Pop Meanderings: Wild Beasts, James Blake & Aphex Twin

Whilst I may still be alive (and relatively well) I’m pretty sure the length of time it’s been since my last post has dwindled any interest in this fact to zilch. My lack of activity is not the result of any faded zeal for my usual subjects, rather my busy work and ‘out-of-work’ life (the word ‘social’ in this context makes me cringe) has left me embracing any free time as an opportunity to dollop. So, in yet another attempt to kick-start this thing, “here are the breaks”

As far as indie music goes (by that I mean anything NME might champion) Wild Beast’s Present Tense album aint that bad. I particularly like the opening number, Wanderlust, comprising of a descending synth bass-line, a crescendo choral arpeggio and a 6/8 time signature. Such retro sounds and uncharacteristic time signature appeal – plus, any tune that stirs the image of a nutter patrolling the city’s streets is alwite by me.

Other tunes of note are Mecca (although it does veer into turgid territory ever so slightly), Sweet Spot (with it’s glacial backing harmonies and penetrating synth melody-line towards the end) and A Simple Beautiful Truth (an all-round great pop tune with a fun video to accompany it). In a nutshell? Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy with a Shoreditch twist.

Continuing in the ‘pop’ vein, Overgrown by James Blake is a gorgeous record, containing a series of delicately sketched, heartfelt compositions. His voice is sincere and yearning, without falling in to whimsy, & his palette of urban-centric sounds are all given plenty of breathing space. Uber-reverbed acoustic piano & poppish keyboard riffs drift across sparse, off-kilter 2-step beats & saturated kick-drum thumps, all peppered with hip-hop explosions & city sirens.

I Am Sold is a great example of Blake’s eye for compositional development – a refusal to allow a tune to stagnate in its own simplicity and repetitiveness. Opening with layered, interweaving vocals, echoing above impressionistic piano chords, Blake juxtaposes this against a build-up section of bass drenched kicks, eventually dropping the earnest chorus. This is exciting, forward thinking pop.

Check-out Retrograde and To The Last from the record as well, both tunes highlighting Blakes panache for timing. Below is a great clip of Blake performing Retrograde at Glastonbury. I personally couldn’t think of anything worse than standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a field for days on end (covered in mud, tired, and surrounded by the Nathan Barley generation – see the mass crowd arm-bopping at 2:23min in the below video), however I would have suffered such a fate to hear this live. Blake uses some really nice, jazz-oriented, chord substitutions here – and I love the synth drop…

I read today Aphex Twin will be releasing a new album, SYRO, his first since 2001’s Drukqs. The fusion of Erik Satie inspired prepared-piano etudes and cutting edge IDM on his last album was inspirational, so I wait with bated breath. Quick thought though; Is his decision to release a fresh album this year anything to do with the recent Caustic Window LP Kickstarter campaign? A worthy mission initiated by devoted fans to get the unreleased 1994 album available for all to hear. Who knows? But for what it’s worth Squidge In The Fridge is the best tune by far from that album. With its 8-bar drum turn-around phrases, a looping, squelchy synth sample and 90’s dance piano riff, it’s a discovered classic.

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About Will Rodway

what you hear, what you read...
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