The Essential Six - September 2020
I was happily having a break from writing stuff about music, but then I heard a load of good music so I thought I'd pop them in a list and send them into the ether. Here are the 6 best things I listened to in September:
Alan Partridge - From The Oasthouse
Bit off piste this...for a blog about independent music, but it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that 90% of my recent listening has been Partridge based and I can honestly say I feel enriched as a result (I now know what an Oasthouse is for a start). I feel that Alan Partridge's first foray into podcasting is the greatest art of the 21st century. Over the course of six hours and forty four minutes Alan shares his wisdom on a number of topics including cyclists, grammar, online trolls, 70s sex comedies, George Lazenby, his lovelife, stand up comedy, time capsules, pet magpies and many more hot topics. Do yourself a favour and get an Audible free trial, listen to From The Oasthouse, then cancel the subscription and spend the money on the music below instead.
Magana - Breathing
In the limited blurb I've seen, New York musician Jeni Magana prescribes the use of this record for: "relaxing, meditating, keeping track of time, falling asleep, concentrating, having coffee etc" and that about sums it up. Whilst I'm not particularly fond of "meditative music" per se, in this day and age I do find myself drawn to the more ambient end of the musical spectrum. Music that lets you drift off and forget about the news is very welcome. Here we find Magana in a completely different place and mindset to the Magana that you may have heard before. Fully instrumental and mostly synthesized this is icy but melodic music which sweeps in and out, repeats, builds and fades out in a pleasing and organic fashion. This is especially true on the 19 minute centrepiece "Breathing" which is also soulful and kind of uplifting. Lovely stuff.
Megadead - Audio Visual Metro Computers
Audio Visual Metro Computers is the second EP released by Megadead (the artist formerly known as Benjamin Shaw). In recent releases Shaw has moved away from the bedroom lo-fi folk if his earlier output to more atmospheric instrumental pieces. This one follows the same path for the most part, although we do get to hear a bit of Shaw's wonderfully fractured vocals on "Breaking Open The Head" (albeit heavily vocoder-ised). Audio Visual Metro Computers is mostly electro, borderline pop with nods to mid-2000s acts like Lemon Jelly and Neon Neon, littered with obscure samples, pops, glitches and melody. What's abundantly clear is that Shaw is getting better and better as the years go by, harnessing the awfulness of the world and turning it into something sad, funny, satirical and weirdly positive.
Tune-Yards - nowhere, man (4AD)
Even in times of great uncertainty, you can always rely on Tune-yards to come up with a pop banger. "nowhere, man" is the duo's first new material since their score to the film "Sorry to Bother You" which was released last year. Here we see Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner back in their main roles of producing bouncing, danceable singles, as always with these two though, it's pop with an angry bite. The simplicity of the chant "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide" will be depressingly apt for a lot of people.
Watch - https://tune-yards.com/
Dorcha - Monkey Dust (Box Records)
Dorcha are a five-piece from Birmingham and this is a preview from their forthcoming album Honey Badger. "Monkey Dust" is a wildly entertaining single which moves between soulful highs and complete nervous breakdown and has the same "we laugh in the face of genre" attitude that the B-52s had on their early releases. Recorded at Geoff Barrow's Invada studios, the band raided the plentiful supply of old school synths and analogue effects and a whole new sound was apparently formed. With this much packed into 5 minutes I await their long player with baited breath.
Kool A.D. - Anarchy
It's difficult to keep up but I think this is Kool AD's 9th release of the year (certainly there's 9 currently available on bandcamp). Anarchy has 7 tracks (including a 19 minute title track) which reflect the modern world that we find ourselves in (with lines like "the president's a fucking nazi" it's clear as day that we are firmly dealing in the present). If you've only heard the Bay Area rapper in Das Racist before now, there will be some surprises in store. This is back to basics stuff, relying on minimal music and samples to push powerful messages (it's certainly a million miles away from Das Racist's final, proper/mainstream album Relax). Perhaps unsurprisingly Kool AD's rhymes are coming from a much darker place in 2020, but there are still glimmers of that sharp wit of old (see "Worst Rapper In The World" for an obvious example).