Fake Laugh’s self-titled debut album arrives this summer as a delicate accumulation of years of experimentation. Unfurling slowly, the full length has been a gradual process: part playfulness, part perfection. Whilst perpetually in tune with the digital disconnect of contemporary life, the album is a vivid rummage through sixties US-pop standards and British alternative stalwarts.
Fake Laugh showcases a familiar world of love, confusion and self-questioning but refocused through the bright lens of the London/Berlin based artist Kamran Khan. Tirelessly writing and recording whenever he can, a busy 2016 saw Khan release the energetic 'Ice' EP, the bubbly trepidation of double A side 'Mind Tricks/Birdsong Lullaby' and the more complex and serene ‘Great Ideas’ EP.
All three were important steps towards manifesting the right combination for the eagerly anticipated debut. Khan confesses that once upon a time Fake Laugh was “a bit of fun on the side”. However, now with the project his sole focus, there’s a revitalised commitment to recording that has seen him finishing the album this year. Reuniting once again with producer Theo Verney (Traams, O.Chapman) in Brighton, Khan has brought the intimacy of his bedroom and added it to a more luscious environment.
Certain parts of the record date as far back as 2013, whilst others were recorded only in the past few months. The result is a record that flows with a wise but youthful abandon. Echoing latter Belle & Sebastian records - that retained their adolescent flare and longing - Khan has fortified his dreams rather than forgotten them.
Tracklisting: 1. Melt 2. Short Of Breath 3. Kinda Girl 4. As I Get To Know You Better 5. Hiding Place 6. Freely 7. You Would Find Out 8. Wouldn’t Bother 9.Physical 10. You Do Know 11. Time To Die
“Mnestic Pressure” is Lee Gamble’s first album since 2014 and his first with Hyperdub, a reset that sees a noticeable change in his sound and the concepts that feed into his music. Lee says ‘From “Diversions 1994-1996” (2012) through to “Koch” (2014) - my music felt like I was dealing with signals from elsewhere - signals from the unconscious, sub-aqua, hallucinated, dreamt. “Mnestic Pressure” feels like their decoded offspring, a terra interpretation.’
The title “Mnestic Pressure” comes from Lee’s thinking about how our contemporary memory is pressured, individually, but also collectively. ‘We live in these strobing, visual times, like a constant subliminal advertisement but, also over the last few years the world seems to have become more and more dreamlike, alien, and parodic itself and there was this part of me that wanted to drag my music back from this Shangri-La, but fully drenched and infected by its ghosts.’
“Mnestic Pressure” as a whole is a simulation of this experience; a flow of targeted information, through contrasting and quickly changing terrain, from one track to another you’re dragged into a new space. The pressure to move is intrinsic to the flow of the album, one thing morphologically transforms into another, zooming in and out from wide angle to detail, reshaping into new forms at a speed Lee’s music hasn’t before.
The music on “Mnestic Pressure” has a hardness, with a structure and melody that was sublimated in Lee’s previous LPs. It builds on his more recent experiments with more functional dancefloor forms.
Here his hypermodern production and crunchy, dissembled beats feel like they could be malfunctioning holograms projected onto the hallucinated memories of his early work.
Tracklisting: Side A: 1. Inta Centre 2. Istian 3. East Sedducke 4. 23 Bay Flips 5. Swerva 6. Quadripoints 7. You Hedonic
Side B: 1. UE8 2. Locked In 3. Ignition Lockoff 4. A tergo Real 5. Ghost 6. Déjà Mode
Blackest Ever Black presents Sleep Heavy, the debut album of broken-hearted, downtempo R&B/street-soul and supremely atmospheric, introspective electronics from Jabu: a trio comprised of vocalist/lyricists Alex Rendall and Jasmine Butt, and producer Amos Childs.
The group was born out of Bristol’s Young Echo collective: an ecosystem unto itself which has birthed and nurtured a number of other notable soundsystem-rooted projects and artists to date including Kahn & Neek, Sam Kidel, Ishan Sound, Ossia, Asda, Chester Giles (the title Sleep Heavy comes from a giles poem) and Killing Sound (Childs with Kidel and Vessel).
Jabu’s previous 7” singles, though arresting, barely hinted at the level of accomplishment and emotional heft that Sleep Heavy delivers. It’s a future Bristol classic with a universal resonance, with songs that are highly personal but deeply relatable, and tripped-out, time-dissolving sound design that both haunts and consoles. It is, first and foremost, a meditation on grief, on loss, making sense of separation and death; but it also looks forward to what might come after the aftermath: healing, acceptance, the chance to begin again.
Childs is one of the most gifted producers of his generation and his work here, grounded in hip-hop but floating free, is a thing of sustained wonder: crepuscular, melancholic – funereal, at times – subtly psychedelic and heavily dubwise, but always concise and purposeful. Stitched together from deep-dug and beautifully repurposed samples, it draws on influences from US R&B to Japanese art-pop minimalism – Mariah to Mariah Carey, if you will – and a rich seam of underground UK soul, boogie, DIY/post-punk, library music and lovers rock; refining and reconstituting these inputs into powerfully immersive, emotionally ambiguous soundscapes as eloquent and engaging as they are understated and bottomlessly mysterious.
There is also of course a distant connection to the Bristol blues of Smith & Mighty and the sultry urban gothic of Protection-era Massive Attack, but Jabu’s orchestration of womb-like ambiences, cold synth tones and brittle beats feel entirely sui generis. They provide the perfect setting for Rendell’s wounded, imploring and carefully weighted vocals, which are no less extraordinary: nodding to giants like Teddy Pendergrass and The Temptations in terms of phrasing and front-and-centre vulnerability, with something of The Associates’ Billy Mackenzie in there too; defeated but defiant.
Meanwhile Jas’s heavenly interventions, sometimes leading but more often parsed and layered into tremulous, gossamer abstraction, draw a line between the Catholic choral harmonies of her childhood and the ethereal, oceanic sweep of Cocteau Twins. Oceanic is the word: this is music to drown, and drown gratefully, in.By its end, Sleep Heavy’s world-weariness is intact and scarcely diminished, but some light has been admitted, and is visible from the sea-floor. A chance, not a promise. Something to swim towards.
Tracklisting: 1. Let Me Know 2. Tomb 3. Get 4. Fool If 5. Bones 6. On 7. Searc 8. Wounds 9. Which Way 10. Lay You Down 11. Give
It was early 2008 and The Wedding Present were in Chicago, recording their seventh album, El Rey. But they had also recently completed a successful ‘twentieth anniversary’ concert tour for their debut LP George Best and, having played that entire album dozens of times live, it was fresh in their minds and under their fingers.
So, after they’d wrapped up recording El Rey, David suggested they lay down a 'live' version of George Best in the same studio. After all, the equipment was already set up and the band were on fire. Steve Albini, with whom they were recording, initially wasn't too keen on the idea but David assured him it would be quick and easy.
Albini grudgingly caved. But David was right; it was quick... recorded live, more like an early Beatles LP or a Wedding Present Peel Session than a long drawn out modern recording with a bunch of overdubs and multi-tracked layering. One could almost imagine that this is the version of George Best that David would have liked to have recorded back in 1987.
It is just so well done... as you’d expect, of course, with Albini at the controls. But you can also feel David’s 20 years older self guiding the new recording with experience and confidence. Everything is bigger… the drums on the original recording were played live, but were done on a ‘Simmons’ electronic drum kit.
The combination of Albini’s recording and the ultra-talented Graeme Ramsay on ‘real’ drums brings these frantic songs to life. However, the real difference comes out in the way those super-fast, ever-jangly guitars sound… they’re warmer, they’re rockier, they’re more modern. More… Albini!
To round everything off with another contemporary twist, multi award-winning mixer/producer Andrew Scheps [last heard on The Wedding Present’s ground-breaking Going, Going... album] enthusiastically agreed to mix the finished recordings, having heard the original LP for the first time in his living room in Los Angeles in 2012, when he was mixing The Wedding Present’s eighth studio album, Valentina.
Tracklisting: 1. Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft 2. What Did Your Last Servant Die Of? 3. Don't Be So Hard 4. A Million Miles 5. All This And More 6. My Favourite Dress 7. Shatner 8. Something And Nothing 9. It's What You Want That Matters 10. Give My Love To Kevin 11. Anyone Can Make A Mistake 12. You Can't Moan, Can You?