Apart from blizzards and broken resolutions, February was brought to you by nervy electronics, hip-hop, battered rock, depraved noise and plenty of soothing ambience to offset all of the above.
1. Factory Floor – Heart of Data
Ever since Giorgio Moroder’s cheesy 1984 update of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – featuring songs by Bonnie Tyler, Freddie Mercury and Pat Benator – there’s been countless live presentations with alternative soundtracks, with Jeff Mills’ sleek techno version nailing the brief in 2000.
Last year, London’s Science Museum commissioned industrial noise act Factory Floor to compose a new score, and they’ve turned it into a minor key synthwave cut with a few nods to The Knife.
2. Meat Beat Manifesto – We Are Surrounded (Impossible Star LP)
We Are Surrounded is a beautifully-rendered electro cut with R2D2 chirps wafting between radio static – and sounds like a few of the more playful tunes off Aphex Twin’s Syro (100% a good thing). Jack Dangers’ first Meat Beat Manifesto LP in 10 years is a winner.
3. Hieroglyphic Being – The Seduction Syndrome (The Red Notes LP)
Cult Chicago figure Jamal Moss’s latest outing as Hieroglyphic Being is a joyous collection of nimble acid house fed through a spiritual jazz prism, like Sun Ra or Herbie Hancock with cleaner grid lines. The Seduction Syndrome is the most ‘classic’ house track here – threaded through with uplifting piano phrases and 808 handclaps.
4. ZoID: Dione Space Concrete Factory B333_1d (Nebulous Concrete LP)
Dublin producer ZoID has just released a giddy electronic odyssey inspired by the playful side of Rephlex and the Braindance crew. This one twinkles like the Global Goon cult classic Vatican Nitez. Full Moo Kid review and stream here.
5. Onra – No Question (Nobody Has To Know LP)
French producer Onra has another LP out on Dublin’s All City Records, and it’s a big departure from the Asian sample collage pile-ups on his Chinoiseries records. Nobody Has To Know runs with a glistening 90s R&B and new jack swing sound, and No Question features Belgian artist Pomrad on some serious jazz-funk keytar soloing.
6. Anenon – Two For C (Tongue LP)
With a track title seemingly a nod to Terry Riley, Two For C shares more of a palette with another eminent minimalist, Philip Glass. The cyclical organ patterns and glinting synth effects would be enough, but Anenon’s subtle sax soloing stays well within the parameters of good taste.
7. Paper Dollhouse – Haze (The Sky Looks Different Here LP)
Nina Bosnic and Astrud Steehouder’s third album is a further departure from their early haunted, lo-fi folk. This is delicate ambient electro, with synth vapours and abstract vocal echoes.
8. Dedekind Cut – De-civilization (Tahoe LP)
Fred Warmsley’s second LP as Dedekind Cut removes all traces of glitch and industrial interference from 2016’s $uccessor, for a beatless ambient balm. De-civilization recalls Brian Eno at his most vaporous, or Burial’s melancholy interludes.
9. Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto – Glass
This is a 30-minute recording of a live installation at the famous architectural show-piece The Glass House in Connecticut. The duo recorded it on “a keyboard, mixers, singing glass bowls… and the space of the building itself”, and it kinda sounds like a sleepover in Superman’s crystalline Kryptonite kingdom.
10. Tomoko Sauvage – Clepsydra (Musique Hydromantique LP)
Musique Hydromantique sounds more like an installation you’d stumble upon rather than an album, but you’d definitely sit down and listen rather than walk past. It was recorded using underwater mics and porcelain bowls filled with glass, and it sounds just as beautiful and delicate as you’d imagine.
11. East Man – East Man Theme (Red, White & Zero LP)
Nobody wants to begrudge Stormzy his red carpet selfies or his three-storey murals, but his upgrade to the UK’s best pop star means there’s a grime underground needing a new ruffian. East Man’s new album Red, White & Zero deconstructs grime, squeezing out all melody and leaving behind a crumpled, brittle mesh of harsh waves and vicious shout-outs from guest MCs. East Man Theme sounds like you’re being slagged off by a couple of young lads in an alley.
12. Dabrye – The Appetite (Three/Three LP)
Michigan producer Tadd Mullinix has finally completed his Dabrye hip-hop trilogy, after a 10-year break between Two/Three and Three/Three. Thankfully he hasn’t returned with a mumble/trap mess to fit in any scene, but has stuck to his initial brief of proto-electronics and leftfield boom-bap. The Appetite is all Radiophonic Workshop surrealism and nervy beats, with Roc Marciano and Quelle Chris taking the first few verses, before Danny Brown turns up as the guest list MVP, as usual.
13. SOB X RBE – Carpoolin’ (GANGIN LP)
This opener on the Bay Area hip-hop collective’s GANGIN LP follows their brilliant turn on the Black Panther soundtrack. The four MCs trade upfront fresh bars over some cut-up old skool Jonzun Crew-style electro-funk, like a future breakdance jam.
14. The Cops – Homicide (First Offense LP)
If you’re a sucker for punk rock with a gimmick, Houston band The Cops have you covered. They all dress like dodgy officers and their Black Flag riffs are beefed up with sirens and tyre screeches. Their lyrics are full of 80s pulp lines like “You, against the wall”, “hands above your head”, and in this breakneck opener, “kill all the witnesses”.
15. Zed Penguin – A Ghost, A Beast (A Ghost, A Beast LP)
Edinburgh-based Zed Penguin’s debut album is an exercise in battered art-rock catharsis, free from any self-conscious posturing. The eight-minute title track channels Swans’ repetition and U-turns, with battered piano and a dark Vaudeville stomp. Full review here.
16. Russell Haswell – The Surface Is Unrevealing (Respondent EP)
The latest EP from Haswell is typically shot through with shards of glitchy noise, but this opener is a lot more restrained and bordering on catchy – sounding like a 16-bit boss level.
17. Janusz Jurga – Duch Pierwszy (Duchy Rugowca LP)
This new ambient techno album from enigmatic Polish producer Janusz Jurga is informed by “ghosts looming in elderly pines” – a lo-fi ritualistic folk-rave music.
Where Wolfgang Voigt’s pristine ambience on his GAS releases is inspired by psychedelic epiphanies in Cologne’s Konigsforst woodlands, Duch Rugowca (‘Ghosts of Rogowiec’) is an unnerving, scuttling trip to the underworld, only a few steps away from black metal. Dutch Pierwszy opens the album with incantations, wood scrapes and trickling water, before a metallic 4/4 din catches up on you.
18. Anna Von Hausswolff – The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra
I’d maybe need to check my Swans obsession sometime, but Anna Von Hausswolff is another artist who channels that primitive, shamanistic repetition that teeters on the edge of derangement. On paper, The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra is little more than two or three dirgy chords battered downwards with an industrial sheet metal casing around it, but her cracked banshee vocal and the church organ raises it a notch above majestic.
19. The Body – Nothing Stirs
The Body’s gut-spill metal is as depraved as a snuff movie, but the Portland duo like to keep you on your toes with the odd transcendent moment. This single from their upcoming album I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer, features operatic guest vocals from Kristin Hayter and symphonic synths. But steady on putting it on a playlist for yer da, it’s still heavy as fuck.
20. Gnaw Their Tongues – Cold Oven (Genocidal Majesty LP)
Gnaw Their Tongues, aka Dutch metal extremist Mories de Jong, has a compilation called Collected Atrocities, so you’ve an idea what you’re getting into. This is writhing, brain-wrong hatefulness that sounds barely human.
21. Keiji Haino & Sumac – American Dollar Bill, Keep Facing Sideways, You’re Too Hideous To Look at Face On
If the breakdowns and improvised detours on Swans’ The Seer just aren’t intense enough for you anymore, maybe this will do. The new collaboration from Japanese noise artist Haino and Sumac (formed by ex-Isis guitarist Aaron Turner) is full of frantic howling, feral non-words and repetitive strain guitar riffs. This 20-minute opener sets the stall out from the off, with abstract noise and dark psychedelia, offset by thundering outer-limits metal.
- Listen to all the tracks in a Spotify playlist below…