|Image Credit: basietrane Flickr|
Cheers, as always, for sticking with me and tuning in this time. Here are five brief reviews of albums released this year that I've been listening to a lot over the last couple of weeks or so. Most of them have been released within the last couple of months, with the exception of Radiohead, which came out in May. I would have loved to have given all these full reviews, but due to work and other commitments I haven't been able to. Hopefully there'll be another one of these within the next fortnight or so. I hope you find something you enjoy here. Happy reading!
Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
XL Recordings, 10th May 2016
Just as lead-off single and album opener 'Burn The Witch' , with its dramatic strings and creeping underbelly suggested, Radiohead's 9th LP A Moon Shaped Pool finds them on haunting, remorselessly bleak and immersive ground. The album of theirs it shares most kinship with sonically is 2001's Amnesiac but in keeping with their most-lauded, rock-orientated '90s output thematically, it's the soundtrack to a keenly felt and deeply personal crisis of self in a time that seems to be drowning in existential doubt and gloom. It's their most coherent, fluid and organic album since Hail To The Thief; the wintry expansion of 'Daydreaming' blending seamlessly into the soft but propulsive apocalypse of 'Decks Dark' is a prime succession early on. Even the less beat-centric tracks ('Desert Island Disk', 'Glass Eyes') come across as more wholesome and immersive than anything on The King Of Limbs. It's a beautiful, sumptuous album for late nights alone and, more importantly, it seems like Radiohead have become exactly what we need them to be again at exactly the right time.
KA- Honor Killed The Samurai
Iron Works, 13th August 2016
In almost all of its sub-genres and idiosyncracies, Hip-Hop is an art form. Whether it be Future's codeine-drenched mumblecore or R.A. The Rugged Man's skull-duggery, all of it is designed to reflect and induce feelings, fears, and in the case of the more verbose rappers, actual proper stories. Despite what the New York Post might attempt to tell you, veteran firefighter-by-day and dark-hearted narrator-by-night KA is one of the most dextrous in the game, and Honor Killed The Samurai might be the best rap record of the year so far. Impeccably cohesive, sewn together by a thorough mining of Samurai culture, wisdom and largely beat-less, cold and beautifully sad instrumentals, Honor... is a depth-ridden transmission from bleak, ground-level New York. Taking in his stride a life brought up in poverty, a community stricken with violence, police aggression and the need for humanitarian care and hope, KA's husky delivery suits the distance and despair on offer here perfectly. A masterpiece.
Self-released, 31st July 2016
Chicago MC Fatimah Warner (formerly performing under the guise Noname Gypsy) last burst in the wider-world's attention proper via her appearance on 'Lost', a track on Chance The Rapper's 2013 break-out mixtape Acid Rap. Telefone is her debut full-length venture under her new moniker and any notion that she might be riding the tip of a commercially acclaimed wave is due to be crushed by the sense of vigour, identity and talent which seeps from the pours of this 10-track tape. Backed throughout by smooth, glistening neo-soul production and endearingly reverent features and vocal hooks, Telefone carries itself with a touch of F. Scott Fitzgerald elegance and class masking personal malcontent and depressed honesty behind the facade of wealth and stardom. Setting this layered and textured precedent, Warner meanders her way through heartfelt nostalgia ('Diddy Bop'), race relations and political anguish ('Casket Pretty') and multiple but captivating odes to vice and romance while barely pausing for breath. All of it is delivered with strident character and candid wordsmithery that ensures Warner has set the foundations for a new identity all of her own.
You can download Telefone for free HERE.
Hyperdub, 2nd September 2016
Given that he's prone to being deliberately obtuse, one wonders how much of an idea of Zomby's it was to leave listeners wanting on his new full-length, Ultra. The star-gazing but doom-laden synth loops of opener 'Reflection' hint at something approaching an odyssey, but unfortunately for the most part this record falls short. Atmospheres and loops either out-stay their welcome without much in the way of progression (the aforementioned opener, 'Fly 2') or are so short that they feel half-finished ('Burst', 'Freeze', 'Yeti') and void what impact they may have had at their respective beginnings. The unstable, light-and-dark see-saw of 'E.S.P.' is a highlight, as is the layered, grime-leaning collaboration with Darkstar, 'Quandary'. 'Sweetz', however, a collab with Burial, is disappointingly dry and dissonant to the point of lacking direction. There's a small handful of tracks with real promise here, but ultimately there's not much to sink one's teeth into.
Jute Gyte- Perdurance
Self-released, June 6th 2016
Man. It's all very well saying that that you like extreme music, or music that sets out to "challenge" you, but even baring those considerations in mind it's hard to imagine anyone with a palette strong and prepared enough for Jute Gyte's Perdurance. Definably a one-man black metal project from Missouri, the music on offer here is more akin to a sleep paralysis- induced nightmare soundtracked part by David Lynch, part by a possessed puppy. Opener 'At The Limit of Fertile Land' sets the stall out early with grinding out-of-tune guitar dissonance, fingernails-down-a-blackboard wails and forays into mindless electronic scree and ambience without ever really amounting to anything other than barbarism. There's some chunky grooves applied here and there but by the time centre-point 'Like The Woodcutter Sawing His Hands' comes around the commitment to discomfort is almost TOO exhausting to see the rest of the record out in one sitting. And none of that even approaches the utter horror of closer 'I Am in Athens and Pericles is Young'. Do I find this album commendable for its visionary ugliness? Absolutely. Will I ever listen to it again? Probably not.
You can download the record from Jute Gyte's Bandcamp on a name-your-price basis HERE.
Thanks for reading guys! Next time: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Teenage Fanclub and some more black metal, probably.