The Null Device


And now, with 2023 coming to a close, the annual list of noteworthy records:

  • Emma Anderson - Pearlies (BandCamp)

    One of the two women fronting 4AD shoegaze-pop legends Lush, Anderson was the one who brought the intricate, slightly dreamlike melodies, in contrast to Miki Berenyi's more direct and grounded writing. When the Lush reunion ended in 2016, Berenyi continued with a new band, Piroshka, though their two albums have so far not grabbed me to the extent that Lush did; meanwhile, of Anderson, there was little news, and it seemed that she may have been lost to the world of music. As such, it was a pleasant surprise to read the announcement this year that she had recorded a solo album. (Pearlies' genesis apparently occurred shortly after Lush broke up, with Anderson taking her leftover Lush songs to Robin Guthrie, and resolving to write solo material, though the album only started coming together in 2022, when she met the producer James Chapman (aka Maps).)

    There is not much shoegazing on Pearlies; the record leans more towards a baroque pop if anything; it is not so much a sonic cathedral (even though that, ironically, is the label who put it out) as a sonic faerie circle, gently psychedelic and subtly beguiling, with layers of intricacy. It starts with I Was Miles Away: a transistor organ blaring and then Emma's unnmistakeable voice comes in, asking if she will make it on her own, and we immediately know the answer. Layers of guitars and keyboards come in, and we're in familiar territory: if you told me this was a remix of an obscure 1990s Lush B-side, I would have believed it. The record goes on: Inter Light brings out more of a 60s psychedelic-baroque vibe; Taste The Air opens with a glockenspiel arpeggio and gently eases into the fringes of shoegaze territory; it is followed by Xanthe, a minor-key mood piece reminiscent of

    The pace picks up with The Presence, an upbeat pop song with an apparent nod to Siouxsie, and Willow and Mallow is a slightly hauntological piece of wickerfolk. The album closes out with Clusters, with Anderson's voice floating over a home-keyboard bossa-nova beat; and as she sings of all the pretty boys and all the pretty girls, you wonder if it had all been a dream.

    In short, an amazingly strong comeback from Anderson; let's hope this isn't the last we hear from her.

  • Early Labyrinth - Do You Want To Be Part Of The Crime Or Part Of The Punishment? (BandCamp)

    Early Labyrinth is an anonymous collective from the Berlin underground scene (the identities of ringleaders are unknown, though the electropop artist Lisa Klinkhammer sang backing vocals with them), who play smooth funk/soul/R&B (or "yacht-sinking rock” as they call it) with anarchist/anti-capitalist agitprop lyrics, whilst wearing colourfully patterned balaclavas. Which is something which would be cute if it was executed merely competently, but they're really good; one can hear that they have a genuine love of a type of smooth music that's most often associated with bourgeois ideas of material luxury, juxtaposing it jarringly with lyrics about guillotining billionaires (Severed heads Can't Sing), endemic police brutality (Guns Don't Kill People. Cops Kill People) and the atrocities of the Pinochet regime (Oh Desolation). One could compare them to Rhodri Marsden's London-indie-veteran supergroup Article 54, who made disco-funk out of the absurdity of Brexit and attempted to reprise their success with the Covid pandemic with mixed results, though whereas that used its production to back a self-deprecating English tongue-in-cheekness, Early Labyrinth is more blunt; this, after all, is Germany.

  • Neil Gaiman & FourPlay String Quartet - Signs Of Life (BandCamp)

    A collaboration I did not initially expect to see. I have been familiar with both collaborators for a long time, having gotten into Gaiman's writing via The Sandman, as one does, in the 90s, and having known FourPlay since their thing was adding fuzz pedals to string instruments and playing covers of JJJ alternative rock. (At this point I must declare that I count members of the group as friends, and thus that this will not be a dispassionately objective review.) Then, over a decade ago, they ended up working together on a show at the Sydney Opera House in Eora, with FourPlay providing a musical backing to Gaiman's storytelling, and a collaboration was born; this year it bore fruit: a full-length album.

    This is not so much an album with a single theme as a compendium of collaborations: most of them consist of poems or spoken-word pieces by Gaiman, about subjects as diverse as the astronomer Arthur Eddington (Signs Of Life), Cornish pirates as a metaphor for loss (The Wreckers), extinct Australian megafauna (Poem first read on January 26th 2011 at the Sydney Opera House) and the irrepressible power of ideas (Credo, which I must confess, in 2023, sounds a little too close to naïve marketplace-of-ideas/free-speech rhetoric from a more innocent age for me to feel entirely comfortable with), to some exceedingly British music-hall whimsy about an immortal Joan of Arc as itinerant crackpot (The Problem With Saints). Behind them, the quartet provide apposite accompaniment, from Victorianate ornament to arid drones, which fit together nicely; you can tell that they're on the same wavelength. Outside of Gaiman's spoken-word tracks, there's Bloody Sunrise, a rock'n'roll ballad from the point of view of a lonesome vampire (voiced by Lara), should appeal to the more whimsical darklings, Neverwhere, an instrumental inspired by Gaiman's vision of a fantastic London Below, will sound familiar to long-time FourPlay fans. The album ends on a high point with Oceanic, an elegant instrumental that builds to a climax and then breaks up into silence.

    Signs Of Life is a great FourPlay album with some English bloke talking over parts of it, and/or a musical voyage into the imaginarium of Neil Gaiman, depending on personal taste. The cover art by the fantastic illustrator Shaun Tan is also pretty good, and may be worth buying the vinyl for.

  • Rev. Kristin Michael Hayter - SAVED! (BandCamp)

    Hayter is no stranger to extreme music, having recorded metal as Lingua Ignota, though now she hangs up both the name and its diabolical instrumentation and turns towards a light that looks ominously like hellfire. Yes, apparently Kristin Hayter has become a born-again Christian and is keen to share the love of God, which she does, as the devout have done over decades, through the medium of simple songs accompanied by upright piano, and recorded without the fuss of commercial studiocraft. Or so goes the diegesis: to the listener, it isn't long until they realise that something is horrifyingly amiss. While this is nominally Christian religious music, it is of a sort that will be deeply strange and possibly disturbing to those only familiar with mainline denominations. A disproportionate amount of the focus is on Hell and demons (which, in Rev. Hayter's world, are very real), and Jesus is only mentioned in the context of his blood. Also, in places the music cuts into the sound of people speaking in tongues.

    It is not clear how sincere a work this is: whether it is a branch of Hayter's exploration of extreme music, or a genuine religious conversion, though I suspect the former. Saved! appears to be an attempt at the aesthetics of outsider music (specifically the kind of recording found in thrift shops, put together amateurishly by people of modest talents animated by religious fervour verging on psychosis), and elements of this amateurish fervour break through, though only as much as required for the narrative (such as in the tape wonkiness on the first track, which is absent from the rest of the record, as if having served its purpose, or the aforementioned speaking in tongues). Perhaps Hayter's zeal is genuine (if the Lord works in mysterious ways, perhaps one of them is through extreme music?), and her life is now devoted to saving souls from the flames, or perhaps, as a document, Saved! is the musical equivalent of a Blair Witch-style videotape found in the woods, with the framing being part of the message.

  • Holly Waxwing - The New Pastoral (BandCamp)

    An ep, released on PC Music by an artist from Providence, Rhode Island, The New Pastoral is crafted from the elements of digital (hyper)pop production—the pops, plucks, glitches, pitch-shifted vocal fragments and early-Heisei-era digital synth patches are all here—though in a deconstructed form. There are no verse/chorus structures, few and sparse beats, no drops and where hypersaturated hoover-style patches appear, they are shortened into plucks. And freed from the fabric of commercial pop production (and its underground subversions), the threads of melody lines emerge as individual voices in conversation; coming in one by one, from the first track onward. By the second track, a fast arpeggio line kicks in, though rather than building up to a pounding chorus, it just goes on as the other lines weave around it. Some beats and pitch-shifted vocals follow. The sixth and last track winds things down with digital slide guitar and top-40-ballad FM piano over plucks and a drum'n'bass beat; the mood is nostalgic, the feel of americana filtered through dialup-era technology.

  • Hannah Jagadu - Aperture (BandCamp)

    The debut full-length album from the 20-year-old Jagadu, following on from an EP she recorded on her iPhone, is well-crafted alternative pop with some R&B and dreampop leanings. Jagadu's voice does a lot of floating ethereally over beds of guitars and beats. The album opens with Explanation, with Jagadu singing, close-miked, over guitar picking and subtle electronics, before crunchy beats kick in, and then ramps up; What You Did is a gloriously fuzzy slice of dreampop not unlike a more upbeat Beach House; Lose marries Autotune with 90s guitars and chunky beats and then builds up. Warning Sign departs for neo-soul territory, with electric piano chords and jazzy drums; the and Scratch The Surface introduces a club/dance beat beneath the dreampop guitars meanwhile, Letter To Myself and the closer Your Thoughts Are Ur Biggest Obstacle, with their dreamy languor, wouldn't feel out of place on an early Memoryhouse EP.

  • Jantra - Synthesized Sudan: Astro-Nubian Electronic Jaglara Dance Sounds From The Fashaga Underground (BandCamp)

    Jantra is a musician from rural Sudan, who does not make records or write songs, but continuously improvises on a modified Yamaha keyboard at local parties in a style known as jaglara. This record is a work composited in some vaguely described technique from his live performances and some early recordings, and assembled into polished recordings. The resulting sound is unusual: synthetic melody lines glide hypnotically over Sudanese percussion loops. It does not sound like what one would expect world music to be, in the sense of being rustic, homespun or somehow ancient, but luminously futuristic, somewhat otherworldly, and undeniably groovy. The closest comparison I can think of (which doesn't really sound like it) is Bollywood composer Charanjit Singh's 1982 Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat, in which, experimenting with Indian raga patterns on a newly bought TB-303 and TR-808, he almost invented acid house in parallel.

  • Lael Neale - Star Eaters Delight (BandCamp)

    Neale's second album, created whilst sequestered at her family farm in Virginia; on the Bandcamp page, it is stated that Neale still uses a flip phone, and no screens were used anywhere in the creation of the record. Having said that, it is no exercise in historical revivalism (Neale makes extensive use of one electronic gadget, a Suzuki Omnichord), or indeed in following any external reference, in it, Neale follows her own lodestar, making for an interestingly eccentric record.

    Star Eaters Delight kicks off with a bang with I Am The River, a manifesto as an element of primal nature and its sublime power and the intrinsicness of change (“I pledge allegiance to tree and meadow, I have no need to conquer or keep them, I'm for the ocean where we will all end”), starting with the boom of a primitive drum machine loop, a chugging guitar and transistor organ, and Neale singing passionately; it sounds a bit like one of Yo La Tengo at their most raucous. The pace steps down with If I Had No Wings, with just Omnichord, subtle cello, and lyrics laden with esoteric metaphor; the effect is gently psychedelic, like listening to an old Julie Andrews record while specks of dust catch sunlight streaming in through a high window. Faster Than The Medicine picks up the pace to a brisk gallop, Neale's voice soaring. In Verona takes the story of Romeo and Juliet and strips it to just the background: bells and stone steps, love and religion and death. Must Be Tears feels like an old rock'n'roll ballad, only stripped to the basics and built up with simple guitar and drum machine loops and Mellotron strings; though soon what started as a romantic pop ballad wanders into more esoteric territory. No Holds Barred, an old-fashioned romantic ballad that wouldn't be amiss on a Hemi Hemingway record, or crackling off a long-forgotten 7"; and there is a whiff of patchouli about the acoustic-guitar-led Return To Me Now. The closer, Lead Me Blind, wouldn't sound amiss on an Azure Ray record.

    This record doesn't fit neatly into a genre, other than the most inclusive definition of “pop music”, though one could file it alongside Broadcast.

  • Popular Music - Minor Works Of Popular Music (BandCamp)

    You can take the theatre kid out of LA, though the ghosts of old Tinseltown are much harder to exorcise. Zac Pennington—the beautiful, damned youth formerly of Parenthetical Girls and Comedienne—tried, fleeing to the other side of the world—of all places, to Melbourne—where Popular Music's other member, producer Prudence Rees-Lee, is from, to work on their second album, their first of original material (the debut was covers of music from films), but LA ended up coming with him; the result is this record.

    The album starts portentiously with a Tubular Bells-style minor-key line and clanging bell, and soon Pennington emerges (Vincent Price-style from his velvet-lined coffin, one imagines), singing of the faults on which Los Angeles resides, as an 808 kicks in. The theme of drama as a metaphor is not light-handed, with titles like Bad Actors, Chekhov's Gun, Baby Shoes and Stage Blood, and there is a lot of drama, with tears beneath the greasepaint. Pennington plays the role of an aging thespian bargaining with his ghosts, and delivers some wry turns of phrase, in some ways like an oblique Momus; Rees-Lee, meanwhile, brings the electronics, creating fitting sets for the unfolding drama, with additional assistance by long-time collaborator arranger Jherek Bischoff and an orchestra in Moscow conducted over Zoom (presumably before the invasion of Ukraine).

    It's good to see Pennington back, if slightly odd to imagine him in Naarm. File alongside your BoJack Horseman DVDs.

  • Slowdive - Everything Is Alive (BandCamp)

    In the nine years since their reunion, Slowdive have enjoyed success far beyond their original run: they have sold out tours, attracted a wave of fans who weren't born when they originally broke up, been cited as a formative influence by a new generation of artists, and released their eponymous comeback album which was hailed (including here) as surpassing the original recordings that made their name. Which posed the question of what would their next album be like: rumours abounded of tracks having been dropped from the original album because they didn't fit the vision of continuity with 1990s Slowdive, which suggested possible radical departures. (Could we see Christian's interests in field recording and modular synthesis take the foreground, or perhaps a pivot to dubstep analogous to My Bloody Valentine's experiments with drum'n'bass?) Finally, after Covid-induced delay, Everything Is Alive was announced, and the world held its breath.

    Everything Is Alive feels distinctly Slowdive, yet deeper and broader. The elements are there (the squalls of processed guitar, chiming fingerpicked lines and Neil and Rachel's reverb-hazed vocals), though new ones have been gradually introduced. The first track, Shanty, opens with a Berlin-school synth arpeggio that momentarily makes you wonder whether you've put on the wrong album—perhaps some Bureau B krautrock release, or the Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan—though it soon settles into something recognisable as Slowdive territory, with Neil and Rachel harmonising under the the gale-force howl of processed guitar, along with the aforementioned motorik synth pulse and a harpsichord/dulcimer-like line. The squall eventually fades, going into the instrumental Prayer Remembered, that feels a little like Disintegration-era Cure (to the extent that you half expect to hear Bob's voice come in, moan-singing with weary anguish about something beautiful forever lost), and yet unmistakenly Slowdive.

    The rest of the album (which is the Slowdive-standard 8 tracks, four to a LP side) is just as strong. Kisses, a classic slice of goth-adjacent pop, is possibly the catchiest pop song they have recorded since Alison, though fades out perhaps slightly too soon. The side 1 closer, Andalucia Plays, however, is probably the slow-burning highlight: it starts with a deceptive understatedness (a little like a lusher, more intricate cousin of the Souvlaki album cut Here She Comes), and then in just under seven minutes, elements weave in and out mesmerically, showing us the universe in a grain of sand. The album itself is closed out by the appositely-named The Slab, a climax of dense shoegaze not unlike Just For A Day's Primal.

    Everything Is Alive lives up to the shoegaze cliché of cathedrals of sound; it is a work of deep, almost psychedelic intricacy, and I dare say, Slowdive's best album so far.

  • Vines - Birthday Party

    One of the more intriguing-sounding releases this year, Birthday Party is a slender EP of wintery ambience from Brooklyn composer Cassie Wieland, consisting of eight atmospheric tracks built up from processed acoustic instruments, electronics and vocal phrases, looped, vocoded and turned into textural elements. Wieland literally recorded phrases which could have been from a personal journal ("I'll fall apart if I need to, I don't mind", "I'm having trouble making it through the year and it's only January"), looped them, played them through a vocoder over changing chords, and used the recordings as elements, alongside electronics live instruments through copious electronic processing and judicious quantities of reverb. The result is an album of frosty vignettes which sound simple but unfold to reveal deeper intricacy. The record opens with a brief instrumental on distorted strings, segueing into I Don't Mind, which opens with Wieland's vocoded voice; as this repeats, more harmonies come in: swells of string, slow piano chords and percussion buried in reverb and miscellaneous textural elements, building up and growing, before suddenly stripping back to just the voice and piano. January starts in a similar vein, piano, subtle electronics and a vocoded vocal fragment looped and building up, and snowballing as drums join in, the emotion of the original text being buried in a somewhat understated maelstrom. One More is an instrumental, starting with sparse guitar and building up, and sounding like the title sequence to a harrowing indie film set somewhere cold; the next track, Drive Thru, takes the motif to incidental music. Things settle somewhat in Home, with processed brass and vocoded vocals bringing a sense of warmth and stillness. The closing track, The World At Large, is the only one with proper lyrics, which are sung through a vocoder over a bed of processed guitar and percussion, and feels more optimistic, almost like pop music. File alongside: Hollie Kenniff, Briana Marela, Memoryhouse

  • Jimmy Whispers - The Search For God (BandCamp) and Pickle Darling - Laundromat (BandCamp)

    2023 was a good year for electronic bedroom/folk-pop, giving us several noteworthy releases adjacent to the aesthetic.

    Jimmy Whispers is the alias of LA musician and filmmaker James Cicero, and The Search For God is, as the name suggests, a record of soul-searching and a quest for transcendence (albeit of a nonsectarian nature); it's a slender record, its ten songs weighing in at 15 minutes, and was recorded with two synthesisers, a drum machine and a karaoke machine. For that quarter-hour, Whispers sings impassionedly over synth arpeggios, programmed basslines, clunky drum loops and the odd vocoder, about subjects from love, freedom, and the human condition in this flawed world. The opening track, Ice Cream Truck, sets the mood with its CR-78 drums and triangle-wave keyboard lick, and a universal story of friendship and ice cream; Stray Dogs puts forward alternatives to solitude, True Love Is Freedom soars into soul territory, and the final track, The Right Time To Leave closes the record with a goodbye note, set over a bed of swirling pads and angular keyboards. All in all, the stripped-back instrumentation makes this record; one could imagine Whispers as almost an electronic Daniel Jounston.

    Pickle Darling is the project of Lukas Mayo (they/them) from Christchurch, Aotearoa, who makes charming pop songs with ukulele, glockenspiel, melodica and battery-operated keyboards; crafting songs with hand-arranged layers of electronics, finger-picked strings and (occasionally processed) vocals. Their album reminded me a bit of We Show Up On Radar, or perhaps a less lovelorn Love Letter Band. I would be surprised if they hadn't attended the A Low Hum festival at some point.

  • yeule - softscars (BandCamp)

    yeule's third album is a more stylistically coherent work than Glitch Princess, leans somewhat a 90s alternative sound; there's distortion and skronk, vaguely grungeternative guitar licks, and still plenty of melodic intricacy, digital glitchiness and electronic beats along with the self-lacerating introspection. There is distortion, but I wouldn't call this lo-fi; every frayed waveform seems to be placed as deliberately as a fragment of newspaper in a collage, adding up to rich textural detail, and yeule's songwriting only gets stronger.

And some other releases: Bathe Alone, Fall With The Light Down (the second album from the Atlanta band is a piece of nicely spacious dreampop) ¶ Bodywash, I Held The Shape While I Could (the Montreal duo's second album; slow buildups, vocals floating over layers of electronic textures, some nice melodies and the odd crunchy guitar) ¶ the bv's, Warp (the bv's are a German indiepop band whose music fuses Sarah Records-style indie with the textural approach of shoegaze and the motorik repetition of krautrock; Warp, their first single in a while and a preview of their album next year, continues in this vein, and brings a bit of Disintegration-era Cure into the mix) ¶ Julie Byrne, The Greater Wings (ethereal, reverb-drenched songcraft emerging from grief from Byrne's late partner, sublimated into something crystalline; Alex Somers (of Riceboy Sleeps) was involved in the production, and it shows) ¶ caro ♡, wild at ♡ (a release from PC Music's final year, this starts unassumingly as classic girly hyperpop à la Hannah Diamond, but then gets deeper and weirder, i.e., the industrial glitch baroqure of From The Heart, which sounds like a machine-learning model trained on commercial pop music and its own output breaking down and/or gaining sentience) ¶ Rocketship and The Cat's Miaow, Rocketship x The Cat's Miaow (Australian indiepop darlings of the 1990s The Cat's Miaow make their return on a split single with Portland's Rocketship (who contribute a hauntingly lovely if brief Chet Baker cover); Kerrie's voice is as clear as always. The Cat's Miaow played at the Lost & Lonesome gig in Naarm in November, and are apparently working on a new record, so that's something to look forward to) ¶ deary, deary (a promising debut from a new shoegaze/dreampop band from London; also wins the prize for the best Funky Drummer beat that's not actually a Funky Drummer sample, for that extra 90s nostalgia rush) ¶ Death And Vanilla, Flicker (the latest release from the Swedish hauntologists brings their analogue electronics, chiming guitars and fog of reverb to make an uneasy dreampop, like Acid House Kings playing at the Twin Peaks roadhouse) ¶ Drop Nineteens, Hard Light (the 1990s Boston shoegazers return after a long hiatus; to me, the record had some surprising Underground Lovers vibes) ¶ Grrrl Gang, Spunky! (what the name suggests; choppy upbeat punk-pop with attitude from Indonesia's own all-girl summer fun band) ¶ Hot Coppers, Hot Coppers (the debut album from veteran UK indie producer Gareth Parton (who worked with The Go! Team), now moved to Naarm and hooked up with the Lost & Lonesome crew, and making catchy, summery yet wryly self-deprecating pop to match; file alongside The Smallgoods and Monnone Alone) ¶ Alex Lahey, The Answer Is Always Yes (skronky, driving indie rock from Naarm with wry observational lyrics about variable housing situations, coping with exs' engagements, the mortifying ordeal of being seen and other aspects of the human condition) ¶ Leah Senior, The Music That I Make (vaguely (anti)folky singer-songwriter from Naarm, with a clear voice, a knack for melody and a habit of breaking the fourth wall, in singing about the dilemmas of making music; the title track is particularly lovely) ¶ Melenas, Ahora (melodic, motorik, vaguely Stereolab-adjacent indiepop from Spain) ¶ Memorials, Music For Film: Tramps!/Tramps! part 2/Women Against The Bomb (you see a band at a Stereolab-curated minifestival, wait for a few months for their album, then three show up; Memorials are the new project from Verity Sussman of Electrelane and Matthew Simms of Wire, and their their music varies from electronically treated protest folk to motorik psychedelia and cosmic ambience) ¶ Me Rex, Giant Elk (wry yet vulnerablke indiepop-meets-emo à la Los Campesinos; if only Indietracks was still around, I could see them on the train shed stage) ¶ Myrkur, Spine (technically this is a black-metal record, though where the genre abuts to shoegaze; Amalie Bruun's voice floats ethereally above the backings, which range from Scandinavian folk to cathartic noise) ¶ RVG, Brainworms (atmospheric indie rock from Naarm, with themes from Covid-era Zoom funerals and conspiracy theories (see the title) to imagining oneself as a squid; may contain traces of online discourse) ¶ Sigur Rós, Átta (Sigur Rós return after a decade's absence as a band, and what a return it is; at once rich and sparse, with a melancholic beauty about it, and an enveloping depth) ¶ Sparks, The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte (the latest in a long career by the septuagenarian Mael brothers combines synthpop production with wry, if occasionally dated, lyrics (the girl who was crying in her latte now sees her daughter crying in her kombucha)) ¶ Spearmint, This Candle Is For You (the latest for the indiepop troubadors ramps up the polish with long-time collaborator and smooth-music aficionado Rhodri Marsden on production; the opening track saunters right past Belle & Sebastian's recent forays onto the light-up dance floor and into Baxendale territory; other highlights are the introspective How I Became The Nutter On The Bus and Older Cats, which is what the title implies) ¶ Spunsugar, A Hole Forever (on their second album, Spunsugar refine and polish their blend of drum-machine-driven shoegaze and Curve/Garbage-adjacent 90s alternative; expect blast beats, crunchy guitars and vocals soaring above the maelstrom) ¶ Strawberry Runners, Strawberry Runners (folk/americana meets pop with electronics; a highlight is the closing track, Circle Circle, with its echoes of Mirah and Virginia Astley) ¶ Teeth Of The Sea, Hive (Teeth Of The Sea have made a name for themselves as a sort of Queen for Quietus readers, combining hard rock, cinematic soundscapes, Frostian dark ambience, the drug-seared ekstasis of rave, crystalline arpeggios, ominous drones and that mournful trumpet, and their latest album, a concept album based on a Frank Herbert story, continues further along their trajectory, passing through industrial and synthwave territory and a track that sounds like Factory Floor working with Nurse With Wound. In a better parallel timeline, the goths are into this rather than samey 4/4 EBM with totalitarian imagery ) ¶ Teitur & Aarhus Jazz Orchestra, Songs From A Social Distance (a thematic work based on emails between the Faroese musician Teitur and a friend of his, set to atmospheric orchestral music (not particularly jazzy, except in the instrumentation), with themes like forgotten email passwords, dealing with bureaucracy and Covid-related anxiety; nicely understated) ¶ THALA, twotwentytwo (Layered, atmospheric indiepop combining a 90s vibe (think more The Sundays than Nirvana, though) with modern digital production from the Berlin artist (and you know she's from Berlin because she mentions smoking in one of the songs).) ¶ Vanishing Twin, Afternoon X (a smaller Vanishing Twin (just Cathy, Valentina and Zongamin bassist Susumu Mukai) take their kosmische psychedelia into more experimental territories) ¶ Field Medic, Light Is Gone 2 (The work of a LA folky experimenting with electronic beats; and pouring out his broken heart over backings that sound somewhere between soulful-bicep-tattoo trap and Casiotone-on-an-ironing-board bedroom pop; don't focus on his voice (which has a Ben-Gibbard-on-downers quality) but the production) ¶ WITCH, Zango (the return after almost half a century of the legendary Zambian rock group is a groove juggernaut, moving seamlessly between funk, smooth soul and heavy fuzzed-out riffage and hints of reggae and Afro-Cuban influences, whilst remaining a coherent whole) ¶

If there was any one overarching theme that kept recurring in my listening this year, it would probably be one of a gentle psychedelia: not so much a heavy, cosmic trip, as one of the edges of things starting to fray into colours as one stares into them.

If I were to pick a record of the year, it would be Slowdive, though with Emma Anderson a close second.

2023 cds lists music 0

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