Into the fifteenth year of /Tracks of the Month posts, then, and this post has been written mostly during a quieter weekend, after a week that has seen a blizzard of unpacking as we settle into our new house on the Kent coast. One thing still not sorted, mind, is our internet – currently working off hotspots and a loaned 4G router from work, as Virgin Media have delayed the install of our fibre broadband by two weeks beyond the original agreed date.
Which doesn’t really affect these posts, but it does affect my regular livestreaming schedules. So, they are taking a break for a bit longer than planned, and I’ll confirm the new dates for each of the next livestreams in due course (needless to say, when I know we’ll actually have full internet service again!). Keep an eye on this page for updates in the coming week or two.
As usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig or livestream I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/A Military Alphabet (five eyes all blind) (4521.0kHz 6730.0kHz 4109.09kHz) / Job’s Lament / First of the Last Glaciers / where we break how we shine (ROCKETS FOR MARY)
/G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
Montréal collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor have always been different. Taking an almost orchestral approach to composition and performance, their nominally-termed “post-rock” pieces are vast in scope, scale and often length, and despite having no vocals (aside from the odd spoken word sample), they also remain one of the most politically-engaged bands. Their extraordinary new album – their best in many years – had a testy, charged announcement that heralded it, the band seemingly fired up by the stark inequalities that the COVID crisis in particular has only made all the more obvious, and the album mostly sounds similarly fiery, too. Especially the fantastic opening piece (which as you can see from the title, is in four distinct parts), which has chiming, near anthemic guitars, and swooning waltzes amid crushing climaxes.
The ever-excellent Desperate Journalist have kept themselves busy over lockdown, it seems, preparing for their fourth album. The first single from it is a dark, forbidding thing, and a track that feels distinctly different. Part of that might be down to the prominence of the bass, with guitars relegated to texture, and this is a striking, brilliant song. Jo Bevan’s vocals are a tremulous howl, a roar of rage from a past confined space, and the feeling is of that anger bouncing off the walls. Friends’ bands that are doing well is always a joy, and Desperate Journalist are also of note for getting better and better with every release.
British chanson Philip Jeays has been entertaining a growing number of fans for many years now – both live and on record – and his recent burst of activity (a new website, a number of livestreamed shows among other things) culminates in a new double album Blossoms and Bicycles this coming Friday (on Bandcamp, of course). A number of the new songs have been aired on those livestreams, including this excellent song that reflects on the pressures of growing up. Even in this earlier version (released a month or two back), there is a distinct feeling of a lush, orchestral arrangement, as Jeays laments the endless advice and pressure of the expectations of others, all the while shrugging his shoulders and taking things as they come. He remains a musical treasure that more should discover.
SCALPING have finally announced their first EP, after a handful of individual track releases over the past few years, and their hybrid, experimental – and exceptionally loud – sound appears now to be settling a bit. Their instrumental rock music takes in screeching electronic noise, industrial kicks, monstrous techno drops, and a knack for dynamics that makes their music so thrilling every single time a new track arrives. Monolithium is no exception, and I’m now crossing my fingers that their much-postponed (and long sold-out, that I have a ticket for) gig in September finally happens, as I hear their live show is something else.
/Looking for a Light
Maybe it has been my livestream /TheKindaMzkYouLike that has done it, but I’ve seen a distinct increase in promos of alternative rock bands that really do tick the boxes I’m interested in of late. One such arrival in my inbox has been the excellent Looking for a Light by Los Angeles band Tombstones In Their Eyes, whose droning, fuzzed-out sound reminds me especially of Spiritualized and The Black Angels. Lead track Quarantine Blues has a gorgeous melodic heart, and brings to mind the sweeping vistas of their home city, as the sunlit cityscapes stretch for miles – and reminding me of what I’ve been missing while unable to travel and explore pockets of the world over the past year or so.
The unexpected return of Quicksand with new material a few years back with the album Interiors was a touch disappointing, but then, people and bands move on, and the more mellowed sound was perhaps a reflection of where the band were in 2017. The first five seconds of this surprise new single kicks that idea to the kerb. One kick drum and a thick riff, and we’re back to the Quicksand of the nineties, harder-edged and melodic all in one, a fantastic song that reminds the post-hardcore scene Quicksand came from was a fascinating one.
/The Men Who Rule The World
/No Gods No Masters
A band who’ve been active all the long from that time are Garbage, who’ve got nothing to prove these days – having long cemented their legacy as one of the more surprising mainstream crossover successes of the nineties and beyond. The upcoming album, then, their seventh, appears to see the band taking an uncompromising political stance, with the first two songs released being the powerful title track, and even better, the searing The Men Who Rule The World. Shirley Manson doesn’t hold back her ire one iota (the first line: “The men who rule the world / Have made a fucking mess“), and it’s not hard to notice the specific men that might be the target. Otherwise, it is Garbage doing what they do so well – pop-edged industrial rock that remains such a joy to listen to.
The evergreen death metal outfit Cannibal Corpse have roared back this Spring with their best album in many years, the band sounding rejuvenated and hungrier than they have in ages, and I suspect part of that is down to the influence of Erik Rutan, who has recently joined the band replacing Pat O’Brien (who was sentenced recently for the recent bizarre incidents he was involved in). This was the lead track from the album, and has been pretty much on repeat at /Stormblast recently. And no wonder – this track is absolutely savage. The riffs are as big as buildings, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher’s vocals sound positively dangerous, basically this is exactly how I want my death metal to sound.
/More Satellites than Stars
/The Past Devours the Future
A release that involves a friend based down in Hastings – that I was alerted to by London-based saxophonist Phil Whaite, who contributed to the recordings – this takes a familiar path to many other artists of late, at least superficially. That is, it takes the base atmosphere and darkness of Black Metal, but then twists it out of shape (and slows it down) into a doomy, psychedelic powerhouse of sound that has all kinds of impressive elements going on in the mix, and opener More Satellites than Stars eventually explodes in a chaotic vortex of a climax that takes the breath away. This is one of those releases that demands your total attention, such is the force of it – this is no background music. Well worth spending the fifteen minutes that the EP takes up immersed within, and you’ll want to do it again afterward.
I must admit that it took me a while to realise that kr-lik, the person behind electro-industrial project Clicks, was also the same as that behind the much-missed Controlled Collapse. Listening a bit a closer, the sonic links become obvious, but perhaps the main change is the vocals, which are cleaner and (whisper it) more accessible, and it suits the sound well. I Dream, like the rest of the album, has an impressive depth and clarity to the production, and everything works well, much as the tune, which is a great, dark-edged song about loss and regret, it seems.
Like so many bands, I was something of a late convert to the rock duo Royal Blood, who it turns out to have a bit more nuance to their sound than I perhaps appreciated initially. Their third album seems to have added a subtle nod to electronic music (and the odd bit of synths and production trickery) that has helped to widen their palette, but crucially, the best songs here are still fist-pumping anthems. Best of all is the mighty groove of Boilermaker, which comes equipped with hip-swinging sass and gigantic hooks that has producer Josh Homme’s (Queens of the Stone Age, of course) fingerprints all over it.