Thursday, 1 October 2009

September sounds – the month in albums, and a look into autumn

The days are getting shorter and for some reason it feels as though the summer’s just ended, bleeding almost imperceptibly into an autumnal crash. September was a funny one, seemingly short but with an impressive array of brilliant full-lengths released. In fact, it has arguably been one of the best months of 2009 so far for unmissable albums. I’ve only covered a fraction on CB/OB as I’ve written about them for other publications, so here comes a selection of the best September sounds, as we move into colder times ahead.

HEALTH – Get Colour

In their second full-length Get Colour, LA noiseniks HEALTH have almost effortlessly achieved the potential merely hinted at on their first self-titled album. Whilst HEALTH was disjointed, a series of sketches that promised much but delivered in small doses rather than the full chemical hit, one blast from the opening salvo of ‘In Heat’ immediately dissipates any suspicions that the follow-up would be similarly patchy. ‘Die Slow’ churns and gurns, ‘Before Tigers’ exposes the melodic heart that beats at its core between bursts of seismic guitar and in ‘Severin’ HEALTH finally manage to put to tape a track that fully captures their feral live energy. I can’t see this one falling short of the top ten of the year. My full review of the record is up at Gigwise.

Anti-Pop Consortium – Fluorescent Black

Messrs Beans, M. Sayyid, Earl Blaize and High Priest have managed to outdo themselves with their comeback, several years after APC dissolved following the sonic brainmelt of Arrhythmia. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Four Tet’s chiming, post-minimalist take on ‘Volcano’ was impressive enough, but the original succeeds in being just as earth-shaking, the chorus’ jarring harmony giving way to scathing and insightful social commentary and arrogant swagger. ‘C Thru U’ and ‘Reflections’ both belie a massive UK influence on their sound, both on MC flow and beat structure, and ‘NY To Tokyo’s 4/4 stomp makes it more explicit – featuring as it does charming chatter from London impresario Roots Manuva. I reviewed the record for DiS, it’s up here.

Tyondai Braxton – Central Market

I’m not sure how many would agree with me on this, but I found Battles’ Mirrored to be something of a disappointment. Not that I was entirely surprised. Bar the jazzy, stuttering expressions of early piece ‘Tras’ – and the burlesque shapes of ‘Atlas’, naturally - they were always a band more to admire than to love. Live they transcend this limitation impressively, taking the clinically leaning precision of their recorded oeuvre and stretching it out into densely patterned dance jams, complete with Tyondai Braxton’s cartoon character vocals. It’s good to hear Braxton taking his solo material in an entirely different and far more compelling direction. A collaboration with the Wordless Music Orchestra, Central Market sees him fully explore his impressive influences, the result a staggered but often intensely rewarding trip through bursts of spastic synth, sweeps of string and brass and Disney whistles. Full review up at Gigwise.

Mary Anne Hobbs – Wild Angels

Anyone reading this is unlikely to need to ask who Mary Anne Hobbs is – the lady herself of UK bass sounds, her unending championship of dubstep has been one of the main reasons for its recent crossover into a more mainstream level of consciousness. Following on from her last two compilations for Planet Mu, Wild Angels sees her compile a set more weighted towards the colourful end of dubstep-related electronica – Hudson Mohawke’s ‘Spotted’, Gemmy’s ‘Rainbow Road’ and Floating Points’ quite incredible ‘Esthian III’ all twist any preconceptions of the genre into new and wonderful shapes. Of particular merit is Hyetal’s expedition to inner space on ‘We Should Light A Fire’; it’s broken arpeggios and techy flexing have been soundtracking my life for ages, so it’s fantastic to see it get a wider release.

Volcano Choir – Unmap

After the diminishing returns of his Blood Bank EP as Bon Iver, Justin Vernon has successfully managed to avoid the tag of indie-folk one-hit-wonder with Volcano Choir’s debut, Unmap. A collaboration between himself and Collections of Colonies of Bees, it explores pastoral spaces in a manner not unlike Do Make Say Think – yet strewn with Vernon’s lost-and-losing vocals and the spiraling guitar shapes of highlight ‘Island, IS’, it successfully establishes itself as being unlike anything else released this year. ‘Seeplymouth’ (below) is magisterial, a miniature orchestra of bleeps and chimes ringing amidst gradually deepening piles of russet leaves, a perfect soundtrack to the beginning of autumn. Full review up at Gigwise.

And to look ahead…

FaltyDL – Bravery

Yes, it’s not released for another couple of weeks but Drew Lustman’s second album(ish) release this year proves itself to easily equal (if not better – the jury’s still out on that one) Love Is A Liability, itself one of my outright favourites of 2009. The title track staggers in LA Brainfeeder stylee before a gorgeous Warped vocal showdown, ‘You Made Me Feel So Right’ takes the dysfunctional urban shapes of Burial and wraps them in a blanket of unseasonal warmth and ‘Tronman’ takes Lustman’s two-step adventures into deeply dissonant territory. A triumph through and through, and indeed a brave move. My full review of the record is up at the excellent Sonic Router blog.

Photo: 'Mozart Estate' by Nico Hogg, used with thanks.

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