Juana Ghani – Shall We Live Forever? (gypsy folk)
Blood has a bad rep, but it’s honestly a good thing; there’s blood all over Shall We Live Forever? Blood and darkness. The hot blood of life and passion; the welcoming dark of all-night celebration and vodka-induced blindness… I’m pretty certain the answer to the question posed in the title is ‘no, so what are we waiting for?’ This is communal gypsy folk, with equal parts groove and lyricism (and great playing), a life-affirming panegyric to the sacred pain and hedonism of life. Some tunes are also on the earlier Budmo!, but get it anyway. It’s impossible not to like.
Ken Masters – This Is Not A Mixtape (hip hop)
Killamari Records £5+ DD
Ken Masters has some serious flow; right on top of the beat, words slot together into bars with inevitability and urgency. He also has a gift for wordplay, and a fluid northeastern argot that brooks no suggestion of insincerity. There are three producers credited, and I assume Masters produced the tracks without their names on; each cut sounds as though it was sliced from the same cloth though. This really isn’t a mixtape: it’s a single coherent piece of work, with top flight beats, exceptional rhymes and mucho hard hitting, deep grooving badassery.
Leitkegel – Raketenwissenschaft (post-punk)
PINMUSIK €3 DD €5 CD
Mathy, blocky textures characterise the uptempo bits of Raketenwissenschaft, but the downtempo end of it is quite lyrical. On the whole the band moves as one, rather than dividing up into field and figure, and even the vocals seem to be of a piece with the overall arrangement. Of course I may be more predisposed to hear them as a musical element because I don’t understand German, but the effect is pretty much post-rock with singing. It’s crunchy, and as creative as I’ve come to expect from Leitkegel; it’s not rocket science, but it’s very pleasing to the ear.
The Chewers – Chuckle Change And Also (avant-rock)
The Chewers are clearly complete nutters, which is a big plus in their favour from the start. The music on Chuckle Change And Also is performed and recorded with conviction, which is good, because it would otherwise sound like an accident; the band clearly intend to make their listeners laugh, but there are cheaper gags than these. There’s some real effort in this, some rigorous attention to detail, an intelligent and concerted effort to chip away the layers of self-importance and conventionality that shackle most artistic utterances. It’s funny, but it’s challenging, and it’s massively inventive. Splendid rock-flavoured absurdity.
A Sweet Niche – Eye Music II (avant-rock)
£7.11 DD £7 CD
Where The Chewers’ music dismantles the music of rock, A Sweet Niche put it back together again. Redolent of the fringes of jazz, both in its arrangements and its rhythmic structures, Eye Music II is simultaneously ‘difficult’ (in quite an in-yer-face stylee) and (to my peculiar ears) entertaining. It’s creative and avant-garde instrumental music, with a shedload of energy, and an expansive sense of musicality; every element of the sound is considered, and every note is performed with skill and judgement. It makes demands of the listener, but it offers commensurate rewards; this is some extraordinarily intelligent and well-realised work.
Amp Rive – Irma Vep (post-rock)
Fluttery Records FLTTRY048 $5 DD $10 CD
Warm and pleasing post-rock guitar textures; cinematic atmospheres and enveloping soundscapes. It’s composed with care, well played and nicely recorded. For my liking, it could have had some rougher edges; heavier peaks, chillier calms, more demanding melodies or more jagged rhythms. It’s a good place to be, a hospitable aural environment, and not everything has to be groundbreaking to be good; but while Irma Vep is a good album, it’s good in the same way as a lot of other albums.
Neko Nine – Summer Is You (post-rock)
Fluttery Records FLTTRY049 $5.60 DD $10 CD
Neko Nine play music in a similar vein to Amp Rive, but they do take things into slightly more perilous territory. Specifically, they get a bit heavier, and some of their rhythms have a bit more swagger (even a hint of drum ‘n’ bass); their atmospheres are big, dramatic affairs, soundtracks to wide-open landscapes and suggestive of wide-open lives, and there is some high-octane riffing to drive them along. Ultimately though, the language of rock is so well established that it lacks impact for me; Summer Is You is very listenable, but it wouldn’t have hurt to push more boundaries.
Neurotic Wreck – Leave Tonight – Mixtape Side 2 (gloom-pop)
Electronically produced, frequently rock textured gloom-pop (to nick a nicely coined phrase off She Makes War). It’s a sign of an artist who’s paying a lot of attention creatively when they don’t sound like anyone in particular, but you can hear echoes of a vast range of influences from a diverse set of sources. I don’t believe reviews should be orgies of name-checking, so I won’t list them, but this is pretty erudite stuff, without ever sounding too out-there or experimental. Good melodies, well-judged lyrics, extremely creative arrangements and production, and a bleak, outsider atmosphere make this a powerful album.
Meat Force – Shadow Chamber (dark ambient)
Shadow Chamber is not a happy album. While it is certainly melancholy, it is also characterised by the kinds of abrasive textures that are more usually associated with angry and energetic styles of music. They are used less to intensify feeling than to obscure it here however; grit and noise contribute to an ambience that seems not only to struggle to articulate meanings, but somehow to reject the idea of meaning altogether. Guitars, bowed strings, samples, effects are combined coherently, but with little regard to music’s established discourses. Grim and bleak, this music is far from entertaining, but it is fascinating, creative, well-made, immersive and curiously enjoyable.
Holly Hunt – Year One (sludge drone)
Other Electricities OE032 $10+ DD $25 2xLP
Year One is largely based on riffs: energetic sludgey ones and lugubrious doomy ones, frequently occurring in succession within the same piece. I don’t think the riffs are the primary creative focus though; I think the riffs are there to frame and structure the sound. Holly Hunt have an obvious interest in the texture of loud distorted guitars as an aesthetic field in its own right, rather than a simple means to express their rock ‘n’ roll vagabondage. The result is a creative clarity that is often lacking from metal’s outsider fringes; this album is informed by an almost ruthless focus on the mindwarping power of noise and volume, packaged into rhythms whose sole purpose is to drill a hole in your skull and let the thunder in. It’s a superb racket.
Atomic Farmhouse – Who’s Henry Anonymous EP (hip-hop)
Venomous Hamster $8 DD
Atomic Farmhouse aim to ‘bring the raw essence of hip-hop back’; I’m not sure the raw form of hip-hop was ever this uncompromisingly creative, and hip-hop has so many old schools that it’s hard to be sure what it’s essence might be. The beats are rarely focussed as much on groove or head-noddery as they are on atmosphere and sonic experiment (although some of them are pretty damn’ funky), and the lyrics are predominantly out-there as well. This is hip-hop as art, rather than a simple expression of tribal identity, and every track is informed by a wealth of ideas. It’s dark, it’s intense, it’s humorous and it’s highly accomplished.
Immovable Objects – I’ll Know To Believe In Sparrows (post-rock)
$0+ DD $7 CD
This album speaks the language of rock, at least in its orchestration, and it does so without words, but it does so with more developed sense of dramatic narrative than many comparable bands. Immovable Objects are hardly transgressive in their use of timbre and texture, but they employ both, as well as harmony and dynamics, with deliberate and intelligent control. There were times when I thought ‘okay, I get what feeling you’re evoking, now let’s move on’, but for the most part I’ll Know To Believe In Sparrows tells a very coherent story, and tells it concisely. Occasionally a bit obvious, but powerful and atmospheric nevertheless.