Album review: Modeselektor – Who Else

Modeselektor - Who Else album cover

I’ve been waiting some time now to review a decent techno record where I can fully regress to my rave days. Modeselektor happily provided the opportunity and I’m most appreciative.

Who Else isn’t quite a full out techno album, there are other elements of electronic influence in there, from house, to some crazy jungle beats, and even a bit of grime thanks to some excellent collaboration pieces.

This also falls occassionally into the ‘experimental’ side of things. Fentanyl, for instance, uses a fractured and disjointed bassline that makes it a tricky one to dance to but also difficult to digest if you’re sitting at home.

But the album does hark back to the heydays of rave. There’s some classic arpeggiator action on opener One United Power and some very familiar ‘rave’ synths kicking off on I Am Your God.

WMF Love Song is another tune that draws heavily on the echoes of hard house and is built for the dancefloor, while Wake Me Up When It’s Over has overtones of Orbital in the synths before the jungle madness begins in earnest.

It’s probably the collaborations that work best on this album. Wealth, with Flohio, injects a touch of grime into proceedings, backed by some Leftfield-style synth work. Top track is probably Who, featuring Tommy Cash, that borrows from more recent EDM but is firmly rooted through its acidy organs in early techno and dance culture.

Not my album of the week, due to a few tracks that fell short of the mark, but very close.

Release date: 22 February 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Who

For fans of:

  • Leftfield
  • Four Tet
  • The Field

Listen on Spotify


EP review: Snow Palms – Everything Ascending

Snow Palms - Everything Ascending cover

More of a single than an EP, but with its two tracks spanning over 16 mins it’s still worth shouting out this effort from Snow Palms.

Title track Everything Ascending is a 10-minute epic that blends dance and electronica with orchestral and choral elements through a series of intertwined ‘movements’ that blend together seamlessly. You’re carried along on a musical journey, with even the tempo sometimes reflecting the regular rattle of a high-speed train.

It’s the kind of piece that deserves repeat listening just to take it all in, you’ll have a different experience with it every time.

The b-side is an orchestral reworking of Circling, a track from an older album. Its minimalist use of strings is highly emotive and highly impressive, reminiscent of Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi at times. Expect to hear it on a trailer for something soon.

Release date: 22 February 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Everything Ascending

For fans of:

  • Brian Eno
  • Jon Hopkins
  • Philip Glass

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Methyl Ethel – Triage

Methyl Ethel - Triage album cover

The phrase art-rock normally fills me with fear, but I was pleasantly surprised by the third album from Australian band Methyl Ethel. Triage, is by no means a perfect album, but there was enough in there to keep you wanting more.

Highlights for me were probably opener Ruiner, which seems to have been influenced by Florence + The Machine and ticks along nicely in a way that unwittingly draws you in, while Trip the Mains is full on 80s guitar and synth-fest that develops well despite some slightly off-putting discordant notes.

Top track I think is Hip Horror, which features a great uptempo groove, accompanied by a very addictive piano line.

There are some other decent works on here, including the organ and funky bass of Scream Whole and the Pretenders-infused Real Tight, but there are also some tunes that really don’t take you anywhere and potentially have you reaching for the skip button.

I’ve actually downgraded this album’s rating slightly during it’s second listen for the review, mainly due to the inconsistencies across it. Still worth a listen though.

Release date: 15 February 2019

Rating: 6.5/10

Standout track: Hip Horror

For fans of:

  • Florence + The Machine
  • Ladytron
  • Elder Island

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Ladytron – Ladytron

Ladytron - Ladytron album cover

Borrowing heavily from new wave, 80s synth and a touch of 90s rave, Ladytron return after more than seven years with an incessantly catchy collection of electro-pop tunes that have that special something about them – in most places.

The self-titled Ladytron album takes a little time to hit its stride with Until the Fire enjoyable enough but failing to develop as much as you might anticipate. Conversely single from last year The Island, featuring huge 80s-style synths, manages to build just at the right moment to avoid you losing interest in the track.

Things get significantly better after this point with Tower of Glass, a catchy head-nodder with some intricate organ work and the vocals of lead vocalist Helen Marnie standing out in particular.

The upward trend continues with Far From Home, which starts off a little Human League but that addictive synth track and pop beat end up taking you somewhere else entirely.

Highlight of the album for me was Deadzone, which employs some great vocal structures and layers of atmospherics against an uptempo beat, building to a delicious crescendo.

At 13 tracks and 53 minutes long, this album isn’t exactly of epic length, but it did feel that the last few tracks could have been trimmed and you would not have noticed the difference. Had the album stopped with the moreish You’ve Changed everybody would be left very happy. As it is Horrorscope, The Mountain and Tomorrow is Another Day have some noticeable moments but feel a little laboured.

Bar that, this is a fabulous album and well worth listening to the first 10 tracks at least.

Release date: 15 February 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Deadzone

For fans of:

  • Goldfrapp
  • Boy Harsher
  • Gwenno

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: SPC ECO – Fifteen

SPC ECO - Fifteen album cover

Former Curve member Dean Garcia has been ratcheting out a new album with daughter Rose Berlin pretty much every year since SPC ECO formed in 2009. This is my first encounter with them and not a moment too soon.

Fifteen manages to combine shoegaze and trip-hop to create an experience of an album that deserves to be listened to in a single sitting without distractions to feel the full effect.

From opener Fading Out Of Time to epic closer Little Ones Out Of Time Mix, you are taken on a dream-like journey. The use of muffled drum lines and bass, the processed angelic vocals of Berlin, and the feedback – oh the feedback – give you the effect of having taken something seriously strong before bedtime.

The influences of 90’s trip-hop are clear to see. Massive Attack is clearly in their record collection, while Berlin’s vocal style bears an uncanny resemblance to Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.

There’s shoegaze to be found beyond the simple feedback, with some nice buzzy guitars in The Heart and Soul and standout track Breathing.

There are also some more oppressive songs, which at times can make you feel like you’re being smothered with a pillow. Fortunately, Berlin’s vocals keep it from becoming too overbearing.

From a critical perspective, this is a long album and many of the songs, as you progress, struggle to differentiate themselves. But as an overall experience it washes over you and takes you to another place.

Find a quiet spot, stick on the best headphones you can find, and let this cracker of a record take you far, far, away.

Release date: 15 February 2019

Rating: 8/10

Standout track: Breathing

For fans of:

  • Curve
  • Massive Attack
  • Portishead

Listen on Bandcamp

EP review: Lazybones – Bang! Bang!

Lazybones - Bang! Bang! cover

Brighton three-piece power-pop punk project Lazybones have put together a hugely enjoyable four-track romp of an EP that will have your head nodding. There’s not much in the way of depth and complexity in Bang! Bang! but with a bass this dirty and songs so catchy, who really cares.

Fashion Victim kicks us off, making full use of vocalist Candi Underwood’s lung capacity as she belts out a tirade against conformity and clothing choices. As I mentioned, we’re not going too deep here, but it does contain the line ‘You wear your Metallica T, but where’s you Kill ‘Em All‘ CD?’, so all is forgiven.

Next up is Heart Beats Like a Drum, which sees dirty, heavy bass employed to create a feeling akin to early hypnotic Queens Of The Stone Age tracks. My favourite track on the EP

We then enter strange territory with what appears to be an ode to jeans with Denim. Odd, but otherwise this is a bouncy number that keeps the record ticking along nicely and sees some of the organ work enter the spotlight.

Closer All My Friends Are Dead sounds like it might be a pretty serious number, but no such worries as we move between some staccato riffs, 60s influenced organ and a full on rock-out chorus.

Hopefully Bang! Bang! is a sign of things to come and Lazybones will managed to pull together a full album of fun garage pop rock anthems like these.

Release date: 15 February 2019

Rating: 7/10

Standout track: Heart Beats Like a Drum

For fans of:

  • Marmozets
  • Demob Happy
  • The White Stripes

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Health – Vol 4 :: Slaves of Fear

Health - Vol 4 :: Slaves of Fear album cover

With their fourth studio album Vol 4 :: Slaves of Fear, LA industro noise rock trio Health have produced a dark, brutal and bruising piece of work that just about avoids becoming completely head crushing thanks to a lightness of touch on the vocals and atmospherics.

Right from the off, bar the distant sound of banjos wafting in on the wind, you are bludgeoned with immense crashing drum beats that rather take your breath away. Initially in Psychonaut this takes the form of more traditional ‘bashing the hell out of some skins’ drumming before later morphing into some seriously heavy dub from a drum machine.

There are some heavy guitar riffs in here too, but what saves this track – and the album in general – from being too overpowering is the soothing and listless vocals from Jake Duzsik. Drifting somewhere between emo and pop, his fragile high-pitched tone provides vital relief from the portents of doom that surround.

This format continues on Feel Nothing, which has some heavily processed Ministry-like guitar work balanced out by Duzsik’s vocals. There are elements of EDM at play here too in what is a much more beat driven number.

God Botherer slows down the pace slightly, but not for long as what was a more sedate track suddenly doubles up the tempo and brings the noise – to maximum effect.

Black Static provides a slower heavy stomp, reminiscent in some ways of the recent Bring Me The Horizon album amo, while Loss Deluxe plunges its dance beat into some murkiness, allowing the vocal track to temporarily come to the fore.

There are some straight out Industrial head bangers in here, such as The Message and Strange Days (1999), but we also get some heavy RnB influenced beats in tracks like NC-17 and Rat Wars.

Single and title track Slaves of Fear, is probably the best effort of the album. It’s the first time you get a recognisable bass guitar line chugging along as well as some classic soft-loud moments, with the track building to a momentous crescendo.

Final track Decimation sees a much calmer, ballad-like ending to the album, and by that point you may well need a bit of relief.

This album won’t be for everyone, but if you are a fan of Nine Inch Nails or Ministry, then it’s well worth a crack.

Release date: 08 February 2019

Rating: 7/10

Standout track: Slaves of Fear

For fans of:

  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Ministry
  • Bring Me The Horizon

Listen on Spotify

Album of the week: Yak – Pursuit of Momentary Happiness

Yak - Pursuit of Momentary Happiness album cover

Yak‘s second album sees them grinding out some pretty heavy sounds, recalling the likes of Sabbath and Zep alongside more recent psych and stoner rock. But they’ve also managed to add in some elements of doo-wop and swing along the way, making Pursuit of Momentary Happiness the most intriguing album of the week.

Bellyache get us underway with a nice bit of distored funky wah-wah guitar and a heavy bass line, that contrasts well with its high pitched chorus. As a opening track it show us that Yak are at the peak of their game.

We get more bluesy on Fried, but the groove-laden bass continues – it’s a track that stoner rock fans will find hard not to appreciate.

Title track Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is a slower number that plays heavily on the atmospherics and keyboards to create a more Floyd-esque feel, before the full-on psych kicks in.

There are a number of other softer moments and 50’s influence on show here, especially in Words Fail Me, Encore and closer This House Has No Living Room. But it is in their heavier moments that Yak truly come alive.

Blinded By the Lies is a good old fashioned rock-out with a sense of urgency and relentless riffs. White Male Carnivore is driven by a single-tone bass line while vocalist Oliver Henry Burslem rants epically over the top, until the track takes a huge turn and we end up screaming along to ‘The Whole World In His Hands’. Pay Off vs. The Struggle is a prog-like number, taken along yet again by a funk-laden bass line.

This is by no means a perfect album, and some of the tracks do say in places, but there is enough quality here to make it worth spending 40 minutes of your time with.

Release date: 08 February 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Bellyache

For fans of:

  • Holy Doom
  • Warmduscher
  • Black Sabbath

Listen on Spotify

EP review: Flat Worms – Into The Iris

Flat Worms - Into The Iris EP cover

This is the first full EP from LA post-punk (very much on the punk side) three-piece Flat Worms since their fantastic eponymous debut album in 2017, and it was worth the wait.

Into The Iris is a six-track, 16-minute adrenaline rush, that barely takes its foot off the pedal. opener Surreal New Year starts at breakneck speed – all fuzzy guitar riffs, impatient drums and a distinct Dead Kennedys vibe.

This continues with title track Into The Iris, which draws on more hypnotic elements and brings vocalist Will Ivy’s lazy, drawling lyrics (you can hardly call it singing) to the fore.

Things barely drop off through Plastic at Home, with it’s nice wobbly bass line and Shouting at the Wall, which has a strong retro feel to it – no bad thing in this case.

Only as we hit the final third of the EP do things start to slow down a little with laid back instrumental Scattered Palms and melancholy closer At the Citadel, a more pedestrian number which unfortunately shows that Ivy’s vocal style isn’t as well suited to the slower pace.

Overall a great EP that whet’s the appetite for another full-length album. Hurry up fellas!

Release date: 08 February 2019

Rating: 7/10

Standout track: Shouting at the Wall

For fans of:

  • Dead Kennedys
  • Idles
  • The Lovely Eggs

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed and Ready

Cherry Glazer - Stuffed & Ready album cover

Stuffed & Ready is the third album from LA’s post-punk trio Cherry Glazerr and a follow-up to 2017’s rather enjoyable Apocalypstick. This is a much more mature effort though. It has elements of Riot Grrl punk interspersed through it, but most songs take a much softer tone that highlights Clementine Creevy’s angelic voice.

The are touches of 60s-influenced Franco pop on Self Explained and indie-pop on Distressor, though heavy guitars are never too far away.

We have some slow swing on Isolation, before crunching guitars sweep in for the chorus. Some changes of direction on Daddi, along with a smattering of drum machine, make it stand out as more interesting than your standard alt-rock numbers.

There are a lot of competent rock numbers which, when matched with Creey’s softer vocal style, make for an enjoyable listen. This perhaps isn’t going to set the world on fire, but this release will certainly find the band some new friends.

Release date: 01 February 2019

Rating: 7/10

Standout track: Wasted Nun

For fans of:

  • Goat Girl
  • Marmozets
  • Our Girl

Listen on Spotify