Just Played: A Column About Vinyl Records #53

Our in-depth look at the vinyl marketplace...

Despite the dizzying heights of May’s remarkable array of releases, June proved to be no slouch in terms of quality records hitting the racks. From true legends to acts you may well have never heard of before, there’s much to explore in this month’s pile. 

Freshly Pressed:

News of a new Bat For Lashes release may not provoke quite the fanfare it did in the past, but Natasha Khan’s meditation on motherhood, ‘The Dream Of Delphi’, is an intriguing prospect. The record is a mix of ambient passages and more conventional song structures, with a pastoral chamber feel to some of the piano expanses. The Kate Bush comparisons are arguably unavoidable on moments like the soaring falsetto of ‘Delphi Dancing’ and side two opener ‘Home’ is an immediately compelling account of initial time apart from a child. While many tracks have aspects of Khan’s voice present, few are fully-fledged songs. As a musical cycle it’s often very affecting, so it’s worth knowing what to expect before starting to listen as the conclusion of ‘Waking Up’ is worth the journey. Several coloured variants are available, but your correspondent sampled the fairly quiet standard black Pallas pressing. The mastering from Guy Davie is majestic and the Daniel Krieger cut delivers a substantial, dynamic soundstage that occupies the space in the room with ease. 

Having been a founding member of Suede, a superb producer and tremendous collaborator, Bernard Butler has returned to his very occasional solo career. After two albums in two years at the end of the Nineties, ‘Good Grief’ arrives a quarter of a century later. Following the curious decision to re-record the vocals of debut ‘People Move On’ in 2022, it’s clear that Butler continues to wonder about the purpose and power of his pipes. In a move that takes some acclimatisation, he’s now channelling an ageing American folk-rocker, evoking the slower-paced aspects of The Boss’ more recent work really rather often. The songwriting is decent and the arrangements are absolutely lovely, but trying to marry the voice with the name on the sleeve prompts some sizeable cognitive dissonance. The start of ‘Pretty D’ is especially extreme – almost funny, if I’m being honest – and it really highlights the power of what a listener brings to songs. Without weighty expectations, this is a rather genial reflection on the vicissitudes of life with robust, warm AOR arrangements and tracks like ‘Camber Sands’ and ‘The Wind’ are delightful. George Shilling has delivered an excellent mastering of Butler’s self-production, offering clarity and a broad, precise soundstage. The Optimal pressing is near-silent throughout and the initial run of 500 gold coloured discs comes with a signed print. 

Almost everything about ‘Water Still Flows’ by Rich Ruth is appealing. The album artwork is exactly the kind of thing that stands out when flicking through the racks and the hype sticker references a review describing it as “wonderfully bizarre.” The Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist is often loosely categorised as an ambient artist, but there’s post-rock and psychedelic jazz pretty prominent in the mix too. The final rabid phases of ‘Crying In The Trees’ seem to come from nowhere and they quickly subside into the luscious opening of ‘God Won’t Speak’. Mikey Young does a fine job of the mastering, ensuring the numerous gearshifts and sonic left-turns still have plenty of space in the soundstage. The only minor complaint concerns the matter of some surface noise at points on this Third Man Pressing-manufactured disc. Considering Jack White and his label’s prominence in the notional ‘vinyl revival’, it has been something of a frustration that discs from his plant aren’t impeccable. While it is mostly drowned out by the music, rustling passages are noticeable here and there. 

John Cale’s ‘Poptical Illusion’ arrives only a little over a year after 2023’s ‘Mercy’ and it’s his fourth solo effort since signing with Double Six through Domino. A fully electronic record, it calls to mind aspects of the 1990 collaboration with Eno, ‘Wrong Way Up’ and, curiously, Eno’s more recent work with Karl Hyde. Cale’s reverb drenched vocals retain an aching, often hymnal tone across twelve melodically inviting howls at the state of the world. ‘I’m Angry’ is one of the more sedate pieces despite its title while ‘Funkball The Brewster’ occupies a similar space to Bowie’s more experimental Nineties efforts. ‘Shark Shark’ is a fantastic racket, recessing his voice and foregrounding an emphatic, crunchy drumbeat while closer ‘There Will Be No River’ stuns with its wilfully jaded, distorted piano and ominous bass squelches. These are great tunes, with ambitious production and a complete disregard for what might be expected of an artist of his age or background. The soundstage is wide and deep, keeping a tight but welcome control of the bottom end and giving Cale’s vocals a resolute presence in the heart of the mix. A pin-drop silent Optimal pressing of this 2LP set only adds to the sense of it being a late-era treasure.

‘Flawed By Design’ is the debut solo album from former ephemerals frontman Wolfgang Valbrun. His name’s enough, right? You don’t need any further details, surely. An American who cut his teeth on the Paris circuit, Valbrun is now working with a largely Bristol-based bunch on a classic soul sound and they are tight. Perfectly timed for summer months, these tracks have a glorious strut to them with pitch-perfect arrangements. The piano sound on ‘Love Yourself’ is a dopamine hit all on its own and your correspondent cannot get enough of it. It is typical of the whole album, where precision work ensures numerous little moments leap and out and seduce the senses. Should you need further convincing, listen to the build of ‘Some Day’ or the scope of ‘Baptist’. The mastering from João Carvalho is sympathetic but with ample heft. There’s plenty of space in the mid-range, a vivid and palpable drum sound and aspects move out beyond the speakers. A near-silent Optimal pressing rounds things off neatly. 

The new Aurora record, ‘What Happened To The Heart?’- the fourth by this Norwegian artist – has finally made me sit up and listen to somebody very interesting indeed. If you ever wondered what would happen if Marina & The Diamonds had collaborated with The Cardigans, with an emphasis on ensuring a good quantity of bangers and the odd nod to more ethereal climes then wonder no more. Just listen to ‘Your Blood’ for the sense of a pure pop sensibility fully entwined with a melodic eccentricity and some gleeful production choices. Wait for ‘Do You Feel?’ to kick off and then try to follow all the different bits as they intertwine. In part a break-up album, there are moments of raw, sparse honesty like opener ‘Echo Of My Shadow’, closer ‘Invisible Wounds’ and ‘The Essence’, for which you should probably brace yourself. It’s a decent mastering for the 2LP edition, keeping the thuds of livelier tracks in check and giving excellent clarity around the vocals while allowing some palpable gearshifts when things veer off in unusual directions. The GZ pressing could be a little quieter, although the noise wasn’t consistent, so a bit of patience should pay off and it’ll be well worth the effort.

Having finally given the aborted TV special ‘One Hand Clapping’ a DVD release in 2010’s Archive Edition of ‘Band On The Run’, an expanded audio edition of this much-bootlegged Paul McCartney & Wings live performance finally gets an official outing, including several pieces that were never captured for the original TV film. Disc one is the intended running order of the programme, while the second appends the leftover material. Alex Wharton has mastered the set and cut the vinyl at Abbey Road, providing an open, expansive soundstage that reaches up and out from the speakers, with a particularly gleeful sparkle on the percussive elements and electric guitar parts. ‘Bluebird’, which commences side two is a technicolour delight, truly capturing the dynamic of the then-new line up for Wings. Listen to the opening of ‘Band On The Run’ or the crescendo of ‘Live And Let Die’ and you’ll get a sense of the magical chemistry evident. These are great versions and a genuinely excellent document of a much-desired moment in Macca history. Near-silent Optimal-manufactured discs are housed in coloured die-cut inners and purchasers from his official store could add to their package a six-track solo acoustic 7” recorded on the final day of the sessions.

While Crowded House aren’t quite at the Trigger’s broom or Sugababes stage of their line-up, only Neil Finn and Nick Seymour remain from the early days. The pair are joined by original producer Mitchell Froom and Neil’s sons Liam and Elroy for ‘Gravity Stairs’. After 2021’s slightly underwhelming ‘Dreamers Are Waiting’, it is especially pleasing to encounter an album awash with the melodic beauty and absorbing songwriting that so many of us have associated with the Finn name for many years. The gentle build of ‘Life’s Imitation’ is glorious, foregrounding a rich acoustic guitar presence, while Liam’s voice on ‘The Howl’ is, frankly, gorgeous. First single, ‘Oh Hi’ is pretty much peak Crowded House and be sure to pay attention to the swirling backing vocal parts. The five-piece are tremendously drawn via Bob Ludwig’s fine mastering, with a resonant, propulsive mid-range and a bottom end that is kept in check. The standard edition is on cloudy blue vinyl, so purists will just have to suck it up. It’s a GZ pressing and Just Played managed to get a fairly quiet one at a second attempt. The album deserves a silent background, but the soundstage is good enough to warrant giving this format your attention.

‘It Took Me So Long’ is an intriguing new album by Amnasti via Croatia’s PDV Records. It has electro-pop at its core, a sort of mid-tempo disco instinct that brings to mind Romy and Moloko. Several songs grabbed your correspondent instantly, with ‘We Said Everything Else’ possessing a rhythm that got under my skin within moments, swirling and bleeping hypnotically throughout. The title track is the real highlight though, crying out for the sort of Todd Terry or Boris Dlugosch treatment that elevated ‘Sing It Back’ to legendary status a quarter of a century ago. The repeating refrain of “it took me, it took me” cements it as an earworm and the tautly constructed programming connects bodily. Ana Ćurčin’s vocals are captivating throughout, varying significantly in tone and delivery as befits the songs. A near-silent pressing via Austrovinyl does these eight pieces justice, Micky Noise’s mastering keeping plenty of space in the top end in order to allow the moments of release to float upwards into the room. 

Continuing their trend of an album every three years, Goat Girl have just released ‘Below The Waste’ on Rough Trade. The rather visceral 2018 debut was followed by 2021’s tremendous ‘On All Fours’ and this new set is a further evolution of the band’s dynamic, angular sound. ‘Words Fell Out’ has rather hypnotic backing vocals and a mesmerising, ascending sythny wash, despite tackling a tricky personal situation, while lead single ‘Ride Around’ was apparently inspired by Philip Glass and Deerhoof’s awareness of space in their music, majoring on the impact of tension and release. Those two tracks are wildly different, while ‘tcnc’ has a far more confrontational, industrial sound to it. During side two, we get a pair of tunes that are basically folk songs, the equally splendid ‘Take It Away’ and ‘Pretty Faces’. Harvey Birrell’s mastering for this near-silent Optimal pressing is excellent, delivering intensity when required and conjuring intimacy at other points. There is a crystal-clear 2LP Dinked edition also available, described as audiophile, which spreads the forty-eight minutes of music over four sides, but the single disc cut does a very fine job as it is. 

Your correspondent has always loved the work of Georgia Ruth, dating right back to hearing early track ‘Bones’ via BBC Radio Wales’ new music mensch Adam Walton in 2011. Her fourth album ‘Cool Head’ is arguably her finest yet, which is no mean feat given the quality of what has come before. Named after a reassuring phrase her Dad always used to urge calm, it was written after her husband suffered with a serious illness. ‘Tell Me Who I Am’ shares its title with Ruth’s recently published debut novel and the central character ‘writes’ the song that appears on this record. It’s one of a number of sumptuous string arrangements on the album, the slow-build on ‘Chemistry’ and the frankly perfect ‘Better Off Blue’ chief amongst them. More delicate but striking is ‘Would It Kill You To Ask?’, a track which explores how adult friendships can crumble around the responsibilities and commitments that command our time. The mastering by Iwan Huws is glorious, capturing some of the best drum sounds I’ve heard in an age and positioning Georgia’s voice crisply in the middle of the room. The Vinyl De Paris pressing is pretty quiet, bar some opening rustle on sides B and D. 

Twenty years on from their debut, Man Man have just released their seventh studio effort, ‘Carrot On Strings’, via Sub Pop. Built upon a rapid five-day stint in the studio driven by frontman Honus Honus (Ryan Kattner) who “wanted things to be loose. My intention was just to knock it all out.” A surprisingly honest description of the process, but the vibrant, chaotic and propulsive sound of these eleven songs is proof that such methods benefit some artists. ‘Alibi’ is an especially triumphant track, the band finding the groove quickly and pounding piano driving it forward, but lead single ‘Iguana’ and ‘Tastes Like Metal’ are equally adept at conveying the spirit of this release. There’s hints of Spoon, Zappa and a less po-faced Tame Impala amongst these wilfully varied tracks. As a result, the mastering needs to be up to scratch in order to keep things flowing and, thankfully, we’re in the safe hands of Dave Cooley at Elysian. The mid-range is especially vivid, keeping the rhythm section nimble and the vocals pretty ferocious. Just Played sampled the Optimal-pressed Loser edition on translucent orange vinyl and it played silently throughout. 

Moving into the realm of spiritual jazz for his debut is Finn Rees, who has previously been associated with a more funk-oriented sound as part of the Melbourne scene in Close Counters. ‘Dawn Is A Melody’ emerges via Mr Bongo with sleeve art and typography that neatly evoke the sense of a vintage find. This expansive, intricate record unfurls and clambers all over four sides of 45rpm-cut Optimal-pressed vinyl. It sounds sensational, the build in the final passage of ‘Crossing’ a particularly fine demonstration of how exceptional mastering and a skillful cut can allow music to really soar. As a piano player, Rees is expressive and inventive, switching direction or backing off at unexpected moments. ‘Expansion’ and ‘Ablaze’ showcase the power of the arrangements and it takes several listens to appreciate the scale of this music. The discs were mostly quiet during playback and it’s very reasonably priced for a 2LP set. 

While you might recognise the name Margo Guryan, almost certainly because of 1968’s superb album ‘Take A Picture’, it’s less well known that she was part of a jazz course alongside Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry in 1959. Their teacher? Max Roach. While no record exists of Guryan’s compositions from this period, such revelations are included in a fantastic essay by Jenn Pelly that accompanies ‘Words And Music’, a 3LP box set celebration from collectors’ favourite Numero. If you’re familiar with her gorgeous chamber pop then the news that she had ignored the notion of writing music in that genre until being struck by The Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ will likely make sense, shimmering textures and sweeping harmonies subsequently being very much her thing too. 

Music from the now cult-classic solitary studio album is spread over the second of the three discs, mostly using the safety masters of the originals but with a few tracks now in their demo form as Guryan always preferred those incarnations. The first LP tracks those early years up to 1967’s endearing if rather sonically slushy ‘I Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Without You’. The delicious, squelchy rhythm section of ‘California Shake’ is just one example of the treasure trove of splendid material unearthed when later demos were first presented to the world just after the turn of the millennium following a Japan-led revival of her music. Cut at Nashville Record Pressing and manufactured by GZ, Just Played sampled the ‘Think Of Rain’ – or grey – coloured vinyl edition. The mostly silent discs are provided in poly-lined inners and sonics compare favourably to the not unpleasant mid-Noughties Sundazed reissue. Jessica Thompson provides an excellent and consistent mastering.

All Kinds Of Blue:

The Blue Note Classics for June are both modern titles and, therefore, mastered from a digital source. Kevin Gray is still in charge of the cut and these remain Optimal pressings in poly-lined inners, but there are those for whom the all-analogue chain is a deal-breaker. Aaron Parks’ ‘Invisible Cinema’ from 2008 is an often frenetic, piano-driven set, which will resonate with fans of The Bad Plus and Wayne Shorter. The original Japanese bonus tracks are appended on side D and ‘Memory Of A Flame’ is well worth its place alongside the main album. While clearly a recent recording, Gray has ensured plenty of precision in the mid-range and kept the top end pretty open. His mastering is of a similarly high standard for ‘Ten’, Jason Moran’s self-produced eighth album. As well as referencing its release in 2010, the title also marked a decade of the pianist’s trio, The Bandwagon – with Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Mixing originals with interpretations of tracks by Leonard Bernstein, Jaki Byard and Thelonious Monk, it is an irresistible listen and the moments where they truly lock in together, as on ‘Blue Blocks’, ‘Crepuscule With Nellie’ and ‘Gangsterism Over 10 Years’ are euphoric. Top sleeve art too.  

This month’s first Tone Poet is another from the Transition label, meaning the distinctive sticker on the rear of the sleeve and a replica paper booklet inside. This time, it’s ‘Watkins At Large’ by Doug Watkins, for which the bassist assembled a sextet including Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley and Kenny Burrell. The latter is especially energised across this recording and substantial opener ‘Return To Paradise’ provides a perfect opportunity for all assembled to take their turn in the spotlight. The subtleties of a breakdown where Watkins solos highlight the power of analogue recordings. A silent RTI pressing serves Kevin Gray’s cut very well indeed, this 1957 mono set sounding vibrant and full of depth. 

The other Tone Poet is ‘Inta Somethin’’, a Pacific Jazz title from Kenny Dorham & Jackie McLean. An already powerhouse pairing on trumpet and alto sax respectively, they’re joined by Walter Bishop Jr. at the piano, Leroy Vinnegar’s sharp bass playing and Art Taylor on the drums. This 1962 release was recorded live at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop and captures a quintet that barely existed beyond this album. The stereo soundstage is substantial, reaching far up and out of the speakers and providing so much three-dimensional presence for bass and piano notes alike. It’s a slightly mixed bag musically, ‘No Two People’ proving to be relatively light-hearted only for ‘Let’s Face The Music’ to unexpectedly take off, McLean in rip-roaring form. 

Going Round Again:

Having kicked off the year with a resumption of The Spaceman Reissue Program (sic), it’s now the turn of Spiritualized’s sixth studio album, ‘Songs In A&E’. Although mostly written prior to a near-death experience that inspired the title and refreshed artwork, Jason Pierce sensed that the songs fitted with this chapter of his life and returned to them after his recovery. Lead single ‘Soul On Fire’ tapped into his natural capacity for a sweeping, string-laden sound and there’s plenty of mid-paced, orchestrated beauty to be found here, with ‘Sweet Talk’, ‘Borrowed Your Gun’ and the bewitchingly fragile ‘Sitting On Fire’ particular highlights. A couple of more rowdy tracks make it in, as ever, ‘I Gotta Fire’ arguably the finest. Matt Colton at Metropolis has remastered the audio for this new vinyl edition and it just shades the original. While the improvement isn’t quite as pronounced as on ‘Amazing Grace’, the top end is less brittle and the mid-range has a touch more nuance. The GZ pressing is mostly silent during playback and comes housed in fairly sturdy inners, making up for the rather unappealing new cover. 

With New Order on another hiatus, Peter Hook took their early-Nineties sound and ran with it, teaming up with David Potts from previous project Revenge to form Monaco. The latter’s vocals aren’t a million miles away from the approach of one B Sumner and the opening track and lead single, ‘What Do You Want From Me?’, garnered substantial airplay in early 1997, just missing out on a top ten placing. Hooky’s inimitable bass style is all over it and euphoric synths are prominent throughout the whole of ‘Music For Pleasure’. Follow-up single ‘Sweet Lips’ also fared well on the radio with its mix of ‘World In Motion’ and Right Said Fred in disco mode. Peter Saville’s excellent cover art looks magnificent in this fresh Music On Vinyl edition, which preserves the original 2LP notion but makes the tracks budge up in order to squeeze in six bonus bits across the second half of side three and all of the fourth. An opaque orange pressing via Record Industry, the discs are largely quiet and the soundstage is sturdy. When working with a digital source from that era, you’re unlikely to get audiophile sonics, but things do reach a little beyond the rectangle of sound across the speakers. The mid-range and bottom end are somewhat intertwined but the electronic aspects really sparkle. 

Music On Vinyl’s reissue of the Honest Jons Bettye Swann compilation from 2004 has also made it to the racks after a slight delay. Following the same formula that had proved so successful with Candi Staton, the London-based label had pulled together Swann’s recorded work for Capitol and packaged it up for a whole new audience to discover. Much of this is country-soul and the assembled musicians deliver their respective A-games throughout in order to match the power of the vocals on display. ‘You’re Up To Your Same Old Tricks Again’ truly swings and her take on ‘Stand By Your Man’ casts it in a very different light. Mastering is open and nimble, providing plenty of detail across the soundstage and some notable space at the top. Two near-silent Record Industry-pressed discs are housed in poly-lined inners tucked inside a wide single sleeve. 

The David Bowie half-speeds continue with ‘Diamond Dogs’ marking its fiftieth anniversary with a gatefold black vinyl edition, replete with doggy bits but slightly washed out colours, and a picture disc for…well, who knows? These releases have consistently received positive notices and with good reason as there is evident care being taken with the masters.. As ever, this has been cut using a very high-resolution transfer of the restored original tapes without additional processing and, while this will upset the digital-on-an-analogue-format brigade, the results of this work by John Webber at AIR are impressive. Something about the drum thuds is always marginally better on a Seventies pressing, but there’s plenty to admire beyond that for this ambitious, strident, bombastic record. Comparing ‘Rebel Rebel’, the closing track on side one, is instructive, the new edition a very close second to a well cared for original. Where the 2016 cut could feel a little muffled on the mids at times, things are nice and open here, something also especially evident in the many gear changes of ‘Sweet Thing’. Vocals are sharp and guitars have plenty of attack across the whole album and it’s a pin-drop silent Optimal pressing. 

The giddy genre-hopping of the Proper/Universal catalogue reissue programme delivers the not unpleasant memory of the debut by Dirty Pretty Things, ‘Waterloo To Anywhere’. Emerging rapidly after the initial disintegration of The Libertines, Carl Barât’s new project was propelled into the spotlight by scorching first single ‘Bang, Bang, You’re Dead’, which still sounds enormous to this day. Jangly, hook-driven indie was the objective and they mostly succeeded. It’s not a classic, but ‘Deadwood’ and ‘If You Love A Woman’ hold up and the clattering racket of the band’s approach is well represented on this fresh GZ cut and pressing. The shrill crunch of aspects of the original digital mastering is tamed a little and the bottom end is well presented. Despite replicating the original artwork, the bonus 7” from the 2006 pressing – and the 2016 reissue – is not present. 

The same pair of labels are also dusting off some early Julian Cope, commencing with the 1984 debut ‘World Shut Your Mouth’. A safe tip-toe away from The Teardrop Explodes, it offered up string-assisted, psychedelic indie-pop that, thirty years on, still enchants and excites. While the song of the same name was still several years off, there’s some very fine songwriting present here. The record’s pair of non-chart-troubling singles are housed on the flipside, both ‘Sunshine Playroom’ and ‘Greatness And Perfection’ highlighting Cope’s tremendous vocal delivery, while ‘Kolly Kibber’s Birthday’ keeps the Graham Greene fans happy. The sleeve, inner and centre labels are meticulously replicated from the original and the GZ pressing is near-silent throughout. Mastering is good rather than great, with clarity and separation in the mids but a soundstage that is very palpably rectangular between the speakers. ‘Fried’ follows next month. 

The many delights of Craft’s Original Jazz Classics series have been centred around the all-analogue cuts, tip-on sleeves and silent RTI pressings, but a note of caution is needed for this month’s offering, Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane’s self-titled 1963 New Jazz recording. It leaps from the speakers, Paul Chambers’ bass and Jimmy Cobb’s drumming landing bodily during opener ‘Freight Trane’ and the soundstage is rich and vibrant throughout. Burrell and Coltrane are clearly having a blast and they understand each other’s roles intuitively – just listen to gargantuan final track ‘Big Paul’. Where the issue arises is on side one closer ‘Lyresto’, as some tape damage ensures a number of very noticeable dropouts. Clearly, the decision has been made to preserve the all-analogue chain and not interfere, but some listeners will find this a sufficient disincentive when it’ll set you back the best part of forty quid. It essentially comes down to your analogue purist credentials as to whether you wish to proceed regardless. 

A quick nod to a reissue from Madness for their recent release ‘Theatre Of The Absurd Presents C’est La Vie’ that is described as a ‘vinyl bookpack’ and presents a mixed-media expansion of the 2023 set. The whole record is present in CD form, along with a bonus disc containing five extra tracks and a sextet of live recordings from the accompanying tour. As well as some nicely designed lyric pages and photography, you also get the new tracks on a zoetrope picture disc and a special (though sadly noisy) flexi disc of their cover of ‘Friday Night, Saturday Morning’ which ties in with the dedication of the album to Terry Hall. It’s nicely done, even if just shy of £50 seems a little steep considering the amount of unreleased music. It’s a good use of the zoetrope format, deploying dancing mugshots of the band and it sounds pretty decent. The tunes don’t feel like cast-offs – especially ‘I’d Do Anything (If I Could)’ – and the mastering is fairly solid, despite some slight compression at the top end. As Czech Republic pressed picture discs go, this one sounds very quiet to me. 

At The Front Of The Racks:

What to expect when listening to the new album by Mike Lindsay, his first solo effort after great success as the co-founder of acid-folkers Tunng and one half of Lump, with Laura Marling? Well, ‘Supershapes – Volume 1’ is the first part of a series of releases that will explore, in his words, “the miraculous in the mundane.” Bleepy, synthy soundscapes were expamded after the involvement of multi-instrumentalist Ross Blake, whose woodwind and sax play key roles in a number of the tacks, and the vocal contributions of Anna B Savage. It is a curious, compelling and distinctive listen, with a particular focus on household objects and daily rituals. The centrepiece is, fittingly, the track ‘Table’, with some striking lyrics such as “All the conversations live inside this table”, “And who else smeared errant gravy off it with their fingertips?” plus the later query, “What does the table think of you?” Savage’s voice is exquisite, imbuing it with the power of a haunting, modern gothic tale and closer ‘I Was The Thief’ is a smoky farewell with a spectacularly mellifluous vocal and various glitchy, jittering textures chipping away at the enveloping atmosphere. 

There are notable, ear-catching threads to pull on across the whole album, including the cyclical nature of the record aping his work with Lump and the pushing and pulling of structures in and out of logical patterns, as on opener ‘Lie Down’. Crucially, the sonic presentation fans out like a rainbow above and beyond the speakers and has a hearteningly rich depth to it, notes decaying in the air before you and bass parts feeling like distinct shapes in the room. The cucumber green vinyl looks to have been pressed at Deepgrooves in Netherlands, although your correspondent can’t be certain. It doesn’t matter, as the pressing is near-silent and sounds sensational. It’s the new album you didn’t know you needed in your life. But you do. 

All 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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