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Albums - Issue 585

Ancient Methods - The Jericho Records

Ancient Methods

The Jericho Records

Ancient Methods

Justified and ancient
Eleven or so odd years after forming, and after 15 or so releases on various labels, Ancient Methods has come out with a debut album that catalyses many of the concepts of his musical project since the beginning. Within Berlin-based Michael Wollenhaupt’s oeuvre are seven thematic EPs that came out on his own Ancient Methods label; they reference specific biblical pictures and storylines that are now sewn together with this heavy-duty prequel release, ‘The Jericho Records’. Much like with all things Ancient Methods, Wollenhaupt’s heady blend of complex and meticulously produced sonics reigns supreme on this LP; a fusion of purist techno with post-punk and industrial influences that lay heavily on the cerebral with a healthy dose of propulsive rhythms and clattering percussion. The opening track wastes no time in diving deep into sinister waters with its pulsating sub-bass and demonic-sounding spoken word passage, and ‘The Jericho Records’ remains relentlessly dark and melancholic right through to the lugubrious piano and orchestration that closes it out. A few dancefloor-focused collaborations speckle in even more deviations to Ancient Methods’ already varied productions; Prurient’s EBM-laced stomper, Ophx’s hypnotic mesmeriser and Regis’s searing soundscapes are definite LP highlights. Cindytalk and King Dude each guest on a track, but their offerings are less body-centric and more song-based with their haunting and brilliantly executed vocals. However, ‘The Jericho Records’ is certainly a sum of its parts that remains devout to its epic concept, and its best foot is forward when listened to in one go.
Zara Wladawsky
Amnesia Scanner - Another Life


Another Life


Fleeting fantasy
When the Finland-via-Berlin duo behind Amnesia Scanner released music under the moniker Renaissance Man, things were a little different. They were playful with minimal and tech-house templates, even if, ultimately, their sound didn’t age well. And on their debut album under their newer name, itself an anagram of the first, a similar issue persists – the ideas may be short-lived. ‘Another Life’ is more full-on in its approach: it takes from EDM and doom metal playbooks. ‘AS A.W.O.L’, with its grinding half-time beat, feels like it’s lifted directly from The Bug’s collaboration with Earth; ‘AS Another Life’, though, is overcooked distortion in comparison. Yet on tracks like ‘AS Daemon’ and ‘AS Chain’, the same twisted templates have more joy with a downtempo slant.
Neneh Cherry - Broken Politics

Neneh Cherry

Broken Politics

Smalltown Supersound

With added Four Tet
Though she’s best known for 1988’s global hip-pop hit ‘Buffalo Stance’, much of Swedish singer-songwriter Neneh Cherry’s music is avant-garde. She started out in post-punk band Rip, Rig And Panic, and has collaborated with Tricky, jazz band The Thing and fusioneer Trilok Gurtu. So her fifth album, made in collaboration with Four Tet, is just Cherry’s latest experimental escapade. ‘Broken Politics’, addressing the breakdown in diplomacy around the world, is for the most part a low-key affair; part resignation, part redemption. Its songs radiate a quiet power, with Four Tet reining in his more electronic impulses. ‘Synchronised Devotion’ has lovely piano chords and tinkling bells, but Cherry’s voice is its most expressive instrument. The mood is unrushed and muted, though the uncharacteristic ‘Natural Skin Deep’ is the best thing here: a hip-hop cut doused in dub sirens and steel drums.
Ben Murphy
Chris Liebing - Burn Slow

Chris Liebing

Burn Slow


Beautiful bleakness
Whatever you think you know about techno titan Chris Liebing, you should forget it before turning into his latest album. He says it’s the record he has always wanted to make, but has only been able to having finally found a collaborator – Ralf Hildenbeutel – who can help him realise his vision. And that vision is a beautifully bleak one, where droning landscapes, paranoid spoken word utterings and deep, supple rhythms add up to something hugely absorbing and melancholic. Gary Numan, Mute artist Polly Scattergood and readings of Alan Watts, Liebing’s favourite philosopher, add layers of depth to an album that bares all the hallmarks of the Mute artists the German grew up on, from Depeche Mode to Nietzer Ebb. Despite the overall moodiness, the record’s darkness soothes, comforts and seduces you and is an utter success.
Kristan J Caryl
Ron Morelli - Disappearer

Ron Morelli


Hospital Productions

Disorderly constructions
Morelli’s latest is not for the faint-hearted, obvious as that may be given his track record. ‘Disappearer’’s world is grimy, dark, brooding, and, at times, tortured. It occupies a place many have forgotten exists, where punk, musique concrète and horror scores meet heavyweight broken techno and rave, creating a sparse, unsettling atmosphere. Some of the sonics could send fragile heads over the edge – deranged voices screaming from behind digitised veils, white noise boring arterial passageways directly into the soul, staccato sledgehammers ensuring ‘Hole In The Head’ lives up to its name. Even in its less frantic moments – the titular number, or ‘Snow On The Headstone’ – menace, if not pure savagery, always remains. Like a ravenous beast the album foams at the mouth, ideas desperately trying to break into some bloody rampage, equal parts accomplished genius and unhinged maniac.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Teleman - Family Of Aliens


Family Of Aliens

Moshi Moshi

Extra-terrestrial energy
You’ve got to give it to the Teleman boys, they know their way around a hook. And ‘Family Of Aliens’ is packed full of them, numerous choruses occupying dizzying, anthemic territory that glide between shimmering synth-pop and breezy indie rock. ‘Twisted Heart’ and ‘Somebody’s Island’ sit comfortably in the latter category and are all the more forgettable for it, while tracks such as ‘Between The Rain’ and jubilant closer ‘Starlight’ fare better, themes of escape and yearning for something greater on sleepy afternoons shining through. ‘Submarine Life’s auto-tuned vocals sound recorded from the depths, the track’s layered, glitchy crescendo perhaps an album highlight and worthy of replays. While Teleman’s formula hasn’t changed much at all from previous efforts, it’s difficult to criticise when ‘Family Of Aliens’ boasts a raft of meticulously-crafted and ultimately charming tracks.
Andrew Bayer - In My Last Life

Andrew Bayer

In My Last Life


Polished dance pop
American Andrew Bayer is a master of crafting superbly emotive electronica. His sophisticated sound palette has earned him Grammy nominations for his work with Above & Beyond, and is what lights up his third album for Anjunabeats. It’s a perfectly coherent one that largely departs the dance floor in favour of floating electronic lullabies. Every track features vocals from either Norwegian Ane Brun or Alison May, who add real elegance and grace to Beyer’s meticulously polished arrangements. Apparent influences like Aphex Twin and Talk Talk are hard to decipher in an album that will be all too heart-on-sleeve for some: the swelling strings, oceans of reverb and prosaic, love-based lyrics are obvious and accessible shortcuts to emotion, but the execution is always excellent. On this evidence, a fully fledged career in major label pop production is surely where Bayer will end up.
Kristan J Caryl
Rabit - Life After Death


Life After Death

Halcyon Veil

Death off the dancefloor
If last year’s ‘Les Fleurs Du Mal’ suggested Texan Eric Burton’s need to refer to club music had disappeared, the disorienting sci-fi of ‘Life After Death’ seems to ask if he ever needed it. ‘The Quickening’, with its Salem-meets-Clams Casino psycho shoegaze sets the mood, before one of several film samples suggests that “if you look in the face of evil, evil’s gonna look right back at you.” When you later hear a man announce, “and thereby civilisation shall decline” on ‘Blue Death’, with flatlining bells peppered by cries low in the mix, ‘Life After Death’ makes a good case for holding that gaze. Less interested in making you jump then creeping under your skin, often with Arca-like switches between grace and hurtling into the void, Burton proves a master of shaping oppressive moods with a strangely supple touch.
Sunil Chauhan
Blood Orange - Negro Swan

Blood Orange

Negro Swan


National treasure
Devonté Hynes, once Lightspeed Champion – though that now seems a long time ago, and even longer since his synth-punk days in Test Icicles – presents his fourth album as Blood Orange, having since jammed his CV with co-productions for everyone from Solange Knowles and FKA Twigs to Carly Rae Jepsen and Charlotte Gainsbourg. ‘Negro Swan’, an “exploration into my own and many types of black depression,” is a sprawling, dazzling mash of superlative falsetto soul, synth-laden galactic funk and wonky, tape-stretched street ballads. 'Hope' brings together the delicately whispered vocals of Canadian singer Tei Shi and Puff Daddy, both an indication of his now impressive reach in terms of personnel, and skill in crafting an irresistible soul track (with the odd rave siren for good measure). 'Runnin', with Georgia Anne Muldrow, is a thing of beauty, and ‘Jewelry’, with its enveloping synths and sleazy clarinets, is a joy forever. Watch it rock up in every ‘best of 2018’ list worth its salt.
Ben Arnold
Mickey Pearce - One Hundred Smiles

Mickey Pearce

One Hundred Smiles

Box of Toys

Interesting new ground
Mickey Pearce doesn’t like to tread the same musical water for too long. Early years found him exploring sinewy post-dubstep, then he turned his attention to more house leaning bangers and half steppers, and now he’s exploring rhythmic in-between sounds with the help of hotly tipped collaborators Poté, Meuko Meuko and Lena Platonos. It’s the first release on his own new album and offers numerous interesting moments even if it doesn’t gel as a coherent album. There’s kaleidoscopic synth madness and stripped back funky drums on ’S.A.D.,’ heavy melancholia on the urban ‘Jungle’ and dream-like ambience above broken beats on ‘One.’ There is plenty to get excited about, then, and certainly a feeling that Pearce is into a fascinating new sound. How he distills and develops it from here will be well worth following.
Kristan J Caryl
Jazzuelle - Rebirth



Get Physical

Leisurely layers
Given the deserved attention Africa’s dance output is currently receiving, Get Physical should be happy to put out the second album from South Africa’s Jazuelle just over a year after his debut. Strike while the iron is hot, etcetera. Timescale considered, it’s surprising nothing about this feels hasty, unless you’re familiar with the producer’s previous. Sitting in the record boxes of A-listers with a penchant for slow-burning sets (Dixon, for example), the man also known as Thando Tshoma has a reputation for tracks that refuse to rush, gradually drawing ears in, and these latest are no exception. ‘Proxima’ grows melodically from minimal dub-tech openings, ‘The Jinn’s filthy, garage-tinged bassline drops after a synth symphony curveball, ‘Rebirth’ lures you into ghostly, atmospheric house over seven minutes. Well crafted, low-slung stuff packing plenty of hypnotic musicality.
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Bryte - Too Good For Your Liking


Too Good For Your Liking

More Time Records

West African heat
Ghanaian vocalist Bryte first bubbled up via Azonto tune ‘I Like Your Girlfriend’, after it went viral as the backing track to dancing videos. One of the lyrics from that now-cult-classic, “too good for your liking,” makes up the title of the talented MC’s debut album, which arrives on the forward-thinking, UK funky-pushing More Time Records. Tapping into a wealth of production voices from around the world, including TSVI, The Busy Twist and Tarquin, for a percussive blend of afrobeats and funky, Bryte takes us through 95 to 150 BPM, musing on life and love in Accra in the process. The Max Le Daron-produced ‘Push It’ is a highlight, with its crazed, feverish synths overseeing deep bass stabs, while ‘Je m’appelle Bryte’ is another anthem in the making. These are the sorts of global club anthems that’ll find their way onto dancefloors all the way from London to Ghana.
Felicity Martin
Iron Curtis - Upstream Colour

Iron Curtis

Upstream Colour

Tamed Musiq

Immersion heater
Johannes Paluka aka Iron Curtis is an artist that has stood the test of time, with an illustrious career of over ten years producing some of the most timeless house music. ‘Upstream Colour’ marks his second LP following ‘Soft Wide Waits Band’ back in 2012 and could well be his finest work to date. The title track is a beautiful, sombre, slow-burner that becomes anthemic the moment it strips back to the analogue bassline and washed out vocals. ‘Holding Back’ is another builder, weaving evolving pads under plenty of machine sounds and low-fi atmospheres. ‘Ease Pt. 1 & Pt. 2’ are slightly more ambient ventures, painting a picture with white noise and subtle textures throughout. ‘Werc Werc Werc’ is another emotional ride, with dreamy melodies that provide a pensive and breathtaking release in the breakdown. The album successfully merges music for the clubbing world to songs to be listened to in the comfort of your own home, not to mention showcasing Curtis’ breadth of knowledge in the production world. There are plenty of moments that draw you into a dream-like state and consistently whirl through plenty of emotions; this is an album to be absorbed from start to finish.
Anna Wall
Steven A. Clark - Where Neon Goes To Die

Steven A. Clark

Where Neon Goes To Die

Secretly Canadian

Hot Miami heat
Steven A. Clark's second album finds him hooking up with German producer Boys Noize, recording the final sessions for ‘Where Neon Goes To Die’ in Berlin. But the coastal pop vibrations from this Miami resident remain strong. It's the sound of hot pink lipstick, pastel blazers and cut-off sweatshirts. There are cues from Frank Ocean and Prince, but also from Terence Trent D'Arby and the Thomson Twins. 'Easy Fall', a duet with Gavin Turek, is smooth like Alexander O'Neal, a woozy, slightly fucked up take on the shiny ‘80s soul power ballad. It'll get stuck on repeat. 'Feel This Way' is to be blasted from a cabriolet at your soonest convenience. If there's criticism to be made, 'Found' feels like an unnecessary nod to Daft Punk (with its Stardust guitar licks), when what this album does best is the tropical, Hall & Oates vibes on 'Evil Woman' and the towering synth-pomp of 'Days Like This'. Otherwise, this is stunning.
Ben Arnold