Albums round-up - June 2014

Albums round-up - June 2014

Hyperdub's Kode9 / Photo: Maximilian Montgomery

New releases from How to Dress Well, Drcarlsonalbion, Phantogram, How to Swim, Bad Aura, Julie Byrne and Martyn

How to Dress WellWhat Is This Heart?

(Weird World) ●●●
A third serving of intimate, largely downbeat, so-called ‘indie’ R&B from Tom Krell, whose yearning tenor set against a minimal, manicured electronic backdrop bears comparison with a less lascivious the Weeknd. ‘What Is This Heart?’ thoughtfully measures out Krell’s hopes and fears – ‘take me in your arms and tell me in the future we’ll be home and free,’ he beseeches – while also throwing in commercial pop sweeteners ‘Repeat Pleasure’ and ‘Very Best Friend’. (Fiona Shepherd)


(Daymare) ●●
Earth mainman Dylan Carlson presents 24 short instrumental tracks of economical, sonorous guitar twang and clang, accompanied only by the occasional stroke of the cymbals, to soundtrack a German western about prospectors in Canada. Gold falls somewhere between Ry Cooder’s parched blues and Jonny Greenwood’s unsettling score for There Will Be Blood, and is probably best experienced within the context of the film for which it was written. (FS)


(Island) ●●
The nation’s trendy coffee chains are spoiled for a choice of background music these days, with everyone from Coldplay to Daughter getting in on the blandly sophisticated electro pop act. Barring Sarah Barthel’s sultry vocals, Brooklyn duo Phantogram have little to distinguish themselves from the pack, just more mediocre melodies set to a terribly modish backing flecked with dreamy distorted guitars, tasteful hints of R&B and glitchy inflections. More of a flat white than an eye-popping espresso. (FS)

How to SwimNiagarama

(Personal Hygiene Recordings) ●●●
Breezy big band How to Swim have settled on a more focused six-piece iteration for this concept album about ‘the loss of youth and how we process it’ – with a blend of wistfulness and wit worthy of Paul Heaton, it would appear, and the group’s customary characterful arrangements. Strings, brass and woodwind are all confidently deployed in the service of whimsical, bubbly and slightly eccentric songs such as the unexpected funky and forceful crooner ‘Long Division’. (FS)

Various Artists – Hyperdub 10.1

(Hyperdub) ●●●●●
Prepare to be overjoyed by this ten-year celebration / retrospective of Kode9’s electronic label, which once pioneered dubstep and has since expanded to embrace much wider forms. Disc 1 is a strong selection of new tracks from artists like Kyle Hall, DJ Spinn and Kode9 himself, while Disc 2 compiles best-ofs from the likes of Burial, Cooly G, Ikonika and the late DJ Rashad, all in brilliantly atmospheric and sonically exploratory fashion. (David Pollock)

Bad AuraBad Aura

(Self-released – buy it on cassette via ●●●
Not for the faint-hearted, Bad Aura is a new Glasgow noise quartet formed from the components of sometime fellow travellers Moon Unit, Pyramidion and Vom, a fuzz-toned apocalypse of wailing guitar riffs, crunching rhythmic pulses and atonal, utterly unintelligible (possibly Finnish language?) vocals. We’d love to see them live for ‘Horsepower’ alone. (DP)

Julie ByrneRooms With Walls and Windows

(Orindal Records) ●●●●
A major talent makes a low-key arrival here, as Chicago-raised, Seattle-based Julie Byrne demonstrates just how affecting music can be with only a voice, a keyboard and a guitar. Her sound is sparse, with plenty of room to breathe amid her light, reverb-heavy guitar picking, and the vocal is lush and dream-like. One of the lowest-of-key slowburners to have emerged this year, surely. (DP)

MartynThe Air Between Words

(Ninja Tune) ●●●
Making his debut on Ninja Tune with his third album, Dutchman Martijn Deijkers joins the likes of Machinedrum in rebranding the sound of the label for a new generation. This is a strong record which explores different facets of Martyn’s explorative muse, from the loose house groove of ‘Empty Mind’ to ‘Love of Pleasure’s soulful acid atmospherics and the futurist soul style of ‘Lullaby’. (DP)