Review: Barely a child of the '80s you would never know it having heard the music of Jacco Gardner, a Dutch multi instrumentalist colliding psychedelic pop, rock, synth, jazz and ambient in a way that firmly sounds like it was recorded in the presence of Klaus Schulz (see "Pale Blue Dot" & "Utopos") somewhere in '70s Berlin. There's strokes of sultry French stylings too in "Eclipse" around the album's halfway point - a sound reminiscent of Air - to the "Planet Caravan" Black Sabbath modus of cosmic chill out tracks like "Rain". There's even dashes of legendary, one-off band Ibliss in "Privolva". Seriously cool music from a seriously cool dude.
Review: Since their widely lauded 2015 debut 'A Dream Outside', London based four-piece Gengahr have devoted a significant amount of time touring and working on 'Where Wildness Grows' a follow-up that stridently meets expectations. Their music builds on UK indie of the early-mid noughties, with doses of a contemporary psych-pop aesthetic. The songwriting here is ambitious and broad, tracks going from breezy sun-flecked pop, to Maccabees-esque epics, to reverberating soundscapes, to stark angular guitars over almost funk grooves. It's clear just how much time and care the band have put into the record, with every song showcasing their intricate writing, layering and structures. 'Where Wildness Grows' is a lush and urgent sophomore record, and a giant leap forward for the band.
Review: In many ways the bare truths spoken-sung by world-weary MC and producer Ghostpoet may not be the best thing to land late-April 2020. His fifth long form offers up more anxious calls to arms, this time on issues including far right politics and passports, painting a particularly bleak picture of the world at a time when we are already struggling to stay positive. But then perhaps that's why we really do need the lackadaisical lyrical delivery, pared back scores and melancholic moodiness of this two-time Mercury nominee. Still willing to explore themes that are often uncomfortable and regularly personal, still making heavy beats that sound deceptively easygoing, and still creating an atmosphere that's somewhere between dark UK hip hop and menacingly hypnotic trip hop. Here's proof the formula is still a breeding ground for boxfresh tunes.
Review: Girl Ray's sophomore LP isn't simply pop songs about love. It's certainly their poppiest offering to date, switching guitar-first arrangements for synthy beats. "Girl" as a whole deals with themes around matters of the heart, but the concept is more concerned with the importance of other elements in your life when love is either navigating rocky seas, or beached on an uninhabitable island, walking away is the only route for both parties. Don't expect the record to carry the weight of it all though. Ash Workman's production helps the troupe leave the heaviness behind and achieve near-perfect pop aesthetics. The band have also cited Ariana Grande's "thank u, next" as a major influence in their change of tact, further indicating what the contents feel like. From breezy opener "Girl" to tearful closing track, "Like The Stars", it's a meditation on friends, support networks and seeing things as they really are.
Review: With associations to the great Wichita label, Californian punk duo Girlpool land a third LP in the twosome's short but burgeoning tenure. The album sees the pair converge a series of solo works over their previous hands on collaboration style; masses of land for this album holding Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, for the time being, apart. Their sound in 2019 reflects tints of Garbage and Hole - grunge, shoegaze and downbeat - to patches of more contemporary electronic impulses in tracks like "Minute In Your Mind" and title track "What Chaos Is Imaginary". While there is some neon to light this LP, it remains an album of wash-dyed hair and denim jacket trips out of the city.
Review: The teenage duo of Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker have proved themselves unusually skilled at crafting stripped-down, luminous ditties with angular indie-rock shapes, whilst dealing in their spare and affecting style with issues of vulnerability and frailty that most outfits struggle to negotiate. 'Powerplant', their second album and first for Anti, boasts a fuller production than their debut, and may appeal to admirers of Throwing Muses and Cat Power alike, but seldom has such a knotty and gnarly take on punk rock also sounded so raw and intimate.
Review: Now happily back in business following drummer Joe Seward's long recovery from a near-fatal accident in 2018, Oxford four-piece Glass Animals return with what could be their most colourful, vibrant and ear-catching album to date. Musically, it's all effervescent, synthesizer-driven production, dreamy vocal arrangements, neon-lit R&B sounds and hip-hop inspired beats, yet the songs are deeply personal, with front man Dave Bayley (assisted on standout "Tokyo Drifting" by rapper Denzel Curry) offering autobiographical lyrics for the very first time. It's a great combination, all told, and one that makes "Dreamland" really sparkle.
Review: After 11 years Damon Albarn's The Good, the Bad & the Queen project release their second album, and again it features the drumming virtuosity of Tony Allen and other instrumentalisation from former Gorillaz/The Clash member Paul Simonon and the Verve's Simon Tong. The album itself features the woozy croon of Albarn vocals with a busy concoction of guitars and textured layering that bodes well to encapsulate the murky carnival atmosphere of the album's cover art. The most dream-like of carny sounds are best heard on "The Truce Of Twilight" and "Ribbons" with the slightest of London reggae vibes to boot too.
Review: When you use words like "prickly", "abrasive" and "uncompromising" it's rarely flattering. Consider Kim Gordon's exceptional powerhouse long form one of the exceptions. As far removed from music for the masses as you could hope for, it takes a particular talent to deliver work like "No Record Home". Labels such as punk certainly apply, but it's less about mouths gushing spittle amid the deafening screams of guitars and raucous vocals, and more about overall attitude. No change there for this co-founder of the mighty Sonic Youth then. Loud and intelligent, forthright and yet heartfelt and tender in its own unforgiving way, it's as far removed from wall of sound discordance as it is anything you could describe as remotely over-explored. Marrying the bloody-lipped electro of Peaches and body blow lows of EBM with gritty rock 'n' roll chords, those looking for originality that oozes repeatability should consider their hunt over, for now at least.
Review: Ruins is the 10th LP from Portland artist Grouper, an incredible set that's found it's home on the inimitable and always on- point Kranky label...and yes, it's another fine outing from the voco-noise head. Tracks like "Clearing", however, show another side to Grouper's usual rough edge. There's an element of smoothness to those sombre keys and far-out vocals. It's basically an ambient album with an extra layer of soul in its core - check "Made Of Air" for a seriously trippy set of soundscapes.
Review: Since debuting as Grouper back in 2005, Liz Harris has delivered a swathe of experimentalist albums that explore almost every aspect of ambient and drone music. Here she launches a new project, Nivhek, via an expansive double-album of sparse, atmospheric compositions that tend towards the epic. Really, it's two albums in one. The first slab of wax is entitled "After Its Own Death" and boasts a two-part, non-stop suite of tracks built around echoing choral vocals, dark electronics and blissful bells. It's alternately melancholic, blissful and grippingly intense. In contrast, "Walking In A Spiral Towards The House", the piece stretched across both sides of the second record, is breathtakingly beautiful - a meandering, soft focus trip through chiming, reverb-laden motifs and gentle music box melodies.