A rip-roaring start to my third collection of 2010 music is the debut album from Sleigh Bells. I saw the band getting a fair amount of attention but, as with most new bands, never get around to listening to anything by them, despite finding a free track to download. I pick up Treats on spec when in Sister Ray, curious to find out if the hype is deserved. I am not quite prepared for the machine gun electronic beat of Tell 'Em that bursts from the speakers but it is hugely invigorating, and the energy keeps coming. Even when songs seem initially muted, like Infinity Guitars with its basic beat augmented by electronic hand-claps, they reach an explosive climax. Synths frolic over deep bass beats, and the vocals in equal parts drone and soar over it all. And everything is lo-fi, giving the sound a jagged edge you could cut yourself on. Softer tracks like Rill Rill balance the much rougher Straight A's to create a sublime overall composition. Treats deserves the hype and attention it has been getting.
Folk rock band Blitzen Trapper return with fifth album Destroyer of the Void, second for the Sub Pop label. The solid songwriting and juxtaposition of folk guitars and unconventional noises remains, but there is little to define this work separately from previous album Furr. Not that there is anything wrong with creating Furr Part II but the apparent lack of progress between albums is a little underwhelming for me, as Blitzen Trapper have so far pushed my expectations with each release until now. Destroyer of the Void is a good album, and certainly worth listening to, but it doesn't feel new.
Crush Depth is another album of metal-jazz fusion from Chrome Hoof, and is a brilliantly evocate title. Having thought the eponymously titled first album was an intense collection of songs only to find out that Chrome Hoof could get harder and harsher with Pre-emptive False Rapture I snap up this third release with some excitement. So it's a shame that it disappoints slightly. The same grooves are mixed with the same angles, but that it's mostly the same is the problem. The songs are clearly different to those on the previous album but they sound to have come from the same mould, extending without expanding Chrome Hoof's music. There is plenty to like on Crush Depth, I just feel I've heard it before.
Factory Floor's first EP is four-track vinyl release A Wooden Box, and only my second digital purchase. After seeing the band play live earlier this year I had to capture some of their magnificence so I could listen to it at my leisure. The first song is Lying and one I distinctly remember, the simple synthesiser beat repeating throughout yet remaining an effective hook on top of which different drum patterns, squawling guitars, and the droning vocals create a strong track. Following on is 16-16-9-20-1-14-9-7 which is much sparser and more electronic-sounding, but is nicely hypnotic for the whole ten minutes. Titular track A Wooden Box follows the same style of laying down a pattern and building on top of it, something Factory Floor do amazingly well. The up-tempo synthesiser is suggestive of a more urgent sound and otherwise disguises another simple but effective song. Final track Solid Sound is experimental, an ambient soundscape that perhaps doesn't work so well in isolation. Overall, A Wooden Box is an exciting initial release from Factory Floor.
Fifth studio album Sky at Night from I Am Kloot starts with the catchy Northern Skies, a typically beautiful mixture of poignant lyrics and jovial music that John Bramwell does so well. The singer and guitarist has honed his songwriting skills over the years, continually creating interesting and engaging music, and always building on what has gone before. Fingerprints has an interesting disturbing undercurrent; Lately sounds like it should be played in a bar after hours, the quality of the production making it feel like you're there; and Radiation is weighty and impressive. It is a little odd to hear a re-recording of Proof on the album, and a bit of research suggests that the original recording from second album Gods and Monsters was scheduled to be a single but the release was thwarted by the label. Now the song is getting the full release that it originally deserved, and a second airing on another engaging album from I Am Kloot.
School of Seven Bells follow their debut album with another burst of shoegazing electronic pop in Disconnect from Desire. The second album starts positively with a breezy and breathy Windstorm before picking up the tempo for more urgent Heart is Strange. The music and vocals feel softer than on first album Alpinisms, giving a more pop feel to songs like I L U and Bye Bye Bye, but one that is a natural progression from the earlier recording. Other tracks like Camarilla bridge the changes between the two albums gracefully, creating an overall dreamy collection of songs and a fabulous second album.