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Take a look at our Mid-Year Review 2015.............CD Stockroom Finds.........

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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.

Rrose
For Aquantice

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

8/10 according to our Ant on 2nd July 2015

Now that the cat is out of the bag I no longer need to use terms like “mystery artist” and “established artist working incognito”. It was only a matter of time.... The internet can’t keep a secret. He gets about though, that Jimmy Tarbuck bloke, doesn't he eh?

New material from Rrose is always welcome around these parts. Kicking off with the suitably titled ‘Levitate’ building from what sounds like electrified Tibetan singing bowls and gas slowly releasing and ascending into vapors. Gradually percussion is introduced while the singing bowls seem to have transformed into hypnotic bleeps. Only halfway through the track do the kicks appear alongside funked up snares and hi-hats forming a fathoms deep piece of restrained, tunneling techno reminiscent of Sandwell District at their absolute prettiest -- all shimmering metallic surfaces and effortlessly seductive rhythms.

‘Vellum’ like the transparent properties of the material reveals intangible layers beneath. In this case dynamic layers of whirring, spiralling bleepy synth recalling Jeff Mills recent bleepier works, fizzing bubbling grainy textures and brain massaging pure electronic buzz. Once again Rrose totally nails this trippy sound. Armed with signature pristine sound palette-- There’s nothing heavy or distorted here and although there’s many elements there’s still a real sense of space without overdosing us on reverb.

‘Signs’ gets going with drums infectious enough to transform rigid stiffs with two left feet into Crazy Legs. Then just as you settle into jigging about to a fine but fairly standard slice of modern techno-- Rrose presses his big red “Dancefloor Mayhem” button, introducing an accelerating synth that will leave your body on the floor moving like a retarded zombie while your mind evacuates into hyperspace.

Fans of early Plastikman, Mike Parker, Steve Bicknell, Sleeparchive, Donato Dozzy etc. should give it a whirl.

  • Available on:
    12" £7.09

Jon Brooks
52

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

8/10 according to our Clinton on 26th June 2015

"Lovely, nice, soothing, warm, quality ambience" not my words but the words of office leader Phil about the latest instalment of Jon Brooks attempts to take over the world by soothing you all into submission. This is certainly by some way his most conforming release, not as haywire or as '70's retro synth as other works. Many tracks comprise of just softly hit synths playing out exquisite intertwining melodies as if he's hit the keys armed only with a feather.

The albums sense of bucolic tenderness could stem that the record was inspired by his grandma's house where Brooks lived as a child. Now my grandma's house had pouffe's and valances and bureau's and toilet roll doilies all as soft and tender as the work created here. Tracks like 'The Mezzanine' have something of the Boards of Canada about them as the synths entangle around each other like some telegraph wires on a '70's polaroid. It's not all easy going though 'Fibre Optics' for example is a mangle of dissonant shards of electronics but in this context it contrasts nicely with the loving dreaminess of works like the Air ish 'Pond i' which contains perhaps the softest sounds ever committed to vinyl.  

A lovely work. This is a re-press of a sold-out-in-an-instant initial pressing and differs in that the magnificent artwork (by head Clay Piper Frances Castle) depicts an evening rather than a morning.

  • Available on:
    LP £14.99

Drainolith
Hysteria

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

8/10 according to our Jim on 29th June 2015

Drainolith is Alexander Moskos, the guitarist from Canadian weirdo-punk outfit Aids Wolf and more recent collaborator with Neil Hagerty (Royal Trux, Howling Hex) and Nate Young (Wolf Eyes) in Dan’l Boone. It features a lot of his angular guitar playing and drawling vocals enmeshed in hallucinatory arrangements of strange electronics and what sounds like a lifetime of hoarding various bits of musical junk. The closest comparison I can think of is perhaps a mixture of ‘Twin Infinitives’ era Royal Trux and the more song-oriented, outsider appropriations of The Howling Hex; which isn’t that surprising given the Hagerty connection (he also produced some of this album).

Compared with Hagerty’s cocky yelp, Moskos has a more downbeat vocal delivery, and his guitar playing is more nuanced and melodic here than the searing psychotic scrawls he previously laid down with Aids Wolf­. At times the music reminds me of the jagged blues of the Magic Band one minute or a flanged-up, sinewy Van Halen transplanted into a post-apocalyptic wasteland the next. The tracks drift and meander like this in a dreamlike fashion, sounding relatively focused and almost poppy in parts before slipping deep into unexplored alleys of the subconscious. Recommended for anyone wanting to inject a little extra strangeness into their summer.    

  • Available on:
    LP £14.49

J.G. Biberkopf
Ecologies

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

7/10 according to our Jim on 1st July 2015

Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf (or J.G. as he calls himself- no doubt a nod to the warped modernities of JG Ballard) makes jarring, hyper-vivid digital sound collages. Sometimes these disorient, plunging the listener into starkly contrasting and bizarre combinations of field recordings and cinematic sound textures; at other times the tracks coalesce into monstrous rhythmical patterns, precision edited to effect maximum impact.

Highlights on this ep include the miniature epic ‘Black Soil’, with its sinister electronic purr and Jurassic Park stomps that turn even colder and more malevolent with some below-the-belt filtering and creepy atmospherics. ‘Age of Aquarius’ comes closest to what most would recognise as beat-oriented electronica with its ambient synth abstractions and hypnotic, technoid dubstep rhythms weirdly offset with birdcalls and synthesized vocal eruptions. All the tracks here bustle through their drastic moves fairly swiftly, sometimes leaving you reeling over what just happened. A short and intriguing taster for a new (to me at least) artist on Kuedo and Joe Shakespeare’s shiny new Knives label.  

  • Available on:
    LP £9.99

Human Greed
Hivernant

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

7/10 according to our Jim on 29th June 2015

Human Greed is the cheerily titled project of Michael Begg (also of Fovea Hex) and the artist Deryk Thomas (the guy who painted those Swans and Angels of Light covers with strange cutesy animals doing nasty things). It’s an album of some of the chilliest, most haunting ambient music I’ve heard in a while; which isn’t surprising given its themes of hibernation and retreat. The songs almost drift imperceptibly into being, building from faint drones or quiet field recordings and just tainting the atmosphere.

There are obvious nods to Arvo Pärt (‘Da Pacem’) in some of the arrangements and the simplicity of the melodic motifs. But my favourite track is the spooky vocal and subtle chiming dissonances of ‘Psalom’, a real chiller that feels out of place on this bright summer afternoon. The tracks shift from light to dark and back with a kind of organic naturalism, like the changing light on windy day. And even when you get blissed-out piano interludes, as on ‘Pastorale’, there’s usually some weird processed electronics lurking somewhere, lending an undercurrent of darkness to proceedings. It’s not a particularly ground-breaking record but it’s confident subtlety will appeal to lovers of deep and moody cinematic ambiance.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99

Sakana Hosomi + Chihei Hatakeyama
Frozen Silence

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

9/10 according to our Laurie on 1st July 2015

What happens when a guitar and a synth blur together for minutes and minutes? Ice cracking, according to Hatakeyama / Hosomi / one of their associates. I’m hearing a lot more melting than cracking, a sort of slow ooze perhaps. But would you expect less from the Japanese man that Robin has dubbed ‘the floaty monarch’ and his partner in climb Sakana Hosomi, someone of little information or output (but who, according to Discogs, is part of the groups Maju and Neima). Hailing from the often-icy island of Hokkaido, Hosomi let Chihei into his studio abode to mimic frosty whirlwinds and glassy surfaces.

It begins with the aforementioned melty dreamscape before collapsing into beautiful walls of pink noise that really does sound like being immersed in an avalanche. Raspy and brittle, the drone looms like Mount Meakan collapsing eternally. Until the track ends 3-4 minutes later. A piano emerges from the fog, its form fractured and indistinct while the sound of twigs crackles away amid ebbing tones. I’d compare this as a whole to Pan American’s Sketch for Winter tape (obviously) and Hatakeyama’s work with Hakobune, Vibrant Colour, but with a more diverse palette.

The gorgeous crumbling textures that enter the majority of the tracks here are what make this so delicious. Ice cracking for sure.

Ruskin & Broom
Edits

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

8/10 according to our Laurie on 1st July 2015

Just when I thought Blueprint were releasing a 12” of 90s R&B edits. Nope, that world will never exist, instead we’re stuck in this hell hole where James Ruskin and Mark Broom come together and make excellent machine music. Goddamnit world.

These are effing great though, and I could be mistaken entirely -- these could be extremely contorted R&B tracks, who knows. The A side chronicles their meddling with a subby, bouncy, anti-4/4 beat that kinda reminds me of really dark garage by the way of Lakker. They weave shuffly clicks, warped recordings of various scratches and 2 repeated plucked notes in to lull you into primal ecstasy. Things get more straight over the page, with 4/4 kicks, shakers and a bassline squelching away happily. Disclaimer - this is not ‘happy’ music. This tune is ok, with a similar plucked sound coming in and a general churn to it. Not as good as the A but that’s difficult to achieve.

  • Available on:
    12" £7.09

Sergie Rezza
Mist

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

8/10 according to our Laurie on 1st July 2015

This is a misty release so mysterious that 2 of the tracks have cheekily been given the name ‘Misterious’ by their creators Romain Poncet and DJ Deep. While the mistique is all tongue in cheek, the air of the foggy unknown is pretty explicit in the music. Oh yeah. This stuff is dark, dark enough to warrant a pun alright.

The first ‘Misterious Shape’ we encounter is a ghostly dub featuring a beat that’s hardly there and sizzling noises in swells and bursts. The beat does more than toe the water over on the flip, with the ‘Misterious Dub’ essentially being the same but club-friendly, skippity hats and all. Nice techno things, especially in the final fistpumping couple of minutes. ‘Alternate Dub’ is similar in rhythm, but brings in more spontaneous blasts of abrasive timbre following the straight groove. ‘Bonus Jam’ is just that. Think similar to Profligate or a slightly more restrained, less serious AnD.

  • Available on:
    12" £13.89

Automatic Tasty
The Life Parochial

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

8/10 according to our Laurie on 1st July 2015

Automatic Tasty is presumably a reference to the synthesised, hot sizzling funky house things that are contained within Irish producer Jonny Dillon’s music. Jazzy chords are played by electro synths while chopped grooves strut at an even pace, mimicking your best badass walk, but doing so better than you ever could. They’re not overblown in their funkiness, nothing is making a huge irritating statement, just little nudges of acid bass on the edge of 303 screech. It sort of reminds me of Galaxians just a little more straight-up, with the cheese not nearly as pongy. Medium electrofunk cheese?

Sort of has crossovers with the nu-disco of Todd Terje and Lindstrom etc. There isn’t a whole lot of variation across the disc but there doesn’t need to be when the only mode is DANCE. MOVE. BOOGIE. ‘The Parish Hotline’ is a highlight; that repeated high synth 7th chord thing got Joan moving mid-pack, and she usually only moshes to the heaviest black metal. Oh also the last track is a big shoutout to Benn Jordan and the Chicago acid crew.

  • Available on:
    12" £8.49

Howard Shore
Scanners / The Brood

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

8/10 according to our Laurie on 26th June 2015

OO i’m so excited about reviewing this that my head might just explode. Ha. Ha. Ha. Not even entitled to make that joke, yet again it’s an episode of Laurie-reviews-a-film-soundtrack-that-he-hasn’t-seen-but-tells-you-at-the-beginning-to-make-it-ok.

So this is all that spooky uneasy mood music stuff that Howard Shore-is-good has dreamt up to accompany bizarre head exploders, so you can relive all those beautiful/gruesome moments time and time again on some grey/green wax. Synths, brass, woodwind and strings play ominous chords and elongated nail-scratch melodies until boom, YOUR head explodes. That’s the Scanners side, anyway.

You can almost hear Frodo cowering in front of Mt. Doom in the music for ‘The Brood’ in the second side, with all its boiling double bass and melodies like a Satanic promenade. There’s some great scudding white noise synth spitting away over the first piece too, I didn’t realise that Howard liked to bleep/bloop. I’ve seen a couple of Cronenbergs and this seems fitting music to accompany the fucked up worlds he creates. Apparently it’s Howard Shore’s first, and impressive debut due to it’s ability to move between emotional overture and tense thrum. Sometimes it’ll sound lovely and sad then tonality will go out of the window to be replaced by spidery dissonant shapes. Some quality Shore for..sure?

  • Available on:
    LP £29.39

Progression
The Coriolis Effect

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

7/10 according to our Laurie on 1st July 2015

This is a Blueprint release with a white label on it. It’s also hand stamped, because machines can try to stamp but will ultimately fail. The creator here, Progression, is based in London. That’s all I know.

What I can say is that this is some extremely high octane techno, prime time uptempo stuff that’ll get people doing their best techno bob. The opener is a quick 4 to the floor one with insistent hats and wisps of cymbals, held together by a constant, maddening arp melody. My housemate, Tommy Techno, would go crazy to this. The following one has a sub on the kick that’s so low that these headphones have no idea how to pump it out to me, hence I can barely review this without the whump. It’s another great roller that’s a bit more dungeonesque than the last, with barking synth as the centrepiece.

Flipping over and you get attacked by a machine gun of broken hats and the sound of a tape machine throwing up. The release ends as it begins, with a weird brainmelting arp backed by a standard kick/hat interplay. Possibly unnecessary to have the 4 tracks on here, but half of these are absolute bangers.

  • Available on:
    12" £7.09

The Spills
A Film and a Frame /​ Crash​-​landed Clouds

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 1st July 2015

The Spills pour their fucking heart out on “A Film And A Frame”, a new single of crying guitar, moaning vocals and disgruntled bass fuzz. Call it indie rock, if you must, but these West Yorkshirians sound like they’ve been travelling coast to coast in search of an emo fix, wailing like they were in an American pop-punk band, as if they were just sad they hadn’t referenced a Simpsons episode in their song title. This song’s hook is simple and forceful and full of bite, and serves as proof of how powerful the sad songwriting crew of Leeds and its surrounding area has gotten. It doesn’t sound totally homegrown, though, and that’s its allure: could Sunny Day Real Estate and Trust Fund mutate into each other?

On “Crash-Landed Clouds” the Spills make even slightly more true on their love of gloomed out pop-punk, throwing some skramz into the chorus and insisting, over fine, spindly riffing, that everything is terrible: “It won’t be long til I’m asleep/to go poach any other life I can’t achieve”. A fine idea for a song: some bad premonitions about the future and a bit where you use post-hardcore to exorcise them. I like these fellows.

  • Available on:
    7" £5.89

Aero Flynn
Aero Flynn

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 1st July 2015

An alum of Justin Vernon’s friendship circle (so, only a couple of degrees of separation from Kanye, then) Josh Scott has shied away from releasing his music for a very long time. With the backing of his famous folkie friend, he’s opted to go again, ditching the Amateur Love name for his first release as Aero Flynn. It’s typical that his reluctance is aired out on record: amidst the throes of skittering, urgent instrumentation and quietly dramatic acoustic fumblings, you can hear him whimpering towards the centre stage, humming and mumbling his songs as if they aren’t worth believing in.

The result is quite nice: a paranoid slice of indie rock in the vein of mid-era Radiohead, or Arcade Fire pedalled back a bit on the gain. Ultimately, though, this record most closely resembles Strand of Oaks’ masterful ‘HEAL’, a record about fighting depression that felt like it’d been self-anointed as stadium rock. Much like Oaks’ Timothy Showalter, Scott sounds like he’s coming back from something on this record, exhaling boisterous vocal performances over songs that start nimbly but climax in a wash of synths and storied guitars.

Scott doesn’t concentrate too much on one genre pastiche, but instead goes for huge solutions to his songs’ quiet problems: at once you can hear him place shifting synth chords next to thrilling, distorted riffs moment, and in the next life you can hear his hands nimbly working their way down the frets, like Ben Howard on a summer folk hype. There are times, too, when the beats ram the record’s tempo up to the point where it sounds like Thom Yorke doing downtempo house. It all comes together as a record that feels both emotionally compelling and strangely anonymous. Bon Iver approves and so do we, and if you can’t trust us, trust in Wisconsin.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99
    LP £16.69

State Champion
Fantasy Error

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 1st July 2015

I can’t help but think this is all so sweet. State Champion are a crew of punks (read: ramshackle folkies) from Louisville with an affection for noise, but mainly a great deal of compassion for the strange scene they live in. On ‘Fantasy Errors’, they create a sound you might expect from anyone who simultaneously outgrows and pines after their hometown: it has signs of the place, dug into the countrified twang and the wholesome voices, and strands of what they must have dug up on the internet or at shows -- mathy riffs, technical post-rock drumming and visceral folk-punk storytelling.

The record seethes into view with two slow-burning tunes that sound like the band are trying to add country trinkets to their sound -- it finally properly comes into view on the back-and-forth chord chugging of “Don’t Leave Home Without My Love”, which is rawly and earnestly played off like a Nana Grizol song. The band are fond for memories, believe in grand things like love and try to embed them in pretty riffs. It shifts into “Wake Me Up”, another tune whose lyrics are well fitted to the naive, wide-eyed music cosying up against them: “even the darkest and deepest of this apartment’s secrets can be seen by the light of a TV”, the band sing over rushes of viola.

I’m a sucker for cowpunk, that’s for true, but State Champion’s music isn’t like Titus Andronicus spewing over watery riffs or the Men chewin’ on the folk canon -- rather, it’s slacker guitar music that seems totally blissed out on every turn, spinning a bad day into a wonderful thing. Like, “If you’re gonna laugh at me, I’ll laugh with you”? May I be the first to say awh.

  • Available on:
    LP £13.99

Domenique Dumont
Comme Ca

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 30th June 2015

This music sounds the way blowing bubbles does: you think it’s all fun and games, and it is, I will grant you that -- but it’s the kind of fun that is literally floating away from you as it happens, submitting its joy to the ether instead of sticking with you. Fun isn’t for you. Fun is for the sky.

Not much is known about Domenique Dumont, but not in the usual way that makes PR campaigners froth at the mouth because The Music Speaks For Itself. Rather than crafting ominous self-contained work, Dumont crafts a kind of bubblegum pop that feels communal but also echoes and bounces outwards -- like much of the production on Grimes’ ‘Visions’, or the broad, open field pop of Braids on ‘Native Speaker’, this record feels strangely grand. Dumont’s voice reverberates around, phased shimmeringly in comparison to her tinkering, flatlining beats and muted guitar. On “L’Espirit De L’Escalier”, her tight pop song folds outwards for an outro of pure musical exuberance, a riff having its surroundings gently modified around shimmering percussion and gloopy effects.

Dumont can craft a gorgeous instrumental, too, as proved by “Un Jour Avec Yusef”, another piece that seems to posit toy instrumentation among bold production and wonderfully toned guitar. The dub-influenced “La Bataille De Neige” uses little samples of ambient sound to fold into the background of amusing whistling and aimlessly palyed percussion. It’s like hearing the purest joy you could ever experience happen just out of reach. I’ll take it.

  • Available on:
    LP £10.99

Model Alpha
Dimensions

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 30th June 2015

‘Dimensions’ is a passively moving record of analogue psychedelia, taking straightforward and stubbornly hypnotic ideas and processing them through a constant synth symphony -- like the best psych-tinged electronica, it moves as if it never begun and won’t ever finish. What secret makers of the record Model Alpha do, though, is more than just press start and watch the rhythms float: instead, they combine these sounds with a subtle affection for new wave that seems to make the music even more rigid, but in a totally different way. More melody, more secret pathways, but the same old sleepy ambient electronica.

On ‘Dimensions', Model Alpha use their krautish backdrop towards an almost numbing aesthetic, the synths locking into grooves early on and introducing rudimentary beats as a follow-up. The layering is calculated gorgeously, with tracks like “Circle Machine” enveloping the listener in a sound and then creasing tiny aspects of ambience over it (another synth squeak or the occasional wash) before subliminally introducing a beat. It’s a simple but effective way of both soothing and involving the listener, and it seems reflective of the group's interest in symbolically explaining their synth circuits; listen the way their music passes through certain checkpoints without fail.

  • Available on:
    LP £16.29

Capac
Sea Freeze

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 30th June 2015

Here’s a pop record that doesn’t know it’s a pop record. Nobody tell Capac; they’re doing fine. Full of a noble appreciation for build-ups, grandiose gestures and experimental music, the band have made something of an epic debut, creasing together a meditative backdrop with shades of ambient, distortion and fine beatwork. Ultimately, though, they end up getting bored of trying to sneak their way into our attention and start tugging at our sleeves, much in the way the wonderful ‘Vulnicurna’ did earlier this year: it’s full of abstract tricks that aren’t wasted, but are best when they’re snapped out of.

Capac do a lot of things: they can evoke synthlines that sound as ominous and crystal-fucked as those of Raica on ‘Dose’, and they can drop a beat into place with the force of a giant dropping their foot. They are also very good at drenching their music in reverb; this thing shimmers like it’s only just learned to walk on land. Ultimately, though, the band’s best work comes when Kate Smith’s vocals rise to the fore -- her dramatic singing opens up this record of tremors to open fields, the music widening in scope as she (sometimes wordlessly) intones.

It’s an inventive record, and it’s important that no particular performance becomes the focus of it when so many interesting things happen: a proper piece of guitar gloom pop interrupts the mysterious ether of the record’s first side, the guitars brooding slowly and then oscillating furiously. It’s a genuine surprise, and it happens because Capac are confident both in creating atmosphere and culling it for pop songs.

  • Available on:
    LP £13.49

Noah
Sivutie

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 30th June 2015

Japanese R&B singer Noah has made a skewed pop record here, one that rarely gets anywhere near the verse-chorus structure golden mean. Instead, the gorgeously serene production around her is fragmented into tiny pieces, her voice appearing only in strands, as if intuiting with the same syncopation as the beats underneath. ‘Sivutie’ is reminiscent of a great host of great R&B ideas, travelling from trip-hop to Tinashe in sound, but in direction, it feels singular. It loosens up on the pop music and instead goes for forceless ambient soundscaping.

Self-produced, Noah has previously collaborated with Sela, and their sounds have a similar love of ambient tinkering. On ‘Sivutie’, she mixes R&B in with gently lilting piano, tape grain and watery beats, seemingly considering her voice to be another component, something that procures more atmosphere. This is not to say that Noah is not a compelling, humane part of this record -- she acts as guide through her creative impulses, singing as a way of marking a protagonist in a dreamlike setting.

It’s a long and meandering record, but it doesn’t feel disconnected; a better word would be discombobulated, because there’s confusion at hearing a record so infused with R&B fall so dramatically into a strange fantasy world. Ultimately, though, Noah has created one of the most consistently atmospheric records of the year.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.49

Dolphins Into The Future / Lieven Martens Moana
Songs Of Gold, Incandescent

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 30th June 2015

Lieven Martens Moana -- that’s Mr. Dolphins, to you -- has made a lot of very special ambient music over the years, a kind that envisions synthesis as a part of nature. Listening to a great number of Moana’s tracks will involve the listener in aquatic field recordings and kosmische synths, married under a lo-fi limelight. Submerged together, these differently created sounds feel one in the same, and it’s impressive that even on a collection of disparate rarities like ‘Songs of Gold, Incandescent’, that Moana’s music can describe a whole ecosystem.

‘Songs of Gold’ is not a conceptual record, though each track was “derived by an encounter with an object, a place or a person” -- so if there is a theme, it’s that a bunch of stuff happened around Moana and he recorded it. Many of these tracks merely observe fluid environments, such as opener “Culatra Island”, which offers specks of synth over a watery recording. Some songs interact with recordings of animals, while others collate the voices and movements of locals in the towns Moana visits; on “Sweeten the Mango”, a choir sings, drums rattle and church bells ring, each placed together like vignettes of a sepia toned home.

The most intriguing work on ‘Songs of Gold’ is the more electronically prevalent, with the swirling atmospherics of “Grottelle” lending Moana’s observations (here, seeing a rich woman snorkelling) their fly-on-the-wall anonymity. Two piercing compositions that make up the end of side A and part of side B stand out -- the former is rhythmic and pulsating,  while the latter, symbolic of a volcanic eruption, merely boils with terror, getting louder and more disastrous. Hearing this pure gesture of sound is a different kind of impact from Moana’s work collecting sound testimonials (be they from locals or those whom he disparagingly describe as “white dreadlocked hippies”), and when you put together both approaches, you’ve got an extremely diverse record -- and one that’s wonderfully nauseating to experience through headphones.

Spheruleus and Friends
William Barber

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

8/10 according to our Robin on 26th June 2015

Spheruleus won my heart earlier this year with ‘Peripheres’, a record of ambient myths for the wonderful Eilean Records. In keeping with the label’s mission -- to create a hundred records that make up the landscape of an imaginary island -- Harry Towell’s record offered curiously named tunes with the flavour of IDM, chopped into something decidedly alien. There were beats, but not invigorating ones -- rather, they tripped and stumbled, like ripples in the drone. The record stood as an example of Towell’s ability to make becalmed but chillingly folkloric music, and ‘William Barber’ is one in the same.

Recorded collaboratively with Hibernate mainstays and bossmen, ‘William Barber’ takes an ancient field recording of a school headmaster and crafts a narratively-driven drone record around it. Towell’s group have tried to immerse themselves in a dreamlike version of 1906, taking modern recordings of the school Barber worked at and transfusing them with a creaked atmosphere -- the electronic ambient processing feels cracked into, broken down by people fiddling with instruments and chattering into the ether. This makes for a record that’s both engrossing and fractured -- like the past, and like the life it’s trying to tell the story of, it’s intangible. It’s like Towell is trying to make recent life sound like distant history.

Many of Towell’s records for Hibernate have been hands-off affairs where the drone has journeyed steadfast towards its end, but on ‘William Barber’ his group collate field recordings and ambience actively, shifting between them and continuously modulating the sounds being heard. Towell uses tape grain as a sort of percussion, and introduces acoustic picking as a gesture of human life. Certain tracks are lent what sound like operatic vocals via field recordings, though with this much droning fog separating listener from sound, it could just be a very impressive synth arrangement. This record is all a blur, but one that seems to make today sound as ancient as last century.

  • Available on:
    CD £9.99

Naytronix
Mister Divine / Shadows

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 1st July 2015

Nate Brenner plays in tUnE-yArDs’ band when they hit the road, but away from the band’s intense and rigorously rhythmic confines, he calls himself naytronix (really though) and makes rather comfortable lounge music -- the kind of easy listening sub-electronica you could find yourself sinking into an armchair with. “Mr Divine”, his new single, starts on a wiry guitar riff before giving in to a thick, hugging bassline and gorgeous percussion. Little brushes of synth find their way into the mix, but they sound like mere mood lighting, each odd note sounding like another light being switched off. This is some Woo shit, right here -- it’s not quite bedtime but it will be soon.

“Shadow” is slightly more up for it, whatever it is, going for a more caffeinated beat and introducing some sax fanfare. It feels strange that Brenner’s elected to put his dance tune about having a good time this Saturday on the flipside, but it makes sense: “Mr. Divine” eases you into a relaxed state, and “Shadow” shakes you out of it.

  • Available on:
    7" £8.39

Alden Penner
Canada In Space

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 30th June 2015

Alden Penner used to be in charge of the Unicorns, a ramshackle indie rock band who were far weirder than their friends Arcade Fire. Afraid of death and gleeful in life, their anxieties were put on display with ‘Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?’ and then tucked away forever. Penner, though, has kept working through his juxtapositions with Clues and as a solo act. After recent collaborative work with bumbling romcom dude Michael Cera (with whom he recently suffered through the awful vibes of Belgrave Music Hall), he’s made ‘Canada In Space’, a loose concept album that displays Penner’s knack for writing a melody, and his bigger knack for knocking it down.

The five tracks on ‘Canada In Space’ are actually relatively straightforward, but with caveats -- the ominous groove of “Breathe to Burn” is shuffled off centre-stage before Penner can get too deep into his tangential riffing, and seems the most tied to a standard song structure Penner’s been in a while (echoing the repetitive vibes of “Precession”). The shock is that it sounds like Penner’s just spliced two songs together, beginning on dour, sparse picking before splitting down the middle with distortion and kicking into rock action. Penner continues to experiment with where his voice best fits, with aimless laser-pointing synths acting as his backdrop on “Will I” and the almost festive “Candy”, which marries the same bright synths to palm-muted chords.

It’s not Penner’s most exciting work, nor his most maddeningly inventive, but these songs still feel wonderfully self-sabotaged, given the lens of indie rock with which to be strangely configured. “Meditate” uses lovely acoustic riffing before squelching once more with a dance of synth and a gang vocal that diametrically opposes Penner’s high-pitched coo. Penner is still forcing himself to try new things.

  • Available on:
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Funkstorung
Funkstorung

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

7/10 according to our Robin on 30th June 2015

Funkstorung have tried on many different electronic hats over the years, finding the time between their busy schedule of endless remixes to give IDM, breakbeats, electro-pop and acid house a whirl. Over twenty years, though, the production duo have only released four full lengths; this, the fourth, sums them up with erudite pop music stitched from a serene electronic pastiche of cosy beats, grandiose synthwork and melodramatically exhaled vocals. As ever, it’s more about showing love than showing off.

As a statement, what ‘Funkstorung’ says is interesting: it’s never been about Funkstorung. What you notice on this record are the features, with Jamie Lidell adding a treasure trove of sensuality to “So Simple” -- the duo merely add sparkle in the background with glitching effects and a cascading drumbeat. Funkstorung use interludes like “IATC” to get back their breath but ultimately focus on the singers they’ve brought in; Anothr goes over a firm beat which would feel razor-wire without the duo’s penchant for warmth and textural density, which is again shown off in the blissful, lethargic chords of “Chnnl” -- a tune that shows the duo’s ability to take alien ideas, like a vocoder-processed voice, and make them your friend.

This is a subtly felt and quietly delivered record, with the songs proper veering towards R&B if the genre was a glitching, pulsating IDM accident. Even in its grander moments, the features sound constrained, comforted in Funkstouring’s sound -- “Killers” is a perfect example, ascending its synths as Taprikk Sweezee shrugs off his lyrics. It’s the sound of an assured crew with friends who believe in them.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.69
    Double LP £15.39
    Double LP £18.22

The Church
Further / Deeper

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

6/10 according to our Robin on 1st July 2015

The Church like to be in the ascension, and with their new record, the career victory-lap that is ‘Further / Deeper’, they’ve crafted 2015’s most unfathomably huge rock record, one that not weighs a tonne in both grams and feelings. The synths sparkle, the guitars amble towards heaven like Bono joining the Waterboys, and by the end of it, we might just have found our next Pope. Citation needed.

Considering that the Church have been going for nigh on thirty-five years, it’s impressive to see them endeavour towards four new sides of music, each seeing them dovetail between a myriad styles of songwriting: psych rock played around knotty but pantomimic riffs (see the seamless “Pride Before A Fall”), horror-flick new wave and Manics-level motivational poster rock ‘n’ roll. At times the glut almost makes them feel like a prog rock band trying to take on too much, especially when the more grandiose songs roll into faux-ballads -- shout out here to the pretty dreadful “Laurel Canyon”, which uses groaning, pedal-affected riffs and reverberating vocals towards an attempt at echoing Porcupine Tree in their pop phase.

‘Further / Deeper’ ultimately feels like a rock opera of the purest form, sequencing one emotive song after the next and piling on the instrumentation thickly. “Love Philtre” confirms the band’s infatuation with swirling, skyward-bound riffs and curls them around grandiose piano chords and crystal-clear acoustic guitars; “Let Us Go” opts for a drum fill of Phil Collins’ fever; “Volkano” sounds like Psychic TV falling into a canyon.

It’s a massively ambitious record even if it’s not always a great one, so don’t forget to follow your dreams, friends.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £16.49
    LP £18.19

Ezra Furman
Perpetual Motion People

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

5/10 according to our Robin on 1st July 2015

It’s the hottest day of the year and the last thing we need is summer jams, but does Ezra Furman listen? No. Dude is loudly talk-singing like the lead singer of the Waterboys commentating on an overlong final of Wimbledon, smashing instruments loudly against his head and introducing bass lines like Oscar nominees. Imagine having a conversation with this screaming, scowling mess of a pop star. It’d be awful.

‘Perpetual Motion People’ is ultimately a record betrayed by the personality fronting it, and depending on the mood you’re in, your mileage for his performance may vary: at times it can be charming -- fitting for the bluster of trumpets and ‘60s piano romp -- and even self-aware, as he screams “I don’t wanna be the bad guy!” over a Beatles melody. Seconds later, though, he can disconnect himself from reality and go back into full throttle obnoxious mode (like when he gleefully boasts about wearing Native American headdresses. or bemoans “social police” over twinkling piano). Ultimately, Furman’s idea of pop is fluorescent and fantastical: he wants to cram as many melodies, rhymes and instruments into the smallest space possible. There’s little space to breathe.

Furman’s pop debauchery could be enjoyable in the right hands, but his sharp, untenable vocal delivery conflates rather gruesomely with the equally bright and blinding pop music behind him -- the swirling organs, booming sax and ridiculous keys all need someone to reign them in, and Furman’s too busy vomiting stories all over the place. Look for the one moment of downtime on the late-evening strummed “Watch You Go By”. It's a bit like Destroyer; Phil says it needs destroying.

  • Available on:
    CD £10.19
    LP £16.99



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Timestamp: Thursday 2nd July, 10:43:39