The Best New Music You Missed In August, Chosen By The Quietus
, September 9th, 2016 11:19
In baring our faults for the world to see, we give ourselves a chance to fix them. In that vein, we've collected together the best new music you might have missed in August - and the best of what somehow managed to pass us by
Like it or not, and this applies both to the fact and to the work itself, music continues to happen. And as long as there's things that fall into the "like it" category, The Quietus - like it or not - will keep covering what we think is the best of that sonic sprawl. But while you know as as pixels, 1s and 0s here to inform, articulate, and dare we say it entertain, we are - at the root of it - human and fallible, prone to oversight and error.
As ever, though, we are afforded the opportunity - by the malleability of those same 1s and 0s that threaten on occasion to strip us of our human faces - to right our wrongs. So, forgive us our sins as we round up the best of August's new music that received the love it deserved on these pages, and the very best of that which, for whatever reason, simply didn't. — Karl Smith (or, 01101011 01100001 01110010 01101100 00100000 01110011 01101101 01101001 01110100 01101000)
Stein Urheim - Strandebarm
The last time we heard from Norwegian guitarist extraordinaire Stein Urheim (Åresong, The Last Hurrah) it was 2014 and he was inviting us to explore the acoustic properties of 19th Century violinist Ole Bull's beautiful and baroque house in Lysøen, nr Bergen, via his excellent self-titled LP for Hubro. This time out, it is the nature he can see out of the window in Strandebarm, rather than the building he's recording in itself, which is the main source of inspiration. His tastes remain impressively catholic, as he skilfully references the late 20th Century sufi music of Morocco; Chinese gu qin; Norwegian folk; Carnatic ragas; kosmische; spritual free jazz and the Delta blues. Psychedelic, texturally rich and great fun, Urheim has knocked it clean out of the park again. In the brief liner notes, he acknowledges that he is in a privileged position living in Norway and able to record this type of music and has penned the beautiful track 'Water' in response to Nestlé Chairman and former CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe's obscene assertion in 2013 that access to clean H2O is not a human right.
Equiknoxx - Bird Sound Power(DDS)
Equiknoxx’s work takes many of its cues from the club drawing on elements of juke and the kind of rib-rattling sub-bass that filled the best productions emerging from the UK over a decade ago, albeit with a firmly Jamaican dancehall sensibility. Faintly comedic bird samples tie it all together, eagle chirps filling the space between chopped-up vocals and slight air raid sirens on ‘Last Of The Mohicans’ and ‘A Rabbit Spoke To Me When I Woke Up’ amongst other cuts. ‘Clunk’ is punctuated by menacing strings and swaggering drums while ‘Peanut Porridge’ strips back proceedings with its stilted beats chugging along with rarely more than one extra element competing with them for attention.
Bird Sound Power is a record that, on the whole, allows the producers often standing in the background in the dancehall scene to have their time in the sun. Rushes of riotous energy come in the form of tracks such as ‘Someone Flagged It Up!!’ which switches its focus throughout its three-and-a-half-minute runtime, clanking drums joining the melee here and there alongside all manner of bleeps and bloops. ‘Congo Get Slap Like A Congo Get Slap’ is infectiously fun, opening on a somersault of strings and taking in sweeping, dramatic pads and sugar-coated, squeaky vocals. On the whole, it’s a record that doesn’t take itself overtly seriously or try to throw too much at its listener and the results are exceptional.
Carly Rae Jepsen - EMOTION SIDE B
There are no Carly Rae Jepsen b-sides. That's the short version. The long version is something a little more like this:
It's easy to criticise contemporary pop music for its apparent cult of solipsism - to accuse it of cultivating a disengagement with politics and the Big Picture in favour of introspection, even naval gazing, and ask questions like "What can I learn about the world from a Carly Rae Jepsen album other than the intricacies of Carly Rae Jepsen's own life?". Putting aside for a moment the basic wrongheadedness of finding something unsatisfactory about a chance to understand the world from the perspective of another human being, it's also wrong on another level too: the songs on EMOTION SIDE B, as with EMOTION, aren't monuments to self-interest they're more like totems.
Pop music in its truest form, EMOTION SIDE B is what might lazily be referred to as "infectious": 'First Time', 'The One' are inception-like in their simplicity as titles and ideas — phrases that out of context are meaningless but upon listening become riddled with significance. 'Cry', too, exists in the world of the "You" and the "I" that EMOTION so meticulously built with just enough (and just little enough) detail to leave room - not for interpretation, but for inhabitation.
Since 'Call Me Maybe' in 2011, Carly Rae Jepsen has made some of the catchiest and most consistent music that huddles under the umbrella of contemporary pop. From the opening seconds of 'Run Away With Me' on EMOTION to the glassy synth blips of 'Fever' on this collection of supposed offcuts, perhaps "infectious" isn't so lazy after all. What's not so clear anymore is who's infecting who. - Karl Smith
Shackleton - Devotional Songs
Shackleton's latest record, his finest work yet, is composed of four long tracks that deal with death and the hereafter, human souls struggling in a Godless world. Devotional Songs is an apt title, then, but the idea of paying tribute to bigger forces now existing only in mystical realms is heard throughout the music. The record feels like a carefully wrought and rather brilliantly executed tribute to the later work of Coil, with nods to fellow travellers Current 93 and Nurse With Wound thrown in along the way. Indeed, the opening music to 'Rinse Out All Contaminants' with the repeated lyric "I am feeling ill and tired" is the spit of one of Tony Surgeon's meditative Freerotation ambient sets, themselves heavily influenced by the dear departed Sleazy and Balance. What's remarkable here is that Shackleton manages to create something that has elements of pastiche yet ultimately feels like a gloriously heartfelt tribute. Melodic percussion and keyboard passages that unfold with the intricacy of rising bubbles guide 'You Are One' to a doomy conclusion. 'Twelve Shared Addictions' combines the choral with amphetamine paranoia, 'Father, You Have Left Me' touches on the greatness of The Ape Of Naples. Yet this is never dour pseudo-occult posturing of the sort that one imagines lesser artists hanging around the slightly odd Coil facebook page might create in their musty bedrooms, wanking off into a book of Austin Osman Spare prints. Throughout there's a certain bizarre wit and humour, not least in that Ernesto Tomasini's vocals occasionally sound like the minstrel singing the closing theme from Blackadder II. - Luke Turner
Marielle V Jakobsons – Star Core(Thrill Jockey)
While Apollo may be it in reality, Star Core feels like the cosmic companion to the terrestrial textures of Brian Eno’s On Land. Just as that album seems vested in the substance of the Earth, this looks to occupy the gaping expanse that surrounds it, with the same command of diverse, at times uncanny feeling, yet always resolute sonics. It’s a meditative constellation that Jakobsons constructs, one that teems with a multitude: the starry twinkle of electronics remains a constant, but this is occasionally joined by more earthly sounds, lines of flute and violin that wheel above the loping synth bass, and the themes that recur throughout settle on the closing long-fade of ‘The Sinking Of The Sky’. Having chronicled the birth of stars here, Jakobsons’ sights have been set pretty far, but, having previously produced the brilliant evocation of the American dustbowl The Dusted Sessions as a member of Date Palms, her ability to inhabit her music with a sense of place remains entirely compelling.
Various Artists - Nigeria Soul Fever! Afro Funk Disco & Boogie! West African Disco Fever!
This excitably titled compilation on the always reliable Soul Jazz helped keep temperaments sweet and boogieful on an otherwise uneventful 12 hour bank holiday car journey this August. As you would expect, this is liberally sprinkled with dancefloor gold dust.
Frank Ocean - Blond
(Boys Don't Cry)
"After a definitive album of hits in Channel Orange, this is the point where he’s truly felt able to go for what he wants – where he’s fully able to let his guard down." - Tara Joshi
These Hidden Hands – Vicarious Memories
on Vicarious Memories the duo adds increasingly organic elements into their meticulous setup. Creeping vegetation, decay, the stain and haunting of barren places and contamination from the slur and memory of humanity. - Bob Cluness
Kemper Norton - Toll
(Front & Follow)
"Toll shows Norton is surely becoming a master of music that, alongside other modern outlier visionaries such as Daniel Patrick Quinn, is not concerned with purity and nostalgia, but instead pieces itself together from the flotsam and jetsam of sounds and tales that collect all around us. The fact that with Toll he creates a folklore where ancient tales of Breton Princess riding the seas atop a fearsome horse (‘Dahut’) and characters from the PC MMORPG game Dark Age of Camelot (‘Danaoin’) are given equal weight and importance bear this out. The music meanwhile may seem at times poised and controlled - a staple of electronic music created through laptop means – but bubbling underneath is a teeming mass of sadness and loss that evokes the mutable mess of history, myth, and duration." - Bob Cluness
Tamer Abu Ghazaleh - Thulth
"Surrealist lyrics over an Egyptian mahraganat inspired bedrock with Palestinian folk influences, not to mention some smoking oud."
Zomby – Ultra
"Ultra is Zomby’s best album to date, a timely reminder of the skills of a producer who had threatened to disappear in a haze of social media spats and lost momentum." - Ben Cardew
De La Soul – ’Royalty Capes’
Katy Gately - ’Tuck’
Factory Floor - ’Ya’
$hit & $hine - ’Kramer Baretta’
Gonjasufi - ’Poltergeist’
Nawksh – ‘First Friend’
Minor Science - ’Naturally Spineless’
Frank Ocean - ’Nights’ Bored Young Adults - ’Shy Dancers On Bungalowdorf Beach’