20-16 of the Records of the Year of My Choosing

Continuing yesterday’s ball-tingling countdown…

20 Matmos – The Marriage of True Minds

Matmos can come across as annoyingly conceptual and didactic, but often the conceit behind the album is so esoteric and charming that you kind of let them off, before being slightly bored by the album.

They manage to overcome a lot of niggles with this record, producing a really engaging, sometimes danceable, often amusing and completely weird album that’s eccentric, intelligent, coherent and unpredictable.

Matmos apparently got a bunch of test subjects together and tried to telepathically convey the concept of the album to them, before recording their responses and building the album around the subjects’ fumbled attempts to describe half-imagined sounds and shapes.

It sometimes sounds like The Books, with plucked strings and metallic plonks supporting lots of vocal samples, and it sometimes sounds too slick – like the backing track to an educational documentary about the Future of Cell Biology – but it won me over with its highbrow humour and smart production.

19 Co La – Moody Coup

If Co La’s latest album had matched up to the promise of some of the better moments from Daydream Repeater and the brilliantly glossy dub on Dialtone Earth, it would easily be up there at the top of this list.

Unfortunately, Moody Coup struggles to coalesce into a really satisfying whole, but Co La’s overall project is so aesthetically coherent, blissfully lush and compellingly inventive that it’s still a real stand-out.

Moody Coup retains the dubby roots of Dialtone Earth in its vocal samples and use of reverb/bass, as well as the fluorescent sheen of Daydream Repeater, but it moves on from both works by dropping the rhythmic tethering to Bmore and Dub, and opening up weird syncopations that challenge its dancefloor aspirations.

The extension of his sound is evident in the album art, which drops the quasi-satirical, VIP sleekness of previous efforts to utilise an artfully textured and tactile surface with an abstracted grimace in the centre, reminiscent of Benedict Drew’s artwork. It speaks of Co La’s desire to look away from Earthly concerns, existing genres and recognisable sounds to grope for new and transcendental noises.

Get fucked, drink coffee, take drugs, sit in the sun, stroke the bonnets of cars and see faces in spray-painted driveway gravel.

18 The Field – Cupid’s Head

I think The Field loses something in this record by adding something – his previous, From Here We Go Sublime, was almost sublime in its repetitious clarity; gorgeous loops lifted out of the sludge of reality through sheer persistence.

Nevertheless, even thoughCupid’s Head is a little less striking due to its more conventionally full sound, it still achieves moments of hypnotic bliss. It’s pretty much simple 4/4 house beats from start to finish, but there are beautifully subtle rhythmic touches throughout, absurdly simple chord shifts that are so warm they make your face red, and smothering walls of glistening noise that would make your Nan chew her face off.

17 Dirty Beaches – Drifters / Love is the Devil

I can’t work out whether this album is anything other than just really fucking cool.

It’s all submerged, lo-fi vocals, stuttering drum machine loops and no-wave basslines that owe a massive debt to Suicide, but stand-out tracks like I Dream in Neon add an extra facet of sleazy nihilism that feels trippy and warm as well as foreboding and confrontational.

Plus, there are moments when it’s got a weird funk to it (e.g. Casino Lisboa) or an unhinged sadness (Alone at the Danube River) that take it beyond mere retro fetishism and the tired ‘neon city’ tropes that threaten to overburden it. While Suicide sound rightfully angry at New York’s underbelly, Dirty Beaches has had time to stop and rue some of that neglect, kicking litter about and wondering what it all means.

It’s important that you wear leather and eat glass bottles while listening to this album.

16 Blood Music – Blood Music EP

I saw these guys play live at Wysing Arts Festival with a raging hangover and a belly full of potent, homemade alcoholic ginger beer. I can’t be sure whether that experience has coloured my appreciation of this record or not, but it’s stood up to repeated listens.

The EP is really percussive, with stabs of distorted guitar backed by both live drums and a punchy drum machine; both of the longer tracks are, consequently, propulsive and menacing, engineering a restrained anger through layers of noise, semi-whispered vocals and a snarling, throbbing backbone.

This EP was released on Powell’s ‘Diagonal’ label and, while their sound possesses a more traditional guitar-based tone, it shares something of the potent marriage of rock’s darkness and techno’s propulsive, electronic rhythm. In that sense, the guitar – although sounding often like it’s coming from a metal band – isn’t used for riffs, but to bolster the backbeat and to build texture.

It’s managing to do something a little different with a potentially tired template, without sounding contrived.
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Records 15-11 in the post…

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