Hyperreal collages, vampire pop, ritualistic dub, Belarusian cold wave, weaponised seagulls, poetic detours, neoclassical ambient, cave wall drones, War on Terror techno, Bjork taking a drill to Fever Ray and many more wonderful noises from last month…
KLEIN – Claim It (Lifetime LP)
Londoner Klein says this is her most personal work to date, saying it feels like “giving someone your diary”, but even then she’s not explicitly giving much away. Her clipped vocal abstractions and hyperreal electronic collages are no less compelling without a narrative that jumps out. And the sound design here borders on possession — the first time I heard Claim It on headphones it felt like her distorted retch was coming from my own throat. Thrilling and terrifying in equal measure.
FEVER RAY – This Country Makes It Hard to Fuck (Bjork Remix)
More than a mere deconstruction, it sounds like Bjork broke into Einstürzende Neubauten’s studio and went straight for the power tools for this industrial noise mangle remix. Karin Drejer has been having fun ripping apart Fever Ray’s 2017 album Plunge on various remixes, and no better woman than Bjork to bring the noise on this one.
JPEGMAFIA – Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot (All My Heroes Are Cornballs LP)
JPEGMAFIA’s Veteran was a Moo Kid top 3 album of 2018, and the Baltimore MC and producer follows it up with another wildly inventive record that stretches the sonics of hip-hop to breaking point. This opener lays it up from the off, landing with a smashed bottle and crowd noise, before flitting between glitchy slices, glinting lounge guitar chords, vinyl brakes and digital hardcore snippets. All through Peggy’s freewheeling abstract rhymes that touch on Columbine, David Byrne, Charlize Theron and Twitter blue ticks.
MIKE PATTON & JEAN-CLAUDE VANNIER – Cold Sun Warm Beer (Corpse Flower LP)
Music’s greatest reprobate polymath Mike Patton teams up with French composer Jean-Claude Vannier, maybe best known for his work with Serge Gainsbourg. Patton chews up and gorges on the cinematic arrangements in typically all-in voracious fashion. The title ‘Cold Sun Warm Beer’ may sound like an early Tom Waits bar room blues lament, but it feels more like Mr Bungle has been let loose among the reels in a French library music archive.
MOLCHAT Doma – Zvezdy
Another Belarusian brutalist bop from cold wave post-punk revivalists Molchat Doma, who’ve kinda become an obsession since I saw them at Tallinn Music Week in Estonia a few months ago. I’m probably losing loads in the translation from the Russian, but ‘Zvezdy’ means Stars, and the lyrics here are “you are the stars, I am the moon”. This maybe sounds trite in English, but it’s elevated to majestic heights through frontman Egor’s melancholy baritone and an air of existential desperation.
BAT FOR LASHES – The Hunger (Lost Girls LP)
When Natasha Khan moved to LA, she said she felt like she’d “basically been plonked inside the sets of all the films I loved as a kid”. This surreal nostalgia fully informed her new album Lost Girls, a nod to 80s soundtracks and vampire movies — notably The Lost Boys. ‘The Hunger’ also nods to the 1983 Bowie-starring shocker, and is the most epic moment on the album, all soaring synths, wind machine choruses and even a church organ.
SINEAD O’BRIEN – A Thing You Call Joy
Sinead O’Brien’s voice will stop you dead — gripping Sprechgesan (speak-singing) with a punk edge and vivid imagery. ‘A Thing You Call Joy’ seems to be a meta exploration of the creative process itself, as she “grips the water flowing”, with her words weaving between the kinetic post-punk rhythms of her live band.
GIRL BAND – Prefab Castle (The Talkies LP)
The greatest band in Ireland™ have returned with a fearless experimental record that bends all possibilities of noise that can be forced out of regular instruments and Dara Kiely’s voice. ‘’Prefab Castle’ is a tense, spiralling dirge with a next-door techno pulse and a pretty disturbing atonal pile-up around two-thirds in.
FRANCOIS J BONNET & STEPHEN O’MALLEY – Erosion Always Wins (Cylene LP)
This album is about “the noise that nurtures your ears after a long heartbreaking pain” according to the liner notes, and this first collaboration between Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley and electroacoustic composer J Bonnet is an infinite cave of sonic possibility. I’m cheating a bit by rushing to ‘Erosion Always Wins’ as it’s the most droney, Sunn O))) comfort blanket noise here, but there’s so much to succumb to in this record.
IGGY POP – Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night (Free LP)
More than any other figure in the history of rock’n’roll, Iggy Pop embodies Dylan Thomas’s command to “rage, rage against the dying of the light”. Iggy recites the iconic poem near the end of his brilliant, introspective new album Free. Over ambient synths and horns he sounds transcendent and defiant — and still utterly fucking invincible.
THE UTOPIA STRONG – Brainsurgeons 3 (The Utopia Strong LP)
In 2016 I interviewed Steve Davis (yes that one) about his emerging second career as a DJ and he told me he was thinking of buying a modular synth after chatting to Anthony ‘Surgeon’ Child. “There are so many talented people that it would be laughable to go down that road properly” he said at the time, but here we are three years later with his debut album as The Utopia Strong with his DJ partner and Knifeworld/Gong member Kavus Torabi.
The glorious news is the record is a legit brilliant album of proggy, psychedelic kosmische grooves. It all sort of builds up to the eight-minute Brainsurgeons 3, which sounds like 70s Tangerine Dream with some late 60s British psych-folksters hitching a ride.
REGIS FEATURING VATICAN SHADOW – See You Again Always (Washington Buries Al Qaeda Leader At Sea LP)
Dominick Fernow carries on his Vatican Shadow remasters series with this album from 2011 featuring a stand-out collab with Regis. While most of the album rests on melancholy synth pads, ‘See You Again Always’ — the only track not specifically routed in War on Terror imagery — is a rugged, machine-tooled electro left turn.
MOUNT ALASKA – Back to the Land, My Love
Over the past two years, Dublin duo Mount Alaska have experimented with weaving modern composition themes into their ambient electronica and leftfield techno. On their new single they’ve fully embraced a neoclassical direction, with a transcendent piano-led passage.
It’s the lead track from their debut album Wave Atlas: Season One, which they say is “an ode to some of our favourite composers: Max Richer, Ólafur Arnalds, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Delia Derbyshire, Rival Consoles and Wendy Carlos”. And it’s no exaggeration to say Back to the Land, My Love could be the centrepiece to a Nils Frahm solo show.
SONOPY – Diamante Shithouse (Touch Sensitive Wacker That comp)
Belfast label Touch Sensitive has been sporadically releasing brilliant leftfield music for a few years now, with a few standouts including Gross Net, Autumns and even a few scores by David Holmes. They’re just about to release their first compilation tape Wacker That!, launching at a BYOB showcase this weekend. There’s a couple of tracks on Bandcamp as a teaser, and ‘Diamante Shithouse’ is worth all the bonus points. Come for the 10/10 track title, stay for the proggy hi-def ambient synth flutters.
FILMMAKER – Unnatural Sciences (Unregulated EP)
Drexciyan electro menace on Opal Tapes from Colombian producer Filmmaker, who has been more prone to releasing snide industrial/EBM cassettes on Detriti Records recently. ‘Unnatural Sciences’ is all sci-fi synths knocked into shape by classic whip snares and a general sense that the spaceship is on course for a hostile planet.
MOSCA – Touchie Riddim Pt 1 (Touchie Riddim EP)
Mosca takes the grime instrumental to the outskirts of abstract sound design, going in deep with dagger bassline slices, off-grid smithereens, high velocity tones and insectoid alien chatter. Head music with splintering aftershocks. Read more here.
DJ PROBLEMAS – Garrincha (Clairvoyance EP)
Over the last year or so, Brazilian label Tormenta Electrica has been a dank, festering refuge for some truly off the grid electronics, often with an occult, ritualistic undertone. ‘Garrincha’ enters your semi-consciousness with skittery ASMR tribal percussion, before ceremonial chants and a one-note bass pulse pin you to the wall. This is a joint release with Overmann, who offsets all this sorcery by dragging it into an urban setting with some jagged electro.
MICHAEL SPEERS – Obturo (Xtr’ctn EP)
Seagulls have been getting a bad rap over the last few years with their continued brazen encroachment inland and their point-blank refusal to ask for a bite of your sandwich while snatching it out of your hand. Still, nothing will prepare you for what Michael Speers does to seagull squawks at the start of this new EP Xtr’ctn, contorting them into weaponised shrieks, before other insectoid sound effects start gnawing away at you.
Speers is a producer and a high-spec audio technician, and his debut EP melds wildlife and natural world samples with ultra-precise recordings of the internal workings of audio equipment and “feedback from no-input mixers”. A disorientating, oddly visceral thrill.