Dry or no dry, January’s usually a slim few weeks for music – with new albums lost under last year’s best-of lists, the Christmas hangovers and the general bitching and moaning that doesn’t let up for weeks.
But January hasn’t been a shit-show for music at all. I even found a stinking punk band called The Shits.
1. Soho Rezanejad – Actor’s Monologue (Six Archetypes LP)
Danish artist Soho Rezanejad’s debut album is full of dark electronic goth-pop and vocal nods to Nico – and Actor’s Monologue is the stop-dead centrepiece. Over malfunctioning synths, her mechanised spoken word manifesto has choice lines like “the body is a trap”, and “normal is a system of oppression, normal is violence”.
2. Shopping – The Hype (The Official Body LP)
Sounding like Bush Tetras, ESG, and other New York post-punk bands you’d find in a coffee table book, The Hype opens Shopping’s third album The Official Body in a shrug of jagged guitars and a bassline that sounds like it’d be sampled by a hip-hop OG.
3. Moon Duo – Jukebox Babe
Moon Duo normally deal in head-down psychedelic krautrock, but the cosmic synths and fuzzed guitars take a back seat on their latest single, with glinting electronic pop touches.
4. Parliament – I’m Gon Make U Sick O’ Me
Parliament’s first release in 28 years is a filthball freak-funk attack with another one of George Clinton’s barely disguised humping euphemisms – this time using big pharma references. Then Scarface turns up for a few bars in the middle of it.
5. Jay Rock / Kendrick Lamar / Future / James Blake – King’s Dead
Not being awkward or anything, but this might be better than anything on the DAMN. album – notably in the third act when the minimal piano and woodblock beat shifts into a dirgy metallic spiral, with Kendrick running away from the clatter. Not really sure what James Blake’s doing here – maybe helping tweak Mike WILL Made-It’s production.
6. JPEGMAFIA – Williamsburg (Veteran LP)
“We takin’ Brooklyn back,” warns rapper JPEGMAFIA to the hipsters on Williamsburg – one of the least confrontational tracks on Veteran, which has one track called I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies. This is lo-def, badly-buffered internet rap with a steep learning curve, but I’m all ears.
7. Silvia Kastel – Target (Air Lows LP)
Berlin-based producer Silvia Kastel introduces her fifth album with a wispy, beatless piece and a command to “lay back”, before the rest of Air Lows takes you down plenty of avant-garde electronic corners.
8. Lewis James – Nutso (Featherstone EP)
Irish producer Lewis James calls on his experience as an electronic sound designer for a viciously-rendered slice of futuristic mechanised hip-hop. More here.
9. Phono Ghosts & Sferro – Guided By Vega (Alive in the Timeless Void EP)
Cassette fetishist Phono Ghosts and synthwave producer Sferro team up to cut some analogue tape with digital scissors. Guided By Vega is a cosmic arpeggio synth thrill-ride.
10. Profligate – Jet Black (Somewhere Else LP)
Jet Black (King of the World) is a subdued, industrial cut with exposed wires and an Alan Vega/Suicide menace. Profligate mainman Noah Anthony is joined by poet Elaine Kahn on the whole album, and she makes her detached, ghostly presence felt here.
11. Nils Frahm – My Friend the Forest (All Melody LP)
Nils Frahm’s seventh studio album All Melody reveals a wider palette for the neoclassical composer and pianist, with nods to wispy ambience, electronica and even gentle deep house. But this melancholy piano interlude really is his ‘thing’.
12. Johnny Jewel – Digital Rain (Digital Rain LP)
Chromatics’ mainman Johnny Jewel follows up his mega-hyped Twin Peaks soundtrack with Digital Rain, an all-synth concept album about actual rain, since the Houston native misses the stuff now that he’s based in LA. This opening track covers everything with a fine mist, like a water feature in a vaporwave shopping mall.
13. Mr Mitch – My Life (μ-Ziq remix) (Devout Remixes EP)
Mr Mitch’s 2017 album Devout was a new spin on heartfelt, weightless grime, equal parts Frank Ocean to Logos or Visionist. He’s just released a six-track remix EP, and Mike Paradinas’s gentle synthwave update is the standout.
14. Sophia Loizou – Shadows of Futurity
Bristol producer Sophia Loizou’s 2016 album Singulacra was a woozy, ambient love letter to half-remembered rave fragments, but this new one is dark, decaying jungle – like a malfunctioning Forest Swords sketch.
15. Pye Corner Audio – Box In a Box
One half of a split 12-inch with Tomoko Sauvage, this is one of Pye Corner Audio’s bleakest sounding tracks yet – and this is after he soundtracked much of Adam Curtis’s dystopia doc Hypernormalisation. Elastic analogue synthlines and abandoned factory floor electronics.
16. Jonas Reinhardt – IRN (Conclave Surge LP)
San Francisco composer Jonas Reinhardt studied synthesis at Harvard, but he’s also been studying all the proggy modular synth greats. IRN sounds like Tangerine Dream gone space disco, tangled up in wires.
17. I-F – Sloth (The Brown Elbow Conspiracy EP)
Dutch Maestro Interr-Ference unleashes some murky Radiophonic sci-fi electro, just to remind you he can give you analogue nightmares as well as hit the sweet spot between italo, acid and ABBA in his amazing DJ sets.
18. EVOL – AA0007
The first 2018 release on Swedish label Fluf is another cut of next-gen electronics and distorted rave phrasing. More here.
19. JK Flesh – PI04.1
Godflesh mainman Justin K Broadrick opens 2018 with a nervy cut of industrial techno brutalism. Hits your lizard brain with the same force as Ancient Methods – or Godflesh to be honest. More here.
20. Portal – Crone (Ion LP)
Australian band Portal deal in a sort of bleached-out electronically frazzled grindcore/black metal hybrid that sounds exactly like the Ion sleeve looks. Crone is maybe the most terrifying cut, all dungeon sound effects, blast beats and The Curator’s repeated death whisper of “Pray for sickness”.
21. The Shits – Whatever (Drink Your Blood EP)
The shits have three tags on their Bandcamp page: ‘Punk’, ‘Scum’ and ‘Leeds’. This is a drunken, sludgy menace by a bunch of lads who are up to no fucking good.