Sharon O'Connell selects four standout albums released this month - including a new release from acclaimed Welsh producer Kelly Lee Owens, a playful dose of indie pop from Wet Leg, and a 19-track offering from poet, songwriter and improv saxophonist Alabaster DePlumeTags: Music,
For her third album, electronic producer Kelly Lee Owens – who recently composed the theme track for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – has teamed up with Norwegian experimental/noise artist Lasse Marhaug. The album sees Owens sharpening her focus from her previous LPs to fix on two main styles, in terms of both music and mood: dreamy (rapturous, even), with a slight mystical quality; and dark and beats-based, with a minimal-techno/industrial bent. Both are powerful, but it’s the complements and contrasts between these modes that create the most drama.
Opener 'Release' (the title is a sly joke, since there is none – it's all about repetition and sustain) is the polar opposite of 'One', which recalls '90s dream-pop band The Sundays, and the divinely delicate, Harold Budd-like wash of 'Nana Piano'. The mood switches again for 'Quickening', whose alien, electronic skitterings recall both Cosey Fanni Tutti and Arca. Owens bows out with the stark 'Sonic 8', which connects Throbbing Gristle to Tim Hecker and has her reminding us that our world is in deep crisis: "This an emergency, this is a wake-up call – what are you gonna do about it?" she asks. It’s a bare-bones challenge for all time.
Out now. Label: Smalltown Supersound
As indie-pop mission statements go, Wet Leg's aim "to be goofy and a little bit rude" while also wanting "people to have a good time, even if that might not be possible all of the time", is an entirely creditable one. In fact, this debut from Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers is sharply insightful and cheekily forthright rather than goofy, with songs that unpack the indignities, self-doubts and disappointments of daily life with droll wit, while also bringing their curiosity to bear on its strangeness and wonder.
With producer Dan Carey at the helm, the record was finished before Wet Leg had released their first single, or even played a show, and it seems no-one was more bowled over by its Number One chart spot than the pair themselves. 'Chaise Longue' has become their signature tune by virtue of its almost comically extreme repetition of a deadpan vocal in the chorus, contrasted with a gleefully sproinging bass line, but the duo have an arsenal of deceptively simple tunes that engage the heart as well as lift the spirit: especially strong are 'Angelica' (think, Warpaint driven by bouncy grunge), the bittersweet, more reflective 'I Don’t Wanna Go Out' and the forlorn slacker-pop of 'Supermarket'.
Out now. Label: Domino
As you might expect of someone with such a grand alias, Angus Fairbairn makes music that sets him well apart from mainstream pop. One of a group of artists centred around London music hub Total Refreshment Centre, he’s a singer/songwriter, poet and improv saxophonist with a mournful, wavering style that nods to Ethiopian jazz - a musician who doesn’t seem to so much write his delicate, slightly psychedelic, pastoral-pop songs as conjure them from the ether.
Gold was edited down from 17 hours of ensemble playing at TRC but still runs to 19 tracks. Though it offers eccentricity by the crateload, there's not so much novelty, more intriguing loveliness with a humanitarian warmth. DePlume may have a kinship with Kiran Leonard and Devendra Banhart, but there are flashes here of Tom Waits (on the moody and percussive 'The World is Mine'), Donovan ('I’m Gonna Say Seven') and Marianne Faithfull ('Who Is A Fool'). It’s not all sweet and gentle, however: both 'People What’s The Difference' and 'Visitors XT8B – Oak' gradually work up heads of groovy, Afro-jazz-toned steam. DePlume’s aim with Gold is best summed up in 'I Will Not Be Safe': "I will be open and true and good… it will be the sound of my being magical". Indeed.
Great things were predicted for this Mexican-American artist from Indiana way back in 2017, when he borrowed money for a Spotify subscription from a friend so he could upload his track 'Ugotme'. By the following day, it had racked up around 40,000 streams. A soulful, bluesy number with a vintage feel and full of (queer) love’s longing, it showed off both the self-taught guitarist’s songwriting chops and killer falsetto, introducing him as a certain future star.
Ivory is his second album and a consolidation of his blend of R&B-pop, soul and funk with top notes of tuff, upbeat hip hop, in unabashed expressions of same-sex relationships. It does not disappoint – though initially it did so for its author, who scrapped the first version for something more personally satisfying. His collaborators include Pharrell, who produced the trap-styled, Spanish language-featuring 'Tamagotchi' and Kali Uchis, who lends her sweet, husky tone to the filmic 'Bad Life'. The spirits of Prince, Frank Ocean and Miguel hover in Ivory’s wings but Apollo’s indie leanings, evidenced by the hepped-up electric guitar of 'Talk' and the soaring 'Petrified' hold imitation at bay.
Out now. Label: Warner