For the third month in a row, it’s twenty songs to wrap up the past month – the avalanche just keeps on coming.
2016 in Review:
251: Tracks (Feb)
248: Tracks (Jan)
Obviously, this is no bad thing. It just means that there is tons of great new music, and I’m here to help you get through it. Well, actually, it’s nineteen great songs and one less-than-average one, as it happens…
Track of the Month
Somebody Else’s Dream
Somebody Else’s Dream EP
One of the industrial scene’s most unique bands return with a new single, after a couple of years concentrating on looking back at their now extensive back-catalogue (that goes back twenty-five years to 1991). It’s a sumptuous return, too, a lush, slow-burning ballad with an otherworldly feel and Dennis Ostermann’s vocals gaining a husky, dark quality that hasn’t been all that evident in the past. As is always the case with ISC, too, the video is essential viewing – the visual is just as important as the sounds in building atmosphere. Another EP (apparently a more dancefloor-friendly track) and a new album follow, and on this evidence, I can’t wait to hear more.
Old Heart Falls
The Fall of Hearts
Katatonia return with a swooning new song that, like all of the best material from the band, is infused with a sweeping sense of despair and hope for better times. It builds and swells from sparse beginnings, into a soaring chorus, before returning to brooding verses. Jonas Renkse has taken his band from being an outright doom band to this now hybrid doom-rock sound, mainly with clean vocals, and every single album since Viva Emptiness at least has basically been bulletproof, vindicating the change in style spectacularly. This first song from the forthcoming album (out next month, and their first in four years), and going on this I’ve no reason to believe that this new album won’t be brilliant either. (Also, the lyric video (a pet hate normally) is quite a clever one, using a typewriter to produce the lyrics onscreen).
A perhaps unexpected artist to sign to NGP, this LA-based singer has an interesting, minimalist take on goth-tinged synth, this song puts her warm vocals centre-stage, with little more than swooning synth washes and an occasional heartbeat of a rhythm underneath. Also of note is the sultry video, featuring Ari and Mr Kitty dancing, of sorts, in the Californian desert.
Apparently the final Iggy album, if his pronouncements in interviews are to be believed. But having worked with Josh Homme on this – at points it very much sounds like Iggy fronting QOTSA, but this is no bad thing – reining it in a bit suits Iggy better than I might have expected, and his croon on this track as the groove slinks away behind him is an utter joy – and there is a distinct nod to his old friend David Bowie, too…
Barbara, Barbara, we face a shining future
I wasn’t hugely keen on the first single I Exhale, but the album thankfully is much better. High Contrast is once again assisting on production duties, but his influence is perhaps not as marked this time and it is all the better for it. As is so often the way, I’ve no idea what Karl Hyde is on about during If Rah, but his incantations across rollercoaster synth melodies and a bouncing beat are the best thing Underworld have done in years and years. Maybe all that time revisiting their past recently has reminded the band just what was so good about their sound…
My Beautiful Psycho
A stop-gap release before their third album drops – and Phil Barry’s old band Cubanate make their long-awaited live return at Cold Waves in September – this is a jet-engine blast of fast-paced beats, buzzing guitars and an avalanche of samples and electronics to fill every conceivable gap. It’s actually got more than a bit of a nod to Ministry of the early 90s, but that’s no bad thing (particularly when you compare it to the tosh that Al Jourgensen is putting out these days).
If AT&T Drank Tea What Would BP Do
The Peace and Truce of The Future of the Left
Rock’s sharpest wit returns with what appears to be another album of caustic asides and whip-smart alternative-rock. Andy Linkous and his band haven’t really changed too much, not that they need to – everything sounds as taut as possible, like it’s been stretched to breaking point, like it always has done, and Linkous sounds like he too is one more event away from going postal. And here, in this track, maybe he does, as the lolloping rhythms suddenly give way to a brutal, thrashing breakdown at the end.
Inbetween ΔAIMON albums (and a follow-up to their self-titled debut album and the exceptional EPs that preceded it is keenly awaited), Brant Showers has busied himself with his solo project and also drumming for Bestial Mouths on a European tour over the past few weeks (that interestingly didn’t make it to the UK). The results of that solo work get released this coming week, and it is interesting to note both the similarities and differences between it and the “parent” project. In some ways, the sonic baseline is closely linked – drowsy, heavy-footed beats, huge piano chords and samples dropped in for dramatic effect like traps snapping shut are all present and correct. But elsewhere, like on What Remains, the leash is loosened and thumping, complex drum patterns combine with bellowed, distorted-and-reverbed vocals to impressive effect – ending up more This Morn’ Omina than Witch House. Being a fan of both, this is no bad thing, and the album as a whole is an impressive and engaging listen.
Losing The Light
Not the only band this week to be releasing their first new album proper in some years, one of the most interesting post-rock bands from the US return after some years concentrating on soundtrack work and side-projects.
That other work certainly seems to have influenced their direction. Songs here are unusually short for them – not many extend beyond five minutes, as opposed to the epic soundscapes that were previously their trademark. And for the most part, the chiming guitars that have been their sonic signature are absent, their use being reduced for maximum impact. The space is filled by pretty electronics, moments of near silence, and a distinct sense of introversion.
Losing The Light all but jettisons everything the band have done before, and it is wonderful. Gentle brush strokes of mournful piano and echoing effects ripple like disturbed water, and it evokes the album’s titular location, but in the dead of night after all the light has gone, and other senses must be used.
Another post-rock band who have done a lot of soundtrack work in recent years are Mogwai (the creepy soundtrack to Les Revenants being the best of them, as it was essential to the unsettling nature of the show), and they have continued their work in this arena with the release of their score for a recent BBC documentary. There is, ironically in this context, none of the titanic blasts of energy that this band can unleash, instead a more measured tone that helps underline the sense of dread that permeates all rational thinking when considering the effects and potential catastrophes that can result from atomic weapons. This track, with droning synths and stately rhythm, sounds like a death march after the event.
Newly signed to Ant-Zen, Joey Blush’s project has changed beyond all recognition since I first covered his work. Back then it was complex but surprisingly accessible industrial with a melodic edge – since his move to Europe, though, pretty much the whole sound was binned and he has moved into analogue industrial-techno pastures, with impressive results. This first track from his forthcoming album Reshaper is great, too. A hypnotic beat is matched by intriguing tribal imagery in the video, and while the sound initially suggests that this will explode into a club banger at some point, instead considerable restraint allows the track to explore darker corners over it’s six minute duration.
Flesh For The Living
Flesh For The Living 12″
A fascinating Chicago act who have been bubbling under for a while, they released their first 12″ on Midwich last week and the step-up in production is marked. Earlier material, like the glowering Force Fed from last summer, had a grubby, blurry quality, which extended to the distinctly NSFW video, while the new material is very much more upfront. A thumping jackhammer of a beat anchors everything, with sneering vocals mixed amongst what appears to be the screaming beasts of hell emerging from the speakers. They play Cold Waves V in September and I can’t wait.
Put It Here
Back after what seems like an age, a nu-Shoegaze band whose members have a long history within the genre, and their new single is another wonderful, melodic blast. Layers upon layers upon layers in the production give away the shoegaze influence, but rather than making it an impenetrable fog, there is a clarity here that allows the woozy melody to burst through the clouds of guitars, but ensures that those clouds keep an air of mystery.
A few years after their first collaboration, Teaho and Blixa are back for a second round (and with a gig coming up in London, although the cost is rather eye-watering). The first album was really quite enjoyable, but much more so than the first album, this doesn’t half sound like a later-period Neubauten song. Blixa spins a strange, dreamlike yarn, and there is the feel of an ever-present threat in the shadows of the song as Blixa’s voice gradually gains more urgency, and the bells and strings gain prominence, before it all ends without warning, as if The Beast has consumed him at last – or he simply woke up.
In time, are we going to have to blame the xx for the litany of other bands who’ve taken the same basic ingredients – male+female vocals, barely there arrangements, for listening late at night, hey, it’s trip-hop revisited, right? – and made them really fucking boring? Quite possibly, but I’ll be thanking them for influencing HÆLOS, though. Very much the same idea, but with an interesting quasi-gospel take on their vocals, and a bit more life to some of the beats – this song hooked me from the start and had me digging out the album on Spotify to see whether they were a one song wonder. Happily I can report that the album is very much worth a listen (another single, Pray, is similarly glorious).
I’m Yours 12″
A belting new single from the combined minds of Rexx Arkana (FGFC820) and Eric Eldredge (Interface), that very much has the stamp of the latter, but also ghosts of futurepop past. This is no bad thing – what was a dirty word for a while in industrial clubs has been coming back in for a while now (particularly with brilliant recent albums from Neuroticfish and Seabound, and Covenant gleefully digging deep into their past on recent tours), and this is a smart updating of the concept with a slow-burning, extended track perfect for clubland, but also just as good at home, with a smooth, deep melodic vocal and a fistful of great hooks.
One band that appeared a few years ago that I’ve grown to love an awful lot is the racous punk-meets-early-Killing Joke of Eagulls (you want to know how deep the KJ influence runs? Just check their cover of Requiem), although seeing them live in the cavernous expanse of the RAH supporting Suede perhaps wasn’t the best way to experience them. Anyway, this is the first song from their forthcoming second album, and it shows the band relaxing a bit and slowing down from the frenetic, breathless pace that much of the first album had. George Mitchell’s strained vocals suit the style change well, and this is plainly and simply a great song.
Crispin Gray (ex-Queenadreena) is back in a new band, and to no real surprise, it sounds an awful lot like his old band. There are howling female vocals, there are buzzing guitars, and a pervading sense that everything is only just hold together. Yeah, it sounds really damned familiar as a result, but I like it. It’ll be interesting how they sound live, too…
Out of Control
Blind Spot EP
Cor, it’s like the 90s never left. One of the latest bands to reform are – surprisingly, in many ways – the shoegaze-gone-Britpop band Lush, who announced a reformation late last year and swiftly sold out a few nights at the Roundhouse when the dates were confirmed. Even more surprising was the appearance of new material, too (the EP is out next week) – and the first song from it is a notable return to their earlier, shoegazy days rather than the outright power-pop of the likes of Single Girl. A slower pace, swirling guitars, a feeling of sadness pervades, and you know what? It’s great to have them back.
Surgical Meth Machine
The last song this week is a cautionary tale. One where an artist that keeps churning out material with no attempt to exact any quality control, that has reformed a band at least twice that was long presumed over, and frankly long since has stopped being any good. And now, said artist has a new project, and the results are…well, not very good at all. This track is a psuedo-lounge track, with Las Vegas sleaze visuals in the video, and lyrics that tell little more than Al Jourgensen thinks ‘I’m Invisible’, while the vocals sound both phoned-in and treated to shit to make then sound ‘clean’. What’s ironic is that the first SMM song (Tragic Alert, featured on the Spotify playlist) sounded like an attempt to be the best Ministry song in an age, but with absolutely nothing new to add to the party. If only I still cared – I used to love Ministry.
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