‘Graham Duff With Night Demons’ (2014). Acrylic on canvas by Val Denham.
He’s back! Once again, we’re thrilled to present a year-end musical round-up from Graham Duff. Graham is the creator of Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three (before some fucking idiot cancelled it). He is a well-known music fanatic and personally selected Ideal‘s eclectic soundtrack. Seen in a small role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a “Death Eater,” he is currently working on an Ideal feature film.
30. The Vacant Lots - Departure
The reference points are obvious; the pared back organ driven throb of Suicide and the mesmeric cyclical guitar riffs of Spacemen 3 or Loop. With their minimal lyrics and off the peg titles like “Never Satisfied” and “Do Not Leave Me Now,” it would be easy to dismiss The Vacant Lots as merely men mining an overfamiliar seam. However, at its best, their’s is a debut which burns with an iridescent light. This is a direct and uncluttered music that plugs right into the primal heart of rock and roll.
A subtle and sympathetic collaboration between Charlie Martineau’s Esperik Glare and the multi-talented and now sadly departed John Everall AKA Tactile. The album comprises four lengthy minimal and uneasy instrumentals. “The Dweller” fizzes with elemental energy. On “The Thing In The Pit,” a nervously fluttering electronic pulse is pierced by high pitched darts of sound. Best of all is the slowly shifting “The Psychophage.” A beautifully sustained sequence of grainy washes of noise underscored by a bass tone which flickers like helicopter blades in a heat haze.
Former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde teams up with Wisconsin vocalist and pianist Stephanie Dosen to fashion an album of delicate mystery. There are numerous moments—on the spacious beauty of “All Wishes Are Ghosts,” or the bucolic “Where Foxes Hide”—which could almost be the Cocteau Twins circa Four Calendar Café. However, rather than aping Elizabeth Fraser’s gravity defying voice, Dosen’s serene tone recalls the stylings of 70s psych/folk artist Linda Perhacs and Raymonde’s luminous arrangements are more sparse and sleek than those of his previous group. The accompanying remix album by RxGibbs opens the material out into even more intriguing vistas of sound
Conceived as soundtracks for three short films by Derek Jarman, this is Cyclobe’s Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower at their most Kraut-rock inflected. Both “Sulphur” and “Garden of Luxor” bring to mind the lush textures of early Cluster, whereas the slow, opiated spiral of “Tarot” shimmers into view like a 21st century Tangerine Dream. However, Cyclobe bring so much more to their rich sonic mix. Finally seeing a general release after 2012’s strictly limited run, this is a deeply psychedelic LP.
The oddly named Then Thickens have hit the ground running. This is an unusual debut which seems to stand apart from any genre. Songs like “Tiny Legs” and “Death Cap” meld a strong pop sensibility to an unforced strangeness. With their muscular band dynamic and lyrics which seem to be simultaneously confessional and oblique, the group they most closely resemble is the long lost Scottish band Dawn of the Replicants. It would be a shame if Then Thickens were to suffer the same lack of attention which befell that ensemble, because this is a vibrant and at times thrilling set.
PLU (aka Vicki Bennett) is a transformative artist. Shunning copyright laws, she deliberately samples the most familiar, over worked and banal of source material, then refashions it into something unique and uncategorizable. There’s a large dose of humour in PLU’s work—which at times approaches a kind of audio slapstick. But don’t let the comedy blind you to her razor sharp intelligence. A track like “Panic As Usual And Avoid Shopping” will make you smile even as it gives you goose bumps.
As one half of electronic duo Isan, Robin Saville has a sizeable catalogue of excellent albums and EPs behind him. Here, on his first solo outing, he creates a collection of gentle electronic watercolours, where simple synth patterns blend with subtly mixed rural field recordings. “Hilary And Dave’s Piano #2” is an exquisite minimal piano piece, with sparse notes falling like jewels from a cloud of warm synth tone. Saville’s best track is probably the closing “All Fail Girl”—an optimistic spray of colour and light, where a stripped down clockwork rhythm provides the base for a blooming moss garden of melodic curlicues.
A collection of songs which at a cursory listen could easily be dismissed as twee and cloying. But repeated exposure reveals a genuine emotional depth. This Melbourne four piece’s debut is a flawless piece of intimate, stripped down girl group indie. Songs are built from the sparest of ingredients; skeletal guitar and bass figures, snare and occasional organ. Where the band really shine is with their warm vocal harmonies. And yet it’s not all sweetness and light. On “Happy Birthday” there’s a breathy sensuality which takes the album in a different direction. And their version of the Twin Peaks soundtrack song “Just You” is the icing on the cake.
As we have come to expect from both late period Walker and all period Sun O))), this is a pitch black and monolithically slow moving suite of songs. And whilst it would be great to think Walker would occasionally experiment with some brighter emotions, nobody does dread and unease quite like him. Similarly Sun O)))’s mastery of the drone and the power chord is unparalleled. “Brando” is probably the high point, with Walker’s distinctive brooding baritone weaving its own path over rich, tense slabs of noise which grind against each other creating dark sparks.
A polished and considered third album from Githead shows the band refining their sound. The low-slung menace of fuzz drenched opener “Not Coming Down” immediately hooks you in with its combination of art-pop and shoegaze. Yet Malka Spigel’s vocals refuse the easy blissed out vagaries of the average shoegazer for something far more pointed and personal. The mood slides from optimistic to introspective and, as always with Githead, there are surprises to be had. “For The Place We’re In” actually has a folk-psych tinge with echoes of Family or Camel.
A lo-fi collection of pop-psych songs which boast the assured dynamics of Tame Impala and the smeary fuzzed out harmonies of early Ariel Pink. Many of Delt’s songs have an endearing Byrds-like jangle, but the Eastern phrasing of “Barbarian Kings” and the frenetic wig out of “Backwards Bird Inc.” prove there are numerous influences at play here. This is harmonious and pure hearted pop pitched into an opiated fog of effects peddles and stoned bedroom studio techniques. To his credit, Delt makes it all sound very natural and effortless and it’s easy to see how he could blossom into a major talent.
Read more after the jump…