Friday 22 January 2021

Breaking the Barrier

Alex Colville - January (1971)

It's taken some doing, but I am happy to report that as of now (which will be yesterday when you read this) we have hit the point in blog restoration that there are more posts restored than are left in 'draft' status. It's a little milestone that I've been seeing slowly come closer thanks to the new Blogger UI, and a process that's actually been fairly painless for the most part, and not quite as tedious as I thought. The older posts I'm hitting now often need more work than usual so expect that to slow down a bit, but I'm pretty happy with the progress.

It's not just going to be me patting myself on the back though! I've returned to poppier tides for the first time since New Year's - after double checking I'd not talked about some of these already, I've picked out a nice selection of the vibe I'm feeling at the minute. Starting with another piece from Helen Marnie of Ladytron's first fully solo effort Crystal World, it has a bit of a similarity with their later output but still manages to carve it's own niche - it's very far removed from the early Ladytron I posted not too long ago at any rate. Submariner is far and away the longest track on the album at a weighty 7 minutes, but it makes excellent use of them as the production ebbs and flows throughout, building to crescendos that before slinking away to make room for crystalline breakdowns. And of course there's Marnie's vocals, as they were in Ladytron, an absolute joy to listen to.

And falling back in with ADULT. I've not talked about The Way Things Fall much at all really, (though that's partially due to me overdosing on their early work back when) which is a shame because it's a solid entry in their discography. I'd hesitate to call it a full on pop record but it's certainly one of their more accessible releases, a return to more melodic structures compared to the punky, nervous noise of the album before it - the suitably nihilistically titled Why Bother?. And for as much as I love the frantic stabs and shouted out vocals of tracks like 'I Feel Worse When I'm With You', I think I may like the more sedate side of this album a touch more. That's not to say that Nicola Kuperus doesn't get to inject the proceedings with a little bit of their trademark melancholy, the opening lines being "Will we live like this forever?". The production is stellar as usual too - the slightly retro electronic bias in me being catered to quite heavily for sure - there's some amazing melodic breaks and solos to change up the pacing, the real standout for me is that entire final quarter of Nicola dueting with the synths.

And finally, going back a fair bit to an album I planned to do a Retro Review of (That still might happen!) - Ford & Lopatin's Channel Pressure. The story of Ford & Lopatin is an interesting one - formerly known as Games, they made waves with in the chillwave scene with two EPs in 2010, my favourite being punnily titled That We Can Play - followed that up with some absolutely class and slightly Vaporwave mixtapes before having to change their name to Ford & Lopatin. Come 2011 they take part in the Adult Swim Singles program with a track that would appear on this album 'Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)' among others, dropped the album and then.... just kind of faded away. As we've heard nothing since 2011 I think we can assume that the project is over - both Lopatin and Ford going on to other things as Oneohtrix Point Never and Young Ejecta respectively.

It may have only been a short time they were around, but I can think of only a few releases they did that I didn't really enjoy. Channel Pressure is not one of them - a fantastic album, brilliantly executed and aesthetically on point in both audio and visual. I've chosen one of the tracks that I always thought was sorely overlooked. I didn't expect it to be, as it has a pretty wild video that dabbles in BDSM and some kind of strange VR torture(?), one that I fully expected to be a cult video like DyE's 'Fantasy' (Warning, incredibly NSFW). It's a little tricky to find these days, just googling it will give you a bunch of music blogs talking about it at the time with flash players that no longer work - I tracked it down via the production companies website in the end, you can watch it on Vimeo here!

I did want to talk about the video a little, before I even saw it, I Surrender sounded sensual to me (even if the video goes in a surreal direction with it) and it was a nice moment of serendipity - that thick, heady bassline sets the tone from the get-go and stands out as unique among the album's overall sound. The same's true for the whole thing really, Compared to the rest of the album which is mostly upbeat with abstract interludes sprinkled throughout, Surrender is a slow jam evocative of their earlier Vaporwave tapes - a trait shared with the track before it, the R&B styled Break Inside. The album is definitely worth a look if you like what you hear here - the whole thing is a love letter to an 80's style sound but without the now cliché trappings of other times that style's been aimed for.

Got a little longer than I planned at the end there, Here I was thinking this would be a short sharp one! Maybe I'll have to write out and edit that Retro Review after all! I'll be back soon enough with more - but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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