Few albums have been so influential that they immediately spawned an entirely new genre of music. Newcastle, England trio Venom have arguably the largest claim to the creation of the genre of which this record is its namesake; the 1982 powerhouse Black Metal. Coming as a musical progression from thrash and the new wave of British heavy metal, which was only barely breaking into popularity at the time, metal acts began to perform in more and more extreme styles. Compared to modern black metal, however, this album seems relatively tame – the furiously high tempos and yelled vocals that black metal came to be associated with were to be developed later.
The idea of black metal was already being toyed with by Norwegian acts such as Emperor the time Venom decided to run with it; ironically, the spiritual creators of the genre saw it as more of a joke. Venom, as a band, helped establish the genre as a viable alternative to thrash, bringing their stage showmanship and pseudo-satanic imagery to a new audience. Black metal has always remained somewhat of an underground scene, which reflects in Venom’s raw vocal delivery and rough-around-the-edges production quality on this record.
- Age of Consent
- We All Stand
- The Village
- Your Silent Face
- Leave Me Alone
From the ashes of Joy Division, there rose a New Order. In the early 1980s, the remaining members of the former band (Sumner, Morris and Hook) decided to coalesce once again following the suicide of their old vocalist, Ian Curtis, while adding the talents of keyboard and guitarist Gillian Gilbert to their line-up. The resulting sound they chose was a move away from the gothic aesthetic of their Joy Division days and towards a post-punk influenced fusion of electronic and dance music, with huge popular appeal. The synthy sound of their 1983 single “Blue Monday” was a great contemporary success, and became the most sold 12″ single ever recorded. Power, Corruption & Lies was released the same year, and featured the same dance infused synthpop sound that proved so popular on “Blue Monday”.
The most striking feature of the record is its cover image, crafted by prolific graphic designer Peter Saville. It features a reproduction of Henri Fantin-Latour’s painting “A Basket of Roses”, with a colour code in the top right hand corner meant to represent the name of the band and title of the album. What makes this image so memorable and effective is its simplicity. Saville said the flowers “suggested the means by which power, corruption and lies infiltrate our lives. They’re seductive.” The image can also be interpreted as a tribute of sorts to the late Curtis, who has remained a great influence on New Order’s musical direction up until this point, where the band respectfully began to move away from under his shadow to forge their own identity.
A bold move was the decision to not include “Blue Monday” on the record, despite its immense popularity. I think that showed a kind of quiet confidence in the quality of their music, since they felt like they didn’t need to rely on the recognition that including the single would bring. Instead, Power contains a tight-knit group of refined tracks with no obvious low points across the whole 40 minute record. “586” delivers a thrilling break from a minute long abstract instrumental which rapidly evolves into one of the album’s most powerful and catchy hooks, while “Age of Consent” offers a bright, upbeat introduction. However, there is a darker undertone to the music, which set New Order apart from its contemporaries at the time. There are constant allusions and hints to hidden meaning throughout in the murkier sections of synth instrumentation, and the plucked electric guitars lend a darker tone to some tracks.
This is Power, Corruption and Lies in action. The catchiness of the music is seductive, much like the subject of the front cover, and yet there is something darker at play under the surface while you, as the listener, are slowly immersed in it.
Kendrick Lamar – “DNA. (Alternative Video)”
An alternative take of Lamar’s powerful track “DNA.” was featured at the Warriors’ recent victory. The short 30 second clip can be heard at the start of this video.
Young Ejecta – “Build a Fire”
Listen to Young Ejecta’s latest single here, “Build a Fire” – a glittery yet emotional electropop ballad masterminded by Joel Ford’s 80s inspired electronic production.
Queens of the Stone Age – “The Way You Used to Do”
Queens of the Stone Age how now shared details on their upcoming record Villains, out on August 25th. They have shared the tracklist, as well as this new single, which can be heard above.
Arcade Fire – “Creature Comfort”
Arcade Fire have shared their second single from Everything Now, their upcoming album. They have opted for a more electronic influenced sound on this album, a big difference from their indie rock roots.
The War on Drugs – “Holding On”
The accompanying video for the War on Drugs’ earlier single has been released, with a summery, feelgood tone that perfectly reflects that of the music itself.
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – “When I Dance With You”
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart have returned with the second single from their upcoming record called The Echo of Pleasure, due to be released on September 1. This single follows “Anymore“, which was released last month.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “White Man’s World”
Southern rock auteur Jason Isbell is now streaming his latest album, The Nashville Sound, recorded with his backing band the 400 Unit. He has also released this heavily politicised single, “White Man’s World”, to accompany it.
Gustav Holst, in his Planets suite, perfectly captured a sense of grand power and majesty which reflected the scale of an entire solar system in his composition. On Planetarium, the result of a collaboration between singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner and James McAlister. This is the modern-day equivalent of Holst’s opus, trading the bombast of a full orchestra for a more electro-ambient production. Some might argue that this option is a budget-friendly way of creating the atmosphere of the planets, as most ambient music is ethereal by nature, and skimps on the raw musical talent of orchestral instrumentation.
However, Planetarium isn’t simply standard fare; there are some new ideas under the surface here, from the glitched elements on the song “Jupiter” to represent the chaos of its never-ending storm in its famous ‘red spot’ to the plucking, bouncy electronic beats to give the impression of something on a celestial scale gradually taking shape. however, some ideas don’t work out for the best. “This was such an epic endeavour because the universe is constantly expanding.” says Sufjan Stevens. On Planetarium, he delivers his usual soft and delicate performance, weaving his vocals in and out of the brass instrumentation throughout the album, but on some tracks his voice is electronically distorted for no discernible reason, which almost seems like sacrilege given the fact that his singing is so pure that no alterations need to be made to it in the first place. It doesn’t ruin the album, but there’s enough of this distortion to grate on me.
With this small issue of personal taste aside, there is a lot of enjoyment to be found in Planetarium. It offers a fresh, modern sound for a concept that has been done to death, and reinforces the supernatural tendency for anything that Stevens touches to turn to gold.
Favourite track: Jupiter
Least favourite track: Saturn
Toro y Moi – “Girl Like You”
Chazwick Bradley Bundick, better known as Toro y Moi, has been working hard again on the 80’s synths for this new video for “Girl Like You”, taken off of his 2017 album Boo Boo.
Oneohtrix Point Never – The Pure and the Damned (feat. Iggy Pop)
Oneohtrix Point Never has shared this moody collaboration with Iggy Pop, which is meant to be used on the score for the crime film Good Time, starring Robert Pattinson.
Earthling – “Howl”
Earthling‘s style of music is nebulous, never seeming to fit in one concrete genre for long. One moment, there’s strong doom vibes which then progress into almost math-rock sounding licks, and as the song builds into a chorus this is replaced with classic speed metal tropes. Nonetheless, this genre-hopping is managed very well on this new track – “Howl”.