Albums Of The Month
1. Mark Pritchard – Under The Sun
Discerning an aesthetic thread through the Mark Pritchard discography was tough in 1996. Twenty years later, forget it. Around 2013, he evidently tired of thinking up a new alias with each expectation-confounding release and, under his birth name, initiated a trio of brief releases for the Warp label. Featuring drop-ins from Ragga Twins and Spikey Tee, the fully energized EPs moved through jungle, bass, juke, ragga, and grime. They provided no indication for the approach taken on Under the Sun, itself a stylistic manifold. The album begins with “?,” a sorrowful and moving ambient piece. Given a low-key release in 2009, the track has been used by Mala to open DJ sets, and it serves a similarly cleansing purpose for its new home here, leading to a rolling Krautrock chorale that features the baleful, multi-tracked voice of Bibio. It’s followed by a nocturnal speeding anthem, all pounding and scuttling drums, vibrating drones, and stern direction to “switch to infrared,” and a weightless, slightly uneasy track with some robotic harmonizing. That covers only the first quarter. What follows is mostly beatless, with the tracks ranging from 90 seconds to eight minutes in length. They’re highlighted by the flittering “Where Do They Go, The Butterflies,” the gorgeous “Sad Alron,” and “Rebel Angels,” where buried bass probing and a racing melody play out like a set-up for thunderous breakbeat science but disintegrate. The handful of additional tracks with vocals are spread throughout. Thom Yorke in misshapen form adds hazy dread to a lulling machine ballad. Cult folk hero Linda Perhacs delivers a spooked ballad from the edge of a dune. For Beans’ nightmarish spoken narrative, Pritchard makes like a member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop with intensifying patterns of organ filigrees and electronics that blip and swarm. The somewhat fragmented yet totally spellbinding sequence ends with the title track, a subwoofer workout built around a loop of — what else? — Julie Andrews’ recitation of a 1765 nursery rhyme.
2. Homeboy Sandman – Kindness For Weakness
Homeboy Sandman tapped into a unique energy, and parlayed the vibe into a rap career. The Stones Throw MC, with his penchant for haphazard deliveries and a strong command of rhythm, continues making headway in the indie and underground circles with his latest effort, Kindness for Weakness. Running just over 36 minutes, it’s a quick, concise listen, with everything the Alternative Hip Hop-listening crowd could ask for. The producers enlisted for Kindness for Weakness are a ragtag dream team. Jonwayne (“Heart Sings”), Large Professor (“It’s Cold”) and Edan (“Talking (Bleep)”) among many others, establish a cohesive vibe that balances minimalistic chilled out music, with other more complex, technically sound tracks (“Earth, Wind, Fire, Water”). Elsewhere, RJD2 adds a little extra flair with “Gumshoe,” a two-minute instrumental right smack in the middle, while Paul White provides “Sly Fox” and “God” in unison. The spirit of collaboration is palpable throughout, and speaks to the good nature amongst friends and creative partners. As a result, the album is elevated by the production’s sonic uniformity. Kindness for Weakness is a strong album with a permeating message. The whole vibe is original, and exquisite minimalist production tips the scales, in tow with strong lyricism. Homeboy Sandman’s abilities as a MC, paired with a strong supporting cast of guest MCs and producers, execute accordingly without being repetitive. Best of all, he offers up a valuable life lesson: be kind always. The album’s biggest strength is the number of wells from which it draws inspiration. Kindness is more than just good manners; it’s a modus operandi.
3. Kaytranada – 99.9%
Montreal producer Kaytranada has been the secret weapon behind some of the best electronic music of recent years. His distinctive style – a deft melange of 80s boogie and hip-hop dynamics – encompasses a versatility that has brought him production work with both street-tough hip-hop artists like Mobb Deep and Freddie Gibbs, and R&B/pop singers like Anderson .Paak, The Internet and Katy B. While there is little new ground being broken on this debut album – DJ Spinna and Onra have both pursued similar territory – Kaytranada adds a pop nous and Dilla-like beat-making precision to the equation. That hip-hop prowess finds it’s apogee on the Vic Mensa-guesting banger Drive Me Crazy, while his commercial bent offers up several potential chart hits here; Bullets pairs Little Dragon chanteuse Yukimi Nagano’s distinctive vocals with an irresistible, sunshine speckled dance groove while Got It Good is a sweet, bass-heavy slice of soul that sees the return of garage bod Craig David. Elsewhere, the producer’s catholic tastes find an outlet in a variety of styles, from the neat, beat-driven instrumental Bus Ride, to the club-friendly Together and the Tropicalia-mash up of Lite Spots. A near perfect debut.
4. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids – We Be All Africans
It starts with a rumble of percussion and kalimba thumb piano, which leads into a chanted chorus – “We be all Africans now” – before Idris Ackamoor moves in with a cool, driving alto saxophone solo. The new studio album from this US west coast band is an impressively fresh-sounding affair, considering that they started in the early 70s, broke up at the end of that decade, and then reformed when it became clear that there was still a demand for their Afro-jazz-funk fusion. Ackamoor developed his style after taking the original band on a lengthy tour of Africa, living in Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia, and the best tracks here match African influences against the horn solos, as in the furious Rhapsody in Berlin, or the vocal-and-percussion work-out Traponga. There are inevitable echoes of Fela Kuti and the space jazz of Sun Ra in this engaging set.
5. Gold Panda – Good Luck And Do Your Best
It would be unfair compare Gold Panda to Caribou on the basis that they both make immersive, tender electronica, have at one point or another been signed to City Slang, and are named after cute mammals. But if the latter’s shuffling house rhythms and minor-key samples give you a kick then Mr Panda is certainly a pleasing chaser. Inspired by a trip to Japan, it has oriental flourishes woven in subtly, from the relentless piano break of Chiba Nights paired with nimble two-step and fluttering flute, to the wind chime shimmer of Pink and Green, and Song for a Dead Friend – a eulogy of cacophonous video game noises and Japanese koto. More than an audio travel journal, though, these songs are headline festival sundowners: the slow-burning acoustic thrum of I Am a Real Punk, the gorgeously textured, jazz-inflected Autumn Fall and Time Eater’s sombre temple-step. Bound to give you that warm, fuzzy feeling.
- MELANIE DE BIASIO – BLACKENED CITIES
Lauded in jazz circles for 2013’s sublime No Deal, she’s now pushed out further from that album’s languid atmospheres and haunted romanticism into a new zone of feverish, post-rock reverie. Talk Talk are a band whose name is often taken in vain, but it’s clear that Blackened Cities, a 25-minute spontaneous composition with minimal post-production, is more than a little indebted to the spatial rhapsodies of Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock and De Biasio and her band grasp it perfectly. Blackened Cities is a brilliant long-form exercise in mood and texture. Where she goes next is anybody’s guess.
- JAMES BLAKE – COLOUR IN ANYTHING
Clocking in at 76 minutes, The Colour in Anything is James Blake’s wonderfully messy dive into maximalism. From its weighty subject matter to its incredibly nuanced production, The Colour in Anything is not only Blake at his best, but also his most personal. Blake’s expanded his both his heart and his process here, making music with others outside of his laptop to demonstrate the growth that had led to this brilliant, fulfilling work.
- MAX GRAEF + GLENN ASTRO – THE YARD WORK SIMULATOR
Drawing influence from jazz, hip-hop, funk and disco as well as more contemporary electronic music, the album brings together a myriad of themes on what is a unique and intriguing album. The Yard Work Simulator’ may not be everybody’s cup of tea to listen through from beginning to end, but as a piece of work it is more unique, exploratory and interesting than many others that will be released this year.
- DAM FUNK – DJ KICKS
Heard through Dâm-Funk’s ears, the world is, as you might expect, a very funky place. It’s also very dreamy. Dâm may be best known for reigniting L.A.’s passion for hard-edged, car-shaking synth funk, but at 44, he seems more interested in creating a shared hypnagogic utopian mindspace than simply rocking a party.
- KING – WE ARE KING
Fusing dream pop and R&B, KING floats through its debut album, making easy atmospheric blends akin to Sade and Janet Jackson. KING harkens back to a time when there were clearer distinctions between R&B, pop, and hip-hop, when acts like Jodeci and SWV ruled the airwaves and the music was lighter and more sensuous. We Are KING is seamless: It properly showcases the group’s breezy aesthetic and has the feel-good creativity of black music’s great luminaries. Sure it took some time to get here, but unhurried art has its own special rewards. We Are KING has long-lasting impact, much like the music it emulates.
This month was swarming with great new releases so we thought we’d up our usual Top 10 to a TOP 20! Here are the ones that just missed out on our top 10 slots:
- Karl Blau – Indroducing…
CD – £9.99 LP – £20.99
- Corinne Bailey-Rae – The Heart Speaks In Whispers
CD – £12.99 LP – £23.99
- Lone – Levitate
CD – £9.99 LP – £15.99
- Marissa Nadler – Strangers
CD – £9.99 LP – £16.99
- Beth Orton – Kidsticks
CD – £10.99 LP – £17.99
- Daniel Romano – Mosey
CD – £9.99 LP – £25.99
- Death In Vegas – Transmission
CD – £11.99 LP – £24.99
- Jessy Lanza – Oh No
CD – £11.99 LP – £11.99
- Holy Fuck – Congrats
CD – £9.99 LP – £19.99
- Pantha Du Prince – The Triad
CD – £9.99 LP – £19.99
FULL LIST OF OUR TOP 100 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2015 CLICK HERE. ALSO CHECK OUT UNDER AOTY2015 FOR OUR TOP 20 REISSUES, COMPILATION AND STAFF LISTS.
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