May's Best Music, Chosen By The Quietus
, May 31st, 2016 09:57
In the second instalment of this undeniably consummate column, Quietus staff pick their favourite albums, EPs, tracks and reissues of the month, shining a light on things we've not managed to cover on the site and nodding toward a handful of the best of what's already been reviewed
The status quo remains firmly in place this month as, to absolutely no-one's surprise, the ratio of volume of music released to space on the pages of this website continues to be wildly askew: the odds, as you'll likely guess with little to no thinking time devoted to the matter, remain firmly stacked against us. And so, with that in mind, this column provides us with a point of redemption: a chance to talk about the music that, despite being some of the best the month of May had to offer, skirted the periphery with a wry wink — tantalisingly, always just out of reach, as much the ghost at the banquet as the banquet itself.
Kristoffer Lo — The Black Meat
(Name Music & Publishing)
Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Kris Lo, perhaps best known for being a member of the pop-leaning indie rock group Highasakite, is a fan of making music in non-standard locations. His second solo album, The Black Meat was recorded inside the fully functioning but unmanned Ryvingen Lighthouse, situated out at sea off the southernmost tip of Norway, at nighttime during a storm. Played on just a tuba and flugabone, it is a dynamic, bright and almost poppy piece of music… well, for a drone LP at least. Just when you think you’ve heard all you want to hear (or need to hear) from the drone genre, another unexpectedly brilliant piece of music swoops in out of the wide blue yonder. Add this to the forthcoming Centres by Ian William Craig on Fat Cat and the recently released One by the Be collective on Rivertones, and it becomes clear that 2016 is yet another great year for drone music released at the periphery.
v1984 — Becoming N(one)(Glacial Industries)
An architecture student who then worked in intelligence for the US Air Force, Christopher Pak Ramos now makes music as v1984. This, the Cleveland, Ohio producer’s debut release, clusters a glorious blend of textures over its six tracks. The bursts of coruscant synth that form the framework for most of them feel like sped-up ambient music, but the record has Ramos seemingly looking in all sorts of directions. Grimy shards of sound clutter the field and occasional bassy judders feel like the harder edges of his remix work rounded off, sitting alongside peals of piano that draw on Ramos’s training on the instrument. In-between insectile scuttles, vocal samples and computer game-like effects thread through. While it’s filled with these sonic frenzies, the overall impression is of something still and reflective. Ramos has said that “these tracks are essentially forms of meditation”, which couldn’t be a better description: charged movement giving way to aerial stasis.
DJ Qu – Conjure(Strength Music Recordings)
Conjure comes five years after the release of New Jersey producer DJ Qu’s debut album, Gymnastics. That album saw him play with the distinctive, club-oriented take on techno that he has been pursuing since the founding of his Strength Music label and first releases in 2015, moulding that sound somewhat into the LP format without losing the rough edges and dance floor-focused groove of past material.
While Conjure maintains much of those characteristics on stark, drum-led workouts such as ‘Feed Off Of’, ‘Toc’ and the ominous tones of the title track, the album also sees Qu offering up considered moments of rumination. Opener ‘Lotus’ is built around a stilted drum pattern, with seeming elements of live percussion sneaking their way into the mix to gracefully give it the audible edge of human imperfection amongst delicate piano chords and a cooed vocal. ‘Supafly’ recalls classic hip-hop beats while ‘Visitation’ offers one of the album’s most minimal moments; no punchy claps or thumping drums, just distortion, maniacal laughter and the slight hint of rhythm.
Above all, Conjure fully realises Qu’s ability to produce a techno album geared towards the club and home listening, and continues to see him carve out a sound that is one of the most distinctive in the scene today.Christian Eede
Julianna Barwick — Will
“Will”, as a word, is almost incomparable in its layered meanings and interpretations. Depending on exactly how it’s used in any given situation, it can be an expression of desire, a move to compel, a meditation on the future, or something left behind when a life reaches its natural endpoint.
What is perhaps most interesting about Julianna Barwick’s third solo studio album is that none of these readings seem more likely than any other. Will is elegiac, siren-like, contemplative and emotive in the purest sense to almost equal degrees. The comparison to Grouper is obvious – and frequently acknowledged, Barwick the “white witch of ambient music” and Harris the “black witch” – but flashes of Jonsi & Alex’s 2009 Riceboy Sleepson songs like ‘Someway’ recall a similar kind of wordless understanding and filmic vision of hallucinatory summer.
As compared to 2011’s The Magic Place, though, there’s far less air, less room to maneuver in the songs here: ambient swirl, while far from gone, has been filled out with lusher instrumentation – with more traditional electronics and strings – to the point where Barwick’s music now feels less like watching ripples than a deep ocean tide. Inherently less reflective, structured to project to rather than from the listener, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a lot more of Barwick’s own, impassioned will here than ever before.
Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld — Nerissimo
Collaborative projects by two artists from markedly different worlds are a difficult proposition, frequently misfiring entirely by numbing what makes the individuals so strong on their own, or petering out after the initial chemistry is gone. It's immensely satisfying then that Blixa Bargeld of Einsturzende Neubauten and Italian composer Teho Teardo's second album together yields results as rich as their 2013 debut, Still Smiling. Once again, Teho's intrumentation and arrangements are the perfect foil to Bargeld's voice, no mean feat given that it's one of the most distinctive in contemporary music. This is a diverse listen, from Ulgae's surreal spoken word narrative in off-kilter fairytale over scrabbling rattles and shrill electronic noises that blend then separate from the strings, and the rush of Nirgendheim, which in one moment manages to be both mournful and strident. An album of musical alliance, multi-linguistic lyricism, Nerissimo might translate as 'the blackest' but, as we all know, that means it's the most colourful colour of all.
Various Artists - Close To The Noise Floor
Like all good genre anthologies, this four disc set from Cherry Red, packed full of British cold wave, proto-electronica, guerilla synth pop and OG industrial, finds a sweet spot mixture of classics, deep cuts, rarities and sheer WTF oddities.
"The blossom of a songwriter ready to open up to the light. A prompt to a better life."
Jessy Lanza — Oh No
"If Pull My Hair Back was a soaring fantasy starring Lanza as the electronic pop idol, Oh No is set in a place much closer to reality."
Skepta — Konnichiwa
"To critically appraise his new album is to take the pulse of an entire genre."
Anohni — Hopelessness
"The heart of this record is about the potential for a genuine and communal response to that hopelessness, and about an empowering, defiant joy that can be forged even in the depths of despair."
Marissa Nadler — Strangers
"The kind of rich atmosphere that suggests a moodily lit film set in some undetermined place and time."
Oddissee - 'Brea'
The Bug & Riko Dan - 'Iceman'
Radiohead – 'Burn The Witch' Steve Gunn – 'Ancient Jules' Drake - 'Fire and Desire'
Gold Panda - 'Metal Bird'
JK Flesh - 'Nothing Is Free' (Surgeon Remix)
Ian William Craig - 'A Single Hope'
Machine Woman - 'I Can Mend Your Broken Heart' (Kassem Mosse Remix)
Traumprinz - '2 Bad' (DJ Metatron's "What If Madness Is Our Only Relief" Remix)