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Albums Of The Month: Music We’ve Loved This March
AR Wood , March 30th, 2018 10:13

Spring is here, we've puked up seven Lindt eggs, and loads of great music is still being released every single day. Here’s some of our favourites - a few we covered, a few we missed - plus some ace Tracks Of The Month

Hare Hopper! illustration for March by Lisa Cradduck

If you were a hare, you’d be rutting and boxing in a meadow somewhere this month. Being a hare in March sounds, no doubt about it, like a lot of fun: outdoorsy, satisfying, galvanising, clammy. But hares don’t get to expand their leporid minds with Ursula K Le Guin & Todd Barton’s poetry, synths and bone flutes; they don’t get to shudder and soar with The Final Age; they don’t get to weep and sigh to the beautiful closing track on Eric Chenaux’s new album. So, you know, swings and roundabouts.

Albums Of The Month

Hawthonn - Red Goddess (Of This Men Shall Know Nothing)

On their previous, Quietus-belovèd releases, Leeds duo Hawthonn performed an eloquent and elegant dialogue with the echoes left by Coil's moon phase of work - music that existed in the shadowlands of the non-urban, occult, and death. This continues here (notably on the vibrations from Coil's Ape Of Naples throughout), but Layla and Phil Legard are increasingly exploring their own misty territory. Red Goddess (Of This Men Shall Know Nothing) is the Leeds duo's finest works to date, a five track, 45 minute meditation on the symbolism of the herb mugwort and "the psychic flux of the menstrual cycle." From the opening pagan hymnal 'A Mighty Revelation' (in which Layla Legard's voice, one of the finest elements here, intones a wavering refrain) this is a deeply consuming listen. Let it into your ears and the modern world is stripped away. 'Lady Of The Flood' and 'Eden' have rough drones, a wind-swept, water-shattered take on tracks like 'Che' from the first Suicide album, grinding away in the gloaming beneath the vocals. 15 minute final track 'Dream Fugue' opens with the cry of a bird against the sound of water and wind before drones come shimmering over the landscape, like the glow of sunset that sets the moors ablaze, before a piper heralds the moon. Where some attempts at exploring the intersection of the metaphysical and eerie with the human body can feel rather Fisher Price Witch Outfit, Hawthonn's rigorous approach to researching their subject matter and the depth of emotional heft in the music makes this a deeply compelling record. Luke Turner - buy from Norman Records.

The Final Age - The Final Age

Not so long ago, I had the retina of my third eye scorched blind and my primary ear shells sound-wronged by the double-barreled PsychOps assault force known as Anthroprophh and GNOD. Both bands were playing the closing night of the Rocket Recordings’ 20th birthday bash at the Garage in London and their continuity rupturing ‘rock’ music caused my cephalic matter to liquidise and hose like grey organ custard from my nostrils, ruining both my higher brain function and my shoes in the process. The thing that linked both of these incendiary assaults on musical reasonableness was powerhouse, Bristolian drummer Jesse Webb who - one can only assume - is the human incarnation of the ancient Uruk Hai war chant: “Death To False Psych And Half-Baked Graphic Designer Krautrock”. Anyway, a creature that looked like a panther constructed from hummingbird skeletons with giant fangs of deep Siberian amethyst dropped a vinyl LP off at tQHQ recently and it was the several years in the making self-titled debut album by Mr Webb’s band, The Final Age. His motley crew of collaborators is a veritable who’s fucking who of DIY awesomeness including Big Joan vocalist Annette Berlin, Paul Allen of The Heads, Tombed Visions sax master Dave McLean and violin mensch Agathe Max. The album is a thrilling mix of jazzed-up post punk and dubbed-out experimental psych that defies easy categorymonging. JD - buy from Norman Records

Ursula K Le Guin & Todd Barton - The Music And Poetry Of The Kesh

This music feels alien, and also familiar. It’s illuminating to think about the differences between this album and, say, records from a couple of years earlier by Jon Hassell, Brian Eno and David Byrne. Dream Theory In Malaya and My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, for example, are inspired by snatches of ideas heard from a western anthropologist working in 1930s Malaya, use chunks of dialogue from a African-American preacher in New Orleans, borrow songs and phrases from a Lebanese singer, take a title from a Nigerian novelist of the 1950s. There isn’t anything wrong with doing any of that, necessarily, although I for one am pleased that they took ‘Qu’ran’ off the later pressings of …Bush Of Ghosts. But I think it’s safe to say that Ursula K Le Guin, extraordinary writer, thinker, activist, daughter of an anthropologist and imaginer of other worlds, was aware in her bones and deep in her heart as well as in her massive brilliant brain, of some of the nuances and many of the horrors of colonialism, inequality and ecological destruction. It’s safe to say that she was aware of many things that have not quite crossed the mind of me or you or even Brian Eno. Anna Wood - read the full review here - buy from Norman Records.

C Diab - Exit Rumination

C Diab’s Exit Rumination is his second excellent release this year, following a gorgeous contribution to experimental and ambient specialists Injazero’s charity compilation last March. On this new LP the Canadian trumpeter, tape manipulator and bowed guitarist continues to explore deeply emotional and introspective territory with an epic sweep that’s simultaneously free of any pomp and bombast. Ostensibly an ambient artist, C. Diab works with a lush and organic eye for tenderness that goes beyond many of his contemporaries, wielding subtly virtuosic strings at an elegiac pace with virtuosic skill. His work sneaks up on its listener, enveloping and absorbing by tiptoe rather than by any all-consuming force, and there are times when Exit Rumination has gathered the blasting, power of post-rock’s most suppressive bands without you even noticing. Patrick Clarke

Eric Chenaux - Slowly Paradise

Within the traditional singer-songwriter lineage, the guitar is primarily a subdued instrument, rarely diverting attention from the vocals. Chenaux’s playing is contrary to this. His guitar is often an obtuse presence, coming directly after the vocals and engaging them in a restless dialogue. The results are comparable sometimes to Bill Orcutt and Richard Dawson, and to Derek Bailey’s inflected shattering of form. Where Chenaux really differs from any of them is in his lysergic tonal explorations, behind his honey-dipped vocals and baffling assortment of bent guitar notes, aquatic and forever morphing. Take bluesy number ‘An Abandoned Rose’, where the lead guitar picking recalls the American primitivist style of Orcutt or John Fahey while its surrounding sonics are consumed by strange plasmic squelches. It’s beautiful. Eden Tizard - read the full review here - buy from Norman Records.

Discwoman - Physically Sick 2

When the profits from a release go to charity, part of me does wonder if the music might be more worthy than good. No such fear with this compilation from Discwoman, the Brooklyn-based collective of DJs and producers. Proceeds from this album go to the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, and all that tells me is that these people like some social justice with their rave strings, acid boinks, distorted vocals, fuzzy whoomph-whoomphs, 4-4 hip-nudgers and lurching basslines. Put together by Umfang, Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson and Physical Therapy this is a whopping 44-track compilation available only on Bandcamp, and it’s solid right the way through. Current favourites include Si Begg’s ‘Sick And Tired Of This Bullshit’, Xexexe’s ‘Air For One’, Doxa’s ‘Disideratum’, Shannon Funchess’s ‘See That Nigga’ and Umfang’s own ‘Complete Your Collection’. Anna Wood

Shirley Collins & VA - The Ballad Of Shirley Collins (Soundtrack)

What I love about Shirley's voice now is that she sounds exactly like how I imagine a folk singer to be, every octave quavering with decades of experience, loves lost and lessons learned - or not learned. That's very much what's evident throughout this beautifully curated record, a collage of spoken word from The Ballad Of Shirley Collins, old recordings made in the 1950s and 60s on her travels capturing old songs from old souls in the American South, and songs by herself and others of the folk revival movement. Shirley's voice now is there with the recording here of Horton Barker singing 'A Rich Irish Lady', his voice querulous but loaded through lips that whistle with the 's' sounds. After all, as Shirley says at one point, "You don't want anything perfect, do you." It was and is the cracks in the voices, the forgotten lyrics, the chuckles that sneak out, that give the emotional heft to the powerful narratives of hard-working lives. Luke Turner - read the full review here - buy from Norman Records.

Gwenno - Le Kov

Gwenno has established herself as a high priestess of 21st-century psychedelia. She keeps the spirit and heavenly calmness of Trish Keenan’s contralto alive, and the phenomenal drumming of Broadcast, with its crisp and complex structures, is brilliantly evoked here too, but loosened and put to the fore. The record has a live, organic feel, all interwoven with freeflowing synth-lines and blips. It sounds timeless. Danijela Bočev - read the full review here.

Tracks Of The Month

Pregoblin - ‘Combustion’

Balearic, majestic, gimme-a-cuddle rave magic from south London. With a lovely little bass slap, a heart of melancholy, and even more rave magic than you’re imagining right now. AW

GNOD - ‘Donovan’s Daughters’

Strip to your waist, face north, don your most extravagant hat, pour yourself a long draft, turn your stereo up full and wait for the spleen-bursting drop. JD

Virginia Wing – ‘The Second Shift’(Fire Records)

The first taste of Virginia Wing’s upcoming new album is a thudding, semi-psychedelic pop delight. PC

Flame 1 - ‘Shrine’

Yeah I know you enjoyed hearing Burial and The Bug get together for ‘Fog’ but wait til you hear the rude-to-your-parents atmospheric bass pressure of the b-side, ‘Shrine’. JD

Le Millipede - ‘Keep Your Face To The Sunshine And You Cannot See A Shadow’

If the music from the Ridley Scott/Dvorak Hovis advert was French and used to soundtrack The Moomins, it would sound like this. From their just-out album, The Sun Has No Money.

Blanck Mass – ‘Rat (Gazelle Twin Remix)’(Sacred Bones)

Juddering, majestic work from Gazelle Twin, from the Blanck Mass remix EP, World Eater Re-Voxed. PC