This week in Indie Basement: The Beta Band's Steve Mason delivers one of his best-ever albums; Constant Smiles don't look back on Kenneth Anger; Dry Cleaning get remixed by Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul and more on their new EP; Kate NV drops us in the plastic dayglo world of WOW; and crucial indiepop vinyl reissues from Felt and Heavenly.

It's a much bigger week in Notable Releases, with Andrew reviewing 10 albums, including Zulu, Truth Cult, slowthai, and more.

We are now in March but if you need a catch up on last month, check out the Indie Basement roundup of February's best songs and albums. If you need more Basement-friendly stuff from this week, there's: Sparks shared the title track from their upcoming album; Protomartyr are gonna announce a new album finally; The Flaming Lips announced a Yoshimi tour; and the Green Man Festival 2023 lineup is very sweet.

RIP Pulp bassist Steve Mackey. Too soon.

Stream some De La Soul (and get classics on vinyl and cassette).

In the Indie Basement corner of the BV online shop, you can pick up vinyl, books and merch featuring Stereolab, Love & Rockets, The Raincoats, King Gizzard, Cocteau Twins, Grant Lee Buffalo, Sleaford Mods, Belle & Sebastian, New Pornographers, Naima Bock, Protomartyr, Mogwai, The Flaming Lips, and lots more.

Head below for this week's reviews...

steve mason - Brothers & Sisters

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Steve Mason - Brothers & Sisters (Double Six / Domino)
The former Beta Band leader mixes baggy beats and social activism on one of his best-ever albums, solo or otherwise

The Beta Band broke up nearly 20 years ago but bandleader Steve Mason has kept going, plowing much of the same baggy groove as a solo artist, whether under aliases like Black Affair and King Biscuit Time or his own name. And while Mason's music has always been pretty chill, he has not mellowed with age. Especially this time around. “To me, this record is a massive ‘Fuck you’ to Brexit,” Mason says of his fifth solo album, Brothers & Sisters. “And a giant ‘Fuck you’ to anyone that is terrified of immigration because there is nothing that immigration has brought to this country that isn’t to be applauded. Can you imagine what this place would be like without that [immigration]? I mean what would it be like? Cornish pasties and morris dancing?”

Brothers & Sisters is a protest record, but done in an "all are welcome" good-vibes way, with warm, anthemic choruses, and swaying beats. It's one of his best ever albums, solo or otherwise. Adding to the Stand Up, all-inclusive vibe are a number of collaborations with musicians from around the world. Pakistani singer Javed Bashir guests on two of the best songs: "No More," which builds from airy minimalism to the size of a block-long rally where everyone is marching and joining in the chant; and "Brixton Fish Fry" that lays down a funky electric piano riff and also features Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor and the mesmerizing sounds of the dulcimer-eque santoor by Kaviraj Singh.

Most of these protest songs center on simple platitudes -- "rise up," "no more," "pump up the volume," "let it go," "no one said it was gonna be easy" -- that serve as anchors, slogans, and rallying cries that will be burned into your brain after a listen or two. If you wanna engage the most people, keep it simple, and you may end up with something more inspiring and moving. (He's also got more to say with more purpose than, say, Oasis. If you know what I mean.) It also helps that the musical backing is so good. Mason has always been a master of construction, knowing how to add and subtract layers to draw you in, with particular expertise in percussion, and the arrangements and production on Brothers & Sisters are fantastic.

That said, Mason pretty much stays in the same lane he's been driving in since The Beta Band's The Three EPs, but he is clearly inspired this time, getting help from the late Martin Duffy of Primal Scream who brings a little Screamadelica vibe, as do gospel singers Jayando Cole, Keshia Smith, Connie McCall, and Adrian Blake. They all are on the album's most moving song, "Pieces of Me," where over gorgeous backing Mason quietly sings "But you and I are through / Fuck your heated pool / Cause I cannot follow fools," with as much vitriol as a scream, inviting us to join the revolution with open arms and a groovy beat.


attachment-swampy ep dry cleaning

Dry Cleaning - Swampy EP (4AD)
Terrific remixes by Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul and Nourished by Time highlight this stop-gap, odds-n-sods EP

Coming just six months after the release of their second album, Stumpwork, Dry Cleaning are back with this odds-n-sods EP featuring two strays from the album, two remixes, and a demo. "Swampy" is pretty terrific, good enough to have made Stumpwork, with Florence Shaw reciting "Bean bags, bingo and a Playstation Five," in her unique style over spidery backing. Sometimes the juxtaposition between Shaw's deadpan delivery and Dry Cleaning's riffy, mathy rock can be too jarring -- many people think that is the best thing about this band, of course -- but here the music and Shaw work as one.

The remixes are better than the new songs. Nourished by Time (aka Marcus Brown) delivers what is more a rework than a remix of "Gary Ashby," taking Shaw's morsel of melody as a jumping-off point and basically coming up with a whole new song over the original backing, refashioning it as rain-soaked, shimmering indie somewhere between The Smiths and The Drums. Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul, meanwhile, turn the jagged "Hot Penny Day" into chilled-out, dubby triphop, autotuning and rearranging Shaw's vocals into something closer to pop. This remix also sells Shaw's line "Is it still okay if I call you my Disco Pickle" better than in the original.

The EP is rounded out by two instrumentals: "Sombre Two," a jazzy, noir number and, more interesting, a demo of "Peanuts" that mixes a reggae bassline, groggy synths and low sax that I hope Shaw puts lyrics to at some point. Swampy may not hold together as a "a record" but three of the five tracks are excellent and the other two show a new side to the group, so consider this a worthwhile yard sale of an EP.


constant smiles kenneth anger album

Constant Smiles - Kenneth Anger (Sacred Bones)
With a synth-heavy sound this time, Constant Smile add a gothier touch to their grey sky heartland sound

As Constant Smiles, Ben Jones makes swirling, hooky minor chord pop that is pleasingly mopey, but tends to switch up the methodology from album to album. Paragons from 2021 was led with acoustic guitar, but for his second album on Sacred Bones, keyboards are at the forefront, giving things a much different feel. Arpeggiated synths dance around his melancholic melodies, while the driving basslines feel right out of the '80s goth heyday. These arrangements are a more natural fit for Jones' songs and whispery vocals, and Kenneth Anger -- named after the experimental filmmaker -- comes off a bit like The War on Drugs by way of M83, The Church and Disintegration. Songs are terrific this time out, too, with a few killer grey sky heartland anthems, including "In My Heart," "Here and Gone," "I Hope You Are Well," and "I'm On Your Side." Guests include Cassandra Jenkins, Bambara drummer Blaze Bateh, and producer Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Liars, Pottery) who really makes the whole thing sparkle. A terrific album.



Felt - Gold Mine Trash / Bubblegum Perfume vinyl reissues (1972)
These two compilations are all most people need to own by cult group Felt, now reissued on vinyl for the first time in 30 years

When it comes to cult artists, most folks are fine with a Greatest Hits that collects all the best and best-known songs into one place. Felt are one of those bands. Led by eccentric genius Lawrence, the band released 10 albums and 10 singles in the '80s and their jangly, swirling psych-pop proved to be highly influential on a certain subsect of cardigan-wearing indie types. The albums were of wildly varying quality, however, and many of their best songs, like Elizabeth Fraser duet "Primitive Painters," were only released as singles.

Luckily two different essential Felt compilations have now been reissued on vinyl for the first time in three decades. There's no overlap between them, either, and each represent Felt's two main phases that are represented by key sidemen: the early years on Cherry Red Records featuring the racing arpeggiations of guitarist Maurice Deebank; and the later years when they were signed to Creation and Deebank was replaced by the equally amazing Martin Duffy on organ. Both are fantastic, with 1987's Gold Mine Trash containing their defining song "Primitive Painters" (which actually features both Deebank and Duffy), along with "Penelope Tree," "Dismantled King is on the Rise," and more, while 1990's more robust Bubblegum Perfume documents the Creation years and contains classics like "Rain of Crystal Spires," "I Will Die With My Head in Flames," "Ballad of the Band," "The Final Resting Place of the Ark," and more. Lawrence oversaw both of these reissues and tweaked the artwork and packaging, too.

"Couldn't they have just made one compilation that had all of Felt's best jams," you ask? They actually did with Cherry Red's 2003 comp Stains on a Decade, which was CD only. Until that gets a vinyl reissue, your turntable will have to put up with these, which isn't settling at all as far as I'm concerned.



Heavenly - Le Jardin De Heavenly (Skep Wax)
Indiepop royalty Heavenly continue their reissue series with their second album, back on vinyl for the first time in 30 years

Heavenly, the '90s band led by indiepop royalty Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, are having a bit of a moment, with the bands' music finding popularity on TikTok, reunion shows happening this spring and their album catalogue getting much-needed vinyl reissues. The latest of those is their 1992 sophomore album Le Jardin De Heavenly, which is arguably the group's best album and recently made Pitchfork's 25 Best Indiepop Albums of the '90s list and will be out May 12 via their own Skep Wax label. The original album's eight songs -- including signature duet with Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson, "C Is The Heavenly Option" -- are now joined by both sides of their 1991 7" singles for Sarah Records and K Records. "Twee" can be a four-letter word but this is the genre at its scruffy, punky, poppy, winsome best.

Order it via Bandcamp.



Kate NV - WOW (RVNG Intl)
The fourth album from this Russian electronic artist is made of of "funny tiny sounds" that evoke '90s video games

Russian electronic artist Kate NV (real name Kate Shilonosova) makes playful electronic pop, and on her fourth album, WOW, there's a real emphasis on "play." Her palette of sounds here feels pulled directly from '90s and early-'00s video games, from the sampled pop-bass to the keyboard horns and strings. There are also guitars, real woodwinds, and found-sound percussion -- plus a song called "Meow Chat" -- all put through Kate NV's unique "funny tiny sounds" filter, and listening may induce muscle memory of mashing controller buttons. All it's missing is a feature from Parappa the Rapper.

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