As ever, the landscape for new music remains vast, with new sounds emerging every single day. We’ve probably let a few releases slip through the cracks, but given the time and resources, it’s something we readily admit is inevitable.
Over the past three months the likes of new releases from Duster, Steven Lambke, Nik Colk Void, RLYR, Jonny Halifax Invocation, Rocio Zavala and Haress have been particular highlights, keeping us honest in a bid to get through the everyday grind.
And there’s plenty more in the months ahead, too, from artists both new and already known to us. During this time we’ll be doing our very best on featuring as much new music as possible throughout these pages and giving voice to artists that are otherwise ignored across the world.
For our latest AQ feature, we’ve included a few extra records and with good reason.
The next two weeks will see a bit of change in our usual scheduling. Yes, it’s time to re-charge, so our usual five pieces a week may be interrupted for the next 10 days (fear not, there will still be bits and pieces). We’ll be back in full force on Monday, June 13.
For now, though, here are some more releases which have kept us ticking over during the past three months.
Keeley Forsyth: Limbs
The Leaf Label
If ever there was an artist to accompany a night journey across the dread-stricken M62, then look no further than Keeley Forsyth.
2020’s Debris was (and still is) the shining beacon of the New Weird Britain movement. With the Photography EP (of the same year) Forsyth continued to explore the essence of fractured folk, with a series of songs that guided us towards the flames.
And now we are greeted with Forsyth latest slab of misery, Limbs. A more song-based journey than either Debris or the Photography EP, the songs on Limbs are like dark spirits that linger in the hallways and forever haunt.
In lyric, people often reference locality and vernacular, but not a lot seem to link these facets with actual sound. No one captures this aspect like Keeley Forsyth. After all, no one is making music like this, and if it wasn’t confirmed before the release of Limbs, then it is now. Forsyth is a true original.
Astrel K: Flickering i
Duphonic Super 45s
In the first of two releases from the London label to feature in our latest quarterly, Ulrika Spacek’s Rhys Edwards returns as Astrel K with his latest release, Flickering i.
Following the loss of Ulrika Spacek’s shared house, KEN, Edwards packed his bags and relocated to Stockholm where he began making his own music, and the result is Flickering i.
What we have here is Edwards amalgamating sun-drenched ’60s pop (You Could If You Can, Morbid Clinging) with modern day experimental inventiveness (Forward momentum). If Stereolab ever decided to streamline their sound, then it may just sound something like this. Edwards creates a vibe of sun and luscious open fields, and with summer just around the corner, Flickering i is a timely arrival.
Kee Avil: Crease
Kee Avil is the project of Montréal producer and guitarist, Vicky Mettler, who releases her debut album, Crease.
Billed as Grouper being producer for Autechre or – to these ears at least – PJ Harvey inside the studio with Trent Reznor, there’s a lot to untangle with Crease; an album full of sonic debris littered across various sound worlds.
It’s like fractured pop music exploring the ends of the earth, and the results are unsettling. In many respects, Crease‘s artwork really tells the story. A mash up ideas where Mettler has essentially created her own world by cobbling together the weirdest aspects of others.
Aidan Baker: Songs of Undoing
Improved Sequence/Broken Spine
Over the past couple of months, Aidan Baker has featured prominently throughout these pages, and with good reason; his output so far this year is simply hard to ignore.
And this continues on Songs of Undoing. Following the slowcore linage of what is one of the finest records released this year in You Are All at Once, here Baker dials down the long-form aesthetic in favour of 11 tracks spanning over 44 minutes.
We could have spoken about Baker’s other release (Tenbrist via Cruel Nature), but for the moment the real sweet spot is found in his slowcore-inspired offerings and in this instance, Songs of Undoing. A seamless effort that continues what is his best run of form in years.
Colpitts: Music from the Accident
John Colpitts wears many hats. Drummer of Man Forever, as well as a member of experimental odyssey, Oneida (under Kid Millions), Colpitts reverts to his own moniker for the release of Music from the Accident. His latest voyage via Thrill Jockey.
Consisting of three compositions under 35 minutes, Colpitts produces a spiked ball of nervous energy. With a series of fractured ambient soundscapes (Bread), general pysch weirdness (Up and Down), and improv’ folk-drone (Recovery), Music from the Accident is the kind of tourism of sound for anyone with curious ears.
On the face of it, with Music from the Accident there’s no one better than to spark that curiosity than John Colpitts.
Cult Of Luna: The Long Road North
Metal Blade Records
Following last year’s The Raging River EP and their fantastic 2019 release, A Dawn to Fear, Cult Of Luna returned earlier this year with The Long Road North.
While A Dawn To Fear saw the Swedish behemoth incorporate the origins of groove metal into their roaring hellfire of sound, The Long Road North is a little more straight down the line. No bad thing, of course, as here Cult Of Luna go straight in for the kill.
Whichever way you look at it, there’s little doubt that they’ve released another fine record, with a set of songs that will sound utterly dynamic in the live arena.
“Whole world’s bipolar, who we gotta impress?” spits MC Dälek during the fantastic cut, Boycott. Welding their unique brand of conscious rap with searing soundscapes, Dälek’s latest offering, Precipice, is yet another triumph.
According to MC Dälek, Precipice was a completely different record pre-pandemic, and it’s no surprise. Mike Manteca’s atmospheric torrents of sound leave chasms for Dälek to plot his poignant diatribes, which curl around the sound, making their brand of hip-hop a completely unique force.
Dälek records have always revealed themselves more with each listen and Precipice is no different. One of the most honest voices in hip-hop, Dälek are back, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Dvanov: Функциональная музыка (Functional Music)
Cruel Nature Records
Formerly known as Voda-i-Ryba before changing their name and moving to Saint Petersburg, Russian four-piece, Dvanov, bring us their debut album, Functional Music, which also includes songs from their EP, Hyper-Suburb.
It’s not immediate, but the more time spent with Function Music and you soon realise that this isn’t just a mates in a garage knocking out tunes for the sake of it. There’s a meticulousness here and it’s brought to life by deep-listening and crate digging through back alley record shops. Functional Music will only get stronger in the coming months, but you’ve been told. Get on it!
All proceeds donated to People In Need Ukraine Crisis Support:
Drug Church: Hygiene
Pure Noise Records
Featuring Self Defense Family’s Patrick Kindlon, Albany, New York’s Drug Church return with their fourth album, Hygiene.
Like Self Defense Family, trying handpick a favourite release is splitting hairs. In short, via EPs, singles and the aforementioned long-players, it’s all worth your time. Including Hygiene, which once again sees Drug Church excavating the soils of post-hardcore.
Kindlon has always been a master of the street-level tale, taking the mundane aspects of life and throwing it onto tape, and this continues on Hygiene amid a backdrop of crunching chords and searing melodies that any fan of Touché Amore or Turnstile will instantly cotton on to. Yes, Hygiene is an anthemic stomp that fills your ears and continues to occupy your conscious for days on end.
Earthen Sea: Ghost Poems
Formerly of Washington D.C. punk assault, Black Eyes, Jacob Long has been releasing music under the Earthen Sea moniker for some time now.
His latest offering, Ghost Poems – his third for kranky – really does come as advertised, with a sequence of gentle soundscapes that slowly drift across borderless lands. While Ghost Poems takes a little longer to sink into the bones than his previous releases, the one thing for certain is that Long isn’t the kind of producer to repeat the past.
Since his fantastic debut, An Act of Love, it’s clear that Long is one of the most distinctive voices across the ambient music landscape, producing the kind of textures and tones that are truly his own. And in a space occupied by many, that’s some feat.
Flower-Corsano Duo: The Halcyon
We’re still coming down from Chris Corsano’s fantastic collaboration with Bill Orcutt, Made Out of Sound, which featured deep in our Top 50 Albums of 2021. Luckily for us, in 2022 we get another dose of the Corsano treatment, this time with the wild-hearted percussionist’s collaboration with Michael Flower.
Recorded in 2018 in various venues across the U.K., The Halcyon is improv’ majesty etched to tape. The pair’s first LP since 2009’s The Four Aims, Flower’s amplified Japan Banjo (also known as a Shahi Baaja) and Corsano’s militant blasts from behind the kit are enough to send you into orbit.
It’s two musicians leaving everything on stage. A totally wild experience that all the heads out there should hold an ear to. It’s that simple.
Ghost Power: Ghost Power
Duphonic Super 45s
Ghost Power isa collaboration between Jeremy Novak (Dymaxion)and Timothy Gane (Stereolab, Cavern of Anti-Matter, Turn On), and having previously released limited edition seven inches in 2020, the pair return two years later with their self-titled debut.
Recorded in Berlin and New York, Ghost Power is seductive sprawl of kraut-rock-inspired bliss. Covering the broad spectrum of psychadelia from heavy to the playful, Ghost Power is the kind of record that does nothing but force a smile from you.
It’s a sonic agent for the crate diggers as much as it is for the casual ear, and for fans of works previously produced by Novak and Gane, Ghost Power feels like a match made in heaven and definitely one of the brighter points so far in 2022.
Half Man Half Biscuit: The Voltarol Years
R M Qualtral
Nigel Blackwell. The gift that keeps on giving. Once again, Half Man Half Biscuit’s absurdist satire is at its poignant best on their latest LP, The Voltarol Years.
Illuminating mundane U.K. living like no other, Blackwell is true to form. There’s black comedy genius (I’m Getting Buried in the Morning, In A Suffolk Ditch), the downright hilarious (Awkward Sean, Token Covid Song – the latter one of the funniest the band have penned since Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Full of Bad Wools) and, perhaps a first for the band, the utterly heart-wrenching (Slipping the Escort).
While some may suggest the world needs more bands like them, honestly it would reduce not only the brilliance of Half Man Half Biscuit, but it would dilute the whole landscape of art. The Voltarol Years reaffirms them as true pioneers.
Helms Alee: Keep This Be the Way
Out of the sludge metal pantheon it’s fair to say that Helms Alee are the ones constantly thinking outside of the box. Since their brilliant 2008 debut, Night Terror, the Seattle three-piece haven’t made the same record twice, constantly evolving as the years pass.
In comparison with their peers, Helms Alee have always come at things from a different angle, producing distinctive and impressive results; and their latest, Keep This Be the Way, may just be their defining moment.
Integrating kraut-rock and atmospheric post-hardcore with their bludgeoning walls of sound, Keep This Be the Way is a record that will be celebrated by many. It’s for fans of hard-nosed music, blurring the lines of sub-genres and breaking down the boundaries of tribalistic fandom. A rainbow coalition for all heads to enjoy.
Holy Island: Midnight Empire
Cruel Nature Records
Cruel Nature have just about covered everything else, so why not add a bit jangle-pop to their ever-growing roster? Or more specifically, Manchester-based songwriter, Graham Blyth who brings us his Holy Island debut, Midnight Empire.
While the Sarah Records reverence is there, this in fact sounds more aligned to R.E.M. dabbling in ’60s psychedelic pop. And it’s brilliant.
Manchester may still be experiencing a hangover from Brit-pop. So, too, Liverpool with their incessant fascination for the cosmic psychedelia of The La’s and The Coral. People enchanted in these scenes should hold an ear to Holy Island’s Midnight Empire. After all, it might just be the future. Cruel Nature know this. They didn’t really do summer. Until now.
Huerco S.: Plonk
Under his Huerco S. moniker, Kansas producer, Brian Leeds, makes a timely return with his first LP in six years with Plonk.
With fractured soundscapes that produce ambient reflections, Plonk is a record that contains a nervous energy: a collage of new world electronica, as Leeds stitches together the kind of patchwork that contains a beautiful, wild array of colours.
For those who have never been sold on Rustie’s maximalism as well as sound design artists lacking that cutting edge, with Plonk Huerco S. provides the counterweight to all of your concerns. This is a record that offers more with each listen, and one that shouldn’t be ignored when we talk about the most impressive experimental albums so far in 2022.
Vienna’s HVOB (Anna Müller and Paul Wallner) return with their follow-up to the brilliant 2019 album, Rocco, in TOO – the pair’s fifth LP.
Once again, HVOB produce a smattering of hypotonic electronica and intelligent pop in a way that draws people in who aren’t really fans of either genre. Filled with contemplation and immaculately produced soundscapes, essentially, HVOB dispense blissful dirges to watch the sunset to.
HVOB have always forged tender lyricism with anthemic bangers, and while on TOO the latter isn’t as immediate as previous releases, it’s yet another fine turn out from one of the most underrated acts in this space. They are pure architects for dance music engineered for lush green fields, chemical refreshments and euphoric escapism.
Ivan The Tolerable: The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe
Library of the Occult
It’s a mission to keep up with the works of Oli Heffernan, but we do our best.
Following the release of his brilliant Houseplants record (the collective which includes Leighton Crook of Country Teasers, Arndales, Badgewearer), Heffernan returns with his latest Ivan The Tolerable record, The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe.
Based on D.G Compton’s novel of the same name, here we find Heffernan floating in the ether, immersed in psychedelia as opposed to the fracture free-jazz pummelling we are normally graced with when engaging with Ivan The Tolerable.
It’s yet another string to the bow of one of the U.K.’s finest underground sonic practitioners. Are we surprised? No.
P.E.: The Leather Lemon
Wharf Cat Records
Following the release of their fantastic 2020 debut, Person, New York City’s P.E. return with more of the good oil.
While Person was a vital brand of futuristic post-punk, The Leather Lemon sees P.E. immersed in the ’80s. Like the arcade neon lights spilling onto the streets, P.E. mix afro beats with off-kilter lounge pop. Particularly with Tears In the Rain which has a Supreme Beings of Leisure vibe about it; quite far removed from the abstract madness of Person, while The Reason For My Love and New Kind of Zen sees Veronica Torres emerging from the blustery instrumentation of Person to take centre stage.
While it takes a few listens to really sink in, P.E. have delivered another bright chapter and one that breeds the kind of excitement for what comes next.
Pink Mountaintops: Peacock Pools
Stephen McBean, better known for his endeavours in the mighty Black Mountain, reignites his Pink Mountaintops project with his first record in eight years, Peacock Pools.
Filled with hard-rock reverence and a good dose of outer-church psychedelia, Peacock Pools sees McBean having fun. In fact, he’s never sounded so free on record, with tracks like Nervous Breakdown, Nikki Go Sudden and Lights of the City among the finest in the Pink Mountaintops canon.
A vital voice of the indie music landscape of the past two decades, with Peacock Pools McBean wears his influences on his sleeve in unapologetic fashion. The difference here, however, is that it still sounds and feels relevant. A good time record for all.
What do you get when members of Hot Snakes, Pinback, Against Me! and Mrs. Magician get into the studio? Well, you get Plosivs and – more specifically – their self-titled debut LP.
While John Reis has dominated column inches with his fantastic debut solo offering, Ride the Wild Night, Plosivs arrived soon after, showering listeners with the kind of sing-out-loud anthems which made Hot Snakes and Against Me! such immediate propositions.
The term ‘supergroup’ often gets a bad rep (not around these parts, after all one of them took out our album of the year). Call them whatever you want, you can’t deny a good tune and with their debut album, Plosivs produce a swathe of them.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Endless Rooms
After what many considered the ‘second difficult album’, with Endless Rooms, Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever return to the sort of form from the French Press EP and Hope Downs days – albums that made many around the world giddy with hysteria.
Music in this sound world tends to lose its shine pretty quickly, but that’s where Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are different. Producing the kind of jams fit for a holiday soundtrack, songs like Caught Low and Blue Eye Lake are among the best the band has written.
Ironically, it’s an album that has flown under the radar somewhat, but as the year goes on, Endless Rooms will get stronger and become a record that’s hard to shift from the turntable platter.
Rubber Oh: Strange Craft
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs agitator, Sam Grant, picks himself up out of the sludge and goes it alone (well, almost) with his debut album under the Rubber Oh moniker, Strange Craft.
Including cameos (most notably from fellow Pig John-Michael Hedley), Strange Craft is far removed from the nuclear blasts of Pigs, as Grant adopts an aesthetic of gooey psychedelia and deranged sci-fi pop that has echoes of the Kinks on the shrooms. Replace the hippfied-jangle with elastic drones and it’s a totally new spin on, well… everything!
This one could well be the slow burn of 2022. Every listen gets stronger with new elements and nuances entering the conscious every time.
Jon Spencer & The Hitmakers: Spencer Gets it Lit
The lockdown had me wondering about artists like Jon Spencer. A born performer, what did he do? Well, it seems he navigated the pandemic by pulling together a bunch of musicians to form Jon Spencer & The Hitmakers who release Spencer Gets it Lit.
Leaving the Blues Explosion to fade in the rear-view mirror, Spencer indeed gets it lit right here, with the kind of garage-rock blues jams we’ve come to expect from him over the past three decades.
“Hitmakers are you ready? I’m ready to get down and move.” It’s more of the same, as Spencer continues to bastardise Elvis. All told, the modern day rock ’n’ roll landscape without Jon Spencer isn’t really isn’t rock ’n’ roll, is it? It’s great to have him back.
Patricia Wolf: I’ll Look For You In Others
Past Inside the Present
Having already released two albums this year (the other being See Through, which dropped last month), Portland experimentalist, Patricia Wolf, arrived earlier in the year with her excellent debut LP, I’ll Look For You In Others.
An undoubted hardware enthusiast, Wolf scours the landscape of ambient music like no other in 2022. Just look at the song titles; inward, contemplative and completely aligned with the sounds that she creates.
With swelling emotive soundscapes, Wolf takes the best bits of Fennesz and Loscil, producing a beautiful form of hymnal ambience. While there have been gorgeous experimental releases this year, you’d be hard-pressed to find something as exquisite as I’ll Look For You In Others.