Cancel culture’s taken on a new meaning in the last few weeks, with your social and gig calendar full of blanks right up till the end of summer and beyond. Still, talk of album delays and postponements is exaggerated, and now’s the time to hoover up new releases. Bad news if you’re a Sam Smith fan, though. You’ll have to wait. And The Coronas were never gonna hit that May 29 target.
Here’s the 2km-radius soundtrack to April 2020…
JACKIE LYNN — Casino Queen (Jacqueline LP)
Haley Fohr sidesteps her Circuit Des Yeux project for her Jackie Lynn alter-ego — a masked disco-cowboy with a sequinned cape, line-dancing between Moroder-era Sparks, space disco and psychedelia. Lead single Casino Queen sounds like Moor Mother going a capella over Cerrone’s Supernature, which really is as good as it gets.
MOLCHAT DOMA — Небеса и Ад (What Is This That Stands Before Me? compilation)
I’ve been kinda obsessed with Belarusian cold wave trio Molchat Doma’s since catching their melancholy brutalist bops™ (not my term, alas) at Tallinn Music Week last year. They’re a brilliant addition to Sacred Bones’ new tribute comp to mark the 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath’s debut album and the Paranoid LP. The trio picked an uncool Ronnie James Dio track, Heaven and Hell, and turned it into a synthwave Rocky montage banger, with a reliably majestic performance from frontman Igor.
GROSS NET & FEARS — Incline (343 Vol 1 comp)
A seamless crossover here between Gross Net’s dubby post-punk synths and Fears’ melancholy electro-pop — you could sense this could go further than a lockdown one-off. As it stands, it’s the opening track off a new compilation for Belfast charity the 343 — a feminist-led Queer arts space “using art to effect change”. Lots of other Leftfield electronic sounds on there too.
KOOL KEITH x THETAN — Hallucinations (Space Goretex LP)
On Dr Octagon’s 1996 hall of fame hip-hop classic Earth People, Kool Keith claims, “I was born on Jupiter,” and he’s never really been satisfied with this planet. This collaboration with powerviolence trio Thetan is more restrained sonically than you’d expect — more Dalek than Death Grips — with Keith oozing effortless extraterrestrial venom.
SHABAZZ PALACES — Chocolate Souffle (The Don of Diamond Dreams LP)
Shabazz Palaces’ last show in Dublin’s Sugar Club finally marked that axis point where they left the hip-hop realm and were beamed into a Sun Ra portal — and that’s not just because Space Is the Place was projected behind them. This is another cosmic funk missive from rap’s outer limits.
ALPHA CHROME YAYO — 19th Hole
More high-concept synth capers from prolific Belfast producer Alpha Chrome Yayo. I thought he must’ve been going through a lockdown spurt with three albums in two months, but I just checked and he’s on 23 releases since 2018, so it must be just par for the course. Which brings us to 19th Hole — a concept album about a virtual golf course.
This one veers between chillwave grooves, high-gloss MIDI-funk, speech synthesised raps and more double entendres than a Daily Sport subeditor with a raging hangover. If Gareth Marenghi ever writes a raunchy golf-themed soap, here’s the soundtrack. It’s all good, but You Say Fore (I Say Five) is a 16-bit electro-funk belter.
ZOiD — I Heart Bass
After the sleek restraint on his Detrot electro-fuelled recent singles, Dublin producer ZOiD pulls the rug with this jazzy electro-psych concoction with squelchy funk bass, acid wasp attacks and carnival organs. It’s an absurdist love song to basslines in the same vein as Cylob’s Cut the Midrange Drop the Bass.
FFF — No Ice Cream
Rotterdam-based producer FFF lands somewhere between ragga, hardcore, sci-fi jungle and — in a brilliant, sneaky move — Rhodes piano funk on this latest EP from Rua Sound’s Foxy Jangle offshoot. FFF obviously had a Carnival soundsystem or a sweaty basement in mind, but you’ll have to make do with headphones on your daily walk round the block.
IVAN DORN & SEVEN DAVIS JR — Numbers
This new team-up by Ukrainian singer Ivan Dorn and LA house producer Seven Davis Jr was hatched after a whimsical vinyl purchase, a brass neck and some good old-fashioned intuitive goodwill and respect.
Dorn had picked up a copy of Davis Jr’s latest EP in Amoeba Records on a trip to the States and rather than just enjoy the record at home like most of us, he reached out and slipped in the idea of a collaboration. Eight transatlantic flights (four each) later, they’ve just released the five-track EP Numbers, with the title track a sleek jazzy house cut with a summery 2-step swerve. It’s no WeTransfer file-share collab either — it was all recorded live, with the session captured below.
YVES TUMOR — Folie Imposee (Heaven to a Tortured Mind LP)
Yves Tumor has been edging out of an abstract noise and ambient cocoon over the space of three albums and numerous singles and EPs since 2016, and they’ve landed a cosmic glam/psych/soul bullseye mutation on Heaven To a Tortured Mind. The album as a whole whooshes by with a swagger, but there’s a Prince level of audacity on Kerosene!, with its jagged guitar solo tearing through virtually the whole song.
SUNKEN FOAL — Caramac (Hexose LP)
Dublin producer Dunk Murphy aka Sunken Foal has oddly landed a concept album about sweets at the perfect time — six weeks into lockdown with all dietary bets off a long time ago. He opens it with Caramac, a nod to that weirdly addictive caramel-flavoured bar that’s long been off my radar. There’s also a certain extra nostalgia in the Warp/Rephlex ambience that recalls Global Goon or Boards of Canada, or some stately sci-fi soundtrack. A synth soundtrack about Caramacs, where would ye get it?
TEISHI-1 — Aurora
Dublin producer Teishi-1 has the latest release on Meljoann’s label Boy Scout Audio — a soft-focus restrained electronic blanket with loads of repeat-repeat-repeat potential. It just lands on a sub-aqua minimal dub groove from the first few seconds and thankfully doesn’t veer off course.
ROEDELIUS — Spiel im Wind (Wahre Liebe LP)
The same way there’s a talent-shame website that lets you know what brilliant thing David Bowie was at when he was your age (hope you’re not 30), you won’t be doing anything as good as Hans-Joachim Roedelius when you’re his age. The German ambient/Kosmische pioneer is 85 (yes, that’s an eight) and still making the type of wispy, twinkling passages he and his late Cluster pal Dieter Moebius perfected years before Brian Eno learned a thing or two from the pair.
ALVA NOTO — A Forest
When the lockdown gates clanked closed last month, my weakness for abstract ambient drones hit addiction levels and I couldn’t listen to anything else. That’s gradually subsided, but this new piece from Alva Noto still feels like an instant reset of serene melancholy. Yes, it’s a cover of The Cure, it’s 10 minutes long, and it’ll transport you to wherever you wanna go. And it was approved by Robert Fucking Smith.
KATE CARR — Where to Begin
Field recordist and electronic producer Kate Carr’s 40-minute “soundscape opera” I Ended Out Moving To Brixton is one of the most strangely comforting pieces of music of the past few years, finding some serenity amid the sirens, markets and blared music in the scuttling London borough.
Where to Begin is a direct flip of the Brixton piece, this time an intensely introspective 20-minute work that’s spun out and extended from a BBC commission on loneliness. Here, Carr’s ambient drones and plucked strings are punctated by glass beads hitting various surfaces and close-mic’d recordings of pen on paper, as well as fragments of people reciting love letters. It gets pretty tense when the scribble sounds get louder…
RISING DAMP — The Bank (Petrol Factory LP)
The Bank is the 20-minute tech-noir centrepiece of Michelle Doyle aka Rising Damp’s new album Petrol Factory, threaded with industrial, post-punk and No Wave paranoia. It hangs off a fawning, marble-mouthed archive RTE report on the building of the now-decomissioned Central Bank, while Doyle chants — then roars — “STEAL…CONCRETE… DIE.” It gets a right Throbbing Gristle electrocution in the second half, as if TG were desecrating a Bernard Hermann score.
tētēma — Haunted on the Uptake (Necroscape LP)
Mike Patton at his feral, writhing, squealing best on this new team-up with Melbourne avant-garde musician Anthony Pateras. Following his recent headbutt hardcore explorations with Dead Cross and the weirdo French Library music bastardisation Corpse Flower LP with composer Jean-Claude Vannier, this is on the Mr Bungle scale — a no-concession, off-grid winner.