Read about our 4 favourite new music releases for the month of July, and in our ‘in case you missed it’ feature we celebrate the life of a recently departed South African national treasure. Listen to the tracks at the end of the post or download or stream these songs this month…
Song: Hungry Child
From album: A Bath Full Of Ecstasy
When it was announced that the latest Hot Chip album was to be produced by French production duo Cassius, a natural assumption was that it would be packed with cheeky dancefloor ready bangers. Not so.
Indeed, A Bath Full Of Ecstasy is for sure the band’s most introspective and quiet work to date. While only 9 tracks long, most of the songs are around the 6 minute mark. This allows for a languid approach with stretched out instrumental passages and long meandering verses. Still present is Alexis Taylor’s gorgeously plaintive and yearning vocals. The bouncy stuff is still to be found here but it’s tucked away a little deeper. Lead single Hungry Child for example only appears as late as the 5th track on the album and it takes the best part of 2 minutes before the beat kicks in. It’s worth the wait mind. Best not to dwell on the silly album title and esoteric ‘crystal shoppe’ album cover though.
(Also download or stream from the album: Positive, Melody Of Love, Spell)
From album: Dreems
And speaking of Cassius, their latest album Dreems dropped on 21 June, just 2 days after the tragic death of one half of the duo, Philippe Zdar. (See last month’s ‘in case you missed it’ feature for further details.) More’s the pity given the sparkling return to form that Dreems represents. Cassius were one of the leaders of the Parisian dance scene that came to be labelled French Touch. The mid-to late-90s was a golden era for French house music on the back of this scene. As a result, Dreems comes across as partly nostalgic, but true to form is also always classy. About half the tracks on offer here feature a guest lead vocalist. Notably, Vula Malinga takes the reins on late album highlight W18. Malinga was born in the United States to South African parents and her solid pipes are perfectly matched to this women’s empowerment belter.
(Also download or stream from the album: Don’t Let Me Be, Vedra, Dreams)
From album: Grim Town
SOAK is Bridie Monds-Watson who was born and raised in the staunch Catholic Northern Ireland town of Derry. Needless to say her alternative, lesbian attitude did not sit well with her ‘elders’. Grim Town is her second album and lyrically marks out similar territory to her debut. Musically she’s fleshed her sound out though. While a couple of tracks still tread her previous indie-folk territory, a richer backdrop is mostly present, pushing SOAK firmly into the pop limelight. Four sparkling singles have been released, but it’s the spaces between those that are more interesting. Sitting in the midpoint between these radio friendly songs and others carrying the alt-tag sit a number of quietly beautiful tracks. Chief amongst these is Maybe, a gloriously spun web of unrequited and unnoticed love past.
(Also download or stream from the album: Knock Me Off My Feet, Fall Asleep/Backseat, Life Trainee)
Song: Almost It
From album: Run Around The Sun
On first listen Run Around The Sun, the second album from Sacred Paws, sounds like a South African township band fronted by an English female guest vocalist. A surprise then to learn that the band is actually an all-girl duo from Glasgow, Scotland. Sacred Paws was formed by Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rodgers in 2015 after having performed together in a number of other bands including indie pop band Golden Grrls. Theirs is a joyous cacophony, with Aggs’ intricate fretwork complimented by Rodgers’ afrobeats. Most of the tracks feature both of them on vocal duty, often singing alternative lines as if they are locked in some sort of conversation. On lead single Almost It they also sing in unison, creating a beautiful harmony.
(Also download or stream from the album: The Conversation, Shame On Me, Other Side)
In case you missed it…
Song: December African Rain
From album: Work For All (from 1983)
On 16 July South Africa lost one of her favourite sons. Johnny Clegg passed away aged 66 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Ever the stoic, determined individual, Clegg continued performing after he was diagnosed, refusing treatment for an ailment that he believed would ultimately overcome him anyway. In the end it took 5 years for the cancer to overwhelm him; Clegg was stubborn to the end.
Farewell to a cultural icon
Johnny Clegg was born in the UK in the 50s but moved with his family to what was then Rhodesia and thereafter Johannesburg as a young child. He learnt to speak the Zulu language and play local music from Charlie Mzila, a close friend and house cleaner. After many brushes with the law for fraternizing with black people during the segregation years, in 1969 he formed Juluka (meaning ‘sweat’ in the Zulu vernacular) with another lifelong friend Sipho Mchunu. Juluka’s music began to take a firm hold in the consciousness of young South Africans at the time, both black and white, and also began to generate international acclaim, particularly in France.
By the early 80s Juluka had also become top 40 favourites, bringing us a number of brilliant singles including the twinkling African Sky Blue and the epic Scatterlings Of Africa. But it was 1983’s legendary Work For All album that was to cement Juluka and Clegg’s reputation while also managing to get under the skin of the then Apartheid rulers. Within lay 10 tracks of dissatisfaction and disharmony, spanning issues from unfair labour practices to indiscriminate township violence. That these tunes were enveloped in joyous local rhythms and township jive and were played live by the band with glee and wild abandon only accelerated their prominence.
The album kicks off with lead single December African Rain, still to this day a hauntingly beautiful track. This ode to a lost friend has now of course taken on even greater poignance (‘The firelight has danced it’s last across your face my friend, and though I love you I somehow know this is going to be the end’).
Clegg has received the Presidential Ikhamanga Award, was anointed a Knight (of Arts and Letters) by the French government and is a recipient of an OBE in the UK.
Hamba kahle le Zolou Blanc. Where did the time go indeed…
(Also download or stream from the album: Work For All, Bullets For Bafazane, Walima ‘Mabele)
LISTEN TO OUR PLAYLIST
You can listen to previews of each track by clicking on the icons next to the song titles below.
If you have iTunes and an Apple Music account, you can listen to the full songs and add the playlist to your library. Simply click on the grey Apple Music icon.
See more of our music reviews here.