Features I by I 24.09.13

Third Quarter Report: The 20 best albums of the last three months

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Third Quarter Report: July to September's 20 best albums

Welcome to the Quarter Report – FACT’s favourite 20 albums released over the last three months.

Although perhaps not quite as strong as 2013’s second quarter, July-September still offered a lot to love, from Ciara’s long-delayed Ciara to Donato Dozzy’s unexpected but brilliant reinterpretations of Bee Mask. Elsewhere, there’s sci-fi grime on cassette, excursions in gyil soul, West Coast house parties and more. Something for everybody, in short – dig in.

NB: The albums, as ever, are listed in no particular order. You can read 2013’s first Quarter Report here, and its second here. There’ll be no Quarter Report come December; instead, we’ll be counting down our favourite albums of the year.

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CIARA
Ciara
(Epic)

“Perhaps her most accurately realised work to date, slinking and strutting between, in and around the music with an enjoyable (if occasionally frustrating) malleability that has become the bedrock of her appeal.” – full review

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DONATO DOZZY
Plays Bee Mask
(Spectrum Spools)

When deep techno producer Dozzy was asked to remix Bee Mask’s 2012 track ‘Vaporware’, he clasped the initiative and turned in an album-length suite of reinterpretations. Donato Dozzy Plays Bee Mask might be seeded with the spores of Bee Mask’s original, but it’s very much its own monster, channeling Pantha Du Prince-style gorgeousness here, free-floating trance there. Rather than playing second fiddle to his subject, Dozzy’s turned out one of his most enchanting releases in years.

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DRAKE
Nothing Was The Same
(Young Money / Universal)

Sure, there’s plenty to be critical of when it comes to Drake’s third album – as seen on FACT’s recent round-table discussion – but tighten up the album’s second half (and let’s face it, ditch that atrocious pound cake shit) and you could easily argue for NWTS as his finest hour. ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ sounds like nothing else in Drizzy’s catalogue, the Sampha-aided ‘Too Much’ is a stunner, and the opening run of ‘Tuscan Leather’, ‘Furthest Thing’, ‘Started from the Bottom’ and ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ speaks for itself.

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EARL SWEATSHIRT
Doris
(Tan Cressida / Columbia)

“Don’t take his claims of being “indecisive,” “scatterbrained,” and “frightened” at face value: Earl is the youngest and most talented of a crew of young and talented rappers, and in the afterglow of Odd Future outrage, he’s the one who still has something to say.” – full review

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FILTER DREAD
Space Loops
(No Corner)

“There’s a fair amount of excellent instrumental grime being released these days, but outside radio there’s little that sounds spontaneous and raw. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with clean production, but there’s something refreshing about this tape’s roughness, its lines only roughly delineated and loosely half-filled. Filter Dread’s mélange of UK underground music may be a patchwork of mismatched vignettes instead of a unified whole, but that entropic, jumbled quality is exactly what makes Space Loops so compelling.” – full review

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FOREST SWORDS
Engravings
(Tri Angle)

“More so than ever, loss and decay are Barnes’ go-to themes, but the hypnagogic Caretaker-ish fog of Dagger Paths has cleared a little, and the resulting images are more distinct than before. With their craggy surfaces and jarring stop-start structures, the songs are like snatched vignettes of eerie and ancient landscapes, titles like ‘Irby Tremor’ and ‘Thor’s Stone’ referring specifically to Barnes’ Wirral home.” – full review

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GRUMBLING FUR
Glynnaestra
(Thrill Jockey)

A statement of true eccentricity from British multi-instrumentalists Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan, Grumbling Fur’s second album cares not for your piffling attempts to bracket it by genre, era or mood. With vast, hymnal choruses riding atop fat, throbbing synth drones and cello sweeps, songs like ‘The Ballad of Roy Batty’ (which borrows words from Blade Runner’s ‘tears in the rain’ soliloquy) and the falsetto groove of ‘Dancing Light’ marry homegrown psychedelia with glossy electronics to weirdly beguiling effect, all underpinned by playful daftness and a sense of metaphysical disquiet.

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HUERCO S
Colonial Patterns
(Software)

“Perhaps it’s the range of this record that is most impressive: the US dancefloor renaissance of which Leeds is a part has been largely singles-focussed so far, and few of its proponents seem capable of producing an album as diverse as this. But there’s a consistency and a vibrancy shot through these tracks, too. Leeds isn’t mourning something lost so much as constructing his own speculative fiction, a bootstrap collage of past and present, real and invented. To ask whether it’s “moving forward” seems oddly moot; like much of the best music of recent times, Colonial Patterns sits outside of chronology, peering raptly in.” – full review

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JOHN WIZARDS
John Wizards
(Planet Mu)

John Wizards is a record that constantly evades purchase: an album of South African folk that’s actually a footwork collection that’s actually a Shangaan homage that’s actually a chillwave take-off that’s actually a prog-rock wig-out. It’s as summery as it is slippery, however, and it’s a joy trying to keep up.

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JONWAYNE
Cassette 3: The Marion Morrison Mixtape
(Stones Throw)

The third and final part in Stones Throw’s new hope’s mixtape trilogy, Marion Morrison is the best kind of family affair: a fun and in joke-filled West Coast party, featuring turns from Captain Murphy, Jeremiah Jae, Oliver the 2nd and more.

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JULIA HOLTER
Loud City Song
(Domino)

“It’s in Holter’s use of field recordings that her Cage-like love for sound itself comes through strongest…Don’t let the singular beauty of Loud City Song fool you. Holter may write stunning pop-tinged songs, but she’s an experimental artist through and through.” – full review

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KA
The Night’s Gambit
(Iron Works)

“On the more sinister songs Ka rips out the drums almost entirely and does an awful lot with very little: ‘Barring the Likeness’ uses loops instead of beats to drum up paranoia; ‘Our Father’’s beat is an ominous loop, tapping woodblocks and very little else, and the hollow knocks of ‘Peace Akhi’’s are almost its only percussion. They’re like hip hop songs that have been disembowelled.” – full review

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KING LOUIE
Jeep Music
(Self-released)

“On Jeep Music he lets the emotion flow out, nailing an Usher cover in the process almost by accident.…it’s hard evidence that Louie is just as comfortable belting out Atlanta strip-club anthems as he is coming up with memorable catchphrases.” – full review

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LE1F
Tree House
(Self-released)

“Like it or not, rap has changed dramatically in the last few years, and while that might have backpackers unified in cries for a return to 1993, it’s created a diverse and fertile environment few of us could have predicted. Le1f continues to push against the flow with Tree House, and in doing so has emerged with a surprisingly terse and unabashedly brilliant statement. World domination is surely the next step.” – full review

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ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER
R Plus Seven
(Warp)

“Lopatin’s compositions have always had a monumental quality that makes them feel three-dimensional, but here his narrative and spatial imagining sometimes makes the album play out like an RPG…Now that Lopatin has shifted from hypnagogia to hypermodernity, his closest analogues are post-Sushi James Ferraro and Fatima Al Qadiri” – full review

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PAUL WHITE
Watch The Ants
(Self-released)

Paul White’s technicolour fun bus veers off course and heads for for darker territory. As ever, White’s not afraid to be goofy, but Watch The Ants is easily his richest and most atmospheric album to date, threaded through with distorted psych guitars and shoegazey texures. Whether making bombastic theme-tune fodder (‘Street Lights’), or scrambled bagpipe boom-bap, White sounds like he’s finally coming into his own.

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RAS G
Back On The Planet 
(Brainfeeder)

Back On The Planet doesn’t exactly rip up the Ras G template: the incessant Sun Ra nods, the frazzled beat music, the scattershot attitude to programming are all as present as ever. For some reason, though, he’s never sounded as convincing, and Back On The Planet – a cosmic capriccio, made up of digitally enhanced Afro-jazz, ragga for ket-heads and rachitic head-nod – easily trumps his previous offerings.

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SK KAKRABA BAND
SK Kakraba Band
(Holy Page)

“SK is the centre of the universe here with his gyil (“a Ghanaian instrument constructed of wooden slats placed atop Calabash Gourds”) and all the grooves hiding underneath are just icing. This music has serious soul. Everything about these tunes is purely ecstatic. Holy Page have quite possibly scored the best tape of 2013.” – full review

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THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS
Bucolica
(Exotic Pylon)

You won’t hear a more stately album this year than Pye Corner Audio’s phenomenal debut under his House In The Woods moniker. A glorious synthesis of GAS, Sand Circles and Andy Stott, Bucolica offers a viscous collection of hydraulic drones and washed-out synth phrases; listening is like blundering across a misty heath, hands brushed by heather, legs scratched by thorns.

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TROPIC OF CANCER
Restless Idylls 
(Blackest Ever Black)

“These eight tracks never stray too far from the entrenched Tropic of Cancer aesthetic. But there are subtle, poignant shadings of dark and light to them – in places even a tentative optimism – that make Restless Idylls a more psychologically complex, absorbing record than any of its predecessors.” – full review

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