DARKSIDE – PSYCHIC MATADOR/OTHER PEOPLE
NEW York electronica supremo, enfant terrible Nicolas Jaar and partner is sonic crime guitarist Dave Harrington have delivered on what may be the most pristine, out there synth space rock album since the krautrock boys Can hung up their studio headphones for the last time in 1979. At only 23 Jaar is something of an enigma in the music world, an electronic artist, producer and visionary creator of 2011’s excellent ‘Space is Only Noise’ and presided over a diverse offering of remixes from Cat Power to Grizzly Bear, Nina Simone to Brian Eno, bagged the 2012 Essential Mix of the year and delivered a particularly imaginative (and at times more cohesive) reworking of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories LP. What makes Jaar so compelling and Psychic such a masterstroke is the scope of his intention with this latest offering.
From the epic opening moments of the 11-minute ‘Golden Arrow’ with its heartbeat bass pulse grounding distant whirring synths and drone reverb dropping into a shuffling stoner disco beat after four minutes of tension building weirdness to the cinematic deliverance of a slouching Leone inspired ‘The Only Shrine I’ve Seen’ and the sonic sub bass assault and haunting lyrics of ‘Freak, Go Home’ this is a record that is on first listen distancing but on subsequent re-visits proves to be an ambitiously layered and rewarding experience.
The best is saved for last with the slavering funk overtones of the closing track ‘Metatron’ climaxing in a crescendo of feedback before crashing into silence and rebuilding with a hauntingly ominous vocal sample that Mike Oldfield himself could well have scored. As seductive and challenging as Psychic is it will not find a fan base in commercial waters, and it may well serve to isolate part time fans of Jaar’s more accessible work, to some this may just be the key selling point of Psychic.
THE STEPKIDS – TROUBADOUR – STONES THROW
Connecticut funk-soul revivalists The Stepkids have been causing a bit of a stir of late since their first self-titled release back in 2011. Champions of the emerging folk, neo soul sounds of the sixties mixed with more than a smattering of psychedelic and even classical overtones ‘Troubadour’ is the sort of joyous left-of-centre album
only Stones Throw label master Peanut Butter Wolf
Alongside West Coast Odd Future luminaries such as The Internet and the Jet Age of Tomorrow The Stepkids have slowly found their groove not so much in throwback kitsch funk but in redefining a feel good vintage vibe that their label brethren Mayer Hawthorne and James Pants have been championing for the last few years.
Troubadour as a whole comes off as a potent pop record that, despite some utterly horrendous lyrical missteps fires on all cylinders from start to finish with only the title track from the album being the weakest link. White boy soul such as this doesn’t tend to come around too often and for the large part Troubadour sounds like a highly adventurous romp through jazz fuelled melodies, lingering instrumentals and lo-fi funk magic so utterly enthralling it’s hard not to smile.
THE INTERNET – FEEL GOOD – ODD FUTURE
FOLLOWING on with their sophomore offering after 2011’s patchy Purple Naked Ladies, The Internet return with a cool and appropriately titled album Feel Good. Lyrist Syd tha Kid and producer Matt Martians have delivered with an edgy and downright funky second act that sounds a lot more together than PNL and has dropped the angst ridden vibe for a cooler, better defined yet still experimental direction.
Produced by part time Erykah Badu bassist Thundercat (with two albums in his own right worth checking) and Chad Hugo of the Neptunes fame this is fringe electronic soul come jazz meets hip-hop at it’s finest. All eleven tracks have the vibe of an open jam session without entering noodling jazz territory. Highlights are ‘Sunset’ and the single ‘Dontcha’ whilst the real gem ‘Cloud of our Own’ hits half way through with a freeform jazz drumming that elevates a seductively repetitive chorus line before switching into instrumental hip hop and fading out gradually after seven minutes.
Feel Good feels like The Internet have grown up in the space of the last two years and is a slice of new wave soul that will no doubt be on a few tastemaker’s top ten album lists come the close of 2013.
POLICA – SHULAMITH – MEMPHIS
Named after a radical Canadian feminist (and a deriritive for peace in Hebrew) is a big call for Minneapolis synth powerhouse Polica still only a year old after their 2012 self-titled debut, but this is a band that takes no prisoners and the ferocity of this follow up album leaves little question that Polica intend to be around for quite a while.
The double tracked looping percussion and heavily tinged vocoder effects on the vocals of lead singer Channy Leaneagh make a welcome return this time layered over a darker more dynamic percussive production. From the opening bars of ‘Smug’ with its lyrical send off to a cheating lover to the grinding powerhouse eighties riffs of ‘Tiff’ – the standout track on the album – we get the full trademark Polica aural assault every step of the way.
Shulamith doesn’t carry the impact that their first release had but doesn’t falter as so many follow up albums tend to. If you’re into the first Polica album then this is a no brainer, for newcomers that like the sound of Grimes, La Roux, Beth Gibbons and indeed anything synth driven from the eighties then welcome to the Polica party.