Indie Basement (11/4): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
Greetings from Iceland! I'm currently in Reykjavik for Iceland Airwaves but that doesn't mean I'm slacking off this week. We've got another dozen albums on the slate, including techno-shoegaze innovator Daniel Avery, New Orleans dancepuks Special Interest's first album for Rough Trade, Spoon's dub album with Adrian Sherwood, SAULT drop five albums on us, La Femme's Spanish album, and crucial reissues from Ride, plus Carla Dal Forno, µ-Ziq's third release of the year, Decius (ft members of Fat White Family and Warmduscher), Pye Corner Audio (remixed by Sonic Boom), cosmic disco duo Seahawks, and more.
Over in Notable Releases, Andrew reviews new albums by Mount Kimbie, Ezra Collective, R.A.P. Ferreira, Big Joanie, Fleshwater and more.
If you need something to watch, the Don Letts documentary Rebel Dread is excellent. You can also catch up on October's best stuff according to me.
A reminder that there's an Indie Basement section of the BV shop whose virtual shelves are stocked high with vinyl and merch from Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, King Gizzard, Pavement, Wet Leg, Parquet Courts, Arctic Monkeys, Beach House, Broadcast, Stereolab, Belle & Sebastian, Talking Heads, Spoon, Lilys, Cocteau Twins, Can, Dinosaur Jr and lots, lots more.
Head below for this week's many reviews.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #1: Daniel Avery – Ultra Truth (Mute / Phanstasy Sound)
Working in elements of shoegaze and other ethereal styles to his brand of techno, Daniel Avery makes his best record yet
Ultra Truth is a gorgeous and often thrilling album that finds Daniel Avery a master of a variety of dance styles that he whips into his own alluring blend of techno, drum-n-bass, shoegaze, trip hop, chillout and ethereal electronics. It’s bullet train that rockets through neon urban cityscapes, glaciers and waterfalls, and blooming valleys, all under a skyfull of stars. Sometimes Avery flips the switch to slow motion, and the soundtrack drops to a blurry crawl. The travelogue includes serious club thumpers (“Higher”), gaseous bliss-outs (“The Collapsing Sky”), moments of balearic beauty (“Lone Swordsman”) and stare-at-your-hand jams worthy of Boards of Canada (“Spider,” the title track). Then there are uniquely Avery-esque creations like “Devotion” that melds a piledriver breakbeat with a wall of noise that blasts like solar radiation. Some of the most immediate songs are the collaborations with vocalists. “Wall of Sleep,” featuring his Mute labelmate HAAi, is the closest Avery has ever come to fizzy pop (still not that close). Then there’s “Chaos Energy” – arguably the best song on the record – that features both HAAi and his friend and collaborator Kelly Lee for what is a microcosm of the album, a rail trip through the Himalayas full of dramatic peaks and valleys culminating in a whiteout summit of celestial synths and choral vocals that have the train leaving the tracks and heading into space. Get on board.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #2: Special Interest - Endure (Rough Trade)
This New Orleans dancepunk band sound just a little friendlier on their Rough Trade debut. That's a good thing,
New Orleans dark dancepunk outfit Special Interest gained a following through their intense live shows (a power drill was in their instrument list), so what happens when the clubs all shut down and touring stops? They make Endure, the band's first album for Rough Trade, which they describe as "inverted," as the songs were for the first time worked out in the studio instead of the stage. The band experimented more than ever and were as inspired and empowered by the studio as they were the pandemic, Black Lives Matter and the 2020 election. As fiery as all that sounds, Endure is a much friendlier sounding album than 2020's The Passion Of, and tracks like "Herman's House" and "Midnight Legend" are full of disco rhythms, fuzzy basslines, house piano, and big, chant-along choruses. There are also a few intense, raw nerve tracks that show they still know where the power tools are stored. At the center is Alli Logout whose vocals here are diva-worthy and command your attention at every turn. Endure hits hard, often with uncompromising messages and sounds, but Special Interest are also aware we've been through a lot and that few things are as cathartic as dancing.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK #3: Spoon vs On-U Sound - Lucifer on the Moon (Matador)
Britt Daniel hands the controls, and Spoon's most recent album, over to dub producer Adrian Sherwood for a companion piece to 'Lucifer on the Sofa' that stands on its own
Earlier this year, Spoon released a remix of "My Babe" from this year's excellent Lucifer on the Sofa that featured legendary reggae and postpunk producer (and On-U Sound founder) Adrian Sherwood at the controls. Turns out there was more where that came from. “I got into the melody and the thoughts it evoked in me,” Sherwood says. “It just evolved and we eventually found ourselves with a whole album.” And what a cool album it is. Spoon's sound, which has always had a lot of space and headroom, is perfect for dub production and Sherwood rips these songs apart and reassembles the parts in a whole new fashion. In some cases, songs are given an entirely different backbone, with conga-and-tom-heavy percussion and new reggae arrangements ("The Devil & Mr Jones," "Satellite," "On the Radio"), while others get more of the echo box trip to outer space, and "Wild," the closest Spoon have ever come to a stadium anthem, is transformed into Screamadelica-era Primal Scream. What started as an experiment turned into a very cool album that not only stands on its own but is equal, in its own way, to the original.
Carla dal Forno - Come Around (Kallista)
The Australian artist's first album in three years favorably recalls the minimalist work of Young Marble Giants
Australian artist Carla Dal Forno took a break from music after 2019's Look Up Sharp and didn't touch an instrument or sing in any professional capacity for a year and a half -- coinciding at least partially with the pandemic -- and also left the city for rural Castlemaine in Central Victoria. When she eventually began playing and recording again, small town life had an influence on her music. While she's always favored simple arrangements, Come Around is her most minimal record yet, with most tracks little more than spare vintage drum machines, bass and voice, while atmospheric synths very lightly fill in the edges of the echoey production. It's hard not to think of post-punk cult band Young Marble Giants when listening to songs like "Stay Awake," "Mind You're On," "Slumber" (a duet with Thomas Bush), and the winsome title track, but Carla brings her own unique energy and voice to these quietly inviting songs
SAULT - 11, Earth, (Untitled) God, Today & Tomorrow, AIIR (SAULT Global)
Five new albums from SAULT, praise be to Inflo
Does Inflo sleep? Here's five new albums! As usual, SAULT doesn't give any details with these and as they're just available as a WeTransfer download link, you can't glean any credits -- guest vocalists, that sort of thing -- like you can on Spotify or TIDAL, so we're going just on the music here. And it's a lot of music, nearly five hours worth, and with just a cursory listen it's all unsurprisingly cool. You might want to start with 11, the latest in their numbered line (X, an EP. came out earlier this fall) that puts the global in SAULT, incorporating all that they do: wiry funk, lush jazz, stirring modern composition, soul, reggae, afrobeat, samba, ‘70s movies soundtracks, etc with a host of guest vocalists and a few pop concessions. Inflo’s production on 11 (and all the albums) is immaculate, a low fi ("vintage"?), weathered style that sounds unearthed and genuine. It’s also one of the albums in this basket that sports a color cover (red), which is new to SAULT’s previous black-and-gold world. Earth is the other with a solid color cover (green, of course), offering the sunniest disposition of the bunch, dipping into Minnie Riperton floral territory here and there. Today & Tomorrow (blue moon cover art), meanwhile, dives into groovy psych rock full of fuzzy bass and soulful vocals. The other two albums have helpfully labeled genres: AIIR is modern classical in the Aaron Copeland line and close cousin to Air, which came out earlier this year; and (Untitled) God is tagged “gospel.” The longest album of the five by a length (73 minutes), God is Inflo’s idiosyncratic take on the genre with some absolutely gorgeous creations -- “I Surrender,” with shades of Prince, might be the best thing on all five albums. Five albums, nearly four hours of new music, is a lot to drop on people all at once, but quality is high across all of this, and they’re literally giving it away. Who are we to say “send less”?
UPDATE: A week later, all five albums hit streaming:
Old Fire - Voids (Western Vinyl)
Former Earlies member JM Lapham channels This Mortal Coil vibes on his new Old Fire album featuring vocals from Bill Callahan, Julia Holter and more
Producer and composer John Mark Lapham, who was a member of mid-'00s band The Earlies as well as The Late Cord and MEIN, also records eerie, atmospheric music as Old Fire . His second album under the name, Voids, features guest vocals from Bill Callahan, Julia Holter and Loma's Emily Cross and Adam Torres, and also features instrumental contributions from Doveman's Thomas Bartlett, saxophonist Josephn Shabason, The Earlies' Christian Madden and more. Voids is in many ways a modern analogue to This Mortal Coil, the project of 4AD Records founder Ivo Watts-Russell and producer John Fryer, and is very much a late night album -- featuring some cool covers -- heavy on vibes. In fact, Ivo suggested John Martyn's "Don't You Go" to Lapham, which here is sung by Callahan. It's a haunted, beautiful and thoughtful album, where musical motifs reappear throughout, making it best experienced as a whole, though songs like the jazzy, ethereal "Blue Star" featuring Emily Cross stand out on their own.
For more on Voids, read our track-by-track feature with Lapham.
La Femme - Teatro Lucido (Disque Pointu)
Not all of it works, but this Parisian band's foray into Spanish music is pretty fun
La Femme's music is hooky and fun, mixing psych and synthpop with tropical sounds and a variety of French subgenres. But for some the language barrier -- they are decidedly Francophone -- is a step too far. For those who wish La Femme would stop singing in French, their new album may be for you. It's in Spanish! The album was inspired by touring in South America and Spain, and finds them dabbling in Brazilian, Andalusian and other latin motifs. Breezy and fun with heaps of style, like everything they do, Teatro Lucido feels a little more scattered than any record they've made before, mixing more standard La Femme-type songs, like the irresistible "Sacate la" and excellent reggaeton excursion "Contaminado," with more esoteric numbers including "Maialen," which plays with marching pasodoble styles (and may sound like circus music to some), and a few flamenco diversions. The result feels like a whirlwind trip to seven countries, or at least a slide show of the trip. Some of it is a natural fit, some of it falls under "you had to be there."
Ride -Nowhere / Going Blank Again / 4 EPs Reissues (Wichita)
"These are my favourite pressings ever of these albums" - Ride's Andy Bell
Ride's discography up through the early-'90s is pretty spotless, including their classic debut album Nowhere, one of the touchstone records of the OG shoegaze movement; their underrated second album, Going Blank Again, that found them expanding their sonic palette and emphasizing their voices as much as their guitar pedals; and four EPs that range from the youthful rush of Ride and Play, to the growing ambition of Fall, and the maturity and experimentation of Today Forever. All are essential and have just been reissued by the band's current label Wichita Records. All of these originally came out when vinyl was on the decline and more care was probably put into CDs than the records (and none of them got vinyl releases in the US at the time). "These are my favourite pressings ever of these albums," Andy Bell told us. "Creation was an amazing record label but they didn’t press on the greatest vinyl. I’d rather have one of these new ones than an original any day." These reissues, which are also on CD, mark the first time the four EPs have been collected into one complete (triple album) set, and Going Blank Again now comes with four great b-sides from the era, including the song "Going Blank Again." The biggest downside is they are currently UK-only, as the North American rights are controlled by Warner Music (they were signed to Sire in the U.S.). Hopefully they'll see release here sooner than later, but for those who want it now will have to fork over for international shipping.
µ-Ziq - Hello (Planet Mu)
MIke Paradinas' third µ-Ziq record of 2022 is a delightful breakbeat trip down memory lane
Back in June, Mike Paradinas released Magic Pony Ride, his first µ-Ziq album to be released on his own Planet Mu label in a decade. If you were a µ-Ziq fan in the '90s, the album was also a return to those days, loaded with jungle beats, warm, ambient textures, squelchy acid-house 303s and good vibes. That was the second µ-Ziq release of the year -- the Goodbye EP came out in April -- and he's just released his third. Mike says Hello is the "the mirror image" of the Goodbye EP where "intensity is heightened, the breaks more manic and melodies inhabit every corner." This is bright inviting stuff that stands up against Paradinas' best work like 1997's Lunatic Harness. The title track is an instant classic. For fans of '90s heady dance music we're currently having a bit of a resurgence (have you heard the new Orbital?) and Hello is another welcome chapter.
Decius - Decius Vol 1 (The Leaf Label)
Members of Fat White Family and Warmduscher are part of this techno/acid house collective who just released their sweaty debut
Decius is an electronic group that includes Fat White Family's Lias Saoudi, brothers Liam & Luke May (founders of Trashmouth Records), along with Warmduscher's Quinn Whalley. They've been around for a while, having released a string of self-released 12" singles over the last few years, and their performances include supporting slots for Daniel Avery, Erol Alkan, 2ManyDJs and Honey Dijon. Decius have now collected the best of those hard-to-find slabs of vinyl for their debut album. As with anything involving Saoudi, there is sleaze running through Decius' veins, though the kind of debauchery here is kept mainly on the dancefloor, the kind you might experience three-quarters of the way through a 12-hour rave at Berlin's legendary Berghain club where you've lost all sense of time. Or as they put it: “Unwashed acid house and disco through a broken South London filter – from ‘70s New York bathhouses to ‘80s Chicago night clubs via the Brixton Windmill. Bring a towel.” Tracks like "Look Like a Man," "Come to Me Villa," "Show Me No Tears" and "Bread & Butter" are serious bangers.
Seahawks - Infinite Echo (Cascine)
Super Furry Animals illustrator Pete Fowler is one half of this cosmic duo who specialize in balearic beats on ice
You may know Welsh artist Pete Fowler for his instantly recognizable illustrations that have graced Super Furry Animals record sleeves from almost the start. In addition to being an in-demand designer, Fowler is also quite the music head, a serious crate digger fond of obscure disco and psych and who, with partner Jon Tye, has been releasing cosmic disco as Seahawks since 2010. They are a very prolific duo and Infinite Echo is their latest, a balearic sunset of an album, layered with misty synthesizers, steamy saxophones, nylon string watercolor guitar, vibraphone and the chillest of beats. You could probably glean the way Infinite Echo is going to sound via its trippy album art and song titles like "Space Oracle," "The Other Shore," "Beams of Love" and "Forever Now," but that doesn't make these sounds any less inviting.
Pye Corner Audio - Let's Remerge! (Sonic Cathedral)
Sonic Boom takes Pye Corner Audio's synthy psychedelia -- featuring Ride's Andy Bell -- even further into blissed-out territory
Back in July, Pye Corner Audio (aka analogue synth wiz Martin Jenkins) released Let's Emerge!, an album that traded his usual dark, retro electronic soundscapes for bright psychedelia, and half of the album's 10 songs featured guitar and vocals by Ride's Andy Bell (they'd collaborated before). Now Jenkins has handed over a few of that album's songs to Sonic Boom (aka Pete Kember formerly of Spacemen 3) to work his magic on. These songs were already pretty blissed-out, but Kember sets the controls for the heart of the sun for what is at times the aural equivalent of the last 20 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Coolest of the bunch: "Saturation Point," which Kember refashions into Morricone-esque cinematic drama.
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