PRINT December 2014


Matthew Higgs

Sleaford Mods performing at Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK, March 27, 2014. Photo: Simon Parfrement.

1 MAMMAN SANI, TAARITT (Sahel Sounds) This future-thinking, synth-heavy Saharan folk album was recorded in Niger and France in the late 1980s but was only released this year. It’s hard for me to remember what life was like without Sani’s exquisite music in it; Taaritt is possibly the greatest record ever made.

2 SLEAFORD MODS, DIVIDE AND EXIT (Harbinger Sound) On the verge of becoming a household name in their native UK, the Sleaford Mods (Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson) are essential listening for fans of early Schoolly D, the Stooges, and Mancunian poet laureates John Cooper Clarke and Shaun Ryder. It will be interesting to see whether the US can resist their vernacular charms.

3 JONATHAN RICHMAN, NO ME QUEJO DE MI ESTRELLA (Vapor) Speaking of poets: My (admittedly lapsed) affection for Richman’s wayward genius was rekindled after seeing him play last year at Louisville, Kentucky’s Zanzabar. This compilation brings together sixteen of Richman’s best twenty-first-century odes, each one equal to anything from his illustrious four-decade career. Long may he live.

4 BRENDA BEACHBALL RAY, RAMSHACKLE RUMBLE (Aficionado) A genuinely idiosyncratic EP from the ex–Naafi Sandwich dub maverick Brenda Ray. Unashamedly optimistic and childlike in spirit—not unlike the ’80s solo recordings of Can’s Holger Czukay—Ray’s life-affirming music should be far better known.

5 TOM OF ENGLAND, BAD LEATHER, BE ME, and CAMBRIDGE MAN (STD) Thomas Bullock—aka Tom of England—is one half of Rub-N-Tug, the legendary DJ duo that provided the sound track for much of New York’s downtown debauchery in the early 2000s. Now living in London (hence the new moniker), Bullock independently released a series of left-field disco edits back-to-back this year, subtly reworking six unlikely originals by the Woodentops, Kissing the Pink, and J. B. Pickers (among others) into anthems for discerning dance floors.

Fatima, New York, November 2014. Photo: Sebastian Hallqvist.

6 OMAR-S, ANNOYING MUMBLING ALKAHOLIK (FXHE Music) Over the past decade, Detroit’s Omar-S (Alex O. Smith) has been determinedly reimagining both house and techno music in his own image. If you are new to his profligate, lo-fi output, this latest woozy opus is as good a place to start as any.

7 FATIMA, YELLOW MEMORIES (Eglo) Sublime neo-neo-soul from the Swedish-born, London-based Fatima Bramme Sey. Featuring collaborations with Floating Points (Sam Shepherd) and Detroit legend Theo Parrish, Yellow Memories, her debut album, already feels like a classic.

8 CRAIG LEON, ANTHOLOGY OF INTERPLANETARY FOLK MUSIC VOL. 1: NOMMOS/VISITING (RVNG Intl.) Suicide producer Leon forensically reconstructed—almost note for note—his 1981 electronic cult classic Nommos, whose original master tapes are long gone, effectively creating a cover version of his own work. Also including a recorded version of his equally elusive 1982 follow-up, Visiting, this is a lovingly crafted archival project from New York’s exemplary label RVNG Intl.

9 MUSLIMGAUZE, CHASING THE SHADOW OF BRYN JONES 1983–1988 (Vinyl-on-Demand) A wildly prolific and often divisive figure, Bryn Jones (1961–1999), aka Muslimgauze, produced claustrophobic soundscapes that took their cue from Middle Eastern sources as much as they drew from early-’80s collisions of dub and industrial music. This ten-album box set—accompanied by a 208-page book with an essay by critic Ibrahim Khider about Jones’s life, music, and influences—serves as an exhaustive introduction to what is arguably the musician’s best work.

10 BOB NICKAS AND NIKHOLIS PLANCK, THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING WORLD OF . . . THE FALL (Karma) Masquerading as an official book from the ongoing 33 1/3 series, in which each volume is dedicated to the analysis of a single “classic” album, this publication from writer and curator Bob Nickas and artist Nikholis Planck features a pointed back-and-forth about British post-punk band the Fall’s 1984 album The Wonderful and Frightening World of . . . The Fall. Their dialogue made me revisit and reappraise an album that has long simmered on my shelf. It’s essential reading, the perfect holiday gift for the Fall aficionado in your life.

Matthew Higgs is the Director of White Columns in New York and a regular contributor to Artforum. The Sound of White Columns, the institution’s record label, recently released an album by Berlin-based artist Karl Holmqvist; new recordings by David Robbins and Emily Sundblad & Matt Sweeney are forthcoming in 2015.