From long-form ritual ambient, to sick Finnish grindcore, to Japanese brain-fry hip-hop and a love song to an ancient sea sponge living on a dying coral reef, here’s a selection of the best music from February and March.
BOY HARSHER – Face the Fire (Careful LP)
Goth pop EBM duo Boy Harsher’s new LP Careful pulses with an intense, melancholy sensuality, evoking seedy dancefloors and fizzling neon striplights on their last legs. ‘Face the Fire’ is a smudgy fever dream weaving around Jae Matthews’ reverbed vocal abstractions – and Augustus Muller’s woozy synth gear change at around the 2.30 mark is something else.
ROY OF THE RAVERS – 1999 (SE1 Acid EP)
Apologies to every other record label in history, but Winthorpe Electronics has the best name ever, and as a bonus, the Dublin label’s first release is singularly unique, sculptured in design, hand-crafted in Switzerland and water-resistant to three atmospheres.
Tonight you’re gonna party like it’s ‘1999’ – one of the most epic, cosmic acid belters you’ll ever hear, that slinks through five or six acts over its 13 minutes. Another great leveller from Roy of the Ravers, very fucking special indeed.
THE SPECIALS: B.L.M. (Encore LP)
Some 38 years after Ghost Town, The Specials’ new album Encore finds them revitalised after 10 years on the victory lap reunion circuit. Amid the ska, funk, dub and Swordfishtrombones-style polka on the record, ‘B.L.M.’ is a fist-up highlight, with Lynval Golding’s powerful spoken word recollections of racism he’s encountered since first arriving in the UK from Jamaica. It’s straight out of the Gil Scott-Heron or Linton Kwesi Johnson stop-you-in-your-tracks play book.
YUGEN BLAKROK – Gorgon Madonna (Anima Mysterium LP)
After her mic drop “move like a millipede” spotlight verse on ‘Opps’ with Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples on the Black Panther Soundtrack, South African rapper Yugen Blakrok has proved there’s plenty more gold where that came from.
‘Gorgon Madonna’ (what a mental image!) kicks off the album with her skittery tongue-twisting delivery knocking through RZA-style rough-edged boom-bap and dark heart psychedelia.
KING MIDAS SOUND – You Disappear (Solitude LP)
Whether Kevin Martin is drilling your insides with dub dread as The Bug, or wafting around pitch black ambient drones in King Midas Sound, there’s always a desolate undercurrent.
The new King Midas Sound LP takes this sense of isolation to a harrowing conclusion, featuring just Martin’s eroding dub pulses and English-Trinidadian poet Roger Robinson dealing with loneliness and loss. First track You Disappear is a heartbreaking two-word headline for the whole album.
R KITT – Cycles (Shock World Service cassette)
Jon Averill’s Shock World Service is a podcast mixtape series that’s been running since 2007, with an incredibly consistent attention to design, artwork and thematic strands. Aimed as a sidestep from the dancefloor, its rabbit hole archive website is a well of gems.
Dublin producer R Kitt went further with his commission, and crafted a serene 34-minute original ambient piece that elegantly trickles by on the same fluffy cloud as the likes of Brian Eno, Steve Roach, Susumu Yokota and anyone else you can think of on the right side of new age.
MANGO X MATHMAN – No Surrender FM
Dublin grime duo flip it a bit this time, with Adam ‘Mathman’ Fogarty taking over vocal duties – even he’s riffing off pirate radio lingo as a DJ on a phone-in late night show – taking in dodgy requests, shout-outs and wrong number takeaway orders. MC Mango of course doesn’t get left out – in a gruff love letter to the sesh and sweaty basement raves, with a sleek garage backbone. It’s like a 2-step update to the Beastie Boys’ Cookie Puss. It’ll keep everybody going until the lads’ debut LP Casual Work comes out – and pirate DJ Adam reminds us near the end that it’s due soon. Hurry up, though.
TALOS – See Me (Far Out Dust LP)
Eoin French’s Talos went straight for the widescreen electronic pop bullseye with their second album, evoking M83 or lush cinema soundtracks, and See Me is one for singing on the edge of a cliff. Sounds impossibly gigantic. Read an interview with French here.
SPELLLING – Under the Sun (Mazy Fly LP)
Under the Sun sounds like some mystic psychedelic take on 80s cold wave, with unsettling Radiophonic Workshop undertones. Just one of the many left turns on Tia Cabral aka Spelling’s Mazy Fly — her second LP and first for the always reliable Sacred Bones label.
SB THE MOOR – Lilith Moon (Pleasure) (SPIRIT REALM.FINAL LP)
Californian MC and producer Signor Benedict The Moor has fully indulged their outer limits tendencies on new album SPIRIT REALM.FINAL, that channels alternative, verbose hip-hop through a psychedelic industrial noise prism, landing somewhere between Clipping, TV on the Radio and Nine Inch Nails. On Lilith Moon (Pleasure) they’ve roped in French MC Cindy Bluray to rant and rave over a New Beat slow jam while SB goes all out like a deranged Chuck Mosley.
DOS MONOS – Theater D (Dos City LP)
Japanese hip-hop trio Dos Monos’ 2018 debut single 20xx was maybe my favourite track of the year – a garish, glitchy hyper-cut mini masterpiece hanging together by a Thelonius Monk sample, some RZA/ODB-fuelled beats and brilliantly surreal broken English non-sequiturs.
Dos City fizzles with a brazen no-fucks-given attitude, with free jazz discord, metallic percussion rattles and giddy rhymes that aren’t so apparent without the lyric sheet they had on 20xx. Theater D goes for an MF Doom-style B-movie superhero beat, and as a nice (probably accidental) touch, it seems to reference labelmate JPEGMAFIA’s intro to ‘Real Nega’, which itself looped and stretched ODB’s Goin Down.
SANSIBAR – Mandate My Ass (White Swan EP)
Finnish producer Sansibar’s latest EP is a restless, diverse collection of dark electronics, but the whole thing has a stainless steel backbone of cold wave, EBM and electro. Mandate My Ass is some serious Front 242-grade nasty arpeggiated EBM. More here.
FAITH ELIOTT – Loomis
Faith Elliott has gone on a deep dive to write the first ever love song for an ancient sea sponge living on a dying coral reef. The nebulous, aquatic tone in Loomis is inspired by the musical suite Carnival of the Animals by the Romantic composer, Camille Saint-Saëns, and the DIY video has shades of The Cure’s brilliantly bonkers Close To You promo.
SADO OPERA – Patriarchs
Russian queer disco performance art crew SADO OPERA are in business with another lascivious electronic pop belter with a harder edge than their last single about sex club dark rooms.
The darker vibe comes not only from the punky chanted chorus and wiry acid house grooves, but its target practice shots at Putin’s reign in Russia and “little peepee” patriarchs the world over.
“A stomping army of middle fingers, pointing at every man who has stepped on the backs of others to gain power,” they say.
STEPHEN MALKMUS – Belziger Faceplant (Groove Denied LP)
Now is definitely a weird time for me to get into Stephen Malkmus after missing the boat and avoiding him for 20-odd years. But rather than so-so arched eyebrow slacker indie, his new album is full off odd analogue synth curios and this one’s a bit like Not Waving. It sounds like he’s learning how to play the synths in real time while recording, which is pretty punk. He should throw away the guitar.
TOUCHY SUBJECT – The General (The General EP)
“We apologise profusely to those of you whose resolutions for 2019 involved losing weight, but this is our fattest release yet,” warn the Rua Sound label heads on their first EP of the year. The title track is a sci-fi dub dispatch from the outer limits but still rooted in depth charge soundsystem culture.
CUMBEAST – Cocktopus (Gore Zoo LP)
Sick Finnish fucks Cumbeast have been revelling in bad taste horror puns and vile humour since 2005, but I only discovered them recently on the bill at Tallinn Music Week, and even bought a Straight Outta Sewer T-shirt.
Their chaotic, brutal death metal and grindcore really does groove too, and they get extra bonus points for the Cocktopus monster having multiple ballbags fashioned into a kind of beard.
GNAW THEIR TONGUES – O Lord, My Strength (An Eternity of Suffering, An Eternity of Pain LP)
No other artist on Earth does abject misery and discord quite like Gnaw Their Tongues aka Dutchman Maurice Du Jong, who actually seems like a pretty nice guy when he’s not taking black metal to its absolute breaking point.
This latest release – he’s got 83 albums and EPs on Bandcamp – is more ferocious in-the-red harsh noise than black metal, and there’s even the odd droney ambient passage. ‘O Lord, My Strength’ is a strangulated howl from the depths of God knows where.
DEAFKIDS – Espirais de Loucura I (Metaprogramação LP)
Just signed to Neurosis’ Neurot label, and described by Steve Von Till as “sonic Ayahuasca”, Deafkids’ credentials are impeccable before we begin. The Brazilian trio indulge in a hypnotic hybrid of D-beat hardcore, psychedelia, industrial metal and Latin American polyrhythm lunacy, and the result is one of the most visceral, thrilling albums of the year so far. There’s an extreme tension over Espirais de Loucura I’s seven minutes, wondering when the guitar is coming back in to stab you in the back. ‘Espirais de Loucura’ means “spirals of madness”, by the way.
GRUTH – Somnum Exterreri I (Feat db55)
More unsettling ritual ambient works from Brazil-based Finnish producer Gruth, who also recorded a version of a song by Turkish folk singer Ozgur Baba last month. The 20-minute ‘Somnum Exterreri’ follows on from Gruth’s Laments project, and is based around his own field recordings, as well as violin from Kujo, choral vocal manipulations by db55 and a deadly slow, decaying bass pulse. ‘Somnum Exterreri’ means “nightmare” in Latin, so at least you were warned.