The Catchup: Week 43, 2014
Swans // To Be Kind // 8¾
After a career of hit and miss negativity and corrosive atmospheres, Swans have stepped back, reevaluated their strong points and regrouped with the always colossal, often good The Seer. That record was muddy and enchanting, using noise to form dead man’s lullabies. To Be Kind moves within the same range of primal, animalistic songwriting where a ten minute song built around raw repetition is always justified. However, here the beast is awake. The result is an album that have more interesting, complex rhythms, more articulate ideas in touch with band’s negative aesthetic as well as moments of sheer force of nature rock music. Michael Gira is more prominent as a frontman, breezing through acoustic ballads and screaming about fucking with equal aplomb. While another half an hour plus long song is a burden, a test of patience rather than an essential park, To Be Kind is otherwise fat free. Opener Screen Shot is a constant build of tempo and tension. A Little God In My Hands is Swans at their most melodically perverse. The immediate highlight is Oxygen, a rather brief and minimalist execution of repetitive power. An evil sounding motif, think the first part of The Seer’s Mother Of The World, is being stretched out to its muscle tearing limits before Gira sinks his teeth in vocally. The band follow with what is possibly Swans’ most aggressively rocking track since their no wave beginnings. On paper To Be Kind is a lot like The Seer but in motion its much more agile and direct, unpredictable but deadly immediate, a 4K bloodbath to their previous high definition of intense fear.
Thom Yorke // Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes // 6¼
People will say that these days Radiohead and Thom Yorke records are more known for the way they are released rather than the actual music on the albums. While the trend started with In Rainbows, the traces of it can be followed back all the way to the no-single-needed Kid A. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is Yorke’s second solo album but in reality it has more to do with Radiohead’s last The King Of Limbs LP and its download episodic content electro rock than Yorke’s own The Eraser. Here Yorke steps back. No longer a rock frontman, he uses his voice as electronic seams that ignite drowsy, loose IDM atmosphere. With skittering beats that feel like an I <3 AFX t-shirt, Yorke finds himself at his most self-indulgent and yet simple. But most importantly, the package was released as a pay-to-unlock torrent. That’s very important you see.
The Antlers // Familiars // 6
New York sad sacks The Antlers hit the nerve with their teary breakout record Hospice, a combination of post rock’s ambiance and indie rock’s propulsion. With their previous album Burst Apart, they held back the tears and rocked as hard as they could at the time, which wasn’t that much. But it was grace in strength. Familiars on the other hand explores the ambient side to their music, but without the sadness and ability to emphasise. Rather beautifully sculpted, Familiars sounds nice, but struggles with emotional attachment. There’s a bit too much reverb on some of these songs, turning a minuscule and private art rock record into a messy dream pop wet dream. Lingering on with every passing note, Antlers aim to create more by using less. However, while attractive immediately, there’s not quite enough of human flesh here to make Familiars feel alive.
Future // Honest // 4½
If genius is in simplicity and less is indeed more, then Future can claim himself to be one of the vanguards of modern hip-hop. Lacking distinct vocal skills, surrounded by lacking, atmospheric wallpaper beats and a need to sing at times, he is kind of useless. But that doesn’t prevent him from having a strong aesthetic which often makes his music stand out. Just like it was with the shit crazy Pluto, Honest is nowhere near as bad as Future himself is. Majority of it feels more introspective and personal, which in Future’s terms allows for a amusing string of did-he-really-just-say-thats. The beats are softer too, learning from the school of 40 and yet lacking Drake’s sentimental venom. Just like Pluto, Honest is prone to accidental genius in the form of one of this year’s best hip-hop cuts Move That Dope. But as an LP aiming for character building, Honest might as well be aching for romance while listening to Kiss Me Thru The Phone.
Rustie // Green Language // 4¼
Want a proof that UK electronic trends move as quick as the speed of sound? Three years ago Rustie was just an up and coming record producer with a passion for Dreamcast imagery. In those three years he released an album and a single. And yet, at this point it seems like his sound is so unique that he has an entire legacy on his shoulders. In that regard Green Language is either a failure of a jolly sound or a man rebelling against the expectations. If it’s the latter, then it’s at the price of the composition. While Glass Swords featured complex fluorescent trap instrumentals mostly voiced by Zelda samples, Green Language utilises rappers. And to make them feel safe, Rustie pretty much removes any and all jumped up eccentricity he previously displayed. The instrumentals aren’t just dull kind of bad, 80% of them sound like loading scene interludes. Save of Danny Brown featuring Attak, Green Language lacks the basic sense of manic that is essential to dance pop or hi score trap.
The Horrors // Luminous // 4
With their first three albums, UK post-punk act The Horrors were onto something. Channelling goth, garage, then cold shoegaze and finally warm baggy beats, this five some were Britain’s own nostalgia kingpins. Sadly, this impressive run comes to an end on the disappointing Luminous. First of all, the experimentation is nonexistent. The sound here is a shimmering expansion upon the aesthetic they achieved on Skying. But instead of altering, The Horrors simply add more layers to the already barely coherent, drugged out mess. Luminous suffocates within the echoes of itself. Though traces of melodies do appear, the lack of any coherent punch makes them seem like an aftershock rather than a direct hit. Lacking surprises and cluttering up ruining the winning formula beyond comprehension, Luminous is the proof that big ambitions mixed with lack of creativity at the time can make everyone look bad.
Scott Walker & Sunn O // Soused // 2
When you think about it, internet news feeds were made for collaborations like this. 60 pop singer turned avant-garde noise poet Scott Walker has spent the recent decades releasing noisy, abrasive and most abstract albums at a very relaxed tempo. Following 2012’s wordy Bish Bosch, Soused can’t help but come across as a lesser take on the same aesthetic. It’s a much more restrained listen with distinct hints of rhythm and direction. At this rate, Soused feels less like a collaboration and more like a Walker record with Sunn O providing the backing, which to be fair is probably exactly what happened here. Slow drones that create a tense mood never evolve. Instead they somehow create a sense of security within darkness that is alien in Walker’s recent world. It was amusing to see the news of this thing on our dashboards but while it’s not quite Lulu, it’s not something worth revisiting either as it feels limiting in regards to both artists.