Rock, April 2022

hfnalbum.pngAnimal Collective
Time Skiffs
Domino WIGCD501; LP: WIGLP501

Animal Collective have been described as 'experimental' pop, but 'intuitive' is more apt. They started as a school band in Baltimore in the '90s making an expressionist racket, and while they have continued to refine their music, they have preserved their exploratory approach, with influences as diverse as folk, psychedelia and horror film soundtracks. Time Skiffs has greater sonic clarity than their 2009 breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavilion and all the songs are set within an intricate, colourful soundscape of guitars, keyboards, electronics and samples. Their joyous vocal arrangements, reminiscent of The Beach Boys and The Turtles, shape some sublime melodies, particularly 'We Go Back' and 'Prester John'. MB


Black Country, New Road
Ants From Up There
Ninja Tune ZENCD278; LP: ZEN278

It must be annoying for young musicians hearing their elders moan that everything's already been done, particularly if they make music as original as this. The group's 2021 debut, For The First Time, was Mercury Prize nominated and they are already exploring new ground, hoovering up influences from The Fall to Steve Reich – 'Snow Globes' builds like rock systems music. Isaac Wood's rough-edged singing can jar, although female backing vocals sweeten it a little, but the septet's arrangements are extraordinary. On 'Chaos Space Machine', saxophones, violin, guitars and keyboards mesh together like a chamber ensemble before shifting into full-throttle rock. MB


Cate Le Bon
Mexican Summer MEX3152; LP: MEX3151

Le Bon's sixth album was recorded solo and written mainly on bass guitar – which she played in a characterful, ebullient style – with guitars, keyboards and synthetic drums. The Welsh singer, whose accent is discernible, has always created her own rather eccentric reality in song. But she says this album was born out of unease, and the saxophones, which feature heavily on 'Dirt On The Bed', represent grief. But they weave into the melody of 'Harbour' to poignant effect and although the mood is more shadowy than usual, she's an engaging songwriter and the breezy 'Moderation' suggests that mainstream recognition might well be close. MB


Michael Rother And Vittoria Maccabruni
As Long As The Light
Grölnland CDGRON258; LP: LPGRON258

Rother was guitarist in '70s krautrock group Neu! whose music had an irresistible momentum, as if it were heading towards a 'vanishing point on the horizon'. On his first album with Vittoria Maccabruni the duo drive off at speed on 'Edgy Smiles', with it's chiming keyboards and Rother's trademark smoothly distorted guitars, but they also take diversions onto strange bumpy back roads, as on 'Curfewed' with its syncopated beats and dark churning synths. Maccabruni only sings on the haunting 'You Look At Me' but her looped, fragmented voice over the noir-ish guitar twang on 'CodriveMe' is spectacularly strange. MB