Christ, this year is going quick. As we head into September (and autumn), there is a huge glut of new music hurtling our way, this month I’m looking at some stuff already released, and some of the good stuff coming our way.
As always – the playlists linked try and cover everything at least once, and everything is listenable here for the first time in a couple of months. The YouTube and Soundcloud playlists have more on them, though.
Track of the Month
Quiet Moments? Mike VanPortfleet wasn’t kidding when he titled the latest Lycia album that. It is, to be fair, what we might expect from his band – ethereal, gothic music of utter despair, with minimal instrumentation and synth washes that result in elegaic songs that you’d need a heart of stone to avoid being touched by the sheer levels of melancholy on show here. This track – astonishingly the “single”, of sorts – is a tale of abandonment and bleak loneliness that is probably as low as this album goes emotionally. For an album so bleak, though, it is perhaps surprisingly listenable, and after a number of listens in the past week is rapidly becoming one of my favourite albums of 2013. Maybe my Goth Card is still valid after all…
Amid the glut of female singer-songwriters to have risen to prominence in the UK in recent years, I can’t help but think that Anna Calvi got left by the wayside a little. Her flamboyant, avowedly different sound may have something to do with it (to my ears, something of a cross between flamenco-influenced rock and Jeff Buckley), but those who have moved onto other singers instead really are missing out. And happily, the first single from her imminent second album continues that gloriously rich sound that her debut had, a smoky and sensual sound that seduces and reels you in from the off.
I’m beginning to find a steady increase in unsolicited material being sent to me via people finding my website – which is perhaps both a blessing and a curse. A fair amount of it is stuff that I have no great interest in covering, or is outside my (admittedly somewhat arbitrary!) remit – but occasionally there is a diamond in the rough that I want to mention, and this is one of them. It’s been around a little while, it seems, but that is no reason to disregard – dank, oppressive industrial music that clanks and echoes, with heavily-treated vocals that invoke more icy goth than industrial, but fit in perfectly here. Well-worth checking out if you want something more atmospheric.
Kill The Power
It perhaps had to be Skindred that could rekindle the nu-metal sound without sounding shit. Oh yes, Skindred’s first single from the forthcoming album Kill The Power takes the monstrous hooks of Union Black singles like Warning and takes them to their logical conclusion – choruses that can be heard from space, elastic riffs (all the better for crowds to bounce to), and a breakdown straight out of the Limp Bizkit playbook, to create the kind of song that should mean Skindred will own festivals over the next year. And if this doesn’t see them finally break through to even bigger things, what on earth can?
The last album Empros was an album I fell in love with, and somehow I’d totally missed this band prior to that release – unusual as I love post-rock/metal like this – so I’m glad to be catching new material early. This epic track generally avoids the navel-gazing that can bog down some post-rock, instead going for the jugular with titanic riffs and some quite amazing drumwork that ratchets up the tension second by second, until bursting in a bass-heavy, chugging mid-section that sounds amazing loud. They are touring with labelmate Chelsea Wolfe in late-October, including a show in London that is one my most keenly anticipated gigs of the autumn.
Major Tom (Coming Home)
Major Tom EP
Opinion has long been bitterly divided on Apop’s direction – in fact aside from one or two songs, broadly their guitar-pop based sound of late has pretty much made them irrevelant in our “scene” unless they are playing live, at which point they are still an unstoppable, life-affirming force. The new EP – released in August – suggests that maybe, just maybe, they are returning to their electronic styles (and just look at their M’era Luna setlist on this video – aside from Major Tom, everything is from Harmonizer or before…). Ok, so Major Tom is another of their covers, but this one is glorious, a pulsating take on the Peter Schilling eighties new-wave track, giving it so much more energy. Also of note is B-side Dead Air Einz, which takes me back to the mellower moments on Welcome To Earth (yes, it’s that good).
XP8 have returned this year with their latest album, and from my first couple of listens to it, it is back to the styles that I’ve enjoyed so much previously (I wasn’t all that taken with their last album). This track is the pick, though – a thumping, driving beat and wonderful, stabbing synths that dominate a melodic chorus that has burrowed its way into my skull over the past week or so. A full review of the album will follow in September – particularly as the whole album is a concept that I really need to explore further.
Niggas In Paris
There has been a hell of a buzz about this band for some time, and for me this cover has been the track that has at long last piqued my interest. Basically Meshuggah-esque technical metal with grime/rap vocals, it works spectacularly well, and from all the reports I’ve heard from friends, they absolutely slay live. Yeah, it’s a bit derivative (the riffs are straight from the Meshuggah playbook), but it meshs two disparate genres really effectively, and it’s not hard to see why they are starting to make quite a splash.
I’ve long since settled with the fact that the 65DOS that I adored so much (their earlier, guitar-heavy material) has long gone, replaced by their evolving into a glitchy, electro/post-rock hybrid. But you know what? From the evidence of this song, the first from their imminent album, they might have found a glorious balance between the two. The galloping rhythm is great, but the mid-section with squalling, shoegazey guitars is just fucking amazing. They’ve come an awfully long way from those beginnings in Sheffield, but are no less enthralling: just a shame that I left it too late to pick up a ticket for their forthcoming Scala show…
Seasons of Your Day
Finally, a welcome back – again – for Mazzy Star’s languid night music. As per the singles from a year or two back – both of which are featured on the forthcoming album – nothing has really changed from David Roback and Hope Sandoval, it is still beauteously blissed out, mainly-acoustic material, with Hope’s gentle, soothing voice echoing around the mix as it always has, and David providing only the backing that is required. What is perhaps always so brilliant about Mazzy Star is how they manage to create the illusion of huge, wide-open spaces in their sound, but always with the feel of it being pitch-dark, and them playing only to you. It’s quite a trick.