The Rheingans Sisters

Bright Field

Bright Field is the third album from Hope Valley-based multi-instrumentalist folk duo The Rheingans Sisters, and their best yet. 2015’s Already Home, an album full of exciting arrangements and polished performances, earned them the coveted Best Original Track prize at the BBC Folk Awards in 2016, yet they have met the challenge of following that with a confident and mature sounding record. This is the first album the Sisters have for the most part written themselves, and in doing so they have proved themselves to be brilliant composers as well as superbly capable musicians.

The musical style of the album is rooted in traditional music of the UK, France and Scandinavia, yet this huge inheritance is used effectively and cleverly as a springboard for new ideas to grow, not as a noose to weigh them down. Prototypical folk music forms are heard, then expanded upon, experimented with and given space to develop. While this album isn’t seeking to rewrite the language of folk music, it has allowed the Sisters to create a sound which is entirely original and wholly theirs, spacious and full of rich textures, with ideas growing in an open-ended and free way.

The character is often a little melancholy and the lyrics cleverly use pastoral allegories to address the problems of the world without seeming heavy-handed. The words are filled with imagined landscapes, dreamy yet problematic, that are reflected beautifully in the flawless instrumental performances. I’ve heard new things with each listen and I think this album will stay with me for a long time.

Ben Eckersley

Awooga

Conduit

It’s sludge-infused grunge from outer space. I’ve mulled over a dozen far catchier descriptions, but this seems to be the most fitting. And it’s a sound that absolutely works.

The foundations of this album are built on a sublime blend of enormity and delicacy. Vocalist Tam Ali glides between layered, softly-spoken harmonies and a raspy call. James Borrowdale’s guitars are at one moment a phalanx of hefty tones and the next multi-faceted and orchestral, while drummer Taran Ali performs with a considered share of relentlessness and restraint.

It's mesmerising that this Sheffield band are only a trio, because the vastness and vividness of their textures are frequently larger than life. Much of this is owed to the stunning production work, yet the composition and confidence with which the material is performed is a credit to the band.

Like much of the track listing, opener ‘Temporal’ gave me an absolute clobbering, yet the introspective lyricism and songwriting offers a transcendent experience for those who give this album the greater attention it demands. Album closer ‘Otherside’ doesn’t bludgeon, but soothes with a transcendent repose. It’s an incandescent slice of serene post-rock, summarising the understated confidence of a band set to effortlessly glide into many a record collection.

Stunning from start to end, fans of Seattle’s late-80s exports will appreciate the clear influence of grunge, yet the incorporation of thunderous instrumentation is sure to whet the appetite of even the most uncompromising of metalheads.

Nick Gosling

Gang Gang Dance

Kazuashita

Gang Gang Dance have been on hiatus for seven years since their last album, Eye Contact. That's been a shock to the system for fans used to a previously hectic release schedule of six albums and five EPs in eight years, so this new release on 4AD was highly anticipated to say the least. Kazuashita is, to some extent, 'Gang Gang Dance does shoegaze'. It's not something I ever expected to hear and probably not something I'd expect to work. Their signature sound of oddball samples, technicolour electronics and complex world rhythms almost seems like the polar opposite of shoegaze.

But then again, I never expected Tinchy Stryder to pop up on their 2008 album, Saint Dymphna, and that collaboration produced one of their best tracks, so they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Impressively, their idiosyncrasies emerge unscathed and Kazuashita is unmistakably a Gang Gang Dance record from the outset. Opening track 'J-TREE' adds restless, skittering percussion to the conventional slow-build-stirring-crescendo shoegaze formula, and Lizzi Bougatsos' otherworldly vocals are as unique as ever. 

However, they don't stick to the shoegaze template throughout and it’s the deviations that stand out. The title track is all over the place, cramming in sub bass, tabla, live breaks, classical piano, spoken word and - my favourite bit - a sample of pouring water. 'Young Boy (Marika in Amerika)’ is a frantic Arabic trap-pop hybrid. 'Snake Dub' is classic GGD, a brilliantly weird, sparse sampler workout.

Michael Hobson

LUMP

LUMP

Who or what is LUMP? LUMP the album is a dreamy new collaboration from the minds and souls of Mike Lindsay of Tunng and Laura Marling. LUMP the artist is a soft and cuddly, fluid-moving yeti figure who Marling and Lindsay have explained gets full credit for the album.

As a long-time fan of Laura Marling, I was immediately blown away by the range of vocals she delivers on this record, worlds away from the simplicity of her early solo work. Lindsay’s surreal yet cohesive instrumental work is equally beautiful, and both musicians are truly elevated by the other’s talent.

The album is short and sweet, with only seven tracks, but as each song is in the same key and ties seamlessly into the next, you’re encouraged to listen over and over again. Finishing the record is ‘LUMP Is A Product’, a spoken word credit sequence over more dreamlike textures and drones, giving the audience a chance to appreciate all the work that has gone into the album, whether they have access to the sleeve or not.

It’s difficult to pick favourites in such a concise selection of beautiful music, particularly as each track brings something unique while still maintaining fluidity. Special mention does have to go to the first single, 'Curse of the Contemporary', which is not only a fun, upbeat song, but has a music video to match. Check it out to get a peek of LUMP (the artist) for yourselves.

Tasha Franek

John Shima

Discreet

It’s almost a decade since John Shima released his debut electronic outing and since then he’s become one of the leading lights of the underground techno scene. A master of the analogue dark arts, he’s carefully perfected his sound over several years, making fine adjustments which are reflective of his latest release on Exalt Records. Pressed onto luscious green vinyl, Shima’s fresh outing is a seven-inch double header, featuring an original mix and a reworking by the veteran techno producer Future Beat Alliance.

If you’ve heard any of Shima’s previous 15 or so releases, you’ll know what to expect - sublime, Detroit-influenced techno that never breaks into a sweat but generates a tremendous amount of warmth. Who said techno has no soul? There is plenty of that in both versions, metronomically ticking along like a bubbling stew of modular goodness. The John Shima version is the purest of techno at its best and reflects why he’s become hot property on the live and DJ circuits, with recent invites to Germany, Spain and Romania.

The Future Beat Alliance version ratchets up the euphoria to another level while retaining enough of the original track to make it a superb iteration. Shima has worked hard to hone his sound, and now with several excellent releases and well-received gigs under his belt he has grown into a quality international artist. You don’t need me to tell you about Sheffield’s legendary electronic history. John Shima is now a part of that.

Andy Tattersall