Even on an album as brilliant as SAULT’s debut Untitled (Black Is), Wildfires stands out. Like much of the LP it focusses on the theme of police oppression towards the black community, with lyrics like “Take off your badge / We all know it was murder” striking a tone somewhere between pleading and resignedly furious. It’s a remarkably affecting track, and even more remarkably they’re giving away the entire album free on their website, or if you’re really feeling it you can get a CD or double vinyl on Bandcamp.
I feel like it’s all been a bit serious on the TPW recently, so here’s a dose of carefree funk for you courtesy of Phenomenal Handclap Band, and a track that came out a couple of months ago on their album PHB via the always excellent Toy Tonics label. There’s a definite channelling of Chic, especially towards the back of the track, but that’s no bad thing, and the spoken-word bridge and semi-chanted chorus are both wonderfully retro and unashamedly positive: a beaming grin of a record and one that will be on repeat for some time to come.
One of my favourite tracks of 2018 was ELSZ’s Are You Ok?: a tight, soulful gem with warm vocals and even warmer Rhodes-y chords that makes everything feel brighter, calmer. Listening to Your Rage Is Necessary, Part. I it’s difficult to believe it’s the same artist, so complete is its departure from that carefree record in pretty much every aspect. Turbulent, seething, loosely structured and utterly mesmerising, one would expect this is a single from their forthcoming LP, which will be “dedicated to victims and survivors of gender violence”. On the basis of this at least, we’re in for something quite extraordinary.
Special Request’s Spectral Frequency came out last week on R&S, and is very much an EP of two halves. The title track is pretty much what you’d expect from a ‘typical’ Special Request record – taught jungle breaks and vocal stabs – with the second track Inverse Request an interesting experiment in filtering out all the low end: a sketchy rave transmission from another galaxy. It’s the second two tracks where it really comes to life though, and Family Doggo is a warm analog hug of a track, all reverb-heavy hats and hazily shimmering pads, which is exactly what I need right now.
A new 12 minute song from Sufjan, and the lead single from his forthcoming album. There’s really very little more I need to say about this, other than it seems to be the culmination of almost everything he’s done in his career so far, with elements of folk, noise and electronica vying for space amongst lyrical themes both religious and nationalistic. If this is illustrative of the album, we’re in for a real treat come 25 September.
Turtle Funk is taken from the new Patricia (aka Max Ravitz) album Maxyboy: his second full-length outing on Ghostly International following 2017’s Several Shades Of The Same Colour which I liked very much. Like its predecessor it could be loosely described as atmospheric, breaks-driven techno, but while Several Shades…felt restrictive and gloomy, there’s an optimistic bounce about many of the tracks on Maxyboy, not least in the playful acid lines and shimmering pools of Turtle Funk.
MDP5 is taken from a pair of EPs Skee Mask released this week that illustrate the two extremes of his music. The first, ISS005 is club-focussed – at times brutal – jungle and breakbeat, while the second ISS006 is entirely beatless, ambient atmospherics, and if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time at all it will be no surprise which of these I’ve gravitated towards.
Listening to any of these tracks in isolation doesn’t really do them justice: as with pretty much all of Skee Mask’s releases there’s a narrative thread that runs though ISS006 that really requires you to listen to it in its entirety to be properly appreciated. But MDP5 nicely illustrates what to expect, and is a marked shift in tone for an artist who, although often dealing in similarly deconstructed electronics, has never gone this stripped-back (or bleak) before.
“Art pop, Nigerian highlife, worldbeat, and other lesser-known genres” are all identified as key components of Art Feynman (aka accomplished recording artist and producer Luke Temple)’s music in his own bio, and honestly I can’t come up with a better way of describing China Be Better than by just directly quoting this. “Halfway between Arthur Russell and Pearl City” is my best effort, but the former is so massively broad and influential and the latter so woefully under-appreciated that this is a pretty redundant comparison. So just listen to it, as it’s really good.
Calling a record Cheese and then throwing in a guitar solo Chris Rea would be proud of is arguably a risky move, but US synthpop duo Young Ejecta completely get away with it. I’m a sucker for breathy, washed out vocals, and they’re there in abundance on Cheese alongside a Hold On, We’re Going Home-esque mid tempo beat and delicate, dreamy pads. Man it’s great, and if you’re not just even a little moved by it I really can’t help you.
Like many artists who have unexpectedly had their touring calendars erased by coronavirus, Daniel Avery has been keeping himself busy in the studio, and last week surprise released an entire album of new material, the 14 track Love + Light. “This record has been a real positive force of energy in my life, to the point where it almost formed itself in front of me,” Avery says of the LP. “In that same spirit, I wanted to share it with you now, as soon as it was finished.” Love + Light ranges from full on party techno bangers to hazy, washed out electronic ballads, with the wonderful Fuzzwar occupying a space very much towards the latter end of that spectrum.