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Albums Of The Month: Music We’ve Loved This January
AR Wood , January 31st, 2018 15:25

The winter keep on wintering, and we need help. Enter: Aksak Maboul, Jonny Shitbag, Watain, Guy One and Cucina Povera.

January illustration by Lisa Cradduck

Ursula K Le Guin - creator of worlds, teller of tales, wonderful woman full of good sense and kindness and a steely sense of justice - died on 22 January. And Mark E Smith - creator of worlds, teller of tales, mardy man full of stubbornness and kindness and gimlet-eyed observations - died on 24 January. We didn’t know them, really, but we love them so all the songs we’ve enjoyed this month, and many more, are dedicated to them.

Albums Of The Month

Aksak Maboul - Un peu de l'âme des bandits (Crammed Discs)

The Belgian experimental group Aksak Maboul were - and are - out there on their own. Marc Hollander may be better known these days as the founder of Crammed Discs, but prior to this role he and Vincent Kenis (of The Honeymoon Killers) got together in 1977 to produce a sound that was in spirit post punk while comfortably combining various North African musical traditions, electro-acoustic composition, boulevardier jazz and Zeuhl-like prog. They were asked to join Rock In Opposition in 1979 and ended up recruiting Henry Cow’s Fred Frith and Chris Cutler (as Kenis switched from musician to occasional arranger) in time to make this, their second (and final) studio album. If you took every single LP on the Nurse With Wound list, put them all in a cauldron over a fierce heat until the vinyl melted into a viscous, bubbling tar and then placed a contact mic into fug rising from the hot black soup, this is probably the revelatory sound you’d hear. John Doran

NPVR - 33 33 (Editions Mego)

After the retirement of CTV, Factory Floor’s Nik Void continues her acronymous collaborations with senior members of the avant-garde with NPVR, an intriguing alliance with Editions Mego boss Peter Rehberg. Where Void's work in both Carter Tutti Void and Factory Floor saw her use pranging guitar in a debate with electronics, here the joint forces produce a clean acidic sound largely using modular synths - as Void explained in a recent Quietus interview: "The great thing about us both using modules is that it feels like they’re having a conversation together." It’s a particularly stimulating chit-chat for fans of improvisation-derived austerity, one that builds from abstraction to structure as the record progresses. 'Twin Cases' is the laser sharpening of titanium unpleasantness, on Free Founder a weird crackle flickers over a luminous, circulating higher melody and deep bombs resonate beneath the lot. 'DEABG (#1 & 2)', the final track, is all alarms through an atomic squall, the visceral presence that, in the right hands, modulars are able to summon grating and rattling through the speaker cones. Luke Turner

тпсб - Sekundenschlaf (Blackest Ever Black)

Making their debut on Blackest Ever Black, the story behind тпсб is a confused one. Past material was said to have been recovered from a Russian hard drive purchased off eBay, but now the work of the producer, Blackest Ever Black says, simply has an ”unclear authorship”. What is clear though is the fuzzy, almost lo-fi excellence that lies within Sekundenschlaf. Opener ‘Catching Rare Birds’ centres around a simple conga loop and a four-chord bassline that soon progresses into a demonic form of acid. ‘The Grand Pacific Garbage Patch’ is underpinned by barely there jolts of sub-bass and a hypnotic loop of ambient electronics. The album’s last three tracks touch on jungle and footwork, though shot through with the ornate weirdness that runs through the record, particularly in the arresting, hollering vocal samples of standout closer ‘Are You Still Hurt’. Christian Eede

Guy One - #1 (Philophon)

Guy One is so revered in northern Ghana, where he’s spent his career as a funeral and wedding singer, that people make it clear that they do not want to be buried until he has performed. His debut international release comes after Max Weissenfeldt of Philophon records bought one of his CDs while travelling, and promptly invited One to record in Germany. The result is lush and stunning, setting the scene on a short, atmospheric opener ‘Po’oreYe La Be De Geta Gurego’ before bursting into glorious, all-consuming light as ‘Bangere Tomme?’ burst forward to a round of applause. One’s presence is commanding, his seizing vocal forthright and powerful but never forceful. He steers eight tracks of tremendous depth and lush instrumentation, culminating in the tremendous ‘Everything You Do, You Do For Yourself’, a track bathed in beautiful rhythm, texture and sound. Patrick Clarke

Cucina Povera - Hija (Night School)

“Over the course of eight carefully constructed pieces, Maria Rossi [aka Cucina Povera] takes away every unnecessary layer, bringing the listener into some unknowable space where the sounds feel both familiar and strange, vivid in places and distorted in others; it is contextless and, as such, purely experiential.” Eoin Murray - read the full review here.

Jim Ghedi - A Hymn For Ancient Land (Basin Rock)

In the scraping, metallic tones that open ‘Phoenix Works’ or the faraway, dripping piano tinkles that bookend ‘Home for Moss Valley’, you glimpse something similar to the liminal agrarian sonics that make Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden such an engrossing work. ‘Bramley Moor’, meanwhile, is an example of where the expanded instrumental lineup can work in Ghedi’s favour, with cello, slide guitar and sticks furrowing together to create a lush thrum. Similarly on album closer ‘Sloade Lane’, a trumpet and cello weave round Ghedi’s guitar figures, creating moments of emotive beauty in the track’s descending main theme. Danny Riley - read the full review here.

Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse (Century Media)
“Watain are the master puppeteers. They refused to bend, but they refuse to explain themselves either, and in that they manipulate their following. That is what a wolf does: it leads the sheep toward it. And because they won’t enter into discussion about their politics, their influences, their ambitions, their personal lives, you are forced to trust them. And they do nothing to deserve your trust. You are with them or without them, and again you blindly willingly follow, as Trident Wolf Eclipse is so damned essential. In these end-times, they will play fiddler while we burn. With these hymns of decimation, these uncompromising attacks, these martial anthems, these light-extinguishing odes to lawlessness, they will pummel you into submission. They are fire, they are fury. They are Watain.” Louise Brown - read the full review here.

Salm - Gaelic Psalms From The Hebrides Of Scotland Volume One (Arc Light Editions)

“The Gaelic psalm tradition, while not exactly unknown, is hardly on everyone’s lips. Not only is it the most eerie and unexpected music, transmitted from Scotland’s far edge, it is also related to the songs Shirley Collins and Alan Lomax recorded in the American South in 1959. Salm records the congregation of the Back Free Church, on the Isle of Lewis, singing unaccompanied psalms in Gaelic. Each verse is led by a precentor, who chooses a tune to fit the psalm on the spot, and leads the congregation with a couple of bars. Then everyone else joins in, and a ragged and beautiful sounds swells through the tiny chapel. The style of singing is technically categorised as free heterophony, with the group singing together, but as individuals. Each sings at their own pitch and speed, and in their own style. The result is unfiltered and unpolished, and it packs an astonishing emotional punch. As precentor Calum Martin notes, ‘It shouldn’t really work, but it does.’” Tom Bolton - read the full review here.

Hobbyist - Sonic Cramps

Holly Prindle (who sings) and Marc Mozga (who plays guitar and yells) met in Chicago five years ago, went to Poland and Spain then back to Chicago, where they got married. Then they made this album, which is cranky and strange and angry, with creepy Cramps-y bits, psychotic psychobilly bits that are a bit like Nick Cave doing a music-hall number, and one interlude that is essentially a very enjoyable instrumental cover of Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’. Sometimes it’s a bit too arch, for my tastes anyway, but it’s mainly sharp and unsettling and swampily delicious. Anna Wood

Tracks Of The Month

Jonny Shitbag & The Smokes - ‘Distract Me’

You know, in your heart, that a band called Jonny Shitbag & The Smokes are going to be worth a listen. And so it is with this perfect track, a slice of happy-sad magic heavy with reverb and the optimistic ennui of youth. (Album out on Bandcamp now, reviewed on tQ soon.) AW

Riko Dan & Pinch - ‘Vibrations’

“Vibration - lick them like an earthquake!” Listen to napalm-powered east London MC Riko Dan and neo-dub tyrant Pinch bring the dancehall dread. JD

Gwenno - ‘Tir Ha Mor’

The first cut of Gwenno's Cornish-language LP Le Kov, due from Heavenly Recordings in March, is lush, sweeping, sparkling and brilliant. PC

Insecure Men - ‘I Don't Wanna Dance (With My Baby)’

The third single from Insecure Men’s forthcoming debut LP is their most enjoyable yet, their lopsided exotica imbued with a newfound moving groove. PC

Lanark Artefax - ‘Styx’

One of the best emerging producers over the last year applies his distinctive sound palette to jungle - equal parts menacing and banging. CE

The Green Child - ‘Destroyer’

There’s a soothing sunshiney fuzz on this song that, to my spring-hungry heart, is the sound of hope and comfort making their way out of icy dark days. The album's themes - and the band’s name - were inspired by a 1935 utopian anarchist sci-fi novel by ICA cofounder Herbert Read, apparently, which could also explain those vibes. AW

Overmono - Catapult

A SoundCloud loosie from Tessela and Truss’ Overmono project with breakbeats and rave euphoria in abundance. CE

The Fall - ‘Tempo House’ (recorded live at Speed Trials)

Even though the project is complete, new facts continue to emerge. JD