You know about the big releases each week, but what about the smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar? We’ve rounded up nine of the best new album releases from this week, from Ocar’s lo-fi pop to the glitchy electronica of Son Lux: don’t miss out.
The Orb – ‘Moonbuilding 2703 AD’
This 13th studio album from The Orb sits largely on the side of their catalogue that favours deep, sprawling ambience over house-y hooks. Based around the outlandish idea of mankind one day discovering its roots on solar moons, the record is made up of four nine-minute-plus epics that waft into view, all dub basslines, ambient synth washes and well-chosen samples. The exception to such rambling – and standout moment – is the title track, a skanking, lurching take on ambient hip-hop that takes a J Dilla-like beat to funky, astral heights. It’s brilliant, fresh and original, with few precedents in the duo’s catalogue. It also towers over the rest of ‘Moonbuilding…’, which sounds a little Orb-by-numbers in comparison: full of masterful control of mood and atmosphere but too unfocused to really raise the temperature.
Gwilym Gold – ‘A Paradise’
Since Gwilym Gold’s debut was so conceptually driven – 2012’s ‘Tender Metal’ was released in a new format, Bronze, which meant the songs were structurally different on every play – it’s refreshing that his second is so subtle. Contributions from melodic dubsteppers Darkstar and Hyetal, playful electronicist Bullion and classical composer Nico Muhly are subsumed into a breath-holdingly delicate whole, the former Golden Silvers man’s voice charged but tentative, as glitchy beats flutter and soft piano pulses and strings swell slowly. It’s done with such restraint that what changes of tone there are, such as on the more meaty, beaty ‘Triumph’ or the lushly sensual ‘Flex’, are all the more striking.
Fist City – ‘Everything Is A Mess’
‘Everything Is A Mess’ starts with 20 seconds of ambient noise before exploding into a song called ‘Fuck Cops’. Both are laudable actions, but red herrings in regard to the overall vibe of Calgary punk quartet Fist City’s second album. The formless interludes – there are six in total – don’t detract from the energetic bursts of earbleeding tunefulness. ‘Let’s Rip’, first heard last year on Transgressive’s reissue of debut album ‘It’s 1983, Grow Up!’, sounds like The Cure through a pop-punk filter. ‘Hey Little Sister’ and ‘Rats’ do a similar job on Sonic Youth, aided by Evan Van Reekum’s cavernous guitar sound. This record is a worthy companion for the latest Joanna Gruesome album: Fist City too, blur the distinctions between indie and punk, and have a similar knack for killer hooks.
The Membranes – ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’
Fronted by music critic John Robb, Blackpool’s Membranes shot through the ‘80s underground in a blaze of punk energy. While Robb’s other band Goldblade are still a going concern, The Membranes’ first album in 26 years is an extraordinary comeback. Smashing together dub basslines, post-punk grind and cosmic soundscapes, ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’ muses on mortality and the universe, and was inspired by a conversation between Robb and physicist Joe Incandela. Often brutal in approach, the gut-punch attack of ‘Do The Supernova’ and ‘Space Junk’ would frighten off any extra-terrestrials tuning in. A recording of Incandela talking science can be heard on the reverberating ‘The Multiverse Suite’ and ‘The Hum Of The Universe’ finds Robb concluding “All God’s flesh turns to rust”.
Son Lux – ‘Bones’
For his fourth album, Denver-born musician Ryan Lott has bolstered the Son Lux line-up, adding Rafiq Bhatia on guitar and Ian Chang on drums. There’s no marked difference to his glitchy but powerful electronica, although Bhatia’s extra billing as ‘composer’ hints at ‘Bones” alternate life as an orchestral suite. From the tuning up on opener ‘Breathe In’ to the repeated lyrics about striving for freedom on the distorted electro-pop of ‘Change Is Everything’ and dubstep gospel of ‘Now I Want’, the record feels as much like a piece as an album. By the time Lott’s shaky-Bowie vocals give way to slicing strings on ‘Breathe Out’, ‘Bones’ has become a future-facsimile of Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s classical masterpiece ‘Symphony Of Sorrowful Songs’. Pretentious, yes, but wonderful.
Oscar – ‘Beautiful Words EP’
“You try to forget me but you can’t,” croons north Londoner Oscar Scheller on ‘Forget Me Not’. The lyric might be a warning to someone messing around with the 23-year-old’s heart, but it can also be neatly applied to his sugarcoated lo-fi pop. Recorded in his bedroom, this seven-track debut EP has a subtle layer of melancholy and is rich in immediate melodies and collages of crunching drum machines and string samples. The lilting ‘Grow Up’ has Oscar coming on like Peter Pan (“I just wanna be young forever”), while ‘Told Me So’ mixes an angry bassline with dazed guitars as the heartbroken singer sighs “Someone told me so/ You don’t love me at all”. Just you try and forget him.
Meg Baird – ‘Don’t Weigh Down The Light’
Don’t judge a book by its cover? You’d swear the sleeve art for Meg Baird’s third album is willing you to do just that – specifically, by looking like a whopping callback to ‘Blue’ by Joni Mitchell. Baird may lean variously on folk, jazz and early ‘70s Laurel Canyon fare, but ‘Don’t Weigh Down The Light’ belies her San Francisco-via-Philadelphia citizenship by sounding like a relic of psychedelic Britain. Delicate fingerpicking nuzzles fuzzily electric guitar solos like prime Pentangle (‘Back To You’). Baird’s voice, high and crystalline, sounds like it’s coming from deep within a forest (‘Stars Unwinding’). Espers, the rockier duo with which she made her name, seem to be on permanent hiatus, but this more than suffices.
Jaako Eino Kalevi – ‘Jaako Eino Kalevi’
A former tram driver from Helsinki, Jaako Eino Kalevi has toured heavily since releasing debut EP ‘Dreamzone’ in 2013. Shortly after recording this debut for Domino imprint Weird World, the longhaired singer and producer upped sticks to Berlin, but his sound has barely moved on from the exploratory disco-funk he made in his Helsinki bedroom. This is no bad thing: at its best ‘Jaako Eino Kalevi’ conjures the slinkier moments of Ariel Pink’s 2010 breakthrough ‘Before Today’. ‘Mind Like Muscle’ shifts from funk chug to plinking R&B, and ‘Night At The Field’ wriggles on a delicious bassline. War On Drugs engineer Nicolas Vernhes smoothes restrained standouts ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ and ‘Room’ into two of Kalevi’s best songs yet, but the whole thing bathes in glorious groove.
Desaparecidos – ‘Payola’
With reunited emo titans like American Football and The Get Up Kids touring, it was only a matter of time before Bright Eyes leader Conor Oberst got his own hypersensitive punk band back together. Oberst’s acclaimed Americana outfit may have overshadowed Desaparecidos, but ‘Payola’ picks up right where 2002’s politically charged debut ‘Read Music/Speak Spanish’ left off. Oberst growls emphatically through social inequality rant ‘The Left Is Right’ and ‘City On The Hill’ bounces along with more woahs than US punk roadshow the Warped Tour. The pop-punk politicising does get exhausting over 14 fiercely energetic, relentlessly right-on tracks, but even after a decade as a folk star, Oberst still gives the other grown-up emo kids a run for their money.