The sun is out, we’re finally edging into what feels like Spring. And in the meantime, I’ve been busy listening to new music.
As a friend pointed out only yesterday sending me a new recommendation, too, there has been so much music that it’s been difficult to keep up – again! So this bumper edition,
with sixteen tracks, is as much as I had time to write about.
Other things to note: I provided a rare guest mix just recently that went online at the weekend, for Mark Eris’s Ambient Recovery series. You can listen to the 80-minute mix on Mixcloud. I’ll post the tracklisting for it later.
In addition, I’m DJing this Friday in Chatham (Kent) at Post Plague.
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 me. 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).
/Randolph & Mortimer
/The Incomplete Truth
Deliberately released with no pre-release singles, promotion or much info whatsoever, even on first listen it became obvious that this second Randolph & Mortimer album is something else, even by his high standards. Elements of everything Sam has dabbled in so far is here – thundering industrial grooves, techno rhythms, smartly-placed samples, and his knack in finding exactly the right collaborator for each instance – but it all feels more. More urgent, more powerful, more of everything.
Opener Self-Medicator has one of those rhythm patterns that is something of the R&M trademark, but where it becomes really interesting is in the last minute, where it picks up a droning synth thread that seems to drag the tempo imperceptibly faster by the second, like a gradually increasing heartbeat amid great tension. It is a mighty opener to an extraordinary, brilliant album, and one of the first genuine contenders for the best album of 2023.
/…out flew reason
There have been a whole lot of bands I loved that have reformed in recent years, but the low-key return of Dark Star is one that has had me buzzing with joy. They are a very important band to me – who only released one album and a smattering of EPs nearly twenty-five years ago in their initial phase – as I explained in /The Rearview Mirror /003 some years ago, one of their songs was the inspiration for this website’s name.
Parts of this second album – originally entitled Zurich – have been circulating as bootlegs for many years, after their label declined to release it and the band split post-millenium, but to hear it as the band intended at last is great. In truth, not a lot had changed from the first album – it is still powerful psych-rock with a striking intensity – but there was perhaps a sharper edge to the songs, particularly as many of them were kept shorter.
I could have featured the rollicking charge of Roman Road, but the song I keep coming back to is Three Seconds. A dub-like bassline rumbles away at the far fringes of frequencies we more feel than hear, while guitar is scrawled and scribbled over the mix, and Bic Hayes vocals sound more bruised and desperate than ever. Even better are the hints on their Bandcamp page that truly new music is coming too, and soon. Expect the diary being cleared if they play live, I can tell you…
A new duo from Brighton, as far as I understand, who’ve only released a couple of songs so far but appear to promise great things already. This latest single is a barrage of drums, industrial electronics and hardcore-esque vocals that leans into noise too, complete with savage breakdowns, and thus is a bracing, exciting three minutes that has me wanting more, as soon as possible.
/Paradise Is Mine
The last Swans album, leaving meaning., felt like Michael Gira hitting the reset button and, perhaps, dialling things back a bit. Well, comparatively, anyway. Four years on, and the sixteenth Swans album is heralded by a near-ten minute track that like many of the best Swans tracks, is built around repetition and trance-like states, as the track takes its sweet time to expand beyond the initial, gentle rhythm. But once it does truly crank into life, the key line appears to be “Am I ready to die?“. Gira has never exactly been one to shy away from death, violence and suffering in his songs, but he’s never before asked such a question so starkly. I mean, I’m not exactly expecting lightness from this upcoming album, but with Ben Frost onboard as one of the collaborators too, The Beggar may be a weighty tome indeed.
/WHAT A MAN
Debby Friday – a Nigerian artist now residing in Canada – is one of the new breed of artists in our “scene” that is blowing apart pre-conceived notions around electronic music, and indeed is perhaps helping to raise the profile of it, too, having signed to no less a label than Sub Pop for their new album. At points it is thundering club-bound industrial, at others nodding into soulful R&B and trip-hop, and others still experimental, droning electronics (SAFE in particular, where the vocals too are treated to sound not human at all).
The pick of the album, though is the fantastic WHAT A MAN. A down-and-dirty post-punk bassline jostles for space with squalling, hard-rock guitar solos and stamps of drums – but Friday’s extraordinary vocal histrionics steal the entire show. The video – where Friday plays a variety of female subjects of the male gaze, and then violently subverting each and every one of them – only adds to the power of this quite brilliant song.
/The New Division
This quite great synthpop artist from the US has been releasing singles over the past couple of years, all of which have ended up on this excellent new album, released in the past couple of weeks. As per their previous work, this is thoughtful, melancholic synthpop that is full of hooks and fantastic songcraft, and for me the pick of the album is Circles. The gloomy verses burst into sections dominated by chiming guitars, and unusually for such a song, John Kunkel’s vocals are only a minor part of the song.
/Body of Light
Another electronic artist from the US to return in 2023 is Body of Light, with the brothers Jarson tweaking their sound again, this time apparently using fragments of field recordings as part of a sift through their own memories to see where they could go. Never Ever, then, is pitted deep within those thoughts, as they ponder whether they really have advanced in their life, and this lovely, thoughtful song even makes a saxophone solo – twice – work seamlessly within their musical framework.
Well over five years since debut album Nemesis, Vincent Uhlig has returned at last, and the signs are that his rich tapestry of electro-industrial is even more elaborate and considered than before. Away from the pressure of making dancefloor-friendly bangers, Uhlig instead makes multi-part, enthralling songs that seem to lean on a multitude of influences but never overtly sound like anyone in particular, and the seven minutes of Formula Extinction are a great introduction to what he is doing. In addition, it is also interesting to hear Uhlig using his clean singing voice, avoiding the temptation – as so many others do in this musical realm – to treat and distort. The result is a song that keeps an unexpected human edge to the mass of technology used otherwise, and is all the better for it.
/Pulling Me Under (feat. Craig Huxtable)
/This Futile Engine
I’ve long been a fan of both of the artists involved here, so a new collaboration was always going to be welcome. The lead track from Slighter’s upcoming new album is a doomy storm of bass and beats that seems to be churning up the air around it, a tour de force of production techniques and attention to detail that allows Craig Huxtable to glower away through the track. I’m not always one for remixes, either – often they strip away the really interesting bits of tracks such as these for cheap dancefloor thrills – but MATT HART’s remix here is worthy of note, as dispelling the fog that surrounds the original reveals a dancefloor monster of a track waiting in the wings, while SØLVE adds some of their trademark sounds to flip it into a measured study in dark introspection.
/We Eat Our Young
Be prepared – deathgrind monsters Cattle Decapitation are back, and lead single We Eat Our Young takes all of about three seconds before it is blasting you through the walls. The ferocious, brutal grind they perform – it sounds almost mechanised, it is so precise and tight – is accompanied by lyrics of disgust as vocalist Travis Ryan airs his opinions on the present and future of a human race apparently intent on sowing the seeds of it’s own destruction, despite repeated warnings of what is to come.
This noisy, hardcore-leaning rock band were a firm favourite of mine in 2022 (at #27 on /Countdown /2022 /Albums), and they resurface again with this one new track (and they play in London in October, too). Just in case you didn’t get their searing message last time, this new track ups the ante yet further with a ferocious 150 second blast of raging hardcore, a howl of fury and despair from the depths of a winter lockdown. Frankly it is something of an exorcism of what was a dark time for many – and is also a hell of a thrilling track, and not exactly the kind of bedlam I’d expect to hear a saxophone fight its way out of, either!
The first album Mirrors felt like it blasted past in a flurry of chaotic creations, and as is often the way with bands that create such wildly entertaining debuts, you have to wonder if they can do it again. PUPIL SLICER appear to have been aware of this concern, so the first track from their second album appears to include everything in a six minute track. There are melodic choruses, some impressive technicality, vicious moshpit friendly breakdowns and a sense of vulnerability that was not immediately obvious on that first album blast. Are they trying to wrongfoot us here, I wonder? It’s going to be fun finding out.
John Grant and Wrangler have joined forces for a second Creep Show album, and like before, the curious, retro-synth work of Wrangler is a surprisingly good fit for John Grant’s glorious voice. It also feels that this is a place for John Grant to get away from his deeper solo work, where he can cut loose a bit and have some fun, and bizarrely, the title track – despite apparent warnings of doom and gloom, Grant is ready to leap into the yawning abyss, as there might be better things on the other side. In 2023, perhaps he has a point.
/ALL HANDS MAKE LIGHT
/We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun
/“Darling the Dawn”
Efrim Menuck continues their explorations beyond GY!BE, this time with fellow Montréaler Ariel Engle (Broken Social Scene, among others), and the first track is a gorgeous exploration of synths and drones, propelled along by gentle drumming and sweeps of violin. It seems weird to be hearing what is basically a lengthy post-rock/kosmische-inspired piece to be entirely devoid of guitar, but it works very well indeed, and I’m now intrigued to hear the entire album later this month.
Middlesbrough-based artist Benefits were quite the surprise when I saw them support I LIKE TRAINS in late-2021: I wasn’t expecting near-power electronics backing an angry vocalist that seethed at the state of the pandemic-ridden, Brexit-crippled United Kingdom.
Warhorse pulls back on the noise somewhat, instead allowing the drums to provide the backing for Kingsley Hall’s riposte to the ruling classes telling us to “tighten our belts” while millions are spaffed on royal events, and billions more to enrich political friends. Easy targets, perhaps, but it is still happening, so why not shout that bit louder?
The group with what must be the longest – and for many English speakers at least, the most difficult to pronounce – band name in industrial/dark ambient are back with their first release of new material since November 2019, and Ghosts sees them double down on their minimalist, stark style. The title track lives up to the name: synths swirl through the beatless space like four minutes in a pitch-dark room, with no idea where all those sounds are coming from, and what’s making them, and the result is a frankly unsettling piece.