Well, we do have a selection of Manchester’s finest this week with both Talking Drums (with Neil Diablo) and Space Afrika laying at complete opposite ends of the dynamic spectrum, the former a midday beach-bar vibe (maybe moving in to early evening), and the latter beautifully soundtracking an eyes-closed home-listening session. If you need something between the two then the psychedelic groove of Goat’s unheard b-sides and non-album stormers ‘Headsoup’ could be right up your alley. The plucked acoustic guitar reverie of Steve Gunn or the wonderful who’s-who triumph of Big Red Machine are both excellent too, covering all the bases from soaring full-band heft to brittle stripped-back reverie.
We’re rarely short of music to listen to, honestly but this really is a great week for Manchester music and another load of reasons to get down to the shop for a weekend browse!
Goat – Headsoup
Since the incendiary outpouring of righteous fuzz and lysergic bliss that was ‘World Music’ waaaay back in 2012, Goat have commanded both confusion and adoration in equal measure. In a bit of Slipknotty move, they all wear masks, but they tend to take the form of traditional and feathered garments rather than nightmare-inducing fetid nightmare tackle of the ‘knot. So to this, their first collection of outtakes and unheard b-sides. It’s become a bit of a trope to say that it’s a testament to the quality of a band if the unheard material is *this* good, and this worthy of a full release, but with Goat, it absolutely rings true. It’s less linear than the LP’s which you’d expect, but in many ways the variety of music on offer further proves their undeniable worth as a musical force, oscillating from hypnotic driving psychedelia to more floaty airy haze with ease.
Steve Gunn – Other You
There’s a beautiful flow to Steve Gunn’s music, weaving acoustic and electric guitar around a swirling core of rolling bass and snappy percussion, and on this his 6th full LP, it couldn’t be more well done. The husky, perfectly pitched vocals of Gunn are ever-present and more silken than ever, providing melodic counterpoint to the slowly unwinding audio narrative. From the title track (in an absolute rogue move, the eponymous track is the FIRST on the album!), it becomes immediately clear that all of Gunn’s proggy songcraft is still intact, and is unhindered by global malaise, coming across as a tonic rather than a reminder of the stresses of life. It’s beautifully poignant and richly rewarding listen.
Big Red Machine – How Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?
Aaron Dessner of The National, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, Anais Mitchell, if this sounds like i’m reading a list of chart entries, it’s because Big Red Machine are connected VERY well to the modern indie music landscape. BRM is in fact just Vernon and Dessner (Plus the Big Red Drum Machine on percussion duties), but have managed to pull in a wealth of perfectly chosen collaborators to lend their unique sounds to a number of these pieces. What we essentially have are a number of wonderfully written, thoughtful indie anthems, ranging from slower, more thought-provoking pieces to uplifting spine-tinglingly gorgeous swooners. It’s not hard to believe that this calibre of artist would come up with something good, but *this* good? Absolute stunners.
Neil Diablo : Drum Chums Vol. 3
Talking Drums have become one of our fair city’s most treasured labels, pulling out a host of their own drug-chug edits and groove-laden hits on volumes 1-4 (all of which are absolutely worth checking out, and there may still be a couple left in-store if you’re lucky), before moving onto the collaborative ‘Drum Chums’ selection. Following on from Plastic Bamboo and Basso for parts 1 & 2 (both of which are VERY good, obviously) we have Manchester’s very own Neil Diablo hitting the floor for volume 3. It may come as no surprise to you, if you’ve heard Neil’s work before, that Vol. 3 is absolutely packed to the rafters with syncopated groove and bright balearic-tinged disco thumpers. There’s proggy guitars and tropical haze on ‘Sex ‘N Drugz’, underpinned by a Monkey Island theme tune strut, while ‘We Can’ ups the tempo a little for a midday beach-bar lift. It’s a brilliantly formed and wonderfully enjoyable listen, and possibly my favourite of the Drum Chums canon thus far. A superb set of songs by a superb man on a superb label. WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT?
Space Afrika – Honest Labour
Honest Labour comes after last year’s ‘HYBTWIBT’ mixtape and is a perfect expansion of that post-dub terrain so wonderfully explored by the most well regarded duo of Josh’s in Manchester. With ambient soundscapes and industrial drones perfectly offset with floating, haunting vocals and placid, shifting orchestration (think Müm circa 2004), it’s hard not to be drawn in and indeed, why would you resist? There’s something brilliantly fresh about the approach to sound design here and is a masterclass in balancing haunting aesthetics with a more palpable but still tentative sense of melody. Moments of brittle unease are lightened with a wisp of strings or a well saturated crackle of vocal snippets, leading to a hugely immersive and evocative whole.