The end of April is here, and we’re starting to see the early shoots of summer. So just the time for me to delve into this month’s best tracks, most of which are…darker.
/Tracks of the Month/Apr-19
/Tuesday Ten/Tracks of the Month/2019
Oh well, as readers of this site you should be used to that by now. This month has seen the return of a number of big names in our part of the musical world, but also a few newer names that are just as worth keeping up with.
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
The return of Rammstein – ten years since their last new album – has really made quite the splash, with the extraordinary video for lead single Deutschland having racked up forty-two million views in just a matter of weeks (and endless dissecting of the various themes within, too!), but for me, the second single is even more intriguing. This is classic Rammstein – a massive hook, industrial rock base, and those twinkling synths so key to their sound – but also much as the band promised, this teems with life and emotion, in ways that later R+ albums really didn’t after Reise, Reise.
I’m currently reading Burning Down the Haus, about the East German punk scene, and listening to this song (and watching the video) had me thinking back to it instantly – particularly as the origin of R+ comes from the later East German punk bands First Arsch and Feeling B. This song, like that book, is a nod to the closed nature of countries like East Germany, where the simple act of listening to the radio – and “outside” influences – could be seen as a revolutionary act, and arguably helped to inspire change. The R+ comeback so far is remarkable for how much the band are saying in their videos and songs as if the collapsing world around them has inspired their best music in years and years.
/All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
/Fieldworks Exkursion EP
Apparently in advance of a new album titled Fieldworks, this initially tour-only release (and now, at last, being released generally) is an intriguing collection of songs built around field recordings – one of which owes an awful lot to Kraftwerk’s iconic Trans Europe Express (a band which, coincidentally, Rammstein also sweetly reference in the above video for Radio). But don’t let the initial experimental nature of this put you off, as the band smartly use the fieldwork to add greater depth to their ever-great songwriting, and All That Is Solid Melts Into Air swirls like a ghostly presence around the beats and Eskil’s dramatic vocals.
In a week where NIN added the original, oh-so-NSFW video for Happiness in Slavery to Youtube (although it didn’t appear to last long), 3TEETH have upped the ante with a similarly difficult to watch video (it involves fairly graphic suspension footage: be warned). They’ve also upped the ante with their new songs, to me at least, as they prepare to make their debut on a major label with Metawar in July – the songs are still dense, guitar-heavy beasts but the production is better, and the result is much, much punchier. The band also make another set of live appearances in the UK in July – supporting Ministry – and I’ll be there to catch it.
After fifteen years following this most unpredictable of bands, their announcement of a new, year-long experiment of new material shouldn’t surprise me at all. They’ve long-since evolved from a post-rock band that condensed things down to the heart-stopping peaks and ripping power, into an experimental group that is now unclassifiable. There’s something wonderful about their seemingly boundless enthusiasm for exploring what they *can* do, rather than what they should do. That, and no matter how many machines they use, there is always fragile humanity in what they do, and this track certainly has that. It builds, it teases, and then finally delivers on that promise, a shimmering climax the culmination of the best 65DoS track in an age.
/Save the Arctic
/Forms of Hands 19
As the public appears to be finally awakening to the emergency that is climate change – even if many Governments still drag their feet, beholden to industry interests – the long-standing environmental activism of acts like Winterkälte is finally being vindicated. Highly unusual among noise acts in having such an agenda, their latest track appeared on the Forms of Hands 19 compilation and is their most accessible in a while – although that’s of course relative. A bouncing techno rhythm underpins synths like sirens and bone saws, helping to sound the alarm that the title and video make explicit.
My first thought when hearing this unexpected EP – from a group that I must confess I’m not familiar with from their past work, which was a while ago now – was “blimey, this reminds me of Battery“, a band I adored but haven’t listened to a great deal in some years. Mainly that is down to the similar (at least to my ears) vocal styles, but get beyond that, and the pick of the songs here is Taste. A great, stuttering rhythm gives way to a down-and-dirty chorus and an awesome electro-industrial groove that I’d just love to hear really loud in a club.
/Experiments In The Dark
Since the cessation of the much-missed Blindness, vocalist Beth Rettig has been dabbling in music again under the name Where We Sleep, and this new EP marks a notable step forward, with better distribution and PR for it (previous releases seemed to be more of a testing of the water). The first track from the new EP has an expansive, dreamy sound that befits the video filmed on an American desert trip, and the feel here is of a more languid and relaxed one than the bitter fury that often powered the best moments of Blindness songs. The EP is out in May and is well worth picking up.
The Demonstration was one of those sleeper hits that seemed to take everyone by surprise. One moment no-one had heard of this group that a few of us saw early on (I saw them support The Black Queen on their first visit to the UK), the next everyone had the album and was raving about it. I was a late convert, to be honest, as I didn’t think the live show much cop, but a few listens and I was converted. No such problems with the glorious lead single for the new album due in the summer, a propulsive, post-punk, dark-synth track that has a hammer blow of a chorus and a featherlight touch otherwise that makes for a song that I can – unexpectedly – picture soundtracking the endless days of summer. Huh.
/Constantly In Love
Another band to have blown up in a big way of late is Kælan Mikla, the Icelandic three-piece who’ve had the “approval” of Robert Smith of the Cure – someone who seems to be keen nowadays to ensure that bands he picks to support his own are ones he genuinely likes (65daysofstatic being another band who benefitted from such an exposure). Their edgy, offbeat take on post-punk and goth has certainly seen them stand out, and no sooner have they done with the first touring cycle following their album, that Sólveig Matthildur releases her latest solo album, after a number of previous releases. This is a different sound to the main band – slower-paced, almost ethereal, and frankly, it’s gorgeous. There are nods to other bands, but nothing obvious as the song stacks up the vocal tracks to provide an extraordinary, overwhelming climax.
/Now That’s What I Call Angry Robot Music 2019
The relatively regular Glitch Mode compilations out of Chicago are, as these label comps usually are, a showcase of the current artists they are working with, but pretty much every time there is at least one artist that I’ve not heard of that makes me sit up and take notice. This time its Paralyze, who have a really nasty, extreme take on glitchy-industrial. While it is harsh and mixed densely, don’t assume that this is aggrotech – it is nothing like it. It is more in the mould of Numb, with harsh, throat-shredding vocals and hard-hitting beats and the disorientating feeling that the music might jump out of the speakers and grab you by the throat at any moment. More of this, please!
Finally this month, the eleventh track as a bonus – a track that isn’t far off as long as the rest of this week’s songs combined. Oh yes, it’s the return of the drone lords Sunn O))) with their new album Life Metal. Not unexpectedly much has been made of the fact that the album was recorded with Steve Albini, and perhaps more than anything his input is into the feel of the release rather than the sound. As the title suggests, this is an album that is vastly more…alive than previously, one that teems with possibilities and ideas, and the colossal, twenty-five-minute closing track is easily the best thing on it. The monstrous riffs that open the track suggest the possibility of it suddenly taking a left fork into a Sabbath-Esque, drum-led monster, but as always, there are no drums here. Instead, the treated cello work of Hildur Guðnadóttir adds an extraordinary, otherworldly texture to this track, and by the end, you’re left in awe of what this band are able to achieve.