Music for a New Year
January is a terrible month; I'd happily elect to strike both it and February from the year entirely. But January especially. Here in London it's typically colder, rainier than December, with none of the comforts of the holiday season. The next bank holiday is as far away as possible in our calendar. And this year, I have an exam at the end of the month, to make it even worse.
But it also a new year, with all the incumbent feelings tied to a zero-point in our collective timekeeping, on top of the grey and the wet. So, here's a collection of things to soundtrack this most miserable month.
Paradis - Hémisphère / Coleurs Primaires EP
Moody dance music with pensive French lyrics is an immediate winning formula any time of the year, but especially now. My brother introduced me to Paradis over the holidays and I'm completely hooked on their sound. The closest point of comparison is probably Röyksop's album Melody AM; sleak disco tracks with breathy vocals coiled through them. Hémisphère in particular is my favourite, but their 2015 EP is excellent too.
Bibio - Fi
I always loved Ambivalence Avenue, Bibio's first record for Warp back in 2009, but nothing he's released since has ever really clicked for me. The elements were there, a blend of crisp beats and acoustic guitars, but I never really dug into his music. Until I stumbled across It Was Willow on a compilation, and got stuck with it on repeat one for days.
It comes from his 2004 debut, Fi, which was handily re-released towards the end of last year. It's much, much rawer than Ambivalence Avenue; most songs are built from nothing more than simple, looping acoustic guitar tracks with electronic beats and synths sprinkled in, and lyrics are completely absent. What's more, it sounds almost like you're listening to a disintegrating cassette tape at times, as the tones wobble and crack. But, it's rich with the woozy, organic atmosphere that Bibio's more recent work only seems to hint at. A must if you're a fan of ambient music; if you're not, just leave it in the background while you work and see what you think.
Archy Marshall - A New Place to Drown
It never ceases to surprise me that Archy Marshall (who you may know as King Krule / Zoo Kid) grew up like 5 minutes from me. Especially when it comes to his latest project, art book, short film and album A New Place 2 Drown. While I recognise all the locations, his version of south London doesn't always mesh with mine. But, his music has this absolute perfect tone for this city. It's cold, grey, distant; not every stereotype about London is valid but Archy Marshall has caputred the worst elements and puts them on display. My personal favourite is probably the album closer, Thames Water; a 'night bus' track if there ever was one, reminiscent of his excellent collaborations with Mount Kimbie.
DIIV - Under The Sun
I was kind of disappointed by the live show, but DIIV's first record is still a great example of... whatever you want to call the kind of music they / Real Estate / Beach Fossils / Wild Nothing do, and what I've heard from the 2016 follow up Is The Is Are lives up to that standard. Under the Sun feels kind of out of place in January, but I've always liked the contrast of hearing a 'summer jam' as far out of sync from summer as it can be.