Album Club #31: Christine and the Queens, Kurt Vile, Crippled Black Phoenix, Beak> and more

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Christine and the Queens

With so many albums being released while Getintothis took a little holiday, we bring you our second round up of the month.

In the month’s first album club we talked about how autumn is a great time for albums and gigs.  So much so that we are taking the unprecedented step of having two Album Clubs in a month, just to play catch up.

As if to prove our point, the last weekend alone saw Liverpool play host to a simply huge amount of gigs. From the ultra modern pop stylings of SOPHIE, to the nostalgia of Tom Robinson or Eddie and the Hotrods, as well as Getintothis favourites The Vryll Society. This is without forgetting forgetting Jack White bringing White Stripes, Dead Weather and Raconteurs hits to the Exhibition Centre and Sheffield’s The Sherlocks packing out the O2 Academy. All in one weekend. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

And along with this we are faced with an abundance of great albums. Top of the pile comes the new album from Christine and the Queens, which is undoubtedly a modern classic that will still be exciting listeners for many years to come.

And this shows us two wonderful things about music. Firstly, all genres of music have the ability to coexist with each other. Fans can go to any combination of the gigs above, or any gigs happening anytime, and not feel like moving from one to the other is jarring or odd.

And secondly, music always has the ability to change and to come up with something wonderful and new. There are always new bands to discover, new albums to listen to and things to surprise us. We, the music fans, are blessed indeed with both choice and quality.

And so, with no further babble from us, we present another round up of the best new albums to accompany our riotous Autumn gig schedule. Salut. – Banjo



Beak>:
>>>

Invada Records/Temporary Residence

Beak> return with their first full length studio album since 2012’s >> with the aptly titled latest release >>>.

Now with a rejigged line up of Geoff Barrow, Billy Fuller and Will Young (replacing Matt Williams), the band are producing arguably their best work to date, with an undeniably added dimension to their new stuff evident in >>>.

The album is heavily, yet delightfully cinematic throughout, gritty, esoteric, evocative, and layered with sci-fi stimulated retro-electronic storytelling. If Stanley Kubrick were around today this would be his next soundtrack.

The Brazilian drags you straight in with a breaking base, there’s an added unsettling intensity in the hook, although the looping synth balances the track well. A woozy bassey prowess to get the album started.
Brean Down feels more sleek, subtle vocals with electronic sharpness, and tempo raising to crescendo are the pull here.

Working through >>>, it’s sonically intriguing in its entirety.  The album’s questionability works extremely well, each track has its own individual stamp of complexity. Allé Sauvage is a notable stand out, a complete sci-fi instrumental. Choose any futuristic film or TV series from history and this song would have been the sound for the year 2000 and beyond.

Another highlight is Abbot’s Leigh, a wall of reverb and collision, it’s cinematic perfection, you can almost see the lead star stood battered and bruised coming to the end of the films journey, before getting to the closing credits with the albums finale playing When We Fall, an edgy yet delicately written ballad, this is the band’s latest release from the LP, and like nothing else prior.  Kevin Barrett

Danny Byrd: Atomic Funk

Hospital Records

2018 has been a good year for Hospital Records, with Etherwood’s classic In Stillness album doubtless my favourite album of the year. With this and their last few releases, Hospital have made smooth, classy drum n bass their hallmark. Danny Byrd however is here to stir things up a bit.

Atomic Funk is ruffneck drum n bass for the 21st century. First track Salute features MC GQ whipping up a storm and, despite being someone who thinks Hospital’s DJ sets are generally spoiled by MCs shouting over the records I want to listen to, this has the effect of starting the album off with a rousing feel.

And, once started, this is then the general feel of the album. The music is upbeat, infectious and noisy. This isn’t to say that Byrd’s music lacks intelligence, depth or even subtlety, all of these qualities are happily present, but Atomic Funk is in your face, louder and brasher than a lot of recent Hospital releases.

Special credit goes here to the production on Atomic Funk, which is excellent throughout. Each instrument is brightly polished and turned up LOUD before being perfectly placed in the mix. The effect of this creates a record it is impossible to sit still to, which has led to some funny looks on the morning commute I don’t mind telling you.

Stand out track Just a Step Away mixes up 303 basslines, a superb vocal from Ownglow and chest rattling drum n bass subsonics to stunning effect. Devil’s Drop lives up to the album’s title, adding some slap bass lines to its nuclear grooves.

Byrd’s use of vocal samples and snippets is masterful and nods to the early days of rave and breaks. Atomic Funk is a triumph of studio wizardry, but the real skill here lies not just in combining so many elements, but in creating a whole that is coherent, effective and catchy.

In a month featuring so many great albums, Danny Byrd can hold his head up high with this classic slice of 21st Century drum n bass. Atomic Funk is superb.  Banjo

Audrey Chen: Runt Vigor 

Karl

There’s a tension between two extremes that keeps this album constantly fascinating and engaging. It is at once challenging, extreme and downright weird while simultaneously managing to be so familiar and mundane as to be almost comforting.

The focus of all four tracks is on the voice – solo on tracks 1 and 2 with cello providing drones and pizzicato on 3 and 4. But this is not singing or speaking in any traditional sense, these are the sounds of the human voice between the words, between the notes: the primordial sound of the body in action. Sounds we all know, that we hear every day going on in our own heads but in a context and arrangement that forces us to hear them completely differently – lending the music a powerfully emotive quality.

This is not completely uncharted territory – think Diamanda Galas, Phil Minton or even Giacinto Scelsi, but Chen has taken another step and managed to achieve what only the best music of this type can do: opening up your perception of the soundworld you inhabit (and in this case generate) to hear it as music, and expressive music too.

Despite the extended and inherent vocabularies of the voice and cello with the help of sparse analogue electronic treatment, the result is strangely harmonious, particularly towards the end of the album as Chen reaches for a singularity of voice and cello and evokes super)natural environments and primeval ritual.  Jono Podmore

Christine and the Queens: Chris

Because Music

In a world where every album release seemingly comes with a back story or contrived concept it’s refreshing to focus purely on the music.

We could focus on gender, sexuality or various other themes connected with Héloïse Letissier aka Christine and the Queens‘ second album – but to be quite frank, it doesn’t matter. The quality of the music and the way it is delivered overshadows all by virtue of being quite simply one of the best pop albums we’ve ever heard.

Sound over the top? Perhaps. But we’re pretty sure Chris is the kind of album we’ll be playing in ten years time. And ten years after that. It’s of a similar calibre to Hounds of Love, from 1979, Like A Prayer, and Back To Black from 1999.

And like these albums it’s hugely concerned with sex, identity and delivered by a commanding lead singer.

Of course, Christine showed glimpses of this on her debut eponymous record Chaleur Humaine. Released in 2014 and subsequently re-released in 2016, the album blended minimal funk, steely rhythms, her native French dialogue and English twinned with at times flashes of superlative dance-floor filling, radio-smashing pop music.

Break out single Tilted being the best. Aligned to her incredible Michael Jackson styled dance choreography, here was a star who had it all. We were lucky to catch her in the Kazimier Garden for Sound City among just 40 stunned onlookers as she blitzed a 30 minute set amid the wood chipped floor on a mild May evening dressed in a brown suit laced with gold leaf performing like she was playing to a packed house in Madison Square Garden.

Push forward to 2018, and she’s shed ‘the Queens’ element and almost Camille-era Prince-like remolded herself as Chris while upping the ante considerably in the music department. From the kick off Chris is a relentless conveyor belt of classics in waiting.

Comme Si opens with what sounds like a door unlocking and a radiating dazzle giving way to some kind of grand unveiling – it’s exactly what it is – a start to something magnificent; an unravelling of a magnetic body-crunching electro-pop. It’s a thrilling opening akin to Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. ‘Focus on my voice’ she coos before emitting ‘uh-huhs’ and vocal rasps; a motif she uses repeatedly provocatively teasing throughout.

Similarly to her debut, Chris is an expert at minimalism yielding maximum results and that’s evident in lead single Girlfriend – as a robotic funk gyrates in tandem with naughty synths and a cool-as-fuck cameo by Dâm-Funk. The trick is repeated on a brace of tracks – Feel So Good and Goya Soda which are so ridiculously groove-laden you can’t help but body-pop in time with it’s chrome-like funk.

Yet, Chris is far from a one-trick pony. It’s very often in the slower, richer tracks that Letissier holds most power. 5 dollars is reminiscent of Madonna‘s Dear Jessie a twinkling lullaby with a faerytale vibe which rushes you off you feet with the ever-marching piano stamp and multi-tracked vocal.

Better still is break-up ballad Make Some Sense – again she strips everything back, with barely any instrumentation, a drum pad here, a synth there and a bristlingly tender vocal which is full of yearning and sadness. Best of all – and surely a single in waiting – is The Walker. A song this writer has played more than any other this year. A stark tear-jerker that’ll have you singing your heart out.

Much credit must also go to co-producer Cole M.G.N. (Beck, Anderson.Paak, Ariel Pink) for helping craft such a taut and tightly molded pop classic which allows Chris to imbue with so much passionate outpouring not least on Doesn’t Matter which quietly builds into some mid-track crescendo as she sings of stinging nettles and hands on her thighs before exploding into some kind of orgasmic splurge of strident emotion.

Blending filth with tenderness, powerful masculinity with sensual femininity and deft imagery with magnificent music Chris is without doubt one of contemporary pop’s greatest talents – and Chris is her defining statement yet.  Peter Guy

Crippled Black Phoenix: Great Escape

Season of Mist

With the revolving door of band members seemingly incessant, it was getting to a stage where you thought that Crippled Black Phoenix would be best served drawing the curtains. However, some bands prosper when the chips are down, and with their music fully immersed in the current political climate, Great Escape sees the band blow out the cobwebs and produce their finest album in years.

Since the departure of CPB’s initial frontman, Joe Volk, in truth things have plateaued and have been underwhelming for the most part. Volk’s eventual replacement, Daniel Änghede (who followed John E. Vistic’s brief appearance in the band) possesses a similar vocal range, but apart from fleeting moments, has failed to capture the imagination of the band’s earlier incarnations.

Until now. Änghede’s performance on Great Escape is his moment and sees CPB return to those end-time ballads which made their first two albums, A Love of Shared Disasters and 200 Tons of Bad Luck, such a defining period for the band.

The thinly veiled spoken word denunciation during You Brought It Upon Yourselves sets the tone for Great Escape and from there, the album is filled with drawn-out rockers that amalgamate post-rock, psychedelia and ‘70s hard-rock.

Slow Motion Music is a downright post-rock banger with renewed dynamism. This is a band that feels like they’re back to their best and as a listener who adored their early works, this track does nothing but place a smile across the chops.

Belinda Kordic’s introduction has given the band a new dimension, too. Tracks like Nebulas and Great Escape (Pt I) fit perfectly into the dark forlorn lost-at-sea world that Crippled Black Phoenix have created since their inception.

The album ends with Great Escape (Pt I) and Great Escape (Pt II) and if both tracks don’t reduce you to tears then I’m afraid you’re dead inside. It’s fitting that Justin Greaves, the band’s constant flame, has the last say on this album. His floating ‘Floyd-esque riffs conclude the album in striking, cinematic fashion.

Quite simply, Crippled Black Phoenix have defied the odds with Great Escape. It’s great to have them back.  Simon Kirk

The Declining Winter: Belmont Slope

Home Assembly

With Autumn in full swing, it’s timely that Richard Adams (Hood) returns with his latest instalment under The Declining Winter moniker. 2015’s Home for Lost Souls was arguably Adams’ finest album under this project, but Belmont Slope runs it very close.

Slightly more condensed in time, the nine tracks are a stripped back and from the first note of My Divided World, you know you’re in the world of The Declining Winter and their lovely representation of rural psychedelia.

While The Declining Winter can sometimes be found guilty of writing the same song numerous times, we’re not talking about Jason Pierce here. During Belmont Slope, there are some distinct variations. Adams uses heavy leanings of electronica throughout, namely during Twilight Rating and the creeping laments of Still Harbour Hope. It’s something many would have associated Adams with during his days in Hood, but it’s a welcome inclusion here.

The Declining Winter are what you would call a nice band. But it’s not in a way like supporting Tottenham Hotspur, or indulging in kale smoothies. It’s a good nice. In many ways, they are the sound of the Trans Pennines and Belmont Slope offers further evidence of that. Simon Kirk

Fliptrix: Inexhale

High Focus Records

Fliptrix never stops. After his stellar outing as one quarter of The Four Owls, and amidst managing his label, UK hip-hop flagship High Focus, he released a solo album earlier this year.

Inexhale is chock full of familiar voices, like the stunning technical delivery of Ocean Wisdom and star grime MC Jammz. Along with Fliptrix, they ensure that the instrumentals are bursting with bars. It’s an album for rap diehards, that’s for sure; despite the name of the album, the beats barely have room to breathe. Instead, Fliptrix energetic flow spits out poetic lyrics detailing aspirations, motivation, elevation and meditation.

Some tracks are absolute killers: the boom-bap of Inhale is gripping, hooking listeners from the moment the Chemo-produced beat kicks the album’s door down. Fliptrix duly proceeds to ‘crush you like a bear-hug’ and Coops’ verse doesn’t let down either.

Other songs, especially towards the album’s final Exhale, are reflective and enlightening. There’s the gorgeous instrumental backdrop of Locked Down and the magical Flying, which comes complete with a sweetly-sang chorus from Carmody.

Then there’s the most unorthodox track of the album, Catch Banter, which replaces the rapper’s usual fare for a beat that feels more suited to the dancefloor. Produced by Molotov, it’s the perfect setting for linking up UK hip-hop and grime in one place – when Fliptrix finishes his verse and Jammz jumps in, it feels entirely natural.

So there’s a respectable amount of variation here: bangers, relaxing introspective verses, interesting features… while some tracks do begin to sound slightly samey, there are more than enough cerebral lyrics to let your mind chew on. Albums like this, as well as those from Fliptrix’ labelmates, might just help UK hip-hop achieve the cultural significance that grime has. The talent is certainly there. Dominic Finlay

Lonnie HolleyMITH

Jagjaguwar

It feels everywhere you turn at the minute you’re hearing new, politically channelled, or protest music. In the UK it’s now entirely common for large numbers of younger bands and artists to release songs, or even full albums dedicated to the sub-genre, evidently typifying the current political climate.

But when a 68 year old artist, sculpture, and experimental musician from Birmingham, Alabama has something to say on the topic it makes you sit up and take note. Released on Jagjaguwar, it’s the third album from Lonnie Holley, a somewhat late-comer to releasing music, his two previous LPs were only delivered in 2012 and 2013.

The making of MITH has been a prolonged simmer for the artist, recordings spanning over the past 5 years, and recorded in various locations across the globe. The wait has been most definitely worth it.  Only 10 songs in full, although racking up a lengthy 1 hour 17 minutes, it’s is a rollercoaster of emotion; inspirationally heartbreaking, joyfully optimistic, deeply haunting and equivocally wonderful.

The voice is raw, gravel filed tones are filled with poetic realism, backed by evocative piano playing, delicate percussion, and big woozy trombones, it’s unconventional jazz-rock that works extremely well. Musical comparisons can be made to Anohni or Benjamin Clementine, but influencers lean more toward Bob Dylan or Gill Scott Heron.

Holley is using this stage to purvey a powerful message, subjects covered in the album are as important as any that Holley would have encountered throughout his own long and extraordinarily  colourful lifetime.

The Black Lives Matter movement is the reference within the album’s opener I’m a Suspect, Standing Rock is accentuated in Copying the Rock, while the highlight of the record is the brilliant I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America, a true to life account of the country’s current ills and turbulence.  Kevin Barrett

Mogwai: Kin

Temporary Residence Limited

You don’t have to wait long for new Mogwai music.

Less than a year after their (possibly career-best) album Every Country’s Sun and they’re back, with the soundtrack to sci-fi action movie Kin. Anyone who followed their work on Les Revenants and Atomic will know that the distortion is turned down on these occasions, and that mood takes precedence over volume. One result is the intriguing Funeral Pyre, which channels Stars of the Lid and the ‘Gwai’s own Music for a Forgotten Future score. It’s a moving and elagic foray into ambience that’s over far too quickly.

Single Donuts comes closest to their studio album work, with shimmering, hymnal delay over arpeggiating piano notes. Title track Kin starts with a typical minor-key scorched-earth prelude before Barry Burns’ piano kicks in to introduce a hovering, prowling grind through decimated cityscapes. This builds in tempo and urgency, and seems the track most likely to develop into a burnt-eyebrows wig-out in the hands of a fully armed and operational Mogwai.

There are a few moments where the influence of John Carpenter comes to the fore, not least on the popping synths of Flee. Scrap is a nicely downbeat dirge with some unsettling atonal moments that the Master of Horror himself would be proud of. The album ends with We’re Not Done, a track more anthemic than usual from the Glaswegians, and one in which their love of The Cure is apparent.

There are few surprises here, in what is overall a fairly standard – if solid – record. One would have liked more of the experimentation of the Earth Division EP, or some of the electronics of Rave Tapes. But if you want to feel like a drunk, depressed Batman on your journey into work then look no further.  Matthew Eland

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sobrenadar
y

Sonic Cathedral

Does the album review matter anymore?‘ came the cry from one dope recently.

Unequivocally ‘yes‘, we replied. Where would we be without tips, trusted sources and more importantly writers who imbue a sense of passion, humour and intelligence into another art form and lead us into a sonic wonderland through their prose. Getting people to write reviews, is however, a trial and a half. And even harder for those putting out music in these days of overkill and an oceanic, never ending wave of music. How frustrating it must be though for a record label – and indeed the artist to see criticism diminishing. How to be heard is the hardest battle of all.

This month we saw Sonic Cathedral boss Nathaniel Cramp bemoaning the fact that Argentinian songwriter and producer Sobrenadar had barely received a review for her new album. It’s a crying shame for like contemporary independent labels Rocket Recordings or Ghostly InternationalSonic Cathedral have a coherent and hugely dependable output and are loyal to both writers and fans alike.

Which brings us on to Sobrenadar – or Paula Garcia to her mates – and her quite stunning album y. We happened upon this album two months ago when a promo landed on our doormat; and it has barely been off rotation since. The reason is simple – it’s a beautiful, comforting aural blanket of a record ideal for late nights and easing off into dreamland. That’s not to say it’s a background album – far from it, we’ve found ourselves listening intently and just lying back at it’s glorious textures and her bewitching vocal.

It’s a futile task dissecting each track as it works as a perfect whole from opener Inhabil (which would work perfectly as an end credits piece for Twin Peaks The Return) through to Del Tiempo‘s finger-picked guitar ambience rush and the Cocteau Twins-esque finale of Habita. Imagine College jamming Grouper and you’re not too far off.

A stunning album – and one that deserves not just to be written about – but heard by many. – Peter Guy

Therapy?  Cleave

Marshall Records

According to the band’s website Therapy? have been helping the afflicted since 1990. It’s a dubious claim, but whatever they do they carry on doing it with the same intensity they delivered all the way back to first album, Babyteeth.

Cleave is the band’s 15th full length studio release and provides an updated and fully 2018 compliant version of their classic punk sound. In Kakistocracy Andy Cairns bellows ‘It’s OK not to be OK, It’s OK not to be OK’, clearly referencing his own demons as well as a more modern discussion that’s being had in some places about mental health generally. Indeed, on Callow, he directly references his demons calling them ‘My angels too’

This is otherwise classic Therapy? though. We don’t think they’ll win any new fans or alienate old ones with this release.

First track Wreck It Like Beckett, issued as a single before the album was released, is Cairns at his most charged, as he almost spits out the chorus laced with a venom only he can administer.

The 10 songs come in quick succession and after 33 minutes it’s all over. This seems to be a recent thing – it’s by no means the only time we’ve reviewed albums deciding it’s all over at around the half an hour mark, but Cleave is no less a beast for that.

In some ways that’s a good thing – short, sharp and punching right where it hurts. Long may Cairns burn the Therapy? flame, especially when he brings it up to date as he has succeeded in doing here. Peter Goodbody


Kurt Vile: Bottle It In

Matador

Kurt Vile comes across as your stereotypical slacker but that’s far from the truth, over the past ten years he’s released eight albums not including his work with The War On Drugs and last year’s collaboration with Courtney Barnett.

Kurt doesn’t seem to be one rushing through life and with his latest album Bottle It In clocking in at nearly an hour and a half neither should you. The album unravels like a drug-fogged story that goes around the houses and ultimately ends up being not about much, but that’s the beauty of it.

Opener, Loading Zones sees us take a tour of Kurt’s Philadelphia while he parks in the aforementioned loading zones to do his daily rounds and imagines becoming mayor and making them ‘all free by mayoral degree’.

One Trick Ponies has guitars bouncing along while Kurt recalls all the people in his life that have come, gone and the ones that are still around, some of them are ‘weird as hell’ while others ‘are one trick ponies.’

Mutinies provides the album with a quiet moment of reflection where Kurt murmurs over a finger-picked guitar and background distortion about trying to silence the voices in your head (the background distortion is provided by Kim Gordon, just one of a number of guest musicians on the record).

Bottle It In features three songs that clock in near to ten minutes and while these can at times feel too drawn out they do allow Kurt to do what he does best. Bassackwards, the best of the three long pieces is a loopy, psych-folk piece that recalls a radio interview while under the influence, title track Bottle It In see Kurt lose focus and in Skinny Mini we get some blown out grizzly guitar solos after a quiet slow build.

Kurt Vile’s Bottle It In is an album to savor and sip, not downed in one and those that do will be rewarded for it. Michael Maloney

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