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Test Pressing

2014 / New LPs

Into the New and I always find this one difficult. Last year it was because I didn`t really listen to a lot of Long Players, while this year has proved the opposite, and trying to cut it down to ten proved hardest. So I gave up.

Bing & Ruth, Mark Barrott, Gaussian Curve, and Andras Fox all put accomplished Downtempo / Ambient music out there. This was the year that International Feel boss Barrott announced his plans to cross over and take his label to the masses, and “Sketches From An Island” was launched from a ghetto of 100 handstamped whites and onto supermarket shelves with eye-catching artwork. The music distilled the best bits of Innovative Communication and Jose Padilla`s Café Del Mar tapes into something deliberately accessible. Gaussian Curve was a collection of one-take improvised jams that took place between Gigi Masin, Jonny Nash, and Marco Sterk (an ambient “supergroup” that someone called the “Balearic Travelling Wilburys”), one hot Amsterdam weekend, that acted like a classic score for Art House heartbreak, and that for me raised the question, “How long before someone in Hollywood recognizes Gigi`s genius?” In 2014, Mr Fox`s talent and success was in danger of getting him labeled “ubiquitous”; the same way they burned Weatherall in 1990. Part of a rising Melbourne scene, Andras seemed to share an aesthetic with artists like Sasac, Eleventeen Eston, and Greeen Linez who all made a cool 80s referencing instrumental Soul by lifting from Larry Heard`s “Sceneries Not Songs”, Kosmische and Japanese Jazz-Funk.

On a Funk tip, there was Moodymann, who sounded to me like he was bored of making House records, and at a point were he might stop self-depreciating and be upfront about petitioning for change in the Detroit community that he clearly cares so much about. While the beats still hit, this was about an Afro-American heritage of Gil Scott-Heron, Son House, Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield and Funkadelic. A shout also needs to go in here to the mighty Tackhead Sound System who released their first new record in 24 years; their message of city corruption and grossly misappropriated wealth has only become more prescient in their absence. The mysterious Central Executives turned in probably new House LP of the year. In two halves; the more vocal, think Dinosaur L, ESG, and then analogue minimalism, think any of Going Good`s roster (Moon B, Cloudface, Aquarian Institute), the former working best for me. “Dance, Dance, Dance” was the Scroggins girls with the Kid`s Coconuts at Jackie 60, and “Loveray `79” got aired a lot by me when in Tokyo (watch out for a Leo Mas & Fabrice remix in the new year). Ibibio Sound Machine were nothing if not Funk. Mixing tradition with current, a kind of taming of Shangaan Electro and highlights from Awesome Tapes From Africa. Being “stuck out” (in the nicest possible way) in the mountains I don`t know if they managed to cross over to Pop markets, the way the album and their live show deserved.

Roisin Murphy was Pop. AOP, adult orientated Pop. Classic Italian songs of love and loss covered with a sophisticated electronic intimacy. A hint at the pleasure of having a beautiful eccentric diva undress in your apartment, some of the tears, an idea of the pain. Enough for the imagination to be getting on with. BAR were Pop too. Kate Bush, Kurt Maloo, Claudia Brücken, Anna Domino all echoed in a style heavy travelogue inspired by L.A. and F.M. radio. Part of the art that revolves around Düsseldorf `s Salon Des Amateurs, the city jumped to the top of our list of places to visit (perhaps with the exception of Selvagem`s Sao Paulo).

Manchester`s Horsebeach also referenced an `80s. That of “shambling bands”, eloquent guitar jangle and NME`s C86. Perry Boys and tunes to accompany infatuation and obsession`s first scars. I could hear Manchester`s musical heritage in Kilsyth`s The Twilight Sad`s LP “Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave”. Stories from a stark monochrome city night at last orders, etched with the power and intelligence of Joy Division and the Stephen Street produced Smiths. The War On Drugs` “Lost In The Dream” was my only concession to American Rock, shrugging off my nostalgia for a time when indies were indies and my biggest worry was why nice girls didn`t like me, for another nostalgia of Dylan, via Tom Petty, Springsteen and The Waterboys “Big Music”. Visionary in as much as it sounded like the band were tapping into a cosmic through truth in order to transcend, to leave disappointment behind. A battle with sadness also drove Paul White`s “Shaker Notes”. The fight to be busy, to be distracted, forged a new blues from Francis Bebey, Aphex Twin, and Sun Ra. To be honest, it could have done with more lyrics, but “Where You Gonna Go?” said all it needed to with out them.

Live, this year, it was The Greg Foat Group.