Land Of Talk – ‘Indistinct Conversations’
Right from the first note of the fourth LP of Montreal’s Land Of Talk, one is thrown into the soft feels of vulnerable intimacy and an authentic atmosphere, which will stick with the songs until the very last chord of Indistinct Conversations. After the turbulent creation of 2017’s Life After Youth, after which singer and guitarist Elizabeth Powell thought about giving up on music for good, she took her time to retreat to an interior world. This also entailed embracing her identity as a non-binary femme, stepping into a more authentic self. That gave her the force to come back stronger as ever, delivering an album that radiates with dreamy guitar soundscapes, moments of shared intimacy, framed in snippets of overheard conversations.
Soft plucks of electric guitars and swelling brass tunes form the introduction to a mellow vocal opening by Powell on the first Diaphanous. There is an airy feel here, soothing and captivating, which culminates in the lyrics „I was caught up in the wrong stuff“, after which the song opens the gates to more electrified vibes, which is even more consuming. Look To You, which is introduced by indistinct chatter in a separate intro, takes up that vibe, melting raucous electric guitars with Powell’s passionate performance, which is straightforward and yet resonates perfectly with the rhythmic energy of the piece. The fuzzy Footnotes, following later on the record, is another sweet fit when it comes to demonstrate how fear can be turned into forceful resistance. Brooding over someone’s „psychotic thoughts“, the furious tune builds up cacophonous walls of sound, that incorporate the overall feeling of taking back control over your own life. With that same sense of self-affirmation, though carried out in a more tender, acoustic composition, Now You Want To Live In The Light carries that spirit another step further, leading into the final multi-facetted instrumental voice memo mix-up of its last track. Powerful in its own right, open-minded and sonically adventurous, Land Of Talk‘s Indistinct Conversations is a raw document of a voice that is channeling through fear and disorientation, only to become more authentic and stronger on the other side of the struggle. (Andreas Peters)
Fontaines D.C. – ‘A Hero’s Death’
The thing about myth, tales and ancient storytelling is: it’s been there long before writing without any intention ever existed. So the death of the hero is a concept that’s basically a self fulfilling prophecy. Every story with a dying hero in it is basically designed to be a story with a dying hero in it. What’s that all about you ask? Well, it’s about the new and second record by Dublin’s finest Fontaines D.C. It’s about why these young lads seem to outsmart most of their contemporates by choosing to NOT deliver what they’re expected of with their second record. 2019’s Dogrel was so full of elegant songwriting, clever harmonies and furiously, proud, ironic lyricism, that this second record could easily have been under danger of being a lukewarm copy. It’s not. It’s the astonishingly clever and mature aftermath to the party of Dogrel. It’s A Hero’s Death that’s already been layed out by the story Fontaines D.C. wanted to tell all along.
Don’t get me wrong here: The will to be as loud as possible to make their point is still inherent to the Fontaines‘ post punkey clamouring. But on A Hero’s Death it comes with a distinctively more melancholic approach. While some songs still try to maintain the Sturm und Drang (Televised Mind), already Grian Chatten’s assertions about love being „the main thing“ in a voice that couldn’t be more far from passion hint at what this record is heading for: We’re all so very weak by now. But everything’s still fucked. So a lot of the frustration is turned inwards nowadays in Fontaines D.C.‘s music. It’s the alternate, introspective, 30 years later version of something infamous: Fuck Axl and Slash, it’s Use your Disillusion now. What Fontaines D.C. are giving us here are paroles of persistence („Life ain’t always empty“). Musically it’s not as much Boys in the Better Land, fist-in-the-air carelesness but the way Fontaines D.C. design their tracks is still marvelous. And with ballads like Oh Such a Spring or No, or the slow trotting Sunny these lads just in between present songwriting that most chart-topping acts would long for: Sheer beauty. Seriously. Just let No sink in at the end and you’ll want to hear it all over again: „Don’t you play around with blame/It does nothing for the pain/please don’t lock yourself away/Just appreciate the grey“ Word. (Henning Grabow)
Rival Consoles – ‘Articulation’
While one might think the complex electronic soundscapes of Ryan Lee West and his alter ego Rival Consoles are unimaginable without a visual context by nature, this new release of him took the idea of visual music composing to a different level. West sketched out the structure of the record in hand-written form, on paper, freeing himself from the technological benefits of the computer (that are often obstacles/limitations as well) while diving deep into an almost classical music understanding of composition. Articulation might feel like a logical consequence of his artistic progress but it’s even more enjoyable when you listen to it when you know about the special circumstances. The already pretty rich cosmos of Rival Consoles‘ intelligent compositions feels even more sophisticated and thought-through than on his previous releases. The whole album feels like one endless stream of sound, carefully organized and perfectly sequenced. Similar to the last brilliant record of West’s dear colleague and friend Jon Hopkins Articulation manages to tell a story without using words, simply by letting sounds and structures do all the talking.
Vibrations On A String opens the album as a slow yet intense build-up piece before Forwardism takes it into straighter techno territory. Melodica offers a brief meditative moment of relaxation before the breakbeats of the title track create a truly haunting effect in combination with the ghostly and reverbed vocal samples that twinkle around the beats. All six tracks on Articulation rely on each other, telling one epic tale which content the listener is invited to envision. West still got this special talent for bringing a human element to electronic music, familiar to Hopkins work but also the more electronic adventures of fellow Erased Tapes labelmate Nils Frahm. There is still something highly emotional in the enigmatic sounds of Rival Consoles and Articulation takes this notion to a really satifying new level. If this is the sort of sound you are into, it’s pretty much impossible to resist its synthetic spell. (Norman Fleischer)
Madeline Kenney – ‘Sucker’s Lunch’
The Oakland-based Madeline Kenney releases her third LP Sucker’s Lunch, showing of her knack for writing mellow indie rock tracks, after the previous release had her dabbling in the dream pop direction. Produced by the Wye Oak’s musicians, Kenney’s guitar-driven song writing approach showcases the artists love for the art. Lyrically the artist is wading into new territory, discussing the risks and rewards of new love.
Especially the lead single Sucker, featuring Kurt Wagner’s resonating tenor, shows the core of the record. The indie rock gem is about failure and openly examines the ways we sometimes feel like we just cannot keep up even when we are on our “seventh cup of coffee”. Cut the Real moves away from the guitar-heavy theme and replaces strings with synths. On the tender track Madeline Kenney vulnerably talks about working through a depressive mind state. Where songs like Sucker, or the opener Sugar Sweat and Picture Of You perfectly fit into the image that Madeline Kenney conjured with previous works, Be That Man and Jenny break out of the scheme. The heavy resonating guitars almost border on grunge and Kenney’s ethereal vocals provide the perfect contrast. Sucker’s Lunch meets the expectations but shows and artist who is evolving within her already found musical identity – a real treat! (Liv Toerkell)
Romare – ‘Home’
On his third full-length release Romare, Archie Fairhurst, finds his own groove – less and less relying on sampling to build momentum but trusting the patience required for great EDM. At the centre of Romare’s music is balance: black and white covers, acoustic and electronic, slow and fast dancing encouraged, and at the core, tension and release of his own and other musician’s work.
I love collages and it is why I love good DJ-sets. If you’re lucky, you’re not only getting to see a person ingulfed in their element but also a bigger picture to their musical influences. It’s like getting to know a new, exciting person or making a space your own, building something from the ground up. This is how I feel about Home. The opener Gone ricochets right in with percussion bubbles and rave convergence, Sunshine captivates with its classic dance-track structure, and The River works with to-be-expected samples integrated into a wave of drum and bass. On Deliverance the listener gets to catch their breath with a piano-heavy arrangement, simplistic and effective, Jaar-ian style. Stand-out track is Heaven which is just a ball of fun with experimental layers on a sticky melody. With each of the twelve songs of the album, you trust Fairhurst to lead the way and there is a pure flow from one to the next fragment. With more and more DJs erupting, it can be tough to navigate between the old and the new, archetypal and inventive but whatever way your body moves, Romare has now established himself as a staple in this ever-evolving scene. (Anna-Katharina Stich)