Sunday, 8 November 2009

October 2009: A month drawn in records

As is becoming customary, due to the massive amount of material we miss out on covering in detail at CB/OB, this weekend presents a round-up of the finest new (and old) music that’s made its presence felt over the course of October.

Album of the month: Shackleton - Three EPs [Perlon]

With his Perlon debut, a collection of three 12”s entitled Three EPs, Sam Shackleton has gone that difficult step of further bettering his awe-inspiring music for Skull Disco. Paradoxically lighter of touch and yet more all-encompassingly dense than ever before, here his music flits between nocturnal flights of fancy and remarkably elegiac laments for a world gradually subsuming beneath its own emotional weight. As with all the best trilogies (the one notable exception being Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom), its middle 12” is Three EPs’ high water mark, moving from the voodoo whirl of ‘Mountains of Ashes’ to a climactic Himalayan devotional hymn on ‘Moon Over Joseph’s Funeral’. Utterly exceptional. I reviewed the record for Drowned in Sound - read the entire piece here.

Hudson Mohawke - Butter [Warp]

Hudson Mohawke is fast establishing himself as a curious national treasure. Whilst his debut EP for Warp, Polyfolk Dance, was still audibly connected to the kind of music his LuckyMe contemporaries were making, his first full-length Butter is drenched in dazzling synths and the eighties’ decadent cocaine nights. Its sheer oddball charms can become a little overwhelming at times – ‘Joy Fantastic’ verges slightly towards the irritating – but the wealth of ideas contained in its relatively short runtime drench the listener in constantly shifting bursts of grinding darkness and pure pop nous. More on Gigwise.

Do Make Say Think - Other Truths [Constellation]

With Other Truths, Do Make Say Think continue to cement their reputation as Constellation’s most furiously consistent band, stretching their folk and jazz influences into four longform, widescreen jams that take in long stretches of twilight contemplation before sudden illumination launches them skyward in a flurry of brass and thrashed guitar. Their live show in London this month was similarly essential, showcasing the band’s considerable talents in the form of both supports, Charles Spearin’s Happiness Project and Ohad Benchitrit’s Years. Full review on Drowned In Sound.

Broadcast & The Focus Group - Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age [Warp]

James Cargill and Trish Keenan’s collaboration with The Focus Group’s Justin House is frequently spectacular, inhabiting that odd region between nostalgia, innocence and sheer terror (if there even is such a place). The album’s few complete songs are isolated nodes in a sky clouded with noise from the thousands of other stars surrounding them. Between each asterisk of Cargill and Keenan’s burnished pop, House draws lines in fractal, broken samples and a carnival/funeral of strange and often unsettling instrumentation. Nonetheless, it’s often strikingly pretty, especially during the softly lilting ‘The Be Colony’ and the whistling winds of ‘Round And Round And Round’. Full review up at Middle Boop.

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - White Lunar [Mute]

I’m not entirely sure whether this falls under bona fide album or reissue territory, but as far as I’m aware a large proportion of the music on Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ soundtrack compilation has never been made commercially available, so it’ll go here. Gathering the peak points of their scores for several films and documentaries, White Lunar makes an impressive introduction to their quite astonishing creative partnership. Away from the sexually charged dynamics of the latest Bad Seeds and Grinderman records, these scores draw the connection explicitly between Ellis’ piercing instrumentals with the Dirty Three and Cave’s balladeering later days, all wrapped up in alternating tension and release so tangible you could cut it with a knife. As winter begins to set in, its dry and dusty atmospheres are a welcome contrast to the damp of Bristol in November. I've just written a full length spiel here, on DiS.

Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport [ATP Recordings]

Tarot Sport explodes from the starting line with the eardrum-shattering noise that defined the Buttons' debut Street Horrrsing, but harnessed into Ibiza-worthy melodic shapes the experience is positively euphoric, constantly engaging and disengaging with the listener like a perfectly balanced DJ set. They’ve been playing closer ‘Flight of the Feathered Serpent’ live for the past couple of years and have honed it to breaking point, the perfect balance between tension and released achieved in the album’s final technicolour explosion. Full article here.

Hyperdub - Five Years of... [Hyperdub]

I devoted an entire column this month to Kode9’s label and its five-year anniversary compilation – it’s just that good. Anyone with even a passing interest in electronic music or some confusion about the maze-like structures dubstep seems to be forming as it matures should already have picked this up.

Reissue of the month: Max Richter - Memoryhouse [FatCat]

Over the last couple of weeks the BBC have shown a series of documentaries about the GDR and the final fall of the Berlin Wall, to coincide with its twentieth anniversary. From the vantage point of 2009 it seems almost impossible to reconcile the idea that such a monumentally different Europe still existed only two decades ago. Like his beautiful score for Ari Folman’s animated documentary Waltz With Bashir, Max Richter’s ‘lost’ debut, Memoryhouse could soundtrack any number of these programmes, capturing in its starkly drawn lines the strange contrast between what our memories tell us and the reality of what occurred. I reviewed the record in full for Drowned In Sound, here.

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