'Promises' is a collaborative project by producer Floating Points, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra, but the one holding it together is - "Sanders, his warm tone and fluid technique undiminished even at 80 years old, listening to his surroundings and finding brilliant patterns to stitch the work together and thus elevate it", as Pitchfork hears it (tagged it Best new music also). The New York Times appreciates the unity of it: "When [Sanders] plays his final notes of the album... he does not so much disappear as become one with Shepherd’s web of humming synthesizers".

Reviews are more fun than television
March 22, 2021

"Instant thrills" on Pupil Slicer's debut 'Mirrors'

"It offers up metalcore and mathcore at its harshest, interspersed with ambient/noise interludes and flirtations with black & death metal and other heavy subgenres, and it covers a lot of ground within that realm. It's chaotic and discordant at times, bone-crushingly heavy at others, and atmospheric at others, and it remains dark and intense throughout" - Brooklyn Vegan writes in praise of London trio's debut album. The Quietus likes Kate Davies’ vocals and how "there’s an element of playfulness here too, which actually helps these bizarre, head-spinning song structures feel even more abrasive and derange... Believe the hype, this thing will tear your head clean off".

Canadian Indigenous scholar, writer, activist, poet, and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson speaks and sings of the urgency of taking care of a planet in peril on her new album 'Theory of Ice'. It is, as PopMatters explains - "a dramatic, deeply eloquent, and musically rich celebration of the Earth and one of its most precious resources: water". Although concerned about the future, Betasamosake believes "human relationships can create real change" and she makes "saving the planet... somehow seem within our grasp".

"From start to finish, 'A Common Turn' takes you through Savage’s liberating highs, all whilst throwing you her turbulent lows – a raw and emotive album, to say the least" - the Quietus wrote about the debut album by English singer-songwriter Anna B Savage (30). Clash Music loves how intimate it is: "This is a gem of an album. Personal, honest and highly emotive, it tackles big questions; but most of all, it dares to be vulnerable".

“A whole lot of minds have to see something invisible. The act of making music - that could be spiritual. You’re taking something that’s not physically seen and you’re bringing it from nowhere, pulling it from thin air, so people can experience it” - folk-blues-soul singer Valerie June says beautifully in the New York Times interview about new album 'The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers', out now. The Times likes how it’s "rich, strange and mercifully free of the self-importance that infuses so much modern music", whereas RIFF declares it a "smart, adventurous and downright joyful listen".

"A gentle, reflective album that includes songs about education, poverty and righteous conduct, providing indirect commentary on Mali’s parlous political situation" - Guardian writes in praise of Anansy Cissé's new album 'Anoura'. Written after a run-in with an armed thug, Mali guitarist's album offers a positive message in these songs of love, respect and hope for better times ahead. Roots World appreciates how "in keeping with much Malian music the percussion is minimal and understated, allowing the melodic rhythmic patterns to work across each other uncluttered and for all its tonal variety there is a fine sense of space pervading this album".

Scottish duo Arab Strap released their first album in 16 years, and critics really like it. "With lyrics that encompass the reality of ageing with all its wisdom and regrets, and with music that employs the deftness of touch that can only come with long-term honing, Arab Strap have delivered their defining record" - NME argues. Guardian likes the wittiness of it: "Coming on like a union between Sleaford Mods and Leonard Cohen consummated in a Glasgow pub toilet, 'As Days Get Dark' serves up bleakness and gallows humour multiple ways: 'dejected, deserted and drunk'". PopMatters likes it the most - "This is a record as rare as hens' teeth: a comeback that not only beats expectations but has an excellent claim to be the band's crowning achievement". Band's members Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton turn back on their career for the Quietus - they chose 10 key points from their discography.

Two men and a lockdown
March 03, 2021

Critics really like new Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Cave and Ellis' new album 'Carnage' comes out as a slightly more structured jam session, and critics really appreciate it. Alexis Petridis argues that "Cave and Ellis’s musical approach is still vividly alive, the dense, constantly shifting sound complementing the richness of Cave’s writing now". Pitchfork appreciates the lyricism of if - "As ever, Cave uses overtly religious imagery in ways both subversive and devout". Guardian's Kitty Empire loves the "immense grief and vast love" of the album, whereas Clash Music hears 'Carnage' as something "both beautiful and visceral, tender and blood-thirsty, wholly terrifying and completely absorbing".

"It is rare to find an album that is so much more than just music and even rarer to find Black Metal that ventures as wide as Spire do so to be in a position whereby both happen at the same time and work so brilliantly is not only refreshing but also extremely enjoyable" - Rock N' Load writes in a review of Australian band's second full length. Grizzly Butts appreciates the sonics of the album: "Spire aren’t yet demanding hard rock hooks or hand-holding rhythmic statements to cling to but they have presented a welcoming, frightfully deep chasm of somewhat original vocal applications that characterize mildly dissonant, epic black/death metal architecture".

"Surrounding her voice with saxophone and fretless bass, drum loops and field recordings, acoustic instruments and new age synth, Jenkins’ accompanists mirror the conversational tone of her writing, ensuring that the revelations aren’t limited to the lyric sheet" - Pitchfork writes in the review of Cassandra Jenkins' second album (tagged it Best New Music, grade 8.3). Brooklyn Vegan thinks highly of it as well: "Warm, '70s-style folk music is still one of the big influences here, but 'Overview' also finds Cassandra embracing a sophisti-pop/indie rock blend... The instrumentals alone on this album are gripping enough to stop you in your tracks, but sealing the deal is Cassandra's lyricism and vocal delivery, which feel casual and conversational but also poetic and quietly devastating".

The third album by East London rapper "depicts honest tales of London through the art of true lyricism, a tradition that will never die out" - NME writes about Ghetts' 'Conflict of Interest', an album rich in lyrics and collaborations (and minutes - it's over an hour long). Alexis Petridis says the album "feels like the work of an artist who’s in it for the long haul rather than short-term rewards". Clash Music puts it simple: "His strongest album to date, and one of grime’s true classic".

"With haunting serenity, there is a flitting consciousness to the these brief, nightmarish lullabies that leaves you transfixed within a realm of broken intimacy" - Secret Meeting writes in a review of debut EP by New York singer-songwriter Maria BC. They are classical training as a mezzo-soprano, but their voice, hushed in pop melodies, seems to reach only a portion of what might next from them. Promising...

Critics from all over the spectrum are speaking highly about 'For The First Time', the debut album by the British septet Black Country, New Road. Clash Music places the band "in a paradox where so-called high and low art intersect", calling the album "a product of its time", promising "it will unsettle and confuse you". The Line of Best Fit appreciates the intensity of the band - "ferocious and endlessly intelligent, highly considered and wildly improvised, eked out with bristling tension". The Quietus likes how they sound - "it’s rare that a band this noisy, an album where chaos reigns, is recorded with this much clarity. There are so many different musical ideas, and none of them get lost along the way". Stereogum chose this debut for their Album of the Week, describing it as "a document of restless creativity and incisive minds processing an era of too much mediation and stimulation".

The 24-year old American guitarist Yasmin Williams on her first album invented a two-handed guitar-playing style, and on her second she found a new sound, deeply intertwined with nature, especially with movings in nature, which is suggested with titles such as 'After the Storm', 'Dragonfly', 'Swift Breeze', and 'Through the Woods'. Pitchfork says she "has a gift for penning melodies that feel as catchy as pop songs. but her approach to the instrument also allows her to confound expectations" with "memorable compositions that, even at their most open-ended, proceed in a loose verse-chorus structure" (gave her 8.0).

"Madlib channels a deep, intertwining lineage of Black music through 'Sound Ancestors' like folklore oration, storytelling with the sorcery of a beatmaker who knows how to make an instrumental really sing" - Guardian writes in a 5-star review of LA producer's newest album. NPR's Piotr Orlov writes Madlib is "communing with the ghosts set to vinyl discs and re-dreamed into life, making a future out of pieces of history", while the producer himself says there's higher powers here - "spirits come into play when you do a certain type of music; sometimes I'm not even doing the music, sometimes that's just sound ancestors".

Portrayal of Guilt are as much a screamo/hardcore band as a black/death metal band, and, on their newest release 'We Are Always Alone' - they've "pushed all aspects of their sound even further to the extreme - the melodic parts are catchier, the heavy parts are more callous - and yet, they blend everything together even more seamlessly" - Brooklyn Vegan argues. It's Stereogum's Album of the Week because "drumrolls explode like grenades. Guitars clang and screech and bay. Ominous clanks and whirrs and hums fill the space between songs. King screams like he’s got broken glass lodged in his throat".

The first widely critically acclaimed album of the new year is the second record by the English post-punk band Shame: "a massively ambitious and accomplished body of work driven by propulsive melodies and lyrics delivered with boundless passion" - the Quietus; "an exhilarating and inspiring listen" - Stereogum; "shadowboxing to Shame’s sonic assault is one of the more satisfying ways to cope with the ecstatic catastrophe of life" - CoS; "a surreal landscape of desperation, frustration, and consideration, and a confident second record from the South Londoners" - Clash Music.

Japanese psychedelic rock band Kikagaku Moyo is the first to release a live album in the Live at LEVITATION series, recorded at the world-renowned event in Texas. Here, the band embodies liberty and groove of folk-influenced progressive psychedelia, reaching well beyond their island. Rich and very easy to listen to...

“The heaviness comes from our ancestors. I am Black and Indigenous. There’s been so much that has happened to us, and I feel this. I don’t feel like I could not make heavy music” - guitarist and saxophonist Takiaya Reed says about her band Divide And Dissolve. She is of Māori descent, and Sylvie Nehill, the other half of the duo, Cherokee. Together they play really intense instrumental ambient metal which aims to "destroy white supremacy”. Their newest album 'Gas Lit' is published by Portishead's Geoff Barrow who said “It totally freaked me out with its beauty and extreme heaviness”. The Quietus speaks to the ladies, and reviews the album - "a powerful, impressively unconventional, predominantly instrumental suite, linking sludge and doom metal with a desolate reading of jazz".

"'BRASS' is the rare, mesmerizing album that can throw that kind of gut-punch, land it—and keep moving" - Pitchfork says in a review of the collaborate album by Moor Mother and billy woods (also a member of Armand Hammer). Pitch points out "together they treat history as a mass grave and a playground, heeding its horrors yet finding room for dark laughs and cautious hope". Tom Breihan said "it’s a work of tingling bad-feelings expressionism. To listen to 'BRASS' is to disappear into a certain headspace".

"Pure genre fare delivered by an artist with a refined, almost clinical approach to storytelling" - Pitchfork writes in review of Boldy James' fourth album of 2020. Produced by LA's Real Bad Man it is a "dope record about moving dope", CoS writes.

Blood From The Soul is an industrial-metal/hardcore-punk supergroup featuring Napalm Death, Converge, Megadeth, Nasum members, and 'DSM-50' is their first album in 27 years. "The whole story behind this album seems almost too good to be true on paper", Brooklyn Vegan argues, adding "but once you click play you'll see that it's very true, and indeed very good". Listen to the full album on Bandcamp.

Young Welsh folk guitar virtuoso Gwenifer Raymond "tries to invent a new style: Welsh primitive infused with folk horror", Guardian writes about their latest choice for Folk Album of the Month. With a PhD in astrophysics and a day job programming video games on one side, Raymond says her folk music is influenced by the countryside, but had to record her new album 'Strange Lights over Garth Mountain' locked down in her basement during the pandemic.

You think I'm great
November 09, 2020

A simple yet great online concert by Desire Marea

South-African experimental pop artist Desire Marea performed a virtual concert with a host of first time collaborators. They performed gorgeous live renditions from Desire Marea's this year debut 'Desire', making them mesmerizing, jazzy, and atmospheric.

Elucid / The Lasso

New hip-hop project Small Bills is made of New York rapper Elucid (one half of another new hip-hop duo Armand Hammer), and Detroit multi-instrumentalist/producer The Lasso. Also on their debut album 'Don't Play it Straight' are Moor Mother, Fielded, Nosaj, .k, Koncept Jackson, and billy woods. Brooklyn Vegan compares the album to the awesome Armand Hammer debut 'Shrines', but adds "this album is also a beast of its own. It's overall more psychedelic and more chaotic. It has less warm, soulful production than 'Shrines' and more sputtering electronics".

"An absorbing modern shoegaze classic" - Louder writes in review of 'The Great Dismal', adding the new Nothing record is "an intense and unflinching album which embraces life’s chaotic absurdity and weighs heavily long after its final riffs fade to black". Dark singer/songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle and crushingly heavy sludge metal band Thou "feed off each other in a way where they create something none of them could have done on their own" - Brooklyn Vegan writes about their collaborative new album 'May Our Chambers Be Full'.

Greek prog-sludge metal band Kevel picks up pieces of death metal, black metal, and post-metal to make the "ultimate, tumultuous majesty" on their album 'Mutatis Mutandis', Invisible Oranges writes. Dusted magazine goes deeper into the concept - "Kevel articulates an engaging, challenging riff, and then works it, allowing the musical statement to build its own significance". Listen to the powerful and raw album on Bandcamp.

Four young women living in Moscow released 'We Are', a "direct, even brutally blunt, yet invested with a considerable emotional hinterland", the Quietus says in a review of debut album by Lucidvox. These Muscovites "sound like news from nowhere" and although they sing in Russian, the Q hears "a fair warning of awful things to come. But how sweetly they coat the message".

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