Albums of the week

14.05.12 Words by: Charlie Jones

Girl Unit – ‘Club Rez’ [Night Slugs]
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Housed across two pieces of vinyl, this EP/mini-album marks the hugely anticipated follow-up to Wut. And it’s that track – one of 2010’s best – that hangs over ‘Club Rez’. Declining to produce a track as mindbogglingly instant as Wut chorus, it’s a series of tracks that sound as huge and bright as you’d hope, but with a smart construction and affectionate attitude key to Girl Unit’s production. Poised, simple and remarkably subtle, this is full grained power pop with a gleaming palette to match.

Body music without the brutality that so many of his peers lean towards, gregarious without being trite, this is music as vital and charming and unashamedly huge as any being made. There are easy nods to 80s soul strings and glances at hype dance styles like The Dougie, and his signature joyous mix of tension and release. It’s euphoric, clever dance music that injects some much needed colour into the rapidly grey-ing London scene, an easy yet unequivocal reminder to go back to the club. [CRJ]
Watch a trailer for Girl Unit – ‘Club Rez’ [Night Slugs]

Zulu Winter – ‘Language’ [Play It Again Sam Recordings]
Zulu Winter are a young guitar-wielding band in the new mould, taking the nu-Afropop of Vampire Weekend and bubbling dreamscapes of Animal Collective as accessible starting points rather than examples of impossible experimentalism. That said, there’s nothing unconventional about Will Daunt’s boy-next-door voice or the Maccabees-meets-Friendly Fires avenue of indie disco explored on ‘We Should Be Swimming’ or ‘Silver Tongue’. Everything is BIG on the strangely titled ‘Language’ – big splashy drums, big reverby organs and big multi-layered overdubs all work towards the level of epic that bands keep in mind these days when they imagine themselves on festival main stages. ‘Language’ doesn’t quite become more than the sum of its enormous parts, straining under the weight of their own expectations, it would seem. But still, if this is where we’re at with British guitar music right now – a band who post blogs about Georges Melies and Mikhail Bulgakov to accompany their massive tunes – then things could be a lot worse. [CR]

Stream Zulu Winter – ‘Language’ [Play It Again Sam Recordings]

Last Step – ‘Sleep’ [Planet Mu]
Compared to his breakcore moniker, Venetian Snares, Aaron Funk’s Last Step project is characterised by angular acid-techno bass loops and ambient cymbal percussion, similar to Aphex’s Analord series. Sleep is Funk’s third album as Last Step, and here he explores hypnagogic states as a compositional mode. Composed while Funk fell asleep, the album’s clean production has little in common with h-pop’s gauzy attempts at reifying the culture industry, and more with an engagement with Freud’s hypothesis that ‘becoming conscious and leaving behind a memory trace are [incompatible].’  As Funk mentions in a press release, ‘This is what I sound like in my sleep.’ In Freudian terms, Sleep is therefore a document of sublimation – a mapping of diversions from the substance of reality to a perception of it. Much like Actress’s RIP, it has its notable aesthetic antecedents in the Cubist movement. And while more conservative than Actress, Last Step is just as informed and innovative. [HW]
Stream clips of Last Step – ‘Sleep’ [Planet Mu] at planet.mu

Niki & The Dove – ‘Instinct’ [Mercury]
A poppified Fever Ray, a dancified Kate Bush, a funkified Grimes – Niki & The Dove is a little bit of all of these on her debut album, which follows her inclusion in the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll at the beginning of the year. Singer Malin Dahlström hits her stride most convincingly when she goes full-on Kate Bush, gurgly voice and colossal drums bursting through the speakers, and the opening duo of ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘The Drummer’ aim almost as high as the exciting odd-pop of those three forebears. But on tracks like ‘In Our Eyes’ and ‘Winterheart’, Dahlström and her band play it too safe, perhaps because they’ve got one eye on the charts and radio playlists, perhaps because they simply ran out of time and ideas on an otherwise varied album of complex arrangements and sprightly hooks. Still, this chilly Swedish pop makes an ideal sidedish to our British summer. [CR]
Stream Niki & The Dove – ‘Instinct’ [Mercury] at NME.com

Sebastian Tellier ‘MyGod Is Blue’ [Record Makers]
My God Is Blue is Sebastian Tellier’s fourth album of chanson-electro pop, and a repost to the French artist Yves Klein’s contention that blue was the colour of the void (which for Klein was also natural state of reality). Indeed, Klein’s aesthetics were an inversion of the philosophy of Blaise Pascal, who believed that, in a choice between the void and heaven, man must choose God. Here, Tellier inverts Klein and rejects Pascal’s spirituality. To this end, Tellier has two musical forbearers: Demis Rousos and Vangelis’s synth-rock band Aphrodite’s Child (along with its motifs of Christian salvation), and the irredeemable sinner, Serge Gainsbourg. Together, Tellier voyages through electronic disco, funk and prog, reconciling opposing influences, hinting at a mystical union with the past, and advocating the idea that absolute values such as ‘God’ and ‘utopia’ can be as real as the colour blue. First impressions diagnose Tellier with ‘retromania’, but look harder, and there’s an album full of originality. [HW]
Stream clips of Sebastian Tellier ‘MyGod Is Blue’ [Record Makers] at recordmakers.com