Album reviews: new releases rated
HOOKWORMS – MICROSHIFT
IT'S been a long wait for fans of Leeds-based psychedelic/noise rockers Hookworms, who are finally dropping their long-awaited third album after three years.
Microshift is admittedly laced with tragedy, the record borne out of the past few years that included a last-minute cancellation of a US tour and the destruction of band member MJ's Suburban Home Studio due to a flood in Leeds in 2015.
MJ said: "All our records are to an extent about mental health. Largely this is an album about loss but also about maturing, accepting your flaws and the transience of intimacy."
However, there's an edge of the more upbeat throughout their latest offering, thanks to the perkier, synth-stuffed music offsetting the harsh back stories.
Album opener Negative Space is exciting, a long and meandering track that bursts with a grown-up electronic rock sound. Ullswater smacks of 1980s video game music and is arguably the standout track, while Boxing Day – which refers to the flood caused by the River Aire breaking its banks – is dark and brooding and substantial.
Fans will be delighted with this more nuanced and passionate offering.
RAE MORRIS – SOMEONE OUT THERE
THREE years in the waiting, Rae Morris's second album has finally arrived. We have been teased since the middle of last year with singles Reborn, Do It and Atletico (The Only One), all displaying different moods. Reborn was an appropriate introduction to a more electronic sound for Morris, while Do It is heart-achingly lovely in its positivity as a relationship tentatively goes to the next level.
The newer tracks in the second half of the album take a few listens to embed themselves into your consciousness, but it will be rewarding.
Physical Form slowly builds up into an epic track with thundering drums. And Rose Garden's piano parts have touches of Kate Bush (no pun intended). Morris's vocals are ethereal and intimate, and this is a collection that never loses hope even when love ends, because something else begins.
THOMAS TRUAX – ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS
HEATH Robinson-esque troubadour Thomas Truax is a teller of wry, noirish stories whose live shows feature self-invented, noise-making contraptions that have fixed him in the imaginations of a cult following.
Even when you can't see the cogs whirring, on record he packs in melodies equally indebted to Tom Waits's whiskey-spiked wells as Brill Building aerodynamism.
While keeping it surreal, International Homeland Security also allies musings on migration to the album's most propulsive beat; opener Swimming Back to Wowtown is a guitar, accordion, and slapback-laced grower, warning "Correctional facility: do not stop for hitchhikers"; and Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra are evoked on Save Me, a duet with Gemma Ray which becomes increasingly affecting on its reprise.
Eerie glockenspiels and couplets about horse weddings may not be to all tastes, but so many of these ideas hit the mark, and rough edges in this recording bring some humanity to Truax's dreamworld.
POPPY ACKROYD – RESOLVE
POPPY Ackroyd is a "post classical" musician and Resolve an album of avant-garde instrumentals, mostly favouring repeating piano phrases, or variations on such that feature unusual percussive techniques involving paper or wine glasses.
As is to be expected from a work closer to art than pop, the tracks come with their own explanations: Trains for example, is supposedly the musical imagining of the changing scenery during a train journey. Notably, this track and Stems both received awards for their innovative accompanying music videos, reflecting the cinematic quality of these undulating, sinister soundscapes.
Like a lot of ambient music, Resolve employs repetitive motifs that might be interpreted as mesmerising or monotonous depending on the listener's taste or mood, but it is nevertheless an intriguing piece of work.