AVANT POP ELISA AMBROGIO  The Immortalist (Drag City) ●●●●● Records | MUSIC

So imagine you are Aphex Twin, cruising around in his non-existent tank and contemplating a half-baked remix for some idiot band with more money than sense (#justafxthings), when you stop to realise that you are really going to have to make a new album at some point. Since 2001’s double album Drukqs, you have done a whole manner of bits

and bobs (his ‘Analord’ series of EPs, released under his The Tuss moniker etc) but the insatiable, feverish appetite for a proper, official Aphex Twin LP will not be quenched by such ditties. Then you (as AFX remember) realise the almost laughable weight of expectation and hype and you pull your tank into a layby and gently sob and then giggle manically. There’s an inordinate amount of nonsense surrounding Richard D James, from the deified musical reputation, to the microscopic examining of every gnomic utterance and the general air of mystery he has cultivated by often doing nothing at all. What’s enjoyable about Syro is that none of those external factors permeate the record. It’s a warm, playful, at times brilliant addition to his canon, into which it sits perfectly with no big palaver. No, it’s not the second coming or something that will radically transform the musical landscape. Instead, it’s superbly produced and layered and still has that trademark Aphex feel and sound: melodic, acid-tinged, and an album that reveals more and more with each listen.

Now bear with me here... During an interview in The Promise (the 2010 documentary on the making of his Darkness on the Edge of Town album), Bruce Springsteen is momentarily stumped while trying to describe the sheer hugeness of sound that he envisions for his songs when they’re first forming in his head, before he even attempts the painstaking process of erecting his sonic skyscrapers. Elisa Ambrogio seems to have achieved a similar hallucinatory monumentality on The Immortalist, her debut solo album for Drag City.  As incompanionable as they might first seem, there is something gloriously,

indefatigably American in both Springsteen and Ambrogio’s music. But instead of that gigantic 80s gated-snare drum, Ambrogio (also the singer in Connecticut’s underground rock trio, Magik Markers) opts for desolate rumbles of floor tom and roughly bowed cello to underpin her paeans to the fag-end of the empire. This is unnervingly rendered on ‘Kylie’ a frost-kissed wasteland of a song with fragmented, piano buttressing, forlorn guitar solos and Ambrogio’s oracular, half- sung vocals about ‘the substance expanding to fill the space’. While there is an impressive tonal unity to The Immortalist, there is also a range to the songwriting which is both adventurous and assured. On ‘Clarinet Queen’, Ambrogio pitches monochordal guitar over leaden drums and hushed vocals, like Kim Gordon on quaaludes. ‘Far From Home’ is a gorgeous, impressionistic piece that dissolves into the kind of coruscating feedback that the guitarist is more

Electronic artists suffer from an unfair and perverse expectation that they can simply recreate moments of previous musical majesty by just banging on a few of the same old buttons and conjuring up something great, but also familiar and unique. Syro doesn’t have a ‘Windowlicker’, but it still works beautifully because of its cocoon-like feeling of security and assurance, like a welcome mat into the mind of an enigmatic and bewitching musical talent. Pop in for an hour and enjoy the ambience. (Mark Keane)

readily associated with. Despite being one of underground rock’s most unique and formidable axe-wielders, The Immortalist starts with a vapour-trailing ‘ohm’ vocal which grows into a double- tracked / unison singing style that is one of the albums most distinct features. It’s a familiar technique, but here it produces the profoundly disorienting effect of sounding simultaneously intimate and loud. It is one of the many uncanny achievements on what is one of the, hands-down, best albums of 2014. (Alex Neilson)

EXPERIMENTAL BLUES WILDBIRDS & PEACEDRUMS Rhythm (The Leaf Label) ●●●●● R&B COOLY G Wait ’Til Night (Hyperdub) ●●●●●

Ever since the White Stripes demonstrated that a mere two-piece group could make an unholy racket, there has been a steady stream of recession-beating guitar / drums duos going at it hammer and tongs with varying degrees of success. But why stop there: what about a primal voice / drums set-up instead? Trust the Swedes, those custodians of forward-thinking popular music, to have

roadtested the proposition. Stockholm-based husband-and-wife team Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin respectively, the wildbird and peacedrum of this power outfit already have three albums, released in quick succession, under their belts, after forming in 2007. Their latest follows a four-year hiatus in which the couple undertook a blizzard of side projects, including solo albums, performance and production work, then set up their own studio in order to take care of every aspect of writing, playing and producing this album. Wallentin’s rich alto vocals would not be out of place on a modern R&B album never more so than on the old-school soulful ‘Keep Some Hope’ and neither would her husband’s rhythmic armoury.

But rather than coat their gutsy compositions in glossy, commercial production,

The UK Funky style of her earliest releases has been set aside on this second album from Londoner Merissa Campbell, one of the nation’s most innovative electronic producers. Instead, the follow-up to 2012’s Playin’ Me comprises twelve tracks of what the press release very appropriately describes as ‘bedroom music’. It’s a collision of styles, but amid it all there’s a defining aesthetic, and that’s Campbell’s breathy voice set to prowling, slowed-down, carnal beats. It’s tricky to recall the last time an artist made music so obviously intended for seduction without sounding either parodic or sleazy.

Witness ‘So Deep’, a grinding drum track with Cooly intoning, ‘it’s got so deep... I can’t sleep / cos of you, boy,’ or the bare bones 2-step of ‘Fuck With You’, or the minimal house snap of ‘I Like’. ‘I like the way that you kiss me / I like the way that you hold me . . . show me that you’re the one who’s in love now,’ she all but whispers on the latter. It is, like much of this record, about intimacy as much as it’s about sex a mature, unembarrassed and, most of all, fun commentary on the physicality of attraction, which doesn’t sit far thematically from Marvin Gaye in his later years.

the couple have kept it lean, recording together, side by side, in single takes for a much more organic and punchy sound. Rhythm has abstract moments such as ‘Mind Blues’ with its multi-tracked cooing, oriental percussion and something near scat vocals. But mostly, this is accessible, instinctive stuff. Even Within this theme, the album (released by Hyperdub, founded and run by Glasgow-born producer/ DJ Steve Goodman, aka Kode9) traverses moods and emotions, from the poppy ‘1st Time’ to the stripped-back bump’n’grind R&B of ‘Dancing’ and the minimal, almost Kraftwerkian proto-electronica of the

as Wallentin’s vocals follow the rhythmic patterns of ‘Ghosts & Pains’, the track develops into a bluesy worksong which is more earthy than experimental. She makes the most of her

tribal vibrato on ‘Who I Was’ and ‘Everything All the Time’, invoking the strong-minded likes of Buffy Sainte-Marie, Grace Slick and sometime collaborator Lykke Li in the process. Deploying a looser delivery across a number of lithe tracks, she also draws deeply and imaginatively on jazz and even gospel roots. (Fiona Shepherd)

title track. The moody, sweat- drenched sense of raw sexuality never lets up, but Campbell’s emotional range is broad within that, from ‘Your Sex’s insistent playfulness to ‘Want’s blatant rhythmic pacing as though it were soundtracking the act, and ‘3 of Us’, its tale of single motherhood the most wrong-footingly personal thing on here: ‘couldn’t figure how you would give up the best thing ever / a little baby / that shit amaze me.’ It’s a record which deserves to make her name far and wide. (David Pollock) 16 Oct–13 Nov 2014 THE LIST 77