MUSIC | RECORDS ALBUM OF THE ISSUE
ELECTRO / R&B SUDAN ARCHIVES Athena (Stones Throw Records) ●●●●● Sudan Archives has always walked her own path. Releasing two startling EPs, this violinist-songwriter moves effortlessly from left field electronics to lush R&B, avant classical aesthetics through to the breathiest of sensual neo-soul.
AMBIENT ELECTRONICA A WINGED VICTORY FOR THE SULLEN The Undivided Five (Ninja Tune) ●●●●●
The idea that such a thing as a supergroup may exist in the world of ambient electronica is an unexpected one; or certainly it has been until as far back as Brian Eno and David Byrne uniting on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts back in 1981. Yet while A Winged Victory for the Sullen – American producers Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie – aren’t anything like the foundational personalities which those pair proved to be, their combined CV can only be described as mighty.
Both have decades of previous experience in highly regarded groups, Wiltzie with ambient duo Stars of the Lid and O’Halloran with the atmospheric rock group Devics. Their individual film score work includes The Theory of Everything, Arrival (both Wiltzie, with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson), Marie Antoinette, Lion and the television series Transparent (the latter pair grabbed O’Halloran Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy win).
Debut album Athena All of which builds up a certain expectation for The Undivided Five, a very loose
offers all of this and more, a startling inventive record whose deft emotional resonance asks powerful, timely questions while also dealing with painfully personal issues. Lead single ‘Confessions’ is all sliding strings and hypnotic vocals, while the gorgeous neo-soul wonder ‘Limitless’ locates zero-gravity songwriting within its digital fixation.
Athena is a record crammed with deft allusions, sudden about- turns, and unexpected dalliances. Having worked solely with producer Matthewdavid on her earlier EPs, the Los Angeles artist broadens her palette considerably on her debut full-length project, mixing studio time with producers Washed Out, Rodaidh McDonald and Paul White.
The result is a broad yet remarkably cohesive record, one that is
elastic in sound but stunningly precise in its execution. Openly emotive highlight ‘Iceland Moss’ has a painterly touch, Sudan Archives’ vocal aching with an all-too-real sense of pain as she murmurs, ‘You’re just like my father . . . ’
Painstakingly constructed – Sudan Archives inserts two 30-second sketches to split the record into an exploratory triad. A dazzling technical achievement, perhaps the most imposing aspect of Athena is the lingering emotional impact it carries within its core through the brave, highly revealing songwriting Sudan Archives inserts underneath her tantalising aural mosaic. A record to be savoured. (Robin Murray) ■ Out Fri 1 Nov.
concept record based upon the number five and the duo’s shared admiration for the work of Claude Debussy. In a very 21st-century take on the idea of composition, orchestral samples were recorded in Budapest, while the producers did most of the work individually in their Berlin and Brussels studios.
The results are anything but isolating; from the simple piano chords and the aching synthesiser strains of the ten-minute ‘Our Lord Debussy’, to the sedated violin lines of ‘The Slow Descent Has Begun’ and the slowly drawn-out
movements of ‘A Minor Fifth is Made of Phantoms’, this is music which rewards patience with big sweeps of emotional power. ‘Adios Florida’ is the closest the record gets to an actual melody, while the sombre piano lines of ‘Keep It Dark Deutschland’ are the least electronically treated and most organic. This is neither music to pump the adrenaline nor plan a party to, but for those who can bear its reserve, it offers great depths of feeling. (David Pollock) ■ Out now.
DANCE / ELECTRONIC ZIÚR ATØ (Planet Mu) ●●●●● ALT-POP BOSSY LOVE Me + U (Self-released) ●●●●●
ATØ – the somewhat cryptic title of Berlin-based producer Ziúr’s second album – is actually a simple description of what this work is. ATØ is an acronym which stands for ‘The Alliance to Take Over the World’, which Ziúr plans to do with an album which she describes as ‘a network of intersectional support, a network of mesh to help us through these dark times’. With her second release, Ziúr is covering a lot of heavy themes, and this music is appropriately maximal and extremity-reaching. As with her debut full-length record, 2017’s U Feel Anything?, ATØ is based
on the idea of contrasts. Nothing can be harsh without the existence of its antithetical softness, and the tracklist explores this dialectic: the chaotic agitation and trip hop beats of ‘It’s Complicated’ are immediately followed by the cavernous synths and spectral, almost child-like vocal of ‘I Vanish’; the deep, acoustic drum groove and unsettling wails of ‘Life Sick’ precede chirpy marimba and collaborator Samantha Urbani’s FKA Twigs-esque pop vocal on ‘All Lessons Unlearned’. Alarm sounds blare above thrashing, militaristic dhol drums, and dense walls of sound are pierced by haunting melodic lines, in deconstructed club music that is clearly influenced by the avant-garde industrial and noise music Berlin’s history is steeped in. At times the incessant agitation of ATØ is exhausting, and even the moments of space, such as guest vocalist Ash B’s response to betrayal on ‘F.O.E (Friendship
Over Ego)’, are restless and on edge. But this unrelenting tension reflects Ziúr’s frustration with the turbulent state of the world right now, and her will to use music as a force for change. This is an alarm bell, a call to arms, and an example of electronic music being framed as politically and socially engaged, whilst retaining its danceable moments. In the producer’s own words, ‘the record is not here to please, but to disrupt and to connect us in solidarity.' (Kate Walker) ■ Out Fri 15 Nov.
110 THE LIST 1 Nov 2019–31 Jan 2020
Pop lovers can rejoice today. At last, after a slew of anthemic R&B-inflected singles released over several years, Bossy Love have delivered their debut album Me + U. Having built up a reputation for high-energy, high-impact live performances, this is a welcome dive into the Glasgow-based duo’s stylistic range, which swings between catchy pop hooks and heartrending melodies.
Nostalgia for the 1980s has reached fever pitch in pop culture of late, and
our affection for the synthesiser-heavy era raises its head again in Bossy Love’s opening track. From the first splash of synths, ‘Girlfriend’ sounds like it would be just as much at home in the opening credits to Sixteen Candles – or the neon decade reboot that was Stranger Things third season – as it is on a 2019 pop album. It sets a wistful tone, resembling the hazy heady days of an early crush before Amandah Wilkinson cuts in with the opening line, ‘I was like, what the fuck?’. It’s a suitable primer for the rest of the album, which contrasts a relationship’s
euphoric honeymoon period against the hurt in its eventual demise. Yet Me + U is less about heartbreak and more about perseverance when a relationship ends. We see the determination to overcome obstacles for a long-distance relationship in ‘Foreign Lover’, a last ditch effort to salvage a bond in the title track ‘Me + U’, and the resolve to get up again when things don’t work out in the closer ‘Girlfriend II’.
All the while emotionally raw lyrics come embossed with infectious tempos. John Baillie Jnr knows how to set a mood, moving seamlessly between anticipatory synth and emotive crescendos. These come to a climactic head in the closing track 'Girlfriend II', which delivers Wilkinson’s singsong harmonies with a multilayered undercurrent of chimes, claps, and low-end bass. The result is a joyful first album, capturing some of the power stance energy that exudes from Bossy Love onstage while also offering something more intimate. (Becca Inglis) ■ Out now.