What’s Fresh?

“O, Dark Flux. Thou hast forsaken me. I am usurped in your heart by a shiny bauble that is apparently louder than a war.”

“My dear personal blog. I am distraught that you should feel that way. Yes, I can see that my eye has wandered, attracted by the false God of follower count. But thou are my first love and my only true love. I shall repair what has been put asunder.” 

This is me repairing. Building bridges with my neglected blog. Forgive me father, it’s been a couple of months since my last post. Not that I haven’t been writing. Oh no. I’ve been pretty prolific writing for Louder Than War and (in a bit of a left turn) Management Today.

Anyway, with helpful links to all of the relevant articles, let’s do a whistle stop update through all the fresh stuff that I have been talkingabout, starting with the story of the year…

The Year of SAULT

In June this year, the mysterious SAULT dropped their third album, Untitled (Black Is). Musically, it was unparalleled. A veritable fusion of hip-hop, soul, funk, pop and a bit of doo-wop, it grabbed you by the throat and compelled you to pay attention. The message was unambiguous. It was a direct response to the death of George Floyd and basically stated that, after centuries of prejudice, we aren’t going to take it anymore. Even half way through the year, it was obvious that we had an album of the year on our hands. Hell, it could be the album of the century.

You assume that hitting those kind of heights is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Fast forward three months and SAULT drop their second album of 2020, Untitled (Rise). It is almost – almost – as good as (Black Is). The message is the same, but the mood is different. Where (Black Is) was dark and portentous, (Rise) is a fiesta. To release two albums of such remarkable quality in such a short period of time is utterly jaw-dropping. It is unquestionably SAULT’s year. If you aren’t on to these yet, you need to do so forthwith.

The launch of Cue Dot

Paul Scott (aka Lippy Kid) is a constant inspiration to me. He is a superb composer and musician (check out Thought Forms, his Lippy Kid album from 2018) and is an excellent DJ presenting an eclectic, thought provoking and thoroughly entertaining show on Radio Free Matlock. On top of that, he has to be one of the most genuine, nicest guys on Twitter. So, when Paul realised his dream earlier this year and established his own label, Cue Dot, I was intrigued. More than anyone, Paul knows quality music when he hears it, therefore I was desperately keen to hear those early Cue Dot releases. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to review them.

The inaugural release was Lyndon Scarfe’s astonishingly brilliant Shoreline. At the time, I described this as “a blueprint for what ambient music should be”. I stand by that today. It was also incredible to see the legendary Mary Anne Hobbs of BBC 6 Music feature one of the tracks on her ‘Introducing’ show. 

Cue Dot’s second release was announced just last week. A Pleasant and Profound Hand Into a Peaceful Death by the mysterious Lying Cat is a soundtrack to a movie never realised that will enthral and enchant lovers of the ambient/electronic genre.

Both albums are quite brilliant, but I’d expect nothing else from a label that is led by Paul. In these grim times, it is great to see one of the good guys get a break and achieve amazing things by following his heart. 

New Sounds (and one oldie)

I’ve also been able to catch up on so many great new albums from new artists recently. I honestly cannot recall a time of such quality. Is it a reaction to lockdown? Who knows.

Let’s begin with an album that came out in April , but was reissued yesterday as a deluxe edition with seven extra tracks. James Alexander Bright’s Headroom is a sumptuous slice of sun-dappled psychedelic soul. I described it as exceptional and exhilarating and as I wrote those words for Louder Than War only yesterday, I unsurprisingly haven’t changed my mind.

Headroom is just fantastic pop music and another example of intelligent, thoughtful pop is After Nature’s recent debut. Featuring the aforementioned Lyndon Scarfe, After Nature’s release is evocative of the very best cerebral pop of the 1980’s, whilst feeling incredibly fresh. It’s just great songwriting.

A brand new artist that I was introduced to recently is Xufa. The Berlin-based composer, musician and vocalist (real name Atalya Tirosh) released her debut single, Generosity in September. It is a gorgeous hybrid of neo-soul, indie and dream pop that is quite stunning. As Xufa is a classically trained Opera singer it should come as no surprise that the vocal is quite something else. This definitely deserves to be widely picked up.

And finally, I got the opportunity to write about the twentieth anniversary of one of my all-time favourite albums, Kid A by Radiohead. I just hope that I did that masterpiece justice.

Okay, I think that’s plenty for now. I promise not to be so negligent going forward. And you know I always keep my promises. 

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