Four Tet

New Energy

As an alternative musician of the new age, electronic heads have been held in a state of curiosity as to what British producer Kieran Hebden would add to the ninth chapter of his eclectic catalogue. New Energy is a very thoughtful record, featuring a collection of meaningful sounds which sew the whole album together. What’s particularly special about it is that there’s a clear story to be told, yet one that’s entirely ambiguous, allowing listeners to create their own insightful interpretations of the album.

‘You Are Loved’ is a deeply sentimental track, gradually awakening the record with a vision of entropic drum kicks combined with deep orbital groans. As we hear the record flourishing, ‘SW9 9SL’ seems to be a pinnacle in the process of a new life forming. A triple beat bassline and a subtly enchanting melody create a dreamlike minimal house track.

‘Daughter’ is a delicate tune, initially carrying a breakbeat style bassline accompanied by distorted Indian vocals which loop around each other. The track sees this masterful record finally becoming comfortable in its journey of finding new energy. ‘Daughter’ carries a strong value of sentimental appreciation and seems the perfect nostalgic gem to place towards the end of the record. Showing what a special musician Four Tet is, the entire album allows listeners to coexist in a different meditative space. Welcome to the ninth chapter.

Georgia Smith

Chloé

Endless Revisions

French DJ and composer Chloé’s third album sees a collaboration with several notable avant-garde artists, including Rhys Chatham and Alain Chamfort, and is released through her own label, Lumiére Noire. Seven years in the making, Endless Revisions showcases a profound emotional journey for Chloé. “I feel like I found myself on this album,” she states, and it’s easy to become lost in the 13-track journey if you allow yourself.

As the name suggests, minimal techno leaves an artist with a relatively sparse sonic palette, but where Endless Revisions succeeds it does so through embracing the understated nature of the genre. ‘The Dawn’ crescendos with a fervent intensity but never strays into bombastic territory, relying instead on acutely orchestrated timbres and delicate harmonies. Each track pivots on a bedrock of simple but pleasing synthesisers, embellished with engaging vocal samples and traditional instrumentation, as well as cunning elements of cinematic sound design.

But as polished and personal as it is, this LP doesn’t strike me as beyond the capabilities of Chloé’s contemporaries. Behind every idiosyncratic motif, four-to-the-floor drums remain almost a constant, occasionally as a bass-heavy foil to the elegant instrumentation. In terms of composition, the musicianship doesn’t stray far from the techno blueprint. Given the venerated names attached, it’s easy to conclude that Endless Revisions feels quite familiar, but to label it as such would perhaps be unfair, as it's nevertheless a polished and effective piece of work.

Nick Gosling

UUUU

UUUU

The opening track on UUUU’s eponymous debut builds like a rocket launch. ‘The Latent Black Path of Summons Served’ sounds like a date with the magistrate. Perhaps after spending time in other bands, finding three more musicians prepared to make such an effort required a lot of soul searching. With members of Tomaga, Coil and Wire in the line-up, UUUU have the cherry-pick of experimental talent. The debut is astonishing, with sounds that perform like actors on a screen.

The epic ‘Five Gates’ takes off after the searingly abstract ‘Partial Response Takes Another Form’, leaving behind a disjointed sonic bonfire to unveil a psychedelic rock workout with a modern delivery. Melodic rhythms and space-age riffs snake around manic but regulated drumming, driving a surge of sound that pushes on and on. ‘Boots With Wings’ leans more in a grunge direction, employing vocals that gurgle with effects in an eerie and strangely alluring manner.

Taking aspects of every genre, throwing them in a mixing pot and stewing until creamy, UUUU makes an impact no matter what direction we listen to it from. It's not relaxing, and there are some seriously intense sections that need to be appreciated like strong beer, sipped at rather than gulped. Brilliance and beauty shine from this record, behind the branches and from a manageable distance.

Rowan Blair Colver

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

The Kid

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is known for her wondrous and interesting sense of sound, and on The Kid she makes full use of her talents to create an album that’s an exploration of outer space sonics.
‘I Am A Thought’ is an excellent and gentle introduction, but The Kid really begins with the following track, ‘An Intention’, which leaves you wondering how Smith creates such music. It’s a puzzling feeling that she invokes as the album progresses.

‘In The World But Not Of The World’ travels upwards and further shows Smith’s abilities, while ‘I Am Curious I Care’ goes through different stages and pulls on the listener's energy. The same can be said for ‘I Will Make Room For You’, which contains some of the most pleasant parts of the record. The Kid ends perfectly with ‘To Feel Your Best’, the most fluent track on the album and a great finish to it, in style and in sound.

Despite how satisfying The Kid is, Smith neglects one of her best sounds: her voice. She is a good vocalist, but it’s often difficult to decipher her lyrics because of the way they’re merged with the music. This is aesthetically impressive, but it’s a double-edged sword because the listener isn’t able to fully experience her abilities.

Overall, The Kid is impressive and though it may have been more enjoyable had Smith given us more chance to hear her voice rather than what she can do with production, it’s a unique and refreshing album made with care and striking talent.

Akeem Balogun

Amadou & Mariam

La Confusion

Amadou & Mariam are a duo who’ve reached exceptional heights over the past few years. They’ve toured with bands like U2 and Coldplay and have performed at the opening ceremonies of the last two football World Cups. Their latest album, La Confusion, is further confirmation that the pair are immensely popular for a reason.

The album pulls you right in from the moment you begin listening and continues to keep a grip on your attention for the next 12 tracks. La Confusion has a funky and at times retro sound, giving the record a classic pop feel. It has plenty of moments where the duo sing individually, as well as together. This works well as you get to hear how talented the pair are in their own right. Mariam sounds exceptional on the title track, while Amadou’s vocals bring ‘Massa Allah’ to life.

The production throughout the album doesn’t falter and it’s pleasing to hear how well the instruments fit with the lyrical content and vocals of each track. ‘Filaou Bessame’ has pleasant vocal rhythms and the instrumental is musically varied and topped with good effects. ‘Ta Promesse’ is one of the most memorable tracks, with its slow but upbeat sound, with other standouts including ‘Fari Mandila’ and ‘Mokou Mokou’. 

La Confusion is an uplifting album that never loses its rhythm, and even with a constant groove it still has room for important messages.

Akeem Balogun

Ganglions

Thirsty

Math music is often interesting but not always enjoyable. It’s a style that can value calculation too highly over emotional expression. While Leeds and Sheffield-based three-piece Ganglions describe themselves as 'mathy pop punk', they use math complexity as a backdrop, rather than as a centrepiece. They are, first and foremost, writers of exceptional pop songs.

Their music revolves around vocal arrangements performed in turn or in harmony by the whole band. Drummer Brian Scally leads the energetic songs, whereas bassist Eimear O’Donovan handles the more thoughtful parts, as well as the whimsical, cheeky stuff. They have an endearing collective voice and a great ear for melody. While most bands will settle for at least one catchy hook per song, Ganglions want every single line to be a potential earworm.

Underpinning the vocals, a tight rhythm section skip through intricately compact song structures with metronomic grace, while Chris Saywell’s impressive guitar gymnastics dance around the songs, gelling everything together. His sound is angular in notation but fluid in delivery, adding subtle textural and tonal variations throughout the EP.

Following on from 2016 EP FETCH!Thirsty (available digitally and on cassette via The Audacious Art Experiment) is another perfect balance of pop accessibility and math intricacy. Stand out tracks are lead single ‘Slow Lunch’ and closer ‘Very Popular’, the all-in harmony ending of the latter boasting a poignant intimacy that tingles the spine. Highly recommended. 

Jack Temple

The Weather Station

The Weather Station

For Tamara Lindeman’s fourth album as The Weather Station, she’s chosen to self-title. Listening to The Weather Station along with some of her earlier work, I can understand why she’s chosen to do so. The album was created to put her own spin on rock 'n' roll, and using ‘Free’ as track number one is the perfect decision. Punchy, slightly distorted opening chords give the audience an immediate understanding that her music has reached another level.

That said, there is undeniably a folk core running through this album. Each track tells an intricate story which Lindeman has admitted touch on more personal issues this time around. The self-written, self-produced and self-titled record bursts with confident energy, making tracks feel empowering, even when they may start to expose some of the artist’s vulnerabilities.

Lindeman’s vocals have a familiar, heart-warming tone which makes her poetic lyrics all the more emotive and inviting. Personal favourites to demonstrate this are ‘Impossible’ and ‘I Don’t Know What To Say’, which while different in pace and story, share the same soft vocal clarity that sends chills down your spine. 

The Weather Station is a captivating record, one that continues to unfold with delicate surprises as you make your way through each track. While Lindeman won’t be visiting Sheffield on this album tour, you can catch her at one of her two UK shows at the end of the month.

Tasha Franek

Jensen Interceptor

Carter’s Green Factory

The Sydney-based producer Mikey Melas is back on Sheffield label Central Processing Unit after his 2016 EP, M. His most recent release, a collab with Assembler Code for German tape label MMODEMM, had strayed into LIES-style outsider techno, but Carter's Green Factory sees a return to the taut electro of his previous CPU release.

The Jensen Interceptor is a classic car and Carter's Green Factory is where they were built in the 1950s, but the music is not quite as retro as the nomenclature might suggest. There's a tendency for nostalgia bordering on pastiche among some electro producers, but these three tracks represent the context-aware yet forward-thinking approach for which CPU has garnered worldwide attention over the last five years.

'Glide Drexler' opens the EP with a languid refrain under skittish, distorted hi-hats. Broken beat kick drums and a frantic, chirruping melody follow shortly after, injecting a tumbling urgency, while the glacial synth becomes background colour.

The title track follows. It's very much a title track and surely the one that will get the most mileage on the dancefloor. The Australian's trademark cavernous kicks are in straight 4/4 this time and the structure is clearly designed with the peaks and troughs expected for club use. Nonetheless, it's hard not to also hear a nod to high-concept experimentalists Dopplereffekt in the discordant stabs and high-pitched square-wave synth line.

Michael Hobson