Needle on the Record: Quinn Christopherson, Arca, Sophie and Julius Eastman

Quinn Christopherson shares ‘I Am Bubblegum’ 

Quinn Christopherson has already shared two outstanding tracks from this EP. The first offering Bubblegum was a slow sing-a-long that pondered identity with it’s refrain of “I don’t know who I am”, the second song Good Boy tackled the topic of calling out bad behaviour among male friends.

Now the whole EP is out and the musicians growing legion of fans can listen to another new track Loaded Gun that rounds out the 3 track EP. The sound of Christopherson’s voice is very reminiscent of Perfume Genius. Stark vocals with the warm chords of an organ open the tune before a melodic guitar and strings enter. The lyrics speak of the need to run and escape confines, break free and find happiness.

Given the quality of these three tracks from Quinn Christopherson, we’re eagerly awaiting a full album in 2022.


Arca releases surprise album Kick iiiii

Arca | KICK iiKicK iii, kick iiii, kiCK iiiii| ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Arca has given fans a wealth of music in recent weeks, KICK ii, the follow up to their 2020 record arrived in late November and was quickly followed by the promised follow ups KicK iii, and kick iiii. Fans got a surprise when kiCK iiiii also arrived.

Arca’s first album Xen arrived in 2014, and was quickly followed by Mutant the following year. The self titled Arca was her third record, which arrived in 2017, and then three years later the kick journey commenced. The five albums collectively contain 59 tracks and include collaborations with Bjork, SOPHIE, Shygirl, Sia, ROSALIA, Shirley Mason, Oliver Coates, Planningtorock and Ryuchi Sakamoto.

Across the four new albums Arca continues to defy expectations and continually creates intriguing new sounds. KICK ii largely draws upon reggaetón vibes. Tracks including Prada, Rakata, and Tiro have a great dancefloor sound, elsewhere unexpected layers of warping sounds keep things interesting. Born Yesterday the single featuring vocals from Sia is possibly the album’s most accessible and traditional pop tune, but the other songs demand a repeated listening to fully absorb their complexity.

KicK iii is a much harsher offering, rap lyrics and crunching beats come to the fore, there are so many different styles and sounds from track to track, elements of techno, experimental EDM and almost operatic vocals. It’s like lots of elements were put into a blender to create the perfect musical smoothie.

There’s a subtle change on kick iiii, the vocals are more robotic, the tracks slower, more chilled. Alien Inside features apocalyptic guitars and a spoken word contribution from Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson. As we travel through the tunes it gets slower and murkier, hazier, like the batteries slowly fading on a walkman slowing each song.

The arrival of the fifth instalment is ambient territory, evoking memories of music boxes, snow flakes and folk bands. The distortion and unexpected right turns have been abandoned and some truly beautiful music is found within. There’s so much to process and unpack in these five companion albums, and if you’ve got a few hours to lock yourself away and listen to them all from start to finish there’s an epic journey to be taken.             

Fresh Tunes 

Blue Hawaii – L.O.V.E a slice of sophisticated disco filled with saxophone sounds La Roux – Damaged Goods (Wuh Oh remix) new music from La Roux, skip the original and head to the woozy remix Orlando Weeks – Bigger with a mesmerizing voice and laid back 80’s vibe this tune straddles the space between chilled and dancefloor  Gordi – Grass is Blue a gorgeous version of the Dolly Parton song VTSS – Trust Me a short and sweet combination of drums and techno sounds Little Dragon featuring Jakob Koranyi and Yo-Yo Ma – Drifting Out all the different versions of this single are great, but this classical music infused take is our favourite Charli XCX – Good Ones (Perfume Genius Remix) a collaboration we did not see coming, Perfume Genius drops Charli XCX into a K-hole Blue Lab Beats featuring Killbeatz and Fela Kuti – Motherland Journey a mix of African rhythms, trumpets and the late great Fela Kuti American Football and Miya Follick – Fade Into You hard to beat the original from Mazzy Star but this is pretty good  Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – B-Side first tracks from their second EP collaboration, it’s funky and laid back AURORA – Heathens epic tune from her upcoming album, ethereal and multi-layered, it takes you on a journey.  

SOPHIE’s debut EP will get a new pressing

When SOPHIE tragically died earlier this year her early records quickly became collectors items trading for hundreds of dollars. Now her record company Huntleys and Palmers are re-releasing her debut EP Nothing More To Say so more of her fans can have their own copy.

The new version coming out early in 2022 will see both the vocal and dub version of the title track on vinyl for the first time alongside another tune EEEHHH. Proceeds for the new version will go to the Scottish Trans Alliance.

Damon Albarn’s new album is beautiful 

Damon Albarn | The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows | ★ ★ ★ ★  

Over the years Damon Albarn has delivered a lot of different types of music, from his days in Blur through to the cartoon fronted band Gorrillaz he’s created heaps of pop hits. He’s been part of bands The Good, The Bad & The Queen and Rocket Juice to the Moon, and he’s also delivered more experimental work in film sound tracks, world music collections and the occasional project inspired by Chinese opera.

Here he delivers his third solo work, the philosophically titled The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows. Originally intended as an orchestral piece inspired by the landscapes of Iceland, where Albarn now lives, it was expanded to being a full album during the covid-19 pandemic.   

The title track opens the record, it’s a meditative and drawn out song, and Albarn’s voice is at first slightly annoying. On The Cormorant the sound transforms to a jazz fused slow shuffle with meandering lyrics. Royal Morning Blue picks things up and finds some energy. Combustion is a dirge with violins and muffled brass sounds that suddenly descends into a cacophony of sounds before emerging as a rock groove before a tinkling piano takes over. Daft Wader is a stunningly beautiful song that brings different characters to life, Darkness to Light is gorgeous and reflective.

Through out the tracks the sound drifts from jazz to ambient melodies, but the final tunes Polaris and Particles bring us back to life. Albarn’s sad and sedated album is not immediately striking but one that grows on you with repeated listens. It’s complex, beautiful and very sophisticated.

Wild Up and Christopher Roundtree reignite the music of Julius Eastman

Julius Eastman was a minimalist composer who created music in New York in the 1970’s. He often gave his works provocative titles like Gay Guerilla, Joy Boy, Nigger Faggot, and Crazy Nigger. He worked with other artists including avant-garde disco composer Arthur Russell. Homosexuality was a central theme to Eastman’s work.

In the early 1980’s he became dependent on drugs and was homeless. When he was evicted from his apartment, much of his work was lost forever. He died aged 49 in 1991, and it was eight months later an obituary appeared in the press.

In the years that have passed admirers of his works and those he collaborated with have tried to make sure his works were not lost. Orchestras have begun to perform his pieces and new recordings of his works have been made.

Several of his compositions were used in the soundtrack for the television series We Are Who We Are, alongside music by Dev Hynes., and in October the BBC declared him their composer of the month.

In 1974 Eastman composed two works Feminine and Masculine. This year his recording of Feminine has been re-released by the record label Sub Rosa, but there’s also a new recording by Wild Up and Christopher Roundtree which delivers the work as a much more complex presentation. The collective have shared they plan to release seven volumes of recordings of Eastman’s work, and this is just the first.

The hour-long piece is one of the those great minimalist pieces that you put on and play in the background, it’s repetitive motifs seeping into your subconsciousness, repetitive bells that ebb and flow, cascading piano lines and meandering strings create a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere. As the work progresses it becomes more intense and energetic.

 Read the previous edition of music column ‘Needle on the Record’.

Graeme Watson

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