From April Fool’s Day court jester fear to “gender-bending noise-punk”, jungle ambience, shoegaze, new age healing sounds, epic doom metal psychedelia and the most hyped album of the year, here’s the sound of April 2019.
GAZELLE TWIN – Fool
After Gazelle Twin channelled a grotesque court jester chav alter-ego for her 2018 album of the year Pastoral, she was never gonna miss an April Fool’s Day follow-up. Sneaked out on April 1, ‘Fool’ sounds like industrial techno in the next room, with insectoid electronic chatter to the fore.
MOJA – Bad Monkey (Be Quiet LP)
I got the full-on physicality of MOJA’s robo-prog hardcore at Tallinn Music Week recently, with the Japanese duo a stunning tangle of overdriven bass, vocals through stacks of pedals and drumsticks flying across the stage in the middle of intense fills. Still, they’ve managed to bottle most of it on their debut album, as well as the sense of mischief and offbeat humour. Magical lands somewhere between distorted techno bass loops, interrupted by futurist hardcore home runs.
COCAINE PISS – Fake Tears (Passionate And Tragic LP)
“12 manic, gender-bending noise punk outbursts committed to tape by Steve Albini,” is the brief mission statement from Belgian act Cocaine Piss, which is even more succinct than these 20 minutes of fury.
With most tracks under two minutes there’s not much room for shade, but it’s all killer, especially this gutter swarm-punk petrol bomb.
CONTROL TOP – Office Rage (Covert Contracts LP)
There’s a moment in Office Rage around the 55-second mark when singer Ali Creedon hollers, “Service with a smile? EAT SHIT!” with as much mischievous venom as The Slits’ Ari-Up. It’s just one of the many standout bits on this brilliantly ragged pile-on of punk, hardcore, no-wave and noise-rock.
SOON, SHE SAID – Marieske
There’s a false alarm at the start of Marieske, with a split second of static feedback worthy of Aphex Twin’s Ventolin, but after that it’s a droney, velvety soft-focus shoegaze balm from the French act. SSS say they want to create “beautiful noise”, and they’re there already.
FONTAINES DC – Big
By this stage you’ll be bored of people wondering if Fontaines DC are that good. Who cares if they’re that good, they’re fucking good – these hyped-up consensus albums always cause a hot-take-new-take shitpost pile-up. A lot of Dogrel was already available on singles and EPs, including Big, but it’s still a perfect album opener – brash, swaggering and prophetic given the Dubliners’ runaway success.
COURTNEY BARNETT – Everybody Hates You
Courtney Barnett invites us into her head in her new video — a low-budget Inner Space journey through her ear canal and into her not very biologically accurate spongey brain.
Aside from the quirky video, it’s another effortlessly cool slacker alt-rock number from the Aussie.
JUST MUSTARD – Frank
Dundalk act Just Mustard sound like they’ve distilled the essence of 90s No Disco Irish noise-rock and shoegaze, invoking a misremembered nostalgia for Donal Dineen’s lo-fi DIY videos while also sounding crystalline and totally vital. The single Frank is the follow-up to their Choice Prize-nominated album Wednesday, and they’re thankfully further exploring that contrast between Katie Ball’s tranquil vocals and the band’s slicing guitar textures.
SUNN O))) – Between Sleipnir’s Breaths (Life Metal album)
In Norse mythology, Sleipnir is an eight-legged horse ridden by Odin to Hel, so I’m guessing it breathes heavily. The 13-minute opener of Life Metal rides in on wailing horses, blackened psychedelic drones and Icelandic vocalist and cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir reciting ancient poetry. I Listened to Life Metal on repeat the other day and after a few hours my heart was at 1bpm.
RAINFOREST SPIRITUAL ENSLAVEMENT – The Mountain Didn’t Want To Be Cut and the Mountain Fought Back
Most previous Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement releases have hung on deep dub dread basslines and nervous ambient synth pads under the jungle canopy, but this latest album is a sweaty ASMR fever dream with little or no melody bar the hissing insects. The Mountain… is full of skittery glitches and pulses, feeling like Future Sound of London’s Lifeforms crawling with vines and centipedes the length of your arm.
From Tokyo To Honolulu – 魂の復活/Soul Resurrection (Nature’s Music/Reborn LP)
After the muggy disorientation of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, this new age vaporwave reprise offers a more holistic evocation of the jungle, with trickling streams and serene synths that recall Maurice Jarre’s criminally overlooked Mosquito Coast soundtrack. I haven’t put all the track titles through Google Translate yet, but I’m guessing it’s along the above lines.
SILVER APPLES – Oscillations 2019
Psychedelic proto-synth milestone Oscillations was released 51 years ago, an astounding fact given how vibrant it still sounds in live shows, with Silver Apples’ 81-year-old leader Simeon still dragging around the patched-up primitive synthesiser it was recorded on.
This new updated version for Record Store Day is a chance for Simeon to catch his signature tune in flux, with improv synth tinkering, solos and a weaving electro backbone. A true landmark electronic music masterpiece, with endless possibilities.
MAENAD VEYL – They Belonged With the Others (Body Count LP)
“A full-on workout devoid of fillers, ambient interludes and other mindless garbage,” goes the Bandcamp mission statement for this colossal album from Italian producer Thomas Feriero. This is abrasive EBM techno and caustic electro with dirt under its fingernails.
J(ay).A.D – Root Of All E.v.i.L (Paper)
Some hi-fidelity jazzy footwork on Italian label Beat Machine, courtesy of Dutch producer and spellcheck nightmare J(ay).A.D. A five-minute workout with chopped hardcore vocals and metallic smithereen beats that threaten to derail but just about stay on course.
STORMZY – Vossi Bop
Stormzy has been quiet on the release front since his 2017 debut album Gang Signs & Prayer, while hardly hiding from the limelight given his upcoming Glastonbury headline slot.
Vossi Bop has Stormzy doubling down on his Tory bashing at one point (“fuck the government and fuck Boris”), but it’s more of a braggy trap cut rather than a Big For Your Boots grime anthem you might’ve expected. Still, he got his first UK No1 single.
GOD KNOWS – Crown
“10 years in – still call me up and coming,” declares Rusangano Family MC God Knows on his first solo single. Even if it’s a sly nod to the wider culture taking ages to catch up with Irish hip-hop, God Knows still gives a generous shout-out to other scene figures including Kojaque, Lethal Dialect, Jafaris, and JyellowL and icons such as 2Pac and Kandrick Lamar.
The track was recorded with French producer Awir Leon, who adds a processed falsetto and scuffed, abstract beats that recall Prefuse 73’s best experiments.
FOUR TET – Teenage Birdsong
From cassette door clicks to flute melodies and harp, Kieran Hebden is going for some idyllic and organic vibes on his latest surprise track, which he released in the week between his recent Coachella sets. All you need now is a picnic and your best Instagram sunspot filter…
FUTURE MUSEUMS – Surveyor (Tea Service LP)
Texas producer Neil Lord tones down the analogue euphoria from his day job in the brilliantly named Thousand Foot Whale Claw, for an album of synth brilliance that nods to Tangerine Dream at their most cosmic and serene. Surveyor is the beautiful sign-off track.
LOUIS STERLING – Adisceda (Adisceda LP)
Said to be a tribute to a close family member who passed away, English composer and electronic producer Louis Sterling — also known as Auxx — has created a gently-ebbing ambient piece informed fully by the melancholy of remembrance. It evokes the most delicate corners of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works and William Basinski, and has similar themes to Alessandro Cortini’s LP Avanti – notably on the title track’s heavily reverbed church-like whispers.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – Hello Sunshine
I’m a lifelong unwavering Springsteen Stan, so I can never really listen to new tracks with objectivity. Hello Sunshine feels like one of those slight, acoustic numbers he often throws halfway through side 2 as a palate-cleanser before the final act.
This isn’t a bad thing at all – it has shades of Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’ and just feels like a comfort blanket road trip.