Today marks the 40th anniversary of the seminal album Unknown Pleasures from short-lived and iconic Manchester post-punk group Joy Division. But it's also a Friday, which means unfortunately there'll be no 'Shadowplay' or 'Disorder' here. Instead, as always, we've curated a list of what we deem to be the week's best new music offerings. Today we've got some of the new Kate Tempest, Jordan Rakei, Bat For Lashes, Crumb and more.
Find the playlist below, along with some words on our particular favourites.
Kate Tempest – The Book Of Traps And Lessons
It’s a near-impossibility to digest and unpack any of Kate Tempest’s output in a matter of hours, but having only heard the album for the first time this morning it’s where I find myself. So here goes.
Tempest has previously spoken about how she sees her work in chunks, like constellations, collections (of books, plays, albums) that are thematically distinct but with relationships to one another and overlapping gestations. Last year’s book of free-standing poetry Running Upon The Wires was, she says, the first of the newest constellation, of which The Books Of Traps And Lessons also forms a part (along with a forthcoming play, and potentially a novel).
Something else Tempest has spoken of is the deep sense of security and courage that she has found from being in love. The aforementioned book was, in many ways, a departure from what had come before – more personal and tender than the ferocity of some of her earlier work, dealing with the heartbreak of a relationship ending and the joy of a new one beginning. This record, then, fits neatly into this new constellation; the overwhelming beauty of lead single 'Firesmoke' – “there is something in this tenderness that makes me want to live” – echoed at points throughout these enrapturing 45 minutes.
But be under no illusion that this new constellation is in any way devoid of the political themes we’ve come to associate with her work. The personal is political, as racism, consumerism, police brutality, gentrification, nationalism and more are continually addressed with characteristic perception, wisdom, inquisitiveness and occasional venom.
It’s easy to be dismissive of spoken word: to assume a certain level of pretension or draw comparisons with tired stereotypes of student types raging against the man. But Kate Tempest is truly one of the most authentic voices in British culture, and this album is just another reason why she deserves to be recognised as such. JK
Olafur Arnalds – partial + ypsilon (Max Cooper remixes)
At the centerpoint of Icelandic pianist Olafur Arnald’s neo-classical masterpiece re:member, which made our Best Albums of 2018 list, are ‘ypsilon’ and ‘partial’. Though the whole record seemed to exhale cold, peaceful air, these two tracks that seamlessly blend into each other, drenched in trickling synths and lush strings, were the most spacious and meditative moments before leading into the more intricate and galvanising rhythms of ‘undir’ and ‘ekki hugsa’.
Turning the astral and zen qualities of these songs not entirely on their head, but warping them with a new rhythmic skeleton, London-based producer Max Cooper has revealed a new remix of both, taking inspiration from club sounds twenty years apart. On his ‘99 remix of ‘partial’, a simple thumping techno beat pulses beneath the glistening synths that float above it, whilst on his ‘19 take on ‘ypsilon’, busy and glitchy beat chop and intersect the landscape to create a sense of groove whilst maintaining the track’s original sophistication. JB
Crumb – Jinx
It’s not unusual for city-dwellers to romanticise rural vistas, and Jinx presents itself like Crumb’s hypnotic, dreamlike solitary venture into a shrouded forest. Their developing craft is exhibited through dampened synths, subdued drums, and twinkling guitars, all densely layered beneath vocalist Lila Ramani’s celestial voice allowing her knowing, and at times jaded, lyrical prowess to breath above the canopy, only heightening the album’s overarching twilight sensibility.
Ramani’s balmy melodies share distinct similarities to Karen O’s softer efforts, so much so that I had to double-check that I was definitely listening to Crumb; it’s ten songs feel derivative of both the inquisitive brilliance of art-pop pioneers Stereolab and the hazy balladry of Mazzy Star, foraging select accents and textures from the golden-era of alternative music that spawned in the early 90s.
Likenesses aside, this indie-cum-jazz Brooklyn four-piece belong on their own entrancing plain, one whose bewitching quality you’ll struggle to resist. TC
Kate Tempest will play several festivals this summer, including Glastonbury and Bluedot. Click here to find out more.