Being away for the second half of September meant that I had a lot of catching up to do last week, hence this month’s /Tracks of the Month post being a little later than usual. In addition, too, I’m now preparing for the usual end of year posts which will come in December.
In the meantime, here’s the tracks of the past month.
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).
/Track of the Month
/The After Effect
The horrific year Sean Payne has had has been well-documented, and September allowed attention to return to his music, with the first new Cyanotic album since 2019. Happily, too, the album is a beast, combining both tech-industrial dancefloor monsters and reflective tracks to great effect. Aside from the outstanding Sound the Alarm that was released last year, the pick of the album is the gigantic robotic stomp of Crash Override (is that a Hackers reference I spy?), full of ripping grooves, chugging guitars and snarled vocals – not to mention a return to heavy use of film samples that all fit in perfectly. It’s great to have Cyanotic back and firing on all cylinders.
/unpopular parts of a pig
/unpopular parts of a pig / the digger you deep
Even with the return of Andrew Falkous and mclusky playing live again, I must admit that I never expected them to return to recording new music, but here we are – and indeed with the promise of a new album in 2024. Judging on this ripping new four-track EP – gone and done in ten minutes – a new album is going to be just fine. It is sneering, sarcastic noise-punk in exactly the style that we loved mclusky for in the first place, and the lead track unpopular parts of a pig is two minutes and twenty-two seconds of oddly anthemic fury. Fucking hell, it’s great to hear mclusky again.
Aside from Covers released during 2020, Marika Hackman broadly stayed quiet during the lockdown years. A gig was announced at the ICA in September, and so far there’s only been this new single (although presumably there is an album to come in time). In the now familiar tradition of Hackman’s music, her distinct lack of filter often makes for frank songs, and No Caffeine is no exception. It is a song about dealing with panic attacks (a subject I know all too well) – that said, I’m fairly sure I’ve not used many of Hackman’s way to deal with them. There is a darker edge to this song generally, too, and I’m now intrigued as to where other future new material might go.
Another artist who has been quiet for a while is Chelsea Wolfe – although after the appalling mess at her old label Sargent House, I’m perhaps not surprised. Dusk is the first song released via her new label, Loma Vista Recordings, and it feels like a bit of a reset. The shuffling beats and gentle guitars – not to mention Wolfe’s plaintive delivery – sound like Portishead has been on heavy rotation (not that this is a bad thing), and maybe, just maybe, the shroud of darkness that has enveloped most of Wolfe’s work has lifted a bit. At least until the cataclysmic, guitar-led close-out, anyway…
/Fear Keeps Us Alive
Elizabeth Bernholz has long been a master of making the everyday absolutely terrifying, and they have now taken this one step further, with an album apparently about taking on childhood fears and how they manifest in adulthood. The lead single Black Dog was unsettling enough, but Fear Keeps Us Alive… fucking hell. A clatter of samples, thundering drums and weird electronic noise keep up a cacophony that builds in intensity, as Bernholz keeps their voice in an oddly sweet-natured register just to fuck with us that bit more. I can’t help but feel that the release date being the week of Hallowe’en is no accident – it seems like the album is going to be like watching a psychological horror film, in that it’s going to be in my head for days to come.
/Haine X Guillotine
In uncertain times, the far-right gain traction as they play on fear, and sadly, that’s exactly what’s happening right now. grabyourface has long fought against this kind of bullshit, and Haine seethes with rage. Rage against working in underpaid jobs, against a lack of peace and safety, against the rich hoarding wealth while others starve… we could go on. As they ask, “Why do you hate us“? The answer, of course, being that we now hate them too. The track itself builds into a relentless beat, giving a breathless, furious background to the clear vocals, allowing the message to be heard loud and clear. It might be unsubtle, but the time for being nice and polite has long fucking passed.
/Drowning In Light
The fascinating Bloody Knives remain something of an anomaly as they bring together noisy shoegaze and industrial tinges to their sound: especially as their propulsive, heavy rhythms are usually at a whole lot faster tempo than the traditional, sophorific shoegaze sound. The good thing is, they aren’t compromising one bit on their latest single (from a new album that is due “soon”). Maybe the electronics have been dialled back a bit, but the layered, effects-riven guitars still dominate proceedings, and the song itself is actually rather lovely.
It’s been three years (in fact, it was released three years ago yesterday) since the outstanding Thin Skies – a period that feels like a lifetime ago. Their first new song since then is new single Forbidden Flames, which continues the sleek, electronically-enhanced post-punk sound from that last album, but perhaps a little more restrained and lovelorn than before. One thing that hasn’t changed is the warm, melodic feel to their songs: they remain masters of this, and their upcoming new album should be a treat.
/CHILDREN OF SORROW
HEALTH are back with their first album of their own material (as opposed to collaborations) in nearly five years, and describe it as “documenting just how insane it feels to be alive right now“. That insanity manifests itself in shockingly heavy music, judging on the first couple of tracks released from it: particularly CHILDREN OF SORROW, which is dominated by a shredding metal riff and hulking great drums, the counterpart, as ever, being Jake Duzsik’s delicate vocals that somehow never feel like they are about to be washed away in the torrent of sound.
Jan Dewulf returned to his 90s project Mildreda in recent years, and 2021 album I Was Never Really There was fantastic. He’s continued with the project, and new album Blue-Devilled comes in early December. At least from first single Friendly Fire, there’s a feeling of not breaking anything that wasn’t working perfectly well: the dense electro-industrial of before is still present and correct, with Dewulf’s vocals very much part of the texture and sound, rather than dominating.