The Bug – Angels & Devils

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Having teamed up with everyone from purveyor of sighs Gonjasufi, to herald of virulent hatred Justin Broadrick and of course, long-time collaborator grime legend Flowdan, the follow up to The Bug’s 2008 masterpiece London Zoo was always going to be a sink or swim affair, and the 6 year wait for a full length follow up has most definitely been worth it.

Oddly, the most evident comparison to make is to Chase and Status’s latest album, as the sound flows from genre to genre, with the ‘Angels’ side a collection of trip hoppy, fuzzy, but for the most part, melodic tracks. Not to say that The Bug has softened one ounce, however, the ‘Angels’ side goes just as hard as the ‘Devils’ half of the album, with its tripped out, sombre tone functioning perfectly alongside The Bug’s signature low end rumble. The venomously infectious, tunefully twisted low end which characterises all of Martin’s compositions runs across the entire album, working well alongside dreamy, industrialised trip-hop. ‘Ascension’, features some patent Godflesh style rhythmic components as it does Grime bangers – ‘Function’ featuring Manga being a particular highlight. ‘Fuck a Bitch’ takes Death Grips’ anarchic, dissonant, barbed guitar assault ethic, resplendent with gleefully offensive lyricism and blended seamlessly with dubby bass and production ethics, proclaiming yet another victory for the slowly increasing grime/metal hybrid which is currently ripping apart the polite conventions of the polarized genre policing of the past.

The production on the album really helps to tip the album over the edge of quality into the realm of classic, the copious amounts of distortion and audial violence on display betray a huge step forward for The Bug. Whilst still very much identifiable alongside London Zoo’s dark, bassy soundscapes, the production is darker, harder and more precise than ever before. The precision betrays a gargantuan amount of nail biting toil which has obviously gone into the every single second of the album and it shows.

Whilst some possibly over enthusiastic voices have been hyping Summer 2014 as the summer of Grime, Angels & Devils stands as a testament that something huge, involving Grime and myriad other genres is here. It’s the soundsystem culture of Britains broken present and future and it’s probably here to stay. If Angels & Devils is anything to go by, the future of music holds far more interesting and danceable things in store for us all.

Richard Lowe

Mark Lanegan Band – No Bells on Sunday (EP)

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With plans later in the year to release full-length album Phantom Radio, The Mark Lanegan Band warms up with mini-release No Bells On Sunday. The EP contains songs Lanegan deemed “too goofy” for the future album and gives a taste of what’s soon to come.

With first track ‘Dry Ice’, the new direction is immediate. The simple kick drum, the intricate synthesised ambience and the gentle guitars lay a floor for Lanegan’s gravel-scratched voice for which he’s revered, that becomes the centrepiece of the music. This foundation is true for the first two tracks and makes a return on the last. Where ‘Dry Ice’ sets the tone with its electronic sound, the potential for this new direction shines on the title track, which seeps a delicate, content atmosphere. This is reinforced by Lanegan’s beautifully careful lyrics – “The vanishings begun we’re drowning late at night/the blown glass set in sun weeps electric light” that occupy the slow-paced song. The subtleties of the first track and the atmosphere of the second both come together magnificently on the closer ‘Smokestack Magic’.

This EP also sees Lanegan step out of his comfort zone in other ways as it briefly takes a step back from the synth with the more up-beat ‘Sad Lover’, featuring a range much higher than is usual for the singer. Jonas Pap tells an oddly minimal tale, accompanied by a soothing string section.

Lanegan’s treads toward synth territory is definitely where this record shines. Particularly with the incredibly calming atmosphere created on the title track. As it moves away from these aspects with ‘Sad Lover’ and ‘Jonas Pap’ you wish it hadn’t, as nice as it is to hear the singer try something new.

No Bells On Sunday is a display of a promising new direction and if this is just a sample of what to expect from Phantom Radio, we can expect great things.

Rob Sayers

Ty Segall – Manipulator

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Ty Segall has become a name synonymous with relentless productivity thanks largely to the fact that in addition to his now seven solo records, he has released 17 other albums under different guises since he began this unparalleled streak in 2008. The past couple years in particular have seen him hyperactively hop between styles from the sludgy Stooges-like mayhem of Slaughterhouse, to the fuzzy psychedelia of Twins and finally the acoustic delicacy of Sleeper. So quite simply it was anyone’s guess what Manipulator – a record Segall has spoken on spending significantly more time on than any other before – would sound like and quite simply it comes across as one of Segall’s most complete works yet.

The man quite clearly takes a noticeable influence from the Glam-rock of the early 70s – and that’s mirrored in more than the silver lipstick he donned for his storming performance of highlight ‘Feel’ on Conan a couple weeks ago. The music of Bowie and Bolan is all over Manipulator’s DNA, so much so that most of the record sounds lifted directly from the age of glitter from the meaty acoustic guitars to the muddy drums – look no further than the stomping groove and whispered T. Rex vocals of ‘Tall Man Skinny Lady’, the ‘Jean Genie’ rundown of ‘The Faker’ or the chunky power chords of ‘Susie Thumb’. The opening title-track finds Segall adopting a distinctly British inflection over a descending organ sequence and fantastic layered lead guitars which are another thing on full display across the album – the guy can shred. Segall’s often Lennon-like voice is largely dropped for a preference of falsetto on many of the tracks and actually pulls it off pretty convincingly in places such as the majestic chorus of ‘The Singer’ which is carried by a gorgeous string section as is ‘The Clock’s memorable chorus melody.

However Manipulator could’ve easily been trimmed down as it dips towards its end, like one would expect for most albums of 17 songs. Tracks such as ‘Green Belly’ and ‘The Crawler’ offer little to grip onto – at least in comparison to their sister songs – and don’t progress the sound of the record beyond the garage-rock and acoustic pop we’ve already been fed. Still, it’s only a minor drop which refuses to lose Segall’s momentum on an album where he’s got the stuff in droves. Borrowing heavily from the past, he commendably manages to keep things interesting most of the way on an album that feels like a sure step up for this rambunctious rocker.

James Barlow

Basement Jaxx – Junto

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With a career spanning a total of twenty years, experience is something Basement Jaxx definitely aren’t short of. Working themselves up from modest beginnings in 1994 to achieving chart domination in the early 2000s and to then fade from the Top 40 spotlight, the dance duo have observed numerous faces of dance music. Junto, the seventh album to come from the pair, presents the latest rebirth of Basement Jaxx, showcasing that the producers still easily hold a dominant position in the ever-changing face of dance music.

Already supplied with cuts beforehand of the album through singles such as ‘Never Say Never’ and ‘Mermaids of Salinas’, Junto (Spanish for ‘together’) arrives as the act’s first album for four years.

The introduction to the album is provided by a stuttering robotic female voice welcoming us to the “world of the Basement Jaxx” in initial track ‘Intro’. Composed of tribal drumming and chants, this continues as ‘Intro’ blends into ‘Power To The People’ after a short harp interlude, used to create the effect we’re entering the twosome’s world. With a female vocal line, similar to that of Basement Jaxx’s 2004 hit ‘Good Luck’ added on top alongside steel drums, it’s clear from the start that Junto is aimed to cater for the summer market.

Whilst predominantly a house album, Junto does delve and extract elements from other popular dance music sub-genres. Tracks such as ‘Unicorn’ and ‘Sneakin’ Toronto’ brush lightly upon garage, ‘Buffalo’ incorporates drum ‘n’ bass fundamentals, and ‘We Are Not Alone’ and ‘Summer Dem’ have an 80s pop sensibility to them. Junto is almost a representation of Basement Jaxx themselves – an ever-changing forefront.

Despite the altering styles used throughout, the thirteen track selection is organised expertly to steer clear of clashes. While glancing at the list of genres could leave the conclusion of an album with no consistency, Junto is skilfully kept tidy by the focus of each song to come back to two things – summer and house music.

Aaron Joliff

DZ Deathrays @ The Joiners

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Battery Hens’ Kurt Cobain wannabe front man stood looking gloomily down the microphone. The rest of the meagre looking grunge band stood almost motionless as they played songs with overly familiar riffs, struggling to move at all amidst the excessive number of effects pedals on the floor. Midway into their set Battery Hens’ true personality finally began to shine through, they became much more thrash, dropping the dreary guitars for punchy riffs. If they could have comfortably started their set in the aggressive manner they ended it, they might have been amazing.

Shotaway were very Fat White Family in their delivery, but with distinct shades of country music. Their sound had so much volume it could have filled stadiums. Frontman Sergei Bartlett has an incredibly powerful voice. He carries a goofy stage persona complete with fake American accent, which at times was a bit too much but actually worked quite well in his spoken word sections.

Main support came from Rickyfitts, a two piece like DZ Deathrays. Their sound was distinctly sludgier than DZ’s, and the focus was less on the lyrics and more on the instrumentals. They pulled out some seriously gruelling guitar solos to boot. Despite sounding fairly full for the most part, at times Rickyfitts’ set became slow and lethargic. That said, just about often enough to save their set they broke into something a little dancier, with an early Arctic Monkeys feel to it.

Opening with ‘No Sleep’, DZ Deathrays set was non-stop fun. The Australian two man band powered through a set which was dominated with tracks from their forthcoming album, Black Rat. These dancy and up beat tracks were broken up with grungier gems from DZ Deathrays’ back catalogue like ‘Cops Capacity’ and ‘The Mess Up’. To keep some of the newer songs with their delicately layered riff work sounding as full as they do on the album, DZ occasionally brought on Mitch Gregory as an additional guitarist. They closed with ‘Gina Works at Hearts’ – the strobe light flickered as the whole room shouted the chorus back at a very sweaty Shane Parsons.

Whilst at times the support may have been slightly questionable, DZ Deathrays proved to be an incredible headliner, pulling together an incredible level of skills and putting out more sound than you get from a number of five piece bands, let alone what you’d expect from just two guys.

Callum Cornwell

Prince To Release Two Albums Next Month

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Prince has revealed that he is to release two albums on the same day next month. Plectrum Electrum, the long-awaited debut of his 3rd Eye Girl band – of which he took on his recent ‘tour’ around London – is finally set for release in addition to a new solo record entitled Art Official Age. That’s the artwork up there above. There’s clearly no sign yet of The Purple one dressing down anytime soon.

Art Official Age will feature previous releases ‘Breakfast Can Wait’, ‘The Breakdown’ and a new shiny Lianna La Havas-featuring piece of funk called ‘Clouds’ which you can hear below.

Art Official Age’s tracklisting:

  1. Art Official Cage
  2. Clouds
  3. The Breakdown
  4. The Gold Standard
  5. U Know Prince
  6. Breakfast Can Wait
  7. This Could Be Us
  8. What It Feels Like
  9. Affirmation I & II
  10. Way Back Home
  11. FunknRoll
  12. Time
  13. Affirmation III

Plectrum Electrum and Art Official Age are out on 29th September.

Rustie – Green Language

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Almost a full three years have gone by since Rustie dropped his debut album Glass Swords via pioneering imprint Warp Records. Back then, when dubstep was on the brink of Massive-fuelled implosion and EDM was set to rise from its ashes like some monstrous bionic phoenix, the excitable synth-driven sounds offered by the Glaswegian provided a breath of fresh air for those suffocating under the senseless aggression of the aforementioned genres. Glass Swords quickly became one of the year’s most essential albums, and there were only two questions on everyone’s lips, namely, why does the (then) 27-year-old Rustie look about 13? And more importantly, what will he come up with next?

Well, finally the latter inquiry can be laid to rest. Rustie’s sophomore album has arrived and at first glance not a whole lot has changed since 2011; Green Language offers up a similar sonic palette to its predecessor – neon synths, digital soundscapes, etc – however, upon closer inspection the new LP is an entirely different beast. Sounding overall far less like the soundtrack to Mario Kart, Green Language further showcases Rustie’s diverse talents, whilst remaining cohesive and true to his established sound.

Across thirteen tracks Rustie presents both light and dark, serene and hectic, pop and experimental. Dusty, astral intro ‘Workship’ contrasts the dappled keys of closer ‘Green Language’, yet the two stand together as beat-less bookends to the tumultuous tracks within. Slow paced trap-like rhythms form the backbone of the album, creating a natural flow whilst offering the chance for variety via melodic elements; Rustie throws up walls of synthetic sound in ‘Raptor’, whilst taking on an almost prog rock tone in ‘Tempest’.

However, as interesting as these solo pieces are, they do require a rather liberal ear; it is within Rustie’s collaborative work that we find the both the highlights and most commercially viable areas of Green Language. Managing to make D Double E sound as unthreatening as Tinie Tempah is no easy feat, and, although perhaps in some eyes a misguided decision, will certainly help ‘Up Down’ earn plays in the average sticky-floored clubs of small town Britain. Meanwhile, ‘Attak’, the crowning glory of the LP, goes all out with a brutal beat and the sharp-tongued support of Detroit’s latest superstar Danny Brown.

Green Language feels like a natural progression for Rustie; his much-loved style is still in full effect, yet has developed and adapted to fit both his newfound fame and the current musical landscape. The album is more accessible, if somewhat less unique, and, although not perfect, it is most definitely Rustie.

Ben Hindle