The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Quietus Charts

Albums Of The Month: Music We’ve Loved This February
Christian Eede , March 1st, 2019 09:55

From Xiu Xiu to Sleaford Mods, Efdemin to Cosey Fanni Tutti, this is our favourite music of the last four weeks

February sexbot illustration by Lisa Cradduck

February was a big month for new releases by tQ friends and favourites.

Cosey Fanni Tutti stepped out with her first solo album in over three decades, in the form of the excellent TUTTI. International Teachers of Pop - a more recently established favourite of the site - made their mark with their self-titled debut. Teeth Of The Sea returned on Rocket Recordings with their most sophisticated record yet in the Erol Alkan-assisted Wraith, and Sleaford Mods explored the nuances of masculine identity on Eton Alive, their 11th album. Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson helped us launch our new podcast series The Best Of Times earlier this week too. It's presented by our own John Doran and brought to you by Lush and us here at tQ. You can expect the next episode of that series in March.

All of those albums feature below in The Quietus' round-up of February's best new music, complete also with a resplendent set of new tracks that we couldn't get enough of this month.

Albums Of The Month

Teeth Of The Sea - Wraith (Rocket Recordings)

Wraith seems to reflect on cultural turbulence and change, with music that mixes elegy with elements of disaster movie and failed futures. Yet as well as chaos there is reflection, stillness and redemption. Teeth of the Sea are now almost veterans of a UK alternative music scene that, over the last couple of years, has delivered some exceptional responses to increasingly disturbed and disturbing times. Albums such as Gazelle Twin’s Pastoral and Gnod’s Just Say No to the Right Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine have set the standards for engaged music. Teeth of the Sea are far from an overtly political band, but how do you retain a sense of purpose without relating your music to your times. How to do this with music that’s largely instrumental? Wraith takes on the challenge with tracks that explore their concerns through titles and illustrative qualities, as soundtracks to events we cannot see, but lurk on the edges of our fears. The vivid, evocative qualities to Teeth Of The Sea’s music makes space for the mind to roam. Tom Bolton - read the full review here

Xiu Xiu - Girl With Basket Of Fruit (Polyvinyl Record Co.)

Girl With Basket Of Fruit is a deeply immersive and courageous record that vibrates with rage. It is an uncomfortable, queasy, difficult listen, but with that is one of the most thrilling records I've heard in quite some time. The album comes not with a standard press release telling us what Jamie Stewart has done over his years of operation, the Twin Peaks interpretations record etc, but a list of suggestions about what Girl With Basket Of Fruit "could be". It's a clever way to deliver insights into the recording process, and "It could be a short novel called The Rhythm Section Talked about Drugs, The Horn Players Talked about Ass & The Strings Talked about Money" is certainly preferable to the average artist and their usual "there were tensions in the studio yes but in the day we wrote the songs that we needed to for ourselves and if anyone else likes it well then that's a bonus". Luke Turner - read the full review here

The Specials - Encore (Island)

When a new Specials album was announced, no one expected it to be quite this good. Musically Encore declines to be defined by the old ska tropes one imagines it was overwhelmingly tempting for the band to rest on. The 2 Tone roots are still there, but blended smoothly with hints of disco, funk and pop. Much of it feels like a natural progression from Terry Hall and Lynval Golding's work with former-Special Neville Staple as Fun Boy Three, and on the one occasion where they directly reprise old material - a new version of that group's 'The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)' - it's done so with a direct eye on the politics of here and now. Saffiyah Khan, tho takes lead vocals on 'Ten Commandments', offers a vital young voice among these established masters with a feminist re-work of Prince Buster's grossly misogynist original, while Golding's 'B.L.M', a spoken word tale of the realities of life as a Jamaican-born man in the UK and USA, works tremendously over a slick, funky backing.

With Encore, The Specials have not only made a record that is better than it has any right to be, they have made an album that connects the dots between the socio-political dread that informed their formation and its sinister re-emergence today, without being obvious, patronising or preachy. It is imbued with the ragged anger and vitality of a group who have fought these battles once before, and must now do so again. As Golding sings on the tremendous 'Embarassed By You': 'We never fought for freedom / for nasty little brutes like you / to undo the work we do.' Patrick Clarke

Efdemin - New Atlantis (Ostgut Ton)

The wary, time-worn decay of life runs to the core of Efdemin's sonic utopia, from the reedy hurdy-gurdy bleats on the title track to the dark, damp intimacy of 'At The Stranger's House' which appears warped and heavy despite clocking in at a jaunty 124 beats-per-minute. 'A Land Unknown' is haunted by minor key stabs and unsettling loops which seem to go on ad infinitum, hooking you into a grim, hypnotic state that unsettles and captivates in equal measures.

The fleeting and intense 'Temple' seethes with short, sharp shivers, balancing an alarming synthlead with flutes and yelps that mount in tension before reaching an abrupt conclusion. 'Black Sun' broods with Ostgut Ton bump before the pitch fader is brought all the way down and veers off into a sludgy, Murakami-esque alter-world filled with the arid, monochromatic textures of an Actress production. The project concludes with 'The Sound House', its echoey vocal samples and verdant instrumentation more suited for a campfire Kumbaya than a club night, a suitably odd yet assured ending to a mightily ambitious project that delivers more than it doesn't. James Ball - read the full review here

Cosey Fanni Tutti - TUTTI (Conspiracy International)

A follow-up to her only other solo album Time To Tell released back in 1982, Cosey Fanni Tutti describes TUTTI as: "the only album I've made that is an all encompassing statement expressing the totality of my being. A sense of the past in relation to the present and everything in between." It's comprehensible then, that these pieces originated around the time of her writing her autobiography Art Sex Music, and were used initially to soundtrack an autobiographical film Harmonic Coumaction as part of a COUM Transmissions retrospective to open 2017's Hull UK City of Culture.

Unlike Cosey Fanni Tutti's autobiography, there's no straightforward chronology to TUTTI. Both self-titled in the sense of it being the title track and containing one third of her adopted name, the opener 'TUTTI' is tight industrial techno with Tutti's cornet leading the listener through its frenetic pulse like the rogue hand of a friend in a packed rave. Her faraway voice takes the same role on 'Heliy', bringing a more improvisational quality to the hypnotic lurches of its spidery modular synths. When you reach album closer 'Orenda' you've made a post-club excursion down to the North Norfolk landscape where Cosey Fanni Tutti recorded the album and lives. Lottie Brazier - read the full review here

International Teachers of Pop - International Teachers of Pop (Desolate Spools)

It might be tempting to label International Teachers Of Pop escapist, but that does them a deep disservice. This is a deeply English-sounding record, and a clear product of a country that’s sinking further into despair; just because they don’t make some lame attempt to capture our complex national decline, that doesn’t mean they’re burying their heads in the sand. The joy on this record is a defiant one, a call to dance in the face of depression, in the knowledge that though nothing can be fixed, we can still have an excellent time when we all get together. ‘After Dark’ begins the record with an invocation – you’re fed up, it tells us, but the Teachers Of Pop are having a party. Patrick Clarke - read the full review here

Sleaford Mods - Eton Alive (Extreme Eating)

Sleaford Mods' eleventh album is a remarkable leap on from 2017's English Tapas, a record of consolidation that addressed the strange situation that the duo found themselves in - going from a niche concern more accustomed to playing alongside noise artists suddenly given column inches and selling out massive venues. This progress has come hand in hand with a keener knack for more fully developed tunes to bolster Williamson's hectoring. (Listen to the way the melody fluffs its feathers like a randy pigeon in the weird chorus to 'Kebab Spider', or relish the juddering lo-fi hit of disco on 'Discourse'.) It is also, frequently, a hilarious record. The quavering of kazoo, lumbering bass and vocal leer of "big biiiiiiiird" on 'O.B.C.T' is one of the most joyously bonkers sonic combinations you'll hear all year. Luke Turner - read the full review here

Ossia - Devil's Dance (Blackest Ever Black)

Opener ‘Concrete’ lulls into action on a bed of hissing noise and sub-bass, soon to be joined by a loop of solemn chords and strings. It’s an immediate introduction to the dusky sound world that Davies pushes across Devil’s Dance. Some tracks - ‘Radiation’ and the 23-minute ‘Vertigo’ namely - fold in wistful sax lines which occasionally break through the dense, smoggy electronics underneath. ‘Dub Hell’, a cut which first saw release on a limited 12” last year again through Blackest Ever Black, and accompanying track ‘Hell Version’ employ chugging drums and dub-inflected bursts of noise that move Devil’s Dance closest to straightforward 4x4 material. The album’s closing tracks - ‘Inertia’ and ‘Vertigo’ - push the LP back into the unknown. The shadowy vocals of the latter suggest a step away from the gloom that runs through much of the album’s first half, but the extended runtime of the record’s closer creates a kind of auditory purgatory, fluctuating between moments of redemption and retribution. A deep and engrossing listen, Devil’s Dance is unapologetically murky. Christian Eede - read the full review here

Tracks Of The Month

Pregoblin - 'Combustion'

The single of the summer from last summer finally gets an official release so it can officially be single of the summer, this summer. JD

Anastasia Kristensen - 'Ascetic'

The lead track on Anastasia Kristensen's first full EP is a patient, rolling techno cut, centred around dusky synths that come off like ominous church bells. CE

Erland Cooper - 'Haar'

With Sule Skerry, the second in a planned triptych of records inspired by the Orkney Islands on its way this year, first single 'Haar' seems to indicate that it will be every ounce as beautiful as last year's sublime Solan Goose LP. PC

Errant Monks - 'Sdvig!'

Sdvig, apparently, is a Russian term for an earthquake triggered by rapidly shifting fault planes and refers, obliquely, to the cephalic carnage undergone by front monk Joseph Charms after suffering the indignities of alcohol induced grand mal seizures. Hectic Northern industrial post punk stormer; file under delerium tremendous - and may God have mercy upon my soul. JD

Vendredi Sur Mer - 'Chewing Gum'

More slick and sublime French lounge-pop from the soon-to-be-absolutely-huge Vendredi Sur Mer, the latest in a tremendous run of singles. PC

Bambounou - 'Temple'

The stumbling rhythms of the first half of ‘Temple’ recall the restraint of some of the best Margaret Dygas records, while hypnotic bells and faintly choral pads dance around the rolling drums. It's one of Bambounou's finest moments yet and another winner for Whities. CE

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.