Aidan Baker

Half Lives
Gizeh Records

Aidan Baker’s new album, Half Lives, lives up to its moniker by presenting two distinct and separately titled mini albums. It’s a highly conceptual move, eschewing the long-form evolving ambience of his earlier work for narrative song cycles.

The first disc, As I Walked On Dead Earth, is based around Baker’s acoustic – but by no means unplugged – guitar. Reversed harmonics swell and shimmer like melting ice in the opening moments of the alternatively thrilling and frustrating mini-album. While inevitably opening into a layered beauty, the noise jam wig-outs, which pop up as interludes between longer tracks, are lacking teeth and verge dangerously close to noodling at times.

Mountains Sweat Clouds, is much more organic – phenomenological rather than human – and the better disc for it. Here, it’s the electric guitar that dominates the sound, but with more restraint than on the previous side. In the title track, a bass fights through distortion to lay down a dubbed out backbone for bowed guitars and flute. Later in the album, electro-acoustic treatments of found sounds and scraped metal are truly psychedelic.

Baker’s own voice appears throughout Half Lives, released into a rich sound-world of competing reverbs and delays. To be brutal, the ‘songs’ on the album(s) never really get beyond a sad-core dirge and the ambient pieces lack the spiritual purity of Baker’s meticulous and patient back catalogue. Even if this isn’t going to join the list of his essential work – a canon which is well worth exploring – Half Lives’ cinematic melancholy still bears the mark of an auteur.

Dave Firth

Lonelady

Hinterland
Warp

The first Lonelady album was released to a myriad of Mancunian post-punk comparisons from a lazy music press. Whether it was a conscious decision or natural progression, the nine songs penned by Julie Campbell on her second album cannot be accused of sharing common ground with any of her peers, contemporary or otherwise.

During recording, Campbell bypassed the circus and took refuge in an industrial estate in Cheetham Hill, armed with an eight-track and a drum machine. Despite the isolation and derelict surroundings, she has created a rallying cry that is more likely to leave you breathless from dancing than asbestos.

The first single, ‘Groove It Out’, has received extensive radio play on 6 Music, but it has such mass appeal that more people deserve to hear it. The extended version harks back to an era of classic 12” mixes that will leave even the most reserved killjoys making shapes and gurning involuntarily. ‘Bunkerpop’ is classic electro pop which makes you want to grab a hairbrush and dance in front of the mirror. The same can be said of opener, ‘Into The Cave’, which is indebted to the minimal, percussive approach of ESG. The space and repetition in ‘Hinterland’ and ‘Red Scrap’ allow the introduction of other melodic lines and instruments to make more of an impact and such examples are executed in a similar vein to a DJ mixing a set to induce euphoria on a sweaty, loved-up crowd.

This is an album awash with influences, but the end result is anything but derivative. The songs wouldn’t sound out of place in an indie disco, gay club, wedding or rave, which is the hallmark of great transcendent music, created in the Hinterland, where classifications don’t matter.

Nathan McIlroy

Bad Body

Do You Know I Live?
Tombed Visions Records

When I picked up Do You Know I Live?, I thought I’d get a haunting experience, one that interested me with an experimental blending of out-there musical backing and intriguing lyricism. I’m always looking for music that’s doing something different and any mention of spoken word always piques my interest, but it’s a shame that Bad Body lies closer to pretention than it does experimentation.

Both side one and side two are one large sonic assault, with no real spaces between apart from slight changes in the instrumentals. The vocals sound like Mark E Smith on diazepam but, unlike Mark E Smith, I couldn’t find any real meaning in or between the words. In its entirety, it sounds like a poor art project or a musician’s guide to the opposite of calming and meditative music, while taking on the same tempo of a meditation tape.

Beyond this, there’s nothing more to say other than that I was disappointed that I didn’t find anything more. I’d been hoping that Bad Body would show me something new that I loved, but instead gave me something that tries everything that should’ve been left alone.

Jacob Ormrod

Squarepusher

Damogen Furies
Warp

Damogen Furies is Squarepusher’s 14th studio album. When his first release, Stereotype EP , went on sale, Bill Clinton was in the White House and ‘Parklife’ was in the charts. Since then, Tom Jenkinson has become something of a musical convention. Known for his virtuosity on the electric bass, his highly technical production approach and his epic chopped up breaks, I was keen to delve in on a misty Sunday morning, hoping to be revitalised with some coffee and IDM. I was not disappointed.

Fans of Squarepusher will already have heard ‘Rayc Fire 2’ on Warp Records’ website and will know that in terms of style this is exactly what we might have expected all along. The record is frantic, funky and intense. Squarepusher has a sensibility for the catchy melody beneath most his work over the years and this album is no different. ‘Stor Eiglass’, the record’s opener, might be on the brink of a power ballad in terms of harmony, but beneath it sits twisted, sliced and diced breakbeats. A lot of the record is highly melodic. The listener is seldom spared from intricate, ravey polyphonic synths driving the music forward. There is a strong sense of progression too. By the time we arrive at ‘Exjag Nives’, the harmony is much less conventional and the jungle cuts are more manic and adventurous.

On top of the excellent jazzy work, the production value is immense and typically precise. The drums are powerful and the balance of all the elements in the mix is exquisite. If you are already a fan of Squarepusher, this record will fit nicely into your collection. If you are unaware of this electronic institution, you could find worse musicians with which to become familiar.

Fred Oxby