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album review

ADULT. ****

Detroit House Guests (Mute)

In this day and age, song-based collaborations can be signed off with the click of a mouse from the other side of this planet. Adult. took a different route and invited collaborative guests to their Detroit studio for three weeks at a time. Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas J McCarthy adds his vocal menace to a couple of tracks, while other guests include Michael Gira from Swans and Light Asylum’s Shannon Funchess. The 12 tracks are immaculate slices of innovative and twisted electro. DN

BARDO POND ***

Under The Pines (Fire)

These insanely cool underground psychedelic dreamsludge Philadelphians have now existed for as long as The Rolling Stones had circa 1990, and have probably necked almost as many drugs. They don’t sound a day older than when their combo of somnambulant fuzz guitar, meandering flute and Isobel Sollenberger’s wailing vocals first hit the scene, either, although the six songs on Under The Pines aren’t quite as heavy and churning as days of yore. Not one of their classics, but Bardo Pond can still hit pleasure points. NG

CRAIG FINN ***

We All Want The Same Things (Partisan)

In the absence of Craig Finn’s main band, The Hold Steady – they still exist, but their last album was over three years ago – the frontman’s third solo album should partway scratch fans’ itch for rollicking punky Springsteenisms and evocative storytelling. We All Want The Same Things is steeped in nostalgia: Preludes, the first song to emerge ahead of release, was described by Finn as “what I remember 1994 being like,” and God In Chicago spins a spoken-word reminiscence over languid piano pop. NG

album review

DEPECHE MODE ****

Spirit (Columbia)

Depeche Mode are clearly troubled by the changes that are currently happening globally. Spirit touches on the shockwave of anxiety and anger that can be felt worldwide: Backwards, Where’s The Revolution and Poorman are apt. Spirit’s multi-layered sound has a similar sonic attack to John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 score meeting Boom Boom via The Message. Arctic Monkeys and Florence + The Machine producer James Ford has helped the Mode make an album that will definitely rank amongst their best. DN

DIRTY PROJECTORS ****

Dirty Projectors (Domino)

Church bells toll, mournfully morphing into the downbeat opening lines of Dirty Projectors’ eighth album: “I don’t know why you abandoned me, you were my soul and my partner…”, setting the tone on a record indelibly marked by the breakup of main-man David Longstreth from longtime bandmate, Amber Coffman. Cutting through the post-relationship fug, however, Longstreth demonstrates his undeniable talent for writing higher-level hooks: Death Spiral could be a cut from Justin Timberlake’s debut, with flashes of flamenco guitar, grinding synth and falsetto vocals. HR

album review

GOLD *****

Optimist (Ván)

You Too Must Die starts the third Gold album as it means to go on – dark and foreboding. The vocals may be gentle but the music escalates like a threatening storm. The Dutch experimental post-rockers know exactly how to create mood and atmosphere. Bass, drums and guitars work together seamlessly. Some songs, such as I Do My Own Stunts, are lighter than others but the heavy bass line runs through each track like a lifeline. LN

GRANDADDY *****

Last Place (30th Century)

It’s been 11 years since Grandaddy released Just Like The Fambly Cat, but at last year’s Green Man festival, new tracks and the promise of a new LP featured in a set that was one of the weekend’s highlights. Opening track Way We Won’t would be at home on The Sophtware Slump, and is Grandaddy at their most joyful. Jason Lytle’s lyrics display their characteristic cadence, equal parts bleak and heartwarming with a sonic patchwork quilt of instrumentation. One of the good things to happen in 2017. GT

HAUSCHKA ***

What If (City Slang)

What If is Hauschka’s rumination on how the world may look in 30 years. Based on some of the uneasy listening within it, I can only speculate that Bertlemann has imagined a world where Bieber is the prez, the Police Academy franchise is classic cinema and Kinder Buenos are banned. Familiar… and We Live are rich compositions, but much like the Brexit debate, the background noise can become a bit of a circus and the variations on the same old tune appear designed to be a tad irritating. CS

IDLES ****

Brutalism (Balley)

Take the sociopolitical rantings of Sleaford Mods, the drive and energy of Slaves, give it a less minimalist feel with crashing guitars and pulsating drums and you get this ferocious debut from Bristol’s Idles. Aggressively tearing through topics such as the NHS, working class struggles and pop culture, this politically charged, adrenaline-fuelled post-punk riot is so infectiously bitter you’ll want to go straight outside and slap a Tory, or possibly Mary Berry after listening to Well Done. GT

JAZZANOVA ****

The Remixes 2006-2016 (Sonar Kollektiv)

The German DJ/producer collective serve up another batch of nu and house jazz remixes from various artists. Cool but with dashes of funk and soul thrown in, Jazzanova definitely improved so-so songs by Malika Ayane and Furry Phreaks by 100%. Choice selections made more upbeat include Ordinary Guy, Skybreaks and Parallels, even if the originals have a certain something that sets them apart. Forgotten gem Naze has gone from jazz/folk to electro, and kudos for taking on Hugh Masekela’s iconic Stimela. RLR

JUTE GYTE ****

The Sparrow (X-Ray)

Jute Gyte is an American musician called Adam who self-produces, and mostly self-releases, albums of experimental, microtonal black metal and creepy ambient electronics at a prolific rate. The Sparrow is the first to be issued on vinyl and comprises two side-length tracks: a blurry, blackened symphony of tremolo-flecked industrial brutalism (The Sparrow) and tectonically shifting ambient guitar that builds in disorienting layers (Monadanom). Not one for BM purists, Jute Gyte is more akin to, say, Glenn Branca and most intriguing for that. NG

album review

KARRIEM RIGGINS ****
Headnod Suite (Stones Throw)

The second offering from influential drummer/hip hop producer Riggins is flush with fleeting instrumentals, akin to contemporaries such as the late J Dilla. These ditties don’t make a lot of sense on their own, but if you experience the record as one, you’ll doubtless appreciate the journey it takes you on. The fact that each track is so short is highly provocative, allowing just enough time to appreciate the nuances of each groove before swiftly moving on. Proof that the album concept still works. CPI

LAURA MARLING ****

Sempa Femina (More Alarming)

It was her project exploring feminine creativity that inspired me to give Laura Marling some attention. Drawing on Laura’s experience of the lack of female engineers, she started looking at why this was. (There’s a series of podcasts on the theme; the final one, a conversation between Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris is a joy – seek it.) Her sixth album is an ode to females, an empathetic exploration of gender and sexuality with a rich, fingerpicking guitar sound meets off-kilter pop. GT

LEWIS WATSON *****

Midnight (Cooking Vinyl)

Oxford’s Lewis Watson doesn’t have to try too hard to please. His voice is effortless and his music isn’t in any hurry. Midnight is a collection of songs that are relaxing and full of emotion; even when he sings about love his lyrics are intelligent. Stand out track is the heart-felt When The Water Meets the Mountains but the single, Little Light, has a catchy riff and deserves airplay. In a world full of trite and stress, Lewis is a much-needed antidote. LN

THE PIGEON DETECTIVES ***

Broken Glances (Dance To The Radio)

Don’t go into this album expecting another catchy singalong collection from The Pigeon Detectives: Broken Glances is an eclectic collection of melodic sounds and soft echoing synths. Lyrics are dark and touching in places, transporting the listener into their world. Opening track Wolves is aggressive and brooding, filled with pain and angst. Enemy Lines probably most resembles The Pigeon Detectives we are familiar with, whereas Falling In Love is beautifully arranged, understated and haunting. DC

album review

THE RESIDENTS ****

The Ghost Of Hope (Cryptic)

Little bit of politics, folks? Sorry if the title led you to assume that, but nope – this latest album by clandestine pop conceptualists The Residents sets grim tales of old time train disasters to music. Music which is uncomfortably jaunty, electronics and ersatz-sounding brass lending a vaudeville feel (The Great Circus Train Wreck Of 1918 is especially Tom Waitsian) to lyrical nuggets of spilled brains and blackened corpses. These guys, lineup alterations notwithstanding, have been at it for 45 years and are yet to lose their hardcore. NG

SHERWOOD & PINCH ***

Man Vs. Sofa (On-U Sound/Tectonic)

Second album of machine unease from, respectively, longstanding On-U producer/avatar Adrian and Bristolian dub pup Rob Ellis. Man Vs. Sofa menaces gently, 40 minutes of stark bass music that’s sweatily claustrophobic but – bar the nervy, niggling Itchy Face and Gun Law’s rambling skank – oddly mannered. Highlights: a refracted, dreamy cover of Sakamoto’s Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence theme, while Martin Duffy’s piano splashes lend colour sparingly, most notably on the elegaic, Lee Perry-featuring Lies. WS

SPOON ****
Hot Thoughts (Matador)

Spoon are undeniably consistent when it comes to solid song writing. The Austin, TX outfit’s ninth long-player doesn’t reach the heady heights of their early 2000s material (Girls Can Tell thru Gimme Fiction are almost faultless) this slice of blues-influenced art-rock sees Britt Daniel and co returning to awesome form. The only hiccup on this record is Pink Up; a rambling, largely-instrumental jam which is thankfully sandwiched by plenty of stormers which will allow you to forget about it pretty quickly. BG

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TRAGEDY ***

The Joy Of Sex (Beauty Rock)

Described as an “all-metal tribute to the Bee Gees and beyond,” this Tragedy album is as wacky as it sounds. After the internet success of the parody video to Grease hit You’re The One That I Want, Tragedy have released this collection of 11 new flamboyant covers including Stayin’ Alive, Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? and Never Gonna Give You Up. Doesn’t sound like it would work, but somehow it does; hard riffs and screaming vocals mixed with pop and disco gold can’t help but make you smile. DC

WIRE **
Silver/Lead (Pinkflag)

Both the most influential and the best band to emerge from the punk era? Arguably so – but Wire aren’t ones to rest on their laurels, always more interested in moving forwards than looking back. Sadly, the legends’ 15th LP Silver/Lead, the swift successor to 2016’s stealthily impressive Nocturnal Koreans, is drearily workmanlike, plodding and non-essential – opening salvo Playing Harp For The Fishes and Short Elevated Period aside. A painfully pale shadow of former glories, I’m sorry to say. BW

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