Starmoney has emerged in the past 24 months as a key player in UK rap.

The artist has shared a string of essential singles, blending aspects of UK music – grime, drill elements, even UK hip-hop – alongside aspects of his Caribbean heritage.

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Starmoney is moving in his own lane, bringing a different flavour to London music.

His 2020 single 'Black Lives Matter' caused waves here and in the Caribbean, and he hits the ground running with 'Flex'.

A song about asserting your worth, 'Flex' pins down his flashy lifestyle, with guest bars from the mighty Sneakbo.

A straight-up street banger, 'Flex' comes equipped with some 'luxe visuals… tune in now.

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Shunaji isn't content to sit in one lane.

A truly multi-faceted artist, Shunaji's music dips in and out of genres, as well as her trans-continental heritage.

The London-via-Rome artist returned with 'Why Don't You' and it's a bouncy new single, imbued with the sharp rays of Spring sunshine.

It's fun and instantly infectious, but there's also a deeper meaning, with Shunaji using her bars to discuss history, and social justice.

Maintaining Shunaji's commitment to use music as a vessel for change, 'Why Don't You' draws you in before delivering the knockout blow.

Birmingham-based rapper Ayy drops past, adding some extra energy as the two take down crypto-currency and the cult surrounding NFTs.

A desire for freedom, 'Why Don't You' is playful while connecting to a more profound resonance.

Tune in now.

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When 2019 drew to a close BANKS was at the point of exhaustion. The LA based artist had been in a cycle of continual creation for a decade, and this relentless laser-sharp focus began to take its toll. Withdrawing, she knew that major changes were needed – but she couldn’t have imagined the way the world would turn.

“I don’t think people know they’re starting a new chapter when they’re doing it,” she explains. “When the pandemic hit, I actually needed a break… desperately. And then I naturally felt so far away from the music industry, so when I started creating again it felt so pure. I wasn’t thinking about making an album or anything, I just wanted to make sounds. And then those sounds become songs, and then I see how those songs fit into a body of work… and then it becomes an album.”

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It all sounds simple when she explains it. Chatting to Clash via a trans-Atlantic call – BANKS leaves us on speaker, she needs to water the array of plants and ferns in her flat – the singer is open and reflective. It’s that post-release lull – new album ‘Serpentina’ is out now, and she’s able to make greater sense of her accomplishments now the music can finally belong to the fans. Her first post-major label release, ‘Serpentina’ builds on the startling R&B of those early releases, while adding something revelatory and new – if the sounds have changed, then that’s perhaps because BANKS herself isn’t the same person any more.  

“I create when I need to!” she says. “I’ve gone through stages when… say, after the final tour for the last album. I felt like I had said everything I needed to say, at least for a period of time. People would ask me to come into the studio, but I just couldn’t. You have to follow your inspiration, and in that way I’m definitely a very inspired person. I listen to my body, and I listen to my gut, and I don’t force anything.”

It's notable, Clash suggests, that removing herself from the major label world has led to greater space in her life. “I think I was probably always self-sufficient,” she smiles knowingly, “I just didn’t realise it. Especially as a female artist, people will always tell you what you need to do… so it’s incredible to realise that, no, you’re good on your own!”

‘Serpentina’ was born during those long days and nights of lockdown, when our world suddenly became no larger than the immediate vicinity. For BANKS, this meant long walks around Los Angeles, the traffic smog of commuters finally lifting from the American city. “The air was clear. It’s crazy – it shows you how much of a difference we could make to the environment if we really tried.”

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Her soul working in tandem to her surroundings, BANKS became to find a forward path. “I think I’m always evolving. I was going through so much transformation – mentally and physically – while trying to re-learn how to just live in one place. I mean, it was tough, and we obviously all went through a lot, but it was honestly a beautiful time in so many ways.”

Gathering like-minds around her, there’s a peculiarly British aesthetic to the finished album. London artist TALA contributes on quite a few of the finished tracks, while LA neighbours like Shlohmo would drop by. “It’s incredible to work with another female artist,” she says. “And we’re really close. She lived with me, at one point! And Shlohmo dropped by, too. We’re like a little family!”

Lead single ‘The Devil’ marked the end of our wait for new material. A potent, wry piece of R&B-etched songwriting, it founds BANKS flipping the script once more. “It was really late at night, and I was all alone,” she says. “I was thinking about trying to overcome my demons. I was tired of being good all the time – being a good girl, trying to make all the right decisions. And I thought, well, what if the Devil was tired of his job? So we get to switch places.”

A feminist, BANKS is aware of the impositions placed on women working in the music industry. “I think it effects every woman, whether they’re aware of it or not. The culture we live in is so patriarchal. There have been so many moments in my career where I’ve stood back and thought, wait, they’d never say that if I was a male artist. I try not to let that stuff get into my head, and I make sure I have people around me who respect me. But definitely, being an independent artist and making my own calls has been liberating.”

Tracks such as the ravishing ‘Birds By The Sea’ linger on this sense of freedom. “That was a real moment for me,” she notes. “I was on my own, in the studio, working to me own timeframe. And I felt so free… the timing, the flow of the song – it all came from there!”

Operating without constructions could lead to other problems, Clash suggests; when would she really know when a project is finished? “Everyone develops as an artist,” she says. “But there’s more to development than just changing. Sometimes it’s learning when to call it. I’ve learned to trust my gut, and I just know when a song is done.”

Indeed, one major issue behind the development of ‘Serpentina’ was knowing what to include, and what to excise. “It was really hard to choose what went on the album. Like, really hard. There are honestly my children, and I couldn’t choose between them. But I feel really good about the songs I’ve chosen – I’m so proud of this album.”

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At times, ‘Serpentina’ is incredibly outspoken. Take the explicit ‘Fuck Love’ – is she really rejecting companionship?

“Well…” she says, her voice trailing off. “I have moments where I say ‘fuck love’ and I have moments where I say ‘fuck, I’m in love’. It’s a fun song, and I wanted it to be empowering but not in a depressing way.”

Love is a perpetual theme on the album, and her work more broadly. “Nobody understands it!” she exclaims. “It’s the craziest feeling you can have. Love and music are similar in that way. You don’t know where the inspiration comes from, it just comes to you.”

Recently returning to the stage for a special appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel, BANKS is ready to commune with fans once more. Fresh boundaries are in place, and these allow her to fine-tune the balance in her life.

“I have a newfound gratitude for it,” she notes. “In 2019 I went through a bunch of stuff where music just became… painful for me. After healing, I kept having this thought in my mind: I miss it so much! It’s all about balance. I was empty so much in my personal life, that I couldn’t create. I just needed to focus on that a little bit, to get that balance, or else you’re just unhealthy.”

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'Serpentina' is out now.

Words: Robin Murray

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Low End Activist pairs with Bristol rapper Emz on new track 'Get Get'.

Out now on the ever-essential Sneaker Social Club, 'Get Get' leads into a full artist album from the producer.

Out on June 14th, 'Hostile Utopia' is the largest project we've yet heard from Low End Activist, a sonic engineer whose astute manipulation of UK system culture is riddled with revelatory aspects.

'Get Get' is no exception to this. Aesthetically, it feels one of those lost London walls, smothered in layers and layers of graffiti – tags are lost, and then re-appear, the past and present fused together.

The harsh, almost degraded sonics mirror this, the influence of grime seeping through, but taken somewhere else.

In spirit, it's reminiscent of Logos and Mumdance, and the sonic manipulations they embarked on during those pivotal early Boxed sessions.

There's nothing nostalgic here, though, and head-spanning bars from Bristol's own Emz go hard from the off, spinning an entrepreneurial tale from those who need to scheme to survive.

A fantastic entrance point into the new album, 'Get Get' is a thrill for anyone who wants to hear a talented MC spit over a future-facing beat – think Novelist and Mumdance on 'Take Time', or even the often-overlooked Last Japan driven AJ Tracey cut 'Ascend'.

Tune in now.

Low End Activist will release 'Hostile Utopia' on June 14th.

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West London project 88/89 share new single 'Never Been So High'.

The duo – Jack (born in ‘88) and Michael (born in ‘89) – are based from a small house in the capital, making deft experimentation in indie rock.

Blending indie songwriting with something a little more laid-back, their raw, DIY bedroom pop is born from a mosaic of influences.

A petri dish of guitar pop, 88/89 are gradually bringing something potent into realisation, and having fun in the process.

New single 'Never Been So High' is out now, and it's touched with that Spring feeling, injected with a neat sense of light.

88/89 comment…

"The full lyric is 'never been so high In love', so it’s really about that. At the time we wrote it, we were experimenting with throwing lots of different sounds together to create a sort of patchwork quilt of a song. We were jumping from synths to drum machines to guitars quite quickly. Once we had the music down, we let it guide the vocal creation and once we had that key line, the rest fell into place. Then we became briefly obsessed with trying to create a Backstreet Boys-style harmony which became the chorus that you hear."

An engaging fusion of pop tropes placed in an unfamiliar context, 'Never Been So High' is a fun, surprising return.

Tune in now.

NYC multi-hyphenate SPRTYK has shared new single 'Projects Heat'.

A true all-rounder, SPRTYK matches an imposing music CV with a deep involvement in visual arts.

Having shared a stage with the likes of Mick Jenkins and Coi Leray, she also completed the video treatment for the Budweiser NFT campaign and is the CEO and creative director for STAR CLUB ENTERTAINMENT – hell, she even has her own lip gloss brand.

Musically, this pan-genre creative has close ties to the hip-hop world, collaborating with Joey Bada$$ and a raft of other artists.

New single 'Projects Heat' bursts out of the traps, its innate swagger held together by the bolshy production.

Muscular yet with a hint of soul, SPRTYK raises the temperature with this essential new release.

Tune in now.

Hang on. Didn’t we have one of these last week? Ah, yes. That was the Record Store Day 2022 preview special. Very useful if you’re planning on picking up anything from the online follow up too, I’d imagine. Anyway, as there were so many titles to cover for that edition, it seemed wise to keep April’s non-RSD releases separate so as to preserve the usual format for this monthly round-up. As a result, if you’ve still got any cash left or need some tips for other albums to get you to the free shipping threshold, allow Clash to point you in the direction of some recently delivered delights.

Freshly Pressed

Liverpudlian four-piece The Mysterines recently hit the top ten with their debut record ‘Reeling’. While the simplistic but dark sleeve harks back to the Eighties with its stylings, their sound creeps into the early Nineties with hints of The Breeders and early PJ Harvey alongside Sonic Youth and even the initial bombast of the Manics. Production is bright but not oppressively so, keeping hi-hats clear and not slushy. Lead singer Lia Metcalfe and bassist George Favager formed a partnership after a chance meeting in Home Bargains back in 2014, but the rest of the line up wasn’t finalised until four years after that. A GZ pressing, this debut release has some sporadic light surface noise but sounds pretty good overall. Ones to watch.

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Following on from last year’s excellent soundscapes of ‘Fir Wave’, Hannah Peel is rapidly back in the racks for this collaboration with Paraorchestra – overseen by Charles Hazlewood – on Real World Records. ‘The Unfolding’ is a seismic undertaking that attempts to channel a sensory journey through the origins and fundamental materials of life. A very different record to anything you’ve heard from Peel before, it is staggering in scope and often magical in its implementation.

A collaboration forged in a fragmented fashion over three years, the profound impact upon everyday life of a global pandemic gave the project an even greater sense of meaning. Orchestral and ambient, electronic and visceral, hymnal and uplifting, ‘The Unfolding’ is all of these things in part, but an even more fascinating whole. Consider the switch from the sweeping, emotive terrain of eleven minute opener ‘The Universe Before Matter’ to the rough-hewn textures of ‘Wild Animal’. A complex body of work, it has been well handled by Guy Davie of Electric Mastering and pressed at The Vinyl Factory across two discs. There were a few light clicks here and there, most notable in sparser moments, but this is an excellent presentation of a unique recording.

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You may well be aware of the rampaging streaming titan that is the soundtrack to Disney’s Encanto. In a rather surprising move, Universal have pressed the vinyl release of these original songs at Pallas, giving Lin-Manuel Miranda’s compositions better treatment than many more heavyweight artists and their catalogue. I did attempt to seek some feedback from a five year old guest reviewer that regular readers may recall first appeared in this column to assist me with a Hey Duggee picture disc, but she was adamant that we don’t talk about Bruno or Encanto at all. I feel I only have myself to blame for her infuriating sense of humour. That said, she was leaping all over the place to this and the soundstage was nicely controlled to tame the highs that can be a little excessive on Disney soundtracks. I’m not sure she noticed this, mind you. A picture disc edition follows next month, if you find it sounding this good unnerving.

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Although the digital version of Beirut’s archival round up ‘Artifacts’ has been available for a while, the double vinyl edition landed recently and it’s a treasure trove. Kicking off with the debut EP ‘Lon Gisland’, before weaving in a couple of B-sides, it then progresses to a whole side of juvenilia. ‘The Misfits’ is fascinating, often a little thin and synthy, but clearly the work of Zach Condon even at an early age. As he explains in the sleevenotes, a search for extra bits for a compilation resulted in the discovery of hard drives of material that have been cherry picked for ‘Artifacts’. It has been very well mastered, considering its origins, and sounds excellent.

As the second disc gets under way, the Farfisa organ begins its role in Condon history and the unique sound of Beirut crystalises. Perhaps a little less fascinating for the uninitiated, this is an enlightening and extensive document which fleshes out the catalogue of one of the 21st century’s more idiosyncratic artists. There’s barely a click or crackle across all four sides of this Sterling cut and mastered set. From the artwork to the insightful reflections on the music, ‘Artifacts’ is well worth a listen.

Snap, Crackle & Pop

Including a picture disc in this section might seem a little like shooting fish in a barrel, but this is one release that is genuinely baffling. How does an archive series with properly remastered audio end up on this novelty format? Brian May, Queen guitarist, hedgehog protector and he of the hair is slowly working through his solo catalogue as part of his self-proclaimed ‘Gold Series’. Next up is 1998’s ‘Another World’. Looking at the sleeve art and typography, it would have taken your columnist many, many guesses to have suggested its release was that close to the millennium. It looks very 1987, shall we say. Now, it would be too easy to say it also sounds very 1987. So I won’t. Ahem.

Cozy Powell delivers his usual thunderous drumming precision on what was one of his last projects before his untimely demise in a car crash at the age of 50. There’s a fair bit of genre hopping in this collection of songs, ‘On My Way Up’ especially redolent of mid-Eighties pomp-pop with all of the virility of a Cliff Richard TOTP performance. The songs are often BIG without necessarily having melodies on the same scale, but it’s all enjoyably unselfconscious.

I should say, a standard black vinyl edition is available but Just Played was sent the Queen webstore exclusive variant for some reason. The not overly aesthetically pleasing picture disc uses the Miles Showell half-speed mastering from the normal pressing, so it sounds as good as it’s ever going to, but the limitations of the format are clear with unwanted crackle at various points even after a clean. That said, everyone should hear ‘Cyborg’ once. Honestly.

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Record Store Dazed

A few titles arrived for review a little too late to be included in our extensive RSD preview piece. However, with the online sales available, we thought it best to offer up some thoughts for you here. Firstly, Electronic’s excellent ‘Remixes 1982-1992’ rounded up a number of extended and alternative mixes of some of their best-known songs. Cut by Frank Arkwright and pressed at Optimal, it’s a very quiet pressing with a robust soundstage. A poly-lined inner sleeve was appreciated and the full length ‘Getting Away With It’ is well worth hearing.

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Madonna’s ‘Who’s That Girl {Club Mix)’ continued the RSD trend of issuing commemorative singles, this time marking a 35th anniversary. A Chris Bellman cut on red vinyl (despite some listings saying green) and pressed at Optimal, the playback is quiet and relatively easy on the ear. A few tracks are a little sibilant and the artwork could be a little clearer in the reproduction, but it’s a decent sounding edition for fans wanting a little extra.  

There was some understandable consternation when it became clear that the first ever vinyl release for Blur’s 1998, originally Japanese only, remix compilation ‘Bustin’ + Dronin’’ would omit the Peel Sessions from the second CD of that 20th century set. It is a shame but, given the price of the 2LP alternative versions set alone, who knows what this might have cost if it had been definitive. Scaling up the artwork, including a slight variation on the original obi-strip from the original edition, and spreading it over two translucent discs – one blue, one green – has worked from an aesthetic perspective, although it’s hard to escape the feeling that a gatefold and some new sleeve notes might be justified given the near £40 cost. Cut by John Davis at Metropolis and pressed at Optimal, the actual music sounds wonderful. William Orbit’s ‘Crouch End Broadway mix’ of ‘On Your Own’ is a particular highlight, but whichever one you prefer these tracks do genuinely surpass their previous CD presentation. A calculated risk for the faithful.

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Going Round Again

Rufus Wainwright’s two-part Want masterpiece propelled him to public attention during vinyl’s nadir. The mid-Noughties were a quiet time for lovers of deadwax and counterweights. Those of us who were willing to put in the legwork picked up the promo website only edition of ‘Want One’ and a niche US release of ‘Want Two’ that came out via Zoe Records. Both disappeared rapidly and, for many years, these two seismic works were almost impossible to find on vinyl. ‘Want One’ had a 2013 reissue which will currently set you back £200 on Discogs and only now is ‘Want Two’ being given its dues by Music On Vinyl.

The artwork has been fabulously rendered for the matte sleeve and the package replicates the 2004 Zoe edition with its double-sided insert page featuring the lyrics and further imagery. However, MoV’s standard poly-lined inner and choice of Record Industry to manufacture the disc is a welcome improvement. As for sound, let’s firstly take the time to note how many remarkable songs are found on these two sides of vinyl. ‘Agnus Dei’, ‘Peach Trees’, ‘The Gay Messiah’, ‘Memphis Skyline’, ‘The Art Teacher’ and ‘Little Sister’ are only some of the absolute corkers contained within ‘Want Two’.

Many are quite sparse, requiring a carefully drawn soundstage and a quiet background. There are a few clicks here and there, unusually for a Record Industry pressing, but they’re minor and don’t distract from the open and rich presentation. Wainwright’s distinctive drawl rises out of the speakers with its mellifluous charms intact and the piano is particularly resonant. Thankfully, it does this excellent record justice and puts it back in the racks after far too long.

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Having mixed it with Leftfield and Massive Attack in the more soulful electronic scene of the Nineties, The Aloof left behind major label life after 1998’s ‘Seeking Pleasure’ and struck out on their own imprint, Screaming Target. 1999’s ‘The Constant Chase For Thrills’ would be their only subsequent record and it was lost amongst the noise as the decade came to an end. While Jagz Kooner may be the name most likely to be recognised now, founder member Dean Thatcher is especially delighted that Acid Jazz are giving this album another chance to attract the attention he felt it deserved.

In keeping with much dance music of the time, its brooding Balearic sound is intense and hypnotic, only lightening on occasion. ‘So Good’ briefly cut through when it was featured in the US edition of Queer As Folk, but there are a number of highlights. ‘Infatuated’, featuring Jo Sims on vocals, certainly edges into ‘Leftism’ territory, while closer ‘Painted Face’ is an epic exploration of textures. The translucent cyan double vinyl is pressed at GZ and Just Played’s copy was near silent throughout. The soundstage is fairly open and the substantial bottom end is well controlled, with plenty of heft but no smeary bass.  

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50 years on from its original release, Roxy Music’s debut has been afforded another reissue, alongside 1973’s ‘For Your Pleasure’. All shiny gatefolds and replica artwork aside, one wonders why these have been created. They are half-speed mastered by Miles Showell, but weren’t the 2017 reissues (themselves drawn from the 2015 box set) done with that methodology also? Well, yes and no. Firstly, the previous editions were pressed at GZ and not without some surface noise for many. Secondly, these latest – Optimal pressed – editions use a fresh half-speed transfer by Showell, though using the same source material.  

Essentially, if you’ve got the last batch and are happy with them, there’s no need to get embroiled in a fresh batch of these classic albums. However, if you’re in the market for them then this could serve you well. They’re still not entirely silent, sadly, with the copy of the debut that this column tried having a few pops on both sides. Musically, things improve once you get past that first outing, curiously produced by Peter Sinfield. Showell does his best with a record that has always sounded a little thin, offering clarity but not changing its signature sonics. Decent enough, then, but a curious use of congested pressing plants.

When using music to transport yourself back to a particular era, there is nothing more effective than the Now series. One suspects this has tailed off in the streaming era but, prior to it, everyone had a run of around eight to ten of those compilations that ultimately encapsulated the point where they came of musical age. It turns out a relatively close second are the various War Child albums which, of course, famously started with 1995’s rapidly recorded ‘Help’. That snapshot from the height of Britpop and its associated scenes finally received a reissue in 2020, marking its 25th anniversary, but what of the follow-ups? 

Four further titles have now been cut by Geoff Pesche at Abbey Road and pressed through The Vinyl Factory, the money raised going towards War Child’s work with children affected by conflict, including recent events in Ukraine. Indie stores have yellow exclusives available, while the official store can offer red. For the purposes of this, your columnist purchased the first three releases on standard black. I’m sure I’ll get to ‘War Child Presents Heroes’ at some point, don’t worry, as the triumvirate I sampled were universally excellent.

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‘1 Love’ is a time capsule from 2002, originally released to celebrate 50 years since the NME first printed the singles chart, with artists covering a favoured number one track. Spike Stent oversaw a remarkable collection of songs, ranging from a lively bash through ‘Killer’ by Sugababes to a magical take on ‘Back For Good’ by the much missed McAlmont & Butler. Yes, I did feel better after that. Less so after Darius’ ‘Pretty Flamingo’, but that’s what I mean about the ability to capture a moment in time. Would it have been there if it had been made in any other year? No. And that’s what makes these collections such fun.  

Avril Lavigne contributes a solid take on ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ to 2003’s ‘Hope’, originally compiled with the Daily Mirror to support children caught in the Iraq war. This also features Ronan Keating having a crack at ‘In The Ghetto’ and a very buoyant ‘Vietnam’ from a New Order who had certainly had their Weetabix. The Charlatans channel their strongest influence from that time, having released the superbly soulful ‘Wonderland’ a couple of years prior to this compilation, with a cover of ‘We Gotta Have Peace’, while Macca contributes an excellent, alternative take on ‘Calico Skies’ which replicates its contemporary live performance. Perhaps most notable is George Michael’s stunning cover of Don MacLean’s ‘The Grave’ that closes side 1. How lovely to hear that voice stripped back and powerful again.

For ‘Help! A Day In The Life’, the tenth anniversary of the original project was marked with a release recorded in only twenty-four hours. It was the first place to feature Gorillaz’s remarkable ‘Hong Kong’, along with new music from the Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead and Elbow. It is the most purely indie of these sets since the first and you’ll find Hard-Fi, Bloc Party, Keane, Belle & Sebastian and Maximo Park in these jangly grooves. There’s even a hilarious take on ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ where the Kaiser Chiefs pretend they’re The Clash covering The Slits covering big Marv. Despite owning the original CD, I’d somehow completely forgotten the existence of this endeavour. Can’t think why.

These are excellent sounding discs, which is quite impressive given the array of sources and circumstances in which they were recorded. Pesche’s mastering is excellent and the pressings are near silent, the odd light click here and there almost certainly down to chance when being sleeved. Nostalgic musical rollercoasters with pleasing sonics and all for a good cause? No excuse not to Help.

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Having cut a half-speed mastered box set of all of The Police’s studio recordings in 2018, Miles Showell has used his upgraded equipment to apply the same process to their ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation. Thirty years on from its original single disc edition, the music has been spread across four sides for greatly improved fidelity. It seems a little curious to do this collection fully four years after the whole catalogue, although it is more likely to appeal to the casual customer.

Everything you would expect is here, from ‘Roxanne’ to ‘Walking On The Moon’, ‘De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da’ to ‘Message In A Bottle’. They all sound fantastic, the drums perhaps the most physically present aspect of the music. ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’ remains deeply creepy and ‘Every Breath You Take’ is freed from Spotify ubiquity, where it is three times more popular than their next most listened to song. It’s an Optimal press with very little in the way of surface noise across both discs. Packaging is expanded with a bit more photography, but this one is all about the excellent sound. That said, those who need trinkets will find an obi strip and a half-speed mastering certificate of authenticity.

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When Kraftwerk’s ‘Remixes’ appeared on streaming in 2020, collecting together 19 tracks from the preceding three decades, it was lauded for offering a coherent but fresh perspective on so many familiar pieces of music. Frustration arose around the lack of a physical release, but this has finally been put right with 2CD and 3LP editions of the same material. Given the near £50 RRP on the triple vinyl, you would presumably expect deluxe packaging with delicious artwork in a complex gatefold sleeve, right? – Well, the three sturdy records are each housed in a black card inner sleeve that simply states ‘Remixes’ and the disc number on both sides. These are inserted into a single, wide sleeve with the full tracklisting on its reverse. That’s it. So, if you’re after a tactile package, this is not the release for you. However, if – and it should be said that this is generally the priority for Just Played – you want tremendous sound quality, then you should be pretty happy. Side F’s pair of Hot Chip remixes are a particular delight, as well as being a fine demonstration of the sonics at play, with burbling synths remarkably present in the room.

The bottom end is an especially important aspect of these recordings and so well sculpted here. You can feel it and hear it, the nuance very clear rather than simply experiencing a physical onslaught. Were it not for the fact that similarly excellent sounding records are available at lower prices, one might be tempted to argue that the expenditure is justified by the audio. That said, if the cost isn’t off-putting, these discs are a delight and maintain the very high standards notable throughout their in-print catalogue right now.

All Kinds Of Blue

We’re approaching the next intersection point for the Blue Note reissue series. A fresh run of Classics titles has been announced, continuing at two a month going forward. However, the Tone Poets will slow soon, presumably to allow for the manufacturing of something a little bigger. Regular readers will recall the sensational Ornette Coleman box from earlier this year and project coordinator Joe Harley has recently revealed plans for a special edition of John Coltrane’s ‘Blue Train’. However, while we wait for more news on that, let’s reflect on the quartet of delights that emerged in April.

For this month’s entries in the Classics series, the all-analogue approach is temporarily suspended so as to allow a pair of Nineties titles to be included. Geri Allen Trio’s ‘Twenty One’ and Cassandra Wilson’s ‘Blue Light ‘Til Dawn’ are both double LP sets, still cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearant despite the shift in focus. As ever, these titles are pressed at Optimal.

Allen is joined by Blue Note royalty – Ron Carter and Tony Williams – for some captivating, often frenetic performances that fly by. The production is very, very different to what regulars will be used to and things are a little congested in the centre of the soundstage. ‘A Place Of Power’ is a fine entry point and feels a little more open given the arrangement of the rhythm section. Those keen to finally have this on vinyl will be satisfied.

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While ‘Twenty One’ comes in a wide single sleeve, Wilson’s release gets a gatefold, despite originally only being spread over two sides when it emerged in 1993. It surely benefits from the extra space as it can still feel somewhat sibilant even on double vinyl. That said, the presentation is largely very engaging and instrumentation is relatively three-dimensional.  

This album’s follow up, ‘New Moon Daughter’ was apparently part of the template for Norah Jones’ sensational debut, ‘Come Away With Me’ (more on that next month), but you can hear some of that sonic lineage here already. However, Jones’ approach to covers is more appealing as some of Wilson’s performances on this record feel overwrought and overlong. The take on ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ that wraps things up is a particularly egregious example of this.

For those wanting more of the old school kicks with which we have been spoilt of late, the two Tone Poets that landed in April tick that box. First came Sonny Red’s ‘Out Of The Blue’, its simplistic but distinctive artwork embellished with the regular presence of black and white session photography inside the gatefold. The picture of pianist Wynton Kelly has to be seen to be believed, although the draw here is, as ever, the soundstage afforded to the music.

Kelly’s emphatic playing is key to the album, taking a solo on each track and being almost as integral to these songs as Red and his alto sax. The copy Just Played listened to had a little light noise on occasion, which is unusual for this series, but it didn’t detract significantly from the wonderful mastering by Gray. As ever with the more deluxe of the two series, the sleeve is a Stoughton tip-on and the disc has been manufactured at RTI. These facts are also true of Jackie Mclean’s ‘Tippin’ The Scales’, an album that sat in the Blue Note vaults for two decades before getting its first release in Japan back in 1979.

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Perhaps considered a little safe for an artist pushing in different directions when it was recorded towards the end of September 1962, the record’s eventual release was accompanied by a sleeve design out of step with its original era. As has been done with a few of the archival Tone Poet titles, a fresh presentation has been fashioned in order to situate ‘Tippin’ The Scales’ in the era to which it belongs and it looks fabulous.

Taking into account the sensational combination of Sonny Clark on piano and Art Taylor’s swinging drums, one wonders why this never quite made it to the racks as initially planned. While not a true classic, the energy is infectious and Mclean’s alto sax often feels weightless. As your columnist has said before, the pay off for the Tone Poets costing a little more is their ability to harness the capability of vinyl and connect the listener to the music in the most invigorating way possible.

At The Front Of The Racks

This columnist knows people who are genuinely concerned that, despite having sizeable record collections, they’re living in a world where they are completely unaware of their favourite album. That it’s out there, sitting in racks of shops and shelves of listeners but not in their consciousness. I’ve always found this rather bizarre. Yes, the option paralysis of streaming does occasionally feel a little overwhelming, but then so do my vinyl-shelving units from time to time. However, the idea that there unheard good music yet to make my acquaintance is a cause for concern will never wash. It’s exciting to suddenly find something that isn’t actually new but is to you. That is the case with the latest in an almost embarrassingly consistent line of striking releases from the Needle Mythology label, Butcher Boy’s ‘You Had A Kind Face’.

Although clearly a passion of NM’s instigator, broadcaster and journalist Pete Paphides, it’s clear that former A&R luminary and author John Niven – who supplies a beautifully evocative sleeve note for this – is very happy to endorse this fairly obscure band too. While this works as a coherent single disc LP – not least thanks to Miles Showell’s excellent mastering – it compiles tracks from three different albums spanning 2007 to 2011 and a pair from 2017 EP ‘Bad Things Happen When It’s Quiet’. The most natural link is the quality of the songs, from the meditative opener ‘When I’m Asleep’ to the intense build of ‘Storm Warning In Effect’ through to ‘You’re Only Crying For Yourself’.

While the phrase ‘epic folk rock’ might go some way to capturing the sound of Butcher Boy, it’s really all about that alchemical musical feat where vocals, empathy and artistic instinct somehow coalesce in a way that communicates in a fashion that is ill suited to description. Not helpful for columnists, let me tell you. But John Hunt’s aching Scottish tones are only one part of a heady recipe here, a sizeable ensemble performance highlighting how certain instruments in the right hands can be every bit as lyrical as the human voice at its most evocative.  

Sequencing a compilation must surely be even harder than a studio album, certainly for one that’s designed to present a band’s entire body of work in only twelve songs. ‘You Had A Kind Face’ completely achieves that and nowhere is the craft of such a process more obvious than with the closing choice, swelling instrumental ‘Every Other Saturday’. It’s quite beautiful on its own, but have a look what accompanies it in the lyrics section of the gatefold. I won’t spoil the surprise.

As well as remastering the whole set, Miles Showell has produced a half-speed master for this Vinyl Factory pressing. A few clicks aside, playback is quiet and the soundstage is a joy. With so many acoustic elements in play, this record needs precision and it has got it right here. The icing on the cake is the accompanying three track 7” which contains a trio of brand new songs that highlight how this release isn’t bringing down a curtain so much as lighting the way ahead for your new favourite band.

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All of the titles reviewed above were cleaned before playback using the ultrasonic record cleaning machine, Degritter. A full review of its capabilities can be found in a previous column and you can find local dealers at www.degritter.com

Words: Gareth James (For more vinyl reviews and turntable shots, follow @JustPlayed on Twitter)

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We’re back with the next episode of Decoded. Filmed in-studio, each episode sees staff writer and host Shahzaib invite a CLASH co-signed artist into his confessional booth, dissecting their creative process through a thoughtful interrogation of influences, themes and iconography. Previously we probed releases by KAM-BU and George Riley, and now East London musician Hak Baker joins us on the sofa for a close inspection of his project ‘Misled’. 

Released at the tail end of last year, ‘Misled’ captured the precarity of the moment. The EP’s six tracks are marked by bracing autofiction with Baker taking us back to his come-up in the Isle of Dogs, coloured by decisions made by his younger, more impressionable self, moving to the present where the shockwaves of deprivation and loss still reverberate.

A project that reconciles his grime origins with unadorned folky acoustics and atmospherics, Baker centres the people left behind by the institutions meant to serve us. His is a hard-won survivor’s tale.  

Baker shared why ‘Misled’ is an acknowledgement of the community that moulded him, the taxing process of creating during the pandemic and the influences he leaned on to share his truth. 

Sit back and tune into the conversation below…

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Photographer: Sean T. Kiilu

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Charlie Collins is one of a kind.

The artist's debut album 'Snowpine' won huge acclaim in her native Australia, a groundbreaking experiment in avant-pop.

Blurring together genre lines, Charlie Collins then hit the road, performing alongside the likes of Sam Fender, Orville Peck, and others.

An extended bout of touring alongside close friends Gang Of Youths took Charlie Collins to London, where she immersed herself in the city's creative communities.

p>Music came pouring forth, with Charlie asking questions both of herself, and those around her.

New album 'UNDONE' is the result, and it's out now, a charming mosaic of future-pop possibilities.

To mark its release, we chatted cultural pursuits with Charlie Collins for Culture Clash.

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TV…

OMG Love Is Blind is like a car crash I couldn't stop watching. It was awful and amazing at the same time – anything a little bit trashy is my guilty pleasure. I also haven't been able to shake trying to do the Anna Delvey accent since I watched Inventing Anna.

BOOK…

It might be cliche but honestly anything Hemmingway. Across the River and Into the Trees is an all-time favourite. One of my songs, Honey Can we Run Away is actually based on that book.

FILM…

I think I could quote White Chicks word for word – that film will never stop being funny to me. I also finally got around to watching Parasite the other day which I thought was absolutely amazing!

MUSIC…

Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline will always be my heroes and I could listen to them forever. I feel like no one writes songs like this anymore, where pure songwriting is at the heart of the songs. In terms of new releases, I've been listening to Gang Of Youths on repeat. The album totally takes you to another place and it's such a journey listening to it. I got to support them in the UK recently and their live show is just so captivating.

p>GADGET…

I'm actually so bad with technology! I don't even own a laptop and my managers have to show me how to look at my Google Calendar sometimes hahaha, but I did play a really fun game on the Nintendo Switch the other day called Drawfull. You basically get asked for really obscure phrases like "nose boogers on a paper plate" and everyone has to try to guess what it is.

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'UNDONE' is out now.

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Welsh born songwriter Hana Lili returns with new single 'Burden'.

The artist's debut EP 'Flowers Die In The Summer' landed last year, alerting fans to a new talent.

Softly assured, her quiet, almost minimalist approach had a touch of beauty to it that was thoroughly beguiling.

'Burden' continues her journey, and we're hearing aspects of mid 90s pop amid its 2k22 template.

Re-contextualising aspects of the classic to filter out the new, 'Burden' is about learning to open up.

p>Co-produced alongside Frank Colucci (JGrrey, Rose Gray), 'Burden' marks a new direction for Hana Lili.

She comments: “This song is about walking around with a big dark cloud looming over your head. It's about being afraid that if you talk about how you truly feel it might have a negative effect on the other person. Being honest, and opening up about your feelings is so important, but there is always a feeling of guilt, and an idea that you might be a burden on someone else.”

Harry Plowden directs the intimate visuals – tune in now.

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