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Stephen Pietrzykowski guides us through a world of new music

Text by Stephen Pietrzykowski



Merchandise didn’t plan things this way. The Florida four-piece began life in 2009 as a white-noise leaning punk band with parochial concerns. But that all changed with the release of the free-to-download six-track Children of Desire in late 2012 and an ensuing wave of love spread by word of mouth. Abandoning the creative cul-de-sac of hardcore conventions in favour of melancholic ’80s new wave, kraut discord and (relatively speaking) pristine production, the band now find themselves in the unforeseen position of being both widely coveted and removed from the punk underground that birthed them. And yet in COD’s centrepiece, “Become What You Are”, Merchandise has a mantra for their own metamorphosis. The road to the true self is rarely linear.



The sad and untimely death of Chris Reimer last year heralded the dissolution of the band, Women, he formed with his lifelong friends Matt and Pat Flegel. The loss of a life will always overshadow that of a band, but the absence of Women’s anxiety-laden and claustrophobic post-punk has left our end times short of a fitting soundtrack. Pieced together posthumously by collaborator Chad VanGaalen from a series of ongoing projects, The Chad Tape doesn’t exactly pick up from where Women left off, but it does show that Reimer was intuitively plugged into the spirit of the times. There is slow heat, there is black clang and drone and, in the airless instrumentals, the same sense of burgeoning disaster that was a feature of Women’s best songs.



Given its centrality to how we give and receive information, it is satisfyingly perverse just how effective the internet is at generating half-truths, conjecture and, often, outright lies. UnityInnaDancehall199x, the latest mixtape from SKRSINTL, is being presented as a time capsule from another era, apparently acquired at a high school dance in San Juan, Metro Manila in 1993. Grainy and hyper, it appears convincingly authentic until you clock the Frank Ocean and Tim Hecker samples, and the walls come tumbling down. So, what is the story: are they hiding in plain sight, or is time really that elastic? Whichever, the truth resides in the dissonance of these riddims and that truth is love, whatever its source.



Taken from his latest record Lonely at the Top, Lukid’s “USSR” feels conceptually neat. Released by Werk Discs, it possesses the same spirit that characterises the work of label boss Actress; that feeling of being on the outside looking in. And there is also the title; conjuring thoughts of a lost empire. Like that recollection of a faded other world, Lukid is part decayed memory, part nuclear half-life, part ghost in the system.



If you’ve ever been fuzzy-eyed and wild enough to experience the shutters raise and the dawn light pour in at legendary Berlin club Berghain, you’ll be familiar with the kind of sound that Dan Bodan makes. Licensed to DFA, this Arthur Russell by-way-of-club-culture chanteur may know the allure of white powder and Vaseline, but with “Aaron”, Bodan also shows he knows the pitfalls of real life us-against-the-world infatuation. It is soul music for when the lights come on, the eyes connect and there’s only one line left, And that line? “I think we’re growing up”.



The newly adopted nom de plume of grime producer Slackk and a host of unnamed others, Patrice & Friends claim to make “music for girls and drinking”. They must like those two things a lot, because the past year has seen them issue three sets of ten-speed funk, R&B and boogie shakedowns through their own Bandcamp page, the most recent of which is free download Cherry Sorbet. Its best moments aren’t dissimilar to the fidgety, dayglo concerns of Rustie and Skream. Indeed, “Low Ride” could be the latter’s peerless “Summer Dreams” blasted into space and looped around Saturn’s hoops, searching for breakfast cereal, computer games and never-ending rides through the sky at night.



Affirming the adage that artists make the best A&Rs, White Fence’s Tim Presley has uncovered a rough gem in folk siren Jessica Pratt. In fact, so enamoured was he with the music of the San Fran native that he set up a label to release her debut album. On the strength of “Night Faces”, you can understand the reasoning. Pratt sings with the same world-weary pathos of Karen Dalton and Vashti Bunyan. But she is no museum piece, instead evoking the dope cloud intimacy of the rich west coast scene she inhabits with Presley.

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