Tuesday Ten: 204: Tracks of the Month (May 2014)

Hurtling into summer, and nearly halfway through 2014 already (!), here are this month’s ten great tracks.

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Track of the Month

Manic Street Preachers
Europa Geht Durch Mich

Easily the pick of the new songs debuted by the Manics on their recent UK tour, this and the other songs point towards a more upbeat, post-punk tone to the new album, quite a change after the reflective nature of the last few. Anyway – this glam-electro stomp is still recognisable as the Manics, but the multi-lingual lyrics (also featuring Nina Hoss), not to mention the European celebration of the song and the fist-pumping rhythms, help to make this the best Manics track, in my view, since the mid-nineties.

Waiting For Light

Lesley Rankine’s unexpected return to her Ruby project, after well over a decade, last year was well-received – such that a recent PledgeMusic campaign easily met it’s target, and has resulted in the release of third album Waiting For Light to pledgers (yes, including me) over the weekend. The album is a mix of the familiar – all previously released tracks over the past year or so feature – and the not-so-familiar, and it is perhaps notable also that the album continues the more mellowed-out sound of Short-Staffed at the Gene Pool, rather than the barely-disguised bitterness and fury that punctuated Salt Peter. That said, this new album is not all delicate ballads – but the biggest departure, perhaps, is the soft-focus electronic beats and faster pace of Spin, a quite glorious track that is the pick of the album for me. If you had an interest in her work previously, it’s well worth a return for this. Order here.

Antigen Shift
Angry Pillbox

It’s been a long time coming, but the first Antigen Shift album in eight years sees an artist who has always seemed to specialise in making cold, steely electronic music thaw a little and indeed widen horizons quite amazingly. Nick Thériault has been joined in recent years by Jairus Khan of Ad·ver·sary, and the meeting of minds here has resulted in one of the best electronic albums of it’s kind in some time. Part of the joy of it is the vast scope – it restlessly skips through styles, even adding crunching guitars at points, while at others dubby echoes permeate the beats and in others still there are massed armies of effects that never sound overwhelming. It’s also very long – at about seventy minutes – so I’m still digesting the album, and a review will follow once I have, but in the meantime, the multitude of ideas that are crammed into the five minutes of Angry Pillbox make it a worthy track to mention. No sooner has one wonderful melody floated through, another follows in it’s place, with motifs reappearing here and there while the track continues to mutate. The complexity helps to explain the lengthy gestation, I guess – but it was worth the wait and a whole lot more (more on the re-emergence of Antigen Shift in a recent interview on I Die: You Die).

Panic Lift
Awake EP

It’s been a while since I first stumbled across Panic Lift – their contribution to the split Initialize EP some six years ago, in fact – and it is clear from this that they have moved on somewhat since then. The lead and title track to their new EP is a cracker, too – what appears to be a rather insubstantial track that wants to wallow in the background (the electronics are a barely audible pulse to begin with), rips into life with a ripping, rock-ballad-esque chorus, and later in the track mournful pianos and guitar solos even make an appearance. Clearly looking rather beyond the suffocating confines of one scene, as so many bands are, with this kind of broad thinking, who knows what could be achieved?

Front Line Assembly
Echogenetic – Youth Code

Front Line Assembly’s astonishing renaissance continues with the postscript to last year’s brilliant Echogenetic (album of the year on amodelofcontrol.com, of course), in the form of a remix album that does so much more than the norm. First, there are two new songs, co-written with Ian Pickering from Sneaker Pimps, and then there is a slew of clever remixes that really do shed new light on the songs. King of the remixes on an exceptionally strong collection, though, is this – which tosses away the moody electronics of the original for a retro-meeting of minds that results in a hulking, snarling dancefloor attack.

Decline And Fall

The first new song from Godflesh in years, something that I have to say I wasn’t expecting to hear. On recent tours since their reactivation they’ve seemed to have been content with just revisiting their (extremely noisy) past, particularly their grimier, sludgier older material, so with the arrival of the EP I can only imagine that the gigs this week might actually see the live airing of this. This would be no bad thing – a grinding monster, this, the relentless march of the beats and guitars perfectly in sync as Justin Broadrick wails his vocals deep in the mix. Welcome back.

The Knife
Without You My Life Would Be Boring (Shaken-Up)
Shaken-Up Versions

Trust The Knife to continue to confound. Rather than a remix album, they are instead releasing the much-changed versions of various songs across their career that they’ve been playing live. This is no bad thing – the live show last year was awesome, even if it wasn’t all that live, I guess – and I’ve not been able to get this damned song out of my head over the past year. This version brings the percussion to the fore, adding a loose-limbed feel that like those in video, just makes you want to get up and dance. Or even just dance a bit in my seat, as I’m doing as I listen to it (again) and write this. Not only that, but this track alone punctures conclusively the notion that The Knife are “too serious”. You might want sunglasses for their website, mind.

Do It Again
Do It Again

Sticking with Scandanavian electro, actually…the first time I heard these two collaborate was the astonishing single The Girl and The Robot, so their reconvening for a new EP (and tour – but why only Latitude in the UK? Grr) was always going to be worth a go, and so this song proves. Another skyscraping hook, retro-futuristic electro, and Robyn yet again proving that she’s really quite brilliant at making the most downbeat, introspective subjects (here she is tearing into the futility of repetition of life’s mistakes) into the most life affirming songs going. How exactly is Robyn not a planet-straddling superstar?

Memory Work

Another smoky, goth-infused post-punk-esque band, formed by an ex-member of The Soft Moon, from what I can tell. Not quite the swirling shrouds of fog that appear to swirl around everything they do, though, here it has cleared somewhat to leave a brighter, more melodic sound that reveals a lovely chorus and a pop-friendly feel that is not at all what I expected when I first heard about them.

First Breath
Vanishing Point

This is one where I’m really a little bit late to the party. I’d heard mention of them, but the crazy year that 2014 has been so far has put a bit of a dent in my plans to catch up somewhat, so I’m actually very grateful to the artist for giving me a nudge and passing over a promo copy of the album. I’m going to attempt a review at some point, if time allows, but for now I’m going to let this mention suffice. The album is best appreciated as a cohesive whole – particularly as many tracks bleed gently into each other – but the delicate sounds of what sounds like either a children’s toy or music box that gradually wind up, echo and weave in-and-out of sparse electronics is a quite brilliant work of sonic art, the silences between being just as important as the sounds being made in some respects. Well worth checking out if you like interesting electronics.

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