New albums from Circuit des Yeux and Bonobo

Circuit Des Yeux, Io

Io is the sixth album from Haley Fohr in her guise as Circuit Des Yeux. And it succeeds somehow in marrying and merging her twin terrains of grunge folk and experimental rock, and in a way that manages miraculously to evade any hint of pretentiousness. 

The result is an album that sounds like extracts from an imaginary rock opera. But instead of arousing the usual dread and embarrassment that those two words traditionally evoke, it moves and impresses in equal measure. 

Listening to Fohr’s imperial baritone channelling Diamanda Galás, scaling who knows how many octaves, as the strings reference mid 70s ELO, you imagine a David Byrne production, but at an off Broadway venue in a yet-to-be gentrified seedy side of town.

An album born in melancholia, the resulting music soars. 

Bonobo, Fragments

Fragments is the first album in five years from the LA based British DJ slash producer Si Green, who releases albums under the moniker Bonobo. And almost everyone agrees that it’s a wonder to behold and as joyous a way to usher in the new year as could possibly be wished for. 

NPR’s All Songs Considered, the Guardian, the Independent, UK and Irish, NME et al. Only those perennial scrooges at Pitchfork held out, giving it a curmudgeonly 5.4 out of 10, here.

St Germain’s Tourist

The album starts out promisingly enough, and sure enough, tracks 2, 3 and 4 do indeed seem to promise that much needed and proverbial tonic. T3, Rosewood, even hints at the kind of hoped-for ubiquity that Rose Rouge, the opening track on Saint Germain’s Tourist achieved when it was released in 2000, and which it seemed to maintain well into the following year and beyond.

But after those first few tracks, Fragments sinks into mid- and increasingly slower tempo fare. And very quickly, you quietly drift off. 

If you find yourself at a club where Green is spinning his discs, you’ll enjoy his use of those first few tracks as part of his set (and perhaps track 8…). But there’s absolutely no need to sit down and listen to the rest of the album. I’m afraid the boys from Pitchfork get that one right.

You can see the video for the opening track on Circuit Des Yeux’s Io, the Vanishing, below:

And here, if you need it, is a reminder of what St Germain’s Rose Rouge sounds like:

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3 albums you might have missed.

St Germain, St Germain

St. Germain

St. Germain.

If you went to a house party, anywhere, any time during the first decade of this century, you will at some point in the evening have heard the lead single, Rose Rouge, from St Germain’s second album Tourist (you can see the video here) wafting from one of the rooms.

It was when you think about it a surprising recipe for success. A cerebral album constructed of layered tracks made up of acid jazz and obscure blues and RnB samples, all put together with painstaking precision.

Unsurprisingly Ludovic Navarre who is St Germain was somewhat taken aback by the 3 million units his album shifted, and he slipped back into the shadows as he tried to work out what to do next.

What he did was to dive into the heart of Africa where he’s lived for the last decade or so, soaking up their rhythms and the result is this, his eponymously titled third album. It’s as meticulously pieced together as the previous pair, but the result is far more organic sounding.

The emphasis here is on the beguiling melodies and musicianship of Mali, so that whatever’s sampled slips seamlessly in under the radar. If you haven’t been introduced to the majestic Éthiopique albums and haven’t been following what Damon Albarn, Brian Eno et al have been doing in sub-Saharan Africa then this is a great place to start. Either way, this is a pleasing addition to what is, happily, an increasingly crowded terrain. You can hear the single Real Blues here.

BOOTS, Aquaria

BOOTS, Aquaria

BOOTS, Aquaria

Boots produced and wrote the four best songs on Beyonce’s self-titled fifth album, as well as producing the third ep from this generation’s Spice Girl FKA Twigs – she’d have been dubbed Pretty Spice had she been there first time around. But he’s significantly more interesting than that would suggest. And Aquaria is his debut album.

Rather than either of the above, the person whose presence is most keenly felt here is, happily, that of his co-producer El-P. There is a nervous energy and agitated, sonic inquisitiveness that is matched by the enigmatic nature of the lyrics he produces.

David Bowie, any excuse for one final salute.

David Bowie, any excuse for one final salute.

Like Bowie, Burroughs, Thom Yorke and many more besides, he uses the cut-up technique of deliberately fragmenting phrases as an avenue into the subconscious.

Unfairly overlooked on its release – though not by The Independent’s ever reliable Andy Gill hereAquaria is a constantly questing, substantial debut album.

 

The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, Beauty Will Save the World

Between 1987 and 1993 the impeccably named RAIJ produced two albums and a couple of eps. And that was that. But then at the end of last year, Lars Gotrich heralded the arrival of this their third studio album on the mandatory All Songs Considered podcast (reviewed earlier here).

The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, Beauty WiIl Save The World.

The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, Beauty WiIl Save The World.

Middle Eastern vocal arabesques sit on north African rhythms, medieval plainsong and Baroque dirges mingle with post-Romantic, Satie-esque piano motifs, found sound recordings from the American Bible belt slip in and out of focus recalling the pioneering work that Byrne and Eno did on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which in turn had been borrowed from Steve Reich. But instead of being viewed with the studied, detached disinterest of the New York avant garde, speaking in tongues is presented as something to be secretly hoped for.

If the phrase hadn’t been so hopelessly overused, you’d describe this as the ultimate chill-out album. Imagine if The Penguin Café Orchestra had gone into a recording studio with a bag of magic mushrooms, and the results had been released on 4AD. Beauty Will Save the World is as richly eclectic, musically sophisticated and sonically satisfying an album as you could hope to get your hands on.

You can read Lars Gotrich’s interview with them here. And you can see the video, all 9 minutes of it, for the track they discuss here.

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