Review: Eight albums in and !!! are still as hard to define than the band's name is difficult to say. They've always managed to resonate with the sound and zeitgeist of the year in which they release, and "Wallop" doesn't differ from that modus. An amalgamation of tones at once uptempo and hedonistic yet brutally damaged, it's an electronic album built in the way the genres it pays homage to originally were - blueprint free. We've got dance-rock crossovers, straight up techno (albeit aimed squarely at non-die-hard-heads) and bouncing broken funk-house hybrids, so what more do you want? "Couldn't Have Known" nods to classic Basement Jaxx. "Domino" takes us down an IDM wormhole, where we meet the aptly titled "Ur Paranoid" and its pulsating intensity. Simultaneously referencing Primal Scream, trip hop, Madchester, whatever that track that set the club off last night was while sounding like none of the above, it's archetypal !!! business.
Review: Considering their penchant for spinning yarns and the cinematographically-suited nature of much of their work, it's surprising "Days Of The Bagnold Summer" is only Belle & Sebastian's second shot at a movie score. The last was 2001's '"Storytelling", accompanying Todd Solondz's movie of the same name, and they certainly did a good job then. So, high expectations this time round. For those unfamiliar, their latest foray into the film world partners the directorial debut of Simon Bird, best known to many as one of "The Inbetweeners". The flick, an adaptation of Joff Winterhart's 2012 graphic novel, chronicles the life and times of a teenage metalhead and his single mother. The album perfectly accompanies but also contributes to that tale. Highly emotive instrumental tracks and classic B&S songs-proper, this OST is destined to go down well with the band's true believers.
Review: You could be forgiven for questioning the Californian roots of Ceremony. Then again, it's a big old state. Big enough, apparently, to hide one of the most vital movements in British music in its midst. Evidently no coincidence that the band's name nods to a seminal slice of Joy Division, while post punk never disappeared this 14-strong collection is enough to trick anyone into thinking they'd woken up in the genre's explosive heyday. "Turn Away The Bad Thing" sets the record straight as album opener. Intense, punchy, visceral and- crucially- incredibly catchy, Ross Farrar's lyrics arrive with rock 'n' roll's unapologetic edge. It's a case of one track and you're in. It's also perhaps the rawest offering here, synths and electronics gradually demanding more attention as the LP progresses. "From Another Age", for example, places bouncing keys centre stage as pseudo-guitar riffs. Basically buy it, buy it now.
Review: The third album from Marika Hackman, and arguably her most honest and exposed to date. An artist who has tangibly progressed from what was already a head start, it's a complex record that seems to be the sum of the artist's previous parts. A proud and forthright declaration of someone arriving at where they want to be wouldn't be putting it too far. It's scuzzy, desolate, bleak and then at the same time energetic, poised, guttural, disco. Tracks such as "Send My Love" couldn't be more emotionally charged, but nor could they be more inviting- somewhere between this life and the next- inviting and then visceral. Flip it and find "Conventional Ride" and "Come Undone" as two tracks that are entirely different but share one thing in common; a heartbreaking work of extraordinary genius.
Review: Given that five years has passed since the last HTRK full-length, "Psychic 9-5 Club", it's perhaps not that surprising that the duo's new album, "Venus In Leo" sounds notably different from its predecessors. While the pair's emotionally charged, melancholic approach remains in tact, the dubbed-out downtempo pop that marked out "Psychic 9-5 Club" has been replaced by a drowsier, ethereal sound seemingly inspired by a mixture of the Cocteau Twins, The Durutti Column, Massive Attack's "Mezzanine", David Lynch film soundtracks and sunrise-ready, slow motion dream pop. The results are uniformly inspired, with Jonnine Standish's heart-felt, soft focus vocals sounding particularly emotive and evocative this time round.
Review: It's not that fans of King Gizzard never expected this from the band's 15th long form outing, but rather anyone who stumbled upon the alliterated outfit on their last offering - "Fishing For Fishes" - is likely to be dumbstruck. Forget the life-affirming blues hues of that record. "Infest The Rats' Nest" sees the band at their heaviest - they are barely audible here beneath the din and cacophony of thrash metal. Exploring Earth's fate in the age of environmental degradation and pollution through "Superbug"'s slow chug and low, bellowed chorus, the driving riffs of "Mars For The Rich", the intensity of "Perihelion" and the screeching chords of "Venusian 2", the album's 9 tracks are as legit as anything this sub-genre has thrown at us since inception in the 1980s. More astute fans will have heard nuances of this on 2017's LP, "Murder of the Universe" and various manic musical explosions in Gizzard's back catalogue. "Infest The Rats' Nest" is a constant barrage of unrelenting energy from start to finish, and quite possibly their strongest album yet.
Review: There has been plenty said about debutants L'Epee since their single "Dreams" turned heads back in spring. Combining the talents of Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre), French artist Emmanuelle Seigner, and polished-to-a-sheen pop outfit The Liminanas, it's one of the most refreshing (and French) things you're likely to hear all year. That's more of a reference to the cinematic feeling that defines the album, owing much to the femme fatale vocal delivery, rather than the language each line is sung in. At once evoking the smoky cool of Serge Gainsbourg and the opiate moods of The Velvet Underground, "Diabolique" feels born in a time when psychedelic experimentation and chart topping music weren't mutually exclusive. At once sophisticated and hedonistic, it's a sexy, sensual and overwhelmingly seductive effort everyone should turn themselves on to.
Review: It has been three years since we had an album from the mighty New Model Army. Plenty has changed about the world since- much of it not for the better. Reassuringly, though, this is equally if not more powerful an outing than its predecessor. In many ways, it's one of their strongest in some time, making intentions clear from the off with the loud, layered and textured tension builder "Passing Through" recalling acclaimed early albums. The outfit apparently quipped that for all their differences they share commonality in a love of bleak, cold, rugged landscapes typified by snow, rock and water. These influences can be clearly heard here. Even in quieter moments, such as "Hard Way", things couldn't feel more removed from a warm fire and comfortable room. It's a wild, almost primitive soundtrack to an adventure across a new yet familiar wilderness, with Justin Sullivan's vocals and compositions as a guide.