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Albums - Issue 586

Marie Davidson - Working Class Woman

Marie Davidson

Working Class Woman

Ninja Tune

Road-inspired works
9.0
Uncompromising, unapologetically self-referential and incredibly sharp, Montreal’s Marie Davidson takes no prisoners while letting us know where she’s at right now. Witty and sometimes scathing commentaries on life in electronic music, ‘Working Class Woman’ is packaged with ton-weight tunes that demand attention. The likes of Miss Kittin, Faggot Fairies and even Peaches spring to mind at varying moments, albeit respectively with less playfulness, sordid filth and BDSM menace. Nevertheless, the bare naked honesty in Davidson’s words come with intimidating attitude and deserved confidence, while the exceptional production ensures moments void of vocals are no less engaging. ‘Burn Me’, for example, is one of the finest slices of cold wave-influenced techno to balance on a knife-edge in years, and ‘Lara’ is as intense an acid builder as you’ll find anywhere. Opening on ‘Your Biggest Fan’, an intro of overtly false-feeling and cutting sentiments presumably inspired by conversations on the road (“Sorry I missed your set/Do you have any drugs?/Who the fuck are you?”), the concept is clear from the off. ‘Work It’ then takes the mantle perfectly, a stepping, broken beast of stacked boxfresh beats, percussive mayhem underpinning rallying battle cries that could almost be plucked straight from Thatcher’s book of economic individualism – the effort-reward cycle, summarised with all the empathy of an overzealous personal trainer. If that sounds slightly unnerving, far more unsettling undercurrents are presented elsewhere. ‘The Tunnel’’s fraught French interjections and English soundbites create positively unhinged drama. ‘The Psychologist’ is a sample-heavy electro bomb that epitomises how lines of genius and lunacy easily blur. And yet despite such overarching ferocity there’s still space for opiate harmonies on ‘Day Dreaming’, and lush retro movie synths in ‘La Chambre Intérieure’, making this one far-reaching trip through the mind of a tour de force.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Fatima - And Yet It’s All Love

Fatima

And Yet It’s All Love

Eglo Records

Conceptual R&B
8.0
Charting the cycle of a relationship from courtship to breakup, Swedish singer Fatima shifts from moody purr to troubled loneliness on this artful follow-up to ‘Yellow Memories’. Soaring on the Kirkis-helmed title track where she plunges deep into trembling, jolting drama, it’s like Fhloston Paradigm and Laurel Halo producing Janelle Monáe. Elsewhere, genre-literate traces of everyone from Jill Scott and Aaliyah to SWV are cleverly embedded, but rather than feel studied, it all feels in service of Fatima’s controlled, self-possessed persona. At times that can make ‘And Yet...’ feel like an album about love that’s curiously more of the head than heart, but when she declares: “You can say what you want about me, but I won’t compromise my vision for anything,” on ‘Take it All’, you’ll probably agree it shouldn’t be any other way.
Sunil Chauhan
Matthew Dear - Bunny

Matthew Dear

Bunny

Ghostly International

Smash hits
8.5
If the last three full-lengthers from Matthew Dear set a steady path from micro-tech mogul to crossover electronic superstar (even if his exposure remains surprisingly niche), then ‘Bunny’ is the logical next step on that journey. A record that grabs listeners by the lobes and loses none of the artist’s pinpoint production precision while genuinely deserving a Top 10 position in any national chart. To explain, Talking Heads could have released ‘Duke Of Dens’, and it’s questionable whether Byrne et al would have done a better job. ‘Echo’ is a minimalistic alt-pop triumph, Dear’s delivery retaining that drug-addled troubadour quality despite playful musical tones and sing-a-long potential. And ‘Bad Ones’ has the hallmarks of a bonafide smash hit, defining the vibe of this entire album – proud, irreverent, anthemic, bold and yet wonderfully universally appealing.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
The Lotus Eaters - Desatura

The Lotus Eaters

Desatura

Stroboscopic Artefacts

Mesmerising
9.0
It’s no surprise that Lucy and Rrose’s debut collaborative LP is a mysterious, cerebral and intensely psychedelic journey. Both artists are known individually for their hypnotic and meticulous productions that sit between techno and experimental music, and ‘Desatura’ is a culmination of all these things. Ten meditative, largely ambient pieces use feedback to subtly shift throughout their duration while making use of repetition, space and time. A dark and foreboding feeling is ever-present throughout, and some of the more percussive compositions towards the second half of the album even tease some dancefloor elements that are never fully realised. At the forefront are the duo’s painstaking attention to sonic detail; their tripping and complex textures constantly evolving in razor-sharp high definition while conjuring altered states of consciousness.
Zara Wladawsky
Luca D'Alberto - Exile

Luca D'Alberto

Exile

7K!

Strings of life
7.5
Italian composer and multi-instrumentalist Luca D'Alberto presents his second album for Studio K7's highbrow imprint 7K!, established as a home for the label's ambient and neo-classical concerns. 'Exile' falls mostly into the latter camp, a complex canvas of textures, strings, piano and electronics. He's played everything himself here, which is a sterling achievement. The title refers to the fact that he cut himself off while making it, “my desire to be present in my music, independent of others and using all my own strengths and limitations”. As such, it's a frequently intense – if occasionally a little earnest – experience. 'Like We Were', which deigns not to hide the sounds of its moving piano keys and mallets, feels rawly emotional, later bolstered by thick layers of swelling strings. 'Pianodiscoteque' also combines the lo-fi vibe of roughly recorded keys, the sounds of the studio audible in the background, bringing with it a strange, unsettling urgency. Album closer 'Love Song', with its bells and tubes, giving way to grand arpeggiating strings, is dizzyingly accomplished. This isn't ambient or classical music to have washing over the background, it's involving and vital.
Ben Arnold
Jun Kamoda - Jun Kamoda

Jun Kamoda

Jun Kamoda

Black Acre

Sample-heavy strut Sample-heavy strut
9.0
For 15 years, Japanese producer Jun Kamoda made glitchy, neon-coloured hip-hop tunes under his Illreme moniker, also as one third of hip-hop trio Baleine 3000. That boom-bap sensibility hasn’t left his solo work under his own name, which debuted in 2016 as an EP for Mister Saturday Night – which gained plaudits especially for his sample-heavy floor slayer ‘Physical Graffiti’. Since then, Black Acre have snapped up the producer for a couple of party-centric EPs, before commissioning a self-titled debut album. From the off, it’s block rocking hip-hop beats with Japanese vocals (‘Surreal Tongue In Northern Osaka’), before getting straight into some weirdo disco house on ‘Nightmare Club’, a track that’d easily feel at home at a Rhythm Section party. Elsewhere, ‘The Ruddy Sunset’ is a slow-burning Balearic number, while ‘No Rhyme Nation’ bears more than a passing resemblance to Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’, showing a casual disregard for genre labels in the process. In the manner that you might expect from a hip-hop producer, ‘Crush’ takes classic elements of disco and chops them up with ferocity, while similarly ‘Hakoniwa Disco Strut’ imbues disco guitar strums and an epic solo with distorted vocals, repurposing the elements for a 2018 dancefloor. A collection of peak-time beauties.
Felicity Martin
Invisible Minds - Make Up Your Own Stories

Invisible Minds

Make Up Your Own Stories

Moshi Moshi

Accomplished side project
8.5
It’s not new for established artists to, at some point, want to try and write proper songs. Some do so with an indie bent, some look towards pop, but often the resulting records get quickly forgotten. Tim Green, however, has pulled off the switch better than most. Best known for big, rolling main room techno anthems on labels like Cocoon, as Invisible Minds he cooks up something much more tender, melodic and singable. The project started with an anonymous and immediately hit single late last year and now spawns a complete eleven-track album that is an effortless, authentic mix of electronic lullabies, dreamy trip-hop and sun-drenched broken beats. It’s melodic and mellifluous, with gentle piano washes and whispered vocals, optimistic pads and heartbroken drums all very much sounding like the ‘proper music’ Green’s keyboard paying father always wanted him to make.
Kristan J Caryl
Penelope Trappes - Penelope Two

Penelope Trappes

Penelope Two

Houndstooth

Less is more
9.0
Australian Londoner Penelope Trappes is best known for being part of The Golden Filter, a band whose vivid merge of post-punk, techno and synthpop cropped up on labels including Optimo and Cin Cin. Her new solo record is a change of direction, as it is for her label Houndstooth, which has branched away from dance music of late in favour of experimentalism. Here, Trappes’ vocals float over minimal soundscapes, wrought with emotion and ambience. The results are, for fans of solemn music, quite beautiful: on ‘Burn On’, sparse guitar and Penelope’s voice are redolent of Julee Cruise or Mazzy Star. ‘Carry Me’ is a reverb soaked drift of skeletal rhythm and tense synth strings, and on ‘Exodus’, her voice is excised completely, as warping tones bob over ambient melodies, in a way reminiscent of Harold Budd. Trappes’ mixture, though, is all hers, and it’s hypnotic.
Ben Murphy
Joel Eel - Performing A Crime

Joel Eel

Performing A Crime

Self-released

Heart-filled art
8.0
A self-released artist album is always a sign of their full creative control of the project; for Joel Eel’s latest LP it’s been the freedom to design a conceptual album about the brutality of love with no compromise. ‘Performing A Crime’ begins with ‘Sapphire’, and thrown immediately into fast-paced tempos awash with confrontational lyrics and a raw post-punk energy. The title track resembles early ‘80s electro, bit-crushed synthesiser sounds and stabs aplenty. ‘Body Builder’ takes an even more rebellious stance with destructive, hard hitting 4x4 that veers into industrial techno territory. The themes about the misunderstandings of love perhaps aim to stay unresolved as final track ‘Garden Of Roses’ is a myriad of intensive synthesisers guaranteed to keep the heart pulsing with undefined intent.
Anna Wall
Auntie Flo - Radio Highlife

Auntie Flo

Radio Highlife

Brownswood Recordings

Heavily stamped passport Heavily stamped passport
5.5
If one conclusion is to be drawn from Auntie Flo’s latest album, it’s that the producer travels a lot. His influences, ranging at least four continents, stretch the record in places: sun-kissed Cuba, the green landscapes of Uganda, and Indonesia’s islands are just a handful of destinations drawn for. Funky and soulful house furnish this full-length with a distinct West London feel, though d’Souza is at his best when he moves away from that. ‘Isbjørn’, driven by a Norwegian trip, is a little different with its cascading synths, while ‘Lights In The Northern Sky’ unfurls in a more experimental way. ‘Radio Souk’, meanwhile, is an orientalist’s hazy vision of an Arab marketplace, brought up to speed with a kick drum; ‘Kampala’ more traditional than anything else on here. Having tossed his entire travelogue into a sonic cement mixer, Flo does push enough buttons to get props from Gilles Peterson, anyway.
Anonymous
Bondax - Revolve

Bondax

Revolve

Recur

Definitive proof they’re the real thing Definitive proof they’re the real thing Definitive proof they’re the real thing
9.0
It’s not a stretch to say Bondax share a lot in common with an act like Disclosure; UK dance-pop with its roots in the clubs, while drawing from a richer palette of funk, soul and hip-hop that brings crossover appeal in spades. They’ve been ‘hot new things’ for years now, though endured a notoriously tortured path to their debut album. If ‘Revolve’ is anything to go by, this journey was their odyssey. Earlier hits like ‘All I See’ were house with a heavy influence of soul; here they’ve flipped the switch completely, fearless in pushing the beats right into the background. What they’ve delivered is something infinitely richer; the songwriting is impossibly accomplished, the live instrumentation lush and its wealth of top-tier vocalists matched only by the number of musical influences they’ve deftly woven into the mix. By any measure, Bondax have transcended their dance-pop status, and then some.
Angus Paterson
Kasper Bjørke Quartet - The Fifty Eleven Project

Kasper Bjørke Quartet

The Fifty Eleven Project

Kompakt

In sickness and in health
8.0
That Kasper Bjørke has followed the house and synth-pop of 2014’s ‘After Forever’ album with an epic ambient opus might come as something of a shock. But nothing comparable to what the Danish producer must have felt when he was diagnosed with cancer in his mid-30s: an event which inspired him to eschew the beats and embrace more reflective electronic and neo-classical styles for an album which charts the five years thankfully leading to a complete recovery. Both expansive and introspective over its two hour length, moods of both trepidation and hope are subtly conveyed through intermingling movements of rippling Enoesque serenity and minatory low frequency drones. Such weighty concerns make for a weighty album, but as ‘The Fifty Eleven Project’ reaches the salvific end of Bjørke’s story so beautiful has been the experience that your own burdens evaporate with the album’s final sounds.
Paul Clarke
Tony Allen & Jeff Mills - Tomorrow Comes The Harvest

Tony Allen & Jeff Mills

Tomorrow Comes The Harvest

Blue Note Records

Rhythm kings
8.0
It’s not the first time that Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti collaborator and drummer extraordinaire Tony Allen has worked with an electronic artist, but his new release with Detroit techno original Jeff Mills is certainly his most exciting linkup of this type. On ‘Tomorrow Comes The Harvest’, Allen’s famous polyrhythmic beats collide with Mills’ drum machine hits, bass and electronics in an astonishingly natural way. The opener ‘Locked And Loaded’ is a statement of intent, its blasts of distorted sub and 909s clicking into place with Allen’s cascading drum attack, and slivers of richly textured organ funk. ‘On The Run’ adds subtle acid bass to ambient tones and drums from Allen that, despite their restrained nature, constantly shift and contort. Short but sweet, ‘Tomorrow Comes The Harvest’ is the combination we never saw coming and didn’t know we needed. More!
Ben Murphy
Etch - Ups & Downs

Etch

Ups & Downs

Sneaker Social Club

Old skool flavas
7.5
Occasionally sounding like an unearthed album from 1997, Etch aka Brighton-based Zak Brashill works across jungle, instrumental hip-hop, dark garage and dubstep but rarely takes the obvious path. It’s progressive, experimental, pan-breakbeat revivalism, but doesn’t call attention to itself – Brashill isn’t self-conscious about it. ‘Groove Control’ could be a classic piece of ethereal jungle à la Source Direct with its “ooh I’m in heaven” sample, but ‘Hope for the Worst’ finds a flailing drum cacophony interrupting its mood of sci-fi religiosity but never taking over, while on ‘Swirls & Spirals’, a boom-bap drum loop stutters and judders into near-Battles territory. Jungle is the main draw, but Brashill is also comfortable with psychedelic dubstep drones (‘The Siren’) and spacey DJ Shadow-like phasing (‘Lost Orbit’). “I must continue my work… my experiments” goes one snatch of dialogue. Quite rightly.
Sunil Chauhan