Sweden’s REIN (known in “real” life as Joanna Reinikainen) worries a lot about society’s largest problems, including the return of fascism in the Western world, the continual denigration of women’s rights, and income inequality. We should all be worried about these issues and REIN brings them front and center in her righteous brand of electropunk. REIN’s latest single is “Democracy” and it’s a banger that hits the nail right on the head, calling out those billionaire business figures that control 85% of the world’s wealth. Accompanied by footage of protests from around the world, the video for “Democracy” is powerful and moving as REIN questions whether those of us in so-called First World democracies are actually experiencing anything like real democracy.
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Bubblemath releases its first album in 15 years, Edit Peptide Friday, 26 May via Cuneiform Records. A little history seems in order: The Minnesota unit’s debut LP, Such Fine Particles of the Universe (2002), was remarkable for its wide-ranging aesthetic, blending elements of pop and prog, then bending back into territories of the experimental and mathematical. The record garnered the band major respect among critics and listeners whose imaginations were matched only by their musical appetites. The prolonged silence that followed came down to a series of personal and professional setbacks that did little to quell Bubblemath’s artistic impulses.
With the observational skills of Ray Davies, the freak folk interests of early Beck and a conceptual bent that places the outfit in line with fellow Ohioan Robert Pollard, Swarming Branch’s music is as accessible as it is intellectually rewarding. The real pleasure of listening to this collection comes not in peeling away the layers or finding new nomenclature to describe the dizzying array of sounds contained in these tracks. Instead, it’s in letting the music work its charms in these brief and brilliant bursts of both sincerity and hilarity.
Tess Océane Joffroy hails from Saint Denis on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean and that stunningly gorgeous location is the setting for Tess’ new video for the single “Love Gun”. The island vibes imbue “Love Gun” with warmth and mellowness as the sound of waves lapping the shore intertwine with the instrumentation. Meanwhile, Tess’ electropop aesthetic embraces minimalist textures and quiet space within the confines of a traditional pop song. That allows Tess’ music to both feel vast and intimate at the same time. Tess’ voice recalls Björk and the Knife at moments, but she’s more resolutely pop like an Ellie Goulding or Hannah Reid (London Grammar), and her music draws more from R&B than those aforementioned northern artists.
Evan Sawdey: When UNKLE debuted in 1998, part of the buzz stemmed from the fact that this project was a new outlet for the more structured, accessible melodic musings of the great DJ Shadow, still riding high off of the success of his iconic debut Endtroducing…. Yet in the Shadowless years that followed, James Lavelle has been slowly building UNKLE into something of a dark-pop warhorse, continuing the group’s ongoing brand of cryptic-yet-danceable sounds in new dimensions and with new directions. “The Road” is frentic, blessed with a genuine enthusiasm behind it that bleeds through that epic drum buildup and that smooth acoustic cooldown. As has been the case for the past few years now, “The Road” that UNKLE is going down is one worth following them on. [7/10]
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