This week, FACT’s features section will be dedicated to our Third Quarter Report.
Our Quarter Reports are where we list the twenty best albums of the last three months, in this case, from July, August and September. Records are ordered alphabetically; you’ll have to wait for the end of year lists for real ranking. You can read 2010′s First Quarter Report (Jan-Mar) here, and the Second one (Apr-Jun) here.
MOVE OF TEN
Move of Ten is another winner from Autechre, who have already released the excellent Oversteps LP this year. All minor criticisms and musings aside, the duo are going through a strong period: bringing melody and accessibility back to their sound without losing their unique edge. – full review
02: AUTRE NE VEUT
AUTRE NE VEUT
(OLDE ENGLISH SPELLING BEE)
“While drawing on numerous sources for inspiration, ANV handles each of them in a seemingly un-ironic way, retaining a sense of innocent mischief which ensures that each song is as unpredictable as it is enjoyable. A perfect example is ‘Drama Cum Drama’, which announces itself with pleading moans over sparse beats before ascending into a mumbled Prince-influenced ballad, while recent single ‘Wake Up’ sees him melting down the spirit of ’90s slow jams into a puddle of analogue bubbles over which his heartfelt screeches are allowed to roam unrestrainedly.” – full review
03: BALAM ACAB
SEE BIRDS EP
“There are often solid foundations to these tracks, such as the echoed drum beats on ‘See Birds (Moon)’ and the clicks and bassline on ‘Regret Making Mistakes’, but they’re eventually drowned in nymph-like vocals harmonising, tides lapping and cyan tones that seep into each other and swell up into gloriously euphoric climaxes. It’s like the birth of spring, but rendered in a permanent state of flux. No doubt Tri Angle will get darker than this as the label progresses, but it might be a while until it sounds this angelic again.” – full review
“There are tracks here that sound almost completely disposable, like they could belong to any no-name bedroom producer, but then there are stunning moments where everything works, like the pure heaven of ‘Aminals’ or the sublime resignation and understated devastation of ‘Rain Smell’. I can’t say what the right next move is – ditch the vocals or simply hone them – but whatever Baths does, I’ll be listening. You just can’t ignore something as promising as this.” – full review
05: BIG BOI
SIR LUCIOUS LEFT FOOT
(PURPLE RIBBON / DEF JAM)
“Outkast were great for myriad reasons, but at the heart of their success was the fact that despite seeing themselves as a group in the lofty lineage of Prince and Parliament, their foundation and core were always hip-hop – as they often reminded us, they were a pair of motherfucking pimps. When the balance shifted away from that, it was the end of the group’s prime. Lucious Left Foot addresses this issue and redeems it, casting its eye to casino funk, cosmic boogie, electro, backroom R’n’B and classic soul while staying defiantly hip-hop; sounding fuck-a-major-label while being released on Def Jam. It’s not an album that’s full of surprises, but rather than a lack of quality, that’s simply testament to the fact that this is how a Big Boi solo album always should have sounded.” – full review
06: DIGITAL MYSTIKZ
RETURN II SPACE
“Mala’s music is among the most powerful and evocative in this or any scene, best enjoyed on a big system yet still capable of making an impact on headphones, bringing with it flashbacks of nights lost in the bass bins. Return II Space is a journey that anyone with even a remote interest in dubstep and its original potential for eclecticism should take” – full review
07: DJ NATE
DA TRAK GENIOUS
“Intensely minimal, with looped pop and R’n’B vocals and stammering kickdrums; apart from the booming bass touches, there’s seldom much going on in these tracks, but there’s a lot to enjoy about them. The sample manipulation recalls old school hardcore – the sped up, femme vox, the frenetic beats – albeit a form developed in Chicago, seemingly independent of UK influences. At times the results are ghostly and otherworldy, at others they’re frenetic – ‘You’re Gonna Love Me’, for instance, is a rush of soul repetition, surging snares and thundering beats, that you can imagine driving footworkers into ever more complex and delirious displays of fancy, well, footwork.” – full review
08: FRANK (JUST FRANK)
THE BRUTAL WAVE
It takes real character to ape the taut guitar-drums-synth-bass geometry of Wire (circa 154) and The Cure (circa Seventeen Seconds) and amount to more than post-punk pastiche. Paris-based Frank (Just Frank) have plenty of character, and also honesty – they’re gracious and open about their influences, citing not just the aforementioned but also Siouxsie Sioux, The Smiths and a plethora of obscure cold wave acts. Their bi-lingual debut album has found a home on New York’s Weird Records and is brimming with unreconstructed synth-pop exuberance.
09: HYPE WILLIAMS
Released in a limited edition of 400, it’s already virtually impossible to track a copy of this vinyl-only LP down. Without doubt one of the finest British contribution yet to the new wave of (ahem) hypnagogic psychedelia, its seven nameless tracks traverse varied terrain, reminding us variously of Ghost Box’s occult whimsy, the new age drift of James Ferraro’s Marble Surf, the droning dub-pop of Forest Swords, the smacked-out Balearica of early Quiet Village – all the good stuff, basically. Untitled is unpredictable, exhilarating and surprisingly accessible.
10: JAMES BLAKE
“The piano and the acoustic guitar are instruments beloved of singer-songwriters because they exude earnestness. It’s hard to hear a piano as it’s used in most pop music and not think of homely, soft memories. But James Blake here distorts the piano, stretching it out to its alien, anti-corporeal limits. The piano use on ‘Klavierwerke’ is anything but gentle, though it is comforting. This is a record of soft sounds and minimalism, but all the instruments involved feel otherworldly. The songs all feel like they have deeper, more consolidated songs suspended somewhere above them. It’s music that’s innately modest.” – full review