Another busy month concludes with the best music I’ve been listening to across it. Working from home – and spending a fair amount of my time on calls, rather than my old work which was very different – has rather changed the dynamic of how I listen to music, and arguably I have less time than I used to, to do so.
/Tuesday Ten/377/Tracks of the Month/Jul 2019
/Tuesday Ten/Tracks of the Month/2019
Maybe that’s making me appreciate the time that I do have more. But either way, there’s been some exceptional stuff this month and indeed a couple of the tracks here might normally have been saved for next month, but, well…
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Track of the Month/01
/Year of Rage
/My War Is Your War
Much has changed in the world since the excellent debut Tracks of Wire was released in May 2016. The world has taken an ugly, rightward shift, Leave won the EU Referendum, unleashed a pandora’s box of ugly nationalism that seems to get worse by the week, and now we have the most hard-right Government in living memory. If Tracks of Wire was a howl into the impending darkness, this new album, if Year of Rage is the yardstick, is the band stepping up another level to fight their corner alongside the people around them, shining a light into a dark time. The video adds more context, as their taut rock gains an empathetic feel and the distinct sense that this most brilliant of bands are about to gain a vastly wider audience (and rightly so, too).
/Track of the Month/02
Ok, so hands up who genuinely ever thought that Don Gordon would ever return under the Numb name? But, after months of rumour and hints, that first album in twenty-one years is nearly here (out 23-August), and I’ve heard the whole thing. If you loved their later material (Blood Meridian and Language of Silence in particular), this album delivers in spades – a mix of pummelling industrial and intriguing instrumentals (and some pretty nasty noisy elements, too), and Don Gordon himself doing the vocals. Importantly, it keeps the malevolent, furious intensity that made Numb’s work so compelling, and frankly, for a return out of the blue like this, it has no business being as good as it is. Pick of the album so far for me is this hulking, stomping brute of a track, with squealing synths, snarling vocals and an ultra-heavy rhythm that come the next Rivet (yes, I’m intending on doing one more, when I find the time and a venue) will be the first track on the playlist.
Ganser, while lumped in with post-punk, have long proved themselves to be rather apart from the crowd, uninterested with following their peers. Their sound both evokes others at moments but more often they sound like a singular, unique band, and this new track – a precursor to their second album – makes that feel all the more certain. The song and distinctly trippy video appear to discuss the sense of self and how you think you appear to others (as opposed to how others see you), and this deep subject is backed by an urgent, choppy sound that morphs into a staggering, breathless coda to close out that is perhaps the most thrilling music the band have yet put out.
One of the joys of recent times of music has been the emergence of a number of bands to the alternative “mainstream” that are distinctly more experimental than might be expected – perhaps giving us hope that not everything has to follow the same narrow expectations to be accepted by a wider audience. One significant breakout just recently has been London foursome black midi, whose chaotic debut album has been unexpectedly widely embraced (and even nominated for the Mercury Music Prize this year). Sure, there are elements of noise-rock, free-jazz, post-rock, post-metal, and all of these appear on album opener 953, which spins like a whirlwind as it accelerates to what feels like an absolutely impossible pace (the drummer, by the way, is amazing) before then gradually slowing to a stop. This is wildly experimental music that somehow came out (broadly!) accessible and is honestly one of the most thrilling musical rides you’ll hear in 2019.
/Candidates For Love
A remarkable seven years have passed since I reviewed this band’s debut album on /But Listen/127, a bitter, fizzing alternative rock album that I loved an awful lot (and listening to it again recently, it holds up well). Now a three-piece – although ex-member Alex Martin also produced the album – this return is one that is rather shorter (nine songs) and concise than that sprawling debut, too, but on the first couple of listens it still retains a quick line in put-downs and has a similar angular, sharp musical sound. The notes to the album suggest that there has been significant upheaval within the band and in their lives out of it, and the sometimes-weary sound of the album reflects that – a band who’ve been pushed to the end of their tether, and the rolling, slower pace of Safe Word in particular gives a chance to reflect. Not all bands experience great success, indeed many remain in the comparative shadows, and this band is one of those – and are well deserving of your time. They’ve put a lot into this, that’s clear, and the album as a whole is a rewarding listen.
I’m beginning to wonder if either of these bands ever stop – if they aren’t releasing their own material, it’s collaborations with each other, and a whole host of other bands (one of Uniform worked on the recent, excellent LINGUA IGNOTA album, for example), but somehow the quality level never drops. On this first track from their latest collaborative work, they have moved more into their own interpretation of industrial rock. It has an industrial groove, but it sounds like the rhythm is pounded out on enormous kettle drums with lump hammers, and synths provide unexpected twinkling light amid the harsher vocals and fizzing bass – and the end result is a track not half as dark and angry as it first appears.
/Rituals of Surrender
Cold In Berlin has had one of the more intriguing trajectories of recent bands – having moved away from their goth-tinged, searing rock toward an overwhelmingly doomy crawl on last album The Comfort of Loss & Dust, four years ago. Judging on the first track from their long-awaited fourth album, that time away has been put to good use. Their sometimes soporific third album is banished almost entirely here, as Maya howls and bristles with rage across thick basslines and a brutally heavy, slow rhythm. In fact, this nails the balance that they were presumably aiming for last time around, but never really reached. Roll on the album in October.
After the extraordinary depths and almost limitless expanses of world-building sound that Comaduster created on his last album, the last thing I was expecting from him next was an acoustic ballad, but that’s the way he’s turned. I can’t imagine we’re going to get two EPs of material such as this – as this is the only song we’ve heard from either so far – but this works surprisingly well. Assisted by the ever-excellent vocals of Mari Kattman (who has popped up on a number of great releases in the past couple of years), subtle synths add greater depth to the dual-vocals and gently picked guitars, and this is like some kind of space lullaby. Réal Cardinal continues to surprise and astound.
/Adventures In Babysitting The Antichrist
I’ve taken the unusual step this month of including two releases where I can’t yet share any music here (my normal preference is to wait until there is something I can embed), mainly because I feel both releases are important enough to talk about in advance of their release. Quickly following the twentieth-anniversary re-issue of the landmark album Fun With Knives last week, this album is Bryan Erickson’s eleventh under the VAC name, and frankly, if you’d told when I first heard Fun With Knives that he’d still be making notable music twenty years hence, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. One thing about this album – especially after the unexpected experimentation over the past decade or so, which even included acoustic guitars (!) – is how “classic” VAC this feels. This marvellously-titled track is a case in point, the mid-paced beats take a back seat to swirling, claustrophobic synths that threaten to overwhelm everything at points, and Erickson hisses his vocals amid the sonic carnage – but critically this sounds immediately recognisable as VAC, perhaps with upgraded hardware. I must confess – I wasn’t expecting too much from this album, but I like it a lot, and it is probably his best album since Twisted Thought Generator.
I’ve long been a fan of Steven Archer’s other project Ego Likeness, but I must admit that somehow, until now, Stoneburner has passed me by a bit. Now I listen to the new album, I’m rather wondering how – punishing tribal-esque drums, dense synths and samples, and heavily distorted vocals are the order of the day here, and it ticks more of my boxes than I was expecting – even if the Dune reference of the band name, and presumably some of the song titles, means nothing to me (I never was a fan of Dune)…