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Rustie


7 / 10

Perhaps more than any other producer, even Warp labelmate Hudson Mohawke, Rustie encapsulated the shift in electronic music in the early 2010s, when minimal production gave way to day-glo maximalism.

Over a trio of lofty peaks – 2011 debut album ‘Glass Swords’, a towering Radio 1 Essential Mix and 2013 single ‘Slasherr’ – the producer cranked up his overexcitable bombast in pursuit of the ever-more-sickening drop, with epic musical builds giving way to gut-churning rhythms. Hopes are high, then, for ‘Green Language’, an album he claims is influenced by nature, birds and sunrise, which on the face of it sounds rather fanciful.

Listening to it, though, you can see what Rustie means. ‘Green Language’ is no Eno-esque excursion into ambience – the drums remain primevally large and he still often favours 17 musical ideas when two might suffice – but there’s something pure about the best tracks here, as the producer lets some natural light into his fluorescent musical world.

So on tracks like ‘A Glimpse’ or ‘Let’s Spiral’, you can imagine yourself staggering from a club to find the sun already up on a beautiful summer’s day. Jagged edges have been smoothed, resulting in an overexcitable take on Boards Of Canada’s melodic grace. That peaks on the gorgeous ‘Green Language’, bringing Rustie’s gift for melody to the fore in two minutes of echoing piano.

If Rustie had continued in this vein, ‘Green Language’ could have been something quite unique. Instead, the rest of the album sees him turning his hand to a glut of new styles. The individual songs are often great: ‘Lost’ and ‘Dream On’ are immaculate examples of RB, the awesome ‘Tempest’ sails in on a wave of post-rock guitars and ‘Attak’ sees Danny Brown’s ratatat vocal ratchet up the excitement around a great synth hook.

But the result is an awkward, disjointed listen, somewhat less than the sums of its parts, and you find yourself longing for the singular artistic vision and gut-punch impact of ‘Glass Swords’, an album that felt like the peak of Rustie’s unique style rather than a reflection of modern dance, RB and trap production. ‘Green Language’ is an adventurous, enthralling, emotional and frequently brilliant album, then. And yet, from an artist of such rare talent, it’s also a frustrating, slightly underwhelming one.

Ben Cardew

 
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The Wytches

The self-described ‘surf-doom’ trio follow their musical forebears down a very dark path

The Wytches - 'Annabel Dream Reader'


8 / 10

Kristian Bell, The Wytches’ singer, songwriter and guitarist, has said that the Brighton trio’s debut is a break-up album. By the sounds of it, it’s a breakdown album too. Produced by Bell with ex-Coral member Bill Ryder-Jones, ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is a blizzard of darkness that takes cues from experts in the field. Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ is everywhere: in Bell’s screaming of the word “she” on opener ‘Digsaw’, in Dan Rumsey’s loose Krist Novoselic bass on ‘Gravedweller’. Tony Iommi’s tectonic Black Sabbath riffing also dominates, most successfully on ‘Robe For Juda’. Occasionally, as on ‘Crying Clown’, the darkness becomes a dirge. But when The Wytches employ a lighter ‘Suck It And See’-era Arctic Monkeys touch they’re capable of ‘Wire Frame Mattress’ and ‘Track 13’, exceptional songs full of both melody and menace.

Buy The Wytches – ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ at iTunes

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  • The Wytches and The Story So Far launch Leeds Festival 2014

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Date/Time
Venue
Seetickets
Viagogo

06 Oct 2014

The Harley


Sheffield



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from £10


 

07 Oct 2014

Think Tank


Newcastle



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from £8


 

11 Oct 2014

The Kazimier


Liverpool



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from £8


 

13 Oct 2014

The Duchess


York



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14 Oct 2014

Roadmender


Northampton



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17 Oct 2014

Exchange


Bristol



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27 Nov 2014

Brudenell Social Club


Leeds



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28 Nov 2014

The Deaf Institute


Manchester



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02 Dec 2014

Hare Hounds


Kings Heath



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03 Dec 2014

Scala


London



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Merchandise


9 / 10

The end came on April Fool’s Day 2013. According to Merchandise, on the day they released ‘Totale Nite’, their band changed forever. In January, frontman Carson Cox told NME their dramatic third album and its mesh of guitars, electronic drums and brass signalled “the end of the book, of everything I knew”.

The book began in the 2000s when Cox and lead guitarist David Vassalotti played in hardcore bands in Florida’s Tampa Bay. They broke away to record mopey, poppier songs in Cox’s bedroom closet. Bassist Patrick Brady joined and Merchandise released several tapes and EPs (still available for free on their crummy WordPress site). In 2010, tinny LP ‘(Strange Songs) In The Dark’ hinted at melody. ‘Children Of Desire’ sparked hype in 2012. It gave Cox’s sumptuous croon space amidst unhurried noise, lending his love songs more weight. Fronted by the charming motormouth, there was something about these punks emerging from the middle of nowhere into the music press. “I’m really connected to my childhood, when all I listened to was ‘La Bamba’ and Buddy Holly,” Cox told Pitchfork in 2012.

After eventually signing to 4AD this January, Cox promised to ”re-make Merchandise as a pop band”, resolving to make a record unlike anything they’d done before. Built around chiming acoustic guitars, its opener ‘Corridor’ is blissful and cartoonish, like the opening to an old Disney film. It’s only a two-minute instrumental, but it’s vivid and brilliantly alien.

‘Enemy’ is even more so. Opening with more acoustic strumming and a wriggly noise from Vassalotti’s keyboard, its frisky drumbeat and indie-disco guitar are pricked by a bloody-minded Cox (“I just want to sing for myself this way”). Nodding to Camera Obscura, it betrays Merchandise’s beloved indie twee, until a contorting solo from Vassalotti deliberately toys with your perception of both song and band.

Backing vocals and guitar from Chris Horn and drums from man-mountain Elsner Niño illuminate ‘Enemy’. Enlisted after ‘Totale Nite’ and now living in Cox and Vassalotti’s rickety house, Merchandise’s fourth and fifth members add texture throughout. On the waltzing ‘Green Lady’, Niño’s arena-rock drums thud, Cox purrs and Horn’s breathy backing beckons another facemelter from Vassalotti.

The lead guitarist wrote four songs for ‘After The End’. He twangs patiently around Cox’s vocals on the undulating ‘True Monument’. ‘Life Outside The Mirror’ is even slower, Vassalotti’s structure and Cox’s broken vocals (“Are you ready to give it all away?”) trapping you inside it. This time, the solo is acoustic. It’s surprising, and just as awesome as when his foot’s jammed on the cosmic pedal.

The B-side delivers the two biggest shocks. Punks will hate ‘Telephone’ and ‘Little Killer’. The former bounces around Brady’s bassline like one long radio-ready chorus. ‘Little Killer’’s melody is indelible, boasting a Cure-like timelessness. Their peers and touring buddies Parquet Courts and Milk Music wouldn’t dream of attempting anything like it.

With a funereal organ, ‘Looking Glass Waltz’ starts a comedown that lasts until they channel The La’s on wispy finale ‘Exile And Ego’. In between, the title track drags desperate bleakness out for seven minutes. Following the earlier hooks with three wallowing ballads is a masterstroke. ‘After The End’ is full of them. Merchandise’s 4AD debut is an extrovert, indie-pop album from a punk band that can’t sit still. It’s clever, brave and seamless enough to become a classic.

Ben Homewood