This week in Indie Basement: Orbital are back with lots of guests and their best album in 20+ years; Anna B Savage dazzles on her sophomore album; Danish band Lowly give "feel good" a good name; Index for Working Musik make the kind of dark psych that would've gone over like gangbusters at All Tomorrow's Parties; and Ohio garage rockers Cheater Slicks and Belgian art-rock ensemble dEUS both return with their first albums in a decade.

Over in Notable Releases, Andrew reviews Caroline Polachek, Avey Tare, Screaming Females and more.

There was lots of other Basement-related news this week: Sweden's The Soundtrack of Our Lives are back in action; new albums are on the way from Feist, Wand's Cory Hanson, JFDR, and Mega Bog. I also wrote about 20 Burt Bacharach covers by indie/alt artists.

RIP Plug Two

Did you know BV has an online record shop and that there's an Indie Basement section? Well, there is and it's loaded up with records selected by me, including New Order, The Cure, Broadcast, Cocteau Twins, Beach House, Naima Bock, New Pornographers, The Beths,  Sleaford Mods, Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach, Deerhoof, The Raincoats, and much more.

Head below for this week's reviews.

orbital_optical Delusion

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Orbital - Optical Delusion (London Recordings)
Contributions from Sleaford Mods, Penelope Isles and a renewed energy make Orbital's 10th album their best in ages.

UK techno legends (and brothers) Paul and Phil Hartnoll have broken up and reformed Orbital twice now and, back in action since 2017, are now based out of Brighton. They spent most of 2022 looking back with their 30th anniversary, but they did it in a forward-thinking way, releasing compilation 30 Something that not just had their many hits but also reworks by younger electronic artists like Jon Hopkins, Lone, Logic and more. Inspired by the creativity of those contributions, the Hartnolls conceived their 10th album with guests on nearly every track. They've had vocalists on previous records -- good (Goldfrapp) and less good (David Gray) -- but Optical Delusion is their collab-iest record yet.

Albums like this often sound good on paper but come off lackluster in the finished product, but Orbital sound genuinely inspired here and, despite the remote nature of the album's creation, neither they or their collaborators could be accused of phoning it in. Optical Delusion is easily their best record since 1999's The Middle of Nowhere.

The two best songs on the album show off that collaborative spirit and both make you wish they were full albums. "Dirty Rat" features Sleaford Mods, and starts off like it's one of their songs, with a dirty, lo-fi bassline and Jason Williamson's signature bilous screed, taking aim at the current mess that is UK politics. But then the Hartnolls join the party and it's a perfect synthesis of the two groups. The other is "Are You Alive" featuring their Brighton neighbors, Penelope Isles, who bring their way with melody and airy harmonies for an ethereal banger of a pop song.

There are also two tracks with The Little Pest ("Frequency" is especially good); Anna B Savage, whose new album is also out today, is in diva mode on "Home" where her trilling vocals dance with the Hartnolls' squelchy techo 303s; and the The Mediaeval Baebes enliven album opener "Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song)." Dance music can be a young person's game, but there are no "How do you do, fellow kids" attempts at jumping on current trends. Optical Delusion feels modern and vital nonetheless, and just plain enjoyable in a way that few electronic acts who've been around for over 30 years can manage.


anna b savage in|FLUX

Anna B Savage - in|FLUX (City Slang)
Captivating second album from Anna B Savage puts a spotlight on her incredible, elastic, emotion-packed vocal chords

Anna B Savage has a voice, both fragile and powerful, that can convey big emotion without singing an actual word. On her second album, in|FlUX, Savage has lots to sing about, though, all of it involving matters of the heart. We're talking Bronte levels of passion and emotion, including breakups, makeups, lust, or the rush of a new relationship and the general mess love can leave you in. Anna made the album with Mike Lindsay of Tunng and Lump, who brings his expertise of mixing the organic and the electronic. This is a wonderful sounding album, mixing acoustic guitar, standup bass, and woodwinds with warm synthesizers, a perfect backing for Anna's voice that often sounds like it's being sung two inches from your ear. This is High Art pop that works best when it is reaching the highest, as on in/FLUX's title track that goes from the blushingly intimate to giddy heights as she protests, though layers of harmony and perfectly unhinged lead vocals, "I want to be alone / I'm happy on my own / believe me." Savage sells every emotion-packed line, be it awkward or moving or mortifying, and makes every second captivating.



Lowly - Keep Up The Good Work (Bella Union)
The latest from this Danish group is an affirmative album that never sinks to schmaltz

Positivity is a hard mood to pull off in art without coming off like a "Hang in There" motivational poster or something more insipid. But Danish band Lowly have mostly pulled it off with their new album Keep Up the Good Work. What makes this Work work? Lowly are coming from a place of sincerity and also good taste. "During the pandemic we experienced both the joys of having children and the sorrow of losing people we cared for," say the band. "Life and death struck us, you could say, which maybe seems rather banal to be writing about. But for that reason, we think this record speaks universally, and has the potential to resonate with many people.” Lowly wisely pair their lyrics with music that, while often beautiful, doesn't underline the sentiment, instead offering darker-hued instrumentation and arrangements as a counterpoint. The title track pushes things one further by incorporating recorded affirmations sent in by fans, a conceit that could go full treacle but ends up being the best song on the album. "Feel" and "Good" are not four letter words in Lowly's hands.


index for working musik

Index for Working Musik - Dragging the Needlework for The Kids at Uphole (Tough Love)
Debut album from this London duo scratches a dark, sinister psych itch

Index of Working are a London duo formed during the pandemic by Max Oscardnold (TOY, Proper Ornaments) and Nathalia Bruno (DRIFT.). They wrote and recorded in a basement, and their debut album feels appropriately dank and sinister in all the right ways. Dragging the Needlework for The Kids at Uphole is populated with slithering basslines, vintage synths and rhythm boxes, scratchy violin, guitars that drone and twang, and Oscardnold and Bruno's whispery vocals and close harmonies. At times they resemble '90s slowcore like Low or Acetone, and at other times they're closer to the druggy psych of The Gun Club or Rowland S Howard, with just a little C-86 jangle to brighten the corners. The songs are good, too. This album also makes me pine for the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, as Index for Working Musik would fit right in.


Cheater Slicks _ Ill Fated Cusses

Cheater Slicks - Ill-Fated Cusses (In the Red)
Garage rock veterans' first album in a decade is a seedy good time

Cheater Slicks have been cranking out skuzzy garage rock since the late '80s, having watched resurgences of the genre rise and fall more than once. They always just do what they do. Ill-Fated Cusses is their first album in a decade and is as pleasingly grimy as any record in their extensive discography. You can feel the dirt under fingernails, smell the cigarette smoke embedded in the upholstery, and taste the skunked beer in these 10 lo-fi tracks that don't always fit the trad garage sound. "Far Away Distantly" uses minor key harmonies to chilling effect, and strong melodies make "Coming Back To Me," "Flummoxed by the Snafu," and "Reaching Through" rise above the murky milieu. In this ever-changing world in which we live in, it's good to know some things stay the same.


deus - How To Replace It

dEUS - How To Replace It ([PIAS])
The long-running Belgian group's first album in over a decade revels in shambolic elegance

Belgian band dEUS have always reminded me a little of Afghan Whigs, more in style than specific execution. There is a swagger to everything they do, a rumpled suit shambolic elegance that feels wide in scope even when it sounds like they're playing a 2 AM set to three drunks at a seedy bar. How to Replace It is the band's seventh album and first in over a decade. “You don’t want to repeat yourself, but you have your style,” says frontman Tom Barman. “You want to try new stuff and just react to whatever feels fresh at the time.” Luckily for them, that dEUS sound -- orch rock with a little Tom Waits, a little Serge Gainbourg, and a little cheese -- has always had an Old Soul element to it, and they are aging very gracefully 30 years into their career. "Must Have Been New," "1989," and "Dream Is A Giver" are windswept, starstruck and world-weary, songs you could imagine them singing well into their twilight years.


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