It is a quieter week in New Borns this week for us at TWL, thanks to the Easter festive break, but of course we still had our devoted ears serenaded by some great new music. Although we were spoilt with choice of New Borns from bands like Primal Scream, James and Lust For Youth to name just 3, it was the contagious and nostalgic return of Damien Jurado, the return of club filler leaders Underworld, HAELOS the new electronic trio’s outstanding debut and Brisbane’s The Goon Sax, who seem to be getting more international acclaim for their New Born delivery, that we selected for your listening pleasure.
Album Title Visions of us on the Land
Label Secretly Canadian
Genre Psychedelic Alternative Folk
Moments Of The Flaming Lips, Nick Drake, The Beatles
Stand Out Mellow Blue Polka Dot, A.M. AM, Kola
Visions of Us on the Land, is the 3rd, and possibly last, installment in Damien Jurado’s Maraqopa odyssey. Beginning in 2011, Maraqopa, Jurado’s 10th studio album, now concludes with a musical journey through psychedelic folk landscapes. Littered with hints of Jurado’s christian faith and personal doubts, Visions of Us on the Land, is a deeply personal and spellbinding experience.
Inspired by a vivid dream that Jurado recalls like a movie trailer, he has been working to bring his dreamscape to life though out the Maraqopa trilogy . Visions of Us on the Land is remarkable in and of itself yet flawlessly performs as the closing act of the Maraqopa epic. An act that had much to follow after Brothers and Sister of the Eternal Son.
From start to finish, you can hear quirky Flaming Lips, Led Zeppelin and 80s sci-fi movie inspirations. Driving guitars and slow dancing synth riffs create a dark, external and internal exploratory tone. ‘November 20’ and ‘Prisms’ are the semi-acoustic, washy tunes to expect from a singer-songwriter with more than 15 years experience. However, everything has a tinge of adventure and contemplation.
Light vs dark is one of humanity’s oldest tales. For Jurado, suffering deeply personal losses, sought to find his own light again through the creation of his music and spirituality. A lasting influence throughout his work. “I went from the light really into the black … around that time, maybe two weeks before my latest son was born, I tried taking my life” Jurado explains. Playing with bombastic bass tones and the idea of a journey which is biblical but does not specifically identify itself that way.
‘ONALASKA’, ‘Exit 535’ and ‘A.M. AM’ are three of the more textured and psychedelic songs, they’re electrifying and pulsing. A chaotic calm of technology and space, profound and yet humble. The absolute stand outs are the gentle Simon & Garfunkel types like ‘Queen Anne’ and ‘Kola’; golden needles in the haystack of music. Flurries of strings and piano and a bittersweet realisation of what matters, this album is the most complete, cinematic release yet.
There’s an elegance throughout Visions of us on the Land, which keeps everything together. A mystery for mere mortals to understand unless you have your own Maraqopa. Visions is truly spectacular, like nothing else and so unapologetically brilliant. An abundant planet where life is seemingly upside down, Damien Jurado convinces you that you had everything the wrong way around this entire time.
ALBUM TITLE Barbara, Barbara We Face A Shining Future
LABEL SmithHyde UK
MOMENTS OF New Order, Prodigy, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, Infusion
STAND OUT Low Burn, Santiago Cuatro, Motorhome, Ova Nova
You know the Essex guys who whipped dance fans into a frothing stupor in the 1990s with a joyful, delicious intensity via the likes of ‘Rez’, ‘Born Slippy’,’Push Upstairs’ and ‘King Of Snake’? Well, they’re back. With their first album in six years. Karl Hyde (vocals, guitar), Rick Smith (keyboards) and sideman Darren Price (more keys) pressed plenty of buttons on a recent 20th anniversary live run-through of Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Returning with renewed vigour after 35 years of making music.
Sitting somewhere between the sonic collages of 1970s electronic pioneer, Jean-Michel Jarre and the deliberate precision of Kraftwerk. Hyde, Smith and Price should see new long-player Barbara, Barbara, We Face A Shining Future welcomed in a similar vein to New Order’s 2015 comeback.
The album title comes from Smith’s dad – his last words to his wife of 62 years before he died. Powerful, poignant and so, by turns, is a fair chunk of the record, too.
At seven lurching tracks, over 44 minutes, the trio remonstrate with and demonstrate their continued relevance in today’s music scene. Their presumed confidence is ushered in with the eight-minute opener ‘I Exhale’; a floor stomping start. Hyde casts his clipped lines in casual, throwaway style with all the swagger of early OASIS. Conjuring up a sense of relief as he gets much off his chest.
The pulse is then turned down on ‘If Rah’, with hi-hat reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails’ disco-defeat anthem ‘Closer’. While Smith provides regular, stabbing bursts of keyboard fireworks. Not for the first time, the distant guitar also comes to the rescue as Hyde’s attempts something more cerebral than prior efforts (think ‘Born Slippy’ and its ‘lager-lager’ ).
Standout, ‘Low Burn’, kicking off a splendid hat-trick, skips from low-hum keys and hissing percussion out of the direction from whence U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name came. “Be beautiful. Free. Totally. Unlimited…Harmony. Panic. Breathe. Craving. Nothing. Time.” – Hyde goes for a woozy head-spinner as Smith and Price guide the music into a glittering middle section with popping beats and sky-gazing atmosphere galore. “The old trick’s been pulled at last. It still works wonders, don’t it?” Less is more with Hyde’s lyrics here, too. Leaving Smith and Price with plenty of room to move.
‘Santiago’ is a classical acoustic guitar interlude. Beautifully timed surprise. ‘Motorhome’ has lots going on, a Kraftwerkian hard-disk undertone, with popcorn-esque bouncing beeps and all sorts. With some Celtic pipes for good measure.
Underworld approach the sunset through the apocalyptic pop of ‘Nylon Strung’, via the standard woo-hoo ambiance of ‘Ova Nova’ and its dot-matrix printout pinging.
‘Barbara’ is perhaps just a touch too neat, too polished and lacking genuine drama. Particularly in the first half, but the album extends its confessional, loose, funky, melodic territory with ever-increasing self -assurance. Indeed, its almost as if the opening few tracks were misleading. There’s definitely more to these guys than may initially meet your ears. Not just the dreary and the dreaded) doof-doof.
Had I never heard of Underworld, would I be suitably impressed? Maybe. As someone who’s merely heard of them already, can recall a few songs from yonder years and that’s about it – a solid listen is the verdict. Those who love Underworld should enjoy greatly what’s contained here. Those who are still learning to make sense of Smith and Hyde’s sound should equally enjoy further investigation after giving this new disc a spin.
Heading swiftly towards four decades in music. And still with something interesting to say. Collectively commanding a fresh audience. And freshly revived favouritism from the masses.
Album Title Full Circle
Label Matador Records
Moments Of The XX, Massive Attack
Stand Out Separate Lives
Hælos is a band from London whose debut album is a sonically dense trip, layered with sounds, voices, and ambiguous lyrics on the subjects of love and human connections. Arthur Delaney, Dom Goldsmith, and Lotti Benardout have created what is a vastly enjoyable listen, and it’s an album that provides so much depth that it offers many enjoyable listens after the first.
Full Circle begins cinematically, reaching the borderline-existential heights worthy of a documentary about the universe. The learned voice of an Englishman with a stiff upper lip, speaks passionately about love and religion, while angelic synth chords float behind. The second track, ‘Pray‘, is almost a sequel to the introduction. Familiar synths remain in the background, and the sample of the English man’s voice pops up again towards the end.
In some ways, ‘Pray‘ sets a precedent for how the rest of the album sounds. This song, as is the case with many on Full Circle, is made up of many, many layers of sound. Making for a particularly lush feast on ‘Oracle‘. Beginning as a smooth, atmospheric electro jam, the beat switches up and the track emerges as a banger.
Songs on Full Circle tend to begin fairly sparsely, before building into their lavish peaks. This contrast is vital to the album’s likeability. If the whole project was as dense as the end of ‘Earth Not Above‘, for example, it could threaten to make the album a bit too rich.
Each member of Hælos provides vocals on Full Circle. Often, these voices overlap and harmonise, creating this single, genderless, ethereal voice. This works really nicely across the whole album. Sometimes, like on ‘Pray’, these voices will play off each other and take lines in turn, a style that’s reminiscent of The XX. With a name like Hælos, and an album cover that looks like a halo, the vocals on Full Circle are just another element of the album’s heavenly sound.
Full Circle is both harmonious and diverse in it’s sound. Overall, each song remains within the sonic realm of lush but somewhat dark electronic music. Within that, there is diverse enough sound to keep it interesting. ‘Earth Not Above‘ opens with a trip-hop style beat, while ‘Sacred‘ opens like a late 90’s rave. This diversity gives each track a unique flavour.
Hælos’ debut work is a fantastic offering of both music you can dance to at the peak of the party, and music you can relax with as it winds down. The production is hearty, and the voices are soothing. With Full Circle, Hælos have burst out of the gate with a fantastic and interesting project. With an album of this quality, Hælos are sure to see their success and popularity blossom.