A week later than usual, thanks to a busy summer, but I got there in the end – here’s this month’s tracks of the month.
Despite the move away from London, and perhaps a busier than usual job at the moment, I’m still listening to new music, still keeping an eye out for songs that grab me, and still finding new music from a host of sources. Thus, I’ve no intention of ending this series anytime soon.
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).
/The Scars They Leave
While this-site-favourite Blindness have now long disbanded, the spirit of that band continues in Beth Rettig’s solo work, under the name of Where We Sleep. Earlier songs that she’d released tentatively under this name seemed to suggest a subtle move away from her old band, but on this striking, propulsive song, the link is clear (especially as Debbie Smith is on hand to provide squalling guitar textures). It’s a fantastic song, too, with a typically combative vocal performance from Beth, and a glorious, powerful bassline providing the engine to the song. The album The Scars They Leave is an excellent, essential purchase, too.
CHVRCHES perhaps leaned too far into straightforward pop on their third album, and I can perhaps blame uber-producer Greg Kurstin for that, smoothing out the spiky edges and going for blunt force instead. COVID appears to have forced the band to return to doing it themselves, recording and producing it in lockdown, and judging on the singles, there’s a heck of an edge returning. Particularly on this glorious track, which opens with the couplet “Killing your idols is a chore / And it’s such a fucking bore” and sees Lauren Mayberry taking a flamethrower to societal expectations in some style. This is a classic CHVRCHES banger with the sharp edges that made them so great in the first place.
/Museum On The Horizon
The harsh, sharp edges of the sound of Pop. 1280 are very much more pronounced than ever, perhaps, on the lead single to their upcoming album. Guitars and synths buzz like machines, while a mechanised drum-beat drives a curious, looping rhythm, all in thrall to Chris Bug’s snarling vocals. A perhaps rare – from this band – overtly political track, one that leans into the idea of political subservience and how any deviation from the norm might be deemed “noncompliance”. Interestingly this excellent song was apparently written before COVID, too, so I suspect this might be read in various ways in the now.
Perhaps unjustly, Dot Allison is still broadly referred to as “the singer from One Dove” in the press – a one-album band who recorded with Andrew Weatherall, and were broadly sunk by record label interference. That admittedly exceptional album was released in 1993, and Allison has had a shape-shifting solo career since, moving from experimental trip-hop and electronics to more pastoral sounds – as well as writing songs for a host of pop-stars – and on her first album in over a decade, she has fully embraced gentle folk sounds. Found sounds from Scottish islands provide ghostly accompaniment to lush strings and sparse piano and guitar, but Allison’s soft, elegant voice remains the star attraction, and lengthy album opener (and single) Long Exposure is the ideal point to jump back in to a career some of us feared might never resume.
/Eat Me Beat Me
Drøne, the Manchester-based club and label have for some time now been one of the key proponents of sweaty, thumping club-based industrial music, a style that has long moved on from gas masks and is now often to be seen in techno clubs. The roots in noise, though, often comes through, as such is the case with the latest project from Rhys (previously involved in Modulate, many years ago, and much more recently in the proggy industrial sounds of ded.pixel). This is unashamedly queer (by their own account) EBM-techno-noise, is full of appropriate samples (nice work on the Heathers sample that closes this particular track), and it kicks like a fucking mule. Get on it, as the whole EP is great.
/Darkest Days EP
Released the same day as the Red Meat release on Drøne, Robin W Marsh (ex-Australian band Kollaps) has taken a different approach to similar ends. Darkest Days takes a sledgehammer to your ears, with metallic rhythmic noise (honestly, it sounds like they sampled the sound of beating metal panels to get the base of this nailed) hitting you with relentless force, and when the rhythm is pulled from under your feet for a period, there is a extended moment of beautiful, ominous calm. That calm is pierced by a distorted sample of New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern’s speech after the Christchurch Shootings, and then all hell breaks loose, as rhythms return like jackhammers and noise screeches around it. Not for everyone, this, but as a piece of industrial noise, this is a solid return to a style I’d long thought gone forever.
I was a huge fan of the last New Division album (the outstanding Hidden Memories), and recent singles since have suggested that there is more to come. The latest single is the best of the bunch, following the same template (lush, punchy synthpop) but somehow always surprising. John Kunkel’s warm vocals are full of emotion and power, while the rhythms and synths make me think of both the eighties heyday of synthpop and the current sounds, as if Kunkel has stumbled upon the perfect alchemy of the two. Honestly, I could listen to his songs all day, on repeat.
/Undir Köldum Norðurljósum
Perhaps it’s the otherworldly sound of their native Icelandic being sung, but there is something so different about this band that I’ve never been able to put my finger on. Their burst to greater prominence (thanks to seemingly endless touring pre-COVID, and some recommendations by the likes of Robert Smith), judging on the new tracks from their upcoming album, only seems to have reinforced their uniqueness. The exceptional Ósýnileg is a great example. Elegant and wistful vocal harmonies entwine around screeching synths and stately post-punk bass to wonderful effect.
/Things Take Time, Take Time
I took a while to appreciate Barnett’s oblique, slacker-esque sound (and style), but once I saw her live I was hooked, and a new album coming is just what I need right now. Clearly written during the chaos of the past eighteen months (from recent interviews, the chance to stop, reflect and change things was something Barnett desperately needed), this first single is a comparatively gentle strum through alt-grunge sounds, but is more notable for the lyrics. Pointing out the hypocrisy of “lighting candles” and so-called “slacktivism” rather than actually fucking doing something, it is a song that, unusually, among the deluge of songs written during a period that in time I think many of us would rather forget than ever relive, is a song that strikes a nerve. That change, though? Coming from the Governments we have right now seems really fucking unlikely, sadly.
/Love, Strength and Tanks (Mayuan Mak version)
/The Plan: There Is Hope
In a scene that can so often descend into infighting and bitchiness, there are moments when everyone comes together – sadly, as we get older, the latter is often these days when there is a death in the industrial family. Such an event happened a few months back, when Mak, one of the people behind Electrowerkz (and the flagship night Slimelight) in London for so long, unexpectedly passed away. With COVID having ravaged the club scene – and indeed for some time, Electrowerkz, like many other venues, was closed – this felt like particularly cruel timing. But from adversity…Electrowerkz is continuing something of a rebirth (which had already been underway before Mak’s passing), providing a new home for a number of other club nights in the city, and also a new all-day, every-day, bar.
Being able to tip the hat and pay tribute to Mak, though, has taken time because of the restrictions. There was recently a night at the club to mark his passing and influence, and alongside it, a sprawling, 68-track compilation over four releases from a whole host of artists across the scene (from ethereal goth to pummelling noise and almost all points inbetween) that shows brilliantly just how important the club Mak helped build is to a scene far beyond London. One of those artists is Winterkälte, whose track here is unusually and appropriately subdued in one sense. Udo Weissmann of course runs the label HANDS Productions, and pretty much all of the artists on the label over time must have played Electrowerkz at one point or another.