Mogwai

Every Country's Sun

Cinematic Scottish rockers Mogwai are back with Every Country’s Sun. It’s their first mainstream release since 2014's Rave Tapes, but in between they’ve penned various soundtracks, including a collaboration with Trent Reznor for the climate change film Before The Flood. This latest effort, recorded at Abbey Road, captures their continued evolution brilliantly.

Opening track ‘Coolverine’ sets the tone. Presenting Mogwai at their cinematic best, it drifts through with whistling guitars before rising in bursts with an array of drum fills. In contrast the second track, 'Party in the Dark’, is a driving number with a rocking bass line and a vocal melody hidden under a swirling echo effect.

Mogwai have never been afraid to let the bass paint a picture and ‘Don't Believe the Fife’ paints a masterpiece. The beautifully shaped bass tone meanders up and down the scale. It leads unsuspectingly down a dark path and into a frenzy of booming drums and crunching, layered guitars.

The album is littered with crescendos, each one having the ability to catch you unawares. ‘Battered At The Scramble’ somehow weaves its way into Foo Fighters-style power rock, while the title track offers a slow build, each phrase bringing in new instrumental layers until you smack head-first into a wall of beautiful noise. For hardcore fans, this album sees Mogwai continue to progress as they fill every crevice of Abbey Road with powerful ambience. For new fans, it’s beautiful audio cinema, whetting the appetite for this autumn’s tour, which sadly swerves the north of England.

Will Hitchmough

Mount Kimbie

Love What Survives

Mount Kimbie have chosen to release their third album on Sheffield-founded record label Warp. Embellished with collaborations from King Krule, Micachu, Andrea Balency and their old pal James Blake, Dominic Maker and Kai Campos clearly see the benefits of sharing musical talents. Their own style is unusual and distinctive in its post-dubstep influences without coming across as pretentious.

Love What Survives is a step away from what might be anticipated from Mount Kimbie towards a deeper, angrier sound. The first track on the album, ‘Four Years and One Day’, begins like the eerie darkness of a Burial track, a nocturnal exploration into the unknown. The song progresses into something noisier but quickly flashes to nothing.

‘Blue Train Lines’, featuring the cool and casual King Krule, is where the artists begin to really get their frustrations out, spitting lyrics like, “Here’s another thing / That threw up in my mind like the razor blade / And her wrist locked in a closet of Deep Space Nine”. The distinctive and youthful sound of Micachu on ‘Marilyn’ is the point at which the album becomes more cohesive and seems to flow better.

The second half is more thrilling and features James Blake twice. The ecclesiastical tone of the organ on ‘We Go Home Together’ feels soothing and leads nicely into the synthy sounds of ‘Delta’. The penultimate track, ‘T.A.M.E.D’, sounds not too dissimilar from something Metronomy might produce. Love What Survives might be described as an unusual masterpiece.

Jennifer Martino

Sparks

Hippopotamus

Since reinventing themselves in the image of Steve Reich on 2002's Lil' Beethoven, the brothers Mael have drifted back towards surreal pop while retaining the repetition and restraint of their millennial renaissance.

Nowhere is this more evident than on the title track of their first studio album in nine years, on which a wide-eyed Russel Mael finds 'a hippopotamus', 'Titus Andronicus' and a 'painting by Hieronymus Bosch' floating in his LA pool, among other curios.

The songwriting of Ron Mael, still the sexiest man in pop, is as witty and sharply observational as it’s always been, especially when approaching familiar subjects from the perspective of the pair’s maturing years. “You might have positions you can recommend, but I don’t know if we’ll ever get to them,” sings his brother on ‘Missionary Position’, a celebration of unadventurous sex that echoes the operatic sublimity of 1974’s ‘Amateur Hour’.

Elsewhere they take aim at the achingly hip on ‘Scandinavian Design’ (“I’ve got nothing / Just a table and two chairs / But they’re beautiful and I just stand and stare”), and at persistent God botherers on ‘What The Hell Is It This Time?’ (“If Arsenal win he really don’t care”).

As with most of their records the material is a little patchy, with 'So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln Aside from That How Was the Play?’ not quite living up to that spectacular title. But the 15-track record is more musically diverse than they’ve sounded for a long time, with guitars making a full return to the fold and with ‘Giddy Giddy’ featuring the kind of electronic dance clatter they haven't deployed since 2000's Balls. The Mael model of how pop should be continues to sound like the way forward.

Sam Gregory

Deerhoof

Mountain Moves

Mountain Moves has the feel of a eulogy in places, although thankfully the off-kilter garage rock never approaches anything like a dirge.

On opener ‘Slow Motion Detonation’ avant-garde Argentinian singer Juana Molina rhapsodies about a “future that you could have saved” (whether she's referring to a self-destructive America insisting it’s becoming 'great again', or the loss of a kind of mid-tier indie rock scene Deerhoof once embodied, is unclear), whilst on ‘I Will Spite Survive,’ Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner harmonises with the high-neck guitar line as she informs the listener that “you’re expendable.”

A lot of life on this record about death, basically. Seven of the fifteen tracks on the group’s eighteenth (!) studio album feature guest vocalists, although rarely do they stray from the style set by frontwoman Satomi Matsuzaki. There’s also a handful of cameo instrumentalists, including Matana Roberts playing some sax over the halting drum pattern of the title track. Another three are covers, including a brief, brittle piano arrangement of Bob Marley’s ‘Small Axe’ at the very end.

Opening things up to outside influence appears to have shaken the group out of the funk - the qualitative rather than generic adjective - they’ve been in for the past couple of records.

Tom Baker

CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT

REMIXES

There are certainly no signs of Sheffield’s CPU Recordings slowing down as they release their most adventurous project to date. Released on a double 12-inch vinyl as well as via digital, it is an opportunity for CPU artists to get to work on their peer’s electronic excursions. Thirteen tracks - all complete with their own binary identification numbers - bring together some of the label’s finest moments and retouch them.

Proceedings kick off in typical CPU style with a brooding, bubbling electro workout by Sync 24 remixed by Jenson Interceptor. Subtle acid basslines are never far away from the equation in the compilation, whilst one of the stand-out tracks is Plant43’s remix of Blixaboy’s ‘Detroit Steel’, a beautiful journey into classic trance techno. One of CPU’s best finds, Tryphème, has her ‘Mélodramatique’ track improved (no easy thing) by the talented Rhys Celeste, AKA Microlith, who sadly passed away at the start of the year.

Another of the album’s standout moments is undoubtedly DJ VLR’s revision of Jensen Interceptor’s ‘Model 2029’. Sounding like Italo disco on a bad trip - heavy, slow and totally gorgeous - it highlights how diverse CP Smith’s label has become. B12’s ‘Step Inside’ is wonderfully remixed by Noumen and is one of the compilation’s more mellow affairs. It is followed up by B12 getting to work on Mrs Jynx’s 'Diving Loop', making for a mature, clever and all-round stunning piece of electronica. A real landmark for a great Sheffield label and one for any self-respecting electronic music fan.

Andrew Tattersall

Steffi

World of the Waking State

To those inclined towards the electronic side of the musical spectrum, Dutch-born, Berlin-based Steffi is as close to royalty as one gets in this day and age. A long-time resident of the Panorama Bar, a label owner and a promoter, Steffi’s productions have always been meticulous, informed and consistent. Her latest work is World of the Waking State, her third solo record on the equally regal Ostgut Ton imprint.

Far from the bleak driving techno that Ton are often known for, this record places melody at the centre of its sound. It’s certainly made from the perspective of a house and techno veteran, focusing on one idea per track which evolves slowly over several minutes. Synths and pads are used to create futuristic, somewhat melancholic sketches with minimal beats which only occasionally hint at four-to-the-floor, before dropping into rolling electro rhythms. The album maintains intrigue over its ten tracks without losing continuity, something not often achieved with electronic music.

I really enjoyed this record and it went perfectly with my morning coffee. It is relaxed without being dull and while it might not be chock-full of dancefloor anthems, it’s full of engaging compositions and satisfying grooves. At its best, it’s reminiscent of early works by luminaries such as Autechre, which as far as I’m concerned is about as praiseworthy as I can get for electronic music. World of the Waking State is a fantastic album and a promising new direction from a great producer.

Fred Oxby

Hannah Peel

Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia

Recorded live at the town’s Civic Theatre, this concept album about an 86-year-old Barnsley grandmother who dreams of exploring outer space hits the target straight away, with introductory track ‘Goodbye Earth’ flinging synthetic melodies into orbital curves. There’s elements of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the tones and classical instrumentation gathered in this collected network of space age escapism.

Beautiful phrases of sound seep with inspiration sought from the endless boundaries of space, to unveil soothing yet engrossing journeys. The enchanting ‘Sunrise Through The Dusty Nebula’ brings home a sense of wonder and grace, albeit outshone by the sensation of seeing shards of light streaming through coloured and continuously moving clouds of interstellar dust.

Elements of Tangerine Dream emerge in the use and layering of digital instruments. It’s difficult not to take inspiration from the German group’s extensive experimental work in synthesised music. Cosmic sounds fuse well with synthesisers and contributions from contemporary brass band Tubular Brass, forming smooth, ghostly climbs and planetary fly-bys.

As a concept album themed around an outer space setting, the fact that Mary Casio has no lyrics perhaps saves Peel from being typecast by well-meaning but eccentric sci-fi fans. Instead it leans toward the traditional, keeping it well within the reach of classical music fans as well as intrigued musos like myself.

Rowan Blair Colver

Hannah Peel and Tubular Brass will perform Mary Casio on 21 October at the Civic Theatre in Barnsley.

The National

Sleep Well Beast

There’s more than a hint of elusiveness lurking in The National’s latest offering. Sleep Well Beast operates within the murkiest of daydreams, countering a well-sustained dead-eyed ambience with lyrics etching zigzags above the head of lead vocalist Matt Berninger. It’s like being sung to from the bottom of a cave in the dead of night, and it’s all the more intriguing and frustrating for it.

‘Walk It Back’ and ‘Empire Line’ begin with earnest intentions at delivering a distinct soundscape, but ultimately stall with strange and jagged passages at the midway point, including ominous spoken word pieces and a baffling snippet from a Karl Rove speech. Bruce Springsteen guitar lines punctuate ‘Day I Die’, and yet the song seems to lose interest halfway through and wander away again.

There are plenty of great ideas begun here – both ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’ and ‘Guilty Party’ are initially arresting and startlingly fresh – but what happens next fails to deliver on the promise. A faint glimmer of a Nine Inch Nails-inspired throb fills the air in a quick and mesmerising burst, but then dies before anything greater can be established.

The crown jewel lies with ‘I’ll Still Destroy You’, arguably the ghostly centrepiece for the album. Berninger groans his way through an electronic minefield, spinning demented lines about molecules and metamorphosis. You hold your breath in anticipation before the track slips into the ether, and you wonder whether it was ever there to begin with.

Ethan Hemmati