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Albums - Issue 597

Octo Octa - Resonant Body

Octo Octa

Resonant Body

T4T LUV NRG

Love dancing
9.0
Brimming with emotion, energy and positivity, the third album from Octo Octa (Maya Bouldry-Morrison) is a joyous celebration of dance music and the dancers who experience it in situ. First gaining recognition via releases on respected labels 100% Silk and Running Back, in recent years, she’s refined her sound into a potent club-geared tonic, bristling with breakbeats, alive with melodic synths and pulsing with the rich history of house and techno. If Octo Octa’s 2017 record for Honey Soundsystem ‘Where Are We Going?’ had a trippy, spacious house vibe, with occasional diversions into breaks, then ‘Resonant Body’ goes full-on rave: a record alive to the possibilities of collective people power and ecstatic dancing. Made during a spell of downtime after hectic touring in her New Hampshire woodland cabin, and released on the label she runs with her partner Eris Drew, T4T LUV NRG, it channels Octo Octa’s deep knowledge of the club into eight essential tracks. ‘Deep Connections’ hits you immediately, with its shivery synth figure, spiralling arpeggio, vocal cut-ups and slamming broken drums. It has a spine-tingling depth that gets under your skin even while it commands movement. ‘Spin Girl, Let’s Activate!’ is even better, a thumping four-four electro hybrid with a killer squidgy bassline. ‘Move Your Body’ is a ravey New York house piece with vocal samples, stabs, sub bass, hoovers… the lot, and ‘Ecstatic Beat’ finds her chopping an Amen break into a million shards while dramatic chords spin in the ether. There’s the occasional moment of placid reflection, as on the ambient tones and loon calls of ‘My Body Is Powerful’. But mostly, the record resides on the dancefloor. No classifications can contain Octo Octa: as ‘Resonant Body’ demonstrates, her style is simply dance music, made with love.
Ben Murphy
Malin Genie - Anthropomorphic Sympathy

Malin Genie

Anthropomorphic Sympathy

Malin Genie Music

Wish come true
9.0
Malin Genie has stepped into another realm with his debut LP. Known for his groovy, club-ready beats as one third of Mandar, his new album transcends the dancefloor. Made up of fourteen tracks that experiment with tempos, moods and machines it makes its greatest impression when listened to in its entirety. ‘Sopine’ is no doubt schooled by Aphex Twin’s ‘Selected Ambient Works 85–92’, with modulating melodies and sublime pads that remind of AFX’s remix of Luke Vibert’s ‘Spiral Staircase’. ‘Dimlove’ delves into Genie’s expertise of minimal house, five-and-a-half minutes of skippy drums and sparse melody lines that provide an ideal warm-up record. Prevalent throughout the LP, however, are his ambient pieces such as ‘Kowar’; a moody pensive piano piece that provides the final crescendo. A beautiful, thought-provoking body of work that is perhaps his finest yet.
Anna Wall
Jenny Hval - Ashes To Ashes

Jenny Hval

Ashes To Ashes

Sacred Bones

Out-there textures
7.0
As angelic and soothing as it is hypnotising and avant-garde, Norway’s Jenny Hval clearly understands how to keep listeners engaged while being equally adept at soundtracking sedative sessions. Eight tracks that swoon, lilt and glide through beautiful electronic pop fantasies, it’s a more coherent outing than 2016’s ‘Blood Bitch’, which was packed with trippy samples and field recording-style sections. The delight she takes in making sonic textures from abstract chatter and noise remains evident, mind. Not least on ‘The Practice of Love’, a meditative effort of spoken word extracts from conversations about the most wonderful yet destructive emotion. Nevertheless, there’s plenty here that, if all were right with the world, would be destined for commercial success, whether ‘Thumbsucker’s stunning chorus of sirens and sax, ‘Six Red Cannas’’ filtered loops or sparse sci-fi synth outing, ’Accident’.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Violet - Bed of Roses

Violet

Bed of Roses

Dark Entries

Thorn section
9.0
Violet, aka Lisbon’s Inês Coutinho, isn’t just a DJ, producer and vocalist: she’s a cultural phenomenon whose queer activism and community focus has connected with a global audience, aided by label naive, Radio Quantica, the Portuguese station she co-founded, and her forthrightness on Twitter. Past singles have reflected the techno and breakbeat sides of her sound, but debut album ‘Bed of Roses’ – written mostly while convalescing from a broken leg – is a deeper, more introspective journey through emotional, often ambient, soundscapes. Standouts include the ‘90s R&B-meets-Grimes ‘They Don’t Wanna Know’, soothing chords softening the blanket of denial it describes, and the title track’s second part, an 808-driven trip on which Violet lays out her optimistic, but pragmatic, philosophy on life: “I’m reluctant to admit that I think life is a bed of roses, but hey, there are thorns too.” ‘Half Crazy’ encapsulates this beautiful, glorious bitter-sweetness in the way only melody can, underpinned by a modern club flex, while ‘Spectral’ is the sole burst of face-melting peak-time prowess, a weighty kick fighting through pulses of industrial noise. In turns ethereally sweet and spikily menacing, ‘Bed of Roses’ is everything its title promises.
Joe Roberts
Jas Shaw - Exquisite Cops

Jas Shaw

Exquisite Cops

Delicacies

Dancefloor treatment
8.0
From their early electro-pop through gritty techno and kosmische synths to the choral music of last year’s ‘Murmurations’ LP, Simian Mobile Disco’s story has been full of twists and turns. Nothing however has been as serious as the duo’s Jas Shaw’s diagnosis with rare bone marrow disease in 2018. Produced while undergoing chemotherapy, ‘Exquisite Cops’ transforms uncertainty about his future into music with an unerring focus on the clubs he says he was dreaming about. ‘Repeat Until There Is No More Other’ and ‘Non-caring Fabulousness’ have the same techno drive as Simian Mobile Disco’s ‘Welcome To Sideways’ album, and ‘I Dream Of Meanie’ and ‘A Bird With No Feet’ are spacier affairs akin to Roman Flugel’s recent work. Following the announcement that Shaw is well enough to perform again, ‘Exquisite Cops’ will hopefully be an interesting footnote in the Simian Mobile Disco story, rather than an epilogue.
Paul Clarke
Transparent Sound - Gently Evil

Transparent Sound

Gently Evil

Transparent Sound

Underappreciated talent
8.5
It’s weird Orson Bramley doesn’t get more attention from the electronic music masses. Piping out pure electro quality under the Transparent Sound moniker since 1994 – originally alongside Martin Brown – he’s seen the genre fall into near-obscurity, and watched as it has climbed back to the top of the club agenda. But despite all the hype around broken beats and acidic hooks right now, one of the UK’s true dons doesn’t get name-checked nearly enough. Whether this can right that wrong remains to be seen, but his first full artist album in over a decade is strong enough to set records straight. Not so gentle, but at times certainly evil, it’s packed with powerhouse synth lines (‘Awful Mutation’), moody futurism (‘A Thousand Yard Stare’) and twisted growlers (‘Lying Tongues’). Classic Transparent stuff, then, and typically benchmark-setting in production.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Penguin Café Handfuls of Night

Penguin Café

Handfuls of Night

Erased Tapes

Bird's eye
7.0
‘Handfuls of Night’ first found life when Penguin Café leader Arthur Jeffes made a journey to the Antarctic. Commissioned by Greenpeace to seek musical inspiration in different breeds of penguin, that might suggest a dry exercise, but Jeffes has delivered a sensitive, frequently lovely follow-up to 2017’s ‘The Imperfect Sea’. Instrumental music frequently gets termed a soundscape, but here it’s especially true – ‘Handfuls of Night’ conjures pastoral panoramas and weathered vistas. It flirts with the cinematic, but any urges towards epic beauty or broody drama are kept in check, with even the sweeping string swells of ‘Chinstrap’ grounded in intimacy. That folksy lightness, coupled with sharp composition – finding a highpoint on the Gallic-flavoured ‘At the Top of the Hill They Stood’ – means that for all its genteel surfaces, there's plenty to sink your ears into.
Sunil Chauhan
Kano - Hoodies All Summer

Kano

Hoodies All Summer

Parlophone

Worth the wait
9.0
Taking time, for rapper, actor and all-round legend Kano, has always paid off. Leaving generous gaps between LPs has found the MC scooping Mercury nominations and MOBOs, and his sixth studio album is another example of patience making perfect. Epic orchestral sweeps open the LP with ‘Free Years Later’ before the sparse, steely grime of ‘Good Youtes Walk Amongst Evil’ welcomes Kano’s tight, fierce lyrics. Kojo Funds and a melancholic steel drum pattern cook up a winner on ‘Pan-Fried’, before the Popcaan-featuring ‘Can’t Hold We Down’ pushes the mournful dancehall template further. ‘SYM’ (“suck your mum”) is a delightful conclusion, tackling the Windrush scandal and police brutality, while containing a hook he admits – rightly – he could “retire after.” Where ‘Hoodies All Summer’ is economical with its sounds, it’s hard-hitting and powerful. Hopefully Kano won’t actually retire after this one.
Felicity Martin
Friendly Fires - Inflorescent

Friendly Fires

Inflorescent

Polydor

Surprise treat
8.0
Oof, nothing snags deeper than a forestalled hatchet job. There I was, all set to make this review just a list of places much of ‘Inflorescent’ could lucratively find itself utilised in the next few years (Love Island/Match Of The Day highlights-reels, adverts for slimline technology, Pelaton-playlists) but goddamnit, so juicily put together and gorgeously appointed is so much of this album, the three-piece’s first in eight years, even this old curmudgeon can’t fend it off. Tracks like ‘Heaven Let Me In’ don’t just immediately find a pulsating place on the dancefloor, they also take time to punch up detail and texture that’s utterly addictive, taking this a million miles away from the indie-dance dilution you might fear and closer to the propulsive likes of Kojack and Daft Punk. Dated? Sure. Sunny side up? Unfailingly. Irresistible? Absolutely.
Neil Kulkarni
Metronomy - Metronomy Forever

Metronomy

Metronomy Forever

Because

Nonchalance delivers results
8.5
The irreverence in which Metronomy frontman Joseph Mount announced his band’s sixth LP was worthy of one of their own detached hit singles, openly implying he’s making music to put food on the table and reflecting that “the less importance you place in any art the more interesting it can become, in a way.” If the results contained on ‘Metronomy Forever’ are anything to go by, he’s not wrong. This year also saw the tenth-anniversary rerelease of their breakout ‘Nights Out’ album, though any assumption they’re slipping into their twilight years is dismissed by much how their new effort has rolled off the tongue, arguably a more well-rounded effort in every way. Its slick synth-pop production skips from prototype singles like ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream’ to a wealth of quieter, more restrained moments without missing a beat.
Angus Paterson
Trentemøller - Obverse

Trentemøller

Obverse

In My Room

Back in the game
8.0
The mighty Anders Trentemøller returns with his fifth album proper, three years since the middling ‘Fixion’, which clearly embraced – not entirely successfully – the icy, post-punk vibes of Joy Division and other post-punk electro-rock sensibilities. ‘Obverse’ flips the balance back somewhat towards grand electronic soundscapes and throbbing synth-pop, and not a little affection for shoegaze, though there are still nods to his Manchester's icons (a distinctly Hooky-esque bass on the lushly layered 'In The Garden', for example). 'Foggy Figures' washes in swirling guitars and all-encompassing reverb before drums unexpectedly demolish the wall of sound. In the glacial album opener 'Cold Comfort', he called in Slowdive vocalist Rachel Goswell, whose unmistakably breathy delivery accents explosive, distorted, blissful guitar chords. 'Try A Little' goes full, glorious dream pop (plus another Hooky bassline), with Jenny Lee Lindberg of LA's Warpaint on vocals. It's a solid return to form.
Ben Arnold
Goldie - Saturnz Return

Goldie

Saturnz Return

London Records

Subversive second album
7.0
Goldie decided to be difficult with his hugely anticipated second album. After the success of 1995’s ‘Timeless’, no-one would have expected him to do what he did with ‘Saturnz Return’, which was indulge everything from David Bowie collabs to hour-long symphonic drum & bass oeuvres (which, amazingly, pre-date the current trend for classical dance shows by 20 years) via very personal tracks about his mother and a suicide note he’d forgotten he’d written. Add in dark and angry cuts like ‘Temper Temper’ and the riotous synths of ‘Demonz’ and you have an autobiographical album that speaks of a tortured artistic soul: whatever the results lack in cohesion, they make up for in bold invention and still stand up today. Also included on this reissue edition are some killer remixes including a cheeky garage offering from MJ Cole, deeply immersive Djrum cut and some pure excellence from Martyn.
Kristan J Caryl
808 State - Transmission Suite

808 State

Transmission Suite

808 State

Timeless
8.5
Seventeen years on from their last release, pioneering duo 808 State have dropped a full album at a moment in time when full-on rave and early techno revivals are rinsing the underground electronic music scene. With other “legacy acts” of their time also making recent appearance and going back on tour, 808 State further cements the fact that there are still a few artists from this proto-era of club music with enduring music that still sounds relevant and fun today. That said, Graham Massey and Andrew Barker aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel with this album; instead of changing their aesthetic to match 2019 trends, they’ve focused on still immersing us in the hardware-led world of sonic futurism that’s defined the electronic music of post-industrial cities like Detroit, Berlin and Manchester while staying relatively timeless. High-level production, analogue synths and sequencers and other machine elements blend with more organic and emotive influences, exploring moments of bliss and introspection, as well as funkier club grooves reminiscent of Madchester.
Zara Wladawsky
HTRK - Venus In Leo

HTRK

Venus In Leo

Ghostly International

Nice narrative
9.0
Amidst Australian duo HTRK’s emotionally-driven milestones like ‘Marry Me Tonight’ in 2009 and ‘Work (Work, Work)’ in 2011, comes an album that projects hope, adoration and innocence. Their first outing on Ghostly ‘Psychic 9-5 Club’ touched on the supernatural, while remaining contemplative and poignant. With some of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang’s earlier songwriting drawing from deeply tragic circumstances, ‘Venus In Leo’ touches on storytelling of a different nature – think modern-day love stories told with obeisance. Jonnine’s lyrics in ‘Mentions’ lament a desire for attention, across a moody bassline and reverberating guitar slides. ‘You Know How To Make Me Happy’ beams with positivity while soft heartbeat kicks reveal eloquent pads. ‘New Year’s Eve’ is an anecdote that brings the album to an ardent close, with guitar chords that ultimately pull on the heartstrings. As possibly one of their most accessible albums yet, ‘Venus In Leo’ is proof that HTRK’s inspirations continue to draw from a multitude of life circumstances while bearing a beautiful sentimentality throughout.
Anna Wall