened had the early Verve discovered Silver Apples. The music is atmospheric, ambitious in scope yet keeps an electronic beating heart. ‘Fluxes’ recalls ‘Movement’ era New Order collaborating with the bleeps of Factory Floor and ‘Hush’ is like ‘With Or Without You’ U2 and could be the kind of weeper that would find it’s way into the hearts and minds of Coldplay fans. That's not necessarily a bad thing as it showcases that the band can provide popular emotional resonance  whilst still experimenting as ‘Clone Theory’ pulses into view - it’s ancient drum machine and Carpenter-esque slabs of soundtrack synth with satiate any worries that the previous track may just me a bit too cloying. 

Overall I‘m pretty impressed. This is an ambitious meticulously put together album  - expertly produced and jam packed with interesting textures. Sometimes good things take time and the Early Years have managed to arc some pretty obvious influences into a coherent whole.  

  • Format(s):
    CD, £11.49
    Double LP, £17.49

Marisa Anderson
Into The Light

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

8/10 according to our Clinton

Yet another imaginary film album but don't let that put you off as this is a very pleasant listen indeed. Marisa Anderson is a guitar slinger from Portland who I imagine has long, slender and very nimble fingers. 

The album is a collection of shimmering instrumentals using picked electric and steel guitars that could easily soundtrack a lonesome person crossing the desert towards the warm and lush west coast of America. Pieces such as 'In Waves' are the type of instrumental that could work with a vocal and you keep expecting some Laura Veirs type voice to pop in but it never does. Instead it shimmers beautifully like a sun spangled lake only interrupted by the slightly more bluesy 'The Old Guard'. 

Otherwise it's never discordant, not even when compared to generally melodic pickers such as John Fahey. There are traces of Michael Chapman in the rolling chords but the fact that it's played on electric guitar gives a completely different hue. These intricate composition are warmed by rhodes piano tones and glistening pedal steel to result in a lovely mood piece.

  • Format(s):
    LP, £16.99

ASUNA + Stijn Hüwels + Dudal + James Murray + Hybernation
100616

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

Those people at Home Normal did a bunch of shows in London inviting a whole pile of friends to muck in with their ambient goodness and also contribute tracks to a series of delicious CDr releases that were sold either on the night or later on to us stay-at-homes. 

Also you get an insert a download and a photo slide thing which when added to the music makes for a nice package. I'm going to briefly hare through the record so you can get a gist of what's going on. ASUNA makes the kind of electro-acoustic loops that both energise and send you hurtling off into a nicer world somewhere. Also making music that soothes is Stijn Huwels who contributes a whopping four tracks of lovely loops that remind me of 'Selected Ambient Works' era Aphex Twin of the more ambient side of bvdub. I really like this stuff. Hybernation do fluttering beats that sounds like a clothes peg attached to a bicycle wheel, James Murray contributes some static like a malfunctioning pylon and the closing Dudal is a delicious piece of ambience utilising the sound of waves and the seaside. Ah the seaside  - I remember that.

Overall a really nice collection that veers between some wonderful ambient tones and more experimental works.     

  • Format(s):
    CD, £7.99
  • Artist: ASUNA + Stijn Hüwels + Dudal + James Murray + Hybernation
  • Label: Home Normal

Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions
Let Me Get There

9 people love me. Be the 10th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

Is Hope Sandoval the worlds most sultry person. She's dangerously sultry, in fact -- more sultry even than the Cadbury's Caramel Rabbit.

Here she does a duet called 'Let Me Get There' with Kurt Vile who isn't very sultry at all. In fact I've never noticed it before that Kurt can't sing. I don't think he actually knows what he is doing here but he gives it a good go bless him. It's like Francois Hardy duetting with the squeaky voiced teen off the Simpsons.  The music is nice with a bit of a laid back '70s feel and some wandering guitars. At nine minutes + the song pretty much outstays his welcome as if Kurt can't quite get up and leave. 

Overleaf 'Hurt Spider' is a lovely piece  - a slo-mo blur of twangy slowcore with that soft voice aching over the top of it and when Hope is in full charge things are a lot better. I'm drifting dreamingly into this as if falling into a particularly welcoming souffle.  

  • Format(s):
    10", £6.99
  • Artist: Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions
  • Label: Tendril Tales

Flyying Colours
Mindfulness

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

The label really don't like it when we don't like their records so it's a good job prolific Aussie shoegaze hopefuls make an absolute racket on the opening track of this their debut album. I feel that here they've moved on somewhat from their earlier EP's with a better know-how when it comes to dynamics, probably helped by the addition of a rhythm section. Who knew? 

They've previously sat at the noisier end of the shoegaze spectrum with lots of nods towards Smashing Pumpkins and the like and are unafraid to put a wibbling guitar solo in either bless 'em.  I'm pretty keen on 'Long Holiday' which shows that they have a softer touch despite the drums which really bash away like a pig in a home furnishings store. 'This Is What You Wanted' trundles on with a marriage of glacial and distorted guitars but it's the thunderous drumming which really makes these songs take off. Having made the earlier Smashing Pumpkins comparison I'm feeling I may have egg on my face as tracks like '1987' are feather-lite and breezy, skipping along tunefully like a shoegaze lamb.

I could do with a bit more racket and skree to be honest and it get's a bit moribund at times to the point that I forgot it was playing. Howeverwhile there's nothing here that hasn't already been done in 1989 this is a pleasant jog through everything that is enjoyable about shoegaze and dream pop.  

  • Format(s):
    LP, £15.99

Eros and The Eschaton
Weight Of Matter

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

7/10 according to our Clinton

Have you ever wanted to strike Jonathan Donahue? I have to admit that a bearded middle aged man singing like an extra from 'Annie' and twinkling like a Disney soundtrack stopped me fully enjoying the last Mercury Rev album. However Eros and the Eschaton despite having to txt spk their titles have a much more powerful take on the 'Rev's magical dream pop. They achieve this by adding swathes of churning MBV guitars on 'The Way I Feel 2Nite'  - there's also some of the classic melodies of early Grandaddy here and that thing where the music is loud but the vocals are quiet.

Shame they go ballad-y after track two as I was looking forward to a pop feast. We soon head into a three song suite of quieter reflections that hint at Mazzy Star before 'RXX' bursts the pop balloon with a scree of guitars 'neath  Kate Perdoni's  energetic off kilter vocals bringing to mind Sonic Youth and Sparks having a romp.  There's some good stuff here that will appeal to fans of Blonde Redhead, Thee More Shallows, Flaming Lips and of course Mercury Rev.  They have the key to the skyscraping magic box and aren't going to let go. Closer 'From Belly Deep' is soooooo christmassy. 

  • Format(s):
    CD, £11.99
    LP, £18.49

Dead Rabbits
Everything Is A Lie

1 person loves me. Be the 2nd...

7/10 according to our Clinton

Thought I’d take a bit of psych rock off Robin before he goes completely mad. In fact my previous review of  this band said pretty much the same thing which shows just how things don’t change much in our world and also how quickly new albums by psych rock bands roll around. 

I’m also going to say the same thing as last time in that there’s a pleasing lack of the type of wibbly solo-ing that usually puts me off such psych influenced records. Dead Rabbits sit at the shoegaze end of psych with strung out guitars and stoned sounding (almost) Shaun Ryder-like vocals ’neath the haze.

The press release describes this band as ‘exciting’ but I’d tend to disagree, they are fairly languid in. Their songs are at just got out of bed pace, the drummer seems to be half asleep and the guitars seem to have taken a healthy dose of zopiclone but this gives them a very listenable sound that doesn’t challenge but feels pretty nice on the ears. They are indebted to most of the underground music from 1989 such as Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive etc but certain tracks such as ‘All Your Little Lies’ have a harder, darker edge as the band turn nasty. This juxtaposes nicely with ‘I Don’t Want To Die Today’ with a lovely downward facing chord sequence that recalls the House of Love on their first record and leads to a pleading vocal sequence and sky scraping chorus. 

We shouldn’t dismiss this band just because they are half asleep. They tread a nice line in hazed out memories of shoegaze and should be left alone to do their thing .

  • Format(s):
    LP, £15.49
    CD, £10.99

Biosphere
Departed Glories

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

8/10 according to our Laurie

Just a warning, the office goons Phil and Ian are playing some soul thing in the main room, the wailing vocals of which are completely ruining any chance of me getting lost in this. Headphones are useless against the power of Motown. Or, at least, ambient music is. Unless you’re Tim Hecker.

Biosphere is not. He is but one quiet man, living out his romantic frosty daydreams in the form of sound that appears to have been frozen in an iceberg for a few centuries, only recently thawed for your listening pleasure. This is the bit where Ian would reel off the full history of the Biosphere sound from shaky beginnings to stadium tours, but he’s about to bugger off to the continent for a week so you’re stuck with me, someone who knows next to nothing about them.

Departed Glories is a mix of slight, haunting melodic pieces and even more slight dark tense slices. ‘Than Is the Mater’ is like the memory of a hymn being played to a dead world. ‘Down on Ropes’ rumbles ominously without a melody in sight; these are the better ones on here. There’s a strange voice trapped in the erroneously-titled ‘Free From the Bondage You Are In’ that never seems to escape. ‘Wyll and Purpose’ is boring, skip it. In fact, there are a few tracks on here that are a bit on the stale side, just drifting melodies like all those bloody Eno carbon copies.

I think the use of voices completely redeems this though; being totally bored by the 8-minute 2nd track doesn’t usually bode well for an album, but Departed Glories luckily drops in some interesting textures in most tracks. ‘Aura In the Kitchen With Candlesticks’ starts with yet another keyboard drone but is soon joined by some ghostly hovering vocal and steadily-plucked, sorrowful guitar. Fuck, this is sad. The chant-like feel to a lot of it, as well as the heavy use of processed vocal really reminds me of Kara-Lis Coverdale & LXV’s incredible Sirens from last year, this being a lot more minimal. But why oh why didn’t you delete the useless bits like ‘Wyll and Purpose’, just look at that album length!

  • Format(s):
    CD, £10.49
    Double LP, £20.49

Automatisme
Momentform Accumulations

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

8/10 according to our Laurie

Prior to working here I had no idea that Constellation even released electronic music in any form. Yet here I am, sitting next to a pile of melted plastic bags listening to a soon-to-be-released angular ambient techno album that Robin apparently ‘didn’t understand’. And that’s coming from a philosophy graduate.

It’s almost a fair statement actually; at around track 2 there’s a real sense of disorientation through awkward machine polyrhythms and softly grinding sampled abrasions. Amongst the complex patter of clicky clacky percussion however are some brighter, dronier elements like the chill chord walls on ‘Simultaneite 3’ and the perhaps more looming murk on ‘Simultaneite 1’. There are some pretty danceable grooves too, which would get you dancing if anyone were brave enough to drop ‘Transport 2’ in a club, with its unevenly bouncing kicks sounding like a great breakbeat or dare I say IDM track. If IDM wasn’t the snobbiest genre tag on earth. This one has a great throwback feel to the glory days of Selected Ambient Works, til the end when it devolves into whirring bassy noise loops. Brilliant.

The tracks tend to go through quite natural-feeling transition periods, when one rhythmic loop will gradually die away and another sneakily takes its place. It’s sort of like the more beaty side of M Geddes Gengras under the Personable moniker but a bit more restrained, and with the grainy haziness of Echospace stuff like CV313. There’s a hint of Lnrdcroy in here too, and some nods to Line releases like NHK’s Program. It’s only his debut album too.

  • Format(s):
    CD, £11.49
    LP, £19.49

Xander Harris
California Chrome

2 people love me. Be the 3rd...

7/10 according to our Laurie

Looks like it’s been a while since Texan gloomsynth head Justin Sweatt aka Xander Harris released a full length, but lo and behold he’s crawled out of his cockpit, hair all matted, and is putting something out, on Rock Action no less. Well I never.

This is 80s horror music that John Carpenter and his Death Waltz cronies would gargle hungrily at. Sweatt clearly has a veritable arsenal of synths and drum machines, pushing them to cyber zombie stomp-level til you’re marching along all red-eyed and bleeping. Imagine if Eurythmics were stuck in that pub in Shaun of the Dead but Annie Lennox had been carried off by the hordes. “She’s gone. We can’t save her. Fire up that 808, I’ve just thought of a great drum line.” Speaking of which, some great machine action on the fierce ‘Basilisk Stare’.

It’s decidedly banging; I was not expecting anything this upbeat and danceable from Xander Harris. The trouble is the trouble that I find with most nostalgic synth music - there isn’t a whole lot to separate it from its origin, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, just puts us in a weird time loop where culture repeats a little too closely. I guess there’s a sort of Italo disco influence here, but oh my gad it’s so 80s, I gotta take a break and post a tweet or something. That’s what my generation does, right?

  • Format(s):
    CD, £9.99
    LP, £18.99

Giraffe Tongue Orchestra
Broken Lines

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

4/10 according to our Laurie

Just look at that lineup. I mean, this supergroup is so super that they’re barely even a group anymore. A real hard rock unit, this lot. Brent Hinds, Ben Weinman, Thomas Pridgen, all great musicians, pushing the boundaries of rock & metal in their respective bands at various points.

Then there’s the bassist from comedy metal band Dethklok, and, wait a minute, is that the replacement singer from Alice In Chains?!?? Little did they all know that the comedic element in fact comes from the latter, Mr. DuVall single-handedly catapulting this band into realms of hilarity that Dethklok creator Brendon Small only dreams of. And that’s saying a lot cuz I actually really enjoy Metalocalypse. But the metalocalypse is here, and this band is it.

So instrumentally you’ve got the 3 boundary-pushers I mentioned in the first paragraph playing extremely safe and mundane heavy rawk riffs and drum lines. There are half-arsed ‘prog’ elements thrown in as fluff; spontaneous, nonsensical key changes abound here, and pointless irregular time signatures fly out of nowhere to piss you off. But ultimately, it’s DuVall that kills it dead, soaring his cheap Axl Rose whine all over dreadful choruses and singing the word ‘diiieeieeeeeee’ with extra grit and gratuitous length. Am I old?

I’m disappointed. I had just started to rekindle my love for some landmark metal releases of my youth like Leviathan and Ghost Reveries, then along comes a bunch of spiders to remind me why metal can be such a bad genre. With the name of this band, the cover, and most of the members, I thought it had potential to be one of the best stoner metal releases of the year, but actually we’re At-least..In..Pains..?? 4/10 doesn’t even inspire good puns.

  • Format(s):
    CD, £11.49
    LP, £18.49

ABRA
Princess

5 people love me. Be the 6th...

9/10 according to our Robin

Songwriter star Abra has put in a shift and a half in the career leading up to ‘Princess’, as attested to in a heady press sheet that harkens back to the times when she was just pulling up an acoustic for covers of Gucci Mane tunes. Listening in on this EP, you can hear her sound as expansive and maximalist, but also cramped and homegrown, suggesting both an artist who’d make neat Youtube vids and huge, arena-scaped bangers.

As such, this record feels both high in stakes and low in key -- Abra starts it in earnest on the short vignette “Come 4 Me”, with interpolating vocal moans, a throbbing beat and a mix of synths both stark and ethereal ultimately forming an impressive sketch. This, of course, is before she jumps into a pop song proper on “Vegas”, whose huge industrial-strength beat combines with whining electronics and a flurry of vocalisations. It’s great hearing Abra both plot out tunes and get them in the main, and as “Vegas” attests, you can hear both the euphoria and the tinkering at once.

On “Big Boi”, Abra presents a huge, gaping environment for her song to bounce off of, with a beat that goes up in flames around her abstracted voice, while Tommy Genesis raps from front of the queue. It’s these small traded-on details that make ‘Princess’ feel so alive, the demarcation of intimate and remote -- the beat at your feet versus the singing from speakers on the other end of the room on “Pull Up”. This is a startlingly precise release and the songs shine accordingly.

Forma
Physicalist

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

8/10 according to our Robin

I’ve eaten a lot of vegetarian scotch eggs today and I’m ready to do it: I’m ready to make one of Phil’s coveted Music Is A Lot Like Food analogies. Forma, they’re a lovely proposition of ambient, but with a kosmische coating that invites melody, rhythm and a general spinning of the musical axis. The drones, and the neo-classical beauty contained within, is that egg at the centre; the rest is a fine thick coating of veggie scotch. I am an advert for Quorn, but I am also a very serious reviewer. Please listen to me.

This new Forma LP is entitled ‘Physicalist’ -- perhaps as a joke about its airy psychedelic haze -- and sees musician and artist John Also Bennett join the band, all so that they can make the ambient behemoth they’ve always dreamed of. As a trio of synth boys, pianists and flautists, they create a record that has as much to do with Neu! as Harold Budd, moving seamlessly between bouncy programmed drums to looping melodies. Occasionally, the synths are used both to establish a rhythm and also to flare up the senses, with disappearing and repeating hooks straddling the fine line between a real catchy thing you want to hear again and a phone alarm you want to throw out of your window -- an early case in point is the shimmering melody of “Spin Glass”.

The drums are programmed, but they’re in charge: on a tune like “Ghosts”, they combine with a settling bass line to dictate proceedings, the songs other hues sounding remote and disjointed like little dots in a skyline. As the record goes on, the canvas opens up a bit, and gorgeous landscape sweeps like “Descent” come in, extending radius to diameter with synth lines bold and omniscient. In fact, it’s the second half of the record that feels like the real triumph, its tunes patient and pastoral amidst the disciplines of kosmische. Come on guys -- take me with you to your vineyard on that abandoned planet.

  • Format(s):
    Double LP, £19.99
    CD, £12.49

True Widow
Avvolgere

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

7/10 according to our Robin

Based on the descriptions of this as an affair of the doomladen, slowcore, patience-testing, and volume-pummelling, I kinda feel like I’m listening to the wrong record. I feel like I could make something better out of the 45rpm vocals and the 33rpm chord progressions, but I’ll listen to it at the former and declare ‘Avvolgere’ a relatively nice and quite emotive record of crunchy guitar and sentimental stonerisms.

This one’s a long journey, but the set-up’s relatively simple: the record finds some level of footing on “The Trapper & The Trapped”, where a vocal duet sweetens the otherwise earth-scorched offering of distorted chords and snail-sad drumming. From here the record seems to submit to the version of sludge it loves best, the one with a sombre face and a deep sigh: “O. O. T. P. V.” is made good by its vocal inflections, which are left to linger a moment longer on certain lyrics in a sort of heartbroken psychedelic lament.

I’ll say it: I’d rather hear something nice happening with the guitar or something conjoining with the bassy low-end than another onslaught of thee chords. I believe the little oscillations of the otherwise drab “Entheogen” make best use of a relatively dynamic sound, using a simple back-and-forth guitar pattern to lend a song its climax without increasing volume. I’m grateful that “To All That He Elong”, a nimble and imperfect acoustic interlude, exists in the record’s second half, as it seems to spring the record’s narrative into life a bit.

Overall, there are signs of a fine album-making band here -- they just need to plot more evenly.

  • Format(s):
    CD, £10.49
    Double LP, £21.99
  • Artist: True Widow
  • Label: Relapse

Flock of Dimes
If You See Me, Say Yes

3 people love me. Be the 4th...

7/10 according to our Robin

I kinda forgot Wye Oak existed but I don’t see why my complacency means they shouldn’t carry on with their artistic pursuits, so let’s celebrate Flock of Dimes, the new solo project from the indie pop band’s Jenn Wasner. If you listened to Wye Oak you probably already know how well they could master tone and smoothness when it suited them, so it might not surprise you to hear the glistening electronic pop affectations of ‘If You See Me, Say Yes’.

At first, it'd seem this record is all things nice and squeaky, riding a very niche pop wave between the last Pure Bathing Culture and the synth-pop record Rogue Wave made that nobody really rated (except, of course, me). The beats on display are initially simple and accentuating, creating adequate rhythms and leaving Wasner alone to pursue a medley of gorgeous harmonic arrangement, unabashed synth and glassy guitar chords. It's the middle section and beyond you want to watch out for, where this record becomes more of a hidden experiment than anything.

It fakes out, does this record: it sounds like a summative listen, a record that appears largely homogenous and muted in its hooks, but dramatic corners soon reveal themselves: “Semaphone” breaks out of place with a frenetic bassline and a climactic hook, while “Ida Glow” takes an almost Krautrock route, its glassy guitar and distant vocalisations kept afloat by a lovely looping synth pattern. “Flight” continues this sequence of dislocation with a pretty fucking weird song, arranged from diluted guitar picks, washy synth and occasional brass bustle. Listen beyond its early tunes, and this record becomes a versatile gem, a record that proves well how many different patterns Wasner can perpetuate, and indeed, break apart from.

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Blown Out
New Cruiser

6 people love me. Be the 7th...

7/10 according to our Robin

All this time reviewing psychedelic music and I’ve never once been to space. Fuck you, Norman Records, and fuck the Astrophysics Scholarship you promised me. I literally reviewed a Blown Out record last week and no one asked me if I could just pop to Saturn to fact-check it. Pricks. ‘New Cruiser’ is their new one, whatever, send me to Mars or write your own fucking review. It’s got tight drumming and absolutely out-of-this-world guitar solos, not that I’d know, because no one’s ever taken me off this world. It’s sprawling, I guess, what am I an astronaut? No.

I’ve got a Blu-ray of The Force Awakens in my bag so I can tell you that this record doesn’t sound too spacey; it’s got that grounded garage feel that Blown Out always sorta come back to as a distorted and exhausted heap. It’s the solos, those caterwauling solos, that feel all spaced up, with their remote engineering and wahed-up tone. What do you want from me? I’ve never even been to the moon. The moon isn’t even that far away. I hate it here there’s too much oxygen goodbye.

  • Format(s):
    LP, £15.49

LVL UP
Return To Love

4 people love me. Be the 5th...

7/10 according to our Robin

As you like it, Sub Poppers: this record has so many indie rock comparison points it feels like a total mutation of the genre, shredding through the chilly pop-punk of the Thermals into the distorted folk lewdness of Neutral Milk Hotel, borrowing the nasal narratives of the Mountain Goats and giving a bit of Car Seat Headrest’s synth-glistened gnarl a go. ‘Return to Love’ is basically a nice record of slight songwriter juxtapositions, using a warm coat of fuzz to make delicate lil’ anthems.

It might sound like one dude’s melancholy vanity project after “Hidden Driver”, which is the most Neutral Milk Hotel moment on offer (a real gruesome strum-along with homaging vocal inflections), but this record unfolds to reveal a band of people having fun. Yes, fun: characterised by riffs and solos and lots of things happening. “Blur” goes full on pop-punk, borrowing the kinda psyched-to-fuck guitar licks of Tony Molina; “She Sustains Us” opens on a irreverent vocal sample before the band mumble through muted bass distortion and the occasional lilting riff; the whole thing has the noisemade sleepiness of a good Happyness song, peaking on a shut-door vocal harmony.

As the record goes on, it does lay down a couple of cruise-control nothings -- “Pain” doesn’t do much for me, its verses apathetic towards and disconnected from their guitar showboats and bridging progressions. That said, there’s something charming about the vast majority of these songs, and the way they turn big music into awkward, fast-talking reality: “The Closing Door” actually has the tone of a big fucking rock song underneath it, but it’s given the LVL UP treatment of fuzz and mutter to sound like a confrontational song struggling to make eye contact. Let’s relate.

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How To Dress Well
Care

1 person loves me. Be the 2nd...

5/10 according to our Robin

[INTERIOR: IN AN ELABORATE BATHROOM, TOM KRELL IS ENJOYING A BATH WHILE NORMAN EDITOR CLINTON, OFF CAMERA, IS ON THE TOILET READING A COPY OF THE WIRE (Indie Pop Edition)]

 

KRELL: Got a new album, m.

 

CLINTON: Ahh.

 

KRELL: Oo hoo hooo hoo hooo oooo hoooooo, yeaaaaiiii yeahh.

 

CLINTON: Ah…

 

KRELL: Come on! Yeah!

 

CLINTON: … [FLUSHES LOO]

 

KRELL: Wash, your… haaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAaaaands!!!

 

CLINTON: … [OVER THE INTERCOM, A GUITAR SOLO OF JOE SATRIANI PROPORTIONS BEGINS TO PLAY]

 

KRELL: [MAKES HAND GESTURES] I--

 

CLINTON: No

 

KRELL: [HAND GESTURES FORM TO MAKE AN ELABORATE AIR GUITAR] Can I--

 

CLINTON: Nope

 

KRELL: [ABOUT TO SOLO] Let me just

 

CLINTON: Stop.

 

KRELL: …

 

CLINTON: …

 

KRELL: … [EXEUNT BATH, GOOGLING "SAVAGE GARDEN CHORDS" ON PHONE] ...

 

CLINTON: ...

 

KRELL: ...

 

CLINTON: …

 

KRELL: [WHISTLES]

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    Double LP, £17.99



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