Back to the first Tuesday of the Month now, after a really, really busy month that left me without time anyway last week – that and there were a couple of releases that I needed to wait until this week to feature. And to catch up a bit, there are more than ten this month.
2018 has been an odd year for music, at least from my perspective, so far. I’ve been turned onto unexpected artists, I’ve been left a little flat by others, and for the most part, I’ve not had much in the way of albums that have got me really excited. There are still months to go, mind, so that mindblowing album may yet come, and indeed with a number of interesting releases pencilled in for later this year…
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
/You Were Never In Love
The fabulous live return of Dubstar some five or six years back turned out to be a false dawn, as little more came from that reunion, so I’m perhaps doubly surprised to hear unexpected new singles and news of a forthcoming new album. What’s even better is that both songs are brilliant. Despite the loss of Steve Hillier (the band are now a duo), not a great deal has changed in the world of Dubstar. They are still making gloriously bleak songs with a shiny, pop sheen, more to disguise the darkness of the lyrics perhaps. You Were Never In Love is probably the pick of the two songs, with a soaring, neon-lit chorus that’s absolutely breathtaking the first time you hear it, but it’s a close-run thing as Waltz No.9 is an astonishing song about preparing for death.
/Nine Inch Nails
/Over and Out
Nine Inch Nails have released three EPs now over the past eighteen months, and while they’ve divided opinion somewhat in some respects – some of the songs on the first two were perhaps creatively treading water – there is no denying that each EP has had a few moments where Reznor and Atticus Ross have been exploring new ground. That happens again on this new EP, with new instruments entering the fray and on the languid pace of this closing track, Reznor invokes the spirit of his old friend Bowie on the vocals, as if some kind of dramatic finality is being played out amid the digitally…smudged electronics and unsettling effects just beneath the surface.
/Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard
/Y Proffwyd Dwyll
So late to the party that this album was released nearly two years ago, but I had the opportunity to see them live last week and I was very impressed indeed. Their sound is, to put it mildly, filthy, Electric Wizard-esque stoner doom, but where they differ greatly is through the use of female, quasi-ethereal vocals. This works surprisingly well, adding melody where the gruff male grunts of their peers simply don’t, and on tracks like this one, as the monstrous riffs lurch the song forward, it is transformed by the arrival of the vocals into something on another plane entirely. Sure, so on a hot afternoon outdoors, with perhaps inevitable sound issues, her vocals vanish in the mix a little, but they are still a band worth investigating both on record and live.
A surprise new single dropped from London industrial-metallers Ventenner last week, and this slays. Perhaps a cleaner, more direct sound than before does them wonders, with a song that broods and rumbles, before roaring into a chorus with Charlie providing the kind of howling screams that might fuck his throat in time. But in the meantime, this is Ventenner stepping out of the shadow of their influences to start forging a style of their own, and if this is a pointer to where they are going, I’m strapped in for the ride.
/S T F U
/Y U M 1
A collaboration between Dean Garcia (Curve, SPC ECO) and Preston Maddox (Bloody Knives), this perhaps sounds exactly as you might expect it to. Industrialised synths and beats coil like smoke around vocals, choir samples and guitars and basslines that are distorted within an inch of their lives – and sound fantastic. This opening track has more of a Curve kick, to be honest, but without the sometimes suffocating darkness that they could have in their songs, and part of that might be down to the vocals not having the terror of Toni Halliday’s delivery at the core. As a result, there is more of a relaxed feel here, without ever deviating too much from the strengths of both artists involved.
/The Blue Hour
Suede has taken an interesting route since they reformed, with clearly little interest in chasing massive commercial success as they had in their nineties peak, and instead, going down the route of conceptual intrigue. Their last album was intended as a whole, complete with an impressive film accompaniment, and it seems that this forthcoming album is taking them down the same path. The first track from it is a string-drenched, dramatic ballad of the kind that Suede do so well, one of bombast and defiance that probably should be cheesy as hell, but Suede manage to give it a gravitas that takes it well beyond that.
One of the highlights of my gigging attendances this year has been a Scottish man onstage with just an acoustic guitar, in a local pub near my house a month or so back (Click Click: 003). Sardonic, hugely entertaining and with a great line in stories that happen to have become songs, his latest album is a fascinating “concept” album of sorts revolving around the idea of employment. The album thus has songs that are character sketches, some that are ruminations on working life, and others that have a searing political fury hidden within them. The final song on the album is the best of all, a glorious couple of minutes that pulls all the strands together into an imagining of what might happen if your job was the titular person, complete with injury, changes to employment status and a bitter kicking of the current Government’s treatment of the unemployed.
/Alice In Chains
/So Far Under
Alice In Chains have returned from another lengthy absence (it’s already, what, five years since their last album?), and it must be said that there hasn’t been too much of a change of their style. Not that this is a bad thing, really, as even at their lowest moments this band have often towered over their peers. This track has everything I love about the band – the woozy, unsettling guitar sounds, the gravelly vocals that suggest a life lived and endured, and a sense of melody that had me singing along with the chorus as soon as I heard it.
/Year of the Snitch
The chaos is back as Death Grips launch into their tenth album in just seven years, an eventful time that has seen them signed to a major label (and promptly dropped again), “split” and reform, and release a steady stream of music that hasn’t always been to the high standards of their earlier material. But, the new album offers a sense that they are rushing headlong back into the sonic carnage that made them so enthralling in the first place. Here’s the best example of this on the new album, the one-hundred-and-five second whirlwind of Shitshow, that appears to sample grindcore drums, running water, random vocal interludes, the kitchen sink and MC Ride blasting through his rapping at lightspeed.
I managed not to mention their new album recently (sorry about that folks!), and seeing them live at last, last week, has prompted me to right that wrong. Kite Base is Kendra Frost (once of /amodelofcontrol.com favourites Blindness), and Savages bassist Ayse Hassan, and they unusually both play bass, along with a raft of electronics, and the sound that has resulted is somewhere between blissed-out industrial rock and experimental electronics. I was quite surprised with them live, too, as there was considerably more energy and power in their sound than I might have otherwise expected, and Transition, the opening track on the album, was an obvious highlight – a neat synth hook is backed by skittering beats and a forceful vocal from Kendra.
/Where We Sleep
/Veins / Crawl
As it happens, another ex-member of Blindness released new music recently, too, in the form of singer Beth Rettig’s new solo project, which kinda picks up where she left off with that band. Interestingly, the first single for it is, I’m led to understand, a track written in the Blindness days and featuring Debbie Smith on guitar – but it certainly has a darker, more languid feel than some of her old band’s songs, that’s for sure. The other track released with it, Crawl, is more experimental, almost stripping away beats entirely for the most part, for a moodier, colder feel. Recommended.
/Cause / Effect EP
Slighter has long been a fascinating outsider in the current US industrial scene, as he has often taken something of a different approach sonically and stylistically to his peers, and this EP, which sees yet more broadening of his sound, proves that in spades. Even the remixes continue that (with current rising stars RELIC providing an excellent retooling of A New Sin), but the best track here for me is the mech-tech-industrial instrumental of Ruination, with digital grooves kicking hard and cold, precise synths stabbing away at the core.
/Don’t Beat the Girl out of My Boy
While it has been five years since her excellent second album One Breath, Calvi has hardly been idle in the time since. There has been work with David Byrne, Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff, she’s written an opera performed in Germany and guested on other material too, but now, finally, she’s returned with new material of her own, and the first single from forthcoming album Hunter is a striking thing. It is still recognisably her work – the reverb on the drums, the striking guitar work, but here her voice takes centre stage as she wraps it around the lengthy refrain and turns it into a sultry wonder, ideal for these oh-so-warm summer nights right now.
/I’m Your Man
/And Nothing Hurt
It has been threatened by Jason Pierce as potentially the last Spiritualized record, and I for one will be desperately sad if that is the case, even if there is already a body of extraordinary work by Pierce and his regularly changing band. The first taste of the new album, though, is classic Spiritualized. There are choirs, delicate vocals, licks of guitar and what seems like a whole orchestra at points, and a huge, swelling chorus. And no, it’s nothing to do with Cohen.
/Them Are Us Too
This promising band ended far too quickly after Cash Askew died in the Oakland Warehouse Fire, aged just 22. Her bandmate Kennedy Ashlyn decided, in the end, to complete the tracks they had been working on, and the result has been Amends, a six-track release that arrived last Friday. I’ve not had the chance to listen to the whole album yet (it’s been a really busy weekend), but the track that’s had a video released for it is, I have to say, a bit of a surprise. Their dreamy, Cocteaus-esque debut album Remain was a firm favourite, and the faster tempo here certainly has more power to it – but listen to the vocals, and an understandable resignation and sadness permeates the song, a tribute to a life lost far too young.