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Music Of The Month: The Best Albums And Tracks Of February 2021
Patrick Clarke , February 26th, 2021 09:33

Here are ten essential albums and EPs that we at tQ have been loving this last month, as well as a smattering of superb singles

With the recent announcement that the end of June could mark the final end of coronavirus restrictions on social contact, paving the way for a summer of actual real life gigs that won't kill anyone we love, there's been a wave of newfound hope among a British music scene that's spent a year being battered to the point of near collapse. In all honesty, I've been burned too many times by this Government's false promises to entirely allow myself to succumb entirely to that optimism, but it's palpable nonetheless.

For now, though, we remain in the thick of it, with much of the music coming our way coloured in one way or another with the darkness and weirdness and intense contemplation of the last year, rather than the little beams of light that's started flowing through the cracks.

Fortunately, much of that music is extraordinarily good. Below you'll find the very best albums and tracks released in February 2021, as selected by tQ's still-not-in-the-office staff.
Patrick Clarke


Pauline Anna Strom - Angel Tears In Sunlight
(RVNG Intl.)

A self-described "hell-raising flower child," Pauline Anna Strom is at once adjacent to and stands apart from other New Age musicians. She is not reducible to her femininity and her blindness, yet these aspects of her identity formulated an essential part of the way she engaged with music. Composed in the apartment where she lived for years, Angel Tears In Sunlight narrates a non-visual encounter with an alternate, sci-fi inspired reality. Opening track 'Tropical Convergence' is like an auditory experience of an Ursula K. Le Guin novel. Nature and magic are entangled – shimmering, glockenspiel beats are raindrops landing on the forest canopy. The jungle theme returns with 'Tropical Rainforest', which is punctuated with watery sounds, calling to mind Strom's recollection of her early sound experiments. During the 1980s – alone while her husband was at work – for hours, she would manipulate a bowl of water with one hand and hold a microphone in the other, attempting to weave the splashes into a melody. It's from these small, clandestine details that dense, psychedelic worlds emerge.
Hannah Pezzack – read the full review here

Sunburned Hand Of The Man - Pick A Day To Die
(Three Lobed)

Remember the days when Sunburned Hand Of The Man put out a new CDR every week and if you heard a noise coming from a shack in a forest and then crept in to see what was going on, you'd likely find this wacky free-rock collective in there, improvising some wild psych jamz into the early hours of the morn? I think that era was called the 2000s. Anyway, the freaky so-and-sos are back and in a slightly surprising way they're sounding better than ever. The cuts here even seem to have a proper studio finish as opposed to having been recorded in, let's say, a tiny loft space owned by a Scandinavian promoter wearing colourful-if-grubby yoga pants and smelling musty at best. I mean, the spacy 'Flex' sparkles almost as brightly as Trans Am. Vocalist Shannon Ketch brings a welcome earthy feel to a couple of numbers, making for a compelling Kosmische Beefheart vibe. 'Initials' is perhaps the most rabid and wonky number, like Pelt being dragged into a mussy underworld. Sunburned also really rock out on the final number, in their own skewwhiff way, with the assistance of J Mascis on guitar. A very welcome return.
JR Moores – read the full review here

Elephant9 - Arrival Of The New Elders
(Rune Grammofon)

Comparisons to Magma, King Crimson, electric Miles Davis, Soft Machine, or even elements of Fela Kuti are not unwarranted, but nevertheless fail to capture the density of detail, and chaotic power, that Elephant9 bring to their updated take on the jazz rock genre. Comparisons to Emerson Lake and Palmer, on the other hand, are rather wide of the mark and easily dispelled by a quick listen to both bands, which immediately highlights the laser like intensity and kinetic potential of Elephant9 — aspects that set them apart from a purely nostalgic emulation of their musical forebears.
Sean Kitching

Senyawa - Alkisah
(Les Albums Claus)

Senyawa's chaotic approach to experimental music owes a lot to the cut and thrust of heavy metal. Alkisah is a destructive, scattered, and dramatic record, and the band's previous experiments with metal royalty are teased through every pore. But their real power comes from a clear understanding of the emotional intentions of metal's loudest and most devastating form, and by transposing moods and textures to a different set of instruments, they get to the same sinister conclusion through radically different methods.
Tom Coles – read the full review here

Another New Thing - XYZZY
(ANT Recordings)

Another New Thing is the project of Pennsylvania novelist and musician Don Himlin, prolific Preston-based synth wizard Paul Nagle, and the excellent Dean Honer of The Eccentronic Research Council, The Moonlandingz, The International Teachers Of Pop, The All Seeing I and more. XYZZY the album they recorded together remotely over the last year, collides all their myriad talents into a masterpiece in left-field songwriting. From the addictive wonky pop of lead single 'A Message' to the sleazy robo-dub of 'Don't Follow Your Shadow' to the dark and relentlessly danceable 'Hammers And Anvils', this record is a total joy.
Patrick Clarke

LONESAW - Lay In The Salt Of The Soil

A few years ago, Liverpool noise band LONESAW completely exploded my head when I ran into them playing in a rickety old shed on the city limits. It remains the loudest thing I've ever watched, and images of skeletal frontman Ben Bones leering in and out of a caterwhaul of frazzled noise remain etched on my mind like a night terror. Last year's live EP captures something of that chaos, but it's their recorded output that proves just what the group are capable of. After the deeply unnerving single 'Barbed Wire Church' last year comes the outstanding Lay In The Salt Of The Soil (out in full this Sunday), an EP which lurches from slow-burning avant-noise nightmares to bludgeoning industrial techno, to the occasional moment of serenity. All the while LONESAW never let their grasp of momentum and intensity slip – they know exactly how to pummel the senses.
Patrick Clarke

Black Country, New Road - For The First Time
(Ninja Tune)

This is the detached and cynical chorus of Plague Island's youth division. The portraits that Isaac Wood illustrates are very distinctly of the British middle classes, and the half-spoken delivery with which he paints them is almost the signature trope of British guitar music in the present day. Alongside contemporaries black midi, there is the feeling with this lot that a new generation of British guitar music is fledgling. Whilst For The First Time might not quite be the perfect record, Black Country, New Road might be the perfect band.
Cal Cashin – read the full review here

Octo Octa - She's Calling EP

Octo Octa's sound is celebrated for its contemporary interpretations of rave. High-energy and multi-textured, it's a rare equilibrium of emotiveness and dance floor-ready production which oozes euphoria. It takes a lot of skill, then, to translate that distinct spirit into a soundtrack suitable for a decelerated world. Drawing on the celestial themes in her 2019 For Lovers EP, Maya Bouldry-Morrison's She’s Calling is the fourth release on her T4T LUV NRG imprint co-founded with partner, Eris Drew. It's a three-track record leaking with sentiment, composed of multiple narratives in a contemplative ode to the club and to the earth.
Chiara Wilkinson – read the full review here

Astral Social Club – Space Draft Extended Play

A large part of the joy of Neil Campbell's work is that it basically defies description. But, sod it… here goes! It straddles various different lines, often wavering between them and helping to blur the distinctions. It is not quite electronic music, nor wholly what fusty rock writers would call "organic," and it's always difficult to categorise. The best stuff is avant-garde, sure, but rather than doing this in a confrontational or "difficult" manner like a topless noise musician with a studded glove and bucketful of static, Campbell's work is full of colour and playfulness and often succeeds in getting the booty shaking from side to side without ever sounding ordinary.

Take this latest offering, for example. It kicks off with 'Simple Mind Module', a dreamily hypnotic number that builds, grows, blossoms and matures for about 12 minutes, like some sped-up footage of a plant sprouting away over the course of the season. 'Skank Of The Ancients' could be the sound of a child's groan tube or moo box collaborating with a windup cymbal-bashing plastic monkey while a caveman, far from home, moans away in the distance. 'Freezy Water' melds dubby loops with abstract twinkles and other general creaking weirdness. The final track, 'Simple Mud Module', either evokes rainforests or railways. I haven't decided which yet. Probably both. Does that help?
JR Moores – read the full review here

Kìzis - Tidibàbide / Turn
(Tin Angel)

The first thing that strikes you about Kìzis' new album Tidibàbide / Turn is its sheer ambition. Over three and a half hours long with over fifty collaborators, produced and recorded across three continents, its 36 songs are bursting at the seams with pianos, cellos, violas, flutes, trombones, saxophones, guitars, indigenous Algonquin drumming and voices upon voices – in both English and Algonquin – that leap and sweep and shimmer in every conceivable direction. Released on excellent, though far-from-flush, indie label Tin Angel, "by no means is this a big budget production," Kìzis says via zoom. "It's a collaborative effort, based on working with people who love music.”
Patrick Clarke – read the full article here


Lost Girls - 'Menneskekollektivet'
(Smalltown Supersound)

The 12-minute title-track from Jenny Hval and Håvard Volden first studio recording after collaborating for more than ten years sees a slow drift of electronic noise morph gradually into something jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Patrick Clarke

Decius - 'Come To Me Villa'
(Decius Trax)

Finally England's sleaziest acid house sensations Decius mark what we hope is the start of a glorious period of releases, with a proper airing for torrid, demented, Balearic Isle lounge lizard thumper, 'Come To Me Villa'.
John Doran

Luca Yupanqui - 'V4.3 Pt.2'
(Sacred Bones)

News that Sacred Bones were going to release an album recorded by an unborn baby prompted many a dumbfounded Tweet, however for all it's gimmicks the music from Luca Yupanqui's Sounds Of The Unborn - recorded using biosonic MIDI technology - is actually quite good.
Patrick Clarke

Årabrot - 'Kinks Of The Heart'

Always looking for the path least travelled, the irrepressible Årabrot remake themselves as a thunderous valve-amp powered occult stadium glam band just as a pandemic empties all gig spaces.
John Doran

The Horrors - 'Lout'
(Caroline International)

Serpentwithfeet - 'Same Size Shoe'
(Secretly Canadian)

While it remains to be seen whether DEACON will make Josiah Wise the household name he deserves to be, there is no questioning the beautiful, sublime pleasure that driven-snow pure, Sampha and Lil Silva-featuring R&B anthem 'Same Size Shoes' offers.
John Doran

Arab Strap - 'Here Comes Comus!'
(Rock Action)

The latest taste of the much-anticipated new Arab Strap LP came along with a monstrously violent video, but even without visuals 'Here Comes Comus!' is among the darkest things Arab Strap have ever written. Much like the debauched spirit of hedonism that drives the song's grizzly narrative, it's completely addictive too.
Patrick Clarke

LSDXOXO - 'Dying For It 2021'

With a route back to being on dancefloors tantalisingly, though tentatively, in sight, LSDXOXO combines one of the most ubiquitous meme videos of recent years with a vortex of whirring synths and thumping kick drums, which speaks to the producer's ability to turn even the most unexpected samples completely on their head. Hearing this on that first dance back? I am most certainly dying for it.
Christian Eede