With everything going on in the world at the moment, it’s hard to believe that anything else holds great significance.
We only hope that music can get us through and, with that, we will continue to press on and do what we do.
Politics isn’t something that features too often on this site, however much of the music we do cover is (naturally) heavily influenced by it. So with that it would be remiss of us not to touch on the current events surrounding the Ukraine and Russia.
Without trying to virtue signal or sound as if we are parting with empty slogans, we want to make it clear that we unequivocally support the people of Ukraine.
We also support the Russian people who want change, and have suffered under Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship for many years.
Granted, there are opinions, nuance and cause for debate surrounding these horrendous events, however Simon Tisdall’s recent article in The Guardian captured our thoughts best.
Secondly, it would also be remiss not to mention the passing of one the greatest singers of our time, Mark Lanegan.
Coming to our attention in the ’90s as leader of Screaming Trees, Lanegan’s influence was vast and decorated.
An artist who featured across many projects, as well as his incredible solo body of work, the fact he worked with everyone from PJ Harvey and Isobell Campbell to Hey Colossus and The Armed, signifies just how respected and influential he was across different sound worlds. There’s always cross-pollination, but over the last 25 years it could be argued that no one covered the artistic landscape like Mark Lanegan.
We will be dedicating a feature to Lanegan later in the month, however it must be said that his loss is a massive blow. One of the true greats of our times who has left an indelible mark on those who have engaged with his music, his words and, no doubt, the man himself.
Onto direct matters, and here is our first Albums Quarterly feature of 2022. Such as the hectic nature around these parts, last year we published our two part Albums We Missed feature. However, with the introduction of our AQ in March last year, we have decided to combine some late 2021 releases with those which have landed in the first two months of 2022.
We hope you find something new in the list below.
Cloakroom: Dissolution Wave
Rust belt doomgazers, Cloakroom, return with their most terse set of recordings yet with Dissolution Wave and our feature record for 2022’s first quarterly.
A concept album centred on the destruction of art, the post-apocalyptic backdrop of these themes create a murky linage for Cloakroom to immerse themselves in and thrive. Filled with atmospheric jams, the result is undoubtedly band’s finest outing so far.
Influences from Neurosis to Slowdive, it’s the record their label mates Nothing should have made last time around with The Great Dismal. Here Cloakroom really hone in on their songcraft with the kind of hypnotic tonality and dynamic percussion that transports you to different planets. Dissolution Wave is filled with immediate riff-a-rolla that will stay with you for the rest of the year and beyond.
40 Watt Sun: Perfect Light
With influences that have forever blurred the lines, 40 Watt Sun’s Patrick Walker has always operated on the fringes. However it’s the alternative metal scene that has proved a worthy foil in the past, with the likes of Emma Ruth Rundle hailing 40 Watt Sun as a key influence.
Walker’s outlier tendencies continue on his latest LP, Perfect Light. Eight gruelling tracks, Walker draws on the influences of slowcore and folk with the emotional intensity of the fractured grudge Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley perfected with MTV Unplugged.
It may not win over many newcomers, however Walker has never been one for attention or self-aggrandising. This is music that contains too much depth for that (“You touched me like broken glass” – Colours). 40 Watt Sun’s music is here and, for the true crate diggers, they’ll eventually stumble across it.
A Place To Bury Strangers: See Though You
In the live arena, A Place To Bury Strangers are a brute force. Oliver Ackermann in particular, a leader who thrashes his guitar like a chainsaw with sparks flying. It’s out of control.
On See Through You, Ackermann teams up with former Skywave band mate, John Fedowitz, and his wife Sandra. A Mary Chain-inspired amphetamine-fuelled ball of rage, See Through You catches the intensity and metallic grind of Worship and earlier (and revered) A Place To Bury Strangers records.
Just when you thought A Place To Bury Strangers were meandering down blind alleys, on See Through You they’ve turned the screw and renewed their vigour, with exciting new elements to their already brooding sonic arsenal.
Animal Collective: Time Skiffs
Domino Recording Co.
Since their 2009 breakthrough LP, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective have barely landed a glove, with each release getting stranger and, well… stranger. A band almost too smart for everyone, including themselves.
Time Skiffs sees the band returning to the kind of form that has been missing for the last decade. Like a last minute winner, they’ve pulled it out of the fire here.
Time Skiffs isn’t back-to-basics by any stretch; Animal Collective aren’t that kind of band. However, these songs are more aligned with their golden period from the brilliant Feels and (what many consider their best), Strawberry Jam. The production here is slick and radiant, with headphones an essential. In their tightest and most immediate set of songs for a long time, Animal Collective rekindle the magic.
Constant Smiles: Paragons
With minimal fuss, Constant Smiles showed up late in 2021, making it four releases in as many years with Paragons.
Led by Ben Jones, Constant Smiles make the kind of country-tinged dream-pop that gets everyone at the party tapping their feet. On Paragons things don’t change, as the Martha’s Vineyard collective showcase a ridiculously consistent ethos (check out their albums from front to back – you won’t be disappointed).
With Paragons, alongside producer, Ben Greenberg (Uniform, The Men et al), Constant Smiles deliver a collection of breezy songs that possess the same impact whether it be mooching around the house on a Sunday morning or driving across the country on a road trip. Modest, yet dynamic. And essential.
The Delines: The Sea Drift
Listening to The Delines is like taking a warm bath after a hard day’s work. That feeling where you think, “everything’s going to be okay”.
On The Sea Drift, the band’s third album, Amy Boone continues to part with tales that bring a tear to the eye. Alongside songwriter, Willy Vlautin, one of the greatest storytellers of our time, the pair are formidable, ever reliable in their quest to the illuminate the stories of the downtrodden and the underdog.
Sonically, The Sea Drift is a treat, with that ambient lounge country sway that no other band is doing these days. While some may think The Delines are a one trick pony, what a trick it is. Along with Craig Finn, no one elevates the working class like Boone and Vlautin.
Ekin Fil: Feelings
A Sunken Mall
Ekin Fil tends to show up with a new album in the colder months, and she rounded off 2021 with yet another strong offering in Feelings.
The Turkish underground pioneer drifts ever so closer to the world of Grouper, however Ekin Fil still maintains her own true sound with the compositions on Feelings.
Like a dark cloud that slowly rolls in from the coastline, Feelings is like a soundtrack for the bereaved. Minimal and emotive, Ekin Fil continues to expand on her repertoire of sounds, making her one of the most important experimental artists in the world today. We can’t wait for the next instalment.
Fat Possum Records
Philadelphian noise punks, Empath follow-up their 2019 debut album, Active Listening: Night On Earth with Visitor.
While these past four years have seen the emergence of ’90s-inspired bedroom pop acts – many of which have been, let’s been honest, underwhelming – Empath kick against it with an album full of lo-fi pop punk ditties ripe for smaller festival stages (Primavera, anyone?).
Singer/guitarist, Catherine Elicson’s perceptive songwriting emerges from the sweaty lo-fi scuzz that her bandmates produce and the results are lovely. Full of quick blasts and sharp focus, Visitor is an essential for anyone’s album collection. For fans of Mannequin Pussy, Empath are the band for you.
Lebenswelt: Unspoken Words
OuZel Recordings / Under My Bed Recordings
Featuring Black Heart Procession’s Pall Jenkins and Richard Adams of Hood and The Declining Winter, Lebenswelt’s sixth album, Unspoken Words, unfurls with a similar vibe to the Blackhearts. Only in slow-motion.
Unspoken Words isn’t so much dark in atmosphere. It’s enveloped in sorrow, capturing the same dark trans pennine vibe of Adams’ work with The Declining Winter. So intense, every note is delivered in conjunction with a piece of your heart breaking.
It may not be a necessary go-to on a sunny day, but there doesn’t seem to be many of those at the moment and, with that, this may just be the band you’re looking for. For us, Lebenswelt are one of the great new discoveries of 2022.
Old Saw: Country Tropics
Another release that bubbled underneath the surface late last year, Old Saw are a New York-based outfit immersing themselves in the kind ambient country that Suss have perfected for the last decade or so.
One of two records released last year, Country Topics (the other being the awesomely titled One Hundred Breakfasts with the Book) is simply music to escape to it. In the vein of those Sunday morning encounters that William Tyler has been serving up for years, Old Saw take it down a notch.
Don’t worry about the incense candles. Just drop the needle and let the sounds of Old Saw’s Country Topics sink into your bones. It’s better for the environment. And your soul.
Ordos MK.0: Sisyphean Audio Therapy 2
Ordos MK.0 is an elusive UK producer that parts with equally intangible compositions. Their latest, Sisyphean Audio Therapy 2, is the sequel to last year’s Sisyphean Audio Therapy (well worth a listen, too), and is a series of downtempo sounds that drift through a labyrinth.
There’s an under water quality with these recordings, crossing-pollinating meditative and ambient soundscapes with sound design.
One of those records that you need in your collection for a specific time, Sisyphean Audio Therapy 2 is hard to pin down, however it’s the kind of record that slowly draws you in to its clutches. The artwork itself tells the story.
Ryan James Mawbey: Oval Ladder
Burton-on-Trent artist, Ryan James Mawbey, marks the first release of the year for the great Cornwall-based label, Dub Cthonic with Oval Ladder.
Listening to Mawbey’s creations is a trip, however with his latest release, it’s experimental music that throws the heavy blanket across barren landscapes. Oval Ladder is a series of cinematic drones fit for post-apocalyptic drama, creating a scene where we feel our way through the orange mist of destruction.
Sonically, Oval Ladder is not abrasive; if anything there’s a warmth to Mawbey’s compositions, presenting odd juxtapositions. Instead of sounds, it’s experimentalism that flashes with vivid shapes and colours. A nice treat indeed.
Everlasting Records S.L.
Hailing from Madrid, Monodrama bring a vibrant energy into the new age jazz scene. With open spaces and gliding ambience, mndrmooaa provides much needed sunlight to the back end of winter.
While the London jazz scene has exploded with rage and mind-bending virtuosity, Monodrama have made the perfect comedown record in this ever-expanding sound world. A majestic representation of jazz circa-2022 and a vital piece to puzzle.
In their own words, Monodrama are, “A band with no apparent reference points in our local scene”. And they don’t need to: this is music that has no currency. Drop the needle and listen for yourself.
Mydreamfever: Rough and Beautiful Place
Mydreamfever is the side project of South Korean artist, Parannoul.
While releasing his latest Parannoul record, White Ceiling / Black Dots Wandering Around last week, the latest Mydreamfever LP, Rough and Beautiful Place, is a sparkling journey that just speaks nature and open spaces. Soundscapes that seemingly raining fairy dust, what Parannoul does here is simply exquisite, melding together neo-classical compositions with ambient interludes and ethereal field recordings.
So rich in sound, if anyone betters this in 2022, then I’d be surprised. Just look at the splendid artwork, which mirrors the sounds of this record. Mydreamfever’s Rough and Beautiful Place – get listening.
Nadja / Aidan Baker: Nalepa
After last year’s sensational Luminous Rot, Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff return with another Nadja album, Nalepa, along with an accompanying piece of the same title under Baker’s own name.
Recorded live-in-studio at Berlin’s Funhaus alongside drummer Ángela Muñoz Martínez, here we have a series of withering soundscapes and brooding atmospherics that merge the most sinister sound worlds. In fairness, Nadja have been doing this for years, however they keep finding new ways to enthral and here it’s no different.
The second part of these recordings sees Baker explore the more experimental sides of drone and ambience, providing a nice foil for the first instalment that contains the kind of intensity tailor-made for these times. The band’s stunning run of form continues.
Pool Of Light: 岩
Russian artist, Anton Bogdanov, has been performing under the Pool Of Light moniker since 2017, exploring the warmer climes of drone to great effect.
His latest LP, 岩, is one of those medieval drone records for the summer. Yes, despite the imagery we form in our own minds of medieval times, there were warmer months and Pool Of Light takes on the challenge of forming the sonic backdrops to them.
Recorded in one session directly to tape, 岩 is a series of humid soundscapes that make the walls sweat, and despite the melodic chug throughout these recordings, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that sun and drone form the perfect matrimony.
Superchunk: Wild Loneliness
Superchunk never write a bad album, and they don’t start here with Wild Loneliness – their twelfth studio album and the follow-up to 2018’s What A Time To Be Alive
The Chapel Hill veterans take it down a notch with Wild Loneliness – a series of songs that slowly seep into the pores. If anything the songwriting proficiency of Superchunk leader, Mac McCaughan, is illuminated here like never before.
Opening song, City of the Dead is filled with storytelling majesty, and the trend continues throughout the next nine songs in what is a fine collection and yet another great offering from the ’90s DIY forefathers.
Yann Tiersen: Kerber
Yann Tiersen makes beautiful music. He just does. On his latest album, Kerber, he produces some of his most exquisite work yet.
The French composer’s heartfelt piano-based compositions are designed for cathedrals, and if ever there was an artist who has spent their career extracting beauty from the ruins of life, then it’s Tiersen. Kerber is filled stirring pieces that contain kind of emotional force that cripples you for the rest of the day.
A career alternating between film scores and albums, Kerber boasts some of the richest textures Tiersen has committed to tape so far. It’s a devastating listen and a release that, for us at least, slipped through the cracks in 2021.
Vanishing Twin: Ookki Gekkou
Think Stereolab on LSD playing Talking Heads’ Remain In Light from front to back. The end result is Vanishing Twin, or more specifically, their latest album, Ookki Gekkou.
It has to be said that it was rather flagrant of us not to have shown this more love at the time of its release late last year. With her skittish percussions, Moin drummer, Valentina Magaletti, underpins just about everything on Ookki Gekkou. An album that feels like a warm summer breeze.
While evidently a summer vibe record, it’s a record with a vast range, forming a perfect backdrop for all situations and seasons.
Various Artists: Mensajes del agua: Nuevos sonidos desde Perú Vol 1
The brilliant Peruvian label, Buh Records, release what is the first compilation record to feature on Sun 13.
Mensajes del agua: Nuevos sonidos desde Perú Vol 1 is a compilation filled with young Peruvian artists, covering vast landscapes of experimentation; or in the words of Buh Records, “a panoramic view of the new directions in electronic and experimental music”. It’s hard to argue against.
There are highlights aplenty here, and for those who are drawn to rabbit holes and yearn for new music, there is plenty here to keep you occupied for quite some time: Ayver, Isabel Otoya, SOARER and Lucía Beaumont to name a few. The possibilities feel endless, to the point where we can’t wait for the next compilation.
Wovenhand: Silver Sash
David Eugene Edwards is a master of the slow burn and with Silver Sash, Wovenhand’s follow-up to 2016’s underrated Star Treatment, this trend continues.
With rollicking guitars that crunch and sprawl with spatial-like harmonics, Silver Sash is what we’ve come to expect from Edwards. It’s not something that hits the listener immediately, requiring time and patience, which – in many senses – casts Edwards as an artist not born for these times.
A band that doesn’t really fit into any scene or sound world, with Silver Sash, Edwards and Wovenhand remain as true outliers. A nomadic herdsmen who continues to thrive by sticking to his own principles.