Another three months down, another Albums Quarterly. Our last one for 2022, a lot has happened since our last communique.
The loss of Low’s Mimi Parker has been one that has hit harder than most, and our thoughts are with Alan Sparhawk and their family.
Such an influential figure for many, personally, I still can’t believe she’s gone. While an afterword of sorts may appear on the site in the coming weeks, her loss feels too immeasurable to put into words at this point. Without trying to sound patently glib, Low are simply the reason we do what we do here at Sun 13, and a world without Mimi Parker in it feels like a very different one indeed.
While loss and grief are things that will always form a part of life’s patchwork, so too are certain events that seemingly contribute to a world that gets stranger by the day. Since our last AQ, there have been two U.K. prime ministers, a cost of living crisis, a Twitter takeover by a lunatic and a FIFA World Cup spearheaded by someone equally as frightening. Sometimes the only solace is music, and thankfully this latest quarterly has a plenty of that.
The past three months has seen plenty of great new releases, many of which have been covered throughout these pages, not limited to Suede, OFF!, The Lord & Petra Haden and Ellis Swan, who have all raised the bar and continue to be on constant rotation.
So too the below releases, which have kept us busy over the last couple of weeks.
With December billed as the time of year where end of year lists come thick and fast, as per, we’ll be publishing ours in the lead-up to Christmas, as well as our favourite local releases out of Merseyside.
Until then, we hope the below new releases will tide you over.
Marisa Anderson: Still, Here
American guitar maestro, Marisa Anderson, doesn’t do bad albums. It’s as simple as that, and she doesn’t start the trend on her latest release, Still, Here.
Whilst the last two years have seen Anderson in collaboration with likes of fellow guitarist William Tyler and Australian percussionist extraordinaire, Jim White, on Still, Here we really get under the car bonnet with these songs. Having spent several afternoons just letting Anderson’s compositions wash over, it’s evident that she makes the intricate sound so effortlessly simply.
Earthy and majestic all in one breathe, Marisa Anderson is the kind of artist everyone needs in their lives. Modest sounds that never outstay their welcome produced by one of the most underrated experimental guitarists around. With Still, Here, Anderson provides further proof of that.
Artifacts & Uranium: Pancosmology
Echodelick Records / Weird Beard Records
Like the Mike Vest/ Charlie Butler release later in this feature, this one escaped our clutches at the time of release, too. Unfortunate, but we’re here now and this time Vest is joined by Empty House’s Fred Laird as Artifacts & Uranium for their second album, Pancosmology.
And what is a glorious mess this is. Imagine Spaceman 3 and The Stooges in a backyard scrap. That’s basically what this is, but throw a raga/krautrock flavour in and the whole thing is just, well… fucking brilliant! It really is magnificent as Vest and Laird create the kind of laser beams drones that transcend Elon Musk’s spaceships.
Real good stuff, this. Press play and listen for yourself.
Daniel Avery: Ultra Truth
Daniel Avery has been on some run, with the U.K. producer releasing his third album in as many years with Ultra Truth.
In many ways, Ultra Truth is quintessential Daniel Avery. It’s got it all under one roof – the emotion, the euphoria, the BPM caffeine rush. It’s all here, and while many others in the world of electronica are happy releasing one off singles and EPs, Avery has gone against the grain with what has been a creative gold rush of sorts.
At 15 tracks and over an hour long, with Ultra Truth, club land Avery arrives in your living room. And from the void, once again the he’s delivered another stellar set of tracks that separates him from his contemporaries. Ultra Truth is yet another triumph spanning over a career that has seen many.
Kasper Bjørke Quartet: Mother
Whether it be via solo offerings or in collaboration, Danish composer Kasper Bjørke has spent the last decade ingrained in the experimental landscape. Following his 2018 release as The Fifty Eleven Project, Bjørke returns on Kompakt Records with Mother.
Featuring Davide Rossi (violin, viola, cello), Claus Noreen (synthesizers), Jakob Littauer (piano), Mathias Friis-Hansen, and David Hildebrandt (marimba) with guest appearances from Sofie Birch and Philip | Schneider, Mother consists of six long-form compositions enveloped in winter fog. The cover art really tells the story as Bjørke’s compositions are brooding, deep in emotional weight.
While over an hour long, Mother doesn’t feel lengthy at all. It’s heavy weather, but in the right mind-set, this album hits as hard as anything in this space.
Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork
It’s been a huge 12 months for Dry Cleaning. Having made big impressions pre-COVID with their first two EPs, last year’s debut LP, New Long Leg was everything their fans were hoping for. Clearly the finest out of the current crop of U.K. ‘buzz artists’, many of whom – let’s be honest – have been mediocre and derivate. That’s not the case with Dry Cleaning, however with New Long Leg, still, there was something (to me at least) that didn’t feel quite right.
With their follow-up arriving 12 months later in Stumpwork, such concerns can be put to bed. Here we see Dry Cleaning progressing in ways few others could achieve. From discarded Costa Coffee cups, a missing pet tortoise by the name of Gary Ashby and dreaming of going to see otters, Florence Shaw mixes abstract absurdity with sharp street level observations.
The instrumentation on Stumpwork is far more meticulous, creating an atmospheric milieu that provides the perfect foil for Shaw’s intangible poeticism. The result is a band that sounds like no other. I mean, just look at the artwork. Who else would dare to present such a thing?
Mabe Fratti: Se Ve Desde Aqui
Unheard of Hope
With her third album in as many years, on the back of Se Ve Desde Aqui it seems Guatemalan artist Mabe Fratti is finally receiving the plaudits she deserves.
There is a lot of unravel on Se Ve Desde Aqui. Whilst perhaps not as engaging as her previous two records, the technical acumen possessed here rewards the listener with time. An array of splintered percussion and fractured upright bass, there’s more at play here as Fratti weaves cello and a smattering of other radical noises among this vivid patchwork.
Throughout the experimental landscape, Fratti has not only been one of most consistent voices over the past three years – with Se Ve Desde Aqui she’s emerges as one of the most unique voices from it. Combining a whole range of influences throughout these recordings, Se Ve Desde Aqui is like a new kind of psychadelia.
Bill Frisell: Four
Blue Note Records
In what is his third release for Blue Note Records, jazz guitarist Bill Frissell gets contemplative on his latest long-player, Four.
Featuring saxophonist and clarinet player Greg Tardy, pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Jonathan Blake, Four is the kind of record for those who are exactly attuned to jazz. That’s no bad thing, by the way. Think of it as a gateway or sorts, and with these quiet, atmospheric 13 compositions, Frisell captures an emotional weight like never before.
If William Tyler ever tried his hand at jazz then it may sound something like this. Four is a lovely addition to the Bill Frisell canon and one that will most certainly draw in new ears.
Duke Garwood: Rogue’s Gospel
God Unknown Records
From the artwork to the title itself, Duke Garwood’s Rogue’s Gospel just lines up.
As the opening note of first track, Country Syrup, leaks out of the speakers, the songwriter draws you into his world of hippified dreams, humid folk noodlings and that smell of an ocean-side campfire. It’s Garwood possessing the kind of freedom he has threatened us with for years, but here, it really does feel like he’s reached the other side.
Rogue’s Gospel is hands down his finest album since 2015’s Heavy Love. For me personally, with a forthcoming trip to Australia drawing near, I can’t think of a companion than Duke Garwood’s Rogue’s Gospel.
Horse Lords: Comradely Objects
With Baltimore’s Horse Lords there’s a lot to unpick that perhaps permits us beyond the usual 100 or so words within this feature.
Following last year’s breakout record, The Common Task, with the knotty afro-jazz and motorik freak-outs on their follow-up, Comradely Objects, Horse Lords take avant-gardism to new places, and if you’re not ready, well… this is the kind of stuff that burns the brain.
The scary thing about Horse Lords isn’t exactly what they commit to tape, it’s the thought of this being played out live, and for those who have seen the four-piece perform in this arena, I’m sure they could attest. On Comradely Objects, they produce the kind of raw musicianship you would have hoped Black Midi may have dabbled in. Having said that, had they done so, then it would have reduced the brilliance of what Horse Lords have achieved right here.
James Johnston & Steve Gullick: Everybody’s Sunset
God Unknown Records
Following last year’s debut collaboration, We Travel Time, James Johnston and Steve Gullick return late in 2022 with Everybody’s Sunset.
Both heavy collaborators over the years – Johnston the co-founder of London band Gallon Drunk and having worked with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, while Gullick, working under the moniker of Tenebrous Liar, also having worked alongside the late Mark Lanegan as a part of the Soulsavers project – together the pair follow on from We Travel Time with a series of cracked compositions which unfurl with a rich cadence and doom-laden lust.
Lunt: Remember We Were Waiting for the Snow
Cruel Nature Records
Lunt is the project of Latvian artist, Žils Deless-Vēliņš, who creates absolutely stunning emotional dreamscapes. With his latest LP, Remember We Were Waiting for the Snow, it’s the kind of sonic noodling inspired by the likes of Jim O’Rourke and Steven R. Smith.
Landscapes seem to play a predominant role throughout these guitar-based compositions. It’s a cinematic record, but instead of synths, the moodscapes are shaped by guitars that are so sharp and intricate, they could cut through ice.
Out of all the releases within this feature, you’d be hard-pressed to go past a more beautiful set of recordings than these. Lunt joins the likes of the aforementioned Smith and Winterwood in the realms of exploratory guitar music this year.
Mienakunaru: Strato Arcology
Echodelick / Riot Season
Mienakunaru is the collaboration between guitar maestro Junzo Suzuki (Overhang Party, Miminokoto), Mike Vest, and Dave Sneddon, and earlier this year they released Strato Arcology.
Released just months after Junzo fell from a train platform and suffered intracerebral and subarachnoid haemorrhages as a result (he survived the fall and is on the mend), suffice to say there’s a fair bit of emotion attached to this record.
And alongside Vest and Sneddon, he does his audience proud (again!), as the three render two compositions that howl from the void. Yes, this is free-form guitar madness at its finest, almost like a deconstruction of Monster Magnet’s Tab. For anyone who likes to march that fuzz, this is pivotal.
Beth Orton: Weather Alive
Beth Orton has always been a hard sell around these parts. An obvious talent, and most certainly an important voice at the backend of the ’90s/early ’00s. I guess when something doesn’t hit, it doesn’t hit? In any case, that’s all changed now with Orton’s latest record, Weather Alive – perhaps the songwriter’s most defining piece of work so far.
On Weather Alive, Orton opens up her songs with beautiful atmospheres, and here she utilities space with an expansive range of instrumentation that has never been heard in her songs before. From the very first moment, this album swings, with subtle jazz inflections and a breezy blues vibe that, if anything, illuminates Orton’s voice which has never sounded better.
A fantastic album, as the bookends to Weather Alive are pure gold dust, with both the opening title track and the closing Unwritten, two of the finest songs Orton has written. Here’s a lesson to us all: never say never.
“I’m suffering fools/Like a suffering fool,” sings Matt Flegal during the brilliant Ricochet. It’s been a while since the last Preoccupations record, and with good reason. Any band as pissed off as this needs time to take aim, because when music is as intentionally visceral as this, targets need to be hit.
And hit they do, as Preoccupations showcase a perceptive bleak outlook like never before on Arrangements – hands down their best album to date. Lyrical shards and rifling sonic assaults are all the way through this album, which illuminates the Canadian four-piece like never before.
The lyrical flashes throughout Arrangements are as underrated as they are scintillating (see Tearing up the Grass). While not many are talking about this record, they should be. It’s probably the best post-punk record released in 2022, and in a year where FACS have been holed up writing their next record, fear not; we have Preoccupations’ Arrangements to tide us over.
Daniel Rossen: You Belong There
Out of all the interesting wider-reaching indie bands of the late ’00s, Grizzly Bear were easily the pick of them. The songwriting – rich, intricate, and consistent.
With Daniel Rossen’s debut solo outing, You Belong There, that very much continues, with a release that slowly seeps into the pores. It’s always been splitting hairs when comparing Rossen with Grizzly Bear bandmate Ed Droste. It’s more of a case of the pair complimenting each other, however here in a solo capacity, Rossen showcases just how majestic his songwriting is.
While possessing a breezy, woodsy finesse, there’s plenty of nuance throughout You Belong There, too. A lovely companion that reveals new tricks with each listen, and with a song like Keeper and Kin, Rossen proves that – as a solo artist – he can write songs just as beguiling as he ever did with Grizzly Bear.
Indigo Sparke: Hysteria
Australian songwriter, Indigo Sparke, came to our attention last year with her debut long-player, Echo, and here she presents the next chapter with Hysteria.
Far removed from Echo, the gentle inflections and soft brushes across the strings make way for more forceful, plucky songs. Granted, the evidence is in the album title, however things are more straightforward here (Sad is Love).
Away from the campfire and into the coffee shop, perhaps, but it’s no bad thing, as Sparke showcases an ability to move forward with her art. And with the 14 songs that make up Hysteria, not only is it an impressive follow-up, it’s a step in the right direction for what comes next.
The Soft Pink Truth: Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This?
Matmos’ Drew Daniel did his best to lift us out of a lockdown slumber with The Soft Pink Truth’s fifth album, Shall We Go on Sinning So That Grace May Increase? He did a pretty good job, too, as the album was at the pointy end of most end of year lists.
Which is why Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This? is such an anticipated follow-up. Here, Daniel gets more feverishly abstract, flitting between the cracks of the absurd sound worlds he’s spent a lifetime in. From funk, jazz and soul to lounge music, it’s forms a blend of compelling house music.
And of course it works. Why wouldn’t it? Daniel knows what his listeners want, and with Is It Going to Get Any Deeper Than This?, not only will it appease his loyal followers, it’ll reach new ones, too.
Mike Vest / Charlie Butler: Neutraliser
Echodelick / Weird Beard Records
Between Newcastle’s Mike Vest and Scotland-based Charlie Butler, it’s always a shoot-out in the stakes of new releases. On Neutraliser they join forces in what is guitar music tailor-made for scenic drives all across the country.
On Neutraliser, the pair forge an alliance filled with big jams and fuzz-laden riff-a-rolla that may just have you crying into your pint glasses.
As respective solo artists, both possess a hefty body of work. Together they bring all the finest elements of their individual creativity to the table and produce something rather large indeed. Don’t sleep on it, just turn it on and turn it up.
The Welcome Addition: Bom Dia Brothers and Sisters
The Welcome Addition is the brainchild of Liverpool’s Peter Martin, who arrives with the follow-up to last year’s Shaw Lane Sessions, in Bom Dia Brothers and Sisters.
Recorded in the UK and across South American in Peru, Brazil and Venezuela, Martin creates a tourism of sound like no other from Merseyside. And along for the ride is a plethora of collaborations, including appearances from Good Grief’s Will Fitzpatrick and Paul Abbott.
Bom Dia Brothers and Sisters is most certainly a mixed bag, and Martin pulls out many a trick during these 13 tracks, blending folk and emo with a locality from the places where many of these songs were written. It’s a nice listen, and one far removed in comparison with his Merseyside contemporaries.
David Westlake: My Beautiful England
Tiny Global Productions
David Westlake returns with his first album in over a decade with My Beautiful England.
The former Servants leader has been an influential voice, with the likes of Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch constantly singing his praises. On My Beautiful England, Westlake juxtaposes political snapshots against dramatic ’80s inspired soundscapes (opening title track).
It’s a slightly different approach from label mates, the Nightingales, however underneath the drama, there’s most certainly the kind of sharp humour (E is For the Empire) to initiate the relevant crossover between fan bases. While Sleaford Mods dispense this kind of bitterness with the relevant vitriol, Westlake chooses the more subtle paths of twee. It works a treat.