Review: You know the crew mean business, or at least mean not to give a flying guitar what you think, when they call themselves Tropical Fuck Storm. Perhaps what's most surprising, then, is the troupe's second album proves beyond doubt that despite the name, their music is accomplished and, while challenging at times, instantly enjoyable. The fact that Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin are also members of The Drones should tell you everything there is to know here. TFS is as logical a progression into an artsy, unpolished and unapologetic unknown as could ever be possible when you consider these guys are disinterested in playing anything by numbers. Logic is perhaps not the operative word, then. Like the unkept character propping up your local bar who suddenly reveals themselves to be a borderline-musical genius, respectfully avoiding the cliche of addressing individual tracks is the least we can do.
Ian Dury & The Seven Seas Players - "Spasticus Autisticus" (version) (6:57)
Material - "Over & Over" (long version) (5:38)
Was (Not Was) - "Wheel Me Out" (7:12)
Dinosaur - "Kiss Me Again" (6:53)
Don Cherry - "I Walk" (3:14)
Common Sense - "Voices Inside My Head" (6:29)
Nicky Siano - "Move" (5:45)
Indian Ocean - "School Bell/Treehouse" (10:13)
Review: Second time around for Joey Negro and Sean P's peerless collection of post-punk era New York club cuts, a compilation that proved hugely influential when it was first released way back in 2000. The track listing strangely omits one track present on the original release (the full 16-minute version of Steve Miller Band's "Macho City"), but otherwise it's a faithful reproduction. Highlights come thick and fast throughout, from the eccentric electrofunk of Yoko Ono's "Walking On Thin Ice" and P-funk influenced strut of Material's "Over And Over", to the skittish jazz-goes-dub disco bustle of Don Cherry's "I Walk" and the low-slung percussive voodoo of Nicky Siano's "Move". The undisputed master of NYC leftfield disco, Arthur Russell, is represented via cuts from Loose Joints, Dinosaur and Indian Ocean.
Review: There has been plenty said about debutants L'Epee since their single "Dreams" turned heads back in spring. Combining the talents of Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre), French artist Emmanuelle Seigner, and polished-to-a-sheen pop outfit The Liminanas, it's one of the most refreshing (and French) things you're likely to hear all year. That's more of a reference to the cinematic feeling that defines the album, owing much to the femme fatale vocal delivery, rather than the language each line is sung in. At once evoking the smoky cool of Serge Gainsbourg and the opiate moods of The Velvet Underground, "Diabolique" feels born in a time when psychedelic experimentation and chart topping music weren't mutually exclusive. At once sophisticated and hedonistic, it's a sexy, sensual and overwhelmingly seductive effort everyone should turn themselves on to.
Review: Don't believe everything you read - the fifth Bat For Lashes album confirms this girl (or woman) found herself musically and thematically some time ago, freeing up creative energy to explore new approaches to deliver her often mournful, always heartfelt songs inspired by personal crises and private longings. On this outing there's more than a hint of 1980s pop evident in the mix. Shades of Prince ("Feel For You"), Madonna ("So Good"), Bowie's Berlin days and electro-era Gary Numan (the stunning, infectious instrumental "Vampires") cast the record in a nostalgia that suits the sense of yearning that always seems to pervade Natasha Khan's work. Simply name-checking reference points is lazy and unfair, though. This is an incredible collection of tracks moulded in the artist's own image - bold, beautiful and instantly captivating. Then again, it would be surprising if anyone had expected anything less.
Review: When bands hit album four, two things can happen - or three. Some suffer from a crisis of creativity, opting to regurgitate or, worse still, stagnate. Others opt for reinvention, with as many getting it right as going well off-piste, alienating faithful fans in the process. The lucky ones, meanwhile, hit the nail on the head with their most accomplished and complete work to date. Consider Frankie Cosmos among the lucky ones, then, not that luck had much to do with it. Recorded in their New York hometown, everything about the record feels comfortable in that there's nothing forced, and yet it engages and grabs from the off. Lilting, lo-fi rock 'n' roll odes to love, life and the genre itself, anyone who's ever wondered what Cate Le Bon might sound like having a pancake breakfast with The Orielles should grab a seat at this table.
Review: HTRK's debut album in 2007 proved to be a seminal one for fans of experimental noise. It cooks up impressively abrasive and caustic textures, crashing waves of white noise and sonorous pulses that speak of a future dystopian world. Tense and absorbing throughout, the lo-fi design and elements of post punk, post industrial and post techno makes it a modern analogy of the likes of Throbbing Gristle. 12 years later, the record sounds just as good, and arguably even more prescient in these twitchy times of digital surveillance, social anxieties and worldwide political tensions. It might be bleak, then, but that doesn't mean there is real beauty in this album's disharmony.
Review: Eight albums in and Elbow still know how to keep us interested. This time round it's a record that seems caught in perpetual motion, refusing to stay still even for a minute off its proggyness, with this the LP most removed from their standard modus of hyper-emotive, string-capped anthemia. Not that the contents aren't huge and destined to fill main rooms and outdoor arenas. A refreshing break for a band that, while unarguably talented and accomplished craftsmen, may - in the eyes of some at least - have at times been guilty of opting for the safety of familiarity rather than braving the great unknowns of sound. If anything, then, "Giants Of All Sizes" is the final pour that cements their place in the pantheons of British music. Exquisite, innovative and highly original stuff.