As we hurtle into Autumn, I’m now already considering what might be the best of 2018. Certainly, some of the releases featured this week will count toward that, but as always I cannot include everything – much as I’d like to.
So look out, as usual, in early December for Countdown: 2018, where I’ll wrap up the best music of the year. In the meantime, as we’ve just passed the turn of the month, it’s back to the usual monthly wrap-up of new music that I’ve been enjoying recently, and that hopefully you, the reader, will like too.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, 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).
/Better In My Day
The new Gazelle Twin album took me by surprise a bit when I first heard it – a ghostly apparition of an electronic album, which needs to be paid attention to, to catch the full fury of the message. Which is that of the “green and pleasant land” of England twisted into a horror story, as the historical revisionism and backwards-looking politics of Brexit poison every aspect of discourse – as we’ve found, at great cost to the country and pretty much paralysing any other form of decision making. I could have picked a number of songs from this brilliant album, but the opening track proper has a scorching, furious sneer as it mimics the voice of revisionists complaining about the current world that they see, as everything – people, actions, safety, politics, racism – was “better in my day”. Sadly, of course, no-one who needs to hear this – and hear their views mirrored back at them and challenged – likely will.
/The Sound of Music
/The Sound of Music
Following their headline-grabbing visit to North Korea – including playing shows in the country, reckoned to be a first for a “Western” band of their stature – I guess it was inevitable that the music that they made at that show would be released. The album is, of course, Laibach’s take on the 1965 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, and if you saw their tour a couple of years ago (my take on that show here), you’ll know that Laibach has added their own spin on it.
A friend noted in the discussion about this, the title track a couple of weeks ago that the choice of material to play in North Korea had perhaps cleverer connotations than we thought, with the country apparently reverberating to desperately creepy music every morning. Whether that is referenced or not – and I cannot imagine Laibach will discuss that – this is a stately, measured take on a well-known song, and interestingly features occasional collaborator Boris Benko from Silence sharing vocals with Milan Fras, rather than Mina Špiler (as was the case at that Forum show a few years back).
A moment of celebration for the return of Dan Gatto’s Continues, a genuinely brilliant and affecting synthpop project that enthralled a few years ago with the release of his debut solo album, and then aside from the odd live show, all had seemed to go quiet. But finally, as he played the various editions of Cold Waves this year, a new two-track single was released. Very much a case of “it ain’t broke…”, this is Dan Gatto keeping up the quality level, with two glorious songs of romantic, exquisitely detailed electronic pop that are both absolutely essential listening. I can only hope for a new album in due course.
Nineteen (!) years on from the debut Neuroticfish release No Instruments, and a lengthy period away before a return with A Sign of Life a few years back, Sascha Mario Klein and Henning Verlage are back again, with a new single and a forthcoming fifth album. In many ways, this is the much-loved electronic/futurepop project continuing along their own path, with deeply introspective lyrics and warm, dense synth constructions making for impressively sleek sounds. But there are elements here that suggest attention is being paid to dance music well beyond the dark confines of the wider industrial realm – remember, this is an artist that made the tongue-in-cheek statement “electronic body music…is dead” around fifteen years ago on the masterful Prostitute – with elements of grime-esque bass drops and a slower pace that suggests a disinterest with pleasing dancefloors. Frankly, as long as songs as good as this are the standard, I’m fine with this.
/Thrown Into the Dark
Whether the band like it or not, the voice of Greg Puciato is always going to be centre-stage with The Black Queen. His soulful delivery here is such a departure from his work with The Dillinger Escape Plan (even in their lighter moments) that it was always going to stand out, and that coupled with the industrial-electro-soul of the first album certainly garnered attention. The new album, out just last week, hasn’t yet drilled it’s way into my head yet, but the first album took time too. The lead single gives a good idea of where it’s going, though, and that is not a particularly big leap from where that debut left off. The emphasis is on flowing, sinuous rhythms and soaring choruses, and this song perhaps just feels that bit more refined. Their first appearance in London (reviewed on this site as Tuesday Ten: 191) was a treat, and I’m really looking forward to next week’s return with KANGA supporting.
/White Star Liner
/White Star Liner EP
After the debut of a suite of material in Belfast at the BBC Biggest Weekend erlier in the year, I guess it was only a matter of time before it got released, and this is the first track from an EP that comes at the end of October (26-October, to be precise). As is often the way with this most empathetic of bands, this takes a tender, considered look at the subject matter, and this song celebrates the launch of probably the most famous passenger ship of them all (others deal with the darker moments of the fate of it). Proof once again, that the vast depth of the public information film archive is far from exhausted for PSB’s near-unique take on music and history.
They seem to have been trailing this single for most of the year, so now it’s finally here, how does it stack up? To be frank, it’s a hell of a step up, and a welcome burst of buzzing energy as it builds to that monstrous chorus. I like much of their other material – the lead singles of which, such as New York vs Paris were sultry, slow-paced synthpop songs – but this is a belting, synth-rock track that has long been the highlight of their live sets, and it’s great to hear that they managed to bottle the brilliance of the live version into the single release.
/Wreck It Like Beckett
Twenty-seven years since the release of their debut album Babyteeth, Therapy? remain a remarkably prolific band, with Cleave being their fifteenth album – and the quality remains high, too, with this new album being short but very good indeed. The best track, though, for me is the pummelling, grinding opening track, that has every element about Therapy? that I have loved for years crammed into three minutes – the jagged drum rhythms, thick, heavy guitar sounds, and sneering, smart vocals from Andy Cairns, not to mention that with a title like that, how couldn’t it be a catchy-as-hell tune?
/In For A World of Hurt
/The Kicking Mule
A second appearance for Street Sects in a year in these Tracks of the Month posts, but with a new album coming, they certainly warrant it. Interestingly, too, on this track at least, they seem to have toned down the viciously sharp, confrontational power of their earlier material, replacing it instead with a measured, shadowy menace, a sense that they could snap into the old sonic violence if they needed to, but with their reputation now already set they only need to hint at it to terrify. What’s more, the implied menace here only makes the staccato beats – and the acres of space left in the mix here – only heightens the strained intensity of this intriguing band evermore.
/Just Breathing Is Torture
I must put a shout-out to my friends over at I Die: You Die for recommending me Field Agent in the first place, and I once again only noticed a new release from FA thanks to reading ID:YD last week. His debut release was in my top ten of Countdown: 2016: Tracks, and needless to say I was intrigued to see where he was going to go this time. Once again, the shadow of the Military-Industrial Complex and more importantly, the darker side of the that, comes to the fore here, but rather than purported alien encounters as per last time, here it digs into more down-to-earth horrors – the torture and rendition of alleged terrorists. As a result, this is a scorchingly dark release, the beats bubbling like panic through your veins, as disconnected voices describe techniques and actions no-one should ever have to endure.
/Hvernig kemst ég upp?
/Nótt eftir nótt
It has been a hell of a year for this fast-rising Icelandic band, having supported both The Cure and Placebo in the UK this summer and played other major European festivals, and now they reach their third album already. This first track from their new album is an interesting one. Sure, this has a bassline and drive that slots it in neatly with the current trend toward post-punk influences, but there is a distinct sense of this not fitting in (and that’s for the better). The vocals – in Icelandic, of course – are part of that, partly sung, partly whispered (and the latter are reverbed to all hell, with creepy results) that swirl like smoke around the rhythms, but also the synths that dominate the middle of the mix are an icy, impassionate effect. The end result is an exceptional song that has me keen to hear what else is in store on the new album (out later in October).
Already well-received in the form of the outstanding industrial-techno-groove remix by Schwefelgelb – which I’ve heard a few times in clubs already – an aborted attempt to release this on vinyl has been replaced by Citizens finally getting a digital release (and yes, that remix is on it). The thing is, listening back to the original track, it’s clear that Schwefelgelb didn’t need to do too much too it. The original already strays into techno-industrial, it’s just that the tempo varies a bit, there’s more going on with the synths and samples, and it is certainly none the worse for the additional detail. What has been genuinely fascinating about Randolph & Mortimer over the past five years or so (yes, really!) has been how they have been exploring different sounds and styles, but all the while keeping a cohesive style and theme and never dropping the quality level. This keeps that up.