Three times a year FACT publishes a Quarter Report compiling what we feel to be the strongest 20 albums of the last three months.
You can find 2012’s First and Second Quarter Reports here and here, but our present business is identifying the finest full-lengths to have been released between the start of July and the end of September. Over the next 20 pages you can view all of our chosen records, which span breathless prog-r’n’b, stygian post-punk techno and chronically self-aware meta-pop.
There is no Fourth Quarter Report – come December we’ll be ready to announce top albums of 2012.
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(TIME NO PLACE)
“Despite niggles which may come down to individual taste, DIN remains absolutely essential listening for anyone with even the vaguest interest in unusual approaches to popular genres and rhythmic experiments in dance music.” – full review
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A rough assemblage of Kieran Hebden’s recent run of singles, you’d expect Pink to offer a snapshot of Four Tet in the here and now. Curious, then, that it plays like a best-of primer: ‘128 Harps’ sounds like an offcut from Rounds; the killer ‘Locked’ would have worked a treat on Everything Ecstatic; and the housier cuts are sprung from the same seed as the astonishing There Is Love In You. Pink may not be Hebden’s tightest release, but, as a Dorling Kindersley guide to one of our most enduring talents, it comes highly recommended.
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“Technically you’d have to classify it as prog r’n’b, a cinematic series of paradoxical scenarios cutting between trancey disco, synth-noir and elegiac stadium rock. Truly it’s a futuristic feat of glamourous eccentricity and peacocking arrangements.” – full review
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THINGS THAT FADE
“This collaborative effort has a sound that is plush and rounded, an emphasis on thickness and warmth that is possibly an assimilation of the Japan’s pop culture. A highly accomplished project… There is great potential for the duo as they move forward.” – full review
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Luke Younger’s irregular dispatches from the noise underground are invariably impressive and engrossing affairs, but Impossible Symmetry is something different: more composed, more detailed, it reclaims industrial music from the greyscale retro-fetishists, making a deeply personal and progressive contribution to the form.
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“In terms of both musical and studio accomplishment Holy Other has come into his own as a strong, individual, musical voice; Held is a worthy display of this and is going to make a lot of people very happy indeed.” – full review
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HOW TO DRESS WELL
“Total Loss is a largely dud-free album, aside perhaps from the sub-Clams Casino ‘Set It Right’ and closer ‘Ocean Floor For Everything’, by which point Tom Krell is repeating himself. But otherwise it’s a massive point for alternative r’n’b at a time when much of the soul and swing of its commercial cousin is disappearing under Guetta’s iron rule.” – full review
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A COLLECTION OF RARITIES AND PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED MATERIAL
“A compilation that plays like a Maus full-length: no more of a primer than the bulk of his work, and, by and large, no less enjoyable. It’s further proof that Maus is a straight-up hitmaker. It’s also a reminder that fans had better be reconciled to stinky ‘cod-‘ alongside the pop treats; if you want Maus to tug on your heartstrings, you’d better get use to him doing the same to your leg.”– full review
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The bleak, sometimes intentionally soulless electro that Convex and his former partner in Instra:mental, Boddika, specialise in can get tiring over the course of an entire album – honestly, how many times have you listened to Resolution 653 from start to finish? – but on Idoru, the addition of a faded female subject, vocal contributions and nods to the yearning techno of classic Kompakt give the album a variety and romanticism that makes it stand out.
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MALA IN CUBA
“All things considered, this is a handsome, stately album…but might the end product have been more interesting, progressive, maybe even genre-redefining, had Mala devised his first full-length album without a predetermining goal, letting his imagination run into the abstract?” – full review
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MICACHU AND THE SHAPES
“Retaining their distinctive, micro-fusionist, antic voice, Micachu and The Shapes have turned in a more accessible album than their debut. The pop is poppier, and the rock more secure with being so. Unselfconscious and joyfully untrammelled, most importantly Never is charmingly weird – that quality so coveted by indie chancers everywhere.” – full review
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LIFE IS GOOD
Even if it occasionally falls off – we’re still reeling from the bestiality reference in the beyond-hackneyed ‘World’s an Addiction’ – there’s surely enough quality to Life is Good to ensure its status as one of 2012’s finest hip-hop albums come the end of the year. ‘Loco-motive’ is a prime piece of nostalgia, ‘The Don’ bangs like few other tracks from any genre this year (that “New York is like an island” switch-up speaks for itself), while the dramatic ‘No Introduction’ is among the most stirring cuts of Nas’s entire post-Illmatic career.
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“Steam Days also feels like Fake’s most dynamic album-length work to date, and his first that matches the career peaks that have tended to come in the form of his singles and remixes.” – full review
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NICOLE & NATALIE
“Even when Nina Sky utilise the standard EDM drop that, by now, is just another component in the pop toolbox, it ends up subservient to their own character: on ‘Bright Lights’, it’s accompanied by ricocheting cut-up vocals and a thrilling switch-up into thunderclap beats. It’s this essential character that continues to make Nina Sky such compelling characters nearly a decade after their global breakthrough.” – full review
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DEPENDENT AND HAPPY
“By dropping the blatant 4/4 grooves, using them sparingly, or simply applying more variation, the best moments of his music could become even more immersive – and immersive it truly is, when given the room to push convention to its limits. This album has some outstanding moments, and at times is a masterful lesson in dream-like production.” – full review
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Following the official dissolution of Sandwell District, Juan Mendez’s Silent Servant project has found a new home on Hospital Productions, the noise-oriented label operated by his friend and fellow LA-dweller Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Vatican Shadow). Thankfully this hasn’t been accompanied by a stylistic shift into harsh noise or power electronics: Negative Fascination is techno music through and through, albeit of a kind informed by Mendez’s long-standing obsessions with stark, stygian post-punk and minimal wave.
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“Given its scale, and a statement like that, you wonder if this is it for Swans; whether they are once more dead. Then again, Michael Gira also says ‘it’s one frame in a reel’, which makes you wonder what the hell could be next. It’s largely irrelevant and foolish to wonder, though. The Seer is clearly brilliant, and may even be Swans’ finest album yet, three decades in. It’ll take long enough to soak it all in, before even contemplating what’s in the next frame.” – full review
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“Any one of these superbly warped dance tracks could cause both curiosity and a rush of energy on a dancefloor. While it is a shame some tracks aren’t longer, Tesco is like Giuseppi Ielasi for clubs, and therefore something well worth exploring.” – full review
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“Next to xx, Coexist is a far more meditative album. Tight, brisk pop songs like ‘Crystallised’ are absent. However, Jamie Smith elevates almost every track with skilled, elegant and measured production; a performance that should convert a few of his many detractors.” – full review
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“At this stage it’s hard to imagine Planet Mu releasing a duff footwork album; their job is, arguably, an easy one given the wealth of talent currently lurking in Chicago’s sports halls and community centres. But Space Zone keeps the bar propped up impressively high without treading back over old ground, suggesting that footwork’s young guns, as well as its seasoned elders, continue to have something worthwhile to contribute.” – full review
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