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Music Of The Month: The Best Albums And Tracks Of March 2020
Patrick Clarke , March 27th, 2020 09:01

Things might be really, really shit, but there's always music. Here are ten amazing albums and eight massive singles released over the last month to see you through self-isolation and beyond.

You don't need me to tell you what a testing month this March has been, not least of those of us who are a part of the independent music industry - whether websites, magazines, artists, promoters, festival organisers or simply fans. The Quietus, like many small publishers, has been hit hard, and will continue to be hit hard as the weeks wear on.

That said, the ongoing crisis has also strengthened our resolve to keep producing the kind of music writing that we just don't think exists anywhere else, and to keep platforming the kind of music that now, more than ever, needs your support. Some of the pieces The Quietus has published in recent days, and are plotting for the weeks ahead, are among our finest; I can't recommend John Calvert's new 'Coronabollocks' column enough, for example.

Below, you'll find a selection of the very best albums and tracks of the last month; despite it all, it's been a vintage month for new releases. There's the supreme new Horse Lords LP, Nazar's astounding and unique new project Guerilla, top notch slap and tickle from Dale Cornish, as well as the new LP by Lyra Pramuk that will measure up among the year's best come December.

As always, we implore you to consider supporting the artists listed below by buying their work, preferably via the good eggs at Bandcamp who recently waived their cut of profits for 24 hours to help support artists affected by the sudden erasure of the touring industry. If we've turned you on to anything you love, please also consider donating the cost of a pint to The Quietus too. Now, more than ever, your support is essential to keeping us going. You can make a one-off or recurring donation here.
Patrick Clarke

Albums

Horse Lords - The Common Task
(Northern Spy)

The Common Task does deserve a proper, all-in-one-go listen. It’s supremely well-paced, and to appreciate that it needs to be worked through in one, glorious sitting. Well, not a sitting. The album has a liveliness and tempo that lends itself to running, dancing, speeding joyfully. The Common Task opens with ‘Fanfare for an Effective Freedom’, which feels like four concurrent tracks in unison, ripplingly overlaid against one another and resulting in a building, structured, wall of rhythm. This is really not like any other guitar music. Guitarist Owen Gardiner has lavishly praised krautrock band Neu! in the past, and you can see their shadow here and there – the punchy, disciplined minimalism, the gaps in sound and then tight, woven hits of noise. ‘Against Gravity’ smacks of ‘Super 78’, for anyone looking for some immediate connective tissue between the two bands.
Eve Willis - read the full review here

FLEE Project - Tarantismo: Odyssey Of An Italian Ritual
(Flee)

This gloriously odd record leads you to many discoveries. The opening tracks on the release (or those on side one if you have the vinyl version) are six recordings from the 1950s of an ancient folk music and dance ritual that was employed to cure Tarantismo; a psychological condition characterised by an extreme sometimes deadly impulse to dance. The condition was given its name due to the belief that it was caused by the bite of a tarantula. Tarantismo was found mainly in southern Italy – around the Greek colony of Taranta – during the mediaeval and the early modern periods. And, given the times, it seems the dance cure took the form of an exorcism. In more recent years this form of music based round creating long and fast rhythmic passages has developed and is used in therapy for patients with certain forms of depression and hysteria. The effects of the music on the endocrine system (your glands in other words) is now an object of serious research.
Richard Foster - read the full review here

Beatriz Ferreyra - Echos+
(Room 40)

This is a gorgeous new record by Argentinian composer Beatriz Ferreyra. She is a member of the GRM, and one of my favourite from that school, as she sometimes goes in for the heavier stuff. Her work is dense, almost industrial. This new album contains some of the creaks and fizzes I consider identifying features of musique concrete proper, but these are just watermarks in these compositions. The body of Echos+ is wrought from breath and voice, removed from their sources and made unnatural, un-bodily, lacking normal inhalations.
Jennifer Lucy Allan - read the full review here

Joyfultalk - A Seperation of Being
(Constellation)

‘Liquefied Then Evaporated’ would have been a good song title for a sci-fi death metal band but is in fact Joyfultalk’s side-long piece de resistance. Here, Zubot’s strings are looped, hypnotically and mixed so as to ensure all other elements are submissive; what might be a vocal sample is laid underneath as a drone-cum-infinite sigh, and a stoic bass part maintains gravity. An appearance of a vibraphone or close relation underscores Crocker’s debt to the lineage (if not the piece itself) of Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians. Partly through technology, of course, but owing much to the composer’s own ingenuity, A Separation Of Being was made by just one person and an acoustic sideman, and makes densely assembled music sound feather-light and, yes, joyful.
Noel Gardner - read the full review here

Nazar - Guerilla
(Hyperdub)

Nazar is 26 years old. In that time, he’s survived civil war – in which his father was a Rebel General – in his native Angola and lived as a refugee in Belgium, before eventually settling in the UK. With an upbringing and young adulthood like that, inventing and self-defining a new genre of music sounds like a piece of piss. That’s what he decided to do with his debut album, Guerrilla. From his home in Manchester, Nazar has created an astonishing, utterly distinctive record that does indeed occupy a very singular artistic space. Whether it represents a truly new style of music is perhaps up for debate, but it’s certainly true that this stuff – for which he has coined the term “rough kuduro” – sounds like little else.
Luke Cartledge - read the full review here

AYA - too oh won nein
(Self-Released)

Ever wanted to hear Caterina Barbieri's gorgeous synth tracks overlayed with a big fat gabber beat? Ever wondered what Oneohtrix Point Never and LTJ Bukem might sound like on one tune? Ever wanted to hear Shawn Mendes over Flux Pavilion's tearout dubstep wobbles? Well, AYA's got you covered with this collection of cheeky bootlegs and edits. Luck may not be looking down on us so far in 2020, but we are blessed at least to have AYA continually reminding us of how chaotically fun dance music can and should be.
Christian Eede - read the full review here

Four Tet - Sixteen Oceans
(Text Records)

During a time where news reports are overwhelming and every moment of concentration feels enormous, Kieran Hebden's new record as Four Tet is at once dextrous and familiar, quiet enough as to not overwhelm the senses but still delicate and challenging in its variety.
Ella Kemp

Dale Cornish - Thug Ambient
(Self-Released)

Top notch snap and tickle from Dale Cornish (bonus: dressed in lovely outfit on the cover). I have been waiting for this to drop for months – it's my favourite of Dale's releases, hands down, from the locked patterns and machine movements of 'Radium', through the groaning steep and tensile synthetics of 'Suomi' (a nod to the fact it definitely sounds like some of my favourite Finnish electronic music) through to the, well, nagging kick and inhale and clap of 'Nag'.
Jennifer Lucy Allan - read the full review here

Lyra Pramuk - Fountain
(Bedroom Community)

It is clear that Pramuk is striving here for Mladen Dolar’s notion of “pure enunciation” – the inner voice; the voice of reason; the voice transcending meaning to convey some notion of universal truth; the voice unmoored from distinct and socially produced signifiers of identity; the voice in a sense rendered synthetic. It’s interesting to think that “voice” is also the word we use to talk about the sounds synthesizers make. Fountain echoes Brian Wilson’s elaborate choral arrangements, or Meredith Monk’s extended techniques. But Pramuk has managed to uncover new and interesting ways to further transcend the voice’s necessarily monophonic nature.
Ryan Diduck - read the full review here.

Military Genius - Deep Web
(Unheard Of Hope)

If you want an antidote to all of the anxiety and mither generated by too much bad advice and an absence of solid guidance, then Military Genius are on hand with salve. This solo record by Bryce Cloghesy of the Crack Cloud family trades in dubby lo-fi jazz, junkyard R&B and powerless ballads, and displays a clear respect for the kind of vocalist who places feeling and delivery over a need for always hitting the right note, such as the luminous Alan Vega, Dan Treacy or Robert Wyatt.
John Doran

Tracks

Bleaching Agent - 'Not Colour Absolute'

I must admit that I've been finding heavy techno a bit dull of late - after that glory spell a few years ago when you had Ali Perc, Paula Temple, Blacknecks, Manni Dee et all banging out tunes that were as heavy as a Fred Dibnah-felled chimney but pranging all over with a certain daft revelling in their own cartoon violence, it's all gone a bit 2D bonk bonk bonk. Fine I guess for the eBay fetish harness and EasyJet raving crew but arguably lacking in much charm. Thank heavens for Bleaching Agent, then, who's back with a killer four track EP that packs the sauce you'd have come to expect from his work as half of aforementioned mysterious sweaty-palmed nutter pairing Blacknecks - a heavy bottom end and a knack for cheeky melody over the top - not that this is all dancefloor pugilism, by any stretch of the imagination: 'Set You Going', weirdly, sounds like something Primal Scream would give their hind teeth for.
Luke Turner

Two Shell - 'N35'

Fresh from an outstanding debut on Livity Sound, the shadowy production duo of Two Shell unleash the post-dubstep dancefloor anthem that 2020 didn't know it needed.
Christian Eede

Nadine Shah - 'Trad'

Nadine Shah knocks out mint, lush, elegant and understated rock songs like Tyson Fury knocks out over the hill heavyweight ringers. 'Trad' is another indication that her next album, Kitchen Sink, will be among her best.
John Doran

Soccer96 - 'I Was Gonna Fight Fascism'

A collaboration between two Total Refreshment Centre fixtures, The Comet Is Coming and Alabaster DePlume, Soccer96's 'I Was Gonna Fight Fascism' is righteous and psychedelic, an absolutely intergalactic kosmische instrumental underpinned by jaw-dropping drums, with DePlume on vocals ripping apart every excuse you ever made for not standing up against the far right. "I was gonna fight fascism, but I just don't think the left-right political spectrum really applies in the modern age" he sings in a hilarious laissez-faire hipster snark.
Patrick Clarke

Gary Numan - 'Every Day I Die' (acoustic)

A very self-effacing Nume - acting like your favourite uncle after a sherbet or two - has been cajoled into performing obscure numbers from his back catalogue live on a six string. The results - especially, the amazing onanist anthem 'Every Day I Die' - are charming and persuasive.
John Doran

HAIM - 'Steps'

While their new album has been delayed for obvious reasons, HAIM managed to release a few tracks to keep us ticking over until then. The Steps is the most cathartic of the singles from Women in Music Part III so far, a guitar-led lament full of frustration and resentment – but it's the angry type, one that still has enough energy to keep fighting.
Ella Kemp

Squid - 'Sludge'

Squid celebrate the major move of signing to the legendary Warp Records with yet-another brilliant cut of vital, infectious, forward-thinking and twisting indie rock.

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