Albums Club #37: Clinic, Sunn O))), Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, Jackie Cohen, Erland Cooper and more

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Sunn 0))) are back with an album which will blow you away, there’s new stuff by Clinic and tales from the sea with Erland Cooper as Getintothis writers pick the best of the month’s albums.

Festival season 2019 is well and truly underway.  At the time of writing, Bearded Theory, We Are FSTVL, Creamfields Steel Yard, Neighbourhood Weekender and the Radio 1 Big Weekend are all underway and a sizeable part of the Getintothis team are currently packing for Primavera Sound.  By the time we run our next Albums Club, Glastonbury will have been and gone.

A good festival can be a memorable, totally enjoyable and even life changing thing.  There is something very special about being outdoors with friends, having a selection of bands, DJs and performance artists to entertain you that a mere gig can’t match up to.

Festivals can also be a complete escape from the realities of life.  Problems are left at home to be picked back up later and we can focus on an a hedonistic, stress free escape from everything for a few days.

There is, unfortunately, a flip side to all this.  Reports are coming in about huge queues and long waits to get into We Are FSTVL, with people being forced to queue for hours in the sun amid news of poor organisation and lack of appropriate resouirces at the festival’s entrance points.

There have been reports of people collapsing or vomitting due to dehydration and exhaustion and footage of people being stretchered away have appeared on Twitter.  More seriously, there have also been reports of crushes and people being trampled.

With Festivals becoming more and more popular, we need organisers to be able to cope with demand and to guarantee the safety of those attending as much as they possibly can.  We Are FSTVL seem to have fallen at the first hurdle, with serious issues arising before people have even got past the entrance gates.

The festival’s organisers have offered their ‘sincere apologies‘ to those who were caught up in the problems and added that they will be adding additional staff and resources for the event’s second day which, to these ears, sounds like too little too late.

Thankfully, this type of thing is rare and our festivals are usually safe and well organised.  Our advice would be go and enjoy yourselves.  But take supplies of water and the like and prepare for some delay on the way in.  It may take time but you will get in, so there’s no need to put yourselves or others at risk.

Stay safe out there.

Album of the Month

Sunn O))) : Life Metal
Southern Lord

Sunn O))) have always been an elusive proposition to me. Whilst I could appreciate what eternal amplifier worshippers Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley were doing, it still felt as if idealism outweighed the end product. After all, they say it’s the idealism that kills you.

Then, along came Life Metal...

The album’s cover art was the first thing that deeply resonated with me. Samantha Keely Smith‘s artwork (which is one of four paintings which comprises Life Metal) is ingrained in romanticism and abstract expressionism. As soon as I laid eyes on it, I knew Life Metal would be one of those game changing albums. It’s an inexplicable circumstance with music when this happens – sometimes it just works that way.

From the canvass to the turntable platter and Life Metal begins with Between Sleipnir’s Breaths. We are greeted with a whining horse that sounds like it’s fearfully marauding from an impending apocalypse. From there, we are met with the Sunn O))) treatment.

An array of humid drones that swell, explode and singe the hairs from head to toe. The track’s behemoth masculinity is expertly offset by Hildur Guðnadóttir‘s haunting meditative vocals. It’s a striking clash of ideas.

Troubled Air follows and is equally beguiling. The varying textures in tone and frequency make the listening experience between sound system and headphones polar-opposite. It’s loud, bruising and scarring to the ears.

Sunn O))) seem to ease the tension during the second half of Life Metal. Aurora showcases a slow motion whirring ambience with flickering feedback and low-end trailblazing roars. Not as overtly aggressive as the two tracks it follows, Aurora possesses a mysterious slow burning quality and in time, could well be Life Metal‘s finest moment.

The longest track on the album at just over twenty-five minutes, Novae leads us to the end of Life Metal and what a captivating way to culminate this offering of sonic mutiny. Novae begins with Sunn O))) threatening to break the shackles and become a conventional rock band (believe it or not).

The balance of tone fluctuates to the point where you almost succumb to vertigo. Gradually, it disappears into a smouldering atmosphere, an ambience enveloping into a hush and gentle string sections that can be picked up with careful listening. It ends in hell-fire with an onslaught of drones for the last two minutes. Sunn O))) could only end it this way.

With Life Metal, I’ve never come across an album that has such a contrasting listening effect through the medium of choice. Through stereo and headphones, Life Metal reveals that it is an unprecedented split personality.

In Life Metal‘s physical presentation, turned up loud, the noise serenely reaches every corner of the room. It’s a cathartic experience of flickering feedback and loud/quiet torrents of sound. That’s Steve Albini‘s trademark recording techniques. It’s the best recording performance that Albini has given us in quite some time.

With headphones, things couldn’t be more different. The experience equates to be dragged to the gates of hell. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting, making your mind crumble as you are faced with a rolling maelstrom of drone storms. It’s core shuddering. The eye watering tones make you realise that with Life Metal, well, this is living!

It’s an album that will have you crying tears of joy into your pint glass, ultimately forming the holy water of a new religion dubbed Life Metal.

Because this is life and, yes, this is metal and in 2019, there won’t be a more immersive listening experience than this.- Simon Kirk.



Clinic: Wheeltappers and Shunters
Domino

Clinic, Liverpool’s fave fake surgeons are back with their first release in seven years. The title being a reference to the Bernard Manning compered variety show that aired on ITV in the 1970s. That the name of both the show (and, thus the album) and it’s sexist, racist, figurehead get the eyes rolling and heads twitching, if not more, is deliberate.

The band describes the album as “a satirical take on British culture – both high and low”. Clinic spokesperson, Ade Blackburn says: “It fascinates me that people look back on the 1970s as the glory days. It’s emerged that there was a darker, more perverse side to that time. When you look back on it now it was quite clearly there in mainstream culture.”

The Great Britain that Clinic are evoking is not that ancient, bucolic past of village green cricket, half a mild and hanky-waving Morris Dancers that many seem so determined to think the country should return to, but a rather more sleazy past.

Clinic’s reverie is for a time when Blackpool was the pleasure capital of the kingdom and the public was kept entertained by travelling circuses and the dirty glamour of the funfair; tacky end of the pier merriment and enforced fun at Butlins; when bell-ringing town criers bellowed their nonsensical broadsides into the ether.

It’s a short album, running to about 30 minutes, but it has Clinic absolutely bang on form. They twist and turn, tease and surprise.

And there’s no way they’re going anywhere near my appendix, even if it’s screaming in pain. – Peter Goodbody

 

Jackie Cohen: Zagg
Spacebomb Records

Zagg is a set of perfect pop songs with blurred edges, animated with dark wit and filled with seductive hooks. Emotions are dialled up to strange neon levels on Jackie Cohen’s compositions, creating an overlit landscape of angst, hope and loss. Quirky swerves await the listener in the next offbeat lyric.

There’s a lot of variety on show in this infectious record Opener FMK (first line: ‘I still dream about your mother’) morphs from singer-songwriter reflection into absurdly innocent power-pop stomper.

Chico Chico is a bright and joyful summer odyssey (with a smile-inducing one-shot video.) Get Out is towering electropop with a foreboding feel. The propulsive Keep Runner.is wilfully undercut with electronic blitzing from the sidelines.

The overall feel is lush, vintage poppiness twisted into an expression of Cohen’s distinctive vision as she takes ‘my first real, intentional, nearly unabashed step toward being myself confidently out in the world.’

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The album comes wreathed in zany, unreliable legends. Zagg is one of Jackie Cohen’s various nicknames, something to do with Jack Kerouac. Cohen gave up a job distributing sausage samples in the mall for this (marketing’s loss is our gain). The X-Files played silently throughout the recording sessions. Everyone involved got flu.

Cohen claims to to be ‘in cahoots with the Avengers of record-making’ which may be a slight overclaim, though the team of co-producers Jonathan Rado (Foxygen) and Matthew E. White (the Spacebomb House Band), and arranger Trey Pollard certainly qualify for Defenders-level superteam status.  – Roy Bayfield

Deadbeat and Camara: Trinity Thirty
Constellation Records

There’s a moment after sunrise that this writer has taken to running. It’s a beautiful feeling hearing little but the waking of birdsong and the low rumble of a town switching gear.

This calm is echoed in another sensory experience we’ve taken to during the last few months, the new album by Berlin-based producers Scott Monteith (Deadbeat) and Fatima Camara – a record which mirrors the soothing rush of running alone with little distraction but your own thoughts. It has been our comfort blanket both during early mornings and deep into the night.

The backstory is simple: a thirty year anniversary tribute to The Cowboy Junkies’ album The Trinity Session. Yet this writer hadn’t heard the original (considered an unlikely classic in many quarters) – and so unfolded a listen which rather than come at it with comparisons, we felt entirely fresh and unprepared.

And what a listen. The duo fuse somnambulant drones with subtle yet profoundly deep electric pulses paired to the duo’s melancholic harmonies.

The results are quasi-religious cowboy gospel love songs which are quite magnificent. Much of the beauty is found in the cracks, spaces and silence but every so often a peak will occur which is both disarming and highly arresting.

Take the vocal refrains which pierce through the gurgling backbeat of Blue Moon, the sitar-like drone in Working On A Building or the minimal dub stomp of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry which threatens to dissolve into dirt at any point before ghostly church organs phantom their way through the mix.

Much like Grouper, Low or passages of Julia Holter, Trinity Thirty is not an easy listen – especially given the profound quiet that shimmers throughout – for this is a record to bask in and let it ease its way into your psyche. However, where it differs from those mentioned above, is in its rich warmth – despite the often bleak subject matter – these are songs bathed in an iridescent glow and spine tingling aural hug. None more so than when vocalist Caoimhe McAlister joins the woozy party on the languid waltz of 200 More Miles which is simply stunning.

The only misstep is the closing Sweet Jane which can’t help feel like a lumpy pastiche of the original, however, this is a minor point on an album dripping with so much soul and evocative emotion it’s barely shifted from the jukebox. We should really listen to the original. – Peter Guy

Dommengang: No Keys
Thrill Jockey

Dommengang is guitarist Dan ‘Sig’ Wilson, bass guitar/vocalist Brian Markham and drummer Adam Bulgasem and together they are one of the most under the radar riff overlords on the planet.

Their third album for Thrill Jockey, No Keys is the follow up to 2018’s Love Jail and the superlative krautrock infused desert punk blues of debut Everybody’s Boogie, and finds the trio leaving their native Brooklyn and aptly decamping to L.A.

The result is a stark, sinister, sometimes sleek and often supercharged record bountiful in pummelling riffs and cavernous percussive thunder. The mountainous cacophony of Earth Blues and the wah-heavy Wild Wash sets the tone as nine tracks bludgeon the senses with fans of Black Mountain, Kyuss, All Them Witches and Dead Meadow in for a feasting.

Yet it’s when the band take their foot off the accelerator and allow their Kosmiche influences ride to the fore that proceedings become even more thrilling. See Arcularius – Burke a meandering six-minute road trip drenched in acid washed out stoner blues. It’s bloody fantastic.

Elsewhere, Kudzu sounds like the bastard offspring of a White Denim jam; all duelling guitars and frenetic rhythms while closer Happy Death (Her Blues II) lives up to its name with widescreen whisky-soaked rock and roll climaxing in a face-melting crescendo.

While Dommengang are hardly reinventing the psych-rock wheel they take you on one hell of a ride that few right now can equal. – Peter Guy

Erland Cooper: Sule Skerry
Phases

It sounds like a dream.

Or the music you recall when waking from a dream. That half-asleep/half-awake feeling. Like twilight in reverse.

The second solo album from Erland Cooper, follows on the heels of 2018’s Solan Goose (a record which rightly made it into Getintothis’ Albums of the Year) and similarly evokes the spirit of his native Orkney.

The opening track, Haar, sets up the tone perfectly. A four-minute simple piano motif with gently undulating strings ebbing and flowing is underpinned with wordless vocals. Cooper melds these three seemingly simple elements into something more than the sum of their parts. It’s gentle and delicate and speaks of a different world; a world far, far away.

Because Sule Skerry is about a different world.

Orkney is as far removed from the chaos and frenetic activity of the city life most of us are immersed in as it’s possible to imagine.

This is where the difference lies. This is the strange otherness of a different world. Orkney may seem “part of us”; whatever that means or implies, yet it’s as removed from our everyday reference points that it could be thousands of miles away.

Things are different there.

And that’s what shines through on Sule Skerry. The difference. A different pace and a different meaning. An existence which looks at things in a different way.

Cooper uses field recordings, sounds of distant thunder, the wind and the waves. A sense of the sea.

Woven in between the tracks are spoken word memories of old tales, stories that have passed down through generation of Orcadians and that mean something. But those aren’t used for mere concept album effect and just to evoke a sense of the exotic and different. Cooper uses them with purpose and reverence.

There’s electronic keyboards fading into the sound of whirling seagulls on First of the Tide and that element alone is enough to transport you to a place you never been- or maybe you have and you can’t quite recall. There’s something rather sub-conscious buried deep within this whole album. Memories that we didn’t know we had or memories that’ve just lost along the way.

This is not a wholly instrumental album however, no collection of ambient warblings strung together for 45 minutes or so.

There are haunting and tender vocals from Astra Forward on the title track, with strings and that repeated piano motif from Haar turned around and inside out, spun about with some sort of random knowingness that we can’t quite fathom out yet.

This title track ends the album and when you hear it whether for the first time, or like this writer, many times already, time slips away. Time becomes different. The track and the album end and you need to sit in silence for a few minutes. You need to let that dream music fade slowly away, like mist over the sea. – Rick Leach

 

Haelos: Any Random Kindness
Infectious Music

Haelos return with their second LP, following 2016’s debut Full Circle. With a revamped and expanded line up, the trio of, Arthur Delaney, Lotti Benardout and Dom Goldsmith have now been joined by guitarist Daniel Vildósola.

This London formed band’s sound can be pegged as somewhere loosely between electronic escapism towards European underground.

The albums opening track Another Universe is a exactly what it states on the sleeve, a soothing wrap of hauntingly subspace tones transports the listener straight into orbit offering a resonant segue from where Full Circle left off.

It’s only on End of World Party where the added dynamism is evident in the sound, Bernardout displaying her impressive vocal range and prowess, although heavy production does feel a touch overbearing against the harmonies at times.

Single release Kyoto is one of the albums highlights, it’s unashamedly summer pop, with rousing piano sections clashing with 90’s style synths, and a lot more undemanding than some of the albums more conceptual tracks

ARK ebbs and flows from cosmic lullaby through to Balearic sunrise, whilst Boy Girl drops to Lo-Fi with a Trip-Hop core maintaining Haelos’ individuality.

From the start, Any Random Kindness is clearly a risk for the band with regards to pushing diversity in their sound and is certainly more adventures than Full Circle. But will it break down boundaries in gaining a whole new audience? Probably unlikely, but it will definitely strengthen their central fan base.

In keeping with the variety in diversity, final track Last One Out (Turn the Lights Off) is a complete curveball to all previous work. Delaney’s vocals take centre stage in an all out folk-pop infused apocalyptic narrative over washed out synths. The vocal lead is the driver in the track which inherits it’s roots straight out of the pages of a Nick Drake textbook. – Kev Barrett

HVOB: Rocco
[PIAS]

Key facts. HVOB are Anna Müller and Paul Wallner. HVOB were formed in Vienna. HVOB have released four albums, their latest being Rocco. HVOB have just released their finest album to date. Critically, it feels as if HVOB‘s music is like a kite in a hurricane. There’s far too many deaf ears in HVOB‘s vicinity and to this writer it’s a crying shame.

With Rocco, HVOB provides us with a rainbow coalition of hypotonic electronica and classical music. It’s an album that possesses a mixture of blissful strung out dirges for pitch-black bedrooms and bass driven warehouse bangers (look no further than Butter). Although contrasting, the two styles seamlessly cross-pollinate.

There’s traces of Jon Hopkins (Eraser, Zinc), The Field (Bloom), Blondes (Butter), and Nils Frahm (Kante).  The beautiful Panama even touches on the tender fringes of trip-hop.

By comparing is not short-changing HVOB or making the accusation that Rocco is a tribute album. Think of it as a one stop shop more like Harrods and less like Home Bargains. Should you avoid this musical odyssey then you would be committing some form of artistic abandonment. You have been warned…

While sonically, HVOB reach for electronic music’s modern day touchstones, Müller‘s lyrics are what separates this collective from the rest of their contemporaries. Her ability to conjure up downright heart melters is something to behold.

Two of the finest moments come within the first two tracks. From 2nd World:  “With your hand/You kept the real world outside/I hear you and you hear me/Through the songs/We cannot be/I draw a way out of this mess/And it leads Into a second world/A second world/A world where you are free”

Then there’s the lust fuelled Eraser:  “I have to erase/To know how it feels/It’s killing my skin/Everything in between/I have to erase/To know how you taste/I have to erase/The look of your face.”

Tender lyrics matched with fist pumping beats connect, making HVOB the architects for sunset dance music engineered for lush green fields, chemical refreshment consumption and euphoric escapism.

After the mesmerising Trialog from 2015, it was difficult to see how HVOB would exceed its excellence. It’s four years, but with Rocco they’ve done just that.

Don’t let the album’s length put you off. The troughs are non-existent, making this journey all the more remarkable. – Simon Kirk

La Dispute: Panorama
Epitaph

Sensational Michigan hardcore rock outfit La Dispute have returned with a fourth LP titled Panorama.

This LP is a solid selection of ten tracks, including the singles Fulton Street I and Footsteps at the Pond, all of which are delivered with the signature intensity and aggression of the group. Panorama sees La Dispute at their absolute finest, with poignant lyrics fusing with carefully considered instrumental backings to craft an eery soundscape throughout the album, taking listeners on a journey in a fashion almost reminiscent of a work of storytelling.

Fulton Street I sees the album start on a strong note, with swelling and fading instrumentals complimenting the superb spoken/shouted lyrics of Jordan Dreyer in a gorgeous track delivered with a real sense of feeling and emotion. Everything in this track feels like it arrives exactly as needed, with the group displaying an extraordinarily intuitive sense of timbral awareness.

Elsewhere in the album, tracks such as Rhodonite and Grief transport the listener to entirely different places, with other more laid back tracks, such as In Northern Michigan mingling with more energetic tracks including Anxiety Panorama with impeccable ease.

As much as it sounds cliched, Panorama as an album really is a sonic journey. Every track carries a different timbre, which blend together with such ease to create an album that really is a cohesive work rather than a collection of unrelated tracks.

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Neither the lyrical material or the musical content of the album is particularly stronger than the other, remaining a true testament to the inimitable chemistry displayed by La Dispute, with each element complimenting each other beautifully.

Panorama really is a superb album, showing that even after a five-year gap from their last LP, La Dispute haven’t even broken their stride. – Max Richardson

LP: Heart to Mouth
Vagrant Records

The voice of bold New Yorker Laura Pergolizzi, otherwise known as LP, is one that cant be shaken off in a hurry. A husky, delicate tone that quickly transcends into a haunting, spine-tingling yodel before you have a chance to notice how good it sounds.

It’s a voice that resonated its way through years of hard work and label-dropping and swapping when the 2015 hit single Lost On You went platinum, topping the charts of thirteen countries including Russia, Poland, Greece and Italy.

After settling with Vagrant Records in 2018, her fifth studio album Heart To Mouth is everything there is to love about LP in one hypnotic, badass power-record.

Opener Dreamcatcher tempts its listeners with slow building acoustics before unleashing those signature, spine-tingling LP cries mid track giving us a glimpse of whats to come.

The album impresses its listeners by swiftly moving through an abundance of emotions. Aptly titled Heart To Mouth, Pergolizzi explains, “When I get on the mic I can feel that direct line from my heart to my mouth.” And we can feel it too with her haunting vocals in The Power putting her alongside big time vocalists such as Florence Welch, Annie Lennox and her own personal influence, Stevie Nicks.

Girls Go Wild, the albums debut single release opens with all the glistening synth qualities of a modern day indie-pop record with just enough funk rooted into the bass complimenting LP’s laid-back vocals. The conversational vocal style used in the verses is a trademark LP move, cleverly used to introduce her ultra-pop, power chorus, a skill which has led to work on projects with big-time pop names such as Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and Cher.

Recovery reflects a more personal side to LP. The celebrated lyricist describes the ballad as the experience of ‘letting yourself heal’ after a break-up. Her wistful tones are complimented by wailing, eerie soundscapes created using a kaleidoscope of synths and vocals.

Keeping up with LP’s impressive vocal range is a wide spectrum of genres from the whistle-led, African drum beats of House on Fire to the 90’s rock driven, full of attitude Special, the albums closing track.

Have a listen for yourself then try and get these songs out of your head, I dare you. – Naomi Campbell

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets: And Now For The Whatchamacallit
Marathon Artists

With a name your mum would sneer at and a sound which would make her confused,  Perth’s Psychedelic Porn Crumpets return with their third album And Now For The Whatchamacallit via Marathon Artists.

The band have been developing their own sound after the acclaimed first two releases High Visceral Part 1 & 2 saw them become one of psych’s most exciting new acts. Known for big riffs, big sounds and even bigger live performances the Aussie lads nearly blew the roof off the Shipping Forecast in May.

The band says the hedonism of touring the world and being immersed in music has influenced the new album through “large nights out, larger characters, drunken recollections of foreign cities and rabbit hole-ing into insanity.”

Keen For Kick Ons aptly kicks it off with dancefloor bass riff to with a rhythm that instantly goes through you and makes you want to dance. A really Heebies basement psych dance floor anthem. The lead single Bills Mandolin is an ode to the mandolin given to the band by lead vocalist Jack McEwan’s grandfather and has seen many tour antics. Another raucous guitar riff sees within the video the Mandolin transformed into a medieval Excalibur as the fuzzed barrage is the quintessential Porn Crumpets sampler.

McEwan sums up Hymn For A Droid best by describing it as a “rhino at full charge” as with all the chaos you’re only three tracks in at this point and you already feel like you need a lie-down. The onslaught of energy does subside as Fields, Woods, Time gives a nice, relaxing instrumental respite as Native Tongue’s oscillating and interlocking guitars offers woozy psychedelia.

The riffs return with When In Rome and Social Candy with the band’s adventurous recording and composition coming into fruition in the tracks surrounding it. Digital Hunter brings in a feeling of controlled confusion with jazzy influence, a free form and really solid groove.

Dezi’s Adventure finishes the release with a dreamy carnival feel as a blurry Wurlitzer organ makes you feel like you’ve had too many cans and you’re stuck in a hall of mirrors and want that lie down again.

The album is missing the larger immersive solos which felt like being blasted through space on Porn Crumpets’ first two records but the album just over half an hour and is refreshing and straight the point.

It’s a get-up-and-go crazy psych party record which reinvents itself as a demon when performed live, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets are not a band to be snubbed at all. – Will Whitby

Psychic GraveyardLoud as Laughter
Skin Graft Records

From the offset this spasmodically, twisted beat, ugly driven album corkscrews through tortured track after track.

This album features the who’s who of noise art rock from  members of Arab On Radar, The Chinese Stars, Doomsday Student, Some Girls, All Leather, and Hot Nerds. If, like me, these are some of your favourite musicians then you are not going to be disappointed with this album.

We splinter through each track like a modern age Revolting Cocks revival. This album delves into a dark and seedy back room recesses of the audience minds.

Titilating and macabre in equal measures this skips into industrial noise to dirt-pop happenings. Lyrical psychosis envelop the listener through gritty distorted  guitar scratchings that punish the ears. Standout tracks are Sleep With Knives and Victims of a Talk Radio Crisis.

If you want to hear the future now, then here it is.

I’ll be playing this for some time, so should you. – Guy Nolan

Kate Rusby: Philosophers, Poets and Kings
Pure Records

Philosophers, Poets and Kings is the seventeenth album from contemporary folk artist and the ‘Barnsley Nightingale’ Kate Rusby. In a career that has spanned close to three decades, Rusby has collaborated with Ronan Keating and established the successful Underneath The Stars festival.

Philosophers, Poets and Kings sees a mix of traditional songs and cover versions, alongside self-penned numbers such as The Wanderer, a song about a man with dementia from Rusby‘s home village, and The Squire And The Parson, which she wrote with her father and record label boss over more than one glass of wine.

The album also contains cover versions of Crazy Man Michael from Fairport Convention‘s seminal folk rock album Leige And Lief, as well as a gentle and contemplative version of OasisDon’t Go Away featuring Rusby backed by husband Damien O’Kane on electric tenor guitar.

Traditional song Jenny is included here in two versions, one acoustic and another dubbed the Ordinary Remix that features minimal but effective programming and sequencing.

This is not the only track to feature what may be considered as unorthodox instrumentation for a folk album. As The Lights Go Out features some subtle touches on a Moog. At no point does the electric instrumentation do anything other than add colour and texture. If you didn’t know it was there you may not notice it.

The undeniable standout track on the album is Halt The Wagons, which was written to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the Huskar Pit disaster which saw 26 children lose their lives when a freak storm resulted in flooding.

Rusby recruited 26 children of the same age and gender of those who died from the Barnsley Youth Choir to sing backing vocals and took them to the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield. This coupled with backing from a euphonium, french horn, fugal horn and tuba (evoking a colliery band) make for a haunting and emotional song.

If you don’t at the very least have a lump in your throat you aren’t human. – Andy Sunley

Siskiyou: Not Somewhere
Constellation

Formerly of the much loved Great Lake Swimmers, Canadian songwriter Colin Huebert is now Siskiyou, previously a duo and a quartet, but with this, their fourth record released under that moniker, it’s very much a solo effort, as Huebert has written the album and self recorded the guitar, bass, keyboards and drums.

You’re trying to get somewhere as if you’re not somewhere’ comes the hypnotic sample from opener Stop Trying, the message of the chorus  ‘everything ain’t going the way I planned‘ sets the mood for the music that follows.

A whispered vocal set against a background layers of sound, it’s a collection of songs that could be described as having a warm homely thread running through it, or being cold and bleak, depending on the mood of the listener at the time of listening, it pulls in a multitude of directions.

It has the cohesion that only a one person operation has the freedom to bring, it’s a record of substance, heavier than your usual folk-indie, whilst still having a sense of aching, at times it comes across as a very lonely album.

This sensation is broken intermittently, on Unreal Erections//Severed Heads he reaches almost Polyphonic Spree levels of jauntiness, What Ifs summons up Modest Mouse, almost pop compared to some of the more helpless moments.

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That is in no way at the expense of the craftsmanship involved, each track has it’s own beautiful twisting emptiness, Nothing Disease sounds like a fever dream, Silhouette is 84 seconds of joy.

It’s the little flourishing touches that make such an affair so lovable, such as the applause at the end of Untitled 32, the various bells and whistles (sometimes literally), unexpected recorders and piano breaks, it’s made with love.

The album ends with two reprises of tracks that have gone before, as if he is trying to get it just right, a tortured soul toiling for his art. Yet it comes across as just a man wanting to tell his story in the fullest way he can. And he does.

An absolute treat. – Steven Doherty

 

Younghusband: Swimmers
Opposite Number

Younghusband’s debut album Dromes was written by the group’s singer and songwriter Euan Hinshelwood in a block of flats with a bleak and grim history, the record’s producer Nicolas Vernhes (Deerhunteer, The War on Drugs) recruited via cheeky begging letter. Well, if you don’t ask you don’t get.

The London based four piece’s follow up, 2015’s Dissolver, busy with names easily dropped at parties,  produced as it was by Loops Robert Hampson, recorded at Geoff Barrow’s Invada Studios in Bristol and featuring one Warren Ellis of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.

New effort Swimmers though is created rather differently, in somewhat of a hipster fantasy scenario, Hinshelwood’s newly set up studio in a barn in a Greenwich, a place bringing with it the addition of a live-in sculptor and his clairvoyant wife.

This time, Younghusband have gone bohemian DIY, recording in what sounds an idyllic setting from a literary novel or episode of Torchwood even, the river flowing by. The four year gap between records two and three – members of the group playing with spirited freethinkers Meilyr Jones and Wesley Gonzalez in the interim, and support slots with the likes of the recently departed Roky Erickson kept things interesting.

In Swimmers, we are presented with what seems at first taste a sweet, unoffensive little indie pop record bright with guitar melodies and quirky keyboards.

Despite protestations to the contrary, the neo-psych leanings from earlier works still shimmer, but understated and reflective songwriting is the real superpower here. The gently engaging nature of the ten songs on Swimmers firm up the more familiar they become, edging their way into the consciousness.

First single and opening song Translation is wistful and feels lonely somehow, with gorgeous, dreamy harmonies, Modern Lie is positively perky and – dare I say it danceable – with those twirling keyboards. Different About You is a lovely love song, the ‘there’s something different about you’ line wins the earworm of the album award.

The subtle addition of mournful lap steel guitar on Paradise in the Rain is a charming surprise. It makes a welcome return on the closing song, chiming prettily on the dreamy It’s Not Easy, bringing echoes of Big Star into the equation. Listening to these two songs I can’t help but wonder why lap steel guitar isn’t on every contemporary song made from now on, quite frankly. It’s wonderful, and tugs at the heart.

Beautiful surroundings make gorgeous records and the bringing together of the magical ingredients of joy and melancholy, when done with such care, are the perfect bedfellows. In a month of some very good albums indeed, there’s room for optimism that for Younghusband anyway, understated wins out. – Cath Holland

Swimmers is released on 7 June.



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