November Audio Review


Posted November 4, 2013 in Music, Music Reviews

Arcade Fire
Reflektor
[Merge Records]

Arcade Fire are band that cannot help but operate on bombastic terms, with the only logical progression at every juncture seeming to be to grandstand what has gone before. Part of this, no doubt, is an effort to imbue some significance to the moment at which records enter the public consciousness, to reinstate the release date concept in the leaked promo era. As a bunch of 30-somethings, Butler, Chassagne et al no doubt are indulging the nostalgia for the way things were in the ’80s and ’90s of their childhoods (see also the Spike Jonze short film that mined E.T. for Suburb-an vibes on their last promotional campaign.)

Given 2013’s general openness to disco-centred aesthetics, the greater focus on rhythmic elements precipitated by James Murphy’s involvement doesn’t sound remotely jarring. More over, it feels like their embrace of this particular palette means that the point at which this particular aesthetic ceases to be satisfying is probably not far off, such is the wake of the good ship Arcade Fire.

But it would be disingenuous to allow the already ubiquitous (and excellent) title-track to be representative of the entire record, when rather it is a stand-out. Reflektor is still a Big Rock Record™ by one of rock’s biggest bands, particularly on its first disc. As with The Suburbs, there are reprised themes and superfluous moments where they feel the need to prove their punk rock credentials despite making works essentially on a prog scale. Like Arcade Fire, this record feels, quite simply, a bit too big and less enjoyable for it. – Ian Lamont

 

Squarehead
RESPECT
[Self-released]

Recorded and released within two months, the new Squarehead album rests on the grungier side of the power pop/Nirvana intersection. There’s a darker tinge to proceedings than on the debut, moving on from lovelorn balladry (though there’s some of that too) to a more all-consuming world weariness. Having honed these songs to a fine point in a live setting over the previous two years, the band sound confident and at ease here, despite the hasty recording process. – Ivan Deasy

 

Crayonsmith
Milk Teeth
[Out on a Limb Records]

The third full length from Crayonsmith reins in the synth-heavy sound of previous releases in favour of a more basic approach. The ten songs here are deceptively simple, revealing subtle details and a richness of composition over time. Lyrically, the record is permeated by the bittersweet nature of growing older and gaining perspective on the past. This is reflected musically in the elegiac tone of the record, though it’s tempered by a lightheartedness which prevents things from becoming too heavy. Read what the band had to say about the new album when we interviewed them over here. – Ivan Deasy

 

Cian Nugent and the Cosmos
Born Under The Caul
[No Quarter Records]

Born Under The Caul is the first album from Nugent with his full bands of Cosmos in tow. It with an old tune of his, Grass Above My Head (previously released as a solo arrangement on 7” single) and with orchestration not disimilar to Doubles, but the deeper you get into this absorbing record, the more frazzled the environment becomes hinting at Verlaine over Fahey, culminating in a corruscating, searing guitar solo midway through Houses Of Parliament that presages the only lyrics. This thing positively glows. – Ian Lamont

 

Laurel Halo
Chance Of Rain
[Hyperdub]

Chances Of Rain picks up where Laurel Halo’s live performances from 2012 left off, rather than where the mesmerising and magical Quarantine did. What that means is that we get shifty, edgy rhythmic music that hints more at empty spaces that the flurry of colours and the jarring ghoulishness of her vocal performances,  that characterised Laurel Halo previously. After the deliciously jazzy electric piano flourish introduction, the record almost then disappears into itself sadly. – Ian Lamont

 

Lasertom
Drift
[Nang Records]

The vein of spacey “Italo” disco that the Chromatics et al rediscovered some years ago has turned out to be one of the richest seams in the core of Mount Electronica. Amongst Simon Cullen’s regular gigs is the excellent Ships, but here he moonlights on his own as Lasertom. Drift has the feel of a mixtape put together by someone with a deep knowledge of this genre’s canon rather than an album that constantly exhibits it’s own character. – Ian Lamont

 

Machinedrum 
Vapor City
[Ninja Tune]

If cultural consumption is speeding up exponentially, it’s safe to say that first-wave dubstep is now decidedly retro. Machinedrum’s skittering junglist beats and funereal chord progressions are the throwback elements – it’s his use of always expressive cut-up vocals and atmospheric dexterity that keep the formula fresh on Vapor City. Intimidatingly monolithic, this latest LP could have done with some trimming, but nevertheless deserves attention. – Daniel Gray

 

Tim Hecker
Virgins
[Kranky]

Where the Canadian king of crackle’s collaboration with Oneohtrix’s Daniel Lopatin may have suffered from a little dilatory overintellectualisation, Virgins explodes out of the boxes with a sprinter’s resolve. His trademark shards of noise here come brutally serrated, the more crystalline passages are polished to a gleam – Virgins may maintain Hecker’s venerable process and aesthetic, but pushes to yet greater crests of majesty. Ambient experimentation rarely comes this coruscating. – Daniel Gray

 

Sky Ferreira
Night Time, My Time
[Capitol]

After appearing for the longest time to be some kind of peripheral, Tumblr entity it’s a relief to be able to finally pin a body of work to Sky Ferreira, something that can legitimise just why it seemed important to know about her in the first place. The fallen would-be child star’s first record is ruddy cheeked with 90s pop nostalgia, occasionally drapped in shoegazey affectations but understandably with nothing as zeitgeisty as Everything Is Embarrassing. – Ian Lamont

 

Omar Souleyman
Wenu Wenu
[Ribbon Music]

Anyone who ever dug into the archives on the Awesome Tapes From Africa blog, will be familiar with the maniacal melismatic keyboard solos predominant on Wenu Wenu from similarly Arabian north African artists. This is the Syrian veteran Souleyman’s most high-profile release, recorded in Brooklyn and produced by Kieran Hebden. The insistent scalar improvisations are definitely an acquired tastes, raising the questions what counts as abrasive i.e. this fucking wrecks my head, but each to their own, like. – Ian Lamont

 

Stano
Unknown Distance

Following on from Strange Passion, last years compilation of forgotten Irish post-punk comes the first record in decades by Irish outsider artist Stano. Steered more in the direction of shifty, uneasy rock band formation as opposed to his more bokers soundtrack work, while Stano remains an outsider, this is far from avant-garde in contemporary circumstances by any means, playing it safer than you might expect for a man of his reptutation, but with occasional ecstatic moments. – Ian Lamont

NEWSLETTER

The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.

SEARCH

National Museum 2024 – Irish

NEWSLETTER

The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.