in heavy rotation in our HQ.
They have never been a band who take the easy path, their music has always been made on their terms, often dark and uncompromising, though at the same time gentle and understated. Double Negative has the same qualities but is wrapped in a sonic cloud that makes it unlike anything else. Confusing, unsettling, deeply sad, it’s not an easy listen but few records have got so under my skin as this one does.
The mesmeric sounds swirl around, yet somehow remain locked in place by the thundering heartbeat that echoes through many of the tracks. It’s a remarkable record, close your eyes put your headphones on and enter another world.
Oh, and why does Mimi Parker always get overlooked when people talk about the great singers? Her vocals on Fly, push me to the brink of tears every-time.
The third studio full album from Beak (or fourth if you count their excellent soundtrack to “Couple in a Hole”) is to my ears their best record yet. It’s their first since Matt Willians left the band, though he does get a song writing credit on the beautiful closing track “When We Fall”. Geoff Barrow and Billy Fuller have obviously recruited brilliantly in the transfer market and new signing Will Young has helped to take the always interesting Beak, to another level.
The album gets off to a brilliant start with surging proggy opener “The Brazilian”. Quickly were into “Brean Down”, the pleading, desperate vocals carry a great melody, the tune keeps building and building to a suitably climactic finish. Then we go in a different direction again with the tender, mournful “Birthday Suit”, which carries echoes of the work of the composers of the minimalist era such as Glass and Reich. It’s an amazing start to a record.
Brilliantly, they manage to keep up the standard, there are so many great tracks here.From the extended work out of Allé Sauvage, which should surely be the soundtrack for come sci-fi tv series, to the short and sweet and very punchy “King Of The Castle” they don’t put a foot wrong. The album is packed full of great bass riffs and powerful, inventive drumming. It’s dangerous to assume that Billy and Geoff provide these as in the past their was often a fair bit of swapping around of instruments. What you can say for certain though, is that this is the work of a band that think and move with one mind. Billy, Geoff and Will are reaping the rewards of there heavy gigging schedule. One of the Albums of the year.
The second album from Idles carries on the good work that they started on their debut record “Brutalism”. It’s a swirling, belligerent, angry record, which also manages to be funny and catchy as well. Quite a trick to pull off.
It’s also a political record, a record for the turbulent self destructive times that we live. It covers big themes, celebrating the benefits of a multicultural society and pouring withering scorn on old fashioned ideas of masculinity.
This record is cut from a very different cloth to other ones I’ve mention so far. Although he’s been around a long time, only heard Michael Nau a few months ago, when this record was aBBC 6 Music album of the day. We were hooked and then fortunately he the band played a gig, here in Bristol a few months later - Boy, what a great night that was. He has an effortless way with melodies and a timeless quality to the songs. Many of them could have come from any time in the last 60 years.
Another new outfit to me, Steady Holiday is the work of Los Angeles based Dre Babinski. I love the oddly detached, yet beguiling songs and videos. I think of her as the musical equivalent of the books of Haruki Murakami. Strange things are often going on and there is a hint of noir menace, yet it’s delivered in such a deadpan way, that the emotion is completely stripped away. On one listen it sounds completely normal, a little flat maybe. Then you catch it when you are in a different mood and the otherworldly beauty surges over you and you are in her oddly parallel world.