Before I get started with the first new tracks roundup of 2014, let’s have a quick roundup of the frankly staggering set of new albums announced/confirmed in the past week, a few of which will no doubt end up on a future Tuesday Ten round-up like this:
- recent amodelofcontrol.com interviewees 3TEETH release their self-titled debut in May, on Artoffact, with some pretty damned cool specials
- Bitter Ruin release their first full album, WAVES, on 07-April
- Swans release To Be Kind in May (and it’s another double CD), and sign to Mute
- The Afghan Whigs return to Sub Pop to release their first album since 1998’s fantastic 1965 – Do To The Beast arrives in April
- Also returning are Click Click, with Those Nervous Surgeons on Dependent sometime this year
- Marching Dynamics have returned with a split release with Cervello Elettronico, which can be obtained here
- Iris are returning with a new album Radiant
- Coldwave band The Clay People are working on a new album too
- Jim Semonik’s fantastic Electronic Saviors series is now onto ES3, and the Premium edition can be pre-ordered here – it’s out in June.
- In addition to all this…an awesome-looking reissue box of Slint’s Spiderland is coming too – and this is an album that has long needed a remastering job.
- Finally, In Strict Confidence (announced for Terminus in Calgary in the summer this past week too) start a retrospective series in March – Lifelines 01 (1991-98) collects together various extended mixes of their best tracks from that period. Here’s hoping this tour finally reaches the UK again, eh?
Anyway, onto this months ten tracks to hear, which actually includes a bonus eleventh for a good reason.
Track of the Month
Madness & Extinction
Fuuuuuuuuuuuck. The lead track for one of Artoffact’s new signings for 2014 is an exquisite, synth-goth track, with an elegance about it that brings to mind the sweep of Legend just a little bit (which is not a bad thing at all, and more about them in a moment), but takes things in a very different way to their now labelmates.
This is a majestic song, that takes many of the usual goth themes for songwriting and makes something epic from meagre bones. The subject is simple enough – everyone dies and ends up the same way, no matter what you believe, whether good or bad, rich or poor. It is the way it is delivered, though – like a religious devotional hymn, it has an extraordinary gravitas and elegance. It truly soars once it hits the chorus, though, and the only thing I can possibly complain about is that is too short, and that the middle eight is so astonishing that it needs to appear at least twice to stop me just playing this on repeat. [Note: this was decided upon as track of the month – and written about – over a month ago, and remained as such despite recent events that make the subject an unfortunate coincidence.]
To Protect and Serve
The Enemy Within
Ah, at last, some furious political music in the UK. As our state has recently attempted to criminalise being annoying (knocked back, rightly, by The Lords), the London Mayor calls for Water Cannon to be made available to the Met, yet another questionable verdict about a death at the hands of the police in London, and just in the past couple of days, a so-called lobbying bill has been passed that actually appears designed to quell dissent…it appears that Phil Barry has taken out his rage on this bristling, stomping track that shows that the forthcoming BME album could well be fucking political, building on the strengths of his debut with better production, a harder-edged sound and plainly and simply, utter fury. As the lyrics note: “Hey! What you doing to us? We’re not the fucking enemy” – something we should be shouting louder and fucking louder. (If you don’t already have this, download it here).
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Getting rave reviews everywhere, it’s clear that Behemoth’s return has been keenly awaited, and crucially, they’ve delivered. There has been a lengthy gap since Evangelion (an album that I didn’t really get into), but with Nergal having fought and beaten leukaemia in the meantime, I think we can let them off for the delay! Anyway, this first track, never mind the rest of the album, is a blistering return, but starts with a looming, omninous build that suggests they are amassing all of the forces of evil to get involved – and when the blastbeats finally kick in, it really is with a wall of guitars and choirs of backing vocals, and it sounds absolutely fucking huge. It is also noticably more Black Metal in tone – not that this is a bad thing, more of a minor stylistic shift that makes the band sound better than they ever have done.
A warm welcome back to the sneering tones of Chris Connelly as he has joined forces with Jason Novak to take the RevCo sound into the modern age. This first EP is great, too, led with this snarling, stuttering track, with stream of conciousness lyrics that invoke exactly the kind of sleaze and filth that I’d expect (and the artwork is perfectly judged to match, too). The production is top-notch, too, with crunching, stop-start beats and low-and-dirty basslines, before kicking into another gear for the grinding, anthemic chorus. Get it at the new Cracknation.com store.
I was a latecomer to the St. Vincent party, only picking up on the last album – which was bloody marvellous. I’ve not managed to go back any further yet, but going on how extraordinary her progress appears to have been since then, I’m not sure I need to. This track is glorious – a bouncy, dark-edged pop song that has a melody with fucking great claws that hook in your brain, and a sunny, brass-backing that just for three minutes is helping to break through the gloomy clouds circling at present. Not to mention a deeply odd, retro-futuristic video that matches perfectly with the theme and feel of the song. The new album is going to be quite something, I suspect…
It takes a brave, brave band in the extreme metal realms to move into acoustic material, but that is what Talanas have done here. Perhaps, actually, it’s a move that isn’t as radical as you might think. Across their releases so far there have been a number of calmer, atmospheric passages amidst the neck-snapping technical metal, and Hal Sinden’s warm singing voice is just as impressive as the roars he can also unleash. Pick of this forthcoming EP (out later this month), though, is this lead track, an elegant exercise in restraint with ultra-sparse instrumentation and multi-tracked vocals that build a genuinely unsettling atmosphere, which gradually coalesces over seven minutes into a climax of sorts. It’s fairly clear that this song was written as an acoustic track to start with – or, at least that’s how I see it – and I’d be intrigued to see how could translate into a full “plugged” version, too.
What an inspired idea – two of the most forward-looking, intriguing bands in Iceland join forces to release a split 7″ (re-pressed due to demand, and with a cassette too!), covering a song of the other. And in some respects, I guess they have chosen the other’s signature song.
Legend take on the majestic Fjara, and while taking it down a more electronic path, the moody, anthemic sweep is pretty much left alone and the utter, beauteous glory of the track simply shines through. Sólstafir take a similarly respectful view in covering Runaway Train, but noticeably shift the feel a bit into the ominous, to wonderful effect – and also by holding back that bit more as the track builds, allow the chorus to kick in with an almighty wallop. What is really interesting, too, has been the coverage of the release – with a far wider reach for both bands than might be expected, I can’t help but think that the next album for both bands (Sólstafir’s is likely to arrive first, by the looks of things) will be hitting the ears of a great many more people than before. Also, Legend play Infest this summer – announced last Friday.
What Goes Around
Where Paul Draper returns in the background with an artist known as Catherine AD to form The Anchoress, an intriguing new project that certainly has the odd echo of his past work in Mansun, that’s for sure. This is quirky, catchy pop music, with an incessant melody and a few familiar moments (the sudden switch-up into the chorus is absolutely a Mansun trick!), but never going too “out there”, instead staying on the accessible side of things and the result is the best thing Draper has been involved in since Six. More of this, please!
An interesting thing that I’ve found of late – since my website got a (much-needed) rebuild a year or so ago, the number of unsolicited submissions I get to cover has increased noticeably. I don’t have the time to cover them all, but once in a while a diamond leaps out of the rough, and this latest track is one of them. An wonderfully scuzzy, chaotic electro-industrial track that is very much full-on, with a beat best described as “heavy groove”, and an arsenal of synths firing off like lasers behind a vocal that drifts in and out of focus as the mood suits. Unusual and worthy of attention for future tracks, for sure.
What industrial has been missing of late is a sense of danger. Yeah, there has been lots of cartoon evil posturing, and some quite ugly misogyny, but nothing truly unhinged. So this album is a breath of stinking air – an intense, ear pummelling head trip that owes as much to Skinny Puppy as it does to power electronics and industrial noise, filling every conceivable gap with samples and effects that swirl through your brain like a tornado. This track starts slowly, a succession of samples and strings swinging through the mix like punches, a bit of Pitch Black voiceover (not quite there yet, but that sample source is beginning to get overused, guys!), then the beats arrive, distorted to all hell with vocal screams cleverly being used as part of the rhythm, and it keeps on pummelling away for a good five minutes. Best listened to loud, or on headphones, or both, to get the full force of the dense mix. (Hat-tip to I Die: You Die for bringing this Serbian act to my attention, by the way)