March: 18 albums you need to hear this month
George Fitzgerald ‘All That Must Be’ (Domino)
Let’s cut to the chase: this album is going to be a game-changer for UK-born, Berlin-based DJ/producer George Fitzgerald. While his previous LP was led by the timeless single ‘Full Circle’ with Boxed In, the album as a whole was somehow less than the sum of its parts. But that’s not the case here. In rock terms, the leap here is not unlike the one Radiohead made between ‘Pablo Honey’ and ‘The Bends’: the music is more emotive, the confidence sharper, the production bolder. Iridescent lead single ‘Burns’ you’ll have already heard: it’s been hammered by everyone from Sasha to 6 Music over the festive season, and it’s just one of 10 rich, melodic highlights here. ‘Frieda’ is an epic instrumental, while the Berlin-inspired ‘Siren Calls’ and ‘The Echo Forgets’ will be getting serious underground DJ support this summer.
Already Number One in Big Tunes, ‘Roll Back’ (with Lil Silva) is arguably his best radio record since ‘Full Circle’. And then there are the guests: any album which can casually feature Bonobo and Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn, as well as Silva, is doing something right, and all three collabs are guaranteed to be doing damage on smarter dancefloors. ‘Half-Light’ with Thorn has the same pop poignancy as her work on ‘Walking Wounded’, while the six-minute Bonobo collab ‘Outgrown’ has KCRW written all over it. But where this really matters is in terms of depth and dexterity, and you’ll be playing this record well into the spring. In an era where albums come and go in a matter of weeks, ‘All That Must Be’ is going to be lodged into key craniums for the rest of 2018. Feel free to remind us of what we wrote here come December, when it will be in everyone’s end-of-year lists. Ralph Moore
Daniel Avery ‘Song For Alpha’ (Phantasy Sound)
There’s a lot of anticipation hanging over this album: after all, it’s almost five years since Avery released its beloved predecessor, ‘Drone Logic’. The biggest clue as to where he might have been heading was his 2016 DJ-Kicks mix, which was distinctly Berlin-ish in tone – lots of bare (and even bleak) techno textures which were a stark contrast to ‘Drone Logic’, an LP which, while not exactly the Vengaboys, was full of electro and acid bubble and bounce.
In the event, ‘Song For Alpha’ is a fair bit bleaker, full of icy atmospherics and dissociative shoegaze fuzz, but it’s a long way from techno orthodoxy, too: the clearest reference points here are early-90s Aphex Twin before he got hyper-intricate, the mysterious Detroit electro of Drexciya and the way Richie Hawtin used to make a 303 sing in his more chilled tracks as Plastikman. There are also dark ambient interludes, too, but in the same way that Shed and Bicep have recently managed to find new things to say with the tonalities of different parts of the 90s, so Avery skilfully weaves those references into his own eerie narratives here. There’s some straightforward techno on both ‘Diminuendo’ and the amazing ‘Sensation’, and the more broken rhythms are still structured with a DJ’s ear – perhaps too much so, on occasion (it’d be good to hear those structures get even more disrupted). But maybe that’s all still to come; as it is, this is a strong, sometimes truly beautiful, maturation of Avery’s work as a producer. Joe Muggs