Review: It's not hard to understand why people so often ignore album release blurb. Sales-y, hyperbolic, and on more than the odd occasion rather poorly written, it's hardly required reading in order to get the most out of the record. That is unless it's Big Thief's 'Two Hands', a collection of music that genuinely makes more sense when you know the back story. For one thing this long form offering is arriving just months after its predecessor, which is always either the sign of a band that don't need big ideas to facilitate rapid-fire output, or a band that have so many big ideas they literally can't stop the momentum. This is a case of the latter. Timescale aside, "Two Hands" genuinely feels as though it was born in the Badlands, epic songs that invoke endless vistas across barren settings in a way that makes you feel as small as you actually are in a global context. Like cosying up in a log cabin away from the chilly endless dark of a desert night.
Review: Justin Vernon's voice has always been the people's main attraction to Bon Iver, and the fact his pseudonym even exists is certainly no coincidence. As fragile and heartbroken as it is forthright and experienced, when you're wearing a shredded heart on sleeve and confessing to all your deepest insecurities using a pen name can help immensely. Album number four perhaps proves this more than any of its predecessors. While the three previous chapters have all made his thoughts, feelings, insecurities and fears clear, this one takes honesty to new heights. Combining the frail electronics that have gradually slipped their way into his back catalogue with the acoustics of his earliest, rocket-to-fame efforts, it's a culmination of all that's been in the truest sense. Perhaps even more intimate than the breathtakingly personal "For Emma, Forever Ago", "i,i" is a striking work to say the least.
After Upheavil (Richard H Kirk remix - Adi Newton Radical version)
Zulu (Richard H Kirk remix - Adi Newton dub version)
Review: Following the original dissolution of legendary Sheffield industrial funk outfit Clock DVA in 1984, founder member Adi Newton struck out on his own with The Anti-Group: an experimental project in which he could explore a variety of sonic worlds with the aid of a revolving cast of likeminded Steel City stalwarts (Richard H Kirk, Stephen Mallinder, Martyn Ware and Warp co-founder Robert Gordon included). "4x12" is a retrospective of sorts, gathering together tracks from three 12" singles ("Ha-Zulu", "Big Sex", "Broadcast Test") and one mini-album ("ShT"). Musically, it veers from collage style sample patchworks and dark ambient soundscapes to rubbery industrial funk, twisted post synth-pop, EBM-influenced workouts and madcap experimental escapades.
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.