As I mentioned in my March Rough Trade post, the beauty of the Rough Trade album club is the other stuff that it throws up.
Here’s a few recommendations from the March 2017 selection.
Ibibio Sound System – “Uyai”
I keep hoping that a good spring and summer is round the corner. If they are, the Ibibio Sound System album will get a good airing.
It’s got the energy of “Off The Wall” era Michael Jackson, the sass of Dee-lite and the chops of “Stop Making Sense” era Talking Heads. It is a London/Nigeria mash up featuring the vocals of Eno Williams with a Funkadelically tight band behind her. This is their high energy second LP and could well be one of the soundtracks to the summer (if we get one).
It has already been a Bandcamp album of the day and is getting a great deal of positive press. They are touring at present and I would imagine that it is quite a night out. This is foreground music, not something to pop on the hifi and ignore.
Get it here.
Thundercat – “Drunk”
Here’s a bit of a first for me.
Everything that I read about the Thundercat/Flying Lotus/Brainfeeder outputs tells me that I should love it. It references many of my musical heroes, starting with Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. However, I’ve always struggled with the mastering of the albums. I’ve found them just horribly too loud. Flying Lotus’s “You’re Dead” should have been right up my street, yet I couldn’t get past the sound of the records. They are just mastered so loudly that listening to it is just too much like hard work. Yes, the musicianship is excellent but I find it so grating.
This one is different though. The sound is just right, the stellar guest list is assembled (Kendrick, Pharrell, even Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins) and the songs are there too. The album is much less compressed with a seventies Steely Dan/Stevie Wonder production sheen. The 23 song 51 minutes just fly by. Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat is central to the album. Starting off in legendary West Coast hardcore band Suicidal Tendencies, he has become the go-to bass player for the cutting edge of all things R’n’B based and edgy. He was central to two of my recent favourite LP’s – Kendrick’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” and Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic”.
Here’s “Show You The Way” which features Loggins and McDonald. It is melodic old fashioned R’n’B and very approachable. “Walk On By” with Kendrick is similarly accessible and Pharrell’s “The Turn Down” has the multi tracked vocals that Marvin Gate was so found of. All very skilfully done. This one may be a keeper.
It is available in all sorts of formats including a 4LP 10″ red vinyl box set – maybe not. The sheer effort in the constant flipping and replacement of the LPs on the turntable would be exhausting.
Sleaford Mods – “English Tapas”
Nottingham’s angriest are back with their follow up to 2015’s “Key Markets”. The Mods’ sound is well established now and one would think that it is inherently limited. However the sparseness of the arrangements provides a piercing clarity especially when coupled to Jason Williamson’s laser sharp writing. “English Tapas” is possibly even more austere and stripped back then their last LP.
I saw them at the Roundhouse last year and whilst a little goes a long way, it was a bracing and thought provoking evening.
You wonder where they are going to go next and then when you see shit like George Osborne getting a sixth job as editor of the already awful Evening Standard, there will sadly be material as long as things remain the same.
We’re going down like BHS while the able bodied vultures monitor and pick at us
And sadly, I think they will for a while. Whilst Jason doesn’t want to be the “voice of a generation”, he verbalises the realities for much of Britain, especially the Midlands, where I grew up. He’s moving into the John Cooper Clarke realm of reflecting life outside the moneyed mainstream and more power to him. “Army Nights” is a highlight, a vignette of lothario alpha male fitness instructor, a bloke you would cross the street to avoid. The single “B.H.S.” is a Lydon-like commentary on the society that enabled Philip Green’s bachanallian excess to be lauded whilst he’s screwing over the pension holders. Add a Keith Levine guitar line, and it would sit nicely on “Metal Box”.