Already back ’round to a new month, and we’re hurtling through summer. First Tuesday of the new month, then, so time for the best tracks, and there are a lot of them this time around.
Why? The autumn release schedule is, it seems, rather crowded this year.
Tuesday Ten: 303: Tracks of the Month (July 2017)
2017 in Review
299: Tracks (Jun)
296: Tracks (May)
292: Tracks (Apr)
288: Tracks (Mar)
284: Tracks (Feb)
280: Tracks (Jan)
There have been so, so many new songs revealed in the past month that it’s going to take me a while to catch up – so this month, it’s twenty songs, and even then I’m holding some over.
Stand by for more stuff from me this week, too, with Talk Show Host: 035 tomorrow (talking to Controlled Bleeding) and two more reviews in the works too. There was also Welcome to the Future: 005 yesterday, which took a look at what there is coming up at Infest later this month.
On with the music.
Track of the Month
SOL: A Self-Banishment Ritual
For those that may have missed it, I posted a lengthy interview with Alex Reed from Seeming last week (Talk Show Host: 034) that touched on far more than your average interview with a nominally industrial artist might do – and I Die: You Die’s We Have A Technical: 167 last week also covered yet more musical ground with Alex. These interviews of such rich detail rather reflect the deep thought that has clearly gone into his new album SOL: A Self-Banishment Ritual. It takes in vastly more in influences and sonic experimentation than anyone else in this scene, and no more is this made obvious than on first single Stranger. There is a smooth-edged, sleek soul influence to the gently rolling beats, the dramatic piano flourishes and the elegant metaphors in the lyrics. Then there is the unexpected, lush vocal assistance from S∆MMUS. As Alex inferred in his interview, keep your ears and mind open. There is so much more out there, and his new album unfolds worlds of sounds worth hearing.
This rather came out of nowhere, and is the best Garbage track in the best part of two decades. A furious, hammering industrial rock monster of a track – it doesn’t seem like that to start with, but stick with it as it builds on a long fuse – this is a one-off track that the band have released, presumably in conjunction with their US tour and book release. The story behind the song is an interesting one, too, and in some respects shows a different side to the band, as they have rarely waded outright into political comment in the past. Judging on the fury unleashed in this song by Shirley Manson’s vocals, and also the absolutely banging beats behind her, they should maybe do so more often.
Country Girl EP
I’ve heard a lot about this act in recent months, without ever actually getting round to hearing them, and not for the first time, I’m been an utter fool in not catching on sooner. New single Motion is an awesome clash of old-school-EBM and groovy funk basslines, with breathy vocals that are pitched just right with the music, but somehow it feels ultra-modern, despite using building blocks that have a great many years of experience. I think that’s what I’ve really enjoyed about the EBM revival of the past decade – while there are links to the past, almost every band involved is actively doing something with that sound, rather than just being slavish copyists. Long may it continue.
I have to confess that hard-rock isn’t my usual default choice for listening, but there are always exceptions, and this is one. A band with a recognisable past if you know where to look for it, this sheds once and for all their goth-rock origins with an exceptional desert-rock attack that has a groove to drive fast to, a chorus to bellow along with, a naggingly effective guitar riff and an ass-kicking breakdown to finish you off. Not the return I was initially expecting, perhaps, but I might hazard that this is way better than any nostalgic trip might have been.
They Only Love You When You Die
They Only Love You When You Die EP
After another slew of acoustic songs, and lots of work in progress, a handful of new songs proper have broken cover from Jon Crosby at last recently, although in relatively expensive CD formats that make it a tough sell to those of us overseas (postage from the US at the moment is extraordinarily expensive for items such as this) – buying digital from VAST is basically a total “no” right now unless I’m missing something. But you know what? This was the first of the new songs, and it is really quite lovely. It is (kinda) electronic-acoustic synth-rock, with a reasonable pace, Crosby’s warm vocals dominating the mix, but also with snippets of choral samples and other vocal effects, and the result is the best VAST single in a long time, reminding me in particular of the soaring glory of The Last One Alive.
Nine Inch Nails
Add Violence EP
I can’t remember any release from anyone in recent times that has proven as divisive as this one (the companion EP Not the Actual Events perhaps escaped such furious discussion due to the release of it over the Christmas period last year). Yes, Nine Inch Nails have entered a period of activity again, and it seems that Trent Reznor is – like Hesitation Marks before it – stuck between trying to push the sound forward and return to his past. The otherwise exceptional ballad The Lovers perhaps suffers a bit from being too familiar, in that it would easily fit at the tail-end of The Downward Spiral (just listen to those effects). Not Anymore, though, is for me the really impressive track here. What might otherwise be a bog-standard quietLOUD industrial rock track is obscured under a haze of distortion effects and is stretched until breaking point…and sounds all the better for it. It should be remembered that nowadays, Trent Reznor has nothing to prove. He can do pretty much what he wants, and clearly is doing so.
I was rather slow on the uptake with Beastmilk, who did one exceptional album before dissolving and part-reforming as Grave Pleasures, and rather picking up where they left off. They are, to all intents and purposes, a gothic-rock band, who have a lively, snarling punk edge and a great line in huge, huge sing-a-long hooks (which is really odd when you think about vocalist Mat “Kvohst” McNerney’s origins in industrial black metal). This new single perhaps takes them that bit closer to their origins, with a nervous urgency to the whole thing, and it sounds fucking great.
Tori Amos is nowadays a long-time veteran of the music business – Native Invaders is her fifteenth solo album, never mind the Y Kant Tori Read stuff – and with her somewhat enthusiastic fanbase, there is perhaps no pressure on her whatsoever anymore (in other words, she has earned the right to do whatever she pleases). That said, after some of the classical experimentation of recent years, the somewhat…AOR sound of this new single is a surprise. I mean, it’s pleasant enough, but feels rather featherlight, without much substance to it.
Threshold of Faith
Threshold of Faith EP
I saw Ben Frost live (at last) in the most unusual of circumstances a few years ago – supporting no less than Public Enemy on a Mogwai-curated bill at the Roundhouse. His relentless, and viciously loud, experimental music certainly didn’t appeal to all, that’s for sure (and the track that had lion roars (at least, that’s what I think it was!) as part of the beat structure took rather a number of people by surprise!). But then, those delving into dark, experimental electronics will never be part of the mainstream. But they are very interesting to listen to, and this new EP is no exception. The title track is a disorientating miasma of phased sounds, and hissing hydraulics that brings to mind the rumbling into life of a gigantic, ominous machine.
Myrkur has sadly been better known in recent times for the astonishing levels of abuse she has faced for daring to be a female Black Metal singer, but really, she should be lauded for how good she is. This is Black Metal slowed down to a crawl, this sheets of howling guitars and unusually clean vocals, almost in a gothic-folk style, and it works spectacularly well – particularly when she then suddenly unleashes a banshee-like howl out of nowhere. Myrkur support Sólstafir at Heaven in November, too, which should be quite the show.
Queens of the Stone Age
The Way You Used To Do
It always feels like it has been an eternity since the last Queens’ album, but then, why hurry? Josh Homme and his band are back, though, and want you to dance. Having got Mark Ronson in on production, the signs so far are that this is going to happen. There is something irresistable about this song, that from the very first ringing riff has you dancing in your seat, and the refrain will be bouncing ’round your head for hours. Yes, it’s cleaner, yes, it’s polished, but from this and the snippets heard elsewhere, it seems that this unexpected pairing of band and producer might just pay off.
The rejuvenated dälek return with their second album since their return from a hiatus (last year’s excellent Asphalt for Eden was the first), and initially this first song from it is something of a shock. A lengthy, distorted and treated guitar note rings for seemingly ever, before the beats and yet more effects nearly bury MC dälek’s rapping in the dense mix. Once you attune to it, though, this is brilliant – again – reminding yet again that these guys are still right at the cutting edge, pushing hip-hop to extremes no-one ever thought it might reach.
A few people mentioned this band from Tramlines the other weekend, and the descriptions piqued my interest. They are another band exploring the area between post-rock and electronics, and going on this lengthy track, there is a bright future here (not least in the eye-popping visuals for the video). There is something of the aggressive sound of early Three Trapped Tigers, and something of the hypnotic, catchy repetition of Battles, too, but otherwise the overall, oddly retro-futuristic electronic sound they are invoking sets them apart. The album is now on my shopping list.
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
The Punishment of Luxury
The Punishment of Luxury
It’s remarkable to think that aside from his role as one of the innovators of new-wave and synthpop in OMD, Andy McCluskey also for a while was writing massive pop hits for Atomic Kitten. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark are back live as a band once again, though, and their latest album seems to bury deep back into shimmering synthpop with an amazingly “now” production. The title track is astonishing – the sampled “hey heys” that stab into the mix, the glittering synth hooks, the punchy beats, everything about this is exactly what I love about synthpop (even if there is more than a bit of a nod to Kraftwerk in there, too). I heard a couple of other songs on a BBC live broadcast a month or so back, too, and it seems like the album will be worth hearing (the other track worth hunting out is Isotype).
Interestingly not the only band being featured this week that is English but uses an obscure foreign language phrase as their name, but this one is a hell of a lot more of a mouthful to pronounce. Also, I’ve been meaning to feature them for a while, but I prefer to wait for new material, and now it’s here… This is dark, tough stuff. There is definitely a Coil influence here, and to a lesser extent Throbbing Gristle, but I think it’s fair to say that this band have taken on the concepts of both artists and moved into pitch-dark, ambient industrial realms. Vocals are whispered into the gloaming electronics, and while there is nothing extreme in terms of volume, there is an intensity to all of the EP that is actually quite surprising.
“Your smile / is nothing to live for”
Quite the put-down as the opening line, that. The Horrors have become one of those bands I’ve liked more and more as they’ve progressed – their early punkish stuff was poor, and once they moved towards a dreamy, shoegazey soun they became so much more interesting. And now, this – almost mechanical machine rock, a world away now from their early material, and with a bit more bite than their last album (as good as Luminous was). What I find really surprising is that Paul Epworth produced this – not exactly the name I was expecting when I heard this, as he is rather more of a pop producer (his best known work recently is with Adele). Anyway – this is a snarling, unexpected return from a band that continue to confound, and I’ll be intrigued to hear the rest of the album.
Red Goes Grey (Live Rework)
New bands on Metropolis in recent times have often, well, left me rather cold (particularly as they seem to be moving away from their industrial core that has been so important to them in the past). So thank god for the new project from Eric Sochocki (Cryogen Second, Becoming The Devourer), who have their debut album out next month and in the meantime have released an impressive EP of a variety of takes on some of those album tracks. The killer track is the lead song, a propulsive, catchy synth-rock track that doesn’t half sound like Imperative Reaction in some ways (not that this is a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned). More of this, please!
The Duke Spirit
Sky Is Mine
Thanks to my regular listening to BBC 6Music recently, I’ve discovered some stuff that had totally passed me by before, and here’s one of them. This is so fucking good – a female fronted, rumbling space-rock-groove of a track that has a thumping low-end, and an absolutely glorious, soaring chorus, and I can’t get enough of this song.
Let’s be clear – this is such FLA worship that it is no surprise to find that Chris Peterson and Greg Reely were involved in the credits. Saying that, though, this is pretty great stuff. Kinda an alternative future for FLA, if the late 90s/early 00s synth-heavy, atmospheric stuff continued rather than the – fascinating and often brilliant – experimentation into other realms that Bill Leeb has led since. This track in particular builds nicely into a rivethead-dancefloor-friendly groove, complete with anthemic chorus.
The Only Way
I continually live in hope that we might get another amazing Tricky album one day, and songs like this are the reason that I still have that hope. This is a slow, almost desperate sounding ballad, just Tricky’s voice, a beat and a piano and subtle strings, and that’s about it. Tricky has gone through various styles over years, at points picking up quite an aggressive sound, but this song just reminds – again – how much better he is when he dials things back. That said, I’m not sure I want to know what triggered voice of such loneliness and desperation.