In hindsight, FKA Twigs could’ve seeped into popular consciousness any number of ways. Prior to signing with Young Turks, she’d been a backup dancer in several music videos, performed as a chanteuse on the London cabaret circuit, and released a four-song EP on her own. Since then she’s been involved in making her increasingly sophisticated videos and has gone on to direct clips and produce tracks for artists besides herself. Twigs is the new model of a new-media polymath: her work across formats is consistently arresting, created with high-minded collaborators and presented with uncanny timing. In a relatively short time and without overexposing the product, she’s created an entire avant-pop landscape and populated it with her weird, bewitching persona. LP1, her generically titled first full-length (featured here with the bonus addition of four tracks from the Japan Edition), expands that landscape. The album doesn’t so much broaden Twigs’ scope as reinforce it. She seems unconcerned with minting easy hooks or delivering discrete moments; instead, she sustains vibe. And that vibe works like a pheromone, clandestine and seductive.
The received wisdom is that (they said) things started to go wrong for Interpol somewhere around album three. While we don’t agree with that (Our Love To Admire contains a clutch of songs that are surely among the band’s best) the departure of Carlos Dengler and that dodgy self-titled LP did suggest that things weren’t entirely rosy with NYC’s sharpest-suited sons. But here we are, four years later, and how things have changed. Not much in sound, obviously, but certainly in tone. El Pintor sounds like a band that’s remembered how to enjoy itself. It’s a feeling helped by kicking off with some of the band’s easiest-to-love songs in a decade. Loud and brash: it’s pure fun. It more or less sets the tone for a record that may as well have been called Antics 2, you know, but let these guys this weakness. Sure (thay say) it’s not as good as Turn On the Bright Lights, but c’mon, it was never going to be. Let us state that, as an exercise in getting back to where you once belonged, El Pintor is highly successful.
A U R O R A is Ben Frost’s first solo album since 2009’s By The Throat, and his most accomplished yet. Propelled by towering synth arrangements, bursts of noise and thundering drums, tracks lunge forward and stop abruptly, or fade away unexpectedly. Many, with colossal rave synths and blistering distortion, have an epic, widescreen feel, which Frost offsets with intricate detail and quiet, ominous passages. He is less omnivorous here, but his limitations do nothing to lessen A U R O R A’s impact. But when this work isn’t kicking you in the gut and throat, it’s breathing down your neck. Sounds are ugly, compressed and intensely manipulated. The resulting atmosphere is dense and airless, with real-world signifiers largely absent. Frost’s brand of menace has always been intricate and complex, but where on By The Throat and Theory of Machines he would counter harsh noise with softening ambient and post-rock touches, A U R O R A feels more purely cathartic, though never one-dimensional or static. Instead, it’s more in keeping with an environment that can be described as a constant flux of destruction and re-creation. If his aim was to give musical form to the eastern DRC’s unnerving beauty and unflinching horror, then A U R O R A is a dazzling success.
Mogwai have been steadily composing their brand of unconventional, slow-progressing instrumental rock for about two decades, releasing 8 studio albums and over 10 EPs. With the release of their 8th album, Rave Tapes, earlier this year, Mogwai decided to take some b-sides from the recording sessions of that album and include some remixes of tracks from the album to bring forth their new EP, Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1. The stigma that comes with b-side tracks is the inferiority complex that comes with the nature of the term (after all, there’s a reason why some tracks get cut from the album). However, the b-sides offered in this EP show that these tracks that didn’t make it onto Rave Tapes weren’t because they were the undeniable chaff of the recording sessions, but because they would essentially clash with the mood Mogwai were trying to set with the album. The remixes, on the other hand, are a much less integral half of the EP. Mogwai craft the EP to act as a foil to the album, providing a new dimension to Rave Tapes in addendum, and Music Industry 3. Fitness Industry 1. achieves substantial congruency with their catalog.
The faint, echoing reverb flecked vocals that open Taiga are just a mere glimmer of the past. A gothic, mysterious past that Zola Jesus is keen to shed on this, her 4th studio record. Like dispatching with the trappings of the city and running straight for the woods, Taiga is an immediate call for the wilderness: full of grand horns, sustained notes and an up-tempo, almost break-beat style beat that gallops into view, trips, picks itself up and continues head first to the wild. Taiga also marks a change in direction, one first indicated by the way those faint reverberated vocals disappear into the mists to be replaced by a clean, un-affected vocal from Nika Danilova set front and centre. By adopting a natural aural aesthetic, Zola Jesus exhibits a greater confidence in her songwriting, dragging her lyrics from the murky depths of her earlier records to stand blinking in the sunlight. Her vocals are set against a brighter, more energetic backing resulting in a less claustrophobic sound that will, inevitably be dismissed as poppy by some. Ultimately Taiga is sonically different to its predecessors, but at heart it feels like a true continuation of Zola Jesus‘ story. This is what it sounds like when an artist matures, discovers a confidence they perhaps never knew they had, and return, revitalised.
Ok, let’s speak about the Miley-Cyrus-thing first, so that we can concentrate on music immidiately after: US pop provocateur Miley Cyrus and quirky 2012 Mercury Prize winners Alt-J form an unlikely mutual appreciation society. Miley has been using Alt-J track Fitzpleasure (from their debut An Awesome Wave) for a bondage-themed interlude in live shows. In return, she allowed the nerdy band of ex-Leeds University graduates to sample her singing “I’m a female rebel” on their follow-up album, her voice piping-up amid the dreamy flow of Hunger of the Pine. The surprising thing is it does not sound incongruous, or at least no more incongruous than any of the other elements the multi-instrumentalists blend together with a deft and delicate touch, concocting densely layered yet airily light tracks from confections of folky wind instruments, tickly guitars and throbbing electronica, harmonies constructed with the choral precision of medieval madrigals. Joe Newman’s soft, high voice remains the focus, tying everything together. That said, This Is All Yours is a lovely album: inventive, seductive and dazzling. It’s a strange animal: something as self-indulgent as Seventies progressive-rock, albeit filtered through a 21st-century indie-rock sensibility that keeps things taut and edgy, with virtuoso posturing at a minimum. Strong candidate for quickly rising album-of-the-year charts, we bet.
Ten months after the release of their tender, acoustic, intimate, midlife crisis album Rewind the Film, the Welsh trio Manic Street Preachers are powering into festival season with a wildly energetic record fizz bang full of enduring political passion and new musical ideas. A gritty traction and relentless evolution, a steely sleekness of purpose (and real cohesion), while the band layer a vigorous variety of sounds and tempos on top to keep things interesting. Futurology is filled with familiar chunky punk riffs and shouted manifestos leave you in no doubt that this is still the Manics, but they add squeals of electronica, blasts of anthemic guitar, a sax solo and long dreamy strokes of the harp to the mix. Rewind the Film was served extremely well by guest vocalists Richard Hawley and Lucy Rose and here the Manics expand their sonic palette with a robotic Teutonic narrative from German actress Nina Hoss (the album was recorded in Berlin, indeed), bittersweet Eighties sighs from Scritti Politti frontman Green Gartside and soft Welsh mistiness from Georgia Jones. Though they have remained committed to the social issues, culture, alienation, boredom and despair they’ve been singing about since forming in 1986, the band sound like they’re renewing their vows. And they’re welcome.
Carlo Anderson, Matthew Benyayer, and Thomas Edwards have been making and releasing music together as Dark Sky for over five years now. Following the string of experimental twelve inches they’ve issued on the likes of Black Acre, 50 Weapons and Mister Saturday Night, they’ve taken a different tack with each and every record. Their sound is as evolutionary as their creative minds and hence it was the logical next step for them to tackle the long play format. Their 10th official release & album debut Imagin has finally landed on Modeselektor’s own Monkeytown Records. Featuring collaborations with vocalists Grey Reverend, Cornelia and the one and only d-Bridge, the album is an interesting and adventurous step to the side of the dance floor, although that distinctive UK essence that’s been so omnipresent in their bass-centric, atmospheric sound prevails.
Swedish pop star Robyn and Röyksopp, the Norwegian electro-pop duo of Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland, are going on the road together this summer, and this five-song EP, which sprawls to 35 minutes, arrives just in time for the merch table. Undulating rhythms that creep and crawl to create a trance-like beauty, with a faint wash of horns midway in: this mini album it’s not thumping music for the club, it’s the soundtrack for when you get home. This EP will be the sleeper hit of the summer, whose effects won’t vibrate through the industry until the fall. But, that’s always been the case with Robyn. Maybe they don’t deserve this album, but, you know, is it necessary for pop to progress.
Swedish songstress Lykke Li returns after three years with her 3rd album I Never Learn. While the deep percussion and her 60s girl group vocals are still in evidence, we find her in gentler and more introspective form this time around. Chronicling the aftermath of a bitter break-up, many of the tracks deal with what comes after: that deep, aching hurt that is left behind when all the crockery has been smashed and the bags have been packed. While the background is wistful and sad, the pain is etched into the lyrics, a broken heart very obviously on a sleeve. Though her words may speak of her intention to keep love at bay, the fragility of her vocals, enveloped in the shimmering arrangement, give a sense that such promises may be hard to keep. Lykke Li has channeled her grief into to something beautiful, a stunning break-up album that will resonate with anyone who has ever had a heart.
01. I Never Learn [03:06]
02. No Rest For the Wicked [03:43]
03. Just Like A Dream [04:09]
04. Silver Line [04:00]
05. Gunshot [03:24]
06. Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone [03:47]
07. Never Gonna Love Again [04:01]
08. Heart of Steel [04:05]
09. Sleeping Alone [02:59]
get it here.