A look at the international releases that the Gimmie team enjoyed the most in 2019.
LEALANI – Fantastic Planet (Independent)
Beep, Boop, Bops aplenty on this album made by a lone teenager simultaneously piloting a bunch of drum pads, synths, samplers, hardware and a microphone like she’s Flight of the freakin’ Navigator. It’s like BMO became a real girl by back-engineering human experience from discarded Portishead and Massive Attack tapes.
SNAPPED ANKLES – Stunning Luxury (The Leaf Label)
Snapped Ankles returned with their second full-length bloom. The pruning has been left to a minimum, leaving the foliage as lush as ever, and the root system clearly thriving in the fertile soil. If The Stranglers, Amon Düül II, and Propellerheads all fell victim to The Swamp Thing in the same night, Snapped Ankles would be the new mutant hero to emerge from the remains.
CHAI – Punk (Heavenly)
There is not a more inspiring act around at the moment than Japan’s neo-kawaii quartet Chai. Coupling their incredibly impressive musical abilities with a powerfully motivational message challenging their country’s (and mainstream society in general’s) narrow standards of beauty and spreading joy and a positive mindset. Like the offspring of the Nu-Rave scene of the earlier 2000’s, imagine if the first MGMT album was fronted by Astro Boy’s little sister, Uran.
FREDDIE GIBBS AND MADLIB – Bandana (Keep Your Cool/RCA)
Seems every year has that one hip hop record that effortlessly stands out from the pack as having perfectly hit the mark, like Run The Jewels in 2013, or Kendrick’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ in 2015, last year it was ‘Bandana’. Unlike where mainstream rap has become seemingly void of talent, what’s presented here is steeped in the hip hop tradition where emceeing and sample-based DJing/production requires actual skill.
FUMAÇA PRETA – Pepas (Stolen Body Records)
From Brighton in the UK, Fumaça Preta gave us a genre-bending, Tropical Psych Punk Freakout with their album, ‘Pepas’. Sounding like a futuristic, evil, drugged-out, hard rock version of those old exotica albums by the likes of Les Baxter and Martin Denny.
URSA – L’Esprit De La Teuf (Future Folklore Records)
French synth punk. The easily digestible (but not overly accurate) mainstream cultural benchmark being say, Devo, but really owing more to France’s own rich history of late 70’s/early 80s synthpunk and alternative synthwave pop, the kind that can be found on compilations like the superb ‘BIPPP’ (from Born Bad Records). That said, they maintain a super fresh sound through their energetic performance and production style.
URANIUM CLUB – The Cosmo Cleaners (Static Shock Records)
There seems like a large amount of what Uranium Club do that will forever be in-jokes we will never be granted full insight into. But a common trait by which influence may actually be seen is the amount of copy-cat bands you are responsible for sparking, and it would seem plenty of chapters of this Club have popped up. Too rarely a band hits that ART/punk mark as well as these guys do, all while remaining so clear of farce or pretentiousness.
THE COMET IS COMING – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery (Impulse! Records)
In recent times contemporary jazz acts have been producing work to rivals the greats of the genre, pumping new life into an art form which had seemed to have reached it’s zenith long ago. This British synth/sax/drums trio’s 2nd LP feels as though a very literal take on the title ‘A Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ is taking place where, as the interstellar monorail rolls through each port of call, you experience the planet’s own climate and environment, and pass by on to the next far reaching celestial body in the solar system.
SCOTT RYSER – Flying Away (Independent)
Scott Ryser, who recorded the immortal song ‘High Pressure Days’ with his band Units in the late 70’s, is back with new recordings. For those unfamiliar, Units, lead by Scott, were true pioneers of synth-punk and multi-media performance art, and here his song-writing and synth work remain as strong as they were when he stopped actively releasing music in 1983 after becoming disillusioned with the industry. It’s that attitude of having made it on to a major label, seen through the bullshit and pulled the plug, that lets you know his return decades later is one where artistic integrity remains unfaltering. One can get a sense from the songs that a disapproval of the current state of politics in the U.S. may have been the biggest motivation for his desire to be heard again after all this time. You have to respect an artist who only speaks when they feel it necessary rather than just pumping out work for the sake of career. A solid collection of synthwave songs, with collaborator Kit Watson’s drum programming bringing a bit of an industrial touch.
BLACK MIDI – Schlagenheim (Rough Trade Records)
Like if you put Fugazi, Talking Heads, Melt Banana and Battles in a washing machine and recorded it on a heavy cycle.
More albums we love:
THE STACHES – This Lake is Pointless (Bongo Joe)
SHANA CLEVELAND – Night Of the Worm Moon (Hardly Art)
THE BLEAK ENGINEERS – New Frontiers (Six Tonnes De Chair Records)
MDOU MOCTAR – Ilana (The Creator) (Sahel Sounds)
DRAHLA – Useless Coordinates (Captured Tracks)
OTOBOKE BEAVER – Itekoma Hits (Damnably)
SNEAKS – Highway Hypnosis (Merge Records)
CONTROL TOP – Covert Contracts (Get Better)
AUTOMATIC – Signal (Stones Throw Records)
AVERY R. YOUNG – Tubman (FPE Records)
SAULT – 5 (Forever Living Originals)