Bonnie “Prince” Billy

Pond Scum
Drag City

A dozen previously unreleased recordings from John Peel's radio sessions, stripped down to mostly just a guitar and a voice, here and there sparsely accompanied by David Heumann, this album reveals a treasure. Pond Scum provides an insight into the career of an artist who has always been marked underground and whose excellent and tantalising interjections into alternative country, punk and Appalachian song traditions have completed the coeval music morgue. Sequential verses ceaselessly distend the folk ballad. In '(I Was Drunk At The) Pulpit', it only takes one chord.
It's a selection from several Peel sessions dating back as far as the early 90s, when Will Oldham was still performing under the names Palace Music, Palace Brothers, Palace Songs or simply Palace. Blessedly this album isn’t just a mandate for die-hards, but very much a tender offering for the connoisseur of honesty and the quest for meaning, musically speaking. It is staggeringly congruous and almost oppressively intimate.

The recordings transmit Oldham’s typically croaky voice and a performance that feels somewhat more relaxed than his studio albums at that time. They seem to line up quite naturally with his more recent albums.

The album title and the artwork, however, subtly suggest the record’s peculiarity and - put in context with previous cover pictures showing a path to the sea - bear the self-deprecating ambiguity of the lyrical shunts, whereby Oldham thankfully sends us into transports of delight.

Thomas Lebioda

Ansome

Stowaway
Perc Trax

Watch the studio session videos that Ansome posts online and you'll be able to tell just how much fun he has while making music. Despite using a labyrinthine modular analogue set-up and despite working in the all-too-serious field of industrial techno, Ansome's productions maintain a lively playfulness that is dangerously compelling at 5am in a warehouse sweatbox.

Ansome has amassed an impressive catalogue since debuting on his own S.L.A.M. label only 18 months ago, including releases on Perc Trax and Mord. Stowaway is his first album-length release and a return to Perc Trax, where his signature sound is thoroughly at home with Perc's own confrontational approach.

Ansome makes good use of the LP to develop a more expansive approach but loses none of the vital energy that powered his 12" missives. The title track is an archetypal Ansome attack, all distorted kick and scrap metal percussion with a raw acid hook. 'Black Alley Sally' isn't quite as driving, but absolutely drips with the influences that constitute Ansome's uniquely British aesthetic, a dubstep bass affinity sitting alongside rave pads in a bleak dystopia.

The standout track is, however, the longest on the album. 'The Pain Train' shows that Ansome's knack for pacing extends beyond precision timed gut-punch blasts. A hypnotic synth line simmers tantalisingly in the murky reverb between the kicks and waits a full five minutes before boiling over into its pummelling denouement. It's an exciting development in Ansome's fast-evolving sound that bodes well for future releases.

Michael Hobson

Field Music

Commontime
Memphis Industries

The Brewis brothers, a pair of pop nerds from Sunderland, are still in love with big riffs and blissy harmonies. The formula remains unchanged on their fourth album – another 14 majestic pop songs about humdrum everyday life, with heavy doses of 70s prog and rawwwk thrown in for good measure.

Opener 'The Noisy Days Are Over' continues where their last, Plumb, left off, with crisp, funky drumming and pulsing, front-and-centre basslines. The production is razor sharp, but of course it's all about the songcraft. In the English tradition of The Wedding Present, their lyrics are mostly observations on the minutiae of relationships. “If I can't change you / Can you try and change me?” they sing on 'I'm Glad'.

At their best, they evoke the symphonic pop of latter-era Beatles – 'The Morning is Waiting For You' is determined to be the medley from Abbey Road. The brothers have a penchant for wacky sound effects, and the bells, whistles and other aural fireworks can distract when they're overused. Occasionally, such as on the overblown 'Trouble at the Lights', they resemble the empty pomp of ELO and Queen.

They're at their best when their sound is stripped down (see the heavy, danceable groove of 'Don't You Want To Know?') and the subject matter kept intimate. “I would rather stay awake / I would rather watch you sleep / At the very least,” they sing on 'Stay Awake'. It's a fitting close to the record – sweet, with the slightest hint of sinister suburbia.

Sam Gregory

Mango Rescue Team

Ritmos Calentitos
Via Bandcamp

A slice of fresh fruit served on a steel platter, the Sheffield-based groovy psychedelic fusion ten-piece of Mango Rescue Team combines experience and talent stretching back into local legend. If you've ever heard of The Mother Folkers, Flamingo Love Parade or The 7 Black Tentacles, then you'll be well aware of the flesh that accompanies these bones.

All music is performed with maximum smile and oomph worthy of any carnival. These guys love their rhythms, as shown by quirky, rolling fills that leap from genre to genre while the backing continues and the head-nodding carries on as if nothing has happened. The energetic quality is continually sweet. The guitar often has distortion and the sound is large, but overall it's like a soft drink. Or is it an alcopop? I do seem a little happier than usual now...

'Bomba' tells a story to a beat in which our singer details his time in Sheffield in a northern accent. The ska horns create a tapestry in between the weft of drums, full of metallic cymbal delicacies. Plucked notes and percussion all round, the song keeps going until it seemingly collapses in a heap on the floor, quivering with laughter. 'Loco', an older track, has been reworked to have a disco feel. The attitude is slick, funky and full of charm. The fantastic thing is that the remixed elements improve the song without tampering with it.

Get ready for the spring by looking out for this Sheffield band. Mango Rescue Team are bound to put on an extravaganza of a show.

Rowan Blair Colver

Animal Collective

Painting With
Domino

Animal Collective’s much anticipated tenth studio album, Painting With, is released this month. With Deakin once again missing from the line-up, we’re back with the trio who brought us Merriweather Post Pavilion, a favourite amongst the masses. No strangers to the psychedelic realms of experimental pop, AC’s new album encapsulates their party spirit with their most accessible album yet.

The first track and single 'FloriDada', released in November, lays out what this new album is all about. Dada in name, dada in nature. If music had been a little bit more advanced in the early 20th century, the whole album could have been the poster child of the art movement. Gone are the dreary intervals of heavily reverberating synth, replaced by a bouncing, upbeat energy running through the entire album.

Aside from the opening track, highlights include the syncopated vocals and drum beats of 'Lying In The Grass' and the fast pace of 'On Delay', both of which carry so much movement you can’t help but give in to the rhythm.

With the ever recognisable vocal pairing of Avey Tare and Panda Bear giving this artful record the cadence of Animal Collective that we’ve known and loved for the past 15 years, Painting With is proof of the constantly evolving life of a truly iconic band. And with three different pieces of album artwork painted by Brian DeGraw to collect, depicting the three members in all their avant-garde glory, it looks like one copy won’t cut it.

Tasha Franek

King Capisce

Never Spoken Remix EP
Via Bandcamp

King Caspisce’s original, extended edit of ‘Never Spoken’ opens with stripped back, atmospheric jazz intertwined with slow melodies and each remix on the EP doesn’t stray too far from this. They all latch onto its ambient opening without strongly incorporating the energetic and saxophone-driven second half of the original, but this limitation works.

Karmacist’s ‘Ever Broken Remix’ is a relaxed composition that barely holds onto the sound of the original, but is a musical spiral of perfection. Cucharada’s ‘Mute Point Remix’ is a level above Karmacist’s in energy and is an interpretation that’s meant to make listeners move without them having to leave their seats.

Seeded Vision and Corporeal’s remix is the most intelligent. It’s wholly different to the original, but the most similar due to its thick layer of atmosphere, covered by weighted claps and drums. Pik aims for the groove with his remix, which is spontaneous but organised, and Weith’s remix, whether it was meant to be or not, is the most soulful, largely due to the sound of voices in the background, which adds enough to his slow mix to separate it from the others.

Had it not been for the track list and name of the EP, listeners would be forgiven for thinking that the Never Spoken Remix EP was made up of entirely original pieces. Despite none of them having the same urgent energy of the original, they are each unique forms that bring something new.

Akeem Balogun