THIS WEEK’S NEW ALBUMS REVIEWED | FEATURE
We Are An Island, But We’re Not Alone (Glitterbeat)
The photo on the cover, of a fella sitting in the back of an abandoned saloon car with a few microphones placed in front of him, isn’t a pose: it’s how this album was recorded. The fella is called Mmadi, he’s holding a string instrument called the ndzendze, and ducking under a rusted-out roof meant he could perform his lithe, moving folk songs without being whipped by the east African coastal winds.
No such luxury – as he relates in the sleevenotes – for mic arranger Ian Brennan. We Are An Island… is the latest in his Hidden Musics series, which sees him travel the world to tape live’n’direct albums by hitherto unrecorded communities. Comorian isn’t a group or artist name, exactly, more a simple acknowledgement of this being the music of the Comoro Islands, found between Madagascar and Mozambique.
The songs by Mmadi and his two co-performers, Soubi and D. Alimzé, range from sweetly melodic harpsichord-type tinkling to more upfront strumming, an improvised feel apparent in certain clustery rushes of chord-picking. Vocals, too, can be powerfully evocative with sustained notes, or excitingly bizarre-sounding, as in the mushmouthed rant of opening number Please Protect My Newborn Child From The Spirits.
words NOEL GARDNER
Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy (Rocket)
In their various incarnations, iterations and configurations, Gnod [pictured, top] have been blowing minds and amps since 2006. Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy harks back to those early days, gathering together material from before they were the house band at the Islington Mill in their native Salford or had begun their occasional forays into electronic territory.
In the words of sometime member Alex Macarte, quoted in Harry Sword’s superlative history of drone Monolithic Undertow, Gnod’s specialism is “essentially trance music”. That much is amply exemplified here in the form of everything from mantric Eastern grooves (Elka and Frostbitten, which bookend the album) to impeccably relentless Stooges vs Can psych rock (Inner Z and They Live), lumbering, frazzled doom (5th Sun) and total, uncompromising, far-out headfuckery (both parts of Deadbeatdisco!!!).
Shrouded in joss-stick smoke and speaker steam, simultaneously minimalist and maximalist, Gnod’ll take your face to another dimension. Pay close attention – if you weren’t doing so already.
words BEN WOOLHEAD
In the increasingly expansive sonic world of metal quartet Gojira, their last album Magma still seemed like a major leap forward in the melodic stakes – forgoing some of their more brutal tendencies in favour of hooks and actual singing at times, earning the group many new fans in the process. New album Fortitude continues down this path of intense and precise metal leavened by lighter, catchier elements.
Away from the more straightforward, if no less impressive, numbers, curveballs abound: from the jew’s harp intro and interludes of Amazonia to The Chant, a self-described “healing ritual” contrasting breathy and sweet “aahs” of its chorus with the precise martial grooves of each verse putting one in mind of NY alt-metal heroes Helmet. Despite having mixed the album mid-pandemic the overall tone of the album is undeniably euphoric; a positive tonic to much of the doom-mongering about these days.
words ADAM JONES
Divine Invasions (Bubblewrap)
It’s always good to hear innovative sounds from someone who is making new roads in music, and though Divine Invasions is in fact the second album from Cardiff duo Ritual Cloak, it’s a great achievement.
I can’t even begin to tell you quite how much this 10-song LP has affected me; its sonic mixture of ambient prettiness, melancholy electronica, pumping bass-driven dancefloor fodder and an anthemic indie backbone adds up to pure, exhilarating joy. If that sounds overblown, I’m only being honest! Take Valis, a mesmerising concoction of blissed-out vocals and shimmering dreampop sound; like High Teens Low Twenties and many more, a tune to get lost in.
Thank you Ritual Cloak – Andrew Sanders and Daniel Barnett, to be formal – and thank you Bubblewrap Records for yet another fine release.
words JUSTIN EVANS
Bright Green Field (Warp)
In a landscape short of innovation and fresh ideas, Brighton’s Squid stand out like the verdant pasture of their debut album’s title. Contemporary UK indie rock is in a strange place: there’s more acts plying their trade than ever, however few possess any progressive or future-minded sonic qualities. Bright Green Field understands this malaise, and annihilates it in a vibrant burst of colour.
Vocalist Ollie Judge has cited the works of theorist Mark Fisher as an influence on the album, which goes some way to explaining its relentless and determined singularity. Fisher was severely concerned with the lack of cultural innovation that has characterised the neoliberal era, and Squid, along with peers Black Midi and Black Country, New Road, appear to be part of a new wave of bands determined to shake off this stifling cultural stagnation.
Bright Green Field’s lack of formal familiarity is truly refreshing. From the wild, untamed structures of Narrator and Boy Racers to the surprising and eclectic influences (check out the bossa nova rhythms of 2010), Squid’s debut possesses an all too rare quality in modern indie music; it sounds genuinely, excitingly new.
words TOM MORGAN