Music Of The Month: Things We’ve Loved This September

Settle into autumn with these wonderful albums from Jenny Hval, Octo Octa, Klein, Loraine James and plenty more

‘Spidiffs In (September)’ by Lisa Cradduck

It’s safe to say, as I write this watching the rain lash the windows next to me, that for those of us reading this in the UK, the summer is firmly over. As we progress into these colder, wetter months however, and with another four weeks passed, our music of the month round-ups continue.

September saw the return of Jenny Hval with one of her best records yet, an album that, Hval says, sees her hone in more than ever on the traditional pop song structure. Octo Octa’s ecstatic rave energy on her latest album, released on the recently-founded T4T LUV NRG label she runs with Eris Drew, is enough to banish away any autumnal misery, while Ostgut Ton affiliate Barker conjures up a sense of warm fuzziness with his euphoric, beatless techno. All of them feature in this month’s round-up.

Amongst those records, which you can read more on below, are albums from Lana Del Rey, Klein, Loraine James, Alasdair Roberts and more, while below all of that, you’ve also got our picks of the best new tracks from September. Hopefully you’ll find something amongst that lot that you might not have discovered just yet. As ever, all of the music below was selected by our trusty office team, this month comprising Bobby Barry, Patrick Clarke, John Doran, Ella Kemp and myself.

Albums Of The Month

Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
(Sacred Bones)

The Practice of Love reveals the sensitive humane core that was always behind Hval’s practice of enlightened dissent. The album develops an elegant approach to solving the existential problems of love, care and intimacy from the position of otherness. Hers is a margin taking over the centre. For all its epic signalling, the romantic immediacy of love as a disruptive big bang-like event is here missing, the title proving to be a bait. Instead, Hval harnesses the subversive power of gentleness. Danijela Bočev – read the full review here

Octo Octa – Resonant Body

The chunky basslines, unsubtle sample slicing and heart-tugging synthesisers that personify these eight tracks couldn’t strictly be called nostalgic, as they hark back to a time when Bouldry-Morrison was in kindergarten if not younger. ‘Imminent Spirit Arrival’, which opens proceedings, tackles the emotional yin and yang of 90s rave: dramatic sweeping breakbeat techno akin to early Orbital, leavened by a pivot to a melancholy minor key even as untraceable ‘pow!’ vocal slivers keep the mood buoyant. No such dichotomies with ‘Move Your Body’, nailed-on, hoover-effect chart rave that, had it actually been released in 1991, would have jostled for airwave space with the likes of K-Klass, or anyone else bridging the supposed gap between ‘pop’ and ‘credible’. Noel Gardner – read the full review here

Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
(Polydor / Interscope)

Every new Lana Del Rey album offers a trademark sense of hazy lust that few have been able to emulate. On Norman Fucking Rockwell! this identity grows stronger, as Del Rey’s storytelling firmly addresses the men who might not have wronged her yet, but could damage many girls of this world. Her syrupy tone makes for a cohesive product, one that emanates a homogenous warmth – but still one that’s so welcome. Ella Kemp

Alasdair Roberts – The Fiery Margin
(Drag City)

From first note to last, The Fiery Margin is a recording that exudes complete confidence. Roberts is at the height of his powers, connecting to many other musicians but occupying a place of his own. His career is increasingly a delight to experience. By making entirely original music that is recognisably rooted in traditions – Scottish, Irish, English – while sounding like nothing else, he is achieving something special. The Fiery Margin is an album for our times, layering the deep past over the restive present to reveal it as mere vanity which, like everything, will pass. Tom Bolton – read the full review here

Klein – Lifetime
(ijn inc.)

The album’s most interesting moments arrive at points when recognisable things become distorted, grotesque facsimiles of their former selves. The conversation on ‘Honour’ achieves this in its deliberately frustrating depiction of a family argument. Two voices relentlessly speak over one another in garbled fury, just too quiet to really make out, with only the words ‘gaslighting’, ‘hardened’ and ‘your father’ appearing from the milieu. There’s anger there – some unresolved feud – but you can’t make out why, and the effect is chilling. This theme continues with deep choral samples on ‘Camelot is Coming’ and the deconstructed spoken word track ‘99’, both of which make the familiar and comfortable seem twisted and deformed. Harry Stott – read the full review here

Barker – Utility
(Ostgut Ton)

Sam Barker has only released sparingly as a solo producer since his debut for Leisure System in 2012, opting instead to focus on a fruitful collaboration with fellow Ostgut Ton producer Andy Baumecker. Debiasing, which was released last year and marked his first solo EP since that debut seven years ago, saw him step out with a dazzlingly colourful sound that was firmly rooted in techno but removed one of its usual most traditional components: the kick drum.

Utility, Barker’s first album, picks up where that record left off. This recent shift in the producer’s sound is heavily down to his decision a couple of years ago to reconfigure the hardware set-up he uses in the studio and for live performances, opting for a more pared-down approach. While kicks are banished across the record, Utility‘s nine tracks do still follow the structural beat grid of most traditional club music, occupying the zone that Objekt, in his mix for Resident Advisor last year, described as "no-kick rollers". Euphoric synths coalesce to form one entrancing whole on cuts like opener ‘Paradise Engineering’ and ‘Models of Wellbeing’ while tracks like ‘Posmean’ and ‘Hedonic Treadmill’ are more full-bodied, offering the closest hint to something resembling a kick. In Debiasing, Barker created one of 2018’s best techno EPs and in Utility, he’s delivered one of 2019’s finest albums in the genre. Christian Eede

Sloth Racket – Dismantle Yourself

Despite post hoc attribution of meaning being a common thing in free improvisation and free jazz, Roberts’s explicit take on it is refreshing and purposeful. Her writings and graphics guide the conversation around the experience of Sloth Racket’s music, serving as an extramusical instrument. Ultimately, Roberts’s takes on ‘Terraforming’, ‘Butterfly Takes the Train’, and ‘Proximity Warning’ are just suggestions that welcome further interpretations and light the discussion. There is no right nor wrong here. Antonio Poscic – read the full review here

Loraine James – For You And I

If For You & I serves as a useful reminder that the distinction between cool, contemporary dance music and its dated, out-of-vogue counterpart is wafer-thin, its exhilarating final three songs seal that premise. At under three minutes, ‘Sick 9’ is a brief dalliance with glitch techno; on ‘Vowel // Consonant’, arpeggiated rushes and buckwild drum programming mutates from Jlin-ish post-footwork to rude junglisms; and ‘Words Ears Mouth’ is another one for the ‘sweet melodies / ruff beats’ column, the latter being the full Autechre-dipping-into-breakcore monty. Noel Gardner – read the full review here

Ahrkh Wagner – Music For Meditations Vol.1
(Golden Ratio Frequencies)

The sounds on Music For Meditations V.1 in fact date from a 2016 recording session in the bell tower of St Johns in Hackney Church, London. The title refers to the dual purpose of the session: Macarte and Wagner set up their equipment to play loops and field recordings which the pair used as a meditation aid there and then. Meaning that only intermittently, when one of the duo would emerge from their trance state, is what you hear being ‘performed’ in the traditional sense. However, it’s a document of considerable depth and tonal richness, in the lineage of the 1960s/70s greats of minimalist music and their 1980s new age progeny. Also essential to credit are Lani Rocillo and Khaled Hakim – respectively a shaman and sufi, Wagner recorded their vocals in his Hackney studio after the bell tower session was complete, and the treatment of their voices add an extra dimension of enveloping mysticism to the project. Noel Gardner

Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles

Somewhere between Jake Bugg and Bruce Springsteen lies the very specific brand of boy-vs-world of Sam Fender. The North Shields lad stuffs his debut album full of rousing guitar bangers, interspersed with enough saxophone solos and strings arrangements to add weight to the latest iteration of a white boy with a guitar. Fender feels different, as his lyrics do no tiptoeing around the privilege of the colour of his skin, and his songs about love are far outnumbered by musings about days of the week and worldwide violence. Ella Kemp

Tracks Of The Month

Hannah Diamond & Danny L Harle – ‘Part of Me’

Futuristic music boxes collide with the usual PC Music Hi-NRG lipglosstronica. As deliriously effervescent as ever.

Giant Swan – ’55-Year-Old Daughter’

Juddering banger is suitable herald to berserk debut album of rough & ready DIY techno.

Dry Cleaning – ‘Sit Down Meal’

Dry Cleaning continue to approach language like no one else of the new crop. ‘Sit Down Meal’ is the engaging, wry and dry first taste of their brilliant upcoming EP, finding brilliance in the horror of a trite greetings card.

Call Super & Parris – ‘Chiseler’s Rush’

Two of current dance music’s most creative and distinctive producers come together for the first time on this sublime techno cut primed for those 4AM reflective dancefloor moments.

Beija Flo – ‘Nudes’

As a performer, Beija Flo is theatrical, weird and completely brilliant, but on new single ‘Nudes’ she shows that she’s got a rare ear for singularly bold pop songwriting.

Stormzy – ‘Wiley Flow’

Broody and atmospheric, Stormzy here may either be responding to Wiley’s recent twitter rants about occasional Stormzy collaborator Ed Sheeran or paying sincere homage to the godfather of grime. Or both. Maybe neither. Either way, it’s a banger.

Neil Campbell & Shit Creek – ‘Arclight Trance’

An Astral Social related synapse livener that’s so limited it only came out physically on a run of five homing pigeons, but you can listen here on Bandcamp.

True Blue – ‘No Water’

Off-kilter bedroom pop from former Porches bassist with an infectious bounce and a winning melodic tilt.

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