Dan Friel : Valedictorian

Parts & Labor may have decided to call it a day, but Dan Friel – one of the founding members of that awesome (and criminally underrated) group – clearly still has plenty to say. On October 16 he will preview a forthcoming album (scheduled for February 2013) with a new 12″ single on the Thrill Jockey label; below is the euphoric, noisy A-side, which comes backed with “Exoskeleton”, a remix of the latter by Moss Of Aura and a reworking of another new track, “Ulysses”, by spousal space cadets Peaking Lights.

Illum Sphere : H808ER

Surely it can’t be time for an electroclash revival already? Manchester producer Illum Sphere certainly seems to think so, at least if this track – the B-side to his new single “Birthday”, out September 3 via Young Turks – is anything to go by. That said, although it starts off like an homage to Fischerspooner’s “Emerge” (no bad thing), it soon detours into skipping 2-step territory before veering even further off-course with some breathy group-chanting. Intrigued? Just press play…

Daughn Gibson : Reach Into The Fire

Track artwork

I’ve already sung the praises of former Pearls & Brass drummer Daughn Gibson‘s debut album All Hell, and it seems like a few folk shared my enthusiasm; dude’s just been snapped up by iconic Seattle-based label Sub Pop , also home to Pissed Jeans, whose Matt Korvette put out All Hell on his own White Denim label. A new album is expected next year, and to celebrate the joyous union Gibson has just released this uncharacteristically upbeat cut, which samples new labelmates Shabazz Palaces and Tiny Vipers.

Dan Deacon : America

Stream Dan Deacon's New Album America

Sixty odd years ago the collective youth of America decided they were tired of the stuffy music their parents – and their parents’ parents – had grown up listening to and invented rock ‘n’ roll. But there were some who still believed in the more complex charms of classical composition (Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, Steve Reich et al), and now, it would seem, Dan Deacon – the de facto leader of Baltimore, Maryland’s “Wham City” DIY  arts scene – is keen to show the indie kids that music can be majestic if you’re prepared to just think big. And we’re not just talking a couple of extra guitars here. America, Deacon’s latest long-player, is a song cycle inspired by cross-country bus rides and homesickness for a nation he never even realised he loved until he left it; returning to the States after a lonely European tour, Deacon realised he was – and always would be – “an American”, and set about using his formal training in classical composition to create a very modern and very individual tribute to his homeland. Whilst there have always been elements of grandeur in Deacon’s work, be it in the massed synths of his debut Spiderman Of The Rings or follow-up Bromst‘s ear-splitting sample symphonies, America shows a different kind of ambition altogether. A record of two halves, side one comprises five “pop” songs featuring elements familiar from its predecessors (overdriven keyboard riffs, walls of polyphonic noise, short-circuiting electronics, acoustic percussion and glitching programmed beats); the second side, though, takes things to another level, with a suite in four movements entitled “USA” that adds to the aforementioned list of components strings, brass, woodwinds and massed choirs and recalls in its scope and spirit works by composers like John Cage and, particularly, Aaron Copland. Quite what relevance any of this has to America specifically is beyond me (sure, I can hear how the marimbas and horns represent rolling rivers and train whistles, but don’t most of the planet’s larger countries boast a river and a railway?), and although I’m confident Deacon – who studied the theory behind such things – could explain it all very eloquently, I’m equally sure it doesn’t actually matter. One’s ability to appreciate this album isn’t hampered by not being “an American”, just as non-Brits (I’m reliably informed) found much to enjoy in the recent Olympic Games’ opening ceremony shit-show; in fact, regardless of its creator’s nationality, America would have made just as fitting a soundtrack to that extravaganza as the homegrown talent (Underworld, Fuck Buttons) that actually did the honours. In terms of process and product, there’s nothing overly remarkable about what Deacon has done here, but it’s a whole lot of fun, and extra credit is due for reminding us that classical music – or music that incorporates classical elements – needn’t be as po-faced as the likes of Grizzly Bear would have us believe. Following recent performances leading orchestras at upmarket venues like Carnegie Hall, it would seem fair to assume Deacon will soon be attracting a more “respectable” crowd than the punks and pill-poppers he’s used to; America will have them dancing in the aisles.

America is out now via Domino Recording Co. Listen to “True Thrush” below and stream the whole album at the Guardian website.

JJ DOOM : Key To The Kuffs

Stream JJ DOOM's Album Key to the Kuffs

We haven’t heard much of late from metal-masked rapper DOOM, but whilst it’s tempting to imagine the self-styled supervillain holed up plotting in some secret mountain hideaway, the reality is somewhat more mundane: born in ’70s London, the MC known to his family as Daniel Dumile moved to the USA as a child but was never nationalised, a fact that came back to bite him on the ass when he returned to the UK to play some dates in 2010 and was then told he couldn’t go back home. Exiled for the past two years in good old Blighty, DOOM understandably got restless and engaged in a long-distance recording relationship with New Orleans producer Jneiro Jarel (Shape Of Broad Minds, Dr. Who Dat?), resulting in one of hip hop’s most fruitful collaborations since… well, since DOOM met Madlib and made the classic Madvillainry. There are some high-profile guests on Key To The Kuffs (Damon Albarn and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons contribute vocal hooks) but there are only two real stars of this show; with Jarel’s subtly psychedelic sample-collages and crunchy beats as a backdrop, DOOM’s imagination is in overdrive, spitting out surreal bars peppered with Cockney rhyming slang and obscure British cultural references. Check out the hyperactive tongue-twister “Banished”, along with the video for “Guv’nor” below, and be sure to grab the album which is out now via Lex Records.

Toxie : Newgate

Newgate cover art

It feels like a long time since we’ve had some good old-fashioned straightforward rock ‘n’ roll, so enjoy this while it lasts and I’m sure we’ll be back on some avant-metal-jazz-punk-Afro-grime-electro-hop shit tomorrow; Toxie are a Memphis quartet featuring members of Magic Kids and Coasting, and this rollicking slice of girlie garage pop is from a forthcoming 7″ on their city’s renowned Goner label.

Matthew Dear : Beams

Fittingly for an artist with more recording aliases than many of his most dedicated fans can commit to memory, Matthew Dear‘s musical career has been one full of stylistic shifts. Mostly these changes have been subtle (minimal techno as Jabberjaw, maximal techno as Audion, something in between as False), but most impressive has been the gradual but marked development within the music he makes under his given name, from slightly off-kilter club bangers to a particularly stylised brand of avant-garde electronic pop. On Beams, out this week on Ghostly International, the Texan producer takes a leisurely stroll further down the path he embarked upon with his third album, 2007’s Asa Breed, and it would suggest that his 2010 detour into Black City was perhaps something of a wrong turn; whilst that record’s slower tempos and moody, minor-chord atmospherics provided plenty of Arthur Russell- and Prince-influenced highlights, you had to scratch through layers of cold, hard industrial steel to get to them, but here – for the most part – the beats are bouncy and the melodies sun-kissed. More danceable than any Dear release since debut LP Leave Luck To Heaven, the tunes on Beams are warmer, more human, better suited to a sunset beach party than the sticky floors of a Berlin nightclub. Opener “Her Fantasy” builds on a lilting tropical rhythm with cascading arpeggios, a loose house groove and slinky baritone vocal line, while “Headcage” and “Fighting Is Futile” shuffle and spin beneath Dear’s hypnotic lyrical mantras; “Up & Out” layers playfully off-key guitars over a disco beat and taut bassline like some lost Talking Heads track, and closer “Temptation” stretches out deliriously with repeated vocal and synth hooks swirling around insistent percussion. A couple of tougher moments – “Earthforms”‘ driving Krautrock klang, the squelchy machine funk of “Overdrive” – revisit some of Black City’s grey areas, but only the penultimate, gothic “Shake Me” proves misjudged, dragging the mood right down following the gorgeous, gentle one-two punch of “Ahead Of Myself” and “Do The Right Thing” and on the whole Beams is a triumph with Dear – especially with his Bowie-influenced singing voice becoming more easily identifiable with each release – starting to look like the most obvious successor to James Murphy’s rave/rock crossover crown.

Beams is out now on Ghostly International

Surkin and Todd Edwards : I Want You Back

French house legend Surkin and New Jersey garage don Todd Edwards have collaborated on a new EP, I Want You Back, for the Sound Pellegrino label. Possibly the most joyous release of the year, it distils the distinctive styles of both producers into a series of irresistable grooves that you wish would go on forever. Listen to “Mighty Love” (via FACT), and watch the video for the title track below.

Method Man, Freddie Gibbs and Streetlife : Built For This

Most people will argue a case for Ghostface Killah or GZA, but in my opinion – at his best – Method Man is the Wu Tang Clan’s brightest shining star, so I’m always keen to hear a new cut from him and this one doesn’t disappoint. Co-starring hard-rhyming young buck Freddie Gibbs and Streetlife, “Built For This” is taken from the soundtrack to the forthcoming movie The Man With The Iron Fists, which is the directorial debut of Meth’s Wu brother RZA; co-written with Eli Roth and produced by Quentin Tarantino, the film stars Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and RZA himself, whilst the soundtrack features exclusive material from Kanye West, the Black Keys and Wiz Khalifa.

Krallice : Years Past Matter

Years Past Matter cover art

Experimental black metal outfit Krallice, featuring the technical guitar wizardry of Orthrelm’s Mick Barr, have just made their new album Years Past Matter available to stream on their Bandcamp page, and it is an absolute beast. As atmospheric as it is exhilarating, the quartet’s fourth long-player thrashes like a cornered gator, Barr and Colin Marston’s duelling guitars weaving in and out of Lev Weinstein’s pummelling whirlwind drums and combining with bassist Nick McMaster’s guttural growls to create an extreme and endlessly peaking sonic trip. The self-released CD will ship out next week, with a vinyl edition courtesy of Gilead Media due October 16, but you can listen to the album in all its violent glory below: