Rock, December 2023

hfnalbum.pngLol Tolhurst X Budgie X Jacknife Lee
Los Angeles
Play It Again Sam PIASR1440CD; LP: PIASR1440LP

This fascinating album is the brainchild of two drummers – Tolhurst, ex of The Cure and Budgie from Siouxsie And The Banshees – who teamed up in 2019 with producer and musician Lee to record instrumentals. The Kraftwerk-inspired 'Train With No Station', featuring U2 guitarist The Edge, remains in that form, but the album has expanded stylistically. Over a base of polyrhythmic drums, synths and electronics, each song is shaped by guest performances. On 'Ghosted At Home' Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie sings a yearning melody over heavy funk grooves; Arrow De Wilde glams it up insouciantly on 'Uh Oh'; and on 'Bodies', artist and activist Lonnie Holley's rap and Mary Lattimore's harp combine brilliantly. MB


Emma Anderson
Sonic Cathedral SCR250; LP: SCR250LP

After an ill-fated Lush reunion in 2016, group co-founder, vocalist and guitarist Emma Anderson was left with a stack of unused compositional ideas, which have fed into her debut solo album. Some songs, such as the animated 'The Presence', carry the feel of that group, which overlapped the late-'80s shoegazing and Britpop scenes, while on 'Taste The Air', Anderson explores more pastoral paths, her light, mobile vocal melodies set in a gauzy backing of keyboards and picked guitars. The instrumental 'Xanthe' is a reminder that this was initially intended to be a collection of soundtrack music and the arrangement on 'Inter Light' has echoes of John Barry. MB


Animal Collective
Isn't It Now?

In 2019 Baltimore quartet Animal Collective went on retreat and wrote two albums' worth of material of which 2022's Time Skiffs was Part One. This is its more challenging counterpart. Their intricate vocal arrangements hark back to The Beach Boys and Van Dyke Parks, but filtered through the elliptical sensibilities of Pavement. This gives an off-kilter feel to sunshine pop songs such as 'Broke Zodiac', but what marks them out is a need to keep pushing forward. This lands us in the brooding open spaces and unexpected chorus shifts of 'Magicians From Baltimore', although on the meandering chorales of 'Defeat' they do rather lose their focus. MB


Catatonic Suns
Catatonic Suns
Agitated AGIT066CD; LP: AGIT066

This Pennsylvanian trio taps back into the psychedelic traditions of the US west coast, are beefed up by grunge and are clearly influenced by the immersive guitar racket of late '80s bands such as My Bloody Valentine and, on 'No Stranger', the dark cosmic riffing of Loop. Catatonic Suns create an enormous sound, psychedelically disorientating in its blurred and swirling qualities, and thrilling in its relentlessness. But there's also melody in there. 'Failsafe' is a more radiant moment with sweet chord changes and swooning vocals, and the clouds of their overdriven guitars part briefly on 'No Stranger' to reveal sitar twangs and celestial keyboards. MB