Music Of The Month: The Best Albums And Tracks Of March 2023

From Lankum to Lamp Of Murmuur, here's your monthly guide to the best in brand new music, hand-picked by tQ's in-house staff

I don’t think I can remember a month when, considering what to include in this column and asking my tQ colleagues for their choices, quite so many albums came to mind so quickly.

Whether relatively mainstream releases like Lankum’s superlative fourth record (which, by the time you read this, may or may not have improbably pipped Lana Del Rey to the No.1 spot in the Irish album charts), or more obscure releases cherrypicked by our columnists, this March’s roundup is particularly rich.

All the below, as well as all the other excellent music we’ve covered at tQ this month, will also be compiled into an hours-long playlist exclusive to our subscribers. In addition, subscribers can enjoy exclusive music from some of the world’s most forward-thinking artists, regular deep-dive essays, a monthly podcast, specially-curated ‘Organic Intelligence’ guides to under the radar international sub-genres, and more.

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Patrick Clarke


Lankum – False Lankum
(Rough Trade)

On False Lankum, says Radie Peat (whose long list of credits on the album include reeds, concertina, hammond organ, harmonium, harp, mellotron, piano and bayan), "we’ve become a more extreme version of ourselves. The dark bits are literally horror, and the light bits are really, really sweet. The contrast has become heightened." Take the slow, dreadful march of opener, ‘Go Dig My Grave’, for an example of the former; the immensely stirring ballad of forbidden love ‘Newcastle’ for the latter (Peat sings lead on both). She likens the band’s progression to an ever-growing tolerance for drugs. "It’s like, ‘That doesn’t do it for me any more! It needs to be more extreme!’ Although that doesn’t bode well for the future, does it?"
Patrick Clarke – read an interview here

The Shits – You’re A Mess
(Rocket Recordings)

Terrible, terrible bastards The Shits are here with all the spiritually uplifting, life affirming, serotonin boosting properties of a dark amber, ammonia stinking, three-day rave piss, in the form of new transmission, You’re A Mess. Starting with a bludgeoning, left of centre, Amphetamine Reptile punk take on The Stooges that laughs in the face of more recent flat white-sipping, pantywaisted post rock and post hardcore innovations and instead concentrates on a caustic, clangorous, bone-cracking assault on all that is right and proper. But steady your nerve, delve into their metallic, acid stripped, pig-fuck grooves and you will find a chaotic world of inverted psychedelia and jet black – fucking appalling – enlightenment waiting for you.
John Doran

Lia Kohl – The Ceiling Reposes
(American Dream)

The Ceiling Reposes, by Chicago-based cellist, composer and sound artist Lia Kohl, feels like a dream. Across its 34 minutes, you find yourself drifting through a fuzzy array of cello plucks, dampened bells, synthesiser beeps and fragmented radio segments. On the surface, these sounds feel disparate, but ever-present static unites them, cloaking each moment in a wondrous haze. Throughout, Kohl taps into the radio’s intimacy, letting it permeate through each musical theme to illuminate the hidden power of moments that fly by nearly too fast to notice.
Vanessa Ague – read the full review here

James Holden – Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities
(Border Community)

Intrusive and incessant, those are the words that litter my mind whenever I try to describe James Holden’s work. The phrase is always the same. It makes sense – to me, at least. There is an unmistakable centripetal force to his compositions, a swirling sort of motion. Listening to his latest LP, Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities, I’m reminded of that dust devil. Not only was its existence contingent on its spinning, it was its spinning. No spinning, no dust devil. Somehow, this seems like an apt metaphor for the way James Holden composes and plays music. No swirling sort of motion, no James Holden.

Bernie Brooks – read an interview here

Aksak Maboul – Une Aventure De VV (Songspiel)
(Made To Measure)

Inspired by experimental radio plays like those once created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop or the German Hörspiel, Une Aventure De VV (Songspiel)’s surrealistic narrative fuses elements of Tarkovsky and the Strugatsky brothers’ Stalker with aspects of Alice In Wonderland and Jean Cocteau’s Orphée. Exiting her room via a window and leaving her ability to use language behind, the character VV embarks on a journey during which she converses with non-human beings (birds, trees and rocks), destroys a vast wall and enters into a dead zone that exists "beyond all maps."
Sean Kitching – read the full review here

Heartworms – A Comforting Notion
(Speedy Wunderground)

At Heartworms’ Lexington headline gig last week they delivered an absolutely spellbinding cover of Sisters Of Mercy’s ‘Dominion’ that, in its corrosion with cello and Orme’s unexpectedly brutal screaming, became very much their own. This modernist take on the gothic is all over Heartworms’ debut EP, from the Portishead atmospherics of ‘A Comforting Notion’ to previous track of the month selection ‘Consistent Dedication’ and now ‘Retributions Of An Awful Life’, essentially a rattling monologue over anxiety drums, synths and noise, but infernally catchy with it. Also the best release this year to come with a limited edition Airfix kit – a Spitfire with Heartworms’ own decals. Chocks away!
Luke Turner

Surgeon – Crash Recoil

Any brutality on Surgeon’s latest album is tempered by the producer’s characteristic ambient touch: the club frequently decamping to the cinema. The arpeggiated drama of ‘Leadership Contest’ could soundtrack a political thriller, until its rising synths blur into something more obscure, and ‘We laugh and clap at the circus’ creates the unsettling mood of a horror film. Synth pads breathe space into the intensity of ‘Subcultures’, while ‘Hope Not Hate’ ends on an unexpectedly grandiose note.
Kate French-Morris – read an interview here

Richard Norris – Deep Listening 2019 – 2022
(Group Mind)

Like the best ambient composers, Richard Norris – whose multiple turns towards the style over the last few years are compiled in this excellent hour-long compilation – knows that the genre has the capabilities to be anything but the wishy-washy background noise so many others have it down as. As the name suggests, Deep Listening is a record that does not so much reward close attention but incites it. Melodies sprawl and evolve slowly, but have a magnificence that means they totally immerse as they do so, whether through the gorgeous whirrs of synthesisers or the delicate intensity of the piano.
Patrick Clarke

PoiL / Ueda – PoiL / Ueda
(Dur et Doux)

PoiL’s latest adventure finds them teaming up with Japanese singer and satsuma-biwa (a type of Japanese lute) player Junko Ueda to form PoiL Ueda. Born in Tokyo but based in Europe as far as I can tell, Ueda is steeped in the epic storytelling style associated with the instrument, and this debut collaboration with the French band is based on the 13th century text The Tale Of The Heike (or Heike-Monogatari), about rival clans vying for power. No such struggles are apparent in the music though; this new pairing seems like a marriage made in heaven. The album, fittingly for an epic tale, essentially comprises two long tracks that are broken down into several parts. PoiL’s usual jazzy heaviosity anchors the music but there are so many moments of delicious disorientation, as you lose your bearings in the wooshing and rattling transition from ‘Kujô Shakujô – Part 1’ to ‘Part 2’, or the passage in ‘Kujô Shakujô – Part 3’ when the tricky-but-lithe groove and reptilian riffs suddenly give way to a blizzard of bleeps and wubs and rattling percussion, before the track ascends to a Magma-like climax of massed vocals. I was unfamiliar with Ueda’s work and I sadly can’t understand the words but her vocals are, unsurprisingly given her musical background, hugely, dramatically expressive, fierce and sharp. She rocks, and so does PoiL Ueda.David McKenna – read the full review here

Richard Skelton – Selenodesy
(Phantom Limb) 

Selenodesy lives in contrasts – expanse and smallness, mellowness and harshness. Because these contrasts live side by side, swirling around each other, much of the album feels anguished and uncertain, like the sensation of spiralling far too deep into your own head. But by the time its final, dramatic burst of energy comes around, there’s a sense of acceptance and release, reminding us that there’s something oddly comforting about the fact that we may never have all the answers about the universe.Vanessa Ague – read the full review here

Kate NV – WOW
(RVNG Intl.)

For all its structural experimentation, WOW has a warmth and comfort that makes it instantly appealing. Like the birds on the front cover, its musical parts are innocent, drawn in bright primary colours. The nostalgic glow of retro games is an obvious touchpoint. The garbled synth sounds of ‘confessions at the dinner table’ and ‘slon (elephant)’ bring to mind the cute chatter of Animal Crossing characters as they mooch around a cartoon utopia. Simple earworm melodies sing out over syncopated percussion and a menagerie of noises that aren’t afraid to get a little goofy.
Skye Butchard – read the full review here 

Lamp Of Murmuur – Saturnian Bloodstorm
(Argento / Not Kvlt)

California’s Lamp Of Murmuur are sounding a lot more polished on their latest opus – as the more colourful cover art suggests, this is a much brighter, more vivid sounding record than the darker, more lo-fi sound of his previous work. That’s immediately apparent as soon as opener ‘Conqueror Behind The Frenzied Fog’ starts, with a booming production emphasising the hefty thud of the kickdrum as cold, razor-sharp guitars slice through the mix with absolute clarity. It’s quite a change from the sinister smog of Heir Of Ecliptical Romanticism, with the most obvious influence here being At The Heart Of Winter-era Immortal – tracks like ‘Hymns Of Death, Rays Of Might’ especially capture that familiar windswept grandiosity, replicating the same heroic riffery but with the more adventurous song structures we’ve come to expect from Lamp Of Murmuur. Kez Whelan – read the full review here 

Fever Ray – Radical Romantics


On Radical Romantics, Karin Dreijer’s third album as Fever Ray, they have chosen the right language to convey meanings dimmed by clichés such as gender binaries, social units, religious interpretation, etc. The alien-sounding electronic texture is pervaded by androgynous vocals that express Dreijer’s gender-fluid identity. Although generally under the umbrella of electronic music, the album draws from several different wells: dizzying pop on ‘Carbon Dioxide’, sinister Duran Duran-meets-Magazine type new wave on ‘Even It Out’, and ambient ebbing-flowing vibes on album closer ‘Bottom Of The Ocean’. Compared to 2017 album Plunge, this new record is more adventurous, perhaps, attempting to summon diverse and emotionally challenging experiences of a relationship.
Irina Shtreis – read the full review here

Katie Gately – Fawn/Brute

Getting to grips with Katie Gately’s music takes time. Eclectic and adventurous, it aims at existing beyond any generic categories. It’s playful and to a certain degree ironic, striking a balance between postmodernism and a new sincerity. Futuristic? Sure. Gately is less interested in crafting tunes than textures. One-dimensional melodies obtain volume with careful arrangement – samples, beats, pads, bits and pieces retrieved from sound libraries feed into an inventive, phantasmagorical facade.
Irina Shtreis – read the full review here 


Roisin Murphy – ‘CooCool’

Were it released 25 odd years ago, ‘Coo-Cool’ would probably have been called a slow jam (though it’s considerably sped up from the early 70s Mike James Kirkland tune it samples), but Murphy and producer DJ Koze manage to take that effortless endless summer breeze of old Janet Jackson and Lauryn Hill hits and sharpen it up with the skip and till of trap snares and a lead guitar line sounding like a mountain stream.
Robert Barry

Jessy Lanza – ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’

The first song she wrote and produced after relocating to Los Angeles last year, ‘Don’t Leave Me Now’ is probably Jessy Lanza’s most outright danceable single to date. Contrary to the bout of agoraphobia that is said to have inspired the cut’s lyrics, it’s a sunshine-fuelled trip through shimmering synths, toe-tapping beats and an oh-so satisfying bassline.
Christian Eede

Mandy, Indiana – ‘Pinking Shears’

With nothing but a lolloping, lurching beat and some nimble bars, ‘Pinking Shears’ after a few seconds ‘Pinking Shears’ is already one of the year’s biggest bangers. When gloriously distorted production joins the fray, the band reach new heights entirely.
Patrick Clarke

Overmono – ‘Good Lies’

Overmono are back with a copper-bottomed banger, making it look easy, laying a reasonable claim to having written one of the first giant-sized anthems of the summer.
John Doran

Saroos – ‘Mutazione’ feat. Eva Geist

Featuring members of The Notwist, Driftmachine and Lali Puna, Mutazione bubbles and squeaks in all the right ways.
Robert Barry

Ela Minus & DJ Python – ‘Abril Lluvias Mil (Ricardo Villalobos Remix)’

OK, this one might be long enough to be considered an album in itself as Ricardo Villalobos turns in possibly his longest remix yet, at 40 minutes. Retaining Ela Minus’ hypnotic, looped vocals as well as faint remnants of DJ Python’s original reggaeton beat, it’s a winding journey through feverish, bleeping synths and Villalobos’ distinctive percussive tweaks – one of his best records in years.
Christian Eede

HMLTD – ‘The End Is Now’

This taste of HMLTD’s forthcoming quasi-medieval mental health musical The Worm is perhaps the best example yet of the record’s totally uncompromising maximalist mania.
Patrick Clarke

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