A quality list of music listened to this month including Big Monster, the belated debut album from Baobinga & I.D., In Ghost Colours, the sophomore effort from Australian electro-songsmiths Cut Copy, third artist album The Sun & The Neon Light from Booka Shade, number 40 in the FabricLive series from Dutch drum-and-bass noiseniks Noisia, Songs on the Rocks an electro-Tom-Waits-inspired album from Noze, a double Fabric Podcast from influential dub-dude Don Letts and yet another release from the ubiquitous BPitch Control boss Ellen Allien, with her fourth album Sool.
Baobinga & I.D. - Big Monster
Held back from the original release date of December 2007 I almost forgot about this album and was luckily "reminded" via my Amazon Recommendations! Good job too because this debut album from the UK-based duo Baobinga & I.D. (Sam Simpson and Ed Bayling) is a well-accomplished collection of breakbeat tunes which lend themselves very well to a decent stint of head-nodding. I think it's interesting to note that both Sam and Ed were once drummers in indie bands.
Considering that a few tracks must be over two years old, it's still a very fresh-sounding listen. From atmospheric opener Carve Your Name to the first beats of second track Recognise you can tell straight away it's been well-produced. And after a few listens the great sequencing becomes apparent, with the perfect balance of throbbing, beat-driven numbers like Like An Arrow and Rite Of Passage and trancey numbers like South Manchester Weather and The Waterpark. Some vocal variation comes in the form of Jump Up Get Hype featuring Virus Syndicate. Top track: Jewelz.
11 listens | 9/10
Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
The House of Love for today.
Eighties-sounding synths, vocodered pop choruses and summery acoustic guitars all mashed together using today's electro production techniques: it's what I'd describe as the recipe for the perfect pop album in 2008. I defy anyone to say Out There On The Ice doesn't sound a tiny bit like Guy Chadwick. Just check out the echoey background vocals on Lights And Music for further evidence (if it's still required).
Like Big Monster (above) the sequencing contributes enormously to the album. I imagine that instrumental numbers like We Fight For Diamonds and Voices In Quartz may have been composed specifically to help stitch together the main tracks. And with this in mind you can hear how most tracks have been embellished with layers of sounds in the lead-ins and lead-outs, making it more like a mix album. As a result there's not so many stand-out pop tunes, although I am rather keen on the bass vocals on Strangers In The Wind.
23 listens | 10/10
Booka Shade - The Sun & The Neon Light
Dark, orchestral and moody music for the maturer listener.
Booka Shade (Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier) have developed immensely with their third album The Sun & The Neon Light. At once more brooding and downtempo compared with first two albums Memento and Movements the introduction of vocal-led tracks like Control Me hint at their desire to reposition themselves to a maturer listener. And while all these "new" song-based numbers work very well, it's the balance with dark instrumentals that proves to be the key to success.
The distinctive basslines of old remain throughout including the vocal numbers like Control Me and Charlotte, the former sporting a particular pleasant eighties sound. The mix of guitars and electronic instrumentation on tracks like Solo City and Comacabana prove, unexpectedly, to be anything but easy-listening. Overall a challenging album.
NB. If the Booka Shade of old was more to your taste then luckily they chose to release an extra album of instrumental remixes.
14 listens | 8/10
Noisia - Fabriclive
Raucous, fast and furious drum'n'bass mix.
Noisia (Nik Roos, Martijn van Sonderen and Thijs de Vlieger) are a fairly new act to me but by the looks of things they've been kicking up a stink in the drum'n'bass scene for a while. This Fabriclive mix includes several of their own tracks including the excellent Diploducus (Dub) and Split The Atom (Instrumental), the former of which you can hear on their MySpace page. Don't be mislead by the inclusion of Moby's Alice as this is a dark, intense and (sometimes) unforgiving mix which takes a bit of effort to fully appreciate, but perseverance will pay dividends in the end.
9 listens | 8/10
Noze - Songs on the Rocks
Tom Waits goes electro.
A fun and serious album from French duo Noze (Nicolas Sfintescu and Ezechiel Pailhes). Crammed with catchy pop numbers like Waits-inspired opener L'Inconnu Du Placard and upbeat Little Bug with it's ragtime piano beats accompanied by horns and clarinet, it's the perfect soundtrack for the summer.
Highlights include the wonderful Dani Siciliano vocal-led Danse Avec Moi (a real love song) and Remember Love, with it's insistent piano riff. I really love this album.
7 listens | 10/10
Don Letts - Fabric Podcast
An introduction to dub from Dub Master Don.
Where these Fabric Podcasts really work is when they get a really charistmatic, forward-thinking and important dude like Don Letts in to share his musical knowledge and tastes with us. As he says himself:
I'm about bass, the history and legacy of Jamaican culture
I'm not a big dub expert but I'd say these two 45 minute sets would be a great introduction for anyone just dipping their toes into dub. Included in the sets are Zion Train, Aldo Vanucci, The Dynamics, Mungos Hi Fi, Marcia Griffiths, Mad Lions and Johnny Osbourne. Essential listening.
5 listens | 10/10
Ellen Allien - Sool
Return to minimal.
Sool, the fourth solo album from Ellen Allien, sees a move away from her previous poppier output like Berlinette and Thrills (and her collaboration with Apparat on Orchestra of Bubbles). So what's changed? The songwriting.
Sool is another planet, far away, where Ellen Allien wants to escape to. Sool is peace and love, energy and light. Well, that's what shge says on the album sleeve. I'd say it's introspective, barren and thoughtful music; not chill-out and not easy-listening... just atmospheric! And with such bare naked music it opens up the way for real scrutiny; the instrumentation, the song structures and the relationship between tracks becomes the focus. The melodies stand out stronger as a result.
Standout tracks include Elphine with it's subtle whistling and Zauber with it's graceful clarinet refrain. It really is minimal music, and I like it a lot.
11 listens | 9/10
Other stuff I've been listening to
I've been enjoying my The House of Love best of compilation greatly.