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.
We Have Band return with their 3rd album Movements: 11 songs conceived in their East London basement studio, produced by band member Tom Wegg-Prosser with additional glitter added by Tim Goldsworthy (DFA Records, LCD Soundsystem, UNKLE). It is music from the sweaty hearts of husband and wife Tom and Dede and band mate Darren Bancroft. WHB toured their previous releases intensely, but now it’s about taking it back to the dance floor, the place that inspired them to make music together in the first steps. There was a simple rule when writing songs for this album: if they didn’t make the band move at first conception, then they didn’t make the cut. The result is an A list of deadly, ruthless and energetic cuts, all refined, polished and turned to gold by the magical hands and by the fantastic touch of the DFA producer.
01. Modulate [04:29]
02. You Only [04:17]
03. Look the Way We Are [03:46]
04. Someone [03:51]
05. Save Myself [03:29]
06. No More Time [03:50]
07. Burning On My Lips [03:13]
08. Heart Jump [02:28]
09. Please [04:31]
10. Every Stone [04:17]
11. Blue [05:21]
get it here.
Danton Eeprom‘s latest album If It Looks Could Kill is the aftermath of an intense period at the controls of his purpose-built studio. The result is a record which is hybridised at its core, where pop songs gradually intertwine with dance floor values while sprinkling risqué references in the process. Doing things by the book has never been Danton’s forte. That might be the reason why the London-based Frenchman’s path is so atypical, it’s probably why he has never committed to a specific style or musical family either, when pretty much everyone else seems to be in a rush to “belong”. Mind you, if he had, he would certainly have bored you to tears a long time ago, and his releases would not be welcomed with a distinctive sense of “what has he done this time”. From the start it was clear Danton was in for a jolly good laugh, and trend-setters got it spot on when they started to embrace his deviant but addictive music. He was a man on a mission, and a mission he took really seriously at that: giving all he had, sweat, blood, beats and screaming synths, whenever he set foot in the main clubs of pretty much all the countries who have a knack for electronic music.
01. Melodrama in Cinerama [03:04]
02. Biscotto & Chimpanzee [03:41]
03. Hex Tape [04:02]
04. Femdom [08:26]
05. All American Apparel [03:38]
06. Never Ask, Never Tell [05:36]
07. All Dressed Up (and nowhere to go) [04:49]
08. Occidental Damage [05:16]
09. Hungty For More [07:05]
10. All Eyes On Me [04:20]
get it here.