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From Arca To Adult.: April's Best New Music
Karl Smith , May 5th, 2017 13:36

Another month, another round of incredible new albums that we weren't able to give the time to that they might have deserved – and, of course, another quick nod to our favourites of the ones we've already told you about

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There are those who would have you believe that we are experiencing a fallow period of culture in general and, along with that, a dearth of quality and integrity in contemporary music. These kind of assertions usually begin with "I remember," or "It's just not like," and tend to feature "anymore" or "when I was" as key words and phrases. Something else they tend to have in common – the absolute grand unifier – is that they are a Jurassic Park-size heap of excrement: it takes so little work and so little time, so little inclination to dip far below the surface, to find contemporary music that not only ticks those boxes which remain blank in the heads of golden age-ists but which actually contributes to the progression of music as an art form. (And which also fucking bangs.)

With that in mind, we find ourselves here again, another month gone and another pile of music on desks both physical and digital that – solely because those complaints are false – we've not been able to feature on the site in the course of our day-to-day coverage.

As ever though, the internet allows us to repent for our misdeeds.

Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness
(Caroline Intl.)

Look at his face, inviting you to take another Summer stoner. “I was talked into it… I’m not usually one for having my face on the sleeve. The initial photograph was in black & white and I said, ‘Nah…’ But then the colour was added and… yeah. Looks like a Todd Rundgren cover!” He’s kind of joking but the late afternoon park burst of crimson and amaranth with smudges of tangerine, powder blue and teal, simply insists you take things a bit easier.

This is Thurston Moore’s nine millionth record. And it’s a peach. From the cosmic, matriarchist poetry (supplied by London-based artist Radieux Radio), to the chiming waterfall interplay between Moore and James Sedwards, to the intermittent rupturing and reverberant doom chords, to the luxurious structural dynamics that unfurl like an exhalation of smoke in a large room, eventually seeping into all corners, this one’s a keeper.

Among its five leisurely, extended tracks there is one brief moment of jarring dissonance when New York City is mentioned during ‘Smoke Of Dreams’, simply because this album sounds like it could have come from so many other locations. Düsseldorf for example: Steve Shelley’s still imagining equi-distant markers flying by the window of his Merc as he cruises down Bundesautobahn 52, tapping out a Klaus rhythm on the steering wheel. Palo Alto for example: there are so many audible connections to Sonic Youth’s mid to late period hippie dream here - not dead yet; still grateful. Camberwell for example: in the bones of ‘Cusp’ there is a healthy and efficient thunder trying to loosen itself. Yeovil for example: Debbie Googe of My Bloody Valentine lays down implacable bass which anchors everything. Of course NYC is there in the DNA… especially the clangor of Glen Branca during epic closer ‘Aphrodite’ and the unstoppable driving power of the Velvet Underground on ‘Turn-On’ (spiritually reminiscent of side one of Live In 1969 of course - not the best VU record but the most satisfying surely).

I normally can’t stand it when artists have dual careers; one serious strand to scratch the high-falutin’ artistic itch and another of pure commerce to raise the funds to indulge it. Or equally bad, the fiscally successful but bored star dipping their dilettante toes all over the shop. After all it speaks of a creator who has contempt for not just their audience but themselves as well. Thurston Moore puts as much care and attention into his ‘pop’ career as he does into his myriad avant garde/ noise/ improv/ acoustic collaborations, meaning he refuses this false binary with aplomb. On this record there has been a little seepage of ‘noise’ in from these other pastures; it makes itself felt occasionally and is thrilling when it appears but the true power here derives more from a sense that this band who came together for The Best Day in 2014 are not content to merely make the album to sell while they’re on tour. They’ve paddled much further out from shore this time, to really see where they can take these songs - a dynamic process which will no doubt continue, expansively, in the live arena as well.
John Doran

Coby Sey – Whities 010: Transport 4 Lewisham
(Whities)

The tenth release from Whities sees the standout imprint push into ever-broader territory, moving away from excellent recent club-focused releases from the likes of Avalon Emerson and Minor Science. This isn’t the first time the label has looked further afield of course with standout records also coming from Quirke and Reckonwrong, exploring exquisite ambient trance melodies in the case of the former and oddball new wave on the latter. Transport 4 Lewisham, the new record from Coby Sey, though strips away melody for something far more stark. Opener ‘Active (Peak)’ has the air of Raime taking on trip-hop, wrapped up in muted, discordant guitars and thumping beats.

Sey's vocal delivery across the record is distinctly direct even if reserved, hitting home in his frequently monotone drawl, with ‘Seed (Our Cells Meet)’ standing as a particular highlight, with its strident guitars coming through like a ray of light in the fog that hangs over much of the record. Above all, the latest record from Whities adds another string to the label's bow as it continues to prove it’s one of the UK’s finest imprints, in great part thanks to a willingness to push out beyond releasing records squarely aimed at dancefloors. Christian Eede

Arca – Arca
(XL)

Much of the surrounding press for Arca’s third full-length, self-titled record has been focused on the notion of the reveal – on the use of Alejandro Ghersi’s voice as integral to the album, and of his image, his body, as essential in providing context to the supporting visuals in both live and video form. A sort of emerging from the cocoon of collaboration. Yet, while there’s a necessary truth to that – an essential, glittering nakedness to the music and a totemic quality to the notion of the inherent physicality of the body as a theme – Arca is as much of a meditation on the idea and relative impossibility of exposition as it is an exposition in and of itself. If not more so.

It’s important to note that Arca, in a sense, is part of a natural progression – it continues a path set by Ghersi in the dwindling moments of last year’s Entrañas: unbeknownst and unannounced at the time, on ‘Sin Rumbo’ his voice functioned as a prelude – an off-camera undress, reflected briefly in the mirror, both allusive and elusive which (while a highlight of the mixtape) could just as easily have been incidental as it is now instrumental in shaping the future of the Arca project. Parallel to this, however, anyone remotely familiar with any of Ghersi's previous full-length outing under the Arca mantle will know that this record is also a diversion; a shift in both means and focus – method and result.

Where frenetic electronics had previously held court on an album like Mutant, Arca puts Alejandro Ghersi's voice, gifted to us in Spanish throughout, thoroughly at centre stage – illuminated under a single, high-intensity spotlight in a room otherwise cloaked in total darkness. Opening with 'Piel', which fittingly translates as "Skin," and the line “Take away my skin from yesterday,” Arca essentially begins with both request and proclamation: a plea to be renewed for Ghersi's own sake and, subsequently, to be seen in a new light.

The 13 songs which together make up Arca are a rending composite. The album revels in dichotomy, mixing baroque and minimalistic tendencies – bombast and understatement – classical tradition and bleeding-edge contemporary electronics: it's music which separates the listener from their own lived experience and any inherent 21st-Century cynicism, transporting them to a world which, though not without nuance, wears its intentions earnestly on its sleeve. With Arca, Ghersi has created a world that lives by Keats-ian tautology, where "beauty is truth, truth beauty" and each signifier is in harmony with that which it signifies. For all intents and purposes, this is Arca laid bare.

Adult. – Detroit House Guests
(Mute)

Although their music was played in many of the same clubs, Adult. always stood apart from the rest of the electroclash pack. They eschewed the arch European exoticism for an abrasive, rugged feel and unhinged lyricism that felt at once sordid and gritty and camp, even daft - "Sitting in dispassionate furniture / Not knowing what for", anyone? Detroit House Guests, their sixth album, sees Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus invite the likes of Robert A.A. Lowe, Douglas McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb, Swans' Michael Gira and Shannon Funchess of Light Asylum to er sit on the dispassionate furniture of their downtown studio for a collaborative album years in the making. The result is their best record yet, a murmuring, saucy, murky beast. Despite having such disparate and distinctive vocalists (including Kuperus' own controlled snarl) the record holds together beautifully. Indeed, that's what gives it such power - vocal lines eddy and unfold over the thick and dense analogue synths, like the tip of a whip making its way gently down your spine. If there's a comparison to be made it's that an influence from Carter Tutti and Chris & Cosey is writ large over the pulses of 'Into The Drum', and that's no bad thing. Overall, though, Detroit House Guests is a fine evolution of electronic body music that begs the question... what happened after the lights went out? Luke Turner

Vanishing – Vanishing
(Tombed Visions)

“[Gareth Smith’s] words exit him like ten thousand cubic metres of silt, suspended in the garbage rich, caramel brown waters of the Humber flowing right out into the desalinated and mercury poisoned North Sea.” – John Doran

The Inward Circles – And Right Lines Limit & Close All Bodies

"Anxious sequencer patterns maintain a certain rhythmic pulse as gristly noises flutter back and forth, heralding And Right Lines as Richard Skelton’s most unsettled – and most unsettling – album to date." – Joseph Burnett

Ryuichi Sakamoto – async
(Milan)

"To reach the end of async, then, is not to finish an up-to-date biography of Ryuichi Sakamoto, nor simply a chapter on his illness and recovery. Rather, though perhaps understandably inextricable from the context of that recent portion of his life, async is a testament to a lifelong preoccupation with life itself – to examination beyond introspection, and to a world not so much beyond our own but ever so slightly out of phase." – Karl Smith

Actress – AZD
(Ninja Tune)

"Where Ghettoville perhaps saw Cunningham stretch his stimuli to near breaking point, travelling too far down an ever gloomy, disengaging path, AZD arrives like a jolt of energy, welcoming some much needed colour into his oeuvre, despite what the record’s somewhat oblique central theme might have you believe." – Christian Eede

Tracks of the Month

Kara-Lis Coverdale - 'Grafts'

Juniper - 'Life Source Negative'

British Sea Power - 'What You're Doing'

Objekt - 'Theme From Q'

Ryuichi Sakamoto - 'solari'

Perc ft. Gazelle Twin - 'Look What Your Love Has Done To Me'

Arca - 'Desfío'

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I remember
May 5, 2017 11:26pm

Listening to the music presented here I can't help feeling we are experiencing a fallow period of culture in general and, along with that, a dearth of quality and integrity in contemporary music.

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May 6, 2017 5:40am

You missed April's best release: the Corridor EP by Acteurs, described as "like The Pet Shop Boys jamming with Whitehouse".
April wasn't a good month overall, but May will be much better with releases by Jane Weaver, Tomaga, FIS/Rob Thorne and Forest Swords.

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Christian Eede
May 7, 2017 3:05pm

In reply to I remember:

Maybe that's just you pal.

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Neil Buddle
May 8, 2017 1:22am

So good to read your first paragraph. As a middle-aged music-lover I have realised the challenge is to not be sentimental, not to mistake your own youth with the best period of music ever. I have always to new music and music made before I was born and that has continued. The 60's was full of s**t music, as was the 70's and the 80's but we choose to remember the cream, much of which wasn't heard in it's time (VU for example). Anyone who disagrees p**s off and go see a 'heritage act' before you are too old!

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Dante
May 8, 2017 5:26pm

In reply to Neil Buddle:

I get quite conflicted about all this, I think you're right in the sense that it has always been a case of sifting through a lot of dust to find the diamonds.....however culturally everything seems so stagnant, even the more left field music as found on the Internet. In order for culture to grow there has to be certain fearlessness and feeling that anything goes, the current censorship seems to override that which means that a lot of culture (music included) seems more concerned about how it is perceived rather than how it exists simply as a work of art. Does that make sense???

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