I’ve started writing this paragraph about James Holden’s album the Inheritors countless times now. Each time, I’ve ended up downing tools defeated. Because how do you begin to describe the indescribable? My favourite record of 2013 – The Inheritors – isn’t just a different or odd; it is conceptually complete and utterly unique. Holden says of the record, “I wanted it to be a whole new world, a mythology, complete. As opposed to a product in a cycle: an old-fashioned idealistic version of what an album is”. It’s a mythology that takes the form of a collection of pagan techno recordings that sound like they’ve been hewn from living Ur-electronics; the kind of music you can imagine a Fried-era Julian Cope making had someone swapped the six-string for a bunch of creaking analogue synths. As pretentious as all this sounds, it’s the closest I can get to the reality of the album. Inexplicably missing from many ‘in the know’ end of year lists, The Inheritors presents mind-bending psychedelic music at its very best.
Bibio – Silver Wilkinson – his best record to date (and named after a salmon fly), this is the mesmeric sound of the British countryside across the seasons recorded by someone who’s perpetually on Caught by the River’s wish list for festivals. Bibio’s follow up EP (Green) is out this month. It’s the perfect companion piece to Silver Wikinson, like a bright, airy extension built on the side.
Daniel Avery – Drone Logic – a properly expansive techno record, perfectly described by Andrew Weatherall as ‘gimmick-free machine funk of the highest order’.
Four Tet – Beautiful Rewind – when Iggy aptly described the 1997 remaster of Raw Power as ‘a very violent mix’, he could have been talking about this album. Sonically ‘punk as fuck’, it plays out like a 3am joyride across the dial through London’s greatest pirate radio stations.
Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film – a sober, reflective mid-life record, Rewind The Film is a band of twenty-odd years vintage questioning their place in the scheme of things. Opening track This Sullen Welsh Heart is as good as anything they’ve ever recorded.
Also… loving the Fuck Buttons LP, Black Panties (the new R Kelly), Karl Hyde’s Edgeland and the Trunk Records Classroom Projects album – a magical collection of British school recordings from the ’50s onwards. Folk Group’s version of Portland Town is utterly transcendent.
Quick note on the above. This year, the main sound in my house has been that of a very angry newborn. In fact, the only way I managed to get to listen to any of this music was on a pair of Bowers and Wilkins P5 headphones. Audio wise, listening to music on them is like taking a deep, warm bath in sound. Not cheap but changed my listening habits entirely. And helped make endless walks round the block with the baby in a sling bearable. Cannot recommend these sweet, sweet cans enough.