New Alternative Music | 11 January 2019

MISSIO | Rotting Christ | D’Angelo | Holly Herndon | American Football

Welcome back friends, freaks and fans of new alternative music. This week, at last, we cover some tracks released in 2019! Two of the songs featured below were put out in the last week, with the other three dropping just before Christmas (and two of those serving as precursors to new albums out later this year) so we’re pretty up-to-date as these things go.

Between them, this week’s featured artists have been releasing music for a cumulative total of 88 years with MISSIO – bless ’em – responsible for just two of those. So it’s safe to say you’re in safe hands – this week’s musicians have had plenty of time to ‘hone their craft’ and I think that comes through in the songs selected.

I very much hope you agree…

The Charm Offensive | MISSIO: Rad Drugz

Do you remember when you were at school and your mates used to tell “Your Mum…” jokes? They were sooooooo funny weren’t they? I mean, like, hilarious. I mean, like, enough to make you LOL, ROFL and PMSL all at the same time. Right? Right!!?

So Rad Drugz is a bit like your naughty school mate, throwing cuss words around for a laugh and deliberately being provocative to make the girls find them sexy.

And while it’s easy to roll your eyes at those class clowns from the days of yore now, it fucking worked, didn’t it?

And, you know what, it’s worked all over again for me. Because, let’s be clear, MISSIO lead singer Matthew Brue is s recovering drug addict so, first of all, all the lyrics are ironic (as if you couldn’t tell by the ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’ and obsure 90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle adjective used in the song’s title.)

But also because, underneath all the bravado and swagger, there’s an absolute banger of a party anthem here, complete with sing-along chorus and Giorgio Moroder synthesisers.

Sure, it’s not big and it’s not clever but it is a whole lot of stoopid, smutty but oddly satisfying fun.

***

The Military Coup | Rotting Christ: Fire, God and Fear

Greek metal stalwarts, Rotting Christ return with their first single from their forthcoming full-length The Heretics, due out in February.

And let’s get one thing straight right from the off; this may just be the most balls-out-of-the-bath, hyper-masculine song you will hear all year. Like, the only chocolate bar you can eat while listening to it is a Yorkie; it’s that masculine.

Consider the evidence:

Exhibit A: the irrefutably coolest-bloke-on-the-planet, Idris Elba-sounding geezer reading the opening salvo.

Exhibit B: the fact that the words that bloke says are, “Those who can make you believe absurdities / can make you commit atrocities” which probably doesn’t really mean much as a statement but sounds freakin’ awesome nonetheless.

Exhibit C: the guitar solo / double kick bit in the middle that sounds like it was designed to deadlift tigers on the precipice of a flaming volcano to.

Exhibit D: The chant of ‘Gloria Patri’ in the chorus that is done in such a deep voice it makes that bloke from the Crash Test Dummies sound like Mickey Mouse (if you’re anything like me, it also brings back uncomfortable childhood memories of watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and being weirded out by those blokes who do the human sacrifice bit).

‘Fire’, ‘God’ and ‘Fear’ are three words that all invoke power and Fire, God and Fear lives up to the billing.

***

The Peaceful Protest | D’Angelo: Unshaken

I’ll be honest; it took me years to get in to D’Angelo. That was partly because my wife liked him. And she mostly liked him because he’s a lad who’s fond of taking off his shirt.

When I did get in to him, it was mostly because of his awesome funk licks but also partly because of one fateful night at London’s Hammersmith Apollo back in 2015 (and absolutely zero to do with the aforementioned shirtless tendencies by the way.)

That night I witnessed him perform The Charade live. For the song’s duration, his band wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words “I Can’t Breathe” – an overt reference to the death of Eric Garner only the year before; an incident that was fundamental in the foundation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

For the first time in my life, I was moved – genuinely moved – to tears by what is ostensibly a funk / soul song as D’Angelo sang “All we wanted was a chance to talk / Instead we only got outlined in chalk.”

All of which is to say that at the very core of what I love about Mr. Angelo (or Michael Eugene Archer as he’s known to his Mum) is his political awareness and willingness to stand for what he believes.

Set against this backdrop, it’s pretty difficult to hear Unshaken as simply a soundtrack to the video game Red Dead Redemption, as the internet has seemingly received it.

Lyrics such as “May I stand unshaken / Amidst a crashing world” and “Oh traveler, what have you seen? / Were there crossroads where you’ve been? / I once was standing tall / Now I feel my back’s against the wall” are clear references to the state Archer’s country finds itself in at present.

So, yes, musically this is something of a departure for D’Angelo – and I doubt very strongly it will make it onto his next album (especially if we’re to wait the best part of 15 years for it as we had to with Black Messiah) – but, lyrically, it stands as another timely reminder of his power as an artist.

***

Guerilla Warfare | Holly Herdon: Godmother

In Aldous Huxley’s seminal 1932 sci-fi novel, Brave New World he foretold the concept of a “synthetic music machine” that composed its own tunes to serve the explicit purpose of “[filling] the air with its agreeable languor.”

He went on to describe how one such melody included a machine-made sound of a “human voice [which] began to warble; now throaty, now from the head, now hollow as a flute, now charged with yearning harmonics.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have landed on something akin to what Huxley was predicting in the form of Holly Herdon’s Godmother.

Herndon – an endlessly fascinating musician and ‘sound artist’ who’s been a long-time favourite of this blog – explains that Godmother was composed by a “nascent machine intelligence” created by herself and her partner Mat Dryhurst. ‘Spawn’, as the pair nicknamed the machine, was fed music by the footwork / electronic artist Jlin before “reimagining” them in Jlin’s (Spawn’s “godmother”)’s voice. No samples. No edits. No overdubs. Just a machine creating a piece of music based on sounds it’s heard.

And while some of Jlin’s music can be, shall we say, ‘opaque’ at times, she’s never produced anything quite this twisted on her own.

Godmother is a hissing, volatile track that manages to sound both threatening and irreconcilably broken at the same time; an unsettling combination.

That it manages to do all of that while also embodying a child-like quality is both doubly unnerving and also strangely appropriate, according to the machine’s creator. Herdon says, “it communicates something honest about the state of this [AI] technology. It is still a baby. It is important to be cautious that we are not raising a monster.”

Whether Godmother is closer to a ‘monster’ or an ‘agreeable languor’ is a subjective matter. What’s undeniable is that its brave, unique and groundbreaking.

***

The Quiet Riot | American Football: Silhouettes

The greatest art explores the darker parts of our souls. It exposes the artist’s uglier sides and, in doing so, holds an unflattering mirror up to its audience. Some of us – especially those who are pray to similar vanities, absurdities and aggressions, no doubt – use such art to feel comforted that someone else feels the way we do, while others perhaps enjoy the titillation of experiencing danger vicariously through our visionary’s work.

Before Christmas, I praised just such lyrical disclosure from Matt Healy in The 1975’s Be My Mistake and American Football’s Silhouettes is another track in that ilk.

A thinly veiled admission of infidelity, the band’s singer Mike Kinsella – pictured – reflects on “silhouettes splayed on the bedsheet”, “the allure of inconsequential love” and “the crime of the century” and, at first, it isn’t clear whether he’s the wrong-doer or the wronged.

In fact, it’s not until the outro that Kinsella reveals all, singing, “as soon as the war ends / I’ll find you and we’ll break laws again / as civilians.” The sexy bastard.

Scored against the 90s emo monoliths’ trademark ‘sparkly’ guitars (with some even more sparkly vibraphones this time for good measure) and a sprinkling of bars in 3/4 time, it all just adds to the feel of woozy, dizzy, weightless displacement.

The first track off American Football’s third album, due out in March, Silhouettes should be all the proof long-time fans of the band need that Kinsella and friends don’t need 17 years between releases to make a new epic.

***

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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