All that I know is I’m falling…

I find myself in the wholly unfamiliar (and slightly uncomfortable)  position of stumbling upon something the actual day it happens. Bloody hell!

The James Blake album is out in the UK today!  Not sure when it’ll turn up on Emusic (if at all), but I’m finally warming to Spotify, and it’s there. Sounds like a beautiful record.

Here’s the official video for The Wilhelm Scream

Seven Great New Records of 2010

OK, so here goes, the only porpoise-based end of year lists that matter:

Seven Records of 2010 You Should Probably Buy (although I didn’t bother):

 

  • Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens
  • The Courage of Others – Midlake
  • Swim – Caribou
  • The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
  • Before Today – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
  • Have One on Me – Joanna Newsome
  • Oh and the Kanya record , I suppose (can’t be bothered to look up what it’s called)

(Actually, I did buy the Caribou record – it was hugely disappointing, and made me wonder if any of the magazine pundits who put it in their Best Of lists had actually heard The Milk of Human Kindness…)

Seven Great Nearly New Releases of 2010 that I bought instead:

 

  • Gather, Form and Fly – Megafaun
  • The Evangelist – Robert Forster
  • Everything is Possible: The Best of Os Mutantes
  • Champion in the Arena – Jackie Mittoo
  • Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors
  • Alice – Tom Waits
  • Lyre of Orpheus – Nick Cave

(Alice, in particular, continues to haunt me after a good six months of listening; and I wish I’d been cool enough to pick up on Bitte Orca last year when it came out…)

Seven Great New Releases of 2010:

 

Unofficially, I think this really was my favourite record of the year. Brim full of breathless insecurity and glistening guitar work from the tongue and fingers of Avi Zahner-Isenberg, it’s a particularly intense record. You get the feeling that he’s no respecter of personal space. Was fortunate enough to see his fantastic set at Green Man in the summer.

Highpoint:

The Truth Sets In

Favourite lyric:

“What’s another time to say, Witches speak in my head all day, Witchcraft seems to unload and say, You don’t love me anymore”

Highly polished psychedelia that reminded me a lot of the Nazz when I first heard it (and still does). It’s full of great fuzzy guitar riffs that work every time and will be one of those records people will always have trouble placing in time.

Highpoint:

Solitude is Bliss

Favourite Lyric:

“There’s a party going on in my head and no one is invited, You will never come close to how I feel”

Simple and gorgeous bitter-sweet folk songs that stay long in the mind after they’ve passed. Not withstanding a lack-lustre performance at Green Man, I’d love to see the album performed in the intimate surroundings it deserves.

Highlight:

Letters

Favourite lyric:

“She lead me down the garden path and bled me dry. She did her make up in the reflection of my glassy, glazed eyes. She buried me in the churchyard where she wed me long ago. My father saw red and said ‘you couldn’t even pronounce the poor boy’s name!’”

Possessed of one of today’s most recognisable voices, Kurt Wagner really knows how to sigh and pause as he uses it. Combining with Cortney Tidwell, he has produced a great country record for today (and yesterday, I guess), which again people will have trouble placing in a few years time. You gotta love a bit of C&W when it’s as good as this…

Highlight:

Incredibly Lonely

Favourite lyric:

“I’m blue as a bluebird with no song to sing, I’m like a little bitty tear lost in the falling rain.”

There’s little-bitty-teardrop-gloominess, then there’s the nameless, formless sense of unremitting gloom that James Blake somehow builds into his …er… songs (trying not to use the word “soundscapes”, here). If Avi Buffalo is all pushy, face in yours intensity, James Blake gives you so much space that you wonder if he’s wandered off at one point. Incredibly, moody, gothic pieces that make you stop what you’re doing…

Highpoint

Klavierwerke

Favourite lyric:

No lyrics, just muffled voices offstage, and an incredibly atmospheric 25-second period of silence punctuated by the occasional stifled groan. Talk about spooky…

A terrifically, atmospheric record that would be a great soundtrack for a Heart of Darkness- type story, with the viewer witnessing Kurtz’ last moments, disturbed and uncomprehending. Lots of effects draped exotically over deceptively simple surf-guitar or organ hooks. Another very creepy record.

Highlight:

Miarches

Favourite lyric:

“The horror! The horror!” (not really…)

Only recently realised this record is actually from this eyar. Completely unaware of Field Music’s output until they rolled up at the Guildhall this summer and martin gave me all their records as homework. As such I didn’t appreciate that Field Music (Measure) was the newest release. It’s a funky, awkward and dazzling record that showcases further the prodigious talents of the Brewis brothers. Surely these men are deserving of some sort of grant?

Highpoint:

Clear Water

Favourite lyric:

“Feeling the weight on us, I’d like to help you but I don’t know where to push, So much fight and no remission”

(Actually, it’s been a really good year for releases and I could easily have expanded the list to ten or fifteen, but rules is rules… Other terrific new releases that I loved for parts of the year included records by Dreamend, Mount Kimbie, the Cloud Nothings, Grass Widow, the Radar Brothers, Julian Lynch and Women. Close, but no tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco…)

Probably curse you out and unplug her phone…

Here’s something that keeps reappearing on my iPod…

Forest Swords

Forest Swords are actually one person, Mike Barnes from Cheshire making slow, atmospheric and always sad music that reminds me of the James Blake record I was writing about last month.

He’s just released Dagger Paths, (that’s a PP “just”, you understand, I think it’s been around for a couple of months on Emusic, at least) on Old English Spelling Bee (the same label that brought us that Julian Lynch record, another fine release in similar vein).

It’s a remarkable EP full of slow tempo rhythms, lots of reverb and stock in trade dub effects (always a winner…). Over this backdrop, harsher elements, such as jarring drum phrases and harsh guitar motifs, are grafted on with a disregard for context that is disconcerting. There are elements of spaghetti western and even surf guitar sounds drifting over the ether.

Over the top of all that, there are vocal samples that are distorted and twisted until they’re hard to recognise. I’m hardly an expert on US street sounds but I’m told that Aaliyah makes a few appearances. Certainly the strongest track on the record is a cover of the late RnB artist’s “If Your Girl Only Knew”, which transforms the easy sleazy appeal of the original into an entirely cheerless affair.

The whole record is full of such transformations and brims with exotic gloom. It’s compelling stuff…

There are a few downloads you can pick up from Pitchfork, amongst others, and OSB have a page on Vimeo that is worth visiting too…

Here’s one of their videos, for the first track from Dagger paths, “Miarches”:

A chill wind…

Klavierwerke

OK, so I feel bad about being gone so long.

Here’s something else I found in an idle emusic moment. Damn fine it is too…

About a month ago I made a post about dubstep act Mount Kimbie and, as a gentleman of a certain age, drew some good natured ribbing about it too. Fair enough. Well here we go again.

James Blake

James Blake is apparently something of a maverick figure on the, ahem, UK Grime scene, producing a number of exciting EPs in the past year or so, and has just made another release in the same vein, Klavierwerke.

It’s four tracks of glitchy, funkiness injected with a similar dose of spookiness that I enjoyed in the Burial records. Floating across, beneath and within his fidgety rhythms, are a series of disembodied, distorted voices, flitting in and out of cover like little spirits. Sometimes they disappear, to return later, sometimes everything stops…

There’s piano chords coming in and out too in similar fashion and the whole thing has quite an eerie feel to it. The cover is a weird affair too, with Blake (I presume) in some sort of blurred double exposure, which reminds me of the hallucinations Tim Robbins is plagued by in Jacob’s Ladder.

I remember reading in Wire magazine an interview with the feller behind the Burial records and being impressed by his suggestion that buildings, cities and thoroughfares can harbour echoes of the past that bounce undetected about the cityscape. And it’s easy to imagine the same inspiration behind the James Blake tracks. As I said there are a bunch of other EPs for me to study and I’m rather looking forward to doing so.

In the meantime…