Music Of The Month: May 2020

From Perfume Genius to Sarah Davachi, Aksak Maboul to Sex Swing, this is the music that we've been listening to from our home offices over the last four weeks

With uncertainty continuing to reign as many of us head towards the summer months, our resolve here at tQ to continue highlighting vital new music of all kinds, as well as sharing writing that we don’t think you’ll find anywhere else, never wavers.

Earlier this week, we published a look into how wealth and privilege are distorting underground electronic music, by Ed Gillett. Framed in the context of the outright ludicrously wealthy DJ group Housekeeping, it looked towards how other more complex and deeply ingrained examples of this issue within the underground dance music scene have been less openly discussed. Our Low Culture series of essays also continued this month with critical reappraisals of post-Eno Roxy Music, Tori Amos and So Solid Crew. We also launched a new monthly column, Genre Is Obsolete, which sees Adam Lehrer document developments across the noise, industrial and drone landscape.

Alongside all of that, we reviewed great new albums from the likes of Perfume Genius, Aksak Maboul, Klara Lewis and Einstürzende Neubauten. You can find all of those featured below, alongside a whole host more of brilliant albums and tracks that we’ve had on rotation in our home offices over the last four weeks, as we round up the month’s best music.


Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing Perfume Genius live or watched his meticulously choreographed music videos, you’ll know that Mike Hadreas’ body becomes an extension of the song. This physicality is palpable across Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, the Iowa-born artist’s fifth album as Perfume Genius. Here, the correlation between body and movement steers the songwriting into storied explorations of trauma, violation, love, singularity and celebration of self. This transforms roaring pop arrangements and intimate soundscapes into visceral multi-sensory experiences, making this Hadreas’ finest body of work to date.
Zara Hedderman – read the full review here

Erland Cooper – Hether Blether

Hether Blether is the final part of a triptych by Orcadian musician Erland Cooper concerning the islands he grew up on. It’s a record about location and about freedom at a time when we’ve all been constrained and unable to travel to visit anywhere unless we’re Dominic Cummings. Hether Blether is an album about nature, though in our current predicament, it brings home to us that it’s a simulacrum of nature – a work of artifice designed to evoke the natural world, which in a way is what des Esseintes was advocating.
Jeremy Allen – read the full review here

Aksak Maboul – Figures
(Crammed Discs)

Totally pop, yet psychedelic enough to make one reconsider the ingestion of psychedelic drugs just to hear it in in such a state, replete with wonderful touches (such as elements of the systems music of Steve Reich or Philip Glass), Figures manages to contain elements from every phase of the band, whilst still having a contemporary edge. As in the very best attempts to merge disparate elements, the pop and avant elements perfectly compliment one another. The strong melodies hit immediately, allowing time for all the other little embellishments to fill out the picture with subsequent listens. You can also dance to it.
Sean Kitching – read the full review here

Sex Swing – Type II
(Rocket Recordings)

Many listeners will credit Type II with the maturation and increased accessibility of Sex Swing’s sound. That wouldn’t be an inaccurate critique. But it doesn’t address the fact that Sex Swing haven’t actually diminished in ferocity since their last album. What they’ve been able to do though is tighten their dirges into soaring anthemic hymns that aspire to the transcendental. This undercurrent of bliss functions as a kind of anti-cathexis that binds the band’s more brutally primitive impulses. While the band still make use of punishing rhythmic repetition, the album seems less concerned with malfeasance than it does with connecting the human spirit with some ethereal element that binds us together.
Adam Lehrer – read the full review here

Klara Lewis – Ingrid
(Editions Mego)

On Ingrid, Swedish soundsmith Klara Lewis takes a departure from the layered and emotive lo-fi sound collages of Too and Ett in favour of a more mature and serious long-form piece. Using a single instrument, Lewis achieves the same feeling of tension between sterile futurism and muddy mysticism that she created with the stark blend of bleeps, glitches and Sufi-chanting of her 2018 collaboration with Simon Fisher Turner.
Kareem Ghezawi – read the full review here

Sarah Davachi – Gathers
(Boomkat Editions)

Gathers is the first release in Boomkat Editions’ new Documenting Sound tape and download series which sees the label invite select artists to record mostly improvised material in their homes or immediate surroundings while under COVID-19 lockdown. Davachi’s contribution to the series was recorded at her home in LA in the spring, and splits six improvised and unedited pieces across an hour. The A-side’s three tracks see the artist work with harpsichord, harmonium and piano. Opener ‘Gathers I’ strikes a faintly medieval tone, while ‘Gathers II’ settles into more hypnotic deep listening territory, its soothing drones letting in the faintest hint of melancholy. On the B-side, Davachi turns her attention to her Mellotron, electric organ and EMS Synthi AKS. ‘Gathers IV’ is a gorgeous meditative piece that you could get lost in for hours, where closer ‘Gathers VI’, with its distant wailing synth tones, has a more piercing quality. I have to say that as the COVID-19 crisis has continued to bring much uncertainty, I haven’t been one of those people whose listening habits have particularly shifted away from traditionally club-oriented music. Gathers, though, has provided a perfect, much-needed soundtrack over the last week or so to just momentarily pressing pause on everything around me while I let my thoughts wander.
Christian Eede

Jerskin Fendrix – Winterreise

Fendrix switches direction so wildly and so frequently on Winterreise that whenever you think you have him pinned down, he wriggles away and transforms into something completely different. The record’s first track, ‘Manhattan’, begins with an elegant flourish of baroque piano, conjuring up the atmosphere of a breezy conservatoire, before it fades into a swampy dirge atop which a grim voice compares itself to Skepta. It soon leaps back up into a wonky, shouty electro punk sequence about marriage proposals and buying socks from Uniqlo, and then skids into a clambering section of slow, screamy anthemic emo about not being good enough, finally plunging back down into an off-kilter no-wave guitar solo.Patrick Clarke – read the full review here

Einstürzende Neubauten – Alles In Allem

Alles In Allem, translated as ‘All In All’, is Einstürzende Neubauten’s most compulsively lisenable album to date. The group’s first full-length of new material since 2007’s Alles Wieder Offen, Alles In Allem finds Neubauten at their most melodic, lush, and textured. The apocalyptic industrial of early masterpieces like Kollaps or Halber Mensch has been subbed out in favour of lush string arrangements, majestic synth melodies, and Blixa Bargeld’s refined singing. The elevation in the sophistication of its musicality has been a persistent theme for Neubauten since the late ’90s, and those that still fetishise the band for the pulverisations of its early albums are robbing themselves of the joys associated with Neubauten’s more compositionally inclined later career phase.
Adam Lehrer – read the full review here

Pere Ubu – By Order Of Mayor Pawlicki (Live In Jarocin)
(Cherry Red)

I’ve been a Pere Ubu fan for over 35 years and have witnessed many great gigs from the group, showcasing different aspects of their sound. Their March 24, 2016 show at The Dome saw the return of original guitarist Tom Herman, and a setlist comprised of material from their first three albums and early singles. With the exception of two tracks taken from a Marseilles gig to compensate for the loss of vocals during the Jarocin show, the fantastically talented Gary Siperko more than ably takes over guitar duties from Herman on By Order Of Mayor Pawlicki. An air of menace, and the sound of a band skirting the very edges of chaos, persists throughout this powerful set. Classic tracks ‘Heart Of Darkness’ and ‘Final Solution’ are as good, if not better, than they’ve ever been, but there are plenty of surprises in the reinvention of lesser known tracks too. If the rest of the band’s back catalogue were to somehow disappear off the face of the Earth, their greatness could still be deduced from this vital and edgy performance.
Sean Kitching

Kooba Tercu – Proto Tekno
(Rocket Recordings)

The first thing among many that slaps you in the face when you play Kooba Tercu’s new record is its feral, white hot energy. Opening track ‘Benzoberry’ is a scorcher, a cyclone of guitars and screamed vocals, scuzzed up to the max, whirling around an evil black hole of a bassline. Then, on ‘Cemento Mori’, a bone-shaking groove emerges from the chaos, twisting and lurching and mutating like some kind of monstrous ooze as it goes, but never deviating from its terrifying march. That deep, dark power at the core of Proto Tekno is always there, pulsing forwards through the record’s swampy grooves and hypnotic repetitious percussion, but the exact way in which the band yields it keeps morphing and twisting.

Sometimes they’re positively minimal, succumbing to a bracing battle rhythm, and at others they’re overwhelmingly noisy, particularly when feral synths and wild, indefinable noises join the fray, frontman Johnny Tercu howling as if he’s being physically thrown around by the maelstrom. The overall effect is a record that feels like a shapeless, constantly-shifting storm that surrounds a mysterious, dark central power – like the millennia-old hurricanes of a gas giant, whirling around its core.
Patrick Clarke

Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now

Not only was how i’m feeling now produced and recorded entirely under quarantine by Charli XCX and collaborators in just six weeks, she also let her fans in on every step of the process, live-streaming lyric-writing sessions, music video shoots and more. Having self-imposed a May 15 deadline for the album’s completion – which she only just made – in early April, she fleshed out the album night and day, barely giving herself any breaks. You might be forgiven for expecting how i’m feeling now to be a bit of a mess then, but instead it contains some of Charli’s finest bangers to date (‘anthems’, ‘pink diamond’), featuring the distinctive production of frequent collaborator A.G. Cook. Elsewhere, tracks like ‘forever’, ‘7 years’ and ‘enemy’ see Charli get to grips with her on-off relationship with her boyfriend that has been newly strengthened by quarantining together.

Christian Eede

Morusque – the end of music
(wabi-sabi tapes)

As conceptual concrète goes, the end of music by Morusque – AKA Montpellier-based artist Yann van der Cruyssen – is about as fun, beautiful, and listenable as you can get. Comprising solely the final notes of recordings, it’s a self-dubbed "reconstruction of the signifier," using teeny samples as foundational building blocks for all kinds of maddened musical mishaps. The final note of a song is perhaps a particularly good choice for this project too, as it’s normally a moment (necessarily so) made of pure drama and tension. Morusque chops and slices the pieces into grooves and soundscapes that rival the best in the game – Andy Votel, Vicki Bennett’s People LIke Us, John Oswald, early Amon Tobin – reviving these tiny snippets into something entirely new.
Tristan Bath – read the full review here


Pa Salieu – ‘Bang Out’

One of two new tracks to emerge this week from one of UK drill’s leading breakout artists, ‘Bang Out’ sees Pa Salieu spitting over David Sylvian samples and one of the hardest beats of the year so far.
Christian Eede

Kapil Seshasayee – ‘The Gharial’

After digging deep into the darkness of the caste system on 2018 debut A Sacred Bore, Scottish-Indian musician Kapil Seshasayee’s forthcoming LP, Laal, the second in the musician’s Desifuturist trilogy, turns his attentions to the unsettling links between Bollywood profiteering and nationalism. Its second single, ‘The Gharial’, is a rich, glitchy delight.
Patrick Clarke

Nadine Shah – ‘Buckfast’

Dare we suggest that there’s a Fat White Family-influenced lurch to this hypnotic song which is as infectious of the idea of a fifth drink after a lunch consisting of four liquid liveners.
John Doran

India Jordan – ‘Emotional Melodical’

Lifted from an EP that explores all manner of classic club music sounds, standout cut ‘Emotional Melodical’ sees India Jordan add some lightness to the bassweight of prime mid-to-late ’00s dubstep.
Christian Eede

Eartheater – ‘Below The Clavicle’

The first taste of Eartheater’s new album is the most intoxicating thing she’s ever done, a hypnotic drift of harps, strings and acoustic guitars that she subtly twists and mutates with her voice into something almost sickly sweet.
Patrick Clarke

Tkay Maidza – ‘Shook’

A boombastic slap of boom bap from the Zimbabwe-born, Adelaide-domiciled vocalist who has a much-anticipated second album on the way.
John Doran

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