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If ever there was a band with a misleading name it is the Pop Group. Formed in Bristol in 1977, PG made hard, uncompromising music that combined the energy of punk with, dub, funk and avant-noise. Sales didn’t match the critically acclaim, band split in 1981 and the members went on to work with the Slits, Rip Rig + Panic, Head and Pigbag. Honeymoon on Mars is the second album of new material to be recorded since the band reformed in 2010. Tis is a stunner, coming on like a near- perfect hybrid Public Image Ltd, Massive Attack and Leftfield. With PiL including Pop Group drummer Bruce Smith in the current line-up and Massive Attack having publicly acknowledged a debt, this may not be too surprising. Like the earlier material, Honeymoon on Mars is not an easy listen. Troughout, the music is inventive and original. In places, it may be a hard listen but it is an album that rewards repeated listening. Te unsung Smith is one of rock’s great drummers. Mark Stewart has a strident, engaging voice and writes intelligent, thought- provoking and sometimes witty lyrics.



Obel's first two albums, the delicate Philharmonics and the piano-led Aventine were deeply personal, yet infused with the Danish spirit of hygge, a cosy intimacy which rebuffs formality. Whilst Citizen of Glass still contains elements of hygge the overwhelming theme here is of challenging transparency and openness (the title being a translation of gläserner bürger, a German concept governing privacy and disclosure of knowledge about an individual). Using a rich assortment of keyboard instruments, including a trautonium (a rare metal-keyed synthesiser from the 1920's), Obel sets out to examine her own conflicting ideas about privacy as an artist. Not surprising, perhaps, that the opening track Stretch Your Eyes bristles with paranoiac apprehension until the single Familiar concedes a dreamier and more relaxed mood. In Trojan Horses the observed becomes voyeur, Obel's vocals gently withdrawing behind a gentle veil of strings and percussion, only for the title track to highlight the power of sadness in a beautiful and moving arrangement worthy of cinematic soundtrack. Tis is an ambitious and atmospheric offering from Agnes Obel, one that deserves to elevate her to a much wider audience. Without doubt, one of my favourite albums of the year so far.



Never heard of Lambchop? I envy you, so many magical music moments ahead. Constantly evolving since their launch in the early 90’s, Lambchop’s trademark is Americana meets sparse Nashville soul with a unique, laconic voice in singer, and only permanent member, Kurt Wagner. All the more surprising then that FLOTUS is an exercise in vocoder experimentation and studio tweaking. First it’s rather lovely, then starts wearing thin, finally I realise that my expectations are clouding my judgement - it’s Kurt’s canoe, and he can paddle it anywhere he wants. Bookended by two goliaths of chilled country soul coming in at 30 minutes combined, this latest release in the canon reassures with familiarity and edges away with contemporary creativity. FLOTUS feels like shorthand for Flying LOTUS and they have invented an acronym to fit, tracks like Writerand NIV having that jittery, techy soulful feel. But Nick, what does it sound like? Imagine a low tempo mash up of Al Green, Frank Ocean and Fourtet, southern twang guitars sparingly caressing your earholes and vocoded words you can’t make out. I like it a lot, but it ain’t for everybody, only the sexy people. / November 2016 / 37

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