Welcome to the Quarter Report – FACT’s favourite 20 albums released over the last three months.
Truth told, the first quarter of 2013 has been EP season, with superlative short-form releases from MGUN, DJ Rashad, A Made Up Sound, and Actress all getting our hearts thumping. When it comes to full-lengths, however, it’s been a good, if not quite vintage, few months: by and large, we’ve been charmed rather than bewitched, entertained rather than blindsided.
Gazing over the 20 records gathered here, some are strong releases with glaring Achilles’ heels; some are fine exercises in consolidation rather than innovation; some fizz with potential without quite catching alight; and a clutch are, by consensus, brilliant from end to end. Still, gentle disclaimer aside, these are the records that, for us, have stood out from the pack – all deserve your time and attention.
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A BLINK OF A EYE
We’re certified suckers for anything Maurice Fulton turns his hand to, and the second Syclops full-length absolutely does the business. Picking up where 2008’s I’ve Got My Eye On You left off, Fulton and his (imaginary) band presents an unfussy, compulsively danceable collection of ferric electrofunk. Highlights abound: see giddy fusion jam ‘Got To Get Up For Monday’, stop-start shuffler ‘5 In 1’, and the killer ‘Jump Bugs’, a technical drawing sketched in crayon. It doesn’t always zing like its predecessor, but A Blink Of A Eye is still an album with serious flair and brio to burn.
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THE 20/20 EXPERIENCE
“‘Spaceship Coupe’ is the kind of joyous modern r’n’b love-jam that The-Dream wishes he was still writing, erring on the safe side of the sugary-sweet fantasy ride theme, and ‘Let The Groove Get In’ is (apparently) Justin’s stab at ‘Latin beats’, but encompasses a more adventurous range of Afro-Cuban inspired instrumentation pulled together by rousing piano stabs and Justin’s matured, Michael Jackson-indebted vocal flourishes. Overall, like his previous work, The 20/20 Experience is an album that will only grow with repeated listens, and is an apt if slightly underwhelming addition to his story so far.” – full review
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SPACE DIMENSION CONTROLLER
WELCOME TO MIKROSECTOR-50
“In interviews, [Jack] Hamill has talked about wanting to tour Welcome To Mikrosector-50 with full set, sci-fi costume and audience members playing the central characters. It sounds absurd, it sounds farcical, it sounds absolutely awesome. That’s as good a way as any to sum up Welcome To Mikrosector-50 – a record with its head in the stars and its tongue in its cheek. In terms of sheer daftness, it makes Glass Swords look like a Richard Skelton record; to be cynical about it is a severe failure of spirit.” – full review
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MY BLOODY VALENTINE
“With m b v it’s as if My Bloody Valentine have done the impossible, reversed the irreversible. It’s as if they’ve recaptured innocence. It’s the only way to describe what you feel had to have happened in order for the band to preserve the very essence of what was the music of their youth, in such a way that goes beyond replication. So un-self conscious and plain true is the rendering that it’s as if they unlearned those 22 years in order to feel how it was the first time; the final outcome is a peerlessly vivid depiction of an era MBV were integral in defining.” – full review
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BERBERIAN SOUND SYSTEM
“Organ in both powerful blasts and sombre 6/8 melodies, spindly harpsichord and vocals, jazz drum-driven interludes, slowly billowing folk counterpoints, guttural gibbering of both male and female voices, thunderbolts of harsh synth snarls, edit suite incidental noise, frantic whispered passages in Italian, and sounds of nature all revolve in a constant flux, expanding and contracting deftly, ending taut and unresolved.” – full review
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“The most-quoted biographical detail about brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged — their stints as session musicians for the likes of Beck, 50 Cent, Pharrell Williams, Cee-Lo and Elton John — is instructive. In less capable hands, No World’s genre mining would be pastiche. It’s the brothers’ effortless musicality that allows the album to transcend its component parts and yield something that is decidedly modern: studio precision in service of a streamlined sound.” – full review
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“Probably the best tape of 2013 so far, Rome Fortune’s solo full-length debut finds the ‘New Atlanta’ rapper aided by a host of productions from one of the most exciting new producers out there right now: Childish Major. We were already in awe of Major’s stunning (if a little rapey) ‘UOENO’ (which can be found on Rocko’s Gift of Gab 2 mixtape) but he really excels here with a quirky blend of videogame synthesizers and woozy, clouded beats.” – full review
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“This is a dark record, and one that doesn’t pull punches – but then such a description could be applied to much of the duo’s output. Exai is best read as a proficient folding-together of the last 15 years of Autechre, and its best moments are exceptional: the perverse groove science of ‘prac f’, or 12-minute epic ‘bladelores’, whose pristine chord-textures, unfolding with tectonic slowness, are the apex of the record.” – full review
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Prositutes is the controversy-baiting moniker of Jim Donadio, and Crushed Interior follows last year’s stand-out slice of drug-hazed 4/4 Psychedelic Black with an air of ‘fuck it’. Dropping any of the more pleasant elements that might have garnered him at least one or two swing voters, Crushed Interior is an unrelenting K-hole of an experience, devoid of harmony, structure or soul. What it does have is coherence, and it plays like a particularly guilt-ridden flashback the morning after a night that ended mentally at 11pm, and technically at 8am. Donadio seems absolutely happy to take your dance music tropes and piss all over them, and that’s why we like it.
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(A$AP WORLDWIDE/POLO GROUNDS/ RCA)
“At its core, Long.Live.A$AP succeeds because it lets Rocky be Rocky: a rapper with a unique voice and an ear for captivating beats whose lyrical shortcomings can be glossed over with healthy servings of charisma and panache. Live.Love.A$AP clearly touched on something in the zeitgeist, and Rocky (and equally important, those around him) know better than to let go of a good thing.” – full review
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AN AMBASSADOR FOR LAING
(BLACKEST EVER BLACK)
Edinburgh duo Young Hunting were already onto a pretty good thing with their spooky, ever-so-slightly-silly fantasias. Their abrupt mutation into Dalhous was, then, something of a surprise, and the pair’s first full-length is a wonderfully compelling head-scratcher. A metamorphic collection of processed samples and treated instrumentation, An Ambassador For Laing somehow manages to invoke Funki Porcini, Autechre, Zoviet France and Basil Kirchin all in one go. Opaque, elusive – and fascinating.
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“If there’s been a unifying characteristic of much of the Montreal scene’s output – beyond those icy synthetic backdrops and reverbed falsettos, evident throughout Untogether, particularly in the excellent ‘Reaction 2’ – then it’s a certain DIY quality. Even Visions, for all its techno trappings, sounded distinctly homemade. By contrast, Untogether is a remarkably polished record.” – full review
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AUTRE NE VEUT
Anxiety is Autre Ne Veut at his most fully-formed and immediate. ‘Play by Play’ and ‘Counting’ are two of his finest compositions yet, and the entire album bristles with the hooks and hallmarks of timeless pop, but with the idiosyncratic touches of his earlier efforts intact. While his contemporaries are submerging their influences into layers of gossamer, Autre Ne Veut is more emotional, more vulnerable, more everything.
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Yes, it’s true there are more than a few nods to dub techno luminaries Basic Channel on Andreas Tilliander’s TM404 debut, but thankfully, and unlike many of his contemporaries, this isn’t where the album begins and ends. Tilliander’s celebration of the classic Roland groove boxes is imbued with both a sense of history and a strong, solid concept. He takes the stark acid employed by Plastikman-era Richie Hawtin and reframes it as polyrhythmic, meditative drone, owing just as much to Steve Reich as it does DJ Pierre. Way more than the sum of its influences, TM404 actually ends up sounding somewhat original, and is easily one of the most interesting acid records in ages.
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NIGHT SLUGS VOL. II
While not as revelatory or ambitious as Volume 1, Volume 2 still finds L-Vis 1990, Bok Bok, and their growing stable driving the dance music discussion. Even if some of these tracks have been around the block, previously unreleased material — Kingdom’s effervescent ‘Bank Head’, Morri$’ trap-flipped ‘White Hood’, Egyptrixx’s sinister ‘Adult’, and Girl Unit’s otherworldly ‘Double Take Part II’ — finds the compilation aiming forward, not backward.
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PANTHA DU PRINCE & THE BELL LABORATORY
ELEMENTS OF LIGHT
“[Hendrick] Weber’s many virtues are as obvious as ever: a melodic sensibility imported from indie pop; a compositional ear brought up on the Kompakt catalogue; and a knack for detail that sets him well apart from his peers. Album centrepiece ‘Spectral Split’, while not quite scraping the heights of ‘Asha’ or ‘Lay In A Shimmer’, is one of the most elegant and beguiling compositions he’s put his name to – Basic Channel as heard in half-lit grottos, in palaces of ice.” – full review
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“Keen described his films as “expanded cinema”, works that sneak (well, streak) across enemy lines into all sorts of other realms of artistic practice. Noise Art continues the expansion process, casting Keen as an inventive, worthwhile soundmaker. It’s also a fine reminder that people gleefully dicking around with technology can be tremendous fun to listen to.” – full review
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While it might not be quite as revelatory as Sandwell District’s jaw-displacing Feed Forward, Dave Sumner’s Function debut still shows why the NYC don is leagues ahead of the competition. It’s the definitive bleakness to his compositions that keep us coming back, and although people love to lump him in with Birmingham affiliates Regis and Surgeon, his specific sound is very much a product of his New York base. Incubation is worryingly clean in parts, and this only serves to accentuate the record’s latent menace. Like an empty hospital drowned in the familiar flicker of neon lighting- you’ll know there’s something waiting for you just around the corner, and you’ll keep walking anyhow.
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HOUSE OF WOO
“House Of Woo is a diverse record – there’s something different going on in every room. Crucially, though, there’s a tonal consistency largely absent from Cool Water. Almost everything here has a languid, punch-drunk feel; fast or slow, [Andrew] Field-Pickering’s music has a curious viscosity, a misty quality that provides instant succour for the soul.” – full review
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NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
PUSH THE SKY AWAY
(BAD SEED LTD)
“Iʼm not entirely sure what I expected from The Bad Seedsʼ fifteenth album, but it probably included murder, fucking and the Bible, not a nuanced postmodernist take on the internet as sociocultural phenomenon. The title trackʼs lyrics therefore ring especially true: “if they think / That you should do it the same / You’ve got to just / Keep on pushing / Push the sky away.”” – full review
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