It’s been rather quiet here of late in the icy waters of IMW, but here are a few things that have swum by and caught my attention. Non-exhaustive, in no particular order. Notably missing men with names like Frank and Nick, because you’ve read plenty about them already, great as they are. Also missing that sweet new Avalanches record, which I wrote about last month.
THE GASLAMP KILLER • INSTRUMENTALEPATHY
Much of the music here – indeed much of the great music of this year, from David Bowie to Nick Cave – is haunted by the spectre of death. William Bensussen made most of this record while recovering from a scooter accident which nearly killed him. It fits, then, into a mini-genre, the ‘hospital bed opus’, the most famous example of which would be J Dilla’s masterpiece, Donuts. But the mood of this is very different – for a start, Gaslamp’s record is a process of recovery, rather than a final bright burn like Dilla’s was. I first heard Gaslamp through his work on Gonjasufi’s still-excellent record A Sufi and A Killer, back in 2010. (Gonjasufi also dropped a new record this year, Callus, in August). This has all the weirdness of that record, but without the gravelly earthiness that comes from Sumach Ecks’s voice; it is spacier, dreamier, a voyage through the disoriented mind of someone recovering from trauma.
JENNY HVAL • BLOOD BITCH
Hval is always intriguing, lacing her haunting songs with political undertones. In a dark tent, its canopy covered in stars, I watched her pour a jug of water over someone’s head, the throb of ‘Female Vampire’ filling the space. Surreal. Any attempt to pin her down is probably futile. This is something of a concept album about vampires and menstruation. I think. Still unpicking. I first discovered her work on the truly stunning Meshes of Voice, her 2014 collaborative album with Susanna. This is more song-based than that work, but similar in its treading the line between unsettling and beautiful.
ELZA SOARES • A MULHER DO FIM DO MUNDO
With a title meaning ‘The Woman at the End of the World’, this is the post-apocalyptic sound of sambo sujo, or ‘dirty samba’: experimental, raw, ravaged by the scraps and scrapes of other genres, from jazz to rock to noise. Soares is new to me, but she’s apparently famous in Brazil as a voice of the under-represented, particularly black and gay women. Her voice is a force to be reckoned with, and the music sounds utterly vital.
CASS McCOMBS • MANGY LOVE
Every album Cass makes has at least one perfect song: a ‘You Saved My Life’, a ‘County Line’, a ‘Morning Star’. This time it’s ‘Medusa’s Outhouse’, one of the saddest he’s ever made. Cass pleads in a pained falsetto to ‘forget what hasn’t happened yet’, the music languid and longing. Halfway in and synths buzz through the mix like demented insects, the song shifting into an odd spoken word plea – ‘if it’s so easy, you try’ – before slide guitar comes in to rub salve into the wound. The two play off each other for the rest of the song. Elsewhere, the songs are by turns sad and hopeful, sweet and bitter, funny and serious.
BAT FOR LASHES • THE BRIDE
Another concept album, this one about a bride whose husband-to-be dies on the way to the alter. A few months ago I got engaged, so all this wedding malarkey is somewhat on my mind. The record is heavy on the ballads, and is carried, all the way through, by Natasha Khan’s incredible, malleable voice. Watching her perform this at End of the Road festival, wearing white, with candlelight flickering on the stage and her band all dressed up in wedding outfits, was truly spellbinding.
RYLEY WALKER • GOLDEN SINGS THAT HAVE BEEN SUNG
Hot on the heels of last year’s excellent and timeless Primrose Green comes another record that sounds dug up from a lost era. It’s all slow burning summer jams and fingerpicked grooves, warm and smoky and mellow. Odd grammar in the title, as does…
HIEROGLYPHIC BEING • THE DISCO’S OF IMHOTEP
The disco is of Imhotep – that odd punctuation. As though the disco, wherever it crops up its head, belongs to him: ‘the one who comes in peace’, the earliest known architect, engineer and physician in history. His structures now collapsing in fractured splinters of techno. Libations poured out to him from water jugs. Again with the poured water.
KLARA LEWIS • TOO
Music for between the hours of 0.00 and 4.00. Techno whispered to you in the dark – it reminds me, more than anyone, of Grouper, in its intimacy. Its melodies are blurry phantoms slinking through the corners of your eyelids.