King Capisce.

The Future Cannot Be Born Yet, It Is Waiting For The Past To Die

King Capisce made their debut in 2008 in a crowded tent at Peace In The Park. I remember their set well. It was noisy, untamed and relentlessly inventive. They used a classic four-piece jazz line-up - saxophone (of which there are now two), guitar, bass and drums - to create a multifaceted sound. I was cautiously impressed. It was messy and a bit reckless, but they were refreshingly different. I’m frequently reminded of how I loudly pronounced my judgement on them: “Give them six months,” I said, “and they’ll be a great band”.

Six years have gone by since then, during which they have indeed become great. They’ve perfected an exhilarating live show, released an incredible debut album and defeated any suggestion that they were anything other than the best band in Sheffield. But it is only now that they have finally come of age. This is not a reboot of the band, but nor is it more of the same. Like the difference between an opinionated sixth former and a learned academic, it knows it doesn’t need to hurry to win you over.

I revisited their debut album after I’d listened to the new material a few times. Though I still love it, it suddenly feels sharper and spikier than it used to. This new record is every bit as provocative, meaningful and idiosyncratic as its predecessor. All the big riffs and powerful moments are still present, but are given space to develop. There’s more texture, ideas build and grow organically and one theme leads gracefully into the next. I try not to use big words lightly, but these tracks are absorbing, powerful, distinctive and beautiful. This is a masterpiece.

Ben Eckersley

Martin Bisi.

Ex Nihilo
Labelship

Ex Nihilo, ‘out of nothing’ or ‘from nothing’, is the most curious and compelling album I’ve heard this year. Perhaps better known for his production - most famously on Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth - Martin Bisi recently released his first album in five years on Sheffield via Hamburg imprint Labelship. An incredible mix of art rock, Bisi’s music toys with operatics and cabaret, dark post-punk guitar riffs, blasts of jazz and haunting spoken word. The album as a whole is dominated by a dark ambience which is particularly menacing as the record was written as an exploration of the psyche.

The album certainly starts as it means to go on with a slow build-up of ritualistic voices over a host of guitar, keyboard and drum beats. By the climax of ‘Nihil Holy’, Bisi has set up the dream-like soundscape which underpins the entire album. ‘The Mermaid Queen’ is certainly the centrepiece of the album. Probably the most accessible track due to its catchy chorus, this one is guaranteed to get under your skin. Other great things to watch out for include Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione’s guest appearance on ‘Fine Line’, a fantastically gothy number, and closing track ‘Holy Threesome’, eight minutes of madness concluding in a fade-out soundscape fit to leave you in an existential crisis.

Ex Nihilo is a music critic’s dream. There are so many layers to pick at, break down and cherish individually. It’s impossible to even scratch the surface in 300 words. Bisi will be touring New York all year, but we’ll all just keep our fingers crossed that he comes to the UK soon. I can’t even imagine how powerful this would be live.

Tasha Franek

Phatworld.

Time Don EP
Off Me Nut Records

Off Me Nut Records have become renowned in Sheffield for their abundance of bonkers, boisterous releases, Don’t Be A Pussy parties and rattling DJ sets. It’s been a while coming, with over a hundred digital releases under their belts, but that doesn’t make my own excitement for their first vinyl release any less palpable.

It looks very good. Designed by local illustrator Mila K, it stands apart from past releases without losing that nutsy Off Me Nut look.

Opener ‘Too Deep’ begins with the sort of uplifting piano chords that wouldn’t be out of place on an Ibiza mix CD. Coupled with the vocals of Leona, it lulls you into a false sense of security before ripping into an unruly 4/4 rolling bassline warper. This sets the tone for the rowdy ‘Milk and Bread’, featuring the MCing of Devilman. This track feels most at home on the EP. It’s this freewheeling madness that makes Phatworld so much fun.

‘Do It Like Sheff’ continues this rollercoaster of a release. Tez Kidd is on MC duties with party lyrics reminiscent of the old bassline scene, coupled with a healthy dose of high-pitched vocal loops. This one’s perhaps a bit busy, with Tez’s vocal sometimes a bit lost in the mix, but it remains a refreshing hometown bounce-along. ‘Next Man’s Grave’ features long-time Off Me Nut collaborator Tenik spraying high intensity vocals not devoid of the vocal manipulation I’ve always found to be one of my favourite features of Phatworld’s tunes.

Time Don is a very well put together EP with a brilliant level of production that never forgets the DNA that’s garnered the Off Me Nut crew such a following. It’s fun and exhausting. I’m shattered.

Checan Laromani

Louis Romegoux.

Milou EP
Lonely Mountain Records

At times wistful, sometimes forceful and occasionally blissful, the new EP Milou by Louis Romégoux is a taut collection of songs that effortlessly combines folk music with garage rock. Romégoux is a half-French, half-English singer-songwriter, born and raised in Sheffield but now residing in Austria. The choice to live overseas seems to have had an effect on his music as he draws influences from both sides of the water.

Milou opens with ‘Day By Day’, a light-hearted and catchy number which draws similarities to The Tallest Man On Earth. This serenity is quickly juxtaposed with the mournful urgency of ‘In My Room’. The vocal performance is demanding as he yearns, “Please come back to me”. His voice compares with Guy Garvey of Elbow in that he is able to switch between subtle melancholy and dynamic tension with ease. The EP gracefully moves into more traditional, plaintive folk territory with ‘Warm In Winter’. The collection concludes with ‘Start A War’ and ‘Ballad’ - the former a wry tale very much reminiscent of Swedish songwriter Jens Lekman, the latter building to an aggressive crescendo.

Louis Romégoux should be congratulated for creating a rich and varied work with such a small collection of songs. With the ability to build on such a wide-ranging palate, it will be exciting to see if he puts out a full-length record in the near future. The music may be his vision, but this EP could not have been achieved without the accompaniment of Thom Mills on drums and Paul Riley on bass. Special mention should also go to Charlie McClean, whose production and arrangements lend the music a certain sharpness instead of just softening the edges.

Paul Robson

Plaid.

Reachy Prints
Warp Records

I love this album. It carries so much similarity to many highlights in the electronica world that I have followed for many years without sounding particularly like anything else, which to me is quite remarkable. Imagine tasting a wine and finding notes of known flavours like honey or mulberry, yet knowing that it contains neither. I get partial nostalgic elements of Boards of Canada and Ulrich Schnauss.

Harmonising chimes and melodies influenced by 80s theme music are expertly combined with a fusion of pounding drums, spacey frills and basslines which in places sound almost like electronic replicas of old school thrash metal.

Moody elements break up the happy-go-lucky fun that, for me, are the best bits, but without these progressions they wouldn’t work so well. The way the music builds and changes is lovely. A large selection of sounds is used and although each one continues the particular atmosphere of the album, the morphology of colour is diverse and entertaining.

Reachy Prints carries a definite beauty and tranquillity, but there is something quite sinister hiding in the shadows. A shrill pitch, a nervous howling or some frantic rhythm just peeking from the mix can turn this into a double-edged sword. With this dualistic feel, we’re kept guessing, listening and most of all engaging with the tracks. It’s calm enough to be on in the background but its striking enough to grab your attention.

From the intense, catchy ‘OH’ and the moody but ultimately peaceful ‘Wallet’, the pace quickens and we are treated to an upsurge of energy, an incorporation of major keys and soon the memory of uneasiness washes away into the nicely named ‘Liverpool St’. Remarkable.

Rowan Blair Colver

Quantic.

Magnetica
TruThoughts

Will Holland is among Britain’s most prolific musical exports. His tenth album, Magnetica, comes out this month and is Holland's first solo release since An Announcement To Answer back in 2006. As usual, the record promises Quantic’s usual blend of funk, soul, latin and ska flavours, this time largely made on electronic instruments and featuring singers from all four corners of the globe. Collaborators include the Congolese Pongo Love, LA-based reggae sensation Shinehead and regulars like Colombian Nidia Gongora and Blighty's very own Alice Russell.

Composers like Quantic have been part of the musical backdrop for so long that their output sometimes feels beyond familiar. But it quickly became clear that this was not the case with this release. The tracks are worldly and eclectic. They combine dubby textures, latin percussion and funky guitar, hip hop rhythms and cheesy synths with foreign language lyrics. There is a strong sense that Holland has matched ideas from all over his musical palate, not mixing like-for-like but finding pairings which are at first startling but ultimately interesting and engrossing. Firm favourites are the rocksteady instrumental ‘Soul Clap’, which playfully synthesises the trumpet, giving the texture something new, and the dubby ‘Spark It’, which would not be out of place on a Jahtari release.

It is exquisitely produced. The drums are firm and the bass is deep. It is unsurprising that Holland is no slouch in the studio, but this record exceeds mere competence and should be a benchmark for all makers of electro funk, dub and latin beats.

I could say more about this record because there is something worthy of note in every nook and cranny. Possibly not for everyone and perhaps not what fans of Quantic will expect, but don’t be too quick to judge. A five-star release from Mr Holland and TruThoughts.

Fred Oxby

Swans.

To Be Kind
Mute

There aren’t many bands like Swans. Seeing them live is submitting yourself to a ferocious onslaught of noise that rips through your body and re-arranges your internal organs. They leave you feeling beaten, broken and somewhat traumatised. On record, whilst they don’t have the same aural power to shake your very core, they do have the ability to make you question your own sanity. Their last album, The Seer, was a primal journey into the mind of inimitable frontman Michael Gira. It was a jaw-droppingly self-assured album.

With their new album, To Be Kind, Gira takes things to a whole new level. There’s a dark foreboding as the opener, ‘Screen Shot’, gradually builds up innocuously. You hold your breath knowing that something malignant is waiting just around the corner, before the noise winds up into a fearsome crescendo. Struggling not be overpowered, you feel your senses railing against the infernal cacophony.

If I had to sum up To Be Kind in one word, it would be ‘ominous’. Even in its more introspective and mellow moments - ‘Just a Little Boy’ feels like Lou Reed descending in an opium-induced illusion - it never lets up. At some point during the epic 33-minute ‘Bring The Sun/Toussaint L'Ouverture’ I lose my mind momentarily, drifting off into a feverish reverie only to be rudely awoken by an earthquake of noise coursing through me. I stumble unsteadily from the wreckage into the brief respite of ‘She Loves Us’, but just as I’m getting comfortable, waves of noise assail me.

To Be Kind is far darker and more disturbed than its predecessor, but also conversely at times more introspective and thoughtful. There’s rage, torment, despair, anger, hysteria and pain, as you follow Dante’s steps as he journeys through the Nine Circles of Hell.

Rob Aldam

Grenier & Archie Pelago.

Grenier Meets Archie Pelago
Melodic

On the occasions that jazz and electronica meet, they’re usually faced with a fine line to tread between enthralling innovation and meandering over-indulgence. Perhaps more so than many other genres, there’s a certain onus on the artist to hone the many ideas swirling round in their head into a cohesive end product. If only one over-extended sax solo slips through the quality control net then you’ll find yourself sliding rapidly from the record bags of Moodymann and Theo Parrish and into the soundtrack of an advert for Spanish beer in which no-one wears any shoes.

For the most part, the coalition of Brooklyn trio Archie Pelago and West Coast producer Dean Grenier manages to find a relatively solid middle ground between the two. The tracks on Grenier Meets Archie Pelago are refined enough to dispell most images of juggling limes to impress a bronzed beauty on the Costa Brava, but by the end of the record it’s hard not to wish that they’d squeezed the sour fruits into their own eyes before snatching a bottle of tequila and running off into the sea, as there’s an underlying lack of any kind of bold personality throughout.

While the likes of the junglist ‘Classon’ and the rumbling ‘Two If By Sea’ demonstrate that the group certainly aren’t devoid of either imagination or musical skill, there are too few flashes of the former trait over the course of this somewhat lengthy outing and it rarely edges beyond the territory of amicable Bonobo offcuts. Although if you were seeking an extra twist of excitement to accompany it, you could always squeeze some limes into your eyes and run into the sea. Barefoot, of course.

Jack Scourfield