Explore the freshest sounds of the week.
Friday is here, which means it’s release day for a bunch of artists at home and around the world. With so many hot releases out there to tuck into, we’ve compiled some of the best to present to you for the weekend.
For this week’s wrap-up, we’re diving deep into the ambient depths of Promises, the widely anticipated collaborative project from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra, as well as a staggering debut from Dublin act For Those I Love and new music from Death From Above 1979, Tune-Yards and The Soul Movers.
This week’s top picks:
- Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises
- For Those I Love – For Those I Love
- Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers
- Tune-Yards- Sketchy
- The Soul Movers – Evolution
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Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises
Collaborations don’t come much bigger than this. Recorded over the span of a week in 2019, Promises is a gorgeous piece of minimalist ambient music written by Floating Points’ Sam Shepherd and featuring contributions from legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders – marking his first major release in nearly twenty years – and The London Symphony Orchestra. It’s a sprawling two-chord composition that spans nine movements, with Shepherd’s sparse keys and gliding synthesisers intertwining with Sanders’ fleeting saxophone licks to make for one of the most breathtaking projects shared so far this year.
Over 46 minutes, Shepherd makes use of a simple recurring motif to set the groundwork for Promises, with the leftover space being shared by his own electronic embellishments and the odd flurry of saxophone or strings from Sanders or the London Symphony Orchestra. It’s this sparsity that makes Promises such an immersive listen, with the gaps between the silence only making Sanders’ saxophone playing all the more potent over the span of the record.
Oftentimes, Sanders won’t even play his saxophone in a conventional manner: in the record’s first half, you’re privy to him scatting and softly cooing into its mouthpiece, or gently passing breath to create ghostly overtones, while the London Symphony Orchestra is also deployed by Shepherd in a similarly sparing manner – it’s not until the sixth movement where they really take the spotlight with a soaring crescendo, before again fading into Shepherd’s blissful synthetic backdrop.
As Promises reaches its peak in its seventh movement, a hint of Shepherd’s modular wizardry peeks through the gaps with darting arpeggios and space-age beeps, with Sanders adding one last inflection of saxophone into the mix before giving way for an organ solo and a climactic finale from the Symphony Orchestra. It’s a stunning composition that affirms Floating Points as one of most prodigal acts in electronic music today, and serves as a stirring return for the brilliant Pharoah Sanders.
For Those I Love – For Those I Love
David Balfe is a Dublin poet and producer with a taste for earnest metaphors and rave nostalgia. On his debut project For Those I Love, he pays tribute to a departed friend over the course of nine electronic cathartic compositions that demonstrate an eclectic zeal and bolster the hard-hitting impact of his poems.
It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what genre For Those I Love could be defined as. Sonically, Balfe opts for a style of composition that blends the sample-based, chilled-out productions of The Avalanches or Jamie xx with tropes from EDM, dubstep and house, with found sounds and field recordings tying it all together throughout. The ensuing results – largely played at comedown tempo – provide Balfe with a suitable backdrop to reminisce on his violent upbringing in Dublin and the distractions that he and his friends sought from it.
On ‘You Stayed / To Live’, he thinks back on teenage pyromania and checkpoints a Mount Kimbie music video, while ‘Top Scheme’ sees him blast the upper class and the treatment of working class drug addicts atop of a wub-wub bass beat. It’s clear that Balfe uses his poetry as a cathartic outlet, and as such, For Those I Love is packed with grizzly details: ‘The Shape of You’ sees him scream his poetry in anguished tones in the song’s blissful bridge before painting a gruesome murder scene he witnessed in his youth on ‘Birthday / The Pain’, surely making for one of the record’s most startling moments.
From start to finish, this is a project that’s totally enthralling and limitlessly unique. Not only does David Balfe continue Ireland’s longstanding poetic traditions with his pen, but the skeletal rave structures he chooses to encase his poems in hold up as some of the freshest you’ve probably heard in a long time. Don’t miss this one.
Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers
On their fourth album Is 4 Lovers, Canadian dance-punk duo Death From Above 1979 offer up another frenetic dose of high-octane bass guitars and crunchy drums. It’s a rollicking effort that sees the duo lock in and play to their strengths across ten giddy tracks, with the band recording the album over several weeks in a LA basement studio and keeping all the rough edges from the results that ensued.
Early cuts like ‘Modern Guy’ and ‘Free Animal’ pack all the chaotic riffs, distorted vocals and cowbells one could ever want from a DFA record, while the two-piece suite ‘N.Y.C. Power Elite’ throws some more disgustingly distorted bass in your face for good measure, particularly in its second half.
‘Glass Homes’ sees the band get their glitch on with a quirky 8-bit synth sequence and polyrhythmic drum loop to make for one of the record’s best moments, while ‘Love Letter’ almost sounds akin to a Tame Impala track with its chunky breakbeat and retro synth pads. By the time Is 4 Lovers ends on ‘Mean Streets’ and the swung, feedback-drenched ‘No War’, you’d be forgiven for wanting more: it’s delightfully short and easy to consume, and will sound like a treat onstage (whenever that day may come).
Tune-Yards – Sketchy
For their fifth outing together as Tune-Yards, Merril Garbus and Nate Brenner unite for an off-kilter record that fuses art-pop with all kind of bizarre influences and some sharp political songwriting. It’s abundant in ideas – and not all of them hit – but the bravery of making music like this has to be commended, and Tune-Yards do an exceptional job of making their weird world seem inviting to the public.
‘make it right.’ carries a feminist sentiment atop of its off-grid drums and spidery bassline, while ‘hypnotized’ breezily modulates between keys as Garbus further explores her upper vocal register. ‘homewrecker’, meanwhile, features some gnarly modular beats and a contorted vocal, before the record careens into madness with the two-part suite ‘silence’ – the second of which is actually just silence.
The appearance of saxophone on ‘hold yourself.’ is a nice touch to the track, while Tune-Yards seem to sonically reference Prince on the subtly funky ‘sometime’. In its final stretches, Sketchy serves up the stellar wonky-pop cut ‘my neighbor’ – a lyrical masterpiece and a sublimely crafted track to boot – before finishing up on ‘be not afraid’, wrapping up what marks one hell of a unique record in this band’s discography.
The Soul Movers – Evolution
The current project of Wiggles guitarist Murray Cook and vocalist Lizzie Mack, The Soul Movers dabble in party-starter funk and retro soul cuts that you simply can’t not tap your foot to. Evolution marks their fourth album, and sees the band having fun across eleven tracks that touch upon soft rock, funk, R&B, new-wave and classic boogie.
‘Strange Love’ is about as ’80s as they come with its hooky chorus, while ‘Rolled A Rock’ sees The Soul Movers drop the tempo for a funk/soul cut with a heavy, heavy down beat. ‘Hot Sauce’ serves up another slice of ’80s with its sparkling new-wave tones, while ballads like ‘Superman’ and ‘As I Take’ show off Lizzie Mack’s vocal chops.
Elsewhere, The Soul Movers live up to their name on ‘I Don’t Mind’ and enter disco territory with ‘Circles Baby’, which sees some mean guitar playing from Murray. While it’s a shame he doesn’t get a huge chance to shred across the record, it’s nonetheless a pleasure to hear him play alongside other fantastic musicians across Evolution.
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