Madlib, Arlo Parks + more: our five favourite records of the week

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Madlib, Arlo Parks + more: our five favourite records of the week

Words by Will Brewster

All the best new music to arrive this 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 today, we’re digging into a special collaborative project from esteemed producers Madlib and Four Tet, plus the debut from Arlo Parks, Divide and Dissolve’s visceral new instrumental effort and more.

This week’s top picks:

  • Madlib – Sound Ancestors 
  • Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams
  • Divide and Dissolve – Gas Lit 
  • Goat Girl – On All Fours 
  • Farhot – Kabul Fire Vol. 2

Check out last week’s picks for the best new music you need in your ears over here.

Madlib – Sound Ancestors 

Madlib – possibly one of the most revered hip-hop producers of the modern era – is an enigma. As a music maker, he’s as prolific as he is illusive, creating classics alongside the likes of J Dilla, MF DOOM, Freddie Gibbs and countless other icons, yet for some reason, he’s never made a stock-standard ‘solo album’. That all changes today with Sound Ancestors: a definitive debut project collated from hundreds of Madlib stems and edited, arranged and mastered by none other than UK electronic polymath and longtime friend Four Tet.

Despite their differing realms of expertise, Madlib and Four Tet’s production styles lock in seamlessly across Sound Ancestors to present an instrumental album that enshrines every great aspect of the rap icon. Tracks like ‘Hopprock’, ‘The New Normal’ and ‘Chino’ retain all the bounce and unpredictably of a typical Madlib joint – jagged drums and scattershot vocal chops peppered all over – while ‘Two For 2 – For Dilla’ sees him pay tribute to the obtuse production style pioneer by the fellow icon on his legendary swan song Donuts. 

Thanks to Four Tet’s input, Sound Ancestors could very well be the project that defines Madlib’s legacy. Of course, he’s got nothing to prove – the man has ascended into a god tier status of producer at least three times over – but it’s a true joy to see two producers of this calibre work in tandem to create such a rich, colourful record.

Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams

Taking topics like queer identity, mental health, body image and packing them into tunes abundant in nuance and groove, Arlo Parks has experienced an extraordinary rise to the limelight over the past 12 months, and her debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams proves exactly why this 20 year old Londoner’s name is on the tip of everybody’s tongues.

Drawing upon a template of hazy UK jazz-hop, neo soul and indie pop, Collapsed In Sunbeams spills over with poignance and poetic brilliance. Parks’ lyricism is colourful, packed with metaphors and deeply autobiographic: on the trip-hop inspired ‘For Violet’, she plays Japanese lo-fi pioneer Nujabes down the phone for a forlorn friend trapped in a toxic home, while the bittersweet ‘Black Dog’ sees her vividly address the throes of depression while maintaining the song’s major key feel.

Elsewhere, the plucky guitars and polyrhythms of ‘Caroline’ and ‘Eugene’ recall In Rainbows-era Radiohead, while Parks’ references to pop cultural figures like Robert Smith in the former help to personalise the dense topics of her songwriting for each listener’s own experiences. A stellar debut from an artist who seems poised for exceptional things.

Divide and Dissolve – Gas Lit 

Comprised of guitarist/saxophonist Takiaya Reed and drummer Sylvie Nehil, Melbourne duo Divide and Dissolve make droning, ear-drum obliterating music to counter colonialism and white supremacy. On their new album Gas Lit, produced with Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson, the band hold nothing back and unleash one of their best assets – sheer noise – to brilliant effect, creating a noise epic that touches upon everything from doom metal to cosmic jazz.

Blade Runner-invoking soundscapes and haunting saxophones are shattered by an explosion of distorted drums and guitars on opening tack ‘Oblique’ before clattering into the previously released ‘Prove It’. There’s a vocal interlude courtesy of Minori Sanchez-Fung on the track ‘Did You Have Something To Do With It’, while the following track ‘Denial’ pairs Reed’s apocalyptic guitars with a lumbering drum groove and atonal violins for one of the album’s best moments.

While the stars of the show are certainly Reed and Nehil, Nielson’s production chops do make a few exciting contributions to Gas Lit – the sludgey ‘Far From Ideal’ strips the low-end out of the mix and places all emphasis on the mid-range for a startling switch-up – helping to make the record all the more riveting.

Goat Girl – On All Fours 

Three years after their politically-imbued, punkish debut, UK indie up-and-comers Goat Girl have returned with On All Fours. It’s a record that eschews the post-punk undertones of their first record in favour of a palate that picks from everything from spaghetti Western and synth-pop to jangle rock and new-wave, making for a wonderfully random record that reaffirms Goat Girl as a band worthy of all the buzz.

Lyrically, On All Fours digs deep into human experiences to counter the surprising sonics of each track. Songwriter Lottie Pendlebury chides the two-faced nature of Western society on ‘Pest’, sings of climate change on the breezy ‘Badibaba’ and its jarring counterpart ‘The Crack’, while ‘P.T.S.Tea’ recounts a sour story of drummer Rosy Jones being scalded by a cup of hot tea and having to cancel tour dates to recover.

Between Pendlebury’s intricate lyricism, the band’s experimental songwriting and the record’s little quirks and references, On All Fours makes for a fully engaging and unique sophomore effort, and we can’t wait to see where Goat Girl go next.

Farhot – Kabul Fire Vol. 2

On his new album Kabul Fire Vol. 2, Hamburg-based producer Farhot takes listeners on a trip through his biographical roots with a record that’s deeply referential to his Afghan origins and his family’s decision to flee the country while he was a child. It’s loaded with head-snapping beats pieced together with samples from Middle Eastern records, and in many ways, serves as a means of Farhot exploring notions of culture and belonging through the art of hip-hop instrumentals.

Combining boom-bap beats with dreamy flutes, traditional Afghan music and snatches of crackling waxy curios, Kabul Fire Vol. 2 is forward thinking instrumental hip-hop at its best. While containing three vocal features, the majority of the project relies on Farhot’s production prowess, and it’s here where the record shines: the dusty pianos and wobbly drum programming of ‘Kishmish’ just screams Dilla, while the triumphant strings and soulful guitars of ‘Yak Sher’ stand out as an atmospheric highlight.

From the cultural undertones of the project through to the undeniable strength of its beats, Kabul Fire Vol. 2 is just sensational. Here, Farhot has made a truly great record sample-based record that any beat-making junkie will get a kick from – don’t sleep on this project.

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