Record Reflection: 07-05-16

Record Reflection is curated by Alex Grindley

Record Reflection is a new weekly feature exploring the releases from the previous week across a variety of genres ands styles. This week features the newest releases from Manchester producer Andy Stott, Michigan shoegazers Pity Sex, and Pop songstress Katy B.

Too Many Voices- Andy Stott

Label- Modern Love

Release Date- 22/4/16

Genre- Ambient Techno, Dub Techno

Producer Andy Stott has been creating his unique brand of brooding and mysterious dub techno for more than a decade, constantly reinventing and innovating his sound yet skilfully maintaining a distinctive style. Too Many Voices marks Stott’s most dramatic change in sound since his Pass Me By and We Stay Together EPs which propelled him to critical acclaim back in 2011. Although his work has always been atmospheric and sparse in its instrumentation, this marks Stott’s first true step into ambient styles of production more reminiscent of artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never or Shackleton than the aggressive bass of his previous releases. His characteristic heavy bass lines are certainly still present but are skilfully interspersed with ambient soundscapes or ghostly vocals such as in First Night and Forgotten. Even Selfish, which begins as a rather intense and almost industrial affair with gun shot-like bursts of bass, comes to be mixed with ethereal vocal samples. Indeed, this seemingly bizarre mix of dissonant sounds works perfectly, adding to the tone of the album rather than detracting from it. This overall tone, although dreamlike, is also incredibly dark and at times unsettling. That is not to say the album is an unpleasant listen; it is unsettling in that beneath its dreamy surface something sinister lurks, occasionally rearing its head through disquieting glitchy synths and vigorous bass. I realise unsettling and creeping pangs of portending doom may not sound particularly appealing but the unnerving undertone of the album serves only to add to its already rich and immersive atmosphere. As with most ambient-esque releases this is not an album you can easily dip in and out of, it requires listening to as a whole to appreciate it fully…but these are effortless. Every listen brings something new and is thoroughly satisfying each time. Even if you are unfamiliar with or not a fan of this genre of music, I would urge you to give this album a try. It is a strange, cerebral and often an outright difficult listen, but is ultimately a deeply rewarding, complex and beautifully intricate album.

Summary- A step in a different direction for the producer into ambient territories, yet  he maintains the distinct dark atmosphere of his previous releases. Still as innovative as ever and remains at the top of his game. His best release since 2012’s masterful Luxury Problems.

8.7

Honey- Katy B

Label- Rinse

Released- 29/4/16

Genre- Dance, Electropop

Back in 2011 Katy B released On A Mission. This actually came as a genuine breath of fresh air in the pop world at the time; catchy dubstep inspired tunes marked by slick production and well-crafted hooks. Her third release Honey however continues on the downward trajectory established by the former and enters into not only genericness, but is also pretty grim. First there is the frankly bizarre jumble of genres and styles that are referenced on this album; not all hallmark of innovation but simply her deciding to emulate as many popular genres as possible in a desperate attempt for at least one of the songs to hit the mark. So Far Away is a particular lowlight of this genre-jumble, where for reasons unknown attempts are made to get Tropical House and Drum & Bass to work and despite all her efforts we’re presented with a song with the finesse of someone layering a Kygo song sloppily over Chase & Status in ‘Audacity’.  The eponymous song Honey is a rather standard R&B affair with some faux-sexy lyrics which would only succeed if said lyrics were sung without the sensuality of a dead fish. She grimly croons the chorus as if she were singing a radio jingle for a used-car showroom, rather than trying to evoke some kind of sexual intimacy. The eclectic bunch of collaborations (about as carefully selected as David Cameron’s preferred football team) is most exposed in the track Lose Your Head. The worst of these collaborations by far, it features a sub-par rapper harping on about partying over a listless attempt at a grime beat. The one saving grace of the album is the collaboration with Four Tet and Floating Points, Calm Down, which brings some fresh and intriguing production to this otherwise inspid mess of an album. Beyond this one moment of genius, the rest of the album is bland as balls; if you’re looking for some innovative pop music then this is very much not the place to find it.

Summary- A lacklustre and messy mish-mash of collaborations and styles which fall far from the mark set by her previous efforts. Craig David is also here for some reason, his intentions are unknown and likely malevolent.

4.5

White Hot Moon- Pity Sex

Label- Run For Cover

Released- 29/4/16

Genre- Shoegaze, Indie Rock

3 years have passed since the release of Pity Sex’s debut Feast of Love which marked them out as ones to watch in the oft oversaturated genre of shoegaze. While White Hot Moon treads very similar ground to that established in their debut, this is not by any means a detriment to the music’s overall quality, for if one has a winning formula it makes sense to stick to it. The band has a great talent for striking a balance within their work; their songs are delightfully twee but not insufferably so, noisy but not overbearing, bittersweet but not excessively miserable. This skilful balance is encapsulated in Bonhomie with its high energy, lo-fi kitsch and playful harmonies between vocalists Britty Drake and Brennan Greaves. However this balance and coherence which works so well for them also plays to their disadvantage; since all of their songs have this quality it can leave the album feeling formulaic. Since individual tracks are so often similar, the album can leave you feeling like playing a very advanced, musical edition of ‘Guess Who?’… So although the album itself is only a rather meagre 39 minutes long, to listen in its entirety grants the album the impression of tedious length. Pity Sex are hardly a band to disregard, they have their genuine moments of greatness but I just wish they’d diversify their sound more, especially if they want to stay on the radar within a genre that is well known for its lack of diversity.

Summary- Some fun lo-fi fuzz which is brought down somewhat by its homogeneity across the album as a whole.

6.4
Honey, White Hot Moon and Too Many Voices are available to download from iTunes now. 

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