Dntel — ‘Life Is Full of Possibilities’

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The 2001 debut full-length by Jimmy Tamborello on the Plug Research label was in some ways ahead of its time. Nowadays one person-fronted lofi indietronica– with occasionally added, barely there female guest vocals over moody, quirkily eclectic experimentation– is a dime a dozen, and, quite frankly, a bit boring. But fifteen years ago this was all a little more intriguing and original. There are also some magical moments on here; Anywhere Anyone’s David Lynch-esque, aloof ambient pop, for instance, or the broken-dream, bleepy medications of Suddenly is Sooner Than You Think. Featuring contribs. from Brian McMahan, Rachel Haden and Ben Gibbard maybe the disc has a low-key show-offy feel to it, but the sounds found here, if not always on-point, do at least continue to sound otherworldly and mysterious: it all really does come across like a strange dream. A disc worth culling from that next bunch you’re thinking of handing into the care-in-the-community.

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The House of Love — ‘Babe Rainbow’

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House of Love’s third LP– unofficially known as ‘Babe Rainbow’– is, unfortunately, the most forgotten gem in their canon; not helped by being found missing from any household music streaming company. This could be something to do with it being the first of their albums post chief guitarist Terry Bickers (Simon Walker replacing him): like someone is trying to wipe the record from history. A real shame because this remains as much as fresh and fantastic rock-pop album today as upon release back in 1992. The wonderful David Quantick wrote at the time that the disc “finds the House of Love entering the mainstream with their post-punk English alternative sensibilities intact”. You Don’t Understand is a rollicking, rolling powerhouse, lyrically built around issues of green and greed, while, on the other side of the scale, Girl With the Loneliest Eyes is a shimmering, impossible-chord tear-jerker. Elsewhere, the group sound wonderfully and naturally, cool-as-fuck languid during the awestruck Crush Me, and on the almost psych-funk epic Cruel (check out that masterful, confident guitar break towards the track’s end). Frontman Guy Chadwick, meanwhile, gets up close and personal during the stripped-back, heart crushing Fade Away, and there’s more…. An unappreciated classic that’s worthy of both a reappraisal and reissue.

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LISTEN: Dub techno pioneers Porter Ricks release new EP ‘Shadow Boat’

Dub techno duo Andy Mellwig and Thomas Köner AKA  Porter Ricks last week released their first new material in some 17 years, the three-rack EP ‘Shadow Boat’. The mighty techno imprint Tresor have done us a favour in releasing it, and you can listen to previews of the record below. Pitchfork describe the release  as “conjuring whole worlds out of little more than crackle and echo”, while Resident Advisor go for “head-nodding rhythms and plunder phonic sound”.

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2016: Top 10 Albums Of The Year

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Surgeon — ‘From Farthest Known Objects’

Anthony Child sidesteps the heavy, club-laden 4/4 for something more altogether spacetime continuum; a sort of elasticized, future-funk repetition. Says the producer: “The music I could hear was actually the received transmissions of Pop Hits from those Distant Galaxies that were being played on their radio stations. I quickly recorded all that I could before losing the transmission.” There’s also something almost in-jokery– in an almost Autechre-esque style– to the album’s shadowy contours and track titles.

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Radiohead — ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’

In some ways a low-key release, this record turned out to be the group’s most consistent LP in many a year. The subtle experimentation and electronic touches seem more coherent and organic when compared to the overrated ‘Kid A’; while the textures, from the ghostly, drifting choirs to the blowing bells and dusty, Hecker-like piano, somehow feel strangely distant and a little off-tack. The genius is how it all comes together in a consistent manner: a hotchpotch of ideas never sounded this complete.

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Factory Floor — ’25 25′

Factory Floor return with a much improved, tighter sound. ’25 25′ is supremely locked-in, handsomely robotic, possibly even extra instinctive and diligent: retro and futurist; fresh and familiar. Motoring-along programmed beats, precise, playful hi-hats, sharp synth-funk, impenetrable vocals meaning nothing and everything: it’s all here, and it all sounds rather meticulously planned. And yet the record is at no point neither too clean, nor anything remotely approaching homogenous.

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Huerco S. — ‘For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)’

A long, awkward title that’s a nuisance to type up, but this is where the frustration ends. ‘For Those of You…’ is curiously lovely; half awake, half dreaming ambient music that is impossible to skip any moments of. The music captivates the imagination, freshens the soul. A Sea of Love is typical in the way it slowly reveals, blurred but beautiful pictures emerge like strange flashbacks to childhood that seem fresh in the memory and yet impaired and impossible to grasp. Not all modern ambient records are worthy of your attention (there are many well constructed but positively boring, heard-it-before albums out there), but ‘For Those of you…’ is certainly a semi masterpiece in strange and intriguing beauty, that will never dull how many times one hears it. Softly gripping.

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Ansome — ‘Stowaway’

If you thought Perc’s own semi opus of a couple of years ago, ‘The Power & the Glory’ was bloody heavy, this record– on his PercTrax imprint– is even harder and grubbier. Track titles such as Blackwater, Black Alley Sally, and The Pain Train (yikes!) also obvious pointers to how this beast sounds. From stop-start industrial clangs and tightly pulled grime to what sounds like hard-nosed techno on a runaway horror train, this is about as dark, non compromising a techno record released this year. And as techno music becomes an increasingly safe, cartel-of-interest money-making commodity made on a laptop by beautiful people based in Berlin, this album was just what the, err, doctor ordered; giving the scene a touch of much-needed bit of roughing up.

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Plaid — ‘The Digging Remedy’

Warp Records perennials Andy Turner and Ed Handley’s Plaid project now onto their eighth studio LP. This is the Plaid we have come to know and love, but equally with a pinch or two of new ideas. The record is skilfully crafted, lots of mysteriously positioned, serpentine moods, and more of those strangely warm, if slightly off-kilter, melodies. There’s a lively flute on Lambswood, and glistening glockenspiel and pared guitar on Wen. Do Matter, meanwhile, is a broodingly assembled few minutes of  floating electronic post-rock, The Bee a bouncy, quirky electro-rock shindig, and Melifer a crisp and curious, bob-along gem. Keep digging, lads.

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Autechre — ‘elseq 1’

Five cuts clocking in at around 50 minutes, ‘elseq 1’ is another exhaustive and generally hard-edged set of Autechre tracks, bringing sinister-factory and unbalanced electronica to the masses in true hard-to-decipher, but pleasurable, non compromising form: drunken, befuddled; like a riot going off in your head.

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Bitori — ‘Legend of Funana’

Dating back to the time of Portuguese colonialism funaná is the name of the Cape Verdean based music that celebrates that land’s unique music style and culture, while helping to vanquish any dispirited moods. Awarded a special reissue via the Analog Africa label, ‘Legend of Funaná’ was recorded in Amsterdam, and puts these celebrated, joyful tunes together on one recommended disc. Funaná is noted for its decorated, uplifting folksy strains and simple-code rootsy rhythms. Accordion and ferrinho are permanent fixtures here; the identifiable music creating near constant foundations around which the rest of  is built. Bet it sounds great live.

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Mark Pritchard — ‘Under The Sun’

Perfect for cherry-picking, this LP. Pritchard has tried his hand at almost every electronic genre you can think of, but for the most part he sticks to sweeping, slow-building ambience and electro-folk dreaminess over the course of these 16 tracks (possibly too many, leading to a bit of inconsistency and indulgence here and there). The vocal addled tunes are arguably the album’s less interesting, and a chunk of the disc admittedly drifts by, requiring an almost mediation technique form of listening. But Cycles of Nine’s pastel-coloured, circler prettiness, the modest, science fiction cinematic analogue of Rebel Angels, and the amazing, 8-minute long Ems, which sounds like it was created by individuals not of this planet, all help make the album worthy of this list. The year’s best album artwork, though.

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Underworld — ‘Barbara Barbara We face A Shining Future’

Nineties techno heroes return with their most crucial album in two decades. ‘Barbara Barbara We Face A Shining Future’ is beautifully positive in difficult times: from its Fall like opener I Exhale, to the pushing hypnagogia of Low Burn, it would be a shame if this album was overlooked. There is hope.

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Squarepusher — ‘Ultravisitor’

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Described by Pitchfork as the only Squarepusher album you need to own (nonsense, but one still sees their point) the eclectic, sometimes live jamming ‘Ultravisitor’ shows Tom Jenkinson as an artist in his ultimate composer form (portrait on the cover too). Jenkinson himself says the record “is unknowable, and will never be understood by anybody, least of all its creator.” Intriguing words indeed. Check out, for example, C-Town Smash, and listen to the crowd shout and cheer in equal appreciation as they are almost bewildered. From the fuckup drill & bass noise of Steinbolt and District Line II, to Andrei’s calming, electro-classical moment– that seems perfect for a countryside stroll– this is one positive, if seemingly made-on-the-hoof, disc. The album also provides, for its bargain, cold-level industrial hip-hop futurism by way of 50 Cycles, I Fulcrum’s jazzy ambient breakdowns, and the beautiful Lambic 9 Poetry, a track that sounds as restful as it is about to lose control at any moment.

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Sebadoh — ‘Bakesale’

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In the autumn of 1994 Sebadoh released their fourth LP ‘Bakesale’– possibly the album that many had predicted would see the group gain some extra-level commercial success, at least on a par with frontman Lou barrow’s previous band Dinosaur Jr. Released via Domino in the Uk and Ireland and Sub-Pop in the U.S., the album involved Lou on guitar, Jason Lowenstein on bass, and Bob Fay doin’ the drums. Anne Slinn contributed vocals on several of the tracks, Eric Gaffney drums on three, while Tara Jane O’Neil took over on drums for a couple of the songs. The album was recorded mostly at the famous Fort Apache studio in New England, with a few of the tracks recorded in Chicago by Bob Weston. Not Too Amused and Not A Friend has the group spoiling us by putting these in as tracks 4 and 5– a wonderful double-dip. Both have a despondent but melancholic appeal; sparse, live-sounding appeal that sounds similar to Wedding present’s ‘Seamonsters’ album. Rebound, and Get It, by comparison, are rockier, filled with three-chord punk-pop verve, while the post hardcore skater punk of Drama Mine adds to the typical eclecticism of the record.

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Happy Creeps: it’s the near ultimate Hallowe’en playlist

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Everybody else is making a Halloween playlist, so why can’t we? I’ve imaginatively chosen two tracks called, simply, ‘Halloween’, with the other tracks chosen made up of words such as ‘devil’, ‘blood’, ‘witch’ and  ‘creep’. But, what is most interesting is that more or less all of the, err, cuts chosen– especially when coming together on one big and brilliant playlist– have a very Hallowe’en type sound and atmosphere to them. Go me. And you too for listening. Creep out, folks!

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