Vinyl Review: Alison Moyet Reissues – Alf/Raindancing/Hoodoo/Essex

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Coming into prominence at the beginning of the eighties, Alison Moyet knows what makes a good hit, knows how to write a good tune and, most of all, knows how to change with the times. Her four records from the 80s and 90s have been rereleased on 180g heavyweight vinyl, and they have never sounded so good.

Alison Moyet is probably better known for her solo career now rather than half of the pop duo Yazoo that kick started her career. It’s a journey of transformation listening to her first four albums back to back, where you can physically hear the change in time, skill and sound throughout the artist’s life. Starting off with Alf, we have that raw 80s sound accompanied by young innocence and lust for life. This in no more apparent than in track All Cried Out. Possibly Alison’s most well recognised song, the track’s stellar chorus takes you back to a time of mismatching clothes, heavy make-up, and everyone not giving a shit. The extended intro builds into a crescendo of melody, with Alison’s voice full of exuberance and youth; it’s sultry, driven and empowering. Track Invisible enters ballad territory where you can almost see the rain dripping down the window as Alison sings ‘I feel I’ve been had and I’m boiling mad, still I can’t live without you’.

Album Raindancing sees the singer experimenting and allowing other people into her musical world by adding’ a lovely cover of Fly Joy’s Weak in the Prescence of Beauty and co-writing Is This Love? With Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame. This shows growth in the singer’s work, able to draw on the influence of others instead of wanting to create something completely of her own, and this really comes through in the music. The latter track’s steady synths break through into a fun chorus as Alison uses her vocals to duck and weave through the melody, allowing her to show off the ranges and skills she’s learned since her first record.

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3rd album Hoodoo is a different kettle of fish altogether. With a more rocky/indie sound through out, it wears the early nineties tag front and centre. This time Alison adapts to her surroundings and draws influence from the scene rather than specific artists. It Won’t Be Long features more accent on the singer’s vocals, darker lyrics and a more constant direction than previous work, making for a tight and twisting track that performs admirably. Wishing You Were Here with its acoustic guitar and gently brushed drums sit perfectly as Alison croons through a tale of love, loss and sorrow.

 

The last of the remasters brings us to 1994’s Essex. Some say this album is marred with controversy over the battle for the sound of the record between Moyet and her record company resulting in bitterness between the two, and the singer feeling aggrieved. But whatever the truth behind this is, the fact is that there are still some well-crafted tracks on the album. Whispering Your Name has Alison filling her voice with raw emotion as verses build into a chorus out of nowhere with the song effortlessly flitting from idea to idea, whereas Dorothy sticks with an Irish sound, but with added sultry tones and flourishes of effervescence.

On vinyl, these albums have really come into their own. A lot of records from the eighties were beginning to be produced on cheaper vinyl that transported into a decrease in sound quality, so it’s a pleasure to hear these records on heavyweight 180g vinyl. The warm tones in the synths are really noticed in the early work, whereas on the 90s albums, its Alison’s voice that really shines and plays centre stage. The artwork also acts as a timeline in photography trends, as we see Alison strike 80s poses against filtering light or rain-drenched windows early on versus the indie poses and a simple stamp motif on Hoodoo and Essex.

Alison Moyet is a sign of the times, and the time has treated her records well. She wears her sound on her sleeve throughout, and although the music stays firmly in the decades from where it was created, they remain good listening for nostalgia, discovery or a place to find the beginnings of ideas.

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Album Review: Matti Bye – This Forgotten Land

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We take a look at Swedish Composer Matti Bye’s new record This Forgotten Land, and with it are thrown into a contemporary world of wordless story telling and emotional fulfilment.

Matti Bye has been part of the Swedish music industry for a long time, and it’s no wonder he’s starting to break into the mainstream. Beginning his career with silent movies, he gained the freedom to move the music where he wanted it to go, which helped develop his unique style and sound. This Forgotten Land pulls together all the best parts of Matti’s stellar career into a deeply atmospheric record that uses silence as much as its prolonged and drawn out sounds.

Opener Melt gives you a taste for what’s to come with its muffled tones, dystopian backgrounds and slow sense of a burning foreboding. Comparing to Chopin’s most tranquil of pieces would be a good start, but Matti manages to breath life into the track and helps the track become it’s own personality altogether. Absence, with its creak of piano and almost sullen tango-like quality, gives the listener a twinge of apprehension as you’re dragged along into its addictive and sultry tones.

Galloping Waves is an album highlight for its sheer audacity to manage to feel both disconcerting but pleasant at the same time. There are not many pieces of music that can portray both these emotions in unison, and it’s actually refreshing to hear a track that not only tries to pull your mind in two directions, but succeeds in doing so.

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Loneliness of Earth sounds like Pink Floyd gone classical with its long-winded background drones driving the track on, whereas Cascading Sun is beautiful and serene piece. Its charisma brings a story to the surface without words, leading the listener to visualise their own way through the tracks sombre and sad, but all encompassing forest of sound.

Listening on Vinyl, the record is given a true character with warm, sultry tones, that are especially brought out on tracks with accompanying background tones. This gives the music a fullness that would be missed on other formats. The artwork with it’s flowing vapours of gold on a black background give the minimalistic feel of simplicity but depth, with which can be drawn direct comparison’s with the artists tone he’s searching for on this record.

Matti Bye is a unique artist who can create beautiful music where others would fail. This Forgotten land is a testament to his talent of painting wonderful pictures with music, and drawing in the audience in a way where they won’t want to let go.

Score: 4/5

By Jamie Parmenter

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Album Review: Turtle – Human

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We take a look at Turtle’s newest record on vinyl, and with it comes all the inspiration and guile you’d expect from this powerful artist.

Jon Cooper, the Glaswegian producer and sound sorcerer known as Turtle, first sprang to attention in electronic music circles in 2014 and 2015 with two warmly received EPs that found the middle ground between glistening ambience and elegiac shuffles, inspiring comparisons with such luminaries as Jon Hopkins and Thom Yorke.

Turtle’s sure-footed debut long-player, Human, sees the mercurial sound-scaper toning down his Hopkins-like swells and assimilating his influences rather than flaunting them like favourite band stickers on a school satchel. His meticulously prepared sound beds trace a distinctly cinematic and introspective path through ethereal, Sigur Ros-inflected shoegaze, post-rock, trip-hop and music-box textures. As disparate as it is gloriously tasteful, this record eschews robo-precision and continuity for atmospheric effects and woozy, fluttering mutations, all executed with widescreen production values and a mildly eerie moodiness.

A fug of glazed, weightless gracefulness permeates the opening Time, a gorgeous slice of scorched ambience worthy of Julianna Barwick or Jonsi & Alex; here less is more and the listener is ushered in and out with all the tenderness of waves lapping in the ocean. It is a stunning way to begin proceedings, an invitation to dream and be beguiled. The similarly exquisite Fabric builds from its beat-less cloud of voices towards a loping, tropical pulse, familiar yet steeped in mystery.

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Blood Type boasts the wispy vocals of Eliza Shaddad, who imbues the mid-paced electronic ballad with a sense of hushed intimacy. Air channels the sepulchral mist of a post-rock instrumental alongside the wistful breakbeats of Cinematic Orchestra, whilst Solar nods towards the early-hours foreboding of Johnny Jewel’s Chromatics project with its elegantly realised Italo-disco dread. Meanwhile, Elephant and Limbic whirr and crackle with the shrillness of machine-crafted, stream-lined club fare. The Rivers twinkles and smoulders with an orchestral majesty, all intoxicating strings and shadowy corners.

None of these tunes dissolve into a blur of archetypal background listening; Turtle is always searching for inspiration in the most unexpected places. Cooper delights in stitching together a crepuscular musical splash in a delightfully homespun fashion; the overall aura is never self-indulgent, radiating a keening, future-pop bliss.

Score: 4/5

By Michael Sumsion

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Album Review: John foxx, Harold Budd & Ruben Garcia – ‘Nighthawks’, ‘Translucence & Drift Music’

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We take a look at the new vinyl box set for these 3 ambient artists, to discover if they work together as a whole on their first time in the format.

Three ambient artists, three LP’s. What more could you want for a laid back Sunday listening session? This Demon Records triple release box set is the first time these albums have graced vinyl, and with it brings the artists’ brand of clear and minimal to a new audience. Nighthawks brings a more sentimental value to the release, being the record that features renowned artist Ruben Garcia who sadly passed away in 2012. John Foxx was actually introduced to Ruben’s music by Harold Budd, giving off a real importance when looking back at with the three artists in mind.

Nighthawks, released in 2011, is the standout record for me. Featuring all three artists, the album pulls so much emotion from ambience that it impresses in great measure. That’s no easy task; ambient music is a difficult skill to master with its slow movements and sparsity of sounds, and to be able creates stories around the music is tough. The artists work together here and it really shows. The Shadow of Her Former Self takes a dark tone, with gentle, sporadic accompaniments fleshing out the track; a cymbal here, a cricket sound there, these little touches move the track forwards and allow the listener to follow along as part of the music. Now That I’ve Forgotten You is slow, sultry and full of misery and regret, creating emotions that are hard to avoid, but hypnotizing and delightful at the same time. The record feels cinematic with an underlying feeling of uneasiness, which is rarely seen in more mainstream records, so is something to savour.

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Translucence & Drift Music seem to skim where Nighthawks sails. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing; it’s the technicalities in the record that set it apart from its predecessor. Opener Subtext with it’s gentle and serene sounds surround the listener and make you feel like your wandering down a long forgotten path. Here and Now Brightens up proceedings, being one of the more fast-paced and melodic tracks that grows into its own as it skims along; it’s as if its jumping from lily pad to lily pad on an undisturbed pond.  Linger is a more sombre and sparse affair which draws on the skills of the artists to create from simplicity. It wouldn’t seem out of place in the background of a psychological thriller as its dream-like essence pulls you along for the ride. The album is bound together by a sense of regret and reprieve, and makes for a really pleasing listening session.

The three Heavyweight LP package is completed with beautiful artwork from graphic designer, filmmaker and typologist Jonathan Barnbrook, probably most know in the industry for his work on David Bowie’s Black Star. The artwork is the essence of serenity and calm, and there’s a lot to work with, with 3 sleeves to enjoy. Faces in clouds, flowers bathed in deep blue and a blurry city street all create different feelings that in some way fit throughout the listening experience. The sound of these releases on vinyl brings a sense of transience and warmth, but some fans may find that the changing of records disrupts from the constant ambience effect that could be gained from longer formats or streaming. It’s a matter of personal preference at the end of the day, and I feel the added warmth and depth is well worth a try.

This 3 LP release brings back together three artists of great talent and stalwarts of the ambient scene. Bringing together past and present, the atmosphere is strong, the songs beautifully constructed, and emotions brought right to the surface throughout.

Score: 4/5

By Jamie Parmenter

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Review: Underworld – Beaucoup Fish (Reissue)

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We take a look at the new Underworld Beuacoup Fish reissue to see if it’s stood the test of time after almost 18 years since it’s release.

If you’re looking to Britain’s 90s music scene, you’re mind immediately turns to Britpop. That all encompassing term might feel like it represents guitar music for many, but it was so much more than that. It wasn’t just Blur vs Oasis, but it was indie movies, it was girl power and the Spice Girls, it was dance music, it was a mentality, a scene, a movement. Underworld were one of those bands that blurred the lines between dance and indie, appealing to the masses and made famous by track Born Slippy featuring on one of the defining movies of the 90s, Trainspotting. In the middle of all the chaos, Underworld had introduced the world to the powers of a new music fusion that, in my opinion, was topped off by their fantastic record Beaucoup Fish. Now being reissued on vinyl, it’s a great time to be reminded of the techno/house triumph that went mainstream.

Arriving at the tail end of the 90s, Beaucoup Fish is a record of fractured bliss. In-band tensions during recording have been heavily rumoured, with members supposedly recording separately in the studio. If this is true, then you don’t notice the separation within the music. It seems well-put together, rhythms and ideas sync seamlessly, and sporadic vocals flit in and out ruthlessly accompanying the beats and flows.

Album-opener Cups is a thing of beauty. Clocking in at just under 12 minutes, the simple but complicated nature of the song gently builds up to a rollicking stomp at around 8 minutes in, leaving you mesmerized and sucked into the abyss. The track hasn’t aged over the years, and it would still mix with the best dance floor fillers of today.

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Shudder/King of Snake and its Donna Summer I feel Love beat turns into an altogether different beast using pop and synth elements to highlight a feel good factor, whereas Bruce Lee once again harks back to that 80s beat sound, but accompanied by an indie guitar music feel, which, perhaps, pulls influences from the likes Blur’s Damon Albarn and his use of vocals, which tantalisingly delve in and out of the surrounding music.

The record still feels so concise and thought through which can’t be said for many techno/house records of the time. It feels so at home and brings that nice reminiscing feeling, whilst not feeling aged or tired. Moaner closes off the record with its rollicking highs, heavy drums and excellent use of synths to create piercing sounds that pull the track into the ether. Bands such as Basement Jaxx can be seen as being influenced by this record, and it’s easy to see why listening to this.

This Vinyl reissue almost sounds warmer than I remember with the original. Whether that’s time playing a part, or the recording, I don’t know, but it’s a record that works fantastically well on the format. The deep cuts don’t feel fractured or stressed and the climax of track Moaner sounds even boslhier played loud and proud. Breathless and rampant, the record’s cover directly contradicts this feeling with its serene blues and white squares, almost signalling the calm before the storm. Artistically laid out across two records in a gatefold package, it’s simplicity at its finest.

Beaucoup Fish is a triumph of the 90s. Ageless and defiant, the album sits amidst a wave of originality and should be rightly heralded as a triumph of Britpop. This reissue is vital for the collection of anyone who missed out on it the first time round or if you’re looking to enjoy and reminisce about an intriguing time in music history.

Score: 4/5

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Book Review: Why Vinyl Matters

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Along with the unexpected revival of vinyl comes the question, why has this happened? And what better people to ask than the musicians and vinyl enthusiasts themselves? Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, author of Why Vinyl Matters, fills a book full of interviews, photos, information and anecdotes looking for answers to this very question.

Bickerdike has dedicated her life to music, which really shines through in this book fit for the coffee table of any vinyl lover. Starting off with a brief introduction into how Jennifer discovered vinyl, and leading up to the recent resurgence (and the number of albums she bought for “research” towards the book… 108 if you’re wondering), she then moves onto her well structured and interesting interviews. From Lars Ulrich of Metallica to Author Nick Hornby, each interviewee brings a fresh insight and different opinions to answer the statement put forward in the title of the book.

Accompanied by high quality photos, Jennifer manages to give the reader a brief glimpse into the love of vinyl each person has in their own unique way. Who would have thought Fat Boy Slim grew up listening to Carpenters albums, or that an old Muppets record influenced Gaz Coombes of Supergrass? It’s not just little tidbits of information like this that keep you interested, but the way the conversations manage to delve deeper into the reasons of why vinyl is still such a beloved music format. Nearly every interview includes a story of nostalgia in which you can almost see people reminiscing and falling back into earlier days of their lives. Alison Fields discusses how she found her first record in a forgotten plastic bag on a train home from Birmingham, whereas Chief Xcel from Blackalicious talks about how he used to get his Dad to buy him Kiss albums just for the covers.

The book also includes insight sections delving deeper into areas such as creating artwork for records, or how vinyl is actually made in the factories littered around the world. These give an interesting left-field look into the processes behind the music, helping to break up the interviews and create a more accomplished read.

One of the main underlying themes that’s found running throughout is how much people are influenced by and respect independent record stores. There’s a genuine love of these places and a feeling that more needs to be done to make sure they stick around. Vinyl aficionados need a physical community where they can dig for records and discuss music with other fans, rather than succumb to the ease of ordering on the lonely internet.

Why Vinyl Matters is a great addition for any vinyl lover. With a plethora of interviews that are not overwhelmingly long, this provides the perfect opportunity to pick up and read the book now and again as you listen to your favourite record or when you have a spare 5 minutes. It really shows off how much vinyl not only means to the author, but why it matters to musicians, music industry stalwarts and music fans alike.

By Jamie Parmenter

 

Check out the link below to pick up your own copy!

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Review: The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

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The War On Drugs return to the limelight with their first new material since 2014’s Lost In The Dream.

The War On Drugs just seem like one of those bands that wouldn’t enjoy the monotony of recording – more comfortable being on the road, playing live and generally getting their music out there. And it’s this thought that makes A Deeper Understanding so juxtaposed; on the one hand it features their most clean cut and processed music yet, but on the other it has the freedom and energy to encapsulate the audience. With this is mind, front man Adam Granduciel has once again bucked the trend in recent music, and made a record that’s a little bit different in a sea of familiarity.

Although Adam doesn’t mind going against the grain, he’s not shy to show off his musical influences either. Up all Night’s melodic, synthesized build-ups remind you of early Kate Bush, feeling sweet and bleeding emotion as the music dances around a simple beat. Pain, on the other hand, is a cross between Bruce Springsteen crooning and Ryan Adam’s musical whimsicalness from his past two albums. The track reverberates through words and shows off the heartache to full view of the listener.

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If you like your music accompanied by pictures, make sure to watch the beautifully shot and heart-wrenching video for track Holding On. It perfectly suits the songs contemplative style as it’s moved along effortlessly by Granduciel’s understated vocals, finding a way to bind with the music where others would struggle. The whaling guitar guides you through the track with a level of ambience that’s as much addictive as it is integral to this album highlight.

You Don’t have To Let Go’s Sunday afternoon heartbreak carry’s on the wounded soul theme in a serene wave of nostalgia, whereas In Chains pulls on 80s heartstrings with its ballad opening transforming into a bright and airy rolling beat classic. These two songs are examples of how the band has grown with time, being able to create not just catchy tracks, but tying lose ends together to create a more rounded experience.

You have to be in the right frame of mind to listen to A Deeper Understanding, but when you are, you can take a hell of a lot from this record. Granduciel’s lyrics create and conjure images and emotions so vivid that you’ll get lost in his world without knowing it. Mesmerizing in areas and contemplative in others, this is The War On Drugs best work to date and is destined to stand the test of time.

Score: 4/5

By Jamie Parmenter

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Abbey Road Album Playback: Brian Eno’s Early Works

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Vinyl Chapters gets an invite to the legendary Abbey Road Studios to listen to the new half-speed remastered recordings of Brian Eno’s early works. Of course we said yes!

As I walk past the myriad of tourists waltzing along the zebra crossing in single file trying to recreate the classic Beatles album cover, and then look over to music fans scrawling their band names and love messages onto the walls outside of Abbey Road Studios, it’s easy to see how much this place means to people. It’s a pilgrimage for some, a place of work for others, and somewhere a hell of a lot of great music’s been recorded. Vinyl Chapters was invited to enjoy the album playback of Brian Eno’s early works that have been remastered at half-speed, and with it learn more about these seminal records and the process used to arguably make them sound the best they can.

Stepping through the giant front doors and into the Abbey Road reception, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the shiny and minimalist look of the place. Having only been in mostly grotty, patched together studios beforehand, this was a completely new experience of luxury, attention to detail and fulfilment. And this feeling is echoed as myself and the other guests are led into the listening room for the evening: one of the many mixing studios in the venue. As we take our seats, it’s impossible not to revel in the beauty and extravagance of the equipment littered around. You’ve got the huge mixing desk with hundreds of sliders, switches and dials, countless different pieces of audio equipment, and, of course, speakers to listen back to everything in the highest of quality. In this case, they are Bowers and Wilkins 800 Diamonds, which would probably set you back around £20,000 for a pair if you were in the market for some. Ouch. Amongst all this high-end equipment, just sitting on the edge of a table is a humble Technics turntable on which we’ll be listening to the new Brian Eno remastered albums. This is what I love about vinyl; it’s not showy, it just sits there safe in the knowledge that its loved by many and has stood the test of time.

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Who would have thought that a technology about 100 years old would still be used in conjunction with equipment on the forefront of what’s technically possible, and would still give so much presence in today’s world? Well, it does, and as our hosts take to the front of the studio, we settle in for a brief introduction before delving into the music. The evening is hosted by UNCUT Magazine’s Associate Editor, Michael Bonner, who brings a wealth of knowledge to proceedings, and introduces each track whilst they’re being cued up by the Abbey Road engineer who mastered the albums himself, Miles Showell. Miles is a stalwart of the mastering industry, and his work of half-speed recording is some of the best in the world. He explains, without going into too much of the in-depth technicalities, that recording at half-speed gives the cutting stylus, as well as the whole system time to record the music in more detail. Although, as he goes onto explain, recording at half-speed is not always fun. It’s a long process, and it’s hard to find mistakes because the tracks sound all distorted and almost unlistenable at half-speed. If you’re recording a live album, the cheers will actually sound like boos, accompanied by slow, almost sarcastic claps from the crowd when the songs over. But, he still loves the process for the brilliant results he’s created from it, and affectionately refers to Abbey Road as ‘the home of half-speed’.

Now, lets get down to the music. As with much of Eno’s work, it was a precursor for what was to come in the music industry. His early solo music took the task of bringing together flavours of punk, off-key vocals and little intricacies that other bands would develop and manipulate within their own music in years to come. The four albums that have been remastered are from Eno’s discography between 1973 -1977, namely Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World, and Before and After Science. Starting off with an almost punk feel on Warm Jets, later albums start to feel more melancholy, which in the end, leads onto Eno’s critically acclaimed ambient music.

We were to be treated to two or three chosen tracks from each record to give us a flavour of the new remasters. Miles unwraps the first brand new recording of Here Come the Warm Jets, places it on the platter and drops the needle. The first track chosen is album opener Needles in the Camels Eye, and it hits like a freight train. The sound is all encompassing, the rhythm throws you along, and it’s never sounded so good to my ears. This might be because of the fact we’re listening through £20,000 speakers, but none the less these remasters sound terrific. This is backed up by some of the hardcore fans in the room. One mentions that they’ve never heard the small piano part on previous copies of the record before, and this half-speed mastering process has somehow brought it out into the open.

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Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) sounds just as good as we open with track China My China. Michael Bonner instructs us to listen out for the typewriter solo halfway through, being accompanied before and after by Eno’s signature erratic vocals dancing around the melody. Again, the record screams quality and produces a transience I’ve not heard before. We then move on to his third album in the series, Another Green World. As we listen to the title track’s gentle build-up you can hear it as a precursor to the later music of Eno, being both atmospheric and all encompassing, and before you know, the track is fading out soon after fading in.

We finish off with Before And After Science and its guest-laden eclectic mix of the soft and tarnished. Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), Robert Fripp (King Crimson) and Phil Collins are just a few of the names making an appearance to this transitional record. We listen to Golden Hours and are immediately transported back to the 70s when Bowie was King and new ideas were rife. Eno contributed to Bowie’s album Low in the same year, and you can really hear the similarities and use of sound throughout Before and After Science, with this half-speed master seemingly bringing out the atmosphere of peace and serenity.

With the amount of musical knowledge in the room from fans, journalists and technicians, these records were under heavy scrutiny… and they passed with flying colours. The fact that these music connoisseurs could hear subtle differences and were impressed by the rich and varied sound shows what a great job Miles has done. At the time these albums were originally recorded, experimentation was prevalent and the sound of music was changing. These four records take the listener on a transitional journey through Eno’s early career, and lay the path for his later Ambient works. If you want to listen to these records in the best way possible, give these half-speed masters a go and enjoy the sound of a production process that’s really taking off.

By Jamie Parmenter

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Review: Mura Masa – Mura Masa

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On his highly anticipated, self-titled debut album, the Guernsey-born, London-based producer known as Mura Masa – 21-year-old Alex Crossan – has conjured a cohesive record that skilfully reconciles a star-studded mix-tape sensibility with the ingenious flow of an old-fashioned, album-style structure, connecting the dots between genres with irresistible verve and pinpoint precision.

Having sprung to the attention of discerning taste-makers around three years ago with a series of tracks on Soundcloud, the mercurial prodigy has steadily maintained a work rate of incessant productivity with a digital sound that encapsulates strands of dancehall, hip-hop, trap, skewed r’n’b, dubstep, funk, calypso, bubblegum, electronic pop, drum’n’bass and tropical house, whilst retaining his own distinctive, signature imprint. 

Driven by samples of Trinidadian steel pans, xylophones, thumb pianos, harps, gamelan gongs and music boxes and marshalling an impressive cast of collaborators stretching from Damon Albarn, Jamie Lidell and Heloise Letissier from Christine and the Queens to A$AP Rocky and Charli XCX,  ‘Mura Masa’ floats effortlessly and seductively across a fluid framework encompassing multi-layered art-pop soundscapes, IDM aesthetics, Autotune soul and catchy dancefloor bounce.

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Conceived as a joyous love letter to nights out in the capital and the wealth of creativity emanating from within its disparate, multi-cultural sub cultures and scenes, Crossan’s sure-footed project radiates both a super-charged vibrancy and a quavering melancholy in its tone. Of the numerous previously released tracks, Love$ick, a lovelorn, calypso-infused lament galvanised by a piano loop and the rhymes of Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, is perhaps the pick of the bunch.

Charli XCX brings sass and vulnerability in equal measure to 1 Night, whilst the skeletal ambient folk-soul of give me The ground invokes the spectral gasps of Bon Iver or James Blake. The wonky garage-cum-summer soul shimmer of What If I Go? cradles Bonzai’s sultry pleas in harps and steel drums and Second 2 None spins gold from its juxtaposition of skittering, junglist drum patterns with Heloise Letissier’s expressive, regal voice. The heavy-lidded closer, Blu, featuring Albarn’s manipulated vocals swimming in a pool of drowsy synths, and the Lidell-enhanced funk strut of Nothing Else! both demonstrate an affinity for bending any musical style into his captivating laptop slop.

Much like Jamie XX’s In Colour album from 2015, Mura Masa has pooled together a plethora of zeitgeist styles from planet pop to fashion an organic debut LP that pivots around the jumbled voices and found sounds of the city in which he lives and embodies the millennial, post-Spotify musical mindset. The spidery melodies are gift-wrapped in understated arrangements that retreat from the obvious and overblown, frequently enhanced by space and silence. Lyrically, Crossan’s themes lean towards the ephemeral nature of love and the difficulties of human connection, a mood that’s augmented by the producer’s hand-picked collaborators with dazzling style.  

Mura Masa is an expertly curated, infectious evocation of contemporary life in the big smoke and an invigorating synthesis of on-trend flavours, brimming with a fervent imagination and a luminous virtuosity. 

Rating: 4/5

By Michael Sumsion

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Album Review: Floating Points: Reflections – Mojave Desert

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We take a look at the powerful new record from Floating Points, and continue to be impressed by the musicians impressive grasp of musicianship.

Floating Points, aka London-based producer, composer, neuroscientist, multi-instrumentalist and DJ Sam Shepherd, has quietly carved out a burgeoning niche for himself in recent years, equally acclaimed for his genre-bleeding productions and his taste-making prowess as a spinner of discs in clubland. His flawless and fluid 2015 album, Elaenia, felt like a summation of his career to date as well as a seamless distillation of all his sundry influences, featuring live instrumentation merging with cosmic, jazz-informed electronics.

His eagerly anticipated follow-up, Reflections – Mojave Desert, is both a departure from the intricate modality and panoramic sweep of that debut long-player and the wiry dance-floor jams with which he made his name; in fact there are certain moments scattered throughout this lovely recording that invoke the windswept prog-rock of Pink Floyd’s ‘Live at Pompeii’ concert film from the early 70’s.

Recorded during breaks from a US tour, in the baked landscape of the Mojave Desert itself, and accompanying a short film by Anna Diaz Ortuno, this thirty-minute, five-track opus re-casts Shepherd’s musical quest as an elemental exploration of the meditative stillness and scorched grandeur of the desert environment.

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The album pivots around two extended compositions, Silurian Blue and Kelso Dunes, which are sequenced around a trio of brief pieces, Mojave Desert, Kites and Lucerne Valley. The title track opens the record with its distinctly Eno/Boards Of Canada-like timbre, a woozy doodle that transitions into the melancholy, soaring sprawl of Silurian Blue, all jazz-inspired cymbal splashes, wailing organs and ringing, braying guitars. Following this surge of exhilarating post-rock psychedelia, the playful Rhodes synth arpeggios of Kites arrive as an embalming relief.

Lucerne Valley dives into plaintive ambient ripples, but it’s on the virtually thirteen-minute epic, Kelso Dunes, that Shepherd and his ensemble really hit their stride. The warm beam of a synth loop lures the listener into a driving, Krautrock-inflected pulse that crackles in the ears and builds to hallucinogenic intensity. With its insistent, chugging groove and stabbing guitar work, it’s the swirling noise of sweltering winds and encroaching alienation, of things falling apart, breaking away and stuttering into nothingness.

Reflections – Mojave Desert is an enveloping, immersive treat; an album that combines a polished intimacy and restraint with moments of trance-like expansiveness. Be prepared for a sharp intake of breath; it wields an incredible power.

Score: 4/5

By Michael Sumsion

Posted in Review Tagged with: , , , , ,

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