Author: Stephen Owen

Music Editor | 19-21

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris For almost the last 30 years, Adam Curtis has made some of the most distinctive and stark political documentaries in recent times. Touching upon topics from the ‘financial and business elite’, to how developments in psychology have impacted upon politics and society, Curtis has made bold works that regularly challenge popular wisdom, alongside creating a gripping spectacle. Can’t Get You Out of My Head is among the grandest of these documentaries. A 6-part BBC iPlayer series, Curtis argues that societies across the globe have turned away from idealistic and optimistic visions of humanity, to fear, paranoia…

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Art by Raf Rennie From the opening whirring and grinding soundscapes of opener “Eiocha” on Clouds’ 4th record “The Parallel”, the ominous and cerebral mood of one of the more intriguing techno releases in recent years was formed and reasserted relentlessly. The Scottish duo here channel the inhumanity of industrial music here into a record that clatters around, at times in a strangely danceable fashion, in other moments as an all-consuming atmosphere. Songs such as the opener, or “Clearance”, fit very much into the latter category, featuring droning, bass heavy synth pads underneath rippling, almost non-musical shards of noise. The…

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Art by Marie-Amelie Clement-Bollee Whilst there have been a number of jazzy but warmly psychedelic artists emerging over the last decade, such as Mild High Club or Jerry Paper, Fievel is Glauque is a somewhat unique take on the sound, with their debut album being a charming and often quite beautiful set of lo-fi pop songs. Recorded by 5 ensembles from a variety of backgrounds, whose only constants are keyboardist Zach Phillips and vocalist Marie-Amelie Clement-Bollee, their debut album is a collection of short but thrilling jazzy vignettes. With 20 tracks coming in at 34 minutes and only one track…

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Photo by Joshua Heller (CC BY 2.0) It is, in some respects, a paradox that much of the most culturally important and arresting modern music is often comprised heavily of already-existing recordings repurposed in a new context. Hip-hop is now firmly ingrained in popular music, a staple as much as rock or R&B. Electronic artists from Daftpunk to Burial are also dependent on the re-use, or sampling, of material to create the distinctive atmospheres or hooks of their music. A style of music almost totally dependent on sampling is “Plunderphonics”, with artists such as DJ Shadow and The Avalanches creating…

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Photo by Rene Passet (CC BY 2.0) (image has been cropped) Osees – If I Had My Way Osees remain one of garage rock and psychedelia’s most consistent and exciting bands at the moment. One of a frankly absurd number of releases by the band’s guitarist, vocalist and main creative force John Dwyer this year, “Protean Threat” saw the band retreat away from the expansive, more jam-oriented sound of recent albums in favour of condensing the rhythmic, quirky brilliance of their recent albums into a shorter, more concise package. “If I Had My Way” is one of the most accessible…

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Photo by NW (CC BY-SA 3.0) Car Seat Headrest – Can’t Cool Me Down Car Seat Headrest’s status as one of modern indie’s largest and most endearing bands has been secured by hugely successful and critically acclaimed albums such as 2016’s “Teens of Denial” and 2018’s remake of “Twin Fantasy”. Their latest album “Leaving A Door Open” is one of the more controversial records in their long discography, showcasing a band a little caught between appealing to their enlarged fanbase and continuing to innovate, alongside the songwriting duties shifting towards more members than lead vocalist Will Toledo. Lead Single “Can’t…

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Photo by MLister (CC BY 3.0) Squarepusher – Neverlevers  Ever since his breakthrough in the late 1990s with Hard Normal Daddy, Thomas Jenkinson has been an enthralling and unique presence within Warp Records, one of the most innovative and uncompromising labels in the UK. Whilst new record “Be Up A Hello” wasn’t the stunning record its singles suggested it would be, “Neverlevers”, along with other single “Oberlove”, is a formidable piece of electronic music. A helter-skelter drum beat and spluttering bassline veer and jitter frantically as cold slabs of synth float above. It turns the fast rhythms of drum and…

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Photo by JtCoutts (CC BY SA 4.0) Thurston Moore – Cantaloupe Since Sonic Youth broke up in 2011, and long before, guitarist Thurston Moore has been by far the most productive individual member of the indie and noise-rock icons. After last years’ colossal and heavily orchestrated “Spirit Counsel”, and with records like “Rock n Roll Consciousness” from recent years, “By the Fire” was an attempt to meld the more adventurous experimentation with a more mainstream appeal. “Cantaloupe” stands as one of the more successful examples of the latter; the palm-muted riff is almost hard rock-esque, recalling Moore’s love of the…

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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Some Of Us Following on from the groove-heavy and eclectic “Fishing For Fishies” and the ode to thrash metal “Infest The Rat’s Nest” of last year, one of modern rock’s most productive bands have announced another album. Their new record “K.G.” once again delves into the microtonal music created by instruments like the Turkish baglama they explored on one of their 2017 albums “Flying Microtonal Banana”. “Some Of Us” stands as the highlight of the singles released so far; its hazy atmosphere alongside the typically catchy guitar licks and somewhat discordant piano creates…

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Image rights reserved to Island Records The 70s was a period of huge success for folk rock in Western Popular Music. Following Bob Dylan’s infamous concert at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965, the electric guitar found its way into folk music. The most notable band to adopt this sound across the Atlantic was Fairport Convention. Formed in a house called Fairport in London, the band took obvious cues from Dylan, often covering his songs. Musicians such as Sandy Denny, Ashley Hutchings and, arguably most notably, guitarist Richard Thompson became stars of the folk scene. Thompson in particular has…

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Rights reserved to Warp Records. Emerging out of the synthpop and club culture of the 1980s, the 1990s saw a new era of electronic experimentation emerge. More systematic and cerebral than the scattered experimentation that preceded artists like Kraftwerk and Gary Numan, artists like Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada created meticulous artistic statements that inspired whole hosts of artists. This movement of, as many of the artists hated to be described, “Intelligent Dance Music” was seen at its most arty and strange in Manchester artist Autechre. Originally coming from the techno scene of the early 90s, the band have…

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Art by Gianluca Grasselli, Rights Reserved to Southern Lord Records Coming out of the wave of dark and experimental music that has seen artists like Swans reborn in the 2010s and others like Daughters and Chelsea Wolfe rise to relative prominence, Anna von Hausswolff has been an intriguing outsider. Originally making records that took heavy cues from the 80s gothic rock of bands on the 4AD label, Hausswolff has since taken further steps towards the aforementioned experimentalism of Swans, whose last album she appeared on, with albums like the much-acclaimed “Dead Magic” of 2018. “Dead Magic” is much heavier and…

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Photo by Alterna2 (CC 2.0) American Rock had an independent explosion in the 1990s. Whilst Grunge took most of the plaudits, the independent movement had also exploded by this point, with 80’s indie stalwarts such as R.E.M and Sonic Youth, to drastically varying degrees, experiencing mainstream attention. Also present were new stars from Pavement to Elliot Smith. Among these artists were The Magnetic Fields. Known best for their 1999 behemoth “69 Songs”, the band gave the lugubrious atmosphere of much of US indie an electronic sheen. Largely the project of Stephen Merritt, the early albums were dominated by his unique…

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Photo by hinnik (CC 3.0) In the late 2010s, there has been an explosion in a new type of pop music. Glitchy, vivid and unashamedly synthetic, upcoming artists like Sophie, Hannah Diamond or more loosely Caroline Polachek, have imbued their pop sound with textures and ideas that couldn’t be further away from pop. Whether the industrial clatterings of bands like Nine Inch Nails or the glitchy, complex “Intelligent Dance Music” of artists like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, the melodies of pop are contorted into something particularly alien. The experimental impulse driving this is certainly nothing new; pop artists have often…

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Photo by Greg Neate (CC 2.0) The early ’90s was an odd point of transition for British rock. The larger independent labels like Rough Trade and Factory that had fuelled post-punk were struggling financially and the indie movement was changing. Possibly the last clear development of the experimentation of the late ’70s and early ’80s, however, was “shoegaze”. Named as such by journalists describing the somewhat restrained and inhibited stage presence of artists like My Bloody Valentine, shoegaze comprised a vast amount of influences. You could hear elements of the heavy psych-rock of Hawkwind (or a decade later Spacemen 3),…

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Image from Strut Records After nearly 40 years away from music, Idris Ackamoor and his band The Pyramids returned with 2011’s ‘Otherworldly’. Ackamoor’s band was an under-appreciated part of the 70s jazz avant-garde. Incorporating the rhythms of African music, spiritualism and more expansive harmonic ideas; they followed on from trailblazers in the 60s like John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. The result were albums like 1974’s ‘King of Kings’, a visceral yet transcendent piece of music, full of hypnotic grooves and raw, dissonant melodies. Now on their 4th album since returning, ‘Shaman!’ is certainly a smoother affair than their 70s work.…

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