Atlas Sound : Parallax

For a long time now, I have had something of a strained relationship with the music of Bradford Cox. When his band Deerhunter released their breakthrough second album Cryptograms in 2007, its spellbinding collision of sun-damaged ambient noise and post-punk-pop hooks felt like a truly vital new group finding its feet. His solo debut, Let The Blind Lead Those Who See But Cannot Feel, released the following year under the Atlas Sound moniker, was equally impressive; showcasing his compositional, performance and production skills – using just a guitar, keyboards and primitive electronics to make minimalist tone poems one minute and recreate the sound of a full-band Krautrock jam the next – the album marked Cox out not only as the driving creative force behind his band, but also as a hugely prolific, singular talent who wasn’t afraid to wear his influences (sixties pop, girl groups, shoegaze, techno etc) or his heart on his sleeve.

It didn’t take long, however, for the excitement to wear off. Cox’s fondness for giving away new tracks – recorded with his bandmates or on his own – via his website on what seemed like a daily basis suggested that his output’s quantity/ quality balance was slightly off, and when Deerhunter’s third long-player, Microcastle, emerged to pretty much universal acclaim in 2008, my personal overriding impression was a feeling of frustration at the fact an album with so many brilliant tunes kept having its momentum broken by half-formed, meandering song-sketches. Cox’s outspoken, sickly social outcast persona, meanwhile, had started to grate, and when Atlas Sound’s sophomore effort Logos took the hazy, abstract element of his sound to the extreme, sacrificing the traditional idea of properly structured songs almost entirely, I decided that it would probably be for the best if Bradford and I went our separate ways.

But for an unrepentant music junkie like myself, all it takes is a couple of glowing reviews to tempt a relapse, and when Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest started generating excited critical chatter last year, I went crawling back. I had to admit this was a great album; one that still suffered from the odd passage of aimless guitar strumming, but that nonetheless restored my faith in Cox and company considerably. All of which brings us round to Parallax, Cox’s latest Atlas Sound outing. The first preview from the album, “Terra Incognita”, appeared online a month or so back and – to be frank – left me scratching my head: the song’s spaced-out sci-fi Beach Boys climax is, admittedly, pretty spectacular, but it requires the listener to sit through five minutes of ambient build-up before it arrives. Which way was Cox going to go this time: fascinating or frustrating?

Well, much to my relief, Parallax is – in my opinion – the most fully-realized exploration of Cox’s musical world to date. The album is divided fairly equally into upbeat alt-rock songs and more experimental, borderline ambient pieces, but the latter are generally more focused than previous efforts and smart sequencing means that, for the most part, styles and tempos vary from one track to the next. If you’ve heard harpsichord-driven second single “Te Amo”, you’ll have already noticed a new-found confidence in Cox’s voice, and this conviction is evident in every aspect of the album, from the uncharacteristically vain Mick Rock portrait that adorns the cover to the swooning harmonies of summery opener “The Shakes” or the country-tinged swagger of “Praying Man”. Even those songs that take longer to unfurl, like piano piece “Doldrums” or “Modern Aquatic Nightsongs” pulse and swell like grand, cinematic statements – albeit more David Lynch than David Lean.

Best of all, the album is home to some of Cox’s finest pop songs. “Mona Lisa” and “My Angel Is Broken” both mine ‘60s psych and the sugary fuzz of ‘80s indie, with their clattering, motorik drums and the latter’s clanging minor-key riff a welcome nod to Deerhunter’s earlier, darker tendencies. Even its weirder moments – “Amplifiers”’ queasy, dope-sick acoustic guitar take on the classic “My Girl” riff, or the way the title track feels like it’s being sucked backwards through an airlock before bursting into a sweet pop melody – are the kind of curious earworms that will nag away at your subconscious for days afterwards. It isn’t a perfect record: penultimate track “Flagstaff”, with its entirely unnecessary ambient noodling, outstays its welcome by about five minutes, leaving closer “Nightworks” somewhat out in the cold. Overall, though, Parallax is a huge achievement, and a timely reminder of a considerable talent; Cox might not be quite the star he thinks he is, but on the evidence presented here, I’m much more inclined to believe the hype.

Download: “Terra Incognita”

Parallax is out November 8th on 4AD


Twin Sister : In Heaven

My full-length review of Twin Sister’s In Heaven album for The Quietus is online now. Read it here:

Listen: “Bad Street”

In Heaven is out now on Domino Records


Rinse 17th Birthday

Hey there folks. Firstly, apologies for the distinct lack of posts over the past week or so; I’ve been massively busy with my real (i.e. “paying”) job, plus I’ve been finishing up my latest review for The Quietus (of the excellent Twin Sister album). I’m also putting the finishing touches to a lengthy piece on the highly anticipated new Atlas Sound record, which should hopefully be up here in a day or two, so keep checking back for that.

Just a quick post today to make you all aware of the upcoming 17th birthday bash that Rinse FM are holding on October 8th at Brixton’s o2 Academy. As anyone who has witnessed me dancing will confirm, I am the whitest dude on the planet, but I have always loved hip-hop and urban dance music, and Rinse have been instrumental in bringing the culture-clash sounds of the UK underground to a wider audience, not only through its specialist radio shows and webcasts but also with its hugely popular mix CD series – the latest of which, Rinse 16: Mixed By Ben UFO, is out October 3rd. With a massive three-room line-up featuring some of the scene’s most well-established DJs and MCs – including Roll Deep, Trim, Bok Bok, Floating Points, Jammer, Newham Generals, Ms Dynamite, Silkie and Skream – as well as a host of up-and-coming talent,  it’s sure to be a hell of a night for anyone with even a passing interest in grime, dubstep, funky house or garage, and you can buy tickets for a very reasonable £17 here: 




Evangelista : In Animal Tongue

It’s hard to say exactly when it happened, but fifteen years after the demise of alt-country legends Geraldine Fibbers, the band’s vocalist Carla Bozulich appears to have inherited a new role as a kind of fairy godmother to the international avant-rock underground. Since the Fibbers disbanded, Bozulich has been a whirlwind of restless creative energy, teaming up with some of the scene’s most respected names ( Mike Watt, Thurston Moore, Wayne Kramer etc) as well as some bona-fide mainstream icons (Marianne Faithfull, Willie Nelson) for a seemingly endless series of live and studio collaborations. Bozulich’s releases for the Canadian Constellation label, with her ever-changing Evangelista collective, have been instrumental in establishing the singer as the natural successor to the likes of Laurie Anderson, Lydia Lunch and Patti Smith, incorporating jazz, blues, gothic country folk, minimalist neo-classical and noisy post-rock into a stark, startling backdrop for her apocalyptic incantations and darkly surrealist spoken word poetry, and the latest of these, In Animal Tongue, is a typically intense affair. Accompanied by regular cohorts Tara Barnes on bass and keyboard player Dominic Cramp, as well as Nels Cline and members of A Silver Mt. Zion and the Dead Science, Bozulich is a magnificent, magnetic focal point; by turns sensual and scary, mirroring her band as they swell from a whisper to an elemental scream, the singer stands like a lightning rod in the middle of a gathering storm. Haunting and beautiful in equal measure, In Animal Tongue is an awe-inspiring record, and one that further cements Bozulich’s status as one of rock’s most original and exciting voices.

Listen: “Artificial Lamb”

In Animal Tongue is out now via Constellation Records

Mikal Cronin

Fans of psychedelic garage rock might want to take note: you’re about to meet your new favourite artist. Mikal Cronin may be better known currently as a sideman, firstly as harmonizing bassist in Orange County trio the Moonhearts and more recently via his full-length collaboration – Reverse Shark Attack – with scene guru Ty Segall, but all that is set to change when Trouble In Mind release his excellent self-titled debut solo album. Starting off with a brief Beach Boys-style acapella warm-up, it’s clear from the off that this is going to be more than just a jumble of overdriven guitars, but it still comes as something of a shock when that same song – opener “Is It Alright” – climaxes with a frenzied flute solo, courtesy of Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer. And the surprises don’t stop there. Usually when a lo-fi garage band’s press release mentions the Everly Brothers and Nilsson as influences, one would reasonably suspect a certain amount of hyperbole, and yet here they are, in the fragile doo-wop of “Hold On Me” and punked-up piano pop of “The Way Things Go”. Along the way, Cronin also manages to fit in a harmonium ballad, a whistling solo and what sounds suspiciously like a saxophone without any of them sounding like gratuitous embellishments; in fact, everything here – from the song structures to the impeccable sequencing and the short-but-sweet 35-minute running time – feels perfectly placed. He may have had some guidance from the more experienced Segall (who produced the record and plays drums on a number of tracks), but with so many inspired touches and an uncanny ability to hop back and forth between snarling Nirvana-esque punk, gnarled Nuggets R&B and perfect sugar-rush pop, Cronin has given us one of the year’s most enjoyable albums, and one that announces him as a genuinely unique talent.

Listen: “Apathy”/ “Get Along”

Mikal Cronin is available September 20th on Trouble In Mind Records

Tammar : Visits

There’s something more than a little disorientating about “Heavy Tonight”, the opening track on Visits, the debut album by Bloomington, Indiana five-piece Tammar. It could be the single synth note that drones on beneath the surface for the song’s entire six and a half minute duration, continually slipping almost imperceptably out of tune, as if playing on a turntable sat at a slight tilt, or perhaps the way the drums seem to jump ahead of themselves by a fraction of a beat every few bars. Visits is littered with odd moments like these, where the band appear slightly out of time or out of tune, and it’s hard to tell whether it’s by accident or by design. Pummeling their way through these tracks with a youthful exuberance and punkish disregard for actual musicianship, a few bum notes could be expected; conversely, it’s just as likely the group have thrown these hiccups in intentionally in order to rough up their otherwise sleek rock sound for the benefit of a hipper indie audience. Either way, it makes for a strangely addictive listen, and whilst the record’s tense, paranoid vibes and hypnotic, bass-heavy grooves owe a serious debt to a long line of trenchcoat-clad gloom-bringers (Joy Division, the Bunnymen, Interpol) there are less obvious references – the motorik Neu!-isms of “Deep Witness”, or the Section 25 death-disco workout “Arrows Underwater” – that give Visits a unique flavour all of its own.     

Listen: “The Last Line”

Visits is out September 20th on Suicide Squeeze Records

Caveman : CoCo Beware

Sometimes a record comes along that is so perfectly suited to a certain mood or situation that it’s hard to associate it with anything else. CoCo Beware, the debut full-length from Brooklyn quintet Caveman, is a perfect example: an album of hazy, light-as-a-feather jam-rock so summery you can almost smell the BBQ smoke and feel the breeze coming off the ocean. Unfortunately, the fact that it is being released digitally in the middle of a particularly miserable September means the likelihood of it soundtracking any lazy, windows-down jaunts to the beach is pretty low, at least for a few months. Still, I doubt the band themselves had much to do with the scheduling (physical release in November? Come on?!), and it’s not easy holding a grudge when immersed in something this laid-back. The group are currently on the road supporting The War On Drugs, and after one listen to CoCo Beware, certain similarities between the two units are plain to see; vocalist Matthew Iwanusa may sound somewhat detached, and with many tracks propelled by Stefan Marolachakis’ tribal drumming the album occasionally gives off something of a post-punk/ Krautrock vibe, but any sharp edges are softened by warm, fuzzy guitars and close campfire harmonies that evoke the stoned nonchalance of ‘70s AM rock whilst also recalling indie-pop contemporaries like Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective.

 Listen: “Old Friend”

 CoCo Beware is available digitally September 13th, and will be released physically by Magic Man!/ ORG Music on November 15th

The Rapture : In The Grace Of Your Love

Read my full length review of the excellent new album from The Rapture, In The Grace Of Your Love, here: If you haven’t already heard it, you can put that right immediately, as the band’s UK label Modular are now streaming the record in its entirety.

Listen: The Rapture In The Grace Of Your Love

In The Grace Of Your Love is out now via DFA/ Modular

L.Vis 1990 : Neon Dreams

Neon Dreams

Since its inception at the start of 2010, the London-based Night Slugs label has become something of a quality standard mark when it comes to modern club music. With a Transatlantic roster including artists like Girl Unit, Kingdom, Jam City and Egyptrixx, co-founders James Connolly (AKA L-Vis 1990) and Alex Sushon (Bok Bok) are clearly gifted talent-spotters, but they are also both artists in their own right, and it is Connolly who looks set to make the biggest splash so far when his debut album Neon Dreams is released in October on the Island-affiliated PMR Records label. Moving away somewhat from the typically bass-led Night Slugs sound, Connolly has created an impressively consistent long-player, as poppy as it is propulsive, that pays tribute to the forefathers of electronic dance music – Carl Craig, Frankie Knuckles, Kevin Saunderson et al – as well as successors like Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx and the Chemical Brothers. Subscribing, like those artists, to the notion that an album should work not just as a collection of singles but as a cohesive whole, L-Vis – with a little production help from Para One and Nick Hook and vocal contributions from Julio Bashmore, Bristol-based Javeon McCarthy and Teki Latex of French hip-hop crew TTC – has crafted a genre-straddling journey back to a past vision of an imagined future, with vintage Roland synths rubbing up against machine-tooled rhythms, spray-painting a big, bright “2011” across the classic Chicago house and Detroit techno blueprints.

Listen/watch: “Lost In Love”

Neon Dreams is released October 3 on PMR Records

CANT : Dreams Come True

If the name Chris Taylor doesn’t ring a bell, you’ll surely be familiar with at least some of the music he has helped to create. In addition to his day job as bassist for Brooklyn chamber pop outfit Grizzly Bear and spin-off act Department Of Eagles, Taylor has also built up an impressive production resume, manning the desk for his own bands’ albums as well as the Dirty Projectors’ Rise Above, full-lengths from Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Nat Baldwin and Morning Benders, and newly uncovered material by the late Arthur Russell. Last year, Taylor produced Forget, the critically acclaimed debut album from New Romantic synth-popper George Lewis JR, AKA Twin Shadow; the pair worked so well together that when Taylor decided to expand his occasional solo project CANT into a going concern, Lewis was the obvious candidate for collaboration. In association with Taylor’s own Terrible Records imprint, Warp Records will soon release the fruits of this partnership: a ten track collection entitled Dreams Come True. And although Warp has – to some extent – moved away lately from the intelligent dance music on which its reputation was built (signing “traditional” indie-rock bands like Maximo Park, Battles and Grizzly Bear themselves), Taylor and Lewis have turned out an album of electronic pop and moody synthetic soundscapes that fits nicely in between the label’s earlier singular vision and its new, more varied aesthetic. Late-night cyber-soul ballads (“Believe”, “The Edge”) sit comfortably alongside slow-burning electro-prog epics (“Too Late, Too Far”, “She’s Found A Way Out”), but whilst the pair’s classy songwriting and Taylor’s maximalist arrangements provide some memorable moments, it’s the heavy percussion and rugged grooves of Kraut/ techno hybrids “Answer” and “Rises Silent”, as well as the grinding funk of the title track, that bring the real thrills.

Listen: “Answer”

Dreams Come True is out September 12th on Terrible Records/ Warp Records