Whenever I put together this monthly segment, I’ll often be conscious of one particular genre of music being overrepresented. Of course, the amount of records to have been released in the space of a month under a specific stylistic umbrella that I happen to love is purely based on chance, but considering it’s often my ‘Albums I Love’ posts that get a lot of hits and branch viewers out to my other content, I’ll worry about coming across as being a website primarily dedicated to reviewing hip hop or metal or electronic music or some other specialised genre. After all, the point of Diamond in the Groove is to analyse music with an unbiased lens, meaning that genre is something I barely consider, outside of the fact that I make a conscious effort to space out reviews of albums of a similar style and try to cover as diverse a selection of music as possible. For the month of May, compiling my list of albums that really captured my attention from the past 31 days made me realise that the recurring theme for this month was not rock or folk or soul, but, oddly enough, Japan. Whether it be music from Japanese artists, such as tricot and YOSHIMI, or albums inspired by Japanese art, in the case of Ghosting’s Reimagining Miyazaki, the strong representation of the country in this month’s list took me by surprise. Hopefully, I need not worry about my website being assumed to be dedicated solely to covering music related to Japan, but I thought it was worth mentioning, largely because I’m running out of ideas for the preambles that introduce these segments. With that out of the way and with this instalment of Albums I Love being fashionably late as usual, I’ll get into the recommendations.
‘Trumpeting Ecstasy’ by Full of Hell
Having focussed their most recent efforts on ambitious collaborative projects, American grindcore outfit Full of Hell hit the studio solo to produce Trumpeting Ecstasy. Although fans of the band who were introduced to their experimental combinations of hardcore punk, noise, sludge metal and death metal through their joint efforts with Merzbow and The Body may be weary about a return to a more conventional grindcore sound, Trumpeting Ecstasy delivers in more ways than simply being impressively pummelling. Across its brief 20-minute runtime, Full of Hell flex their compositional muscles more than ever before, which is complemented perfectly by the dense and heavy production, courtesy of founding Converge member, Kurt Ballou, behind the desk. Having proven their ability to take grindcore outside of its comfort zone on their collaborative projects, Trumpeting Ecstasy is a demonstration that Full of Hell stand just as strong on their own.
’30 Seconds To The Decline Of Planet Earth’ by Jesu / Sun Kil Moon
The long-winded, laid-back, lyrical harangues of Mark Kozelek’s material under his Sun Kil Moon moniker seem as if they would be perfectly fitted for the equally unhurried and patience-testing grumbling tones of drone metal, so a collaboration between the singer-songwriter and Jesu, the post-metal brainchild of ex-Godflesh member Justin Broadrick, seemed ambitious but appropriate upon its initial announcement. The duo first came together on last year’s Jesu / Sun Kil Moon, which certainly pertained to many of the aspects of Jesu’s brand of experimental and industrial metal, but their latest collaboration, 30 Seconds To The Decline Of Planet Earth, incorporates a much more diverse sonic palette, much of which is comprised of styles outside of Jesu’s usual metal sound. Nonetheless, whilst pulling from genres as diverse as folk, electronica, ambient and synthpop, Broadrick is sure to root this selection of compositions in the same easygoing song structures and minimalist arrangements that complements Kozelek’s signature vocal style perfectly. With Kozelek being as interesting as ever, as he rattles off endearing stories about family, friends, work and whatever else should cross his mind, including druggies at Disney World, 30 Seconds To The Decline Of Planet Earth sees the definitive stylings of each artist playing to the strength of the other, making for an engrossing, meditative experience.
‘Reimagining Miyazaki’ by Ghosting
Melbourne-based record producer, Andrei Eremin, one day decided to remix a piece of music from one of his favourite films into a glitchy, beat-driven instrumental. The composition in question was Joe Hisaishi’s One Summer’s Day, which many will recognise as the first breaths of sound to be heard at the beginning of Hayao Miyazaki’s supernatural classic, Spirited Away. Whilst playing with a recording of the composition, Eremin inadvertently crafted one of the greatest tracks he had worked on, and this realisation conceived the idea for his debut mixtape under the moniker of Ghosting, Reimagining Miyazaki. Following on from the precedent set by his revision of One Summer’s Day, Eremin transforms scores from all of Miyazaki’s feature-length films into dynamic and profound lo-fi hip hop mixes that retain the original sentiments of these pieces, whilst rethinking the way in which their emotional forcefulness can be conveyed in an entirely alien aesthetic. The end product is an undeniably enjoyable listening experience that reimagines some of animation’s most iconic soundtracks in an invigorating new light.
‘3’ by tricot
With the airtight technical prowess of the best bands that math rock has to offer and the sugary vocal melodies of the most eccentric J-pop acts, tricot’s third album, aptly titled 3, blows the competition out of the water. The group’s ear for a well-written melody is exceptionally on point, whilst their compositional capabilities are translated in the form of a selection of stylistically and structurally diverse songs that are matched with adroit musicianship and boisterous performances. 3 improves from tricot’s previous two albums in all areas, and establishes the trio as one of math rock’s most eclectic and enthralling outfits.
‘Black Origami’ by Jlin
On Black Origami, Jlin elevates her esoteric footwork stylings to a heightened level of complexity and eccentricity. Through incorporating incredibly abstruse stylings into her brand of electronic music, the artist continues to progress footwork beyond its structural foundations and towards a more varied and thematically detailed approach. The convoluted, angular rhythms of footwork are turned up a notch, whilst the indulgent instrumental arrangements fill out the blank space left by these beats as to craft some fantastically luscious soundscapes. Similarly, the sonic variety of Black Origami reaches far beyond the confines of footwork’s fundamentals, incorporating everything from martial music to Baltic folk music to Gnawa music, whilst the collaborators who team up with Jlin on the record, including William Basinski and Holly Herndon, bring their own definitive stylings into the mix, furthering the ambitious breadth of this project. Whether on the dance floor or not, Black Origami is a riveting listening experience that is as sleek as it is dark, as intricate as it is spectral, and as direct as it is corrugated.
‘Goths’ by the Mountain Goats
The latest album from folk outfit the Mountain Goats, Goths, is as compelling lyrically as it is musically. In choosing to opt for using no guitars, no comped vocals and no pitch correction, with most of these songs being driven by woodwinds, a piano and a Fender Rhodes, whilst a bass and drum groove holds down the fort, the band’s usual brand of refined indie folk takes a slightly baroque turn that unfolds into some of the sleekest song structures and most ravishing instrumental arrangements the Mountain Goats have yet to put to tape. Goths also marks significant lyrical growth for the act’s frontman and mastermind, John Darnielle, with the album’s narrative being an in-depth rumination on the life of goths that clearly comes from a place of endearment for the subculture. The singer manages to appeal to fellow fans of goth culture with arcane references, whilst nevertheless retaining a sense of accessibility in the way in which these allusions are employed as to reflect on human emotion and interaction. Overall, Goths is a beautifully poignant experience from both a lyrical and musical perspective.
‘Bloodstained Rebellion’ by Wrath of Belial
For many new releases in the metal world, it can be pretty easy to advertise them by stating the band’s most notable influences, as a means of encouraging fans of these artists to check out the band in question. In the case of Wrath of Belial and their debut album, Bloodstained Rebellion, one could certainly invoke the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder, Hatesphere, Soulwax and At The Gates, and fans of these melodeath powerhouses will likely highly enjoy Wrath of Belial, but there’s certainly more to the band than just this. Firstly, although the group’s incorporation of thrash metal into their sound is likely inspired by Hatesphere, Wrath of Belial’s angular twist takes this style in a rather different direction. Indeed, the band’s ear for serpentine melodies, which are entwined in convoluted and kaleidoscopic compositions, set them apart from many other melodic death metal acts of the same ilk, and they have the technical chops to boot. Overall, Bloodstained Rebellion is one of the most enthralling, engaging and generally enticing melodic death metal records to come out this year.
‘Wreche’ by Wreche
Wreche’s self-titled debut album is a very special black metal record, in that the band substitute six strings for 88 keys. Yes, Wreche are a black metal duo consisting of drums, vocals and piano. This may sound like a gimmick on the surface, and I’ll admit that I thought the same upon first hearing of this group, but they do much more with this quirk than simply have a piano play what a heavily distorted guitar would play in its place. Instead, the band takes just as many cues from classical music as they do black metal, with vocalist and pianist John Steven Morgan’s piano work drawing influences from romantic and impressionist composers, whilst the drummer of the duo, Barret Baumgart, utilises a true blue black metal style of playing that is intricately moulded to reinforce Morgan’s playing in incredibly detailed ways. Although Wreche is only a short introduction into Wreche’s esoteric stylings, it is a lasting one that alludes to groundbreaking material from the band in the future.
‘Homecoming’ by Sorrow Plagues
Rich, colourful, explosive, cathartic, forceful, blissful: all these words and more come to mind when experiencing Sorrow Plagues’ luscious brand of atmospheric black metal on his sophomore album, Homecoming. Although cut from the same cloth as the many blackgaze bands to be making the rounds recently, the way in which Sorrow Plagues, masterminded by sole member David Lovejoy, incorporates stylistic elements associated with post-rock and perhaps even progressive rock makes for a refreshingly unique release for the genre. The musicianship is top quality, the compositional prowess is mesmerising and the overall sound of the album is vibrant and depressive in a way that any fan of black metal will greatly appreciate, making Homecoming an underground essential for new atmospheric black metal.
‘ATAVISM’ by YOSHIMI
Meditating on the folklore and classics of his homeland of Japan, YOSHIMI’s latest project, ATAVISM, seeps influence from cyberpunk literature from every crevice. Pulling from genres as diverse as vapourwave, trap, industrial, ambient and trip hop, the overall aesthetic of ATAVISM is as stylistically esoteric as it is texturally baroque and compositionally multi-faceted. With the arcane allusions to Japanese art being a deeply ingrained aspect of YOSHIMI’s ruminations across the album, ATAVISM is not only one of the richest sonic experiences of the year thus far, but its beautifully dark soundscapes are matched with an equally rich cultural significance. Rife with dualities and dichotomies, ATAVISM is a record of many layers, with each one being stripped away to reveal an ever-increasing sense of deeply-rooted and firmly-established artistic understanding, making it one of the most ambitious and compelling electronic albums of the year.