Sharon O'Connell selects four standout new album releases from Yves Tumor, Kate NV, Lankum & Lonnie HolleyTags: Music,
Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)
That gnomic title speaks to Sean Bowie’s bold ambition and the scale on which they’ve worked as Yves Tumor since 2018’s Safe In The Hands Of Love. Its unwieldiness, though, contradicts the laser-tooled precision with which they’ve built a distinctive, moodily seductive world.
Tumor’s fifth album upsizes their darkly glittering synthesis of art rock, R&B, future soul and ’90s alt-rock to a point at which it seems to fill all available sensory space. If it were an artwork, it would be Roger Hiorns’ “Seizure”, an installation that saw him covering a council-flat interior with a thick layer of copper-sulphate crystals. Texture and strangeness have a similar impact here, but these songs aren’t without precedent: Prince, My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins and (more surprisingly) Gang Of Four and PiL are all in Tumor’s mix. The glue is their voice, an alluringly soulful hybrid of Miguel and Kele Okereke. They save the best till last, with the darkly fractured mix of bassmusic and sci-fi musical that is “Purified By The Fire” and “Ebony Eye”, a triumph of dynamic contrast with a truly imperial sweep.
Russian avant-pop producer and singer Ekaterina Shilonosova is driven by optimism and a natural inclination to make playful, high-impact music, which makes the title of her fourth solo album entirely fitting. Though it comes with a caveat.
If Wow’s impish, hyper-colourful and hectic nature presents as slightly out of temper with our time, it’s because it’s a collection of older tracks and was actually completed pre-pandemic, at the same time as her Room For The Moon. That in no way diminishes its power to entertain and uplift – arguably, it amplifies it. By mixing Japanese city pop, techno, chipmusic and ’80s synth pop with “broken orchestra” sounds from a US arts agency’s library starter pack, plus live instruments including flute and marimba, Kate NV has fashioned a bright gem that flashes a different facet with every play. Highlights are hard to pick but the Kraftwerk-aligned “meow chat”, with its off-kilter arrangements and comical pings, squawks and parpings, and the sweet, pastoral-folk percolations of “slon (elephant)” are among them.
The folk tag hung on Lankum may be entirely accurate, but in some way it masks their interests and undersells their range. The Dublin band – who between them wield an impressive range of instruments and count a researcher/lecturer in folklore in their number – play covers and traditional folk songs alongside their originals, but they’re modernists, fusing drone, experimental noise and black/industrial metal to their sound to dramatic effect.
Their fourth album sees them ramping up the intensity by increasing the contrast between the songs featuring divine vocal harmonies and those laden with doomy, gothic unsettlement. So, their take on US folkie Gordon Bok’s “Clear Away In The Morning”, and a cover of English singer/songwriter’s Cyril Tawney’s “On A Monday Morning” throw haunting opener “Go Dig My Grave” (featuring the mighty voice of Radie Peat), and “Master Crowley’s” – where an accordion-driven jig is spliced with sheet-metal clanking and unsettling whines – into sharp relief. Punctuating the record are “Fugue I” and “Fugue II”, brief interludes of freeform treated noise that reset the listener’s focus. It’s a simple but inspired move from four masters of atmospherics and songcraft.
Oh Me Oh My
For 45 years, Alabama native Holley has pursued a singular artistic vision, both in his assemblages made from salvaged materials and trash, and his untutored, profoundly personal music. By the time he released his first LP, Just Before Music, he was 62 and had been making music alone at home for three decades. Much of Holley’s output gathers together earlier recordings, so Oh Me Oh My is his first full set of new material since 2018.
Produced by Jacknife Lee, who also co-wrote many of the songs, it features understated guest turns from Bon Iver, Michael Stipe and Sharon Van Etten, among others and a wide range of instruments, rather than just Holley’s usual mellotron and distinctively tremulous, bluesy voice. His lyrics dig deep into his memories and psyche, notably with “Mount Meigs”, an unsettling recollection of his time at the notorious Alabama Industrial School For Negro Children. Throughout, the music has an impressionistic and often quasi-spiritual potency, ranging over blues, cosmic soul, scratchy funk, Afrofusion, jazz and moody electronica – all of it serving the artist’s hope that future children might use it “as a highway to travel to truly get to freedom”.