Friday, December 10, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Ten

Door number 10, which by my maths means we've entered the land of our panel's top 15.

Pranam Mavahalli

Huun Huur Tu – Ancestor's Call (World Village)

Track - Prayer

Everyone’s favourite Tuvan throat-singing popular beat combo return with their fifth studio long player. I find this music haunting and unearthly. It might sound like the engineer’s done some studio jiggery pokery (e.g attached a ring modulator) to get their voices to take on different pitches and tones. I’m assured this is not the case and that they are
in fact each singing two different notes at the same time. Astounding.

John Skilbeck

Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart (Jagjaguwar)

Track - Rollercoaster

The third album-length tranche from Vancouver’s Black Mountain was a detonation of heavy prog-leaning rock which for what it lacked in originality it compensated for with one irresistible hook after another. The Canadian four-piece are a band set apart by the powerful combination of frontman Stephen McBean’s gravelly delivery and Amber Webber’s luxuriant, quivering voice. And while Sabbath-indebted guitar riffs dominated Wilderness Heart, beneath the surface the unique register of the Mellotron organ gave the sound ocean-floor-scraping depth. Black Mountain stand incongruous to most of my list, and my hopelessly narrow-minded taste as a whole, but I was drawn in by Webber’s association, having fallen hopelessly for her side-project Lightning Dust, and this certainly did not disappoint.

Steve Pill

Four Tet - There Is Love In You (Domino)

Track - Love Cry

Kieran Hebden began by making autumnal, folky electronica under his Four Tet moniker but by the time of There Is Love In You, he had one eye firmly on the dancefloor. However, this being a Four Tet album, you can never really expect full on, four to the floor madness. Instead there's dusty analogue synths, vaguely jazzy drums and all manner of weird noises and glitches. Love Cry is the album in a nut shell, a slow burning twitch that builds into an electro-gospel work out and ends in more familiar Four Tet instrumental territory.

Matt Collins

James Yuill - Movement In A Storm (Moshi Moshi)

Track - Crying For Hollywood

Electro blips acoustic picks shouldn’t be in a comfortable relationship together, no matter who you are. But James Yuill has a unique talent for blending the two into the oh-so-imaginatively-named folktronica in a way that doesn’t forget the songs in the sound. Crying for Hollywood is a particular highlight, the electroriff a delight, the song a stormer.

Andy Welch

Darwin Deez – Darwin Deez (Lucky Number)

Track – Up In The Clouds

With his Hassidic curls, headband, bum-fluff ‘tache and interviews in which he quotes his favourite philosophers, Darwin Deez does come across a bit ‘Flight Of The Conchords’, an artist not to be taken seriously. But to write him off on appearances would be to miss out on one of the best debuts of the year. He demonstrates a rare talent here; the fuzzy, Strokes-esque guitars on top of lo-fi drum loops creating a perfect bed for his sumptuous, endearing tales of romantic ineptitude.

Guy Atkinson

Yeasayer - Odd Blood (EMI)

Track - Mondegreen

The fact that my iTunes categorises this album under 'pop' tells you all you need to know about the quantum leap these guys took for their second album. Containing two of the year's most thrilling pop bangers in the shape of Ambling Alp and O.N.E., this is an album best listened to after consuming as many intoxicants as your body will allow.

Dom Farrell

Chemical Brothers - Further (Parlaphone)

Track - Horse Power

As students taking to the streets to protest and burn things outside the Conservative Party headquarters calls to mind the Poll Tax riots, the Chemical Brothers also seem to be casting their minds back towards the early nineties. Further jettison any guest vocal turns from assorted Britpop royalty and the result is a focused, muscular and euphoric tour de force. This would be equally at home in the all-night warehouse raves of Tom Rowlands' and Ed Simons' youth as the festival fields they deservedly frequent today.

Ian Parker

Johnny Flynn - Been Listening (Transgressive)

Track - Kentucky Pill

I'm still not sure if anti-folk actually is, and if it does, what the heck it means. But let's put silly labels to one side. After his potential-filled and slow-growing debut A Larum, Johnny Flynn returned with an all together more confident, more brash and more fully-realised follow up in Been Listening.

Rory Dollard

Tricky – Mixed Race (Domino)

Track - Murder Weapon

Tricky is almost always more interesting in theory than reality, with great moments followed by lengthy miscalculations. Mixed Race, at just 28 minutes, finds him streamlined and focused on the killer material. A phalanx of guest vocalists do much of the heavy lifting, with Tricky a menacing, malevolent presence in the background for large periods. The tone is claustrophobic and tautly played and it speaks volumes that the singalong ‘pop’ single is called Murder Weapon.

Ali Mason

Broken Records – Let Me Come Home (4AD)

Track - A Darkness Rises Up

I simply didn’t get the Arcade Fire comparisons when Broken Records released their debut album last year, but they seem more apt this time around. Let Me Come Home lacks some of the bombast of Until The Earth Begins To Part, which is perhaps not a bad thing, but with songs called things like Dia Dos Namarados! and A Darkness Rises Up, there’s no lack of their trademark portentousness to go along with their epic sound. And with Arcade Fire on the slide, it’s worth making room for Broken Records in your life.

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