Lists

List time again, for what it’s worth.

Albums
It looks like 2018 has been a very good year for albums, a format everyone keeps suggesting is dead or dying. Making a long list was very easy. There are albums that came out at the start of the year I’m enjoying, albums that have come out recently I’m still getting into and albums I haven’t heard yet which I feel sure I should have (Beak for one, The Orielles for another and Neneh Cherry for a third).

Floating around above my top ten are all of these albums and placing them in order seems very arbitrary. All of them have brightened up my year and all are worthy of a mention- Factory Floor ‘Soundtrack To A Film’; Mogwai ‘Kin’; The Orb ‘No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds’; Hollie Cook ‘Vessel of Love’; Gwenno ‘Le Kov’; J Mascis ‘Elastic Days’; Tracey Thorn ‘Record’; Echo Ladies ‘Pink Noise’;  The Advisory Circle ‘Ways Of Seeing’; Half Man Half Biscuit ‘No-one Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fucking Hedge Cut’. A week ago AMOR’s debut album Sinking Into A Miracle arrived. If it had come out sooner I think it would have made the dozen below.

I should also mention a pair of albums out this year but not of this year- Primal Scream’s Memphis Sessions, Tom Dowd’s recordings left unreleased for two decades, and Joe Strummer 001, a compilation of Joe’s solo years with enough newly uncovered material to make it feel like a treasure trove. Today is the sixteenth anniversary of his death and the world feels like a poorer place without him.

Previously unreleased, this is a Joe and Mick Jones song from 1986. Ten minutes inside Joe’s mind with some of Big Audio Dynamite accompanying.

Albums of 2018- a top twelve

Twelve
Gulp ‘All Good Wishes’
Ace kraut-folk from Wales, full of invention and melody.

Eleven
Rival Consoles ‘Persona’
Perfectly judged laptop electronic dance music that works just as well at home/in the car. Very rhythmic and abstract in places but never without tunes.

Ten
Finiflex ‘Suilven’
A 2018 return for the duo from Fini Tribe- an album named after a mountain, aimed at the head and the feet with multi-tracked vocals, synths and chugging electronic drums. Uplifting and fresh.

Nine
The Liminanas ‘Shadow People’
Ten songs from France’s best kept secret, ten versions of a psych-folk-Velvets-1960s for the modern world.

Eight
Chris Carter ‘Chemistry Lessons 1’
Twenty five short electronic pieces- dance music, ambient, reflective industrial tracks, littered with found voices and shot through with melody. Brilliant and warm.

Seven
Jon Hopkins ‘Singularity’
Starting and finishing with the same note, a sort of cosmic joke, and between the two some of the year’s wildest techno and electronic tracks (especially the ten minute journey of Everything Connected) plus some very beautiful minor key piano pieces.

Six
Mr Fingers ‘Cerebral Hemispheres’
This record has been a bit overlooked I feel, a double album by one of the men who invented house music. He spreads it around on this in a multitude of styles and the peaks are very peaky. Acid peaks Techno peaks, Dub techno peaks. All sorts of peaks.

Five 
Spiritualized ‘…And Nothing Hurt’
If this ends up being the last Spiritualized album then Jason has finished it in fine Spaceman style. Bleak in places but well worth committing too and an album that rewards with repeated plays.

Four
The Lucid Dream ‘Actualisation’
They blew me away at Gorilla in September- I was expecting them to be good after the single SX1000 early on in the year but not that good. The album then followed it up in spades, a perfectly 2018 cut-and-shut job combining acid house, psych-rock and dub.

Three
Gabe Gurnsey ‘Physical’
The sound of a night out, late 80s drum machines, synths and some impressionistic vocals parts. Funky and sexy, and drenched in the smells of clubs- cig butts, dry ice, perfume and sweat.

Two
Daniel Avery ‘Song For Alpha’
Minimal techno, buckets of reverb and some lovely ambient noise, designed to be listened to from start to finish, packaged beautifully and utterly absorbing.

One
Wooden Shjips ‘V’
In a year when most of my favourite and most played albums have been electronic and dance music based the album sitting at the top of my list is the fifth lp from San Francisco’s rocker Wooden Shjips, setting out on a trip through their record collections (psychedelia, stoner grooves, krautrock) but done with a lightness of touch and some real earworm melodies. Ripley’s guitar playing and his tone are as good as anyone since the turn of the century. Why do I like this so much? It makes me happy.

Singles/remixes/e.p.s

There have been so many great songs, singles, remixes and eps this year that I could easily extend the length of this list but 40 seems like enough (and although his name appears all over the place below I have actually left some Weatherall tracks out of this).  There are probably things I’ve forgotten too that I’ll kick myself about next week. In the meantime here’s a second list…

40. Johnny Marr ‘Hi Hello’
39. audiobooks. ‘Dance Your Life Away’ Andrew Weatherall remix
38. A Certain Ratio ft Barry Adamson ‘Dirty Boy’
37. The Liminanas ft Peter Hook ‘The Gift’
36. Timothy J. Fairplay ‘An Introduction To Consumer Electronics’ ep
35. Field Of Dreams ‘Nothing Is Perfect’ original and Andrew Weatherall remix
34. Aphex Twin ‘T69 Collapse’
33. The Twilight Sad ‘Videograms’ Andrew Weatherall remix
32. Steve Mason ‘Walking Away From Love’
31. The Long Now ‘Restoration’
30. Underworld and Iggy Pop ‘Teatime Dub Encounters’
29. Echo Ladies ‘Overrated’ Robin Guthrie version
28. Daniel Avery/Jon Hopkins remix 12″
27. Hardway Bros ‘The Laser’ ep
26. Tracey Thorn ‘Sister’ Andrew Weatherall remix and dub
25. Factory Floor ‘Heart Of Data’
24. Lost Cat ‘Postcode’
23. The Vryll Society ‘Light At The Edge Of The World’ Richard Norris Dub
22. Gabe Gurnsey ‘Eyes Over’/Eyes Over Extended Dub
21. Bob Mould ‘Sunshine Rock’
20. Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ Andrew Weatherall remixes
19. Ride ‘Tomorrow’s Shore’ ep
18. Roisin Murphy ‘Plaything’
17. Rude Audio ‘Rude Redux’ ep
16. Daniel Avery ‘Slow Fade’ ep
15. Woodleigh Research Facility ‘Heilige Siedhr’
14. Marius Circus ‘I Feel Space’ 12″
13. Craig Bratley ‘99.9’ ep especially Take Me To Bedford Or Lose Me Forever
12. Daniel Avery ‘A Quick Eternity’ Four Tet Remix
11. Mogwai ‘We’re Not Done’

Ten
Circle Sky ‘If I Let Go’
Richard Norris and Martin Dubka slipped this single out, a totally beguiling song from the heart of a very human sounding machine.

Nine
Lana del Rey ‘Venice Bitch’
This took the top of my head off a couple of months ago- ten minutes of lullaby vocals about being ‘fresh out of fucks forever’, of being together and apart, some gorgeous atmospherics and a stunning guitar part.

Eight
The Lucid Dream ‘SX1000’
Roland synths banged all the way up, bassline from ’89- acid house reinvention from Carlisle.

Seven
Amy Douglas ‘Never Saw It Coming’/Crooked Man remix and dub
Straight out of New York and remixed and dubbed out of Sheffield, September’s moment of  late autumn sunshine Balearica.

Six
Gabe Gurnsey ‘Ultra Clear Sound’
A direct and sleek single ahead of the album back in May. A proper heads up moment.

Five
Andrew Weatherall ‘Making Friends With The Invader’
From a two track 12″ called Blue Bullet, a long exploration of dub and guitar that I cannot get bored of hearing. The other side is pretty smart too.

Four
The Confidence Man ‘Out The Window’ Andrew Weatherall remix
Weatherall’s had another excellent year as this list shows and this remix is up there with his recent best, a gorgeous gospel/rave/steel guitar tribute to staying out all night and coming home as the sun comes up.

Three
Death In Vegas ‘Honey’
Ten minutes of sleek, seductive techno from Richard Fearless and Sasha Grey. What 12 inches of vinyl was made for.

Two
Circle Sky ‘Ghost In the Machine’
I thought If I Let Go was good but this one worked its way into me a few weeks ago and refuses to leave. Futuristic and cool as fuck, deep and light and magical.

One
Roisin Murphy ‘All My Dreams’
Roisin has blazed a trail through 2018 with four 12″ singles recorded with Maurice Fulton, eight songs designed to work on the floor, covering a bewildering array of electronic styles. If there’s a better song out this year that this one, I haven’t heard it. Massive drums and bass, experimental dance music but still with a foot in pop and some great juddering shifting sections where the floor seems to give way beneath you. By way of explaining Roisin sings ‘ridiculously sexy, this is ridiculous’. Ridiculously good. For good measure she directed four videos too and this one looks like good club nights feel.

Dreams

I’ve seen some really good gigs this year- Mogwai at the Albert Hall, MIchael Head at Gorilla and David Byrne at the Apollo all live long in the memory-  but as a double bill Wooden Shjips supported by The Lucid Dream at Gorilla on Saturday night will be hard to beat. Gorilla is a small venue in a railway arch, holding about 500 people, an ideal place to see bands close up, with no barriers between audience and players. The Lucid Dream, four young men from Carlisle, are a band whose time has surely come. Drilled, inventive and loud they have made good on the promise a lot of bands in the early 90s made, to fuse psychedelic rock with dance music. Lined up across the stage they kick off with an electronic drumbeat from the pile of kit, pedals, drum machine, samplers and suchlike standing next to Mark Emmerson’s microphone. The drummer joins in with the ‘real’ kit and then bass and guitars pile in as one, psyche-rock and acid house conjoined in a hugely impressive way. At times they sound a bit like the early Verve but then soar outwards from that point into psyche rather than mid-paced everyman ballads. The drum machine spits out crunching kick drum sounds, acid squiggles and siren noises, with Mike Denton’s driving basslines riding over the top. The closing song builds to an extended wall-of-noise section, imagine I Am The Resurrection but if Squire had been into noise rather than melody, which having pummelled us for several minutes, they pull back from and back into the song in an instant. The Lucid Dream are probably too hard-edged, too experimental for a mainstream audience but should surely gain more fans and more exposure if they keep doing gigs like this.

Wooden Shjips have made one of this year’s best albums and spend 90 minutes demonstrating how to make psychedelic krautrock for 2018, undeniably retro but fresh and human and involving. Drummer Omar uses a minimal kit, just a bass drum and snare with 3 cymbals, but on every song hits and holds a hypnotic groove that pushes and makes the front few rows move. Keyboard player Nash Whalen has the thousand yard stare of a man who dropped some acid an hour ago and is just beginning to feel the effects, adding layers of drone and texture and allowing main man Ripley Johnson to do his thing. Ripley’s thing is playing ripples of golden guitar over everything else, perfectly placed in the mix, shades of Hendrix here and shades of Michael Rother there. His vocals float in from stage right, half sung and half whispered. Opener Eclipse hooks us in straight away, like waking from a dream. Ride On is slow and shuffly, Staring At The Sun glowers with the spirit of 1969. Wooden Shjips are the epitome of slow burn, of going at their own pace, of the importance of tone as much as tunes. They grow in intensity and pace as the evening goes on, sucking us in, locked into the groove, dripping sun-dappled melodies into the room over the beautiful drones, finishing with a blistering, extended version of Death’s Not Your Friend.

 

Contact

Listening to and posting the rather excellent new song from Wooden Shjips, Staring At The Sun, made me go back to some of their other releases. I dug out their 2011 album West, a noisy, psychedelic San Franciscan monster, only seven songs long, but what a stretched out, trippy, echo laden seven songs they are- not just monotonous one chord grooves either but beautiful repetition coupled with melodies and riffs. Ripley’s monotone, numb, half asleep vocals float over the top. Perfect driving music I’ve rediscovered. Black Smoke Rise was the album’s opening song/vibe…

At this point it is worth spending some time being reminded of Andrew Weatherall’s superb remix of Crossing (also from West), one of a series of remixes that showed that back at the star of the decade he was properly back in the game. His remix of Crossing has a kind of grimy grandeur feel to it, San Fran via East London.

Crossing (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

And as an bonus weekend extra, a couple of years ago Wooden Shjips released a limited edition two track 12″ on white vinyl, one side being a suitably stoned cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s Contact, eight minutes of fuzz and awe.

Contact

Staring At The Sun

A new Wooden Shjips album comes out in May. They released a new single back in January. Sometimes they’ve left me a little underwhelmed and Ripley’s other band Moon Duo have given far more but the new song- Staring At The Sun- is a beauty.

Possibly the most laid back song I’ve ever heard. Ripley’s guitar drips out of the speakers, over a narcoleptic beat and stoned vocal. There are some crunching chords intermittently but not enough to tip it off balance. Staring At The Sun drifts on, beautifully, but without ever losing focus for over seven minutes. No real aim, just being.

Back To Land

Wooden Shjips had a new lp out earlier in November. The single Back To land sounds really good- bright and clear, some lovely melody along with that heavy guitar groove. The thing with Wooden Shjips is, you know exactly what you’re going to get, and they sometimes disappoint a little over the course of an album, but this one sounds like everything they do well, done really well.

The video? Your guess is as good as mine but it fits in nicely with the moral panic news stories this week about clowns threatening and chasing people in the street, from Wigan to Norfolk. A spokesman for Norfolk constabulary said ‘Dressing as a clown is not against the law.’

Not yet. But it’s only a matter of time.

One Minute’s Silence

Strange to think that the man staring the camera down in the picture is Siegfried Sassoon (war poet, officer and anti-war campaigner). The chap on the right is Stephen Tennant, androgene, leader of the Bright Young Things and aristocratic ’20s It Boy. When their love affair ended, neither ever got over it according to friends.

That Asphodells remix album I blogged about a little while back is now scheduled for release on September 7th and doesn’t include all the versions I speculated that it might- no Mugwump, no Wooden Shjips. Hope the Mugwump one doesn’t get forgotten. The remixers are largely the group known as The Axis- friends and studio-buddies of Weatherall and Fairplay. It promises to be an autumnal corker though the thought of September now, just as summer has got underway, is a little depressing. The tracklist goes like this…

Another Lonely City (Group Rhoda Remix)
Late Flowering Lust (Phil Kieran Remix)
Beglammered (Justin Robertson Deadstock 33s Remix)
Skwatch (Black Merlin’s Reel To Reel Remix)
Never There (Hardway Bros Remix)
We Are The Axis (Daniel Avery Remix)
Another Lonely City (Daniele Baldelli and DJ Rocca Remix)
Beglammered (Richard Sen Remix)
We Are The Axis (Scott Fraser Remix)
One Minute Silence (Ivan Smagghe Remix)

So, if that’s the case, it surely won’t hurt too much if I post the Wooden Shjips remix which came out on limited vinyl for Record Shop Day (and appropriate thanks to Drew for this). You’ll love this, believe me.

One Minute’s Silence (Wooden Shjips Remix)

Axis Remix

Ahead of Record Shop Day (April 20th) comes details of an Asphodells remix 12″ with this atmospheric beauty from Daniel Avery on one side (and a Wooden Shjips remix on the other). This is a song you can slide into.