In conversations at recent gigs, a number of us have agreed that we’ve been surprised at the sheer amount of new music that has come our way already in 2019. There are a whole host of exciting new releases in February, never mind further beyond that, and already it’s proving difficult to keep up
/Tracks of the Month/Jan 2019
/Tuesday Ten/2019 in Review
Still, I’d rather have that than no new music to talk about. Thus there are eleven songs (one bonus on top of the usual ten), and I’ve had to hold over a few more until next month simply due to pressures of time. I’m also getting more music sent to me, too, which means I have a virtual pile to listen through yet, too – if you’ve sent me something and I’ve not responded, apologies!
One other bit of housekeeping – there will be no Friday Welcome to the Future post this week, as I’m away. I’ll post a bumper catch-up next week.
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).
/Track of the Month
/I’d Rather, Jack (Radio Edit)
The long-awaited return of Teeth of the Sea began last year, as they began playing new material at their occasional live shows – stripped down to a three-piece and making up for the lack of drummer by adding even more bass to the mix (seriously, it’s not far off breaching weapons treaties, it’s now so loud). The glowering malevolence of last album Highly Deadly Black Tarantula seems to have been carried across to the new material, too, judging on the two tracks released so far, but with a spiritual terror added into the mix. Hiraeth was the first track, all slow-moving beats and mournful trumpet, like an Ennio Morricone film score given a robotics upgrade – but the subsequent release has put that in the shade a bit.
See, I’d Rather, Jack has them join forces with Erol Alkan to amazing effect. The liquid, pulsating groove is topped by sinuous brass, glitched-to-fuck guitars and a feeling that this is – despite how heavy and dark the track is – the most accessible work Teeth of the Sea have done. But it is also brilliant, and raises the hopes for the imminent new album – WRAITH is out in a couple of weeks time. If you’ve not heard this most individual of bands, get to it.
/Yn Ol i Annwn
/Yn Ol i Annwn
There are a few things that set apart the marvellously named Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard from their peers in sludgy doom metal. First off, there’s the name – heading for Top of the Pops and daytime TV they are not – but their sound and approach is far more interesting than the name. Sure, their songs are built around building-sized riffs and bruising, steady momentum, but rather than barked, growling vocals from a sentient beard, Jessica Ball’s vocals are quasi-ethereal, and work remarkably well amid the monstrous sound that surrounds her. This, the title track from their forthcoming new album, apparently means “Return to the Underworld” and the spiralling riffs sound like the band have decided to drill down to get there faster. There seems to be quite the buzz around this band, and unlike many bands of their ilk, their music is accessible, listenable and very, very good live.
/In Search Of The Miraculous
Desperate Journalist seems to get ever more vital with every release – and their potential and excellence remain undimmed as they reach their third album, out in a few weeks. This new single is a dense mesh of squalling guitars, a strong rhythm section underpinning it, and once again Jo Bevan’s soaring vocals are simply glorious. This is a song to help me edge out of the cold, depressing winter into the positive feeling of the spring as days begin to get longer, and the temperature gauge starts to head upward rather than down. Yeah, sure, there are more than a few nods to gothic sounds in Desperate Journalist’s sound, but here, they sound brighter, bigger and better than ever.
/When The Cloud Explodes
Oddly enough, a band that has played with Desperate Journalist in the past, and do so again in Manchester next month, this new single from the north-western band is an excellent one. Something of a snarling, punchy alt-rock song – there are nods to Veruca Salt, Fugazi and even Guns’n’Roses (that cowbell!) here as the track bursts through with a fabulous chorus and a really heavy-duty rhythm section. In addition, there is an interesting lyrical theme playing up to the clichéd image of the north-west as a rainy, grey place, and there is the distinct feel here of a band ready to take their chances to escape that with this unexpectedly bright, passionate song.
I am beginning to wonder if we’ve hit peak Post-Punk yet or not, such has been the torrent of bands in recent years beholden to the style – even if many such bands are actually doing very different things with the base ingredients. After all, the original bands deemed “post-punk” were a pretty disparate bunch (just compare Joy Division and Wire, for example, never mind their peers). That said, Metropolis appear to have got themselves an impressive new signing to their label in the shape of French group FTR. This song – one of the lead tracks for their imminent new album – is a growling, pitch-dark beast of a track that relies on a thumping drum-beat and savage guitars (verging into metal territory, really, at points), with the low-register vocals acting more as a texture than a lead. An intriguing listen, and certainly one that piques my interest for the album.
This group’s first release in eighteen months, and proof once again that they are entirely unafraid to release music that questions and rages against the status quo. Here, the droning electronics and dial-up samples provide an appropriately unsettling backing for the vocals that appear to quote actual interactions online. And let’s be clear, there are some unpleasant images and scenarios detailed, as the murky world of internet comments and stalking – invariably by men against women – comes into focus. It is a rightly disturbing and excellent track. It still boggles my mind that men decide to do this, but then, I guess, there is a feeling of “power” being able to do this from afar, remote from the victim. I’d suspect that if they tried to do it in person they wouldn’t be able to do so.
/If I Die
The “first-ever Industrial Metal supergroup”, apparently (hmm, I’m not sure about that!), but this is certainly an unexpectedly good Industrial Metal supergroup. Featuring Jürgen Engler (Die Krupps), Claus Larsen (Leæther Strip) and Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), this delivers exactly what I would expect. Which is no bad thing. Engler and Larsen share the vocals, and the pair of them show off a punkish attitude in the blistering opening track as they trade lines, while Cazares delivers his trademark, mechanised guitar riffs that are so precise to almost sound inhuman. Elsewhere on the album, it’s a whole host of fun industrial metal – that the band clearly had fun making – and there is even room for a take on She Watch Channel Zero?!, that loses a little by not having the Angel of Death riff running through it, but is otherwise better than it has any right to be.
/Is That All There Is
The extraordinary, singular group The Tiger Lillies remarkably reach their thirtieth anniversary this year, and they have chosen to mark it in their own unique way – by doing a concept album about the alternative underbelly of Prague, and how those people have adapted and changed post-communism. If you’ve never been, the sheer glory and oddness of Prague have to be seen to be believed – although in the years between my first and more recent visits (I first went in 2004, and have passed through a few times since, and frankly owe it a return visit), it has begun changing, and quickly. It is obvious from the video for this sprawling track – eleven minutes in length, with a full orchestra backing the trio – that they have a deep love and affection for the city, and it is perhaps the most grandiose, immense tracks I’ve ever heard from the group – and of course is a take on a much-covered song originally made famous by Peggy Lee. Someday, I really must see The Tiger Lillies live…
/Introducing The 1984 Renault LeCar
Matt Fanale and Eric Oehler’s latest project – I’m beginning to wonder that if I mentioned every one of Matt’s projects in particular, each time that I mention one, I’d probably double my wordcount – has made a second release, and I’m pretty certain that this one is even better than the first. Unapologetically retro, this is a great fun take on New Beat and old-school EBM, with well-placed samples and a relentless groove that makes this an easy choice for future DJ sets. What’s also interesting about this – six-track – release is that they are already looking beyond the basic ingredients, realising that even a retro sound must evolve. This best shown on the melodic balladry of Lost Without You, which is an unexpected soulful joy.
Nico Janse van Rensburg’s electronic project has long been an intriguing one, and much of a mind with Mind.In.A.Box and labelmates Seabound – sumptuous, measured electronic pop music that only rarely makes a diversion to the dancefloor, instead of going for songs that work in the head, and in quieter spaces. Not to mention the astonishing artwork that he regularly delivers, too (as I recall his work adorns much of the recent Dependent catalogue). That said, amid the mellow beauty of his new album under the Acretongue name – and his first in eight years – is album centrepiece Contra, which bubbles away like a pot on the hob before suddenly reaching boiling point and the synth hooks and vocals take on a glorious, greater urgency.
/The Slow Atrophy of Hope
Keef Baker’s work stretches across a number of styles and sounds, but his Nimon project is a particularly intriguing one, as he twists guitar sounds into fascinating ambient soundscapes. The first feeling I get when listening to this album – and particularly the epic opener Fireball – is not one of heat but of cold, one of frigid, lonely landscapes where you can see the world stretching away from you. There is a deep melancholy to this album, perhaps not bereft of hope as there are brighter passages, but for much of it, as the sound washes around you, it soothes as you realise even during low moments that maybe, just maybe, it isn’t just you feeling that way. Might be a difficult listen for some as a result, as it gives you a lot of time to gather your own thoughts.