Forget 2012. If 2009 marked the apocalypse, Scars would make a fantastic send-off for planet Earth. In their dependably inimitable manner, Basement Jaxx have crafted an album that fuses together beats of numerous styles and orientations. Scars distills a good half-century’s worth of dance music from around the world—ska, Euro-pop, bhangra—and funnels it through the genius of Felix Buxton and Simon Racliffe. Santigold, Yoko Ono, and Yo Majesty lead a motley crew of guests who bring a distinct flavor to each production, which makes singling out one defining track a futile enterprise. However, if today is all we had, and tomorrow ceased to exist, I know I’d want to face my mortality with the voices of Sam Sparro (“Feelings Gone”) and Lightspeed Champion (“My Turn”) leading the way.
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(Hidden Shoal Recordings)
The cliché ‘all killer, no filler’ is often bandied around with very little to back it up. In the case of Mukaizake’s stunning new release Unknown Knowns, the cliché applies. Unknown Knowns kicks off with the fuzzy propulsion of single ‘The Yeah Conditioner’, immediately launching the listener into Mukaizake’s compelling corner of the musical universe. This is serpentine indie-rock at its finest, weaving hook after hook around your chest until you’re suspended from the clouds, a grin plastered across your face, unable to even think about listening to anything else.
“Part math-rock, part jangly dream-pop, the six songs are a beguiling dive into the oceanic sounds of 90’s indie rock. Vocalists Geoff Symons and Erickson can both actually sing with clarity, lending the songs a sort of choirboy purity, even when singing about slashing tyres… The outcome is a pristine and intelligent composite of sounds old and new… It’s a heady combination.” – Rave Magazine.
1. The Yeah Conditioner (Single)
2. Rule Norse
3. Corporal Steam
5. My Friend Flicker
6. Slack Bees
The Yeah Conditioner [MP3]
It took Antony Hegarty four years to follow the breakthrough success of I Am a Bird Now with The Crying Light, but in terms of the internal thematic landscape of the songs, it feels light years ahead of its predecessor. Hegarty largely abandons issues of gender ambiguity here for a bruising, heartfelt examination of man and his relationship to nature, infused with a sense of deep spirituality and longing. Uncertainties be damned: his artistic leap pays off boundlessly. Keeping his musings eloquently grounded in supple arrangements that utilize woodwinds, strings, and his ever-prescient piano, these songs soar in their introspective wanderlust, guiding us with genuine awe into each question Antony spiels forth in his disarming, wounded voice. Alternating between languid yet beautiful ballads and swirling piano-pop shuffles, Hegarty keeps our interest as much for the subtle shades he adds to his fully-realized musical vision as his philosophical ruminations. As an artist, he may forever cloud himself in an aura of enigma, playfully sprouting double entendres with his clever songwriting and arrangements; yet with each project, he reveals multi-dimensional facets that are as intriguing as they are dazzling. Those willing to follow him ever-further down his own eccentric paths are assured to be as comforted and rewarded by what they find as they are challenged by what they hear.
In many ways, Anti-Pop Consortium’s most bombastic album yet should’ve been their coldest and most inaccessible. It is dominated by battles between man and machine, flitting between the inaccuracies of the heart and the cool precision of their musical backing, but at no point are we decided on a winner. The rumoured conflicts that resulted in the group’s hiatus prior to recording Fluorescent Black probably didn’t help (though they seemingly turned out to be totally false), and the result is a restless, economic, smooth, and daring hip-hop record. Ballsy on “Volcano”, beautiful/violent on “Born Electric”, and fidgety beyond belief on “Capricorn One”, this is Anti-Pop Consortium at their most eclectic and unified, both musically and personally. Because these conflicts pervade so much of the whole, the entertainment factor is massive, and they are still leaders of the alternative pack.
It wasn’t supposed to work. It wasn’t even supposed to happen: following A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s 2007 debut, founding vocalists Robin and Lauren Daniels got sidetracked by personal matters and bassist Brice Hickey landed in the hospital with a broken leg. The finished product, recorded largely with replacement singers, squashed 22 tracks into a shape-shifting hour, populated by obscured hooks, half-formed ideas, and spare parts. All of which belies Ashes Grammar as a work of extraordinary beauty. Core players Ben Daniels and Josh Meakim oversaw the record like hawks and sculpted it into a floral dream-pop paradise designed to heighten the senses. Everything seems to have been drawn from a canon of sensual music, built according to a strangely fitting logic. Drums switch between an acoustic kit and a programmed bass thump from the Mille Plateaux school of 4 a.m. clubbing; shoegaze guitars morph and reappear from different angles; choral chants melt into melodic swoons sourced from who knows where. It’s a place of thrilling, almost limitless possibility, whose colossal length gives the impression that it has no boundaries. We’re meant to cross into it, drink in its aroma, and take the chance that its abundance of riches might really be glistening with sharp teeth.