UUUU – Electric Blanket (from s/t EP)
UUUU’s debut s/t was one of Moo Kid’s albums of 2017, and the follow-up EP takes the experimental project into further slithery territories. The four U’s are Graham Lewis and Matthew Simms of Wire, Thighpaulsandra of Coil and Valentina Magaletti of Tomaga, The Oscillation and Raime, and this new two-track, 25-minute is reassurance that the album wasn’t a one-off.
You won’t get much comfort from this Electric Blanket, with its nervy drones, electronic scuttles and occultish chimes, but it’s rooted down with an insistent bass pulse and braking locomotive percussion.
In parts it’s Bowie’s Warzawa in a disintegration loop, while also evoking late period Swans’ transcendent passages. And once the alien heavy breathing comes in you’re well reined in.
KIRKIS – Dead Nightclub (from Kirkis 2 LP)
Throbbing coldwave, eerie MIDI strings and a weird appropriation of David Bowie pointers with the wrongness dial turned up to 11. Dead Nightclub hits you with an uncanny valley of recognition, and there’s plenty more where that came from on Kirkis’s second album. More here.
The KVB – Above Us (from Only Now Forever LP)
Serene motorik psych grooves from the UK duo, throbbing along some eternal autobahn, evoking Isi by Neu!, with a nod to the shoegaze greats. Full album review here.
NENEH CHERRY – Natural Skin Deep (from Broken Politics LP)
Broken Politics is only Neneh Cherry’s fifth album in 30 years, and it’s her second collaboration with Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden. As on 2014’S Blank Project it’s another dubby exploration, with hints of hip-hop and organic ambience amid her disarmingly personal verses.
Natural Skin Deep is built on far-off steel drums and an Ornette Coleman sample, with Cherry assuring, “All of me is now/ I’m a breath of drop/ And the sea nears me… my love goes on and on.
ROBYN – Because It’s In the Music (from Honey LP)
Robyn’s first album since 2010 is light on melancholy dancefloor bangers, but there’s still much to love. She hit her obvious mark with Missing You, the lead single and opening track of Honey. But it’s followed by the sombre and delicate Human Being and Because It’s In the Music. The latter is a mid-tempo cosmic disco break-up song with no hard feelings, that’ll give you a lump in your throat.
MATT BERRY – Top of the Pops (from Television Themes LP)
Matt Berry’s Television Themes is most perfect and obvious whimsical project of the year. Berry has previous with dipping into retro British TV tropes after his amazing turn in Gareth Marenghi’s Dark Place, and he’s recreated plenty of the classics on this new album. He stays fairly faithful to themes like World In Action, Blankety Blank (!), Sorry and The Good Life (Unfortunately he can’t recreate the abject horror of the original Picture Box theme).
The highlight is his cosmic space disco take on the early 80s TOTP theme, oozing with camp sci-fi gloss. The theme was really just Phil Lynott’s synth detour Yellow Pearl, which is better than anything he did with Thin Lizzy – that’s not even a hot take by the way.
DEMDIKE STARE – At It Again (Passion LP)
Maximalist hardcore industrial jungle isn’t Demdike Stare’s usual USP, but their new album Passion is a trawl through the UK electronic underground with dirt under its fingernails. At It Again feels like Aphex is rattling off some breaks to Justin Broaderick, but he’s giving it the Godflesh treatment instead of the JK Flesh once over.
MARIE DAVIDSON – Work It (Working Class Woman LP)
Montreal artist Marie Davidson’s new album Working Class Woman is a clash of industrial, electro, coldwave and techno, shot through with sarcasm and takedowns of all the dickhead aspects of modern club culture and toxic trolling. Work It kicks like an EBM cut off Ministry’s Twitch LP, as Davidson flips over a typical house/R&B phrase, leaving some deadpan motivational speaker behind, with a black humour that recalls Miss Kittin, Peaches or Green Velvet when he was on the drugs.
COMMA – Gasworks (from split EP with A.Fruit)
Another sucker-punch bass grenade from the Rua Sound label, who hang around the outskirts of drum & bass, shattered breaks and various other bass contortions. Comma’s Gasworks is a belter from the off – you really can’t go wrong with a well-deployed police siren. After that it’s three minutes of lurching metallic dub, 8-bit punctures and venomous half-speed UK hardcore.
DOPPLEREFFEKT – Hayflick Limit (from Athanatos EP)
After former Drexciyan Gerald Donald ditched electro in the last decade for abstract theoretical physics concept albums, the new Dopplereffekt EP – with long-time partner To Nhan – is a return to those beloved skittering rhythms and clipped analogue basslines. Hayflick Limit also has the first discernible Dopplereffekt lyrics since the 90s, even if it’s just an ethereal voice chanting “Extend the Hayflick Limit…” over floaty pads.
ACTRESS – Watercolour Challenge Part II (from Air Textures vol VI compilation)
The ongoing Air Textures series is a project based on collaboration – each release teams up two artists with a job of compiling unreleased electronic music with the only rule there can’t be any “main floor bangers”. It generally results in a collection of elegant IDM, ambient and low-key techno, not a million miles away from Kompact’s Pop Ambient series.
On Vol VI, Steffi and Martyn have gathered artists including like Stingray, Appleblim, Mosca, Shed and loads more, for a 26-track comp that binds perfectly with no bits sticking out. Actress has maybe the best cut, with it’s synth droplets and comforting 808 blips. There’s not much in it though.
FACTORY FLOOR – Circuit Senses (A Soundtrack For a Film)
Electronic artist takes on the Metropolis score has become such a cliche that you could play bingo every time a line-up for showcase city festival comes out. The most famous ones have been Jeff Mills’ sumptuous symphonic techno read, and Giorgio Moroder’s over-egged pudding, complete with Brian May guitar solos.
A Factory Floor version has been staring us in the face all along – transferring the film’s industrial themes to minimal analogue synths compositions and decaying electro. Circuit Senses has an air of early Kraftwerk with some Radiophonic Workshop dread welded on.
JOHN CARPENTER – Halloween Theme (Halloween OST)
The most chilling horror theme of all time gets an update for Carpenter’s recent sequel. Not quite a polish, but more an exercise in blowing the dust off and still preserving the original’s crude synth minimalism, with a slightly heavier kick drum for the kids.
MOUNT ALASKA – Asterisk
Dublin production duo Mount Alaska have been adding rhythmic heft to their blinding live show, and Asterisk is a gear shift upwards. Building on previous blissful ambient passages, it’s got an intensely satisfying two-step kick and pattering percussion, spiralling synths and spectral pitched-down vocal abstractions that recall Burial’s Untrue and John Talabot’s ƒIN.
M. GEDDES GENGRAS – Mirror (from Light Pipe LP)
The 10th album from modular synth composer M. Geddes Gengras already feels like a modern ambient masterpiece. It’s two and a half hours, but it’s also a serene deep listening experience that calls for a repeat as soon as the 150 minutes are up. Its organic drones, wispy textures and occasional dissonance recall Brian Eno’s Ambient 4, Global Communication or Susumu Yokota’s beatless passages, with a lot more going on in this universe.
DJ MUGGS feat. MF DOOM & FREDDIE GIBBS – Death Wish (from Soul Assassins: Dia del Asesinato LP)
Two of the world’s greatest rap MVPs spar on this highlight from the Cypress Hill producer’s new album. Over suitably dense and paranoid horror flick beats, Doom and Gibbs take a verse each, with Metal Face keeping it slow and menacing, and Gibbs getting more agitated as it pans out. It fades out with a proggy guitar motif and Doom muttering: “Zero Empathy.” Chilling.
AGNARKEA – Deep State (Black Helicopters LP)
This new album from Virginia-based producer Keaton Transue, aka Agnarkea, is a collection of shortform industrial hip-hop collages shot through with paranoia and conspiracy theories (Black Helicopters is a term used by the US militia movement to warn of covert paramilitary operations).
Deep State sounds like Dalek-does-electro, with its stabbing synth bassline and woozy pads – followed by Ultra Tuned In Hearing, featuring a pitched-down Alex Jones making a consumerism = slavery point.
AUTHOR & PUNISHER – Nihil Strength (from Beastland LP)
Literally heavy metal – Author & Punisher is a mechanised industrial doom metal hybrid created on self-made stainless steel and aluminium ‘drone machines’, all connected in a sort of robotic royal rumble. Beats are punched home by a “Linear Actuator” drum trigger, and Tristan Shone’s voice distorted through face masks, like Dylan’s strap-on harmonica reimagined by David Cronenberg. Full review here.
DAUGHTERS – Long Road, No Turns (You Won’t Get What You Want LP)
You’re never gonna get a boring album from Mike Patton’s Ipecac label, and he’s roped in hardcore noise reprobates Daughters for their first album in eight years. They’re channelling the arm-scratching nervy din of Jesus Lizard, and it’s at its discordant peak on Long Road, No Turns. Imagine being on a road trip with these shits.
GNAW THEIR TONGUES – The Atrocious Silence of Their Wounds
Another atrocity from the depraved black metal mind of Maurice du Jong, aka Gnaw Their Tongues. With the possible exception of Jute Gyte, there’s no other act slithering around these depths, but gimme a shout if you know of any. This is discordant psychological terror way beyond the darkest moments of Scott Walker’s The Drift, and the distorted beats sound like someone trapped in a dungeon.