Best Records of September 2018 Featuring Lonnie Holly, Sarah Davachi, The Declining Winter, BEAK, Tim Hecker, Macintosh Plus.
Autumn already, eh? Let's delve through the last few weeks before the heating goes on permanently. Lots of good things happened last month, and there are some good things to look forward to in October too.
Best albums this month
Part of our three album standoff in an embarrasing Album Of The Week shambles a few weeks back, this longstanding campaigner turns his attention to the state of the place in 2018. You should listen to him too, particularly if you like the trombone - which does its mournful thing amongst a voice which laps and weaves on a despairing but never despondent album.
He’s back, and if the Aphex Twin of 2018 doesn’t surprise and shock like his younger self then he still has all the moves as demonstrated on this joyous new EP. It’s an energetic burst of creativity, full of his trademark skittering beats, snatched vocal samples, and bass drops. Madcap fun and games from the master of electronic tomfoolery.
We have sometimes accused him of crassness, but if you’ve had a loved one suffer from dementia that you’ll know that The Caretaker's six-part project offers empathy and insight into the illness. Here, the ballroom sounds are distorted and decaying but with the odd moment of clarity amongst the confusion.
Commissioned for a sound walk around Hull, Arve Henriksen’s soundtrack is perfect headphone listening. Its muted trumpets, sparse electronics, guitar and sprinkled samples slowly unfurl and mutate like the changing of the light as you cross the Humber.
The queen of drone and ambient gives in to light screeches, harmonic plucks, and manipulated acoustic tape delays on a shapeshifting work which steps into compositional styles we have yet to hear from her. Her busy schedule knows no end, and for that we are grateful.
Typically fervent, high-art work from a composer who emerged out of footwork but now demands her own place at the pantheon of electronic greats. Made in collaboration with choreographer Wayne McGregor, the album melds her intense, beat-laden workouts with more reflective material and a gorgeous, twilit feel.
The sound of leaves trampling underfoot in bleak West Yorkshire, The Declining Winter take us on a journey through their undulating homeland, perfectly reflecting the damp, faded beauty of the place. Melding their evocative guitar tumbles with late-night electronic beauty it’s their most diverse work so far, but is stitched together like those patterned fields you see off the M62.
They reviewed our review of their album at 7/10 and contended that it had factual inaccuracies - something that has never bothered us before. Geoff Barrow’s three-piece seem to want to become the clown-kings of kraut-rock, exemplified by their irreverent world view, but their jams are still hypnotic enough to get you hooked.
Forget Autumn, let’s loop. Axel Willner returns with perhaps his strongest statement to date, a tour de force of soft-on-ear techno with little twiddly bits that catch those same velvet ears. His varied sound palette continues to impress, yet he retains the atmospheres that force you to car stereo it when you fancy driving somewhere daunting late at night.
Bagpipes are today’s thing. Check out Julia Holter’s new album for proof. Meanwhile, father and son drone duo Tashi Wada and Yoshi Wada get in first by constructing an album based on the drone of the old wheezebags with some stellar improvisation from friends including Holter herself.
Whatever you think of vaporwave (and as a tired hack I don’t think much of this tomfoolery) then you have to agree that Macintosh Plus’s Floral Shoppe was its defining moment. A sonic soup of 80s sounds, dropped deep into a pool of reverbs. Fascinating, gorgeous and full of nostalgic drifts, this is the album you’ll remember once the dust settles.
Even though we don’t always want to like him, when you get into the nitty gritty of actual records rather than baseless posturing then Tim Hecker is still the man. Konoyo is sparser than recent work, re-routing his working methods to create a new and distinct form of ambient that is its own kind of beautiful.
Not quite the best albums this month, but nearly
Two Pig bands cancelled each other out: Pig Destroyer went grindcore prog with Head Cage, whilst Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs ensured there were more pigs in the world overall and found a new way to make racket with their Sabbathy/Melvinsy riffs on King of Cowards.
Greatest back story ever for Capital Punishment, whose Roadkill re-issue showed brilliant art punk and ambient and sampledelic avant-garde. Ben Stiller of all people was in them, along with a future judge and a future professor. High-powered stuff in all senses.
I’ve decided that Cardiacs' Sing To God is the best album ever made - it’s just going to take 30 years to get through it. If their earlier theatrical posings put you off then do go back to this beautiful reissue. You won’t believe what you’ve been missing.
After listening to Sing to God you’ll need an ear calm so why not check out the latest from Talvihorrors' Ben Chatwin? Drone Signals recycles sounds from his previous ‘Staccato Signals’ for some slower moving electronic dissonance.
Coming to a shelf near you this October
So what can we find for you in October? A few highlights spring to mind:
- Well there’s a Mount Eerie live album so you can feel that despair performed live in front of real, weeping people.
- Prodigious slacker Kurt Vile has a new one out - and the lead track we’ve heard is as long as his hair.
- John Grant must win most absurd cover art of the year if nothing else.
- There are three high quality This Mortal Coil re-issues due.
- Leeds finest noiseniks Guttersnipe release their debut album proper.
- Last but not least, Julia Holter does what any sane person south of Gretna fears and gets the bagpipes out.