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Albums - Issue 589

Act One: Music For Inanimate Objects

Subjective

Act One: Music For Inanimate Objects

Sony

Return of the golden boy
9.0
2017 saw pivotal electronic artist turned MBE Goldie return with a first album in almost 20 years. ‘The Journey Man’ was, in his own words, “the big brother" of 1995's ‘Timeless’, a definitive drum ‘n’ bass record that laid down the blueprint for his sound which continues to the day: emotional vocals, sweeping strings, epic drums and a sense of musical polish that few have managed to better. Now he’s back as Subjective with a new record that feels just as closely related to his debut solo masterpiece. ‘Act One: Music For Inanimate Objects’ finds Goldie work with sometime Metalheadz artist James Davidson, who also helped with ‘The Journey Man’, but here they explore a much wider range of tempos and styles. Aesthetically, though, this is still very much a Goldie record. It opens with a brace of superbly sentimental tracks that pair heart-wrenching vocal work with serene strings, thoughtful pads and golden chords that melt your soul. They are impossibly rich, glistening songs that stir plenty of nostalgic memories and eventually make way for the soaring, open-air rhythms of ‘I Saw her Last Summer’. Tracks like ‘Landscape – Portrait’ are beautiful indeed, with heavy piano chords and more exquisite vocals from frequent collaborators Natalie Duncan and Tyler Lee Daly, while ‘Rift Valley’ explores more bristling, prickly grooves and the bright percussion and skipping drums of ’Inkolelo’ come right from an African heartland. Smoothing tracks like ‘Stay’ and ‘Temple’ hark back to a golden era of acid jazz, lounge and fusion acts that made Gilles Peterson’s Talkin Loud label so important, and mean this is Goldie’s most accessible and mature album to date. In going well beyond the dance floor, ‘Act One’ also hones the songwriting chops he aired on ‘The Journey Man’. Although it doesn’t break any musical moulds, then, the exemplary execution and authenticity of this record is what makes it so absorbing, and so timeless.
Kristan J Caryl
Break - Another Way

Break

Another Way

Symmetry Recordings

Got it all
9.0
The man has a groove which just can’t be learnt, the type of musical understanding you need to be blessed from birth with. He has bass in his bones. For us, this has to be one of the best drum ‘n’ bass albums of the year, with not one skippable track. Starting off with the gloriously, sunny ‘Last Goodbye’ built around finger-clicking, hip-swinging swag, the pops of golden trumpets and guitar twangs beautifully frame the soulful warbles of ‘Celestine’. From the first transition, it’s clear the path this eclectic LP is taking as it moves into the dark and dirty ‘Keeping It Raw’. If you haven’t heard this one yet, we can only assume you’ve been nowhere near a dance for a wee while. Trying something a little syncopated with dub-influenced ‘Conversations’ featuring legends MC Fats and Cleveland Watkiss. jungle, tech, deep, liquid, it’s all here. This is a must-listen album.
Whisky Kicks
Panda Bear - Buoys

Panda Bear

Buoys

Domino

Electro-acoustic experiments
7.0
As with all his previous albums, Panda Bear’s latest effort ‘Buoys’ is an experimental fusion of various unlikely worlds: the forest folk tones of his naked vocals, shimmering and super modern production, acoustic guitars and Pet Shop Boys-style synth work all make it nothing if not intriguing. But if the sincere emotion of Noah Lennox’s singing has never appealed before, it likely still won’t here. He’s front and centre of each track, and performs similar tricks throughout. What goes on around it is fascinating though. Each track is a liquid psychedelic soup of reverb rich guitars, watery droplets, cut up samples, withering sci-fi pads and live, broken drums underpinned with soupy sub-bass. It’s certainly unique and unusual in execution, but makes for rather exhausting listening across the course of nine close sounding tracks.
Kristan J Caryl
Chloé - Endless Revisions Live

Chloe

Endless Revisions Live

Lumière Noire

Tender transformations
8.0
Parisian artist Chloé returned recently with her first album in almost six years on her Lumière Noire imprint; ‘Endless Revisions’ was yet another wonderful addition to her oeuvre of tender and introspective, experimental dance music. ‘Endless Revisions Live’ is an amalgamation of recent performances touring this LP, and much like the album title, shows how much these tracks have already shifted and evolved since the record into new pieces for her live show. Suspense is introduced in extended passages and breakdowns, while many of the pieces get a more propulsive, clubbier makeover. At the end, Chloé’s 2002 classic ‘Sometimes’ gets revisited as well; added percussion gives way to an epic arpeggiated breakdown as the audience audibly begs for more.
Zara Wladawsky
Roses Gabor - Fantasy and Facts

Roses Gabor

Fantasy and Facts

All Points

Fantastic Ms Gabor
9.0
Stepping out from behind her collaborations with Damon Albarn's Gorillaz and mask-wearing vowel-o-phobe SBTRKT, London-born songwriter Roses Gabor brings her childhood love of new jack swing together with wonky R&B and lush dream-pop sensibilities to bear down on a pretty stunning debut set. Her own pedigree notwithstanding, there's a dazzling wealth of production talent on display here too, from Bruno Mars and Cardi B cohorts The Stereotypes to Sampha, Team Salut and Rihanna collaborator Fred Ball. The result is polished to a spit shine. Woozy opener 'Rush' is all ecstatic vibes, sweeping atmospherics and reverb laid on with a trowel. It's bordering operatic. 'Turkish Delight' is a taut, glacial electro-house groove to bring the tingles (and hopefully an extended club mix), while the warming, pulsing pads of 'I Could Be Yours' could melt the ice caps. Don't sleep on this.
Ben Arnold

BJARKI

Happy Earthday

!K7

A contemplative journey
7.5
Iceland’s Bjarki established pretty quickly he had more in his repertoire than his fist-pumping breakthrough ‘I Wanna Go Bang’. In fact, that release’s b-side was far more representative; heavily percussive, and drawing on ambient and glitchy soundscapes with an unmistakably organic feel. All these elements are out in force on ‘Happy Earthday’ (while not his first LP, it’s described as his “proper” conceptual debut). Bjarki labels his album as personal and introspective, and these are perfect adjectives. For an effort so often set at a d&b tempo, it’s surprisingly moody and contemplative, and while his layered breaks journey from hip-hop to jungle, it’s his glitchy sonic mischief that’s allowed the most airtime. How lifelike these concoctions are can’t be emphasised enough. As an act of musical expression though, ‘Happy Earthday’ doesn’t quite demand your attention. Rather, it’s a foggy window into the inner world of a musical enigma.
Angus Paterson
Hello To Happiness

Chaka Khan

Hello To Happiness

Diary Records

Keeping things simple
9.0
Chaka’s first album since 2007’s ‘Funk This’ really has no right to be as ace as it is: of course THAT VOICE is still as stunning as ever, whether ripping forth solo or multi-tracked into ‘Emotions’-style bliss. Modern production throughout (although the album smartly incorporates gorgeous disco textures into tracks like ‘Like A Lady’ and the ripsnorting title track, as well as a fantastic hip-hop/funk groove on tracks such as ‘Like Sugar’ and the Betty-Davisesque ‘Don’t Cha Know’. Key is that this isn’t an album swarming with intrusive guests or a dozen different producers. Chaka’s kept things focused by working with Switch & Ruba Taylor throughout – they’ve given her a set of songs that enable her to demonstrate not only her ageless brilliance at soul-snarling (the stunning ‘Too Hot’), but also a more insightful, thoughtful Chaka than we may have heard before (the beautifully contemplative Rufus-esque ‘Ladylike’). A scintillating album from a legend with new things to say and a new sound to say it with. Absolutely essential.
Neil Kulkarni
DAWN - New Breed

Dawn

New Breed

Local Action

Future-R&B lioness goes back to the future
7.5
Dawn Richard’s career has been marked by grand statements. A conceptual comedown from the trilogy of ‘Goldenheart’, ‘Blackheart’ and ‘Redemption’, she hasn’t lost her self-belief: “I am a lion/I am a woman/Nothing can stop me” she sings. ‘New Breed’s chief surprise is its tackling of straighter old-school R&B, though she still delicately trips up expectation: a steely bassline suddenly pops up under ‘Jealousy’, a piercing 1970s-style warning to a romantic rival recast for the SMS era (“I know you feel you have the right to text him… you don’t”); ‘Dreams and Converse’ rides on a cosmic R&B-disco bounce; ‘We, Diamonds’ is countrified soul. More future-facing is ‘Spaces’, a triumphant yet tragic (“it’s too late… we can’t fill this empty space”) space-opera, but ‘New Breed’ seems designed to prove DAWN can still captivate, even when she’s playing for smaller stakes. It succeeds.
Sunil Chauhan
Swindle - No More Normal

Swindle

No More Normal

Brownswood Recordings

Los Londones funk
6.5
Where he pulled from all over the map on ‘Peace, Love & Music’, Swindle has clearly been paying attention to the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak and Thundercat since that 2015 album. When Etta Bond sings “my baby went to California,” she’s not wrong. There’s some south-of-the-river bass ripples on the Ghetts-featuring Drill Work and snappy grime twitches in the synths and drums, but largely, we’re in resolutely midtempo soul-funk terrain. Think: Joker producing D’Angelo and you’re halfway there. Rotating a fixed cast of collaborators, Kojey Radical, Eva Lazarus and Radical Shafique are constants, but the main attraction is the funk. And here, it’s lustrous, slippery and supple, Swindle’s facility with live players forming peaks of gorgeousness on ‘California’ and ‘Talk a Lot’. As close as you can get to the sunshine state without entering a runway, ‘No More Normal’ sets out a new Compton-to-Croydon axis.
Sunil Chauhan
Pedro Vian - Pedro Vian

Pedro Vian

Pedro Vian

Modern Obscure Music

Shy and mighty
7.0
Pedro Vian’s debut 2016 LP ‘Beautiful Things You Left Us For Memories’ passed plenty of people by. Probably because the Spanish producer’s version of house seemed determined not to draw attention to itself with slowly creeping rhythms, vocals muffled into whispers and melodies that seemed to slink through the shadows. His self-titled follow-up is hardly what you’d call in your face, either. If anything it’s even more subdued, with the ambient ‘Platja’ seemingly composed from mild breezes, and the beats of tracks like ‘Static Ecstasy’ apparently happier sinking into the background than pushing things forwards. The pace can initially feel a bit plodding and the pensive mood somewhat monotone, but when his subtle touch is at its strongest Vian produces moments of real understated elegance. ‘Pedro Vian’ doesn’t give much away at first, but it’s worth getting to know if you can give it enough time.
Paul Clarke
KIKOK - Sauna

KIKOK

Sauna

Magnetron Music

Solitary space-out
8.0
Creating electronic music on your own can be an isolating experience, but for Russian musician Pavel Fedoseev, it became an invaluable outlet for battling geographical isolation. Fedoseev – also the drummer in psyche-rock outfit Gnoomes – lives in Perm, a small, remote city 900 miles from Moscow. He’s decidedly not a fan of Perm and spends his time holed-up at home making music to dodge the monotony. But rather than sounding wistful or lonely, ‘Sauna’ is mostly a bouncy, technicoloured feast. Fedoseev described his debut KIKOK EP as attempting to combine My Bloody Valentine and Italo disco, and ‘Sauna’ continues that weird mission, diving deeper down the electronic rabbit hole. At times a colourful, glistening space opera (‘Das’), at others a thumping techno-infused trip (the excellent ‘O Cheri Cheri’) and at others a sheer psychedelic nosedive in the vein of Fuck Buttons and pals (‘Kokki’), ‘Sauna’ is a truly kaleidoscopic journey. And then there are oddballs like ‘Pehl’, which perhaps just reflect some of the audio weirdness we’ve all got rolling around in our heads. Quick memo to producers: consider stopping socialising and instead locking yourself away in a remote bolthole. Judging by ‘Sauna’, it can do wonders for your creative output.
Tristan Parker
Eyedress - Sensitive G

Eyedress

Sensitive G

Lex

Bold and brave
8.0
Idris Vicuña is a Filipino musician who created this, his fourth record, in his bedroom. It sounds like it – gloriously so, ‘Sensitive G’ is a fantastical trip around Vicuna’s imagination, incorporating strung-out psyche-rock (‘Ancient Love’), gloomy electro-pop (‘Alone Time’ and ‘Toxic Masculinity’) and gnarly post-punk (‘No Love In The City’). Where in the West bedroom-auteurs too-frequently give in to their own indulgence for Vicuña the bedroom is both a place of hermetic isolation but also a dream-factory, a place where he can enjoy the freedom he can’t attain when he steps out into the street. Crucially, he has a good ear for a hook, with a real sense of liquid space in his arrangements and playing. With Duterte in power this is a supremely brave record to bring out in the Philippines and Vicuña is to be applauded for his lyrical fearlessness and musical freedom. Cornelius fans will dig it immensely. Check it out.
Neil Kulkarni
Julian Jeweil - Transmission

Julian Jeweil

Transmission

Drumcode

Limitless
7.0
On delving into his recent work Julian has described it as “an album with would represent me a hundred percent, without limiting myself or setting boundaries”. True to his words, it’s a no-holds-barred excursion into full-throttle techno. The ‘Intro’ channels deep, atmospheric synths for a 1 minute 30 second moment of calm before heading straight into the hypnotic loops and ferocious claps of ‘Transmission’. ‘Planet X’ slows the BPM for a moment inducing 303 acid and pulsing basslines and the only downtempo affair bar the intro. ‘Turbulence’ is intensely restless, with a breakdown that’ll probably tear your sound system apart and drive it off the walls. He’s no doubt been road testing these far and wide, recently playing the Drumcode party at Watergate in Berlin. We’re sure they’ll have been doing suitable destruction to the dance floor.
Anna Wall
Machinefabriek - With Voices

Machinefabriek

With Voices

Western Vinyl

Ethereal architecture
9.0
Dutch composer Rutger Zuydervelt returns to his Machinefabriek to create a breath-taking (no pun intended) and experimental record that sees tone generators, radios and other found-sound or electronic instruments buoy vocal work by a series of guests. These ethereal compositions are beautifully structured as they each unfurl with impeccable sonic detail and emotive songwriting elements.
Zara Wladawsky
Tommy Cash - ¥€$

Tommy Cash

¥€$

Self-released

Estonian rap goes global
8.5
Emerging from Tallinn, initially via the gloriously NSFW video for ‘Winaloto’ (which seems to have been removed from YouTube?), Tommy Cash has sustained a reputation for his Jodorowsky-like surrealism, but on his debut album he makes a concrete artistic statement with eleven tracks of eyebrow-raising trap, Euro-dance and happy hardcore. From the Scooter-mimicking ‘X-Ray’, produced by PC Music darling Danny L Harle, to baile funk cut ‘BRAZIL’, it’s a blend of styles that were cooked up by PC’s A.G Cook as well as Amnesia Scanner, and Charli XCX’s vocals seem to crop up on ‘COOL 3D WORLD’. Everything is packaged up with Tommy’s surreal sense of humour and satire; ‘HORSE B4 PORSCHE’ is about prioritising equine purchases over sports cars, but it’s far from a joke record. On ‘¥€$’, Tommy toes the line between underground weirdness and accessibility with remarkable agility.
Felicity Martin