Down That Road

One of my favourite singles of 2019 was Apiento’s Things You Do For Love. In the record shop last weekend, the ever wonderful Piccadilly Records, I found a 12″ by Apiento that slipped out at the tail end of last year, unnoticed. Made from similar building blocks as Things… Down That Road is slinky, soulful, Balearica, with an acid bassline, some very precise machine drums and an understated but unmissable vocal from Harriet Brown.

Twenty Nineteen: An End Of Year List

I read an article recently that claimed that making end of year lists was merely an attempt to forestall death, that ranking and ordering things is for people who have an unnatural fear of death and who must be constantly trying to leave things in order before they go. A bit dark perhaps. A similar argument says that making lists is an attempt to place order on a chaotic and uncontrollable world- and one glimpse at the news will confirm that the world is both those things and getting more so- and people (men mainly) feel that if they can rank their albums/books/films then they have at least controlled a part of that world. So, with all those things being as they are, here’s my end of year list. It doesn’t seem to have much in common with the end of year lists I’ve read in the ‘proper’ music press or websites- so I must be out of step with what’s really the best of the 2019. All I can offer you is what I’ve loved the most this year and some examples to sample.

Singles/songs/remixes/e.p.
There’s a lot of chuggy, cosmic, Balearic, ALFOS style releases in this list, a top 30 for 2019, a golden year for music that evokes outer space, Mediterranean beaches and/or basement clubs thick with dry ice.

1. Silver Apples Edge Of Wonder (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

Released for Record Shop Day in April this remix is nine minutes of total joy, a dream turned into sound- the pitter patter drum machine giving gentle propulsion, the bouncy keyboard riff and metallic sounds echoing round and round and the softly sung vocal- ‘waves, waves, Neptune’s metronomes… relentless heartbeat of the sea’.

2. A close second was this three track release from Pines In The Sun, Albanian Balearica via Brighton. I know next to nothing about them but the wordless, sunshine shimmer of Sun and the gorgeous sprawl of Zig Zag Sea (plus Duncan Gray’s remix of the latter) soundtracked much of my summer.

3. Apiento‘s single Things We Do For Love came out back at the start of the year, a slow motion dance floor shaped ode with synth bass and whispered vocals. My main regret is not being quick enough to get a copy of the limited run of 7″s.

4 and 5. A Certain Ratio have spent the year celebrating their fortieth anniversary and released this pair of superb songs, one a previously unreleased cover version from 1980 that was intended to be voiced by Grace Jones, the dark funk of House In Motion and the other a very Mancunian remix of their Dirty Boy single (featuring Barry Adamson and the voice of Tony Wilson), remixed by Chris Massey. The Dirty Boy remix in particular has floated my boat.

From this point onward there are a slew of singles, remixes and e.p.s that I’ve enjoyed this year, loads of brilliant music showing that 2019 has been a really good year. The next dozen or so especially  have all been on heavy rotation.

6. Moon Duo Lost Heads
7. Meatraffle Meatraffle On The Moon (Andrew Weatherall Remix)
8. Four Tet Teenage Birdsong
9. A Mountain Of Rimowa A.M.O.R. e.p.
10. Plaid Maru (Orbital Remix)
11. Hardway Bros Chateau Comtal
12. Scott Fraser and Louise Quinn Together More
13. Four Tet Anna Painting
14. GLOK Dissident
15. Roisin Murphy Incapable (plus the pair of incredible Crooked Man remixes/dubs)
16. Craig Bratley Message To The Outpost e.p.
17. Field Of Dreams No 303
18. Fjordfunk Exile (including the Hardway Bros remix)
19. The Comet Is Coming Summon The Fire
20. Ride Future Love
21. A Man Called Adam Paul Valery St The Disco (Prins Thomas Remix)
22. KH Only Human
23. Shape Of Space Manifesto
24. Warriors Of The Dystotheque Things In The Shadows (Tronik Youth Remix)
25. ⣎⡇ꉺლ༽இ•̛)ྀ◞ ༎ຶ ༽ৣৢ؞ৢ؞ؖ ꉺლ e.p.
26. Shunt Voltage Link Up/ See It In Your Eyes
27. Boy Division Hot Pants
28. Dan Wainwright Keep Me Hangin’ On (with Hardway Bros dub remix)
29. Duncan Gray Much Much Worse/ Where Clock Goes
30. Terr Tales Of Devotion (including the Prins Thomas Diskomiks)

Four Tet/Kieran Hebden has had a particularly good 2019, always innovative and entrancing and producing some of the best moments in a variety of guises and across a series of releases, including a live album recorded at Ally Pally in the summer that I’ve only just started listening to.

Albums
I’ve bought and listened to what seems like an enormous amount of albums this year. The internet and streaming has made individual songs the focus again, a return to the halcyon days of the 7″ and 12″ single and their B-sides, and occasionally people write about the death of the album and the forty/seventy minute format (depending on whether its a vinyl album or CD). Looking through my pile of records and CDs and lists of downloads the album looks in really good health to me. There’s more breadth to my album list, a wider variety of sounds and styles. I’ve fallen into an ambient/drone wormhole many times this year, a wonderful place to stay for extended periods. Psychedelia and cosmic psych rock has been at the front of the pile a lot. These are in no particular order, the first eight I genuinely couldn’t pick between in terms of a favourite or a ranking, they’re all the albums of the year.

Glok Dissident
Andy Bell (the guitarist from Ride) released the surprise of the year, a rich, gorgeous flotation through cosmic psychedelia, motorik drums and West German sounds, awash with floaty, dreamy synths and guitars. From the Tron-esque sleeve to the luminous green vinyl to the grooves contained within everything about this album was spot on.

Richard Norris Abstractions Vol. 1
Richard Norris has been exploring ambient music throughout 2019 (and before). This year he has released a pair of albums, Abstractions Vol. 1 and 2, filled with extended repetitive sounds, loops of melody, chimes and washes, drones, ambient noise, waves of reassuring sounds- deep listening. This year has been a car crash in many ways. The whole Brexit debacle, the constant noise and feelings of loss of control over our politics and culture, the sense of loss and the feeling that we’re being driven over the edge by fanatics. This album has helped me switch off from it. I can put this on and it works in a calming way that nothing else does. If there’s an N.H.S. left in five years time, this pair of albums should be available on prescription.

Meatraffle Bastard Music
Bastard Music is a strange record, surreal, bold and in places very funny. A vision of dystopia set to a ramshackle beat and some memorable melodies. Lyrically it deals with everything- nationalism, the exploitation of workers, Brexit, living in London versus living in the country, immigration, the price of renting, sexism, science fiction, activism, everything… but it’s never overbearing or humourless and the lyrics and vocals force you to listen to it rather than just have it on. Musically it’s lo fi synthy disco, horns and Pulp Fiction guitars, home made rhythms, reggae and post punk. In some ways Bastard Music makes no sense and in others it makes more sense than any other album released in 2019. It’s an amazing record in lots of ways not least in the the song Meatraffle On The Moon, one of the very best things I’ve heard this year- a song that really should be up at the top of the singles list with Silver Apples and Pines In The Sun- a dub pop exploration of  human workers enslaved and working on the moon, their comradeship and valiant attempts to survive with only the meatraffle to look forward to. Semi- stoned drums, a snaking horn, dub bass and the ace vocals.

Moon Duo Stars Are The Light
My favourite guitar/synth/drums psych- rock explorers put out their latest album in September, Stars Are The Light, and have found a new love of disco and dance music and ecstatic grooves. It’s still clearly the work of the band who made the darker, heavier Occult Architecture albums but now with their faces turned to the sun. The synths and drums dance around, the rhythms are aimed at the feet and lighter than before and the twin vocals are airy and optimistic. Their live show in October was an immersive psychedelic experience. I don’t think there’s an album I’ve bought this year that I’ve listened to more than this one.

Steve Cobby Sweet Jesus
One man cottage industry from Hull, Steve Cobby dropped Sweet Jesus onto the internet live back in the summer, twelve songs recorded in his shed, taking in cool Balearic vibes, lush instrumentals, downtempo funk and synths and lots of acoustic guitars. The opening song, As Good As Gold, inspired by Led Zep’s third album acoustic guitar picking folkiness in mid- Wales with added mellotron, has been one of my favourite tunes of 2019 and one that I keep going back to. There’s something about it that really hits the spot in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.

Rich Ruth Calming Signals
This album from Nashville resident Rich Ruth is often described as ambient but it’s not ambient in the rain- falling- while- lying- in- bed- with- the- volume- slightly- too- low Brian Eno sense. It’s an instrumental album, nine songs that take in minimalism, repetition and drones, a beautiful soaring, squawking saxophone, built around synths and guitars. On first listen you’re never quite sure where it’s going to go next and in places it is utterly gorgeous.

Richard Fearless Deep Rave Memory
This only came out recently so I’m still getting to know it but it is a perfectly paced and sequenced, intricately constructed techno journey. Completely absorbing and in places edge- of- your- seat tense, taut techno but with some beautiful melodic passages and some pulsing, calming tracks too.

Underworld Drift Series 1 Sampler
I’ve mentioned this project and album twice recently so don’t intend to say much else. The best Underworld album for ages. Try this one…

These eighteen too, roughly in the order that they’re listed in below. A bumper year for the long player round here.

L’epee Diabolique
Steve Mason About The Light
A Man Called Adam Farmarama
Bob Mould Sunshine Rock
Private Mountain Blue Mountain
Mark Peters Ambient Innerland
Stiletti Ana Ab Ovo
WH Lung Incidental Music
Rude Audio Street Light Interference
Kungens Män Chef
Acid Arab Jdid
Solange When I Get Home
Plaid Polymers
Rose City Band Rose City Band
Jane Weaver Loops In The Secret Society
Joe Morris Exotic Language
Lana del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell
Mythologen Antisocial Background Music 2017- 2019

 

She Walks

This sort of thing really hits the spot at the moment. She Walks by Apiento originally came out in 2010, a track built around a wonky rhythm, a beach/poolside as the sun goes down vibe and some lovely piano, building nicely as it gathers momentum.

Things You Do For Love

This song is the sound of summer come early, a brand new tune from Balearic overlord Apiento. Things You Do For Love is built around a very Italo- sounding ascending bassline, a 100 bpm shuffle and a pair of vocals, one soulful and one French. This is very easy indeed, and very European.

As I mentioned Europe, the ongoing shitstorm taking place in the UK parliament hit new heights this week. There’s a part of me that really wants Article 50 extended for the sole reason of seeing the right wing nutjob Brexiters frothing at the mouth about it, that dickhead MP with the French surname making up some bollocks about his Dad not fighting the Germans for this, Tim Martin spitting cheap beer all over a branch of one of his pubs and Rees-Mogg tweeting something about his nanny in Latin while spluttering about parliamentary procedure. Little wins are sometimes the most satisfying.

 

Monday’s Long Song

Back to work today- I know some of you will have gone back last week  and therefore won’t have much sympathy but it’s still a wrench. Time spent out of the grind of commuting and work is time well spent. Here’s a long song to ease myself back into the work routine, a lovely chuggy seven and a half minute track from London’s Apiento from spring 2017. Apiento finds a musical sweet spot somewhere in the middle of the Balearics, Belgian New Beat and deep house with a melody borrowed from further east (picture taken in Wallasey last week, not a very Balearic place at all, especially mid-winter but a decent day trip).