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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