Jon Hopkins is evidently a very talented chap and someone I’ve been meaning to investigate for some time given he keeps blipping across my radar. This, I’m almost ashamed to say, is my first proper foray into his world (apart from the obvious remixes). And my word what a fantastic sortie it has turned out to be.
Immunity is an album that is shaped and crafted from sounds-found rather than sounds-pre-packaged. One imagines Mr. Hopkins sits in his studio carefully picking through boxes labelled ‘sounds of loose wiring and unreliable audio connections’ and another stickered ‘miscellaneous crunchy bits’. These parts are then sequenced with enough beautiful bass to shake your fillings and loosen any jewellery you might have about your person. This is particularly so on standout track ‘Open Eye Signal’ which absolutely begs reception from the writhing warmth of a bog-eyed crowd, most appropriately in a decommissioned power station.
On ‘Breathe This Air’ the tone becomes more suitably aerial with Hopkins managing to expertly resuscitate the too-often used ‘lonely-piano-in-empty-room aesthetic’. The crunching assault of ‘Collider’ counterpoints perfectly with the utter melancholia of ‘Abandon Window’ – a tune which only the heartlessly unemotional would find unmoving.
The brilliance of this album is found in its capacity to string you up in a web of emotional contradictions – of melancholia and joy, of despair and love, of isolation and the need for the warmth of your closest. Such sublime incongruity is something that makes the best music. [BUY]
‘Open Eye Signal’:
This instalment is long overdue. Life (or more accurately its opposite for one of us) keeps getting in the way of BBO’s desire to share the music we enjoy and love. Yet let us not dwell on such things. Let us instead focus on the present and future.
Immediately contradicting that determination is the fact that most of these tunes have been around for a while. Does this matter? Well, one thing must be remembered: being the first to blog or ‘air’ something doesn’t make you a better person.
Music is not a race.
Anyway, let’s get on with it.
Haiku Salut are from Derbyshire and there’s something deliciously delicate and lovingly original about this glitch-accordion little tune ‘Glockelbar’ taken from their debut Tricolore album [BUY]:
From Winnipeg, Boats present us with a building skewed pop tune that hold all sorts of interests from its backing vocals to its big brass, and from its speeding keyboards to its bubbling weirdness. This strange take on indie pop can only be a result of the bastard Winnipeg cold (and having been there I know this). ‘Animated GIFS’ is from their A Fairway Full of Miners album [BUY]:
2_F are based in New York and that’s as much as I can find out about them. ‘Grandma Song’ is airy dub with cut-up South Asian samples that heralds a joyous summer if you let it. The other two tracks on their Soundcloud are worth your ear space as well:
AK/DK are fashioned from analog-8-bits of pop-punk and are from Brighton. They sit somewhere on the barely recognised continuum of Devo/Add N to X/Polysics. This, of course, is a very good thing [BUY]
And finally, UrbanExploration are part of a collective from Leeds that go beyond just music. Collectives are good things (cf GNOD) being composed of interesting parts that take them in all sorts of artistic directions, including soundtracks to hidden, underground or forgotten spaces:
So there you go. Let’s not leave it so long next time, eh?
Vision Fortune make taught and tense tunes. Filled with an apprehensiveness that signals either, on a good day, a hope for change, or on a bad day, an irritable itch you just can’t reach to scratch, this is music on the edge of something.
Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune is sparse and repetitive. The constant duplication insinuates the emptiness of industrial and tertiary toil. A recurring wooziness fills the album, whether through the drones or the visceral builds of guitar noise. It can be dizzying, akin to that feeling of too much screen-watching.
This is an album of dislocation, disjunction, and more besides. It’s the repetition of a stripped down, skeletal, less sunshine fuelled Wooden Shjips. Most often it reminds of the later Gilded Eternity period Loop.
And it’s got the best album cover of the year by far – perhaps chosen as a reflection of both disconnection and optimism. Buy it here.
The Suicide of Western Culture trade in a similar sense of space, distance and expanse to Fuck Buttons and then mix it with the scuzz and distorted melodies of Dan Friel or Parts & Labor, and top it off with sprinkles of lower region body music and shards of the cinematic. They simultaneously infuse their tunes with a pumped groove and a ’hands in the air’ rave sensibility: for example, ‘Love Your Friends Hate Politicians’ has a beginning that emits ‘Charly’ before burying itself in catacomb beats. Huge and heavy breaks and bleeps are the order of the rhythm and there’s not a gimmicky sub-wobble in earshot, although crowd-pleasing drops are a plenty.
This is eminently clever stuff in that it traverses a line between something for the glitched abstraction set and those that want their electronic fixes more visceral and immediate. In some ways they remind of Beat Culture’s excellent Tokyo Dreamer through filtering a heritage of Orbital frugging into something very shiny and glisteningly now. At their best when they segue from darker to sunrise still-wired aesthetics, The Suicide of Western Culture have produced something remarkable in Hope Only Brings Pain. Get it here.
‘I Know The Name Of The Culprits’:
The talk of a ‘psyche explosion’ across various media outlets in recent months has been met here at BBO terraces with a degree of incredulity in that some (not all) of the bands being labelled as such lack that third-eye melting something that we would see as central to the genre. Luckily there are still tunes and bands out there that can eddy consciousness, trance your surroundings and give glimpses beyond the veil. This time the purveyors of sonic altered perception and inter-dimensional grooving come from Chile, which in itself speaks to the reach of the psyche.
On the face of it Föllakzoid are more of the same Spacemen/Shjips/Moon Duo repetition: their second outing, wondrously titled II, sounds at first lovingly familiar if not radically innovative. Yet dive deeper into their swirling depths and you begin to realise this is a quality album that tweaks and extends the ideas of their forbears.
Composed of five extended jams around minimal chords, II is truly an experience for the ears and soul. It wraps you up in its warm production, drives you forward with its subdued but energising motorik beats, and delivers you elsewhere with its swoops of electronic noise, muted vocals and (forever) delayed guitars.
This is one to be given time and a receptive headspace. Once opened out to the possibility, new insights and transformed knowledges will be yours. Highly recommended. Buy it here.
When Parts & Labor announced their retirement, an audible howl of anguish came forth from BBO terraces; gentle tears dripped from our cheeks and short-circuited the resistors and wires as we knelt in silence over our shrine to the Brooklyn noise popsters.
But dry your eyes mate. It became apparent not long after this despairing news that Dan Friel was going it alone and taking much of what made Parts & Labor so great with him; Total Folklore is the result.
Stripping away the vocal element of P&L, Friel delivers an album of top-notch electro-terror-pop best exemplified by the twelve-minute opener ‘Ulysses’: a stomping mini-epic with IEDs used for beats and rhythm. The P&L melodies are there throughout – particularly on hyper-speed ‘Valedictorian’ – but they seem somehow more delightfully excited than ever. It’s as if Friel’s machines and effects are so glad to be in use again they’ve gone all hyperactive and giddy. In fact, on ‘Scavengers’ they seem drunk on their own freedom as they stagger woozily over the machine gun pace.
There’s no real let up in the distorted and maxed out electronics; everything has that feeling of peaking in the red and there are moments on tracks such as ‘Thumper’ where no amount of turning the volume down will save your synapses.
Being a short album, Total Folklore doesn’t outstay its welcome, but a welcome return for all P&L fans it most certainly is. Buy it.
When a band decides to change direction one inevitably thinks ‘Jazz Odyssey’. When the curve ball of artistic diversion involves one of your favourite outfits the worry is doubled. Fortunately, given the avant-garde output of Gnod in the past, and the sheer quality of their oeuvre, those fears are reduced; you just know that whatever they turn their various talents to is going to be worth a listen. So when Gnod Presents… Dwellings & Druss was previewed a while back anxiety turned into a twitching joy at the possibility and potential.
Consisting of three tracks of throbbing industrial techno Dwellings & Druss is a fantastically transcendental listen and evidence that this isn’t Gnod’s first communion with transistors, samplers and machines. The low-end bass is all-consuming, the reverb chilling and the modulation dizzying. It’s akin to Basic Channel filtered through a turbine and then submerged and played out fifty fathoms down. It’s skull-shaking in its intensity, but obscurely calming and meditative despite or because of the clanks, whirls and pulses.
Gnod Presents… is out on vinyl in February on Trensmat records. But if you pre-order now you get the album for download replete with an extra track of improv techno wobbles and shimmers clocking in at a mighty 49:49. That’s called value that is.
I’ve always been fascinated trying to work out when the best time to listen to drone is. It’s hardly the sort of stuff you need on your morning commute to jolt the senses awake and enliven you to perpetuate capitalism. Perhaps the afternoon? Biorhythmic carbohydrate crash usually prevents this for me. So the evening seems ideal? Well possibly, unless you are gearing up for a ‘night out’ (remember them?)
After listening to and absorbing (for that’s what you do with this album) Oh/Ex/Oh’s Extant I realise that I’ve been focusing my fascination too much on the daily cycle. Instead, I should have been thinking longer time scales as it seems the new calendar year is the best time for drone. January, with its temperatures paralysing and its perennial sense of comedown is the time to listen to drone. This is electronic blues for the New Year; blues which manages to hint at a small change in the light and something brighter approaching.
Listened too closely these pieces are interspersed with distanced static or at least a half formed memory of what static might have sounded like. Sometimes these pieces take shape as the hum of some unidentified electrical equipment or the last life gasps of machines fly-tipped in rural lanes. At other times there’s glacial movement and enveloping warmth. There are barely distinguishable sounds drenched in, or perhaps even self-generating their own, reverb. There are spoken samples from film texts that I should know or at least I used to know but now don’t. There is the odd arpeggiator seemingly organised and run by a remote, even astral, hand.
All in all this is the soundtrack to an airborne journey across landscapes waiting for warmth, across beauty, majesty and utter desolation.
That’s my geography trip, what’s yours? Buy.
‘The Last Days’:
Yes, that’s right dear reader: such was the overwhelming amount of top music this year we’ve given our end-of-year list a dose of max enlargement pills and extended it to a mighty top twenty.
Those that didn’t make this engorged run-down and hence reside in our honourable bubbling under category include: Swans – The Seer; Toy – Toy; Monolake – Ghosts; White Manna – White Manna; Easter – Innocence Man; Bass Clef – Reeling Skullways; Umberto - Night Has A Thousand Screams; The Eccentronic Research Council – 1612 Underture; and Mouse on Mars – Parastrophics.
A special mention goes to British Sea Power’s EPs 1-6. Well it wouldn’t be one of our lists without them, would it? If we could have counted these as one album it would have made the top five. Obviously.
So here it is, Merry Listmas. Everybody’s having fun (somewhere else).
20. Eat Light Become Lights – Heavy Electrics
19. Alexander Tucker – Third Mouth
18. White Hills – Frying On This Rock
17. Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled With Light
16. Wishmountain – Tesco
15. Drokk – Music Inspired by Mega-City One
14. Mugstar – Axis
13. Fighting Kites – Fighting Kites
12. Belbury Poly – The Belbury Tales
11. Euros Childs – Summer Special
10. Egyptology – The Skies
This analogue symphony had us frothing on about ancient astronauts and the geomancy of Giza back in July. It’s still taking us somewhere weird and wonderful. The best of the seemingly never-ending fascination with old synths and arpeggiators that pervades the world of electronica. Long may this fascination continue.
9. Deerhoof - Breakup Song
All over the shop, but in a good way, Deerhoof’s Breakup Song threw all kinds of idea together to make another off-kilter pop hit. Needs to be played loud.
8. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
It came from nowhere, and nowhere on BBO will you find the review this album richly deserves. Yet it does exactly what you want a Godspeed! album to do, and then some. Colossal drones, magisterial builds and releases, and immense noise, all suffused with a politics for those that know.
7. Bill Fay – Life is People
Two astonishing albums at the start of the 1970s and then another one in 2012. The voice is warmer, but even more haunted, and Fay’s conviction still burns through as clearly as it ever has: “I personally need to believe that this world just can’t go on and on and on in the way that it goes.”
‘Be At Peace With Yourself’:
6. Beak > - >>
A marvellous pulsing head throb of analog musings and music from this threesome. Retro-futurism might not be a thing, but this sounds so extra-temporal we can’t help looking at the future through the past (and often vice-versa). If we had a record label of the year award it would probably go to Invada Records as well.
‘Mono’ (Ok, not technically on the album, but it’s a cracker):
5. Fang Island – Major
Like a cheeky-monkey off its bits on riffs. With shit-eating gurns and post-ironic chest bumps all round, Major is always there for the dark days and the light days. Simply…YES!
4. Plank! – Animalism
Owls and pigs. Owls, pigs and fighting ferrets. Animalism is nothing short of an extraordinary debut of Neu-proggish grooves and looped noodling and funk. Looked into the Owl’s eyes and agree. You now agree.
‘Dying for Pigs’:
‘King Rat I, II, III’:
3. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Crown and Treaty
Prog, pop, country – Sweet Billy Pilgrim will do you an album containing all of those elements, and live they’ll throw in an a cappella version of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ just to keep you guessing. Crown and Treaty is the sound of a great, genuinely original, band still discovering what they’re capable of.
2. Bob Mould – Silver Age
Ignore those people who tell you this is a ‘return to form’ – the amazing thing about Bob Mould is not that he’s produced an album reminiscent of the best of the Sugar records, but that he’s been writing songs this good since the early 1980s.
1. Goat – World Music
The hype realised for once. An album that possesses you. We called it a transnational psyche agenda for the weird underground and we stand by these words. Syncretic brilliance. Stunning.
Det Som Aldrig Förändras/Diarabi:
A massive thanks to everyone who has supported us, read these ramblings and listened to anything we’ve recommended this year. You probably will never know how much we appreciate it.
jkneale and angrybonbon
[All of these lovely records are available from shops - independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their tax), ones where there isn't really a shop but you have to email some bloke. We like buying records - actually, we really do. And we think you should too, so if you like any of this and haven't already bought them, go on! They'll be cheap by now]
So what’s the point in reviewing an album that’s been released for ages and has lauded critical praise from some of the best-taste blogs and writers out there? Well, it’s because we love it so much that we still feel the need to shower it with more superlatives and because we don’t really (or often) give a monkey’s scrotum that we’re late and not first to review (if the latter ever happens here it’s due to sheer luck rather than intention, but we’ve stated this before).
What makes us keep coming back to Goat’s World Music again and again is, in part, due to its nigh on perfect mix of mystery and pop, recognizable flow and esoteric depth. Simply put, it just warrants further investigation with every listen. It’s a beguiling heady brew of influences and antecedents filtered through a fug of psychedelic and funked miasma that reaffirms its appeal again and again.
With wah-wahs screaming and bongos bashing World Music is a seething singular global vision shot through with Arabic lilts, West Coast fractals, folkish interludes and Disco-funk dynamics. Amounting to a transnational psyche agenda for the weird underground, it hybridizes the global peculiar without ever losing its (third) eye and (second) sight on the here and now. With each outing it gives out more and more sweaty abandon and joy.
We bloody love it and one of us was lucky to see them live. JKneale writes:
Goat at the Lexington – appearing as the exotic filling in a Gnod/Teeth Of The Sea psyche sandwich – felt not so much like an event and more like a happening. They have a perfect grasp of stagecraft, so that when they appeared out of the darkness – all but the bongo player wearing masks and extraordinary outfits – it didn’t feel like a daft stunt. The singer-dancers whirled around on the tiny stage while the man on the bongos stared fixedly into the crowd; the other musicians shifted from genre to genre with supernatural facility. The place was packed, the usual faces complemented by non-scene types come to see what the fuss was about. People danced, as I’d hoped they would, and there were delighted grins everywhere you looked. Madchester with extra magick.
A gig to remember, a sublime mix of the perfectly pop and the deeply strange – come back soon, Goat.
Buy World Music here.
‘Run To Your Mama (Pinkunoizu Remix)’:
‘Goatlord Live’ (very flashing images contained herein):
‘Let It Bleed’: