New Alternative Music | 14 December 2018

Galactic feat. Miss Charm Taylor | Sigh | XXXTENTACION | Vessel | Fleurie

Welcome back, friends, to what will be the final weekly instalment of new music reviews from 2018.  That’s partly because I intend to be enjoying (read: drinking and eating more than I should) my Christmas time off with my family.

It’s also partly because very little in the way of new music tends to come out around this time of year (watch this, now that I’ve said that Zep will release their first new album in forever on Christmas Day… we can but dream).

I trust you will find this week’s offering a fitting summary of the sort of thing you’ve been getting all year from 45; some moving stuff, some stuff to shake your hips to and some bloody weird stuff. 

Check back again early in 2019 when I’ll do it all over again. Until then, have a very wonderful festive time off… and try not to let the endless playings of Mistletoe and Wine get you down. 

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I will admit to no small amount of bias when it comes to Galactic. As a long-haired, greasy-skinned, Marilyn Manson-loving youth, my drum teacher introduced me to the New Orleans jam-funksters as a sort-of gateway drug to The Meters and P-Funk and, in one fell swoop made me considerably more cultured, a fair bit cooler and at least 5% more attractive to women – at least in my own head.

So they can do no wrong in my eyes. So when I found out they were releasing their first new material in three years – Clap Your Hands being our first taste of new album, Already Ready Already (due out next February) – Stanton Moore and co. were always likely to have this slot nailed down.

And, here’s the thing. Sometimes it’s awesome when a band releases a really upbeat tune that secretly hides a sad, Hey Ya lyric within. And sometimes it’s just perfect when a band releases a cool-as-crisps slice of swamp-rock funk, complete with brass stabs and some subtle electronic manipulation… and backs it up with a lyric that is solely and specifically about shaking yo’ ass.

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2. The ‘Military Coup’ | Sigh: Aletheia

Japan’s ‘Sigh’ have a wonderful zero-fucks-given attitude. 

They don’t care that they’re not blonde and Scandinavian enough to make black metal. They don’t care that their music is so low-fi that no sound system in the world can play it loud enough to fully appreciate it. 

And they don’t care that the rest of the world doesn’t typically mix this sort of epic metal with zany folk music from far-flung parts of the world (with the odd exception – hello, Tengger Cavalry). 

It’s just not the done thing. But mention that to Sigh and I imagine their response would be to, well, emit a long, deep, audible breath expressing sadness, tiredness or similar.

Play me Aletheia– indeed, most of the tracks off their recently released album Heir to Despair– and my reaction is somewhat different; more of a ‘coo’, ‘swoon’ or even a ‘hell yeah!’ Sigh’s music is, after all, brilliant, bonkers and brutal all at the same time. 

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3. The ‘Peaceful Protest’ | XXXTENTACION: whoa (mind in awe)

It’s always haunting listening to new music from a recently deceased artist. And so it is with SKINS, the record released this week from Florida rapper XXXTENTACION. 

Coming mere months after Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy was shot dead, the album is – exactly as you would expect from an artist as equal-parts mercurial as he was magnificent – a whole swathe of genres and emotions. Across the 10-track EP’s mere 20 minutes he runs the gamut, ranging from raging, heavy metal-style on STARING AT THE SKY, to singer-songwriter balladry on difference (interlude), to using the hip-hop / punk talents of Kanye West and Travis Barker to their fullest on One Minute.

And finally to the fragile, almost gamelan-style soft percussion of whoa (mind in awe)

Dropping in the immediate aftermath of Onfroy saying, “now it’s here, death has now arrived, time is finally up” at the very end of Train foodwhoa (mind in awe)could not be more perfectly placed. In such a context, it offers a moment of quiet and an opportunity to reflect on the tragic loss of the life of a truly gifted and boundary-breaking artist. Somewhere up in heaven, stars are twinkling in time to whoa’s rhythm. 

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4. ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ | Vessel: Paplu (Love that Moves the Sun)

Bristol Producer Sebastian Gainsborough (as Mr. Vessel is known to his Mum) wants to throw you off with his timing. Witness the fact that he dropped his latest album – Queen of Golden Dogs – last Sunday. That’s right, unlike most artists (who release albums on a Friday) Gainsborough elects to do so on a day when the record shops aren’t even open for you to go out and buy it… or is that just me showing my age? 

Listening to Paplu (Love that Moves the Sun)is an experience I would liken to being on a very fast, very colourful merry-go-round at a fun-fair. Its time shifts, whirring motifs and clashing, almost afro-beat rhythms are discombobulating – at times nauseatingly so – but they’re also defiantly euphoric and joyful.

It’s not for the faint-hearted (but, then, Tri Angle records’ artists rarely are) but, if you can stomach it, it’s one hell of a fun ride.

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5. The ‘Quiet Riot’ | Fleurie: Love Has No Limits

I try not to compare songs I review on 45 Revolutions per Minute to others’ too closely; after all, what makes a song ‘revolutionary’ is often its very differenceto everything else that’s out there. 

But, in this case, I think a comparison with Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek is a worth-while exercise. Certainly, the presence of vocoder on  Lauren Strahm (AKA Fleurie)’s voice in Love Has No Limitsmeans the two tracks share some textural territory. 

And you might be forgiven, as Strahm opens by singing “Someone told me / Write, clear and true, about what hurts” for assuming that this was covering similar lyrical ground to Heap’s 2005 masterpiece. However, this is precisely the way in which it distinguishes itself. 

While Heap’s words focus on a vulnerability felt after the loss of a loved one, Fleurie’s is a message of hope. “I write my story with more than words” she counters at precisely the point at which the track builds musically; “For the voice that can’t be heard.”

And, while it takes great strength to stay inside your sorrow as Heap does, it also takes massive courage to look beyond that and refuse to be defeated as Strahm shows on this track. 

The Outro

And so we reach a cease-fire for this week. You can find all of the tracks reviewed above in the 45 Revolutions per Minute playlist below or click to access the 45 RPM Playlist on Spotify itself.

If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), please engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter. And, if you’d like to receive updates weekly, please subscribe to the email list to get these recommendations sent to your inbox weekly.

The silence is broken again next week when I’ll return with five more selections for your consideration. Until then, thank you for reading and go in peace.

– SV –

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