Review: The Philadelphian Alex Giannascoli has managed to hammer out eight solo albums in less than seven years, and one would be forgiven for assuming he's confused quality with quantity, were it not for the fact that 'Rocket' is unquestionably his most coherent, most memorable and most diverse work yet - replete with the same bleary-eyed charm that has always characterised this amiable slacker's work, yet with sharply constructed songs that bear the stylistic wanders from bucolic folk-pop to Elliott Smith-style angst to Beck-style bewilderment with ease. A piece de resistance from an increasingly fascinating ingenue.
Review: Over the course of their lengthy career, Animal Collective have put out a steady stream of albums that veer between experimental, post-rock soundscapes and skewed, left-of-centre indie-pop. Tangerine Reef, their eleventh and latest set, sees them back in experimental mode, delivering a range of fluid, liquid soundscapes inspired by their work with art-science filmmakers Coral Morphologic. All of the album's music was written to soundtrack a film by the latter duo, which can be watched in full on Animal Collective's website. Aurally, the album is indicative of the slowly shifting visuals - built around time-lapse style footage of coral growing - and tends towards the dreamy, otherworldly and drowsy.
Review: Katie Stelmanis, the spectrally-voiced and ferociously-talented figure behind maverick electro-pop outfit Austra, set herself the not inconsiderable target of setting out 'a commitment to replace the approaching dystopia' with this third album, yet against all odds she's done a sterling job of marrying the icy binary chill of technology with a very human frailty to emerge with a defiant and emotionally affecting statement of intent. Indelible melody and Stelmanis' extraordinary tones may dominate, yet the sonic landscapes here - equally bracing and beatific - have the rare effect of making the listener hopeful for what 2017 has in store.
Review: The Animal Collective fold can never be seen too far off from each another and with Dave Portner's Avery Tare project delivering a new full length that makes two individual releases from the nebulous group in as many months. With obvious references to Yellow Submarine and 60s/70s psychedelica to be found on "Cows On Hourglass Pond" there's also a route into a alternate sub-pop universe that shares a world one part Postal Service one part Warp Records influences. And fun fact: Dave Portner recorded this album at Laughing Gas Studio in North Carolina on a Tascam 48 half-inch reel-to-reel tape machine, the very same one used for Animal Collective's "Sung Tongs".
Review: Three years on from the release of their well-received debut album, Days Gone By, former Scissor and Thread duo Bob Moses serve up their sophomore full-length excursion. It's another confident and hugely atmospheric excursion, all sold, with the Vancouver duo once again mixing and matching elements of dusty deep house, yearning indie rock and the kind of melancholic synth-pop beauty that was once a hallmark of fellow Canadians Junior Boys. Highlights aren't hard to come by throughout, from the heart-aching vocal harmonies, bittersweet piano and bubbling deep synth-pop electronics of opener "Heaven Only Knows", to the softly spun haziness and poignant melodies of "Enough To Believe", via the lilting, guitar-flecked Balearic pop confidence of "Back Down".
Review: This Essex four-piece are purveyors of a stylish and succinct brand of guitar-driven indie rock that nods to the like of Royal Blood's heavy riffing and The Dandy Warhols' arch pop tunesmithery, arriving at a black leather jacket racket that makes its presence felt with hooks and swagger, arriving at a continuum that unites Britpop vim and vigour with a more twenty-first century brand of attack. The Bohicas style themselves as 'The kind of S-t that Marv from Sin City would listen to', and indeed the thuggish efficiency of 'The Making Of' is redolent of a band who have their sights set on mainstream glory and aren't ashamed to admit it.
Review: It seems everyone has their own story when it comes to Cat Power; from first albums purchased, to seeing her perform live on stage with a broken ankle, all the while never ceasing to maintain her blissful air of elegance and withdrawn charisma. Chan Marshall's latest album, six years from her last, provides her debut on Domino, bringing with it three defining aspects, most notably a collaboration with Lana Del Rey on title track "Woman". A Rihanna cover version of "Stay" also makes an appearance mid-way through while tinges of auto-tune inside "Horizon" only add to her continuous extension of folky, blues & roots Americana.
Review: Also a member of Real Estate, Ducktails mainman Matt Mondanile explores a more dreamlike and impressionistic mindset with Ducktails; despite their being initially co-opted into the journo-created world of 'hypnagogic pop', Ducktails have always been a band with a distinctly indie mindset, beaming post-C86 guitar chime through a prism of summery abstraction to create a radiant wash of sound as melancholic as it is beguiling. 'St. Catherine' forms by far the most assured and well-crafted statement this winning and winsome talent has created thus far; leaving generic tags behind, this is simply a collection of irresistable songs rendered with soft-focus taste and heavy-lidded charm.
Lento E Largo, Tranquillissimo-Cantabilissimo-Dolcissimo-Legatissimo
Henryk Gorecki: Symphony No 3 (Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs) (DVD)
Review: Five years ago, Portishead front woman Beth Gibbons joined forces with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra to perform Henryk Gorecki's "Symphony Number 3 (Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs)" at the National Opera Grand Theatre in Warsaw. Here, the recording of the concert is finally given a release. It's a stunning suite of classical pieces, with the orchestra making short work of Gorecki's swelling movements and deeply melancholic musical motifs. Gibbons is in particularly fine form, transforming herself into an operatic artist and accurately delivers the stunning, Polish-language pieces. It's an astonishing performance and nothing like we've ever heard from her before. The 24-minute opening track is, in particular, breathtaking.
Review: Julia Holter herself describes this new album as "the cacophony of the mind in a melting world," and it provides the American singer, songwriter with her first studio album since 2015's Have You In My Wilderness. Aviary is an intrigue to say the least and it's hard not to feel as if a horror-thematic runs throughout its 11 tracks, with moments of temporary insanity and distress intertwining with hair-raising spots a ghostly allure, and it's as if any lightness in the album has had to pass its way through a thicket of darkness first. There's much dissonance to be heard here too but in a pleasantly unsettling way akin to listening to an orchestra tune itself, and with all the deep and meaningful aspects behind Holter's inspirations, it's a hell of a ride.
Review: We never quite know what to expect from leftfield explorer Jon Hopkins, but we know it will be worth a listen. Immunity, his fourth solo album (he's recorded two others, one with Brian Eno and another with King Creosote), doesn't disappoint. Rooted in shuffling, forthright and occasionally off-kilter rhythms, it melds hazy, late night atmopsherics and subtle melodies with intense, droning chords, woozy electronics and all manner of inventive noises. It's a blend that repeatedly pays dividends, from the mournful pianos and jumpy rhythms of "Breathe This Air', to the crystalline, soundscape ambience of "Abandon Window", and glitchy wonkiness of "Form By Firelight".
Review: Having taken time out to travel the world and experience new things (including psychedelic substances in California), John Hopkins planned to make Singularity, his ninth album, "a sonic ecosystem that starts and ends on the same note". He soon got frustrated by these limitations, so instead just laid down a fluid and hazy album that combines his usual luscious, ambient electronics with a variety of sparse, heavy and off-kilter rhythms. While undeniably laidback in parts, the album also boasts a number of foreboding techno workouts and uses a wider palette of instrumental sounds than we've come to expect (including some fine strings and his own intricate piano playing). The resultant set is rather impressive, all told, and while not quite a "sonic ecosystem", it's certainly an enjoyable journey.
Review: Hot Chip continue to occupy a unique space in British music. Yet despite their standing as a bunch of polymaths just as at home with pure pop as experimental diversions, what continues to truly separate them from all or any contemporaries is a rich melancholy to their sound, and it's this which looms pleasantly large on 'Why Make Sense'. The songwriting of Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard has never sounded sharper, not their beat-driven yet tastefully spare sound more addictive. Now as ever, no-one can reconcile human emotion and machine-like rhythm in quite the same fashion as this maverick outfit.
Review: Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox has been one of the more prolific solo artists to come out of the Animal Collective fold. Buoys presents a second album on UK independent Domino and his sixth solo album overall offers something of a new direction. Made in co-production with Rusty Santos (from The Present) the pair have delivered a work routed in hip hop and beat-making inspirations taking Panda Bear's music into a dubby and bass music realm. At times reminiscent of Ed Banger & Mr. Oizo quirkiness, alongside a trademark guitar sound and vocals drenched in reverb, the dub culture influence mixed in with the folk, and pop abnormalities, prove there's a deep layer of experimentation to Panda Bear's music yet.
Review: Over the past 15 years of releasing records it's been a rare sighting to see Paul Webb's music as Rustin Man not up and alongside his partner in sound, Portishead singer Beth Gibbons. With a rich history of putting out music as the bass player in Talk Talk, Drift Code for Domino presents Webb with a fully loaded debut solo album. There's plenty of blues and jazzed laced throughout the LP to be appreciated alongside country western motifs that make you want to fashion yourself an underbite and chew on a some wheat grass. Slightly gospel, wavering croons and storytelling are to be heard amidst the charming clunky-clink of a salon's piano keys rattled in a room of smokey vocals. Something to be savoured.
Review: Offering up more debuts and dreams is Domino once again with the release of a first album by Los Angeles singer-songwriter SASAMI. The LP, said to be inspired in large by Bruce Vs Chocolate Cake from the 1996 film adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda, sees SASAMI turn in a variety of solo, synthy and sultry numbers, running a gauntlet between subtle punk, electronic pop, and funky, danceable New York indie. "Morning Comes" is perhaps the best example of the latter, sharing a sweet cadence with Stereolab and Nurse With Wound's classic "Simple Headphone Mind". Killer reference. With the amount of uber cool solo vocalists out there, SASAMI's unpretentious debut adds a fresh minty breath to the mix.
Review: Having made their name as modern-day aesthetes with a series of records that meld the cerebral and the physical with style, 'Boy King' appears to be the point in which the Will Beasts allow their id to run rampant in a way befitting their name. Recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent) it shows them heading towards a notably more aggressive, electronic and masculine sound, at once influenced by the binary thump of Nine Inch Nails and the sonic brinksmanship of 'Yeezus' era Kanye West. Odder still, this gamble has more than paid off, and 'Boy King' is the sound of the band at their most vibrant and persuasive.