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The other night, having just barely recovered from my hike through the Eston Hills with frontman Kingsley Hall, I went to see his band Benefits perform in the tiny upstairs room of a London pub. It was, in a word, intense, an all-out barrage of extreme noise and righteous fury. I’ve been thinking about it pretty constantly since, particularly the way Hall’s performance stripped away all doubt and went straight for the throat. Increasingly, I’m seeing the power in de-complicating things, and trusting in that immediate gut reaction.
The music I’ve enjoyed the most this month has been that which has elicited the strongest such responses, like caroline’s deeply beautiful debut album, or Sea Power’s elegant exploration of fading family history. They’re not necessarily simple records, but records that hit right in the gut. Elsewhere you’ll find the records that my colleagues at tQ have been playing on repeat. I hope that you’ll find something you enjoy too.
All the below, as well as all the other excellent music we’ve covered at tQ this month will also be compiled into an exclusive, hours-long playlist exclusive to our subscribers. In addition, subscribers can enjoy exclusive music from some of the world’s most forward-thinking artists (previous commissions include Siavash Amini, Roger Robinson & Richard Skelton, Alison Cotton, Nik Void And Alexander Tucker), regular deep-dive essays on everything from James S. Lee’s drug memoir Underworld Of The East to the weird history of Accrington Stanley FC, a monthly podcast, specially-curated ‘Organic Intelligence’ guides to under the radar international subcultures, and more.
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Sea Power – Everything Was Forever
Everything Was Forever marks Sea Power’s first work with Graham Sutton as producer in over a decade, and it shows. The band are always in fulsome praise of the Bark Psychosis man’s ability to conjure out their best work and, as a listener, it’s clear he has an uncanny knack of trimming the fat that prevented the albums since Do You Like Rock Music?, decent though they were, from reaching their full potential. He and the band have worked wonders on a record shared between firecracking anthems and reflective moments, a refining of the established Sea Power palette. Abi Fry, Phil Sumner and drummer Woody lift the record not just through their by now trademark augmentation in brass, viola and sturdy rhythms, but the delicacy with which tracks slip in and out of view.
Luke Turner – read the full review here
Hoavi – Posle Vsego
Russian producer Hoavi is on something of a hot streak at the moment. In October, he released one of 2021’s finest electronic music LPs, Invariant, on which he covered gauzy, mutated footwork and breezy deep house to brilliant effect. He followed it up a month later with Music For Six Rooms, an equally breathtaking and engrossing exploration of ambient music that shared musical headspace with recent releases from the West Mineral Ltd. and Experiences Ltd. stables, and artists such as Perila, Ulla and mu tate.
Hoavi’s first action of 2022, a tape for New York label Quiet Time called Posle Vsego, pushes his sound further into the abyss of smudgy ambient music. It frequently teeters between blissful comedown music (‘No Opomnitsja’, ‘Kalanchoe In’) and something more subtly eerie (‘Posle Vsego’, ‘Marshcat’). On ‘Metro I Mysli’, the producer pits dissonant arpeggios against twinkling bursts of synths to dazzling effect, only to pick up a more sinister path just a couple of tracks later with the flickering, atonal synths of ‘Perfect Darkness’ that are akin to bursts of white noise from an untuned TV or radio. Above all, as with Hoavi’s past work, this isn’t simply wishy-washy ambient or New Age music that drifts listlessly in the background; it’s somber and lonely, but also quietly tranquil – much like, one suspects, the winters in Hoavi’s home city of St. Petersburg that he hopes to nod to with the tape.
OKI – Tonkori In The Moonlight
Ainu are a historically marginalised indigenous group from areas around the Sea of Okhotsk such as Hokkaido in Japan. During the 19th century, Ainu land was annexed by Japan, and they were effectively denied status as an indigenous group, subject to various prejudices meaning many were forcibly assimilated into wider Japanese society, losing their traditional culture and language along the way. OKI only discovered he was Ainu aged 18, as his mother had hidden his biological father’s identity from him. He was a big fan of reggae at the time, and so applied reggae’s Babylon promise to his own hidden Ainu heritage, and went looking for his roots in Hokkaido, eventually picking up the tonkori, an Ainu five stringed harp. This is a collection of his tracks pulled from the 90s and 00s, which includes the notable presence of Ainu musician Umeko Ando. This should-be-legendary singer and tonkori player, for me, has the same spirit as Elizabeth Cotten. Although obviously from a very different tradition, she has an instantly recognisable timbre and cadence to her singing style that marks her out a mile, with overlaid trilling ornamentations. OKI’s thing is not to make traditional Ainu music but to mix it with other elements, which often works but occasionally doesn’t. The uncomfortable jazz fusion of ‘Yaikatekara Dub’ has a snare and hi-hat shuffle I do not like, whereas ‘Afghan Herbal Garden’ has a cute bontempi-ish bounce, and the abrasive textures of throat singing complements the tonkori and traditional singing beautifully.
Jennifer Lucy Allan – read the full review here
caroline – caroline
As well as ‘Skydiving onto the library roof’, ‘Dark blue’ and ‘Good morning (red)’, the record consists of three more long-form songs. The first is ‘IWR’, which stands for ‘I Was Right’, the group’s most straightforwardly beautiful song, where a lengthy repeated vocal line, sung as a group, serene flowing violins, and repetitious chiming guitars all weave together into something completely gorgeous. ‘Engine’, meanwhile, consists of one crescendo after another, the gaps between them shortening as the song progresses until the music is a grand, clattering mess. Closing the album is ‘A Natural Death’. Its first half is extraordinarily stark, just a fragile vocal and uneasy scratches of violin, and its second sees the band dive into complete abstraction, arrhythmic guitar chords, anchorless vocals and crashing cymbals, crashing against one another all out of time; it’s as if the record’s coming apart at the joints, the constituent parts that the band had suspended in mid-air as a beautiful whole now crashing down piece by piece.
Patrick Clarke – read the full review here
Huerco S. – Plonk
Releasing his album For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) six years ago, Kansas-based producer Brian Leeds, AKA Huerco S., set in motion a deep exploration of ambient music that he has continued to follow in the subsequent years under the Pendant moniker, and with the founding of his own West Mineral Ltd. label. That label has gone on to achieve cult status within ambient music circles of a more experimental persuasion, bringing artists such as exael, Pontiac Streator and Ulla Straus to a bigger audience. There’s been near-radio silence from the Huerco S. project since that album’s release, however, save for a few remixes here and there – until now.
Leeds’ debut on Anthony Naples and Jenny Slattery’s ever-reliable Incienso label, Plonk, is something of a departure from that ambient music explored on his last album. It’s also certainly not a return to the dubbed-out, lo-fi house music, infamously tagged as ‘outsider house’, that came before it. Frequently eschewing easily definable 4×4 rhythmic patterns, or any kick drums at all for that matter, Plonk’s ten tracks intersperse thrilling nods to trap and drill music with more placid moments, such as the helter-skelter, clanging synths of opener ‘Plonk I’. ‘Plonk III’ calls to mind some of the cadences of one-time (so far) Incienso artist Call Super in its placement of detuned synths and dissonant, imperfect little sounds against brighter pads. ‘Plonk IX’, a vocal collaboration with Washington-based artist Sir EU, is an excellent marriage of cloud rap and off-the-grid IDM, and most thrilling are the scatterbrained rhythms and ghostly melodies on display on ‘Plonk IV’, perhaps one of the record’s more dancefloor-friendly moments on an album not particularly concerned with providing them. Plonk is the most widest-reaching entry in Leeds’ discography yet.
Herbert Powell – Here In My Scheme, Here It Ends
Herbert Powell are more melodic and singsongy, indie you might even say, with Kieran Thomas draping dreamy vox over ‘Once Powerful Uncle’ and many others; even here, there’s always a pronounced spikiness closer to, say, Deerhoof than anything some hypothetical saps might like, sappily. It’s worth noting, in respect of what a strangle-tight unit this band sound like, that Herbert Powell only recently regrouped after several years dormant and almost nothing recorded in their first go-around: since then, guitarist Kay Logan has played in Anxiety and made loads of rad solo music under various names, while Taylor Stewart has become a doyen of patriotic happy hardcore with the single I deemed my second favourite New Weird Britain release of 2021 (among other accolades). Insofar as I hear a lineage back to madhead bands of yore like Dog Faced Hermans and Badgewearer, Here In My Scheme feels like a crucially Scottish document itself. Oh, and the A5 booklet that comes with the CDR is genuinely funny.Noel Gardner – read the full review here
Saba – Few Good Things
Saba’s production is loose, low-slung. He lets his samples slip and slide against each other, skittering and scattershot percussion breaks pile up slippily, like so many locked grooves on battery-powered turntables. Combined with a predilection for seventh chords on plucked strings and soft crescendoes of stacked soulful harmonies, it lends the record a sunny, 70s feel. It’s warm, rich, and playful. Which is not to say there is no bite here, no darkness. Single ‘Fearmonger’ broods ominously over trilling trap hi-hats and minor key synths. Third track ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ (featuring G Herbo) is a moody drill tune, complete with cinematic synth string stabs hovering menacingly in the background and an eerie old-timey organ line. But this is immediately followed by one of the sunniest moments on the record, ‘an interlude called Circus’, a meandering minute that is all smiles, lifted into shimmering euphoria by the bubblegum vocals of Chance the Rapper collaborator Eryn Allen Kane. The overall mood then is distinctly chill and pleasingly psychedelic. There’s enough space echo going on here to tranquillise a horse. Like cLOUDDEAD or Donuts, Few Good Things is one of the great bedroom hip hop records.
Robert Barry – read the full review here
Rufus Isabel Elliot and Harry Gorski-Brown – Three Sexual Pieces For Solo Violin (This And This And This)
Three Sexual Pieces For Violin shapeshifts from gritty, forlorn textures into bittersweet reminiscences, foregrounding the ever-changing voice of a solo violin. Composer Rufus Isabel Elliot writes fleeting feelings that violinist Harry Gorski-Brown illuminates in textured blips of sound. The album, which features three pieces written between 2018 and 2020, tells stories about sexual intimacy using text scores that capture the essence of each piece through short phrases to create moods through abstract ideas rather than conventional melodies and rhythms.
Vanessa Ague – read the full review here
Kill Alters – Armed To The Teeth L.M.O.M.M.
It says a lot about the progress Kennedy has made as a producer that with Kill Alters’ debut album proper now finished at last, it doesn’t sound at all like the product of a laboured and fragmented recording process. Rather, Armed To The Teeth L.M.O.M.M. is a record that blazes with momentum, flowing effortlessly from one song to another, ascending peaks of intensity and plummeting into deep wells of meditation in smooth sweeps. It’s the kind of music that you’d imagine as being recorded in exactly the kind of frenzied burst that Baxter was so reluctant to depart from in the first place.
Patrick Clarke – read the full review here
Wojciech Rusin – Syphon
Wojciech Rusin is probably better known in the UK than in Poland, having worked, among others, for BBC Four, The National Theatre and The Southbank Centre. He creates 3D printed pipes) and his previous album The Funnel was the result of a project prepared for the Glasgow Radiophrenia festival. Syphon is a follow-up to that release, the second part of a planned trilogy. The starting point is a vision of renaissance music composed in the future. Rusin juxtaposes operatic vocals with electronics created in the Orange Milk aesthetic using hyper pop elements, field recordings and synthesis in the spirit of Sote. He uses self-made 3D instruments which create a multi-layered story – dehumanised electronics meeting sounds of nature and strings. Sometimes he ventures into song-like compositions with Eden Girma, Emma Broughton and interesting chamber music (‘Word into Shapes’), at other times into quasi-folk (‘Destroyer Of World’). The album’s narrative is closer to an audio play, simultaneously engaging and surprising with original ideas.
Jakub Knera – read the full review here
Whatever The Weather – ‘17°C’
The first preview of Loraine James’ first album under her new Whatever The Weather alias retains the free-flowing, glitchy drum patterns of much of her work under her own name. Added to the mix are frenetic bursts of jungle breaks that are somewhat, but oh so satisfyingly, at odds with the soothing pads that sit alongside them, as James pushes further into the IDM territory explored by producers such as Telefon Tel Aviv and Dntel whom she’s previously described as her gateway into experimental electronic music.
Springtime – ‘The Names Of The Plague’
Springtime, a trio consisting of Tropical Fuck Storm’s Gareth Liddiard, Dirty Three’s Jim White and The Necks’ Chris Abrahams had stunning moments on their debut album last year, but none as intense as this dramatic quarter-hour epic from a forthcoming EP Night Raver
Charli XCX – ‘Beg For You’ feat. Rina Sawayama
Cast your mind back twenty years, to 2step beats and plucked arpeggios. Add to that a chorus so soaring it should be on Big Jet TV and you’ve got yourself another certified Charli XCX banger. Massive.
Fly Anakin – ‘Black Be The Source’ feat. Pink Siifu & Billz Egypt
Nervy and atmospheric with a sidewinder of a guest spot from Pink Siifu, Fly Anakin’s latest single heralds exciting things for his debut solo album out in March.
Congotronics International – ‘Banza Banza’
By all accounts, the 2011 ‘Congotronics Vs. Rockers’ tour, which saw a twenty-piece supergroup consisting half of Congolese bands like Konono Nº1, Kasai Allstars, and half of international artists like Deerhoof and Juana Molina, was total chaos. It’s taken ten years of work for the band to prepare their debut album, but first taste ‘Banza Banza’ indicates it’ll be well worth the wait.
Horace Andy – ‘This Must Be Hell’
Horace Andy has entered the studio with Adrian Sherwood, and the results are exactly as brilliant as that sounds. Their new version of ‘This Must Be Hell’ is a complete scorcher.