Albums of the Year: British Theatre
After 2015’s glorious highlight The Demon Joke, Mike Vennart and Richard A. Ingram take the British Theatre banner, and take it farther into electronica on Mastery, shining a new light onto their trademark sound. And not only do they manage to again create unique music on their long awaited debut, but also go strong regarding their moments of glory in songwriting – above all: Capra, nothing less than one of the most beautiful songs Ingram and Vennart have written, ever. One should hurry to pick up one of the remaining vinyl copies of Mastery, if only for these 5:30 minutes of pure sublimity. Even better: You’ll get one of the most fascinating, detailed and emotional complex records of the year around this stellar song-beauty.
(In no particular order other than Sea Nymphs first!)
Sea Nymphs – On The Dry Land
I’m never the most articulate guy in the room, but writing this piece has only served to underline how most of my favourite music is fucking impossible to describe and, indeed, any attempt comes off patronising and over-simplistic. This record is the long-lost sophomore from The Sea Nymphs, comprised of Cardiacs’ Tim Smith, Sarah Smith and William D Drake. The record begins with After, a song written and recorded in the early 90’s, with vocals finally added this year. It sounds like a transmission from another planet that’s taken 20 years to reach us. Tim Smith – the only genius i’m ever likely to meet – has many stylistic strings to his bow and he has gifted us a great wealth of material over the years. This is as good as anything he’s brought to this world, and that is saying something.
Links: Cardiacs Store
Okkultokraki – Raspberry Dawn
I heard this whilst browsing a record shop in Oslo. I stayed long enough to hear the whole record through and bought it on the spot. It’s ugly, it’s nasty, and it’s great fun. I like that the vocals sound like they were recorded on cassette. In fact the whole thing sounds like it’s been mastered from your dad’s tape deck. Love it. Like a sort of dissonant death-punk with ambient goth synth wig-outs.
C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
This is a soothing listen. Wicked ’70s grooves with lush synths and soft harmonies. It’s occasionally quite mathy, which i’m usually game for. I’m a particular fan of that cokey, duvet-covered snare. I know literally nothing about this artist, but i consider this pretty easy listening.
Autolux – Pussy’s Dead
It’s difficult to decide who’s the most distinctive member of this band, but i’m gonna plump for drummer Carla Azar. Her playing is so sleazy, so loose but she grooves like fuck. These guys have carved out their niche, and this third record doesn’t really deviate. That’s fine with me. On first listen it’s difficult to imagine why it takes them so long to make a record, but then the millions of tiny – and unorthodox – details reveal themselves. And i think the guitar player only has one finger on his fretting hand. I also love how each member sings with pretty much the same sweetly emotionless monotone.
Savages – Adore Life
This record took me by surprise, as i really didn’t care for their previous record. But this is a kind of stark and daring record. It reminds me of the early Cure records or Siouxie And The Banshees. Most of all, i love the wirey, reverberous guitar. The title track is an absolute choker.
The Necks – Chemist
I heard this blasting out of the PA courtesy of Steve Davis and Kavus Torabi. I’m quite a fan of Krautrock, specifically Can, and this has that rotational, free-form vibe to it. It sounds like a band playing meditatively together in a room. Really organic and natural.
Autechre – Elseq 1-5
Autechre continue to dig further into digital sound manipulation with the five volume Elseq. Composed (probably) from hours of digital jams using custom made software, it’s an intense, often beguiling listen. Clocking in at just over four hours (Autechre have never been the best editors of their own work), the running time may be the only downside. But this is Autechre, so they can do whatever the fuck they want.
Lakker – Struggle + Emerge
Lakker are a techno duo from Ireland but this album (actually a long EP) is about as far from the dancefloor as it’s possible to get. Asked by The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision’s RE:VIVE initiative to compose a work relating to ‘the Dutch relationship with water’, they used field recordings and archival historic broadcasts to create a tense, industrial soundtrack.
Various Artists – Dark Souls 3 [Soundtrack]
Video game soundtracks have come a long way and most major releases now command an equally major, Hollywood style score. Most of the music is from the ‘Boss’ fights in the game, from the haunting, elegiac Dancer Of The Boreal Valley to the inevitable, you-ARE-going-to-die-again Twin Princes. As infuriating as this game sometimes is, at least your endless deaths have a suitable soundtrack.
Demdike Stare – Wonderland
Named after one of the witches in the Pendle witch trials of 1612, Demdike Stare have always had an occult flavour to their music and artwork. This album is slightly more melodic than previous outings but the electronic manipulations and sound design remain as spooky as ever.