Five of my favourite tracks added to the Back Before Dark: New Music playlist in the last week as well as the Album of the Week, a Soulwax DJ mix and a gig recommendation for good measure! Pictured: Chromatics
High Sunn – Ramen Waitress
High Sunn began as the dreampop solo project of San Francisco’s Justin Cheromiah but later grew into a full band. The band’s music has an infectious energy and completely undeniable charm. The latest EP in their vast catalogue, Hopeless Romantic, comes highly recommended from me.
Les Big Byrd – Two Man Gang
Formed in Stockholm in 2011, Les Big Byrd play a great brand of psych-rock with hints of garage and power pop. ‘Two Man Gang’ is a swirling, building and thumping offering from the band. While I have no idea what he’s singing, the vocals sound nostalgic yet commanding while the track swirls around, endlessly refreshing itself.
Chromatics – Blue Moon
This one technically isn’t a new song – Chromatics recorded this version of the classic song for Ryan Gosling’s Lost River back in 2015. However, it features on Johnny Jewel’s recently released compilation of tracks from movies he worked on as he and Chromatics prepare to score the Twin Peaks reboot. It’s a beautifully sparse reimagination of one of the all time classic slow songs.
Mulatu Astatke – Munaye
Okay, so this one isn’t new either. Taken from a recent stereo reissue of Mulatu Astatke‘s 1972 album Mulatu of Ethiopia, Munaye is a perfect example of the Ethio-jazz that Astatke has been pioneering for nearly 50 years. For bonus points, be sure to grab tickets to see Astatke at the Sugar Club in Dublin in September!
Daniele Baldelli – Taxon
The godfather of cosmic disco, Daniele Baldelli, graced the world with two new releases last week. Cosmic Temple Chapters 5 and 6 feature some of the most authentic cosmic tracks in recent memory. With its blazing lead saxophone and fuzzy bass line, ‘Taxon’ would have sounded right at home in the legendary Baia Degli Angeli with Baldelli behind the decks.
Album of the Week
As the world’s least Google-able band, it’s hardly surprising that !!! don’t get hung up on being cool or adored by the masses. In a world where bands are now scrambling to have uber-searchable names (I’m looking at you Chvrches, All Tvvins, Alvvays…), it seems like !!! really don’t care if anyone ever hears about them and it’s extremely refreshing. They do what they do superbly – in my opinion, they are far more consistent than the likes of Hot Chip – but they do it because they love it. On Shake the Shudder, the New York dance-punks embrace homocentric house and disco and celebrate their individuality.
As a massive disco fan myself, I know that modern interpretations can be a mixed bag but !!! have taken a damn fine shot at it. While I can’t say that Shake the Shudder is superb from cover to cover, there’s definitely enough there to make it worth your time. ‘Dancing is the Best Revenge’ and ‘Our Love (U Can Get)’ are pure show-stoppers which capture the over-indulgent spirit of disco but also don’t sound too nostalgic.
At times, Shake the Shudder reminds me of Duck Sauce’s Quack with punk sensibilities. !!! are careful not to go completely house on the album, with the swaggering punk attitude of ‘Things Get Hard’ and ‘Five Companies’. The tracks of Shake the Shudder are often grinding and bass-heavy with a celebratory, forget-the-haters hook. Musically, a lot of the house aspects are heavily inspired by the early days of garage house but slightly more plastic and polished.
This is where I have reservations about Shake the Shudder – it often doesn’t seem particularly heartfelt. This is quite problematic given that disco and house need passion to be worthwhile endeavours. There are scores of disco-appropriators out there living off insipid millennial/hipster parties and Shake the Shudder sometimes strays into this territory. That said, there are moments of brilliance on the album and, during these moment, you’ll forget all of your reservations (let alone your inhibitions).
Essential Tracks: ‘Dancing is the Best Revenge’, ‘Our Love (U Can Get)’ and ‘Throttle Service’
Soulwax/2manydjs Essential Mix
Soulwax never do anything by halves. When the Belgian trio did the soundtrack for Belgica, for instance, they invented a fake band for each of the 16 tracks. With their meticulous Radio Soulwax project, it took them three years to put together twenty-four hour-long mixes featuring some of the most obscure recordings out there. When it came to touring with James Murphy as Despacio, they insisted on building a custom soundsystem which they lugged to festivals all over the world for marathon DJ sets.
So when the BBC asked them to record an Essential Mix, I can only imagine David and Stephen Dewaele wondered how they could make the whole process far more difficult for themselves. The result? They recorded an hour of original material based around the Essential Mix – something that no other artist has ever done. Not only that, the quality of the music is surprisingly high, given that it was all written and recorded in two weeks.
The first hour is a fully mixed set of new Soulwax material and the second hour sees them slipping into 2manydjs mode. Both hours are fantastic. Check it out below…
Jeremy Underground at Index
Not heading to Forbidden Fruit next weekend? No bother because France’s foremost crate-digger is playing a 3-hour set in Index on Sunday June 4th. Apart from being partly responsible for one of the most remarkable marathon DJ sets I’ve ever heard, Jeremy Underground produced my favourite compilation of 2016. Beauty: A Journey Through Jeremy Underground’s Record Collection is a perfectly paced collection of rare disco and boogie. Check it out below. Expect to hear plenty of rare house, soul and disco on the night. All information can be found here.