Wild Nothing : Empty Estate

https://i2.wp.com/i1.sndcdn.com/artworks-000046194084-zvsv3z-original.jpg

Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing haven’t wasted any time returning to the studio following the release of their acclaimed sophomore LP Nocturne last year. On May 14 the Captured Tracks label will put out the Empty Estate EP, featuring seven new tracks that utilise new instruments (vocoder! SAXOPHONE!) and production techniques (courtesy of Al Carlson at Gary’s Electric, Brooklyn) to explore a playful side to Tatum’s songwriting that in the past has been largely eclipsed by the band’s trademark jangling dream-pop. The record’s colourful cover was painted by Eric Shaw, and the limited edition red 12″ also comes with a bunch of goodies including a poster, stickers and a button; check out the equally artistic video for lead single “A Dancing Shell” below.
.

.

Chance The Rapper : Acid Rap

20 year-old Chicago M.C. Chance The Rapper looks set to go supernova this week: his second mixtape Acid Rap drops on Tuesday and – based on previously released cuts like “NANA“, “Acid Rain” and “Juice” – it sounds like it’s going to be awesome. Latest leaked cut “Smoke Again” features a guest verse from the Black Hippy collective’s Ab Soul, but the most mouth-watering appetiser so far is “Good Ass Intro” (below): presumably the tape’s opening track, it finds Chance skipping at full throttle across a soulful, footwork-flavoured Stefan Ponce/ Peter Cottontale production, recalling both College Dropout-era Kanye and Lil’ Wayne in his prolific 2006/7 golden period. With such a varied sound palette and a flow this insistent, Acid Rap might just be a game-changer, and Chance could be our new hip hop hero.

Savages : Silence Yourself

Perhaps you could put it down to a general lack of confidence in the music press stemming from years of disappointing “next big things”, or maybe it’s a deep-rooted, instinctive reaction brought about by spending an eighteen month period in the mid-’90s listening almost exclusively to old Public Enemy albums but whatever the reason, when it comes to checking out new bands these days I find myself naturally suspicious of any kind of mainstream hype. So it’s come as quite the surprise to find myself caught up in the whirlwind of anticipation surrounding the debut album from London four-piece Savages, about whom websites and publications on both sides of the pond have been gushing profusely ever since their first gig in January last year; particularly as prior to receiving my review copy of said album – Silence Yourself, out May 3 via Matador – my excitement was based largely on just two studio recordings and a handful of beautifully produced live clips. Both sides of the group’s first 7″, “Flying To Berlin” and “Husbands” (included here), grabbed the listener by the short-and-curlies and punched them repeatedly in the face with a startlingly effective combination of spiky, Gang Of Four-indebted post-punk and Ian Curtis-like levels of nihilistic intensity, leading to a number of “female Joy Division” soundbites that, after repeated plays, started to sound less like a lazy comparison and more an astutely accurate observation, given extra weight by the black-clad quartet’s fearsome, alternately brooding and manic on-stage persona. Pleasingly, then, Silence Yourself is exactly the album we hoped for. Any (understandable) worries that it might fail to live up to expectations can be assuaged; there is no filler here, no indications that Savages are the flash-in-the-pan band du jour I feared they might be, and whilst nothing about it is exactly original it still sounds new and exciting purely by virtue of the fact that it’s been so long since any rock group sounded this genuine, this passionate. Singing about sex, violence, domesticity, perversion, pain and pleasure with a wicked air of ambiguity (“There are so many skinny pretty girls around/ Honestly, I just want go down“), front-woman Jehnny Beth snarls/ croons/ whoops/ shrieks every line with such righteous conviction it feels like she might just slit the throat of anyone stupid enough to argue with her; lyrics like “Hit Me”‘s “I took a beating today/ And that was the best I ever had….Will you hit me/ It’s the only way I’ll ever learn” might ruffle a few feathers in certain circles but they raise valid points about outdated social perceptions of unorthodox sexual desires, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to question them. Gemma Thompson, meanwhile, is revealed as the band’s not-so-secret weapon; without wanting to detract from the epic efforts of Ayse Hassan and Faye Milton, whose Jah Wobble-like bass and cymbal-thrashing drumming drive these songs relentlessly forward, it’s Thompson – wrangling barbed wire riffs and distorted howls from her guitar like someone who has studied John McGeoch and Johnny Greenwood in equal measure – that provides tone and texture. She’s also responsible for the smart sequencing: hook-heavy numbers like “Shut Up“, “City’s Full” and “She Will” (“She will enter the room/ She will enter the bed/ She will talk like a friend/ She will kiss like a man“) offer relatively slight variations on “Husbands”‘ winning formula – clanging bass or needling guitar intros give way to propulsive verses, then heavier, more frantic choruses and abrasive, explosive climaxes – but scattering them across the record not only presents them as key plot points in a carefully constructed narrative but also highlights the band’s other strengths. “I Am Here“‘s stop-start rumble, “Strife”‘s lurching Sabbath groove and the glacial, gothic “Waiting For A Sign” all offer first-half variety, as do Pixies-like thrasher “No Face” and the chaotic, squalling quickie “Hit Me” on side two; even instrumental interlude “Dead Nature” feels like an essential part of the overall arc, providing a mid-album breather of sorts whilst still evoking the kind of clammy dread one would associate with being chained to a radiator in a dark, leaking basement. The biggest sonic surprise is saved for last, though, and we’re not talking about Beth’s bizarrely alluring Gallic pronunciation of the album’s title (“sill-enn-ce yourself“); closer “Marshal Dear” is a slow-burning, Bowie-esque torch song that recalls Dog Man Star-era Suede – the last British band that actually deserved the kind of adulation Savages are currently receiving – and ends with a brief free jazz freak-out. That it feels entirely natural, as opposed to some kind of pretentious cred-grab, is a good indicator at just how effortlessly these ladies have mastered their craft, and of the possibilities for expansion of their sound in the future. So, are Savages really the best band in Britain? Looking at my rolling list of 2013’s best albums, I’d have to say that they are. Whether they can maintain the intensity they’ve displayed burning brightly in the dark once they’re basking in the spotlight remains to be seen, but this is the kind of thrilling, life-affirming music that makes you believe now is all that matters. Believe the hype.

.

.

Rollin Hunt : The Phoney

L.A. via Chicago songwriter Rollin Hunt has spent most of the last few years working as a successful film-maker and production designer, but he’s still managed to find time to record hundreds of tracks of weirdo pop and – as he calls it – “savant-garde doo-wop”, amassing something of a cult following and even inspiring a tribute album featuring covers of his songs by fans from around the world. The Phoney, out April 30 via Moniker Records, is his debut LP proper and features eleven ambitious, experimental nuggets that sit somewhere between Ziggy Stardust,  Todd Rundgren’s ’70s productions and Insignificance-era Jim O’Rourke. Check out “In The Window” below, then head over to The Chicago Reader, where the album is premiering.

Phoenix : Entertainment # Dirty Projectors Remix

One of the year’s finest albums – Phoenix‘s Bankrupt! – finally hit the shelves this week, and to celebrate here’s another big-name remix of the record’s lead single “Entertainment”. Following Dinosaur Jr.’s lethargic cover, the diva-led plastic soul of Dev Hynes’ Blood Orange remix and Grizzly Bear‘s bizarrely addictive footwork-flavoured deconstruction, Dirty Projectors frontman Dave Longstreth has turned in a slow-burning version that eschews the original’s “China Girl”-aping riff in favour of thick synths and an 8-bit starburst climax. That one track can spawn so many different interpretations – all of them pretty great – and still leave you wanting to hear more speaks volumes about the multi-faceted quality of Phoenix’s songwriting; compare and contrast below.

.

.

Colin Stetson : New History Warfare Vol. 3 : To See More Light

https://i2.wp.com/cstrecords.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/cst092cover_hires.jpg

As an ’80s baby who grew up listening to music made with synthesizers and guitars, I’m not really sure how and when this obsession began but if there is one noise that I love above all others it’s the sound of a saxophone. Be it Coltrane or Clemons, Pharoah or Fela, any record with a bit of sax skronk is sure to put a huge smile on my face, so it was pretty much a given that the new album from Montreal-based former session player and Arcade Fire/ Feist/ Tom Waits/ Bon Iver sideman Colin Stetson would really give me the horn. New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light features tons of the stuff; in fact, aside from a few vocal contributions from Bon Iver bandmate Justin Vernon, every sound here was created – without the aid of loops or samplers – by Stetson and his bass saxophone. Using techniques like “overblowing” and circular breathing, and an array of microphones strategically positioned about his instrument and person (including a collar-mounted throat mic), Stetson coaxes all manner of tones and timbres from his sax, unleashing a barrage of almost elemental noise that roars like a lion one moment and squeaks like a mouse the next, siphoning light-speed arpeggios into lengthy hypnotic drones with a prodigious finesse that belies the sheer physicality of such a performance. It is, literally, breathtaking. Of course, it also helps that – like previous volumes of Stetson’s solo output – To See More Light acts as a gateway drug into a variety of genres that we at Foam Hands are fascinated by but only occasionally dip a toe into. Jazz, gospel, modern classical and minimalist composition are all covered here, and whilst Vernon collaborations like “And In Truth” and “What Are They Doing In heaven Today” take on an almost hymnal quality, pieces such as “Hunted” and “Part Of Me Apart From You” boil like brimstone with an aggressive intensity that is pure punk in both attitude and execution; the fittingly-titled “Brute” even nods to black metal, with the Bon Iver singer providing guttural “cookie monster” growls and the sound of fingers flitting across keys and valves opening and closing mimicking blast-beats. For those with an inquisitive mind, it’s a veritable treasure trove of musical magic tricks to pick apart and work out; if you’re the type that prefers not to know the conjurer’s secrets, it’s a spectacular show of skill to sit back and marvel at. Either way, To See More Light is another amazing transmission from an immense talent at the very forefront of the avant-garde; listen to “Among The Sef” below.


.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is out April 30 via Constellation Records, and is streaming in full over at NPR

Wolf People : Fain

Although many bands still draw heavily on the sounds of the swinging Sixties, you don’t often come across a group as firmly rooted in that decade as young London/ Bedford/ North Yorkshire quartet Wolf People. Even those most obviously indebted to the Flower Power era – garage rockers from America’s West coast like Thee Oh Sees and the Fresh & Onlys – incorporate elements of later movements like punk, goth and Krautrock, but in terms of both influences (the English psychedelic, R&B and folk-rock scenes) and the actual sound of their music, these kids appear to exist in a hermetically sealed bubble suspended forever in time somewhere near Woodstock. On second studio album Fain (out April 29 via Jagjaguwar), as on its predecessor Steeple and the early singles/ odds & sods collection Tidings,  lyrics and melodies tend mainly toward the traditional minor-key folk favoured by the likes of Pentangle and Fairport Convention (“Thief” recounts various traditional tales of bandits and highwaymen), whilst the trebly, duelling guitars of Joe Hollick and frontman Jack Sharp and the sturdy but punchy rhythms provided by Dan Davies and drummer Tom Watt suggest Cream jamming with Richard Thompson. When things occasionally verge on “heavy” – fantastically out-there closer “NRR” – they stay within the orbit of bands like Black Sabbath and the Groundhogs, the immediate precursors of what we now know as metal, and the warm, spacious production – no samplers, no synths,  just live, in-the-room jams – achieves the kind of faux-authenticity Jack White would sell his sister/ lover for. Sharp and friends’ commitment to their singular musical vision really is admirable, but Fain – with its nimble mix of hypnotic stoner blues workouts and electrifying folk-pop jolts – also helps to establish Wolf People as one of the tightest and most exciting bands in Britain right now. Listen to “All Returns” below.

Zs : Grain

Oftentimes when members leave bands there’s a certain degree of animosity that would make such an idea an impossiblity, but when guitarist Ben Greenberg (now with The Men) and drummer Ian Antonio departed Brooklyn-based avant-jazz/ noise ensemble Zs last year, it was under amicable enough terms to allow a pretty interesting concept to come to fruition: new LP Grain comprises the last recordings of the previous line-up, as manipulated, processed, chopped, screwed and generally remixed into oblivion by their replacements. Split into two 20-minute movements – the first constructed by new guitarist Patrick Higgins (a composer for strings who also arranges Bach for guitar) and the only constant throughout the band’s many different incarnations, saxaphonist Sam Hillmer; the second by new drummer Greg Fox (Man Forever, Guardian Alien) – Grain initially bears scant resemblance to its 2010 predecessor New Slaves, but listen hard enough and you can hear echoes of that album’s punk-jazz skronk under the loops and layers of digi-noise. Guitar harmonics clang like church bells, whilst Hillmer’s sax is tweaked to sound like strings, or a car alarm, or an injured animal crying; mystery percussive objects and electronics blend together, generating gentle rhythmic pulses and shuddering jolts as micro-processed synths and sampled drum-rolls ricochet violently around the stereo field. With its lengthy passages of droning ambience and – in particular – Fox’s kaleidoscopic glitch-hop treatments on “Part 2” (an excerpt of which is below, accompanied by video the drummer shot during a bullet train ride from Tokyo to Osaka), Grain marks a new chapter in a decade-long story whose narrative – lurching from academic composition to downtown free-jazz to experiments with electro-acoustic noise and beyond – remains undefined. An artfully blurred snapshot of group in a perpetual state of transition, Grain is out April 30 via Northern Spy Records.
.

No Record Store Day : an alternative RSD celebration

Yes, it’s April 20, but as someone not living in one of the few UK cities where such things still exist, I’m going to completely ignore all the goodies being released for Record Store Day and instead try something a little different to the usual Foam Hands format. As much as I enjoy writing about music, I often find myself listening to an album that I like a lot – and that I think deserves coverage – about which I can’t really think of anything interesting or funny or clever to say. So, to celebrate April 20 in a way that those without a local physical music retailer can appreciate, here are twenty recent or soon-to-be-released long-players that I like (and in some cases love). No write-ups, no hyperlinks; just like the good old days spent thumbing through the racks, the digging is down to you. Just listen/ watch, and if you like any of what you hear, remember Google is your friend. Enjoy!

Phoenix Bankrupt! (V2)

.
Milk Music Cruise Your Illusion (Fat Possum)

.
Kurt Vile Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze (Matador)

.
Young Galaxy Ultramarine (Paper Bag Records)

.
Waxahatchee Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni)

.
Jenny Hval Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon)

.
Slava Raw Solutions (Software)

.
Cayucas Bigfoot (Secretly Canadian)

.
No Joy Wait To Pleasure (Mexican Summer)

.
Laura Stevenson & The Cans Wheel (Don Giovanni)

.
Owiny Sigoma Band Power Punch (Brownswood)

.
Ghostface Killah 12 Reasons To Die (Soul Temple)

.
Melvins Everybody Loves Sausages (Ipecac)

.
GrandeMarshall Mugga Man (Fool’s Gold)

.
Secret Circuit Tactile Galactics (Beats In Space)

.
VHOL VHOL (Profound Lore)

.
Magic Circle Magic Circle (Armageddon)

.
Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience (RCA)

.
The Haxan Cloak Excavation (Tri Angle)

.
Merchandise Totale Nite (Night People)

Daft Punk : Get Lucky

Daft Punk - "Get Lucky"

I’m so excited about this I’m not even going to write it up properly. New Daft Punk single, featuring Pharrell Williams and pioneering disco guitarist Nile Rodgers, from their fourth studio album Random Access Memories – also guest-starring Panda Bear, Todd Edwards and Giorgio Moroder – out May 21 via Daft Life Limited/ Columbia. Finally available via iTunes, although it feels like it’s been on a loop in my head forever, thanks to this, which has been on a loop on my phone all week. Let’s Robot Rock!