Album of the week: The xx – ‘Coexist’ [Young Turks]
So much of Coexist is about people learning to live with and without each other, and that feels like an appropriate theme for a band with relationships at its very core, and for an album that has been pined and yearned for since its predecessor was released. Co-dependency is a fine, delicate line to tread, in life and music, but Olly Sim, Romy Madley-Croft and Jamie Smith, by taking their time over the production of Coexist, have proven themselves to be masters of walking it. Despite their personal evolution in different directions, with more technical trickery, more vocal experimentation, and more steel pans, the band have managed to artfully direct their separate, personal discoveries into a cohesive, collaborative channel.
This means that Coexist is a more adventurous album than xx, because it takes greater steps to marry its form and content. With Romy’s wails (both singers are more inclined to break free of their trademark staccato simplicity on this album), contained and contorted so it seems that they inhabit an entirely different space from Oliver’s in ‘Missing’, it’s clear that the band are taking greater steps to really inhabit their music, and bring it to life in production, but still without losing sight of their sparse and sweet origins. Lyrics like the unshakeable hook of ‘Angels’ (“being as in love with you as I am”) prove that the group have not yet lost sight of the cutting, crucial essence of what made their debut so sensational.
Jamie’s personal evolution of sound is also obvious on this record; the distant, ghostly beats he creates are much more prominent and aggressive, lending a feel to the album of being stood outside of the party, feeling the distant pressure of others having more fun. This is an album that is more touch with the world around it, and more aware of what it is doing, than xx was – whether that means it is better than the arresting, stark charm of xx is uncertain, but it certainly is bolder. [AC]
Gwilym Gold – ‘Tender Metals’ [Web]
Gwilym Gold’s debut album is unlike anything you will have heard before – and, no matter how many times you listen to it, it will remain unlike anything you have heard before. This is down to the brand new technology at its core, the Bronze format, a mode of listening devised by Gold and his collaborator Lexxx, designed to ensure that you never hear a song the same way twice (available for the iPod touch, iPad and iPhone). Because of this album’s unique qualities, it seems pointless to describe the way it sounds; after all, even its greatest moments come tinged with the wistful knowledge that they are unrepeatable. What it does undoubtedly offer, though, in any format, is an astounding voice, some subtle genius, and the shiver-inducing knowledge that the experience of listening to it is completely, totally individual.[AC]
Mala – ‘Mala In Cuba’ [Brownswood]
It seems fitting that one of the true pioneers of the dubstep sound – as a revolutionary, evolutionary meditation on dub culture – should release his first solo full length album after a life-changing journey. Mala’s work on his DMZ and Deep Medi labels has given us some of the most commanding examples of how the dub sound can be reformed and take the listener to the most unexpected of places, and Mala’s ‘Mala In Cuba’ LP takes this journey as both literal and metaphorical. Born of a trip to Cuba with Brownswood label head and tastemaking DJ Gilles Peterson, ‘Mala In Cuba’ pulls together Mala’s gift of percussive arrangement and the unwaveringly sensual rhythms of Cuba to give us potentially his most naturalistic and tactile work to date. The darkness of the quintessential DMZ sound shivers and shuffles amongst the warm vocal samples, echoing brass and well-placed piano loops to evoke the movements and sensibilities of Cuban musical culture whilst retaining his own unique style. ‘The Tunnel’ weaves a pulsing DMZ bassline into rapidfire samples of live instrumentation and rising synthlines, the hollow metallic percussion of ‘Changuito’ is layered into a driving, flattened bassline and interspered with a chilly, distant trumpet hook, and ‘Curfew’ curls from head to toe with its playful piano and samba drum patterns until the pounding bass kicks in – and the curls become full-bodied sways. This is deeply affecting, physical music, and a full length album that can only grow with each listen. [LM]
Groundislava – ‘Feel Me’ [Friends Of Friends]
‘Feel Me’, Groundislava’s new full-length, sits halfway between a stargazing, 80s-indebted pop classic and a lo-fi bedroom jam. Some of its songs aim for sweeping – Olympia 2011, with its glowing synths and stadium-filling toms, is like a minimalist take on M83, whilst album standout TV Dream is a woozy, heart-on-sleeve pop song, and an absolute belter at that. But often, the clean synths and tinny drum samples that the record is built from seem restrictive. That’s not to say there’s a problem with the music – Groundislava asserts his sound confidently over the course of the album, whilst the chord progressions and structural arrangements are far more considered than most most loop-centric bedroom producers. There are some missteps – namely, the tracks which take modern electronic music as their focus, such as the misplaced trap-via-house of Living Under A Rock, or Cool Party (a bare bones reinterpretation of brostep complete with ‘ohmygods’ and ‘holy shits’) – but these aren’t bad songs in themselves, they just don’t seem to belong when compared to the album’s poppier moments. All this sounds quite critical, but ‘Feel Me’ really is a good album, at times great. It’s more an issue of perspective, really. One might wish for it to have been streamlined into an outright pop record, but one might simply appreciate it as a pop record respun by a post-internet kid who grew up on video games. And who knows what the future holds? After Hours, for example, could have easily appeared on Metronomy’s ‘Nights Out’, and that band managed to move in a resolutely overground direction without sacrificing the inherent oddness at the core of their sound. [SB]
SpaceGhostPurrp – ‘Mysterious Phonk – The Instrumentals’ [4AD]
SpaceGhostPurrp is a rapper and producer behind one of 2012’s strongest albums. As well as standing at the head of one of 2012’s most secretive and fascinating instituions, he’s literally created his own hieroglyphics of rap history, combining elements of Southern gothic literature, Miami bass and DJ Screw to forge a sonic and lyrical world dark, absorbing and unique.
His debut came out earlier this year on 4AD, who re-mastered cuts from previous free mixtapes ‘NASA’, ‘God Of Black’ and ‘Blackland Radio’. Where once these tracks were lo-fi and oppressive, the polishing process made the sonics glitter, revealing sublime hidden depths in the dark, gleaming tracks.
Now, 4AD are releasing this album as a free download and limited edition vinyl album. Free from SpaceGhostPurrp’s raps – however absorbing they are – the tracks are revealed as the mini-masterpieces they are. Standing between the functional funk of the humid body slam of southern jam music and the obsidian-souled star-eyed pieces that they are, it’s an astounding listen which counts as one of the year’s best instrumental albums of any genre. We are are proud to host the download of this minor psyche masterpiece, and hope you enjoy it as much as we do.