Albums of the week

27.02.12 Words by: Charlie Jones

White Car – Everyday Grace [Hippos In Tanks]

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White Car is the project of Chicago EBM musician Elon Katz. At 22, he’s the youngest of Hippos In Tanks’ motley crew, and he shares with labelmates Hype Williams, Gatekeeper and James Ferraro a certain digital romanticism, weirdo humour and full sonic toolbar along with critical structure. Moving on from ‘No Better’, their first EP for Hippos In Tanks, the sound is far fuller, sometimes overly so – songs here mutate and shift like sci-fi flesh, sounding like the musical equivalent of David Cronenberg’s 1983 classic Videodrome or Total Recall’s high-concept hallucinations. And ‘Everyday Grace’ is a high-concept record, using the discordance of Ron Hardy mixes and the brutalist synths of Belgian new beat to make a vilely-shifting whole. At times this churning structure can grate, and as a whole, it feels like it’s looking for a theme and a melodic centre without finding one, but it’s a hugely compelling listen along the way. [CRJ]
Listen to clips / buy White Car’s ‘Everyday Grace’ [Hippos In Tanks] at Boomkat

Scuba – Personality [Hotflush]
At the time of going to press, Scuba’s latest Tweet was John Ciardi’s “There is nothing wrong with abstinence, in moderation”. It’s a nice quip, and it says a lot about Scuba’s album and career. Paul Rose, ex-pat Berliner and head of Hotflush Records, has made a career out of standing out of step with dubstep’s madding crowd, from leaving his London home at the height of the first wave to pushing dubstep’s minimalism into ever-more-freezing depths when his sound was entering the maximalist phase, with 2010’s ‘Triangulation’. Now, he’s taking aim at the dreary anonymity and puritanical urges that characterise so many of his followers with an album, literally titled ‘Personality’, that breathlessly tumbles through genre and feeling with an all too often absent sense of fun. Everything in moderation, especially moderation, Scuba’s personality is one of electronic music’s most compelling. [CRJ]

School Of Seven Bells – ‘Ghostory’ [Full Time Hobby]
New York band The School Of Seven Bells have slimmed down to a duo of Benjamin Curtis and vocalist Alejandra Deheza. Ironically for a band whose earlier albums were masterclasses in quiet, eery builds, this album is a victim of its volume, sounding louder than it needs to without the subtle structures of their earlier albums. Still, there are some nice tunes on it, especially towards the second half, and while a band making big electro pop is hardly the most radical idea in the world, it’s still a pretty decent record. [CRJ]

Gang Colours – ‘The Keychain Collection’ [Brownswood Recordings]
At surface glance Southampton producer Will Ozanne aka Gang Colours circles the same musical territory as Mount Kimbie and James Blake, contemporaries he’s expressed admiration for in interview. While there are many threads that connect them, Gang Colours steers his appreciation of patchwork texture and an emotionally reflective tonal palette into poppier waters – most finely illustrated by album closers Fancy Restaurant and On Compton Bay, both of which feature Ozanne on vocals. Written and recorded during Ozanne’s final year of university, ‘The Keychain Collection’ is a diverting and accomplished debut that grows in stature with every listen but, excitingly, his best work is undoubtedly ahead of him. [RS]

BODY GUARD – ‘SILICA GEL’
No other artist personifies the times – or maybe the popular discourse of our times – like James Ferraro. The “it’s everything time” Gang Gang Dance quote he sampled on his BEBETUNES mixtape and has now made his own summed it up best: the 24-hour rolling new-ness of internet culture in one neat Nike-like tagline. Ferraro’s new project is a band called BODY GUARD and, while the data flows in a similar direction to BEBETUNES, this first taste via the group’s first mixtape ‘SILICA GEL’ (incidentally named after those little bags of clear beads that preserve the quality of leather goods during storage by absorbing any humidity) is altogether more focused: patterns peak through the chaos, flicker into melody only to sink back into the flow once again. That’s not to say the head-rush that characterises Ferraro’s work is softened – there’s still lots to bug out to here – but it suggests a determined shift of vision. For now at least. [RS]

Xiu Xiu – ‘Always’ [Bella Union]
The theatrical abandon that Kate Bush embodies and that Wild Beasts and The Arcade Fire reach for is something that Californian art rockers Xiu Xiu have in spades. ‘Always’ is their ninth studio album in ten years and at its most extreme moments at either end of the scale – from the self-consciously provocative I Luv Abortion to the quiet closeness of ballad The Oldness – it impresses but falls short of satisfaction. But it’s when singer/songwriter Jamie Stewart’s urgent desperation is tempered by the sweet, almost naïve calm of Angela Seo’s vocals on Honey Suckle that I get genuinely excited. I just wish that balance, that chemistry, had infiltrated more of ‘Always’. [RS]
Listen to Xiu Xiu – ‘Always’ [Bella Union]

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