RAC – Ego (Counter Records, 2017)

“Pop music really shouldn’t be this clever.” — Clash review, July 2017

André Allen Anjos, aka RAC, is set to release his second album of smart pop songs with a revolving cast of singers later this week via Ninja Tune’s Counter subsidiary.

I reviewed the album for Clash. You can read my review here. Suffice to say that I don’t think I’ve heard a pop album by a modern act this good for a long, long time.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

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Toro y Moi – Boo Boo (Carpark Records album, 2017)

Boo Boo feels like what we might call a coming-of-age album, the theme of which is that, despite all our best endeavours, life isn’t always perfect.

I reviewed the very fine new Toro y Moi for Clash. My review can be found here

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Can – The Singles (Spoon / Mute compilation, 2017)

can_thesingles

Last week Spoon / Mute released The Singles, a collection of all of Can‘s singles and selected B-sides, which serves as a great entry point into the musical genius of this band.

I reviewed the compilation for Clash – read my thoughts here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (R&S / Apollo, 1992)

I wrote a Spotlight feature for Clash about Aphex Twin’s seminal Selected Ambient Works 85-92, a release which still mystifies me to this day, some 24 years after I first encountered it.
Around this time I was to be found mostly to be listening to a bit of dance music, Erasure, Depeche Mode, New Order and Pop Will Eat Itself. Clint Mansell from PWEI retweeted Clash‘s link to this at the weekend, which is a curiously circular honour for me.

My piece for Clash can be found here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Mick Harvey – Intoxicated Women (Mute album, 2017)

“Does much to alter the misconception that Gainsbourg was little more than a louche, womanising so-and-so only capable of producing kitsch-y songs dominated by sex and decadence.” – Clash

Mute stalwart Mick Harvey has released the fourth and final album in his project to translate the work of Serge Gainsbourg, this time focussing largely on the songs Gainsbourg wrote for female collaborators.

I reviewed the album for Clash. My review can be found here.

(c) Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Daft Punk – Homework (Virgin album, 1997)


I was sat in my pokey little room in Eddington Tower at the University of Essex in Colchester in the autumn of 1995 when a guy from my economics course turned up out of the blue. I rarely had visitors but Michael wasn’t really popping over to hang out – he’d missed a couple of econometrics classes and hadn’t been able to understand the homework we’d been set. He knew I was the kind of dull student who always stayed on top of his homework, so he knew that if he wanted to catch up via the dubious act of copying someone else’s work, I was a pretty safe bet.

As well as sharing a degree subject or two, the other thing that Michael and I agreed on was dance music. I’d fallen head over heels into dance music properly in 1994 and since then it had become what I’d listen to whenever I got a chance. That and punk, which I’d gotten into after recognising the similarities to techno. On Michael’s visit I was just putting on a new 12” I’d picked up from Colchester’s Time Records earlier that week – ‘Da Funk’ by Daft Punk. I must have heard about that in a music magazine, as the campus radio station was only into playing indie, and the only dance music I listened to on national radio was the guest mixes that Pete Tong used to curate on Saturday nights. Back then I heeded the words written by journalists and would seek out records based on their recommendation. Something about the write-up of ‘Da Funk’ appealed to my sensibilities, especially in Muzik, and I probably ordered it in especially from Time when it was released.

Anyway, Michael was absolutely floored when the main hook of ‘Da Funk’ casually wandered into view. We listened to it maybe three or four times before switching to the B-side, the crazy squeal of ‘Rollin’ & Scratchin’’, which Michael thought was flat-out incredible. As well as weed (not my thing), Michael always had lots of cash on him thanks to his rich parents, and I recall he tried to buy the 12” from me on the spot. I refused, but let him copy my homework instead.


By the time Daft Punk issued their own Homework in 1997, my snobbish aesthetic meant that I’d turned my back on them upon Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo signing to a major label and dumping Slam’s Soma imprint. This meant I overlooked just how great that record was at first, but slowly caught up and became every bit as much of a fan as, it seemed, everyone else was among the dance music community.

It seems scarcely possible that Homework can be 20 years old, but it is. I had the opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of this seminal record by writing a lengthy piece for Clash, during which time I was transported back to my humble student hovel to recall vividly how jaw-droppingly brilliant Daft Punk were back in the day. That was half a lifetime ago for me, but my memories of that time are as clear as if they happened yesterday. And that sense of freshness, that newness, is what characterises most of Homework – aside from some flimsy house cuts that feel a bit basic now, most of this record sounds as innovative and uniquely placed as it did back then, something that few period dance music albums from the same period can boast.

Nowadays my daughters dance to ‘Da Funk’ on the Wii, I help them with their homework, I sold my ‘Da Funk’ 12″ for considerably more than Michael offered me, at Electronic Sound I write for the very guys whose words I thirsted over when they wrote for Muzik, and I feel desperately old and nostalgic most days.

Eddington Tower, University of Essex (right)

My piece for Clash can be found here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Clash

Brian Eno – Reflection (Opal / Warp album, 2016)

I like to that that I was a very good student of electronic music history, all told. When I understood that synth music didn’t come into existence with the likes of ‘Tainted Love’ in 1981, or even with Kraftwerk’s experiments in the previous decade, I was fastidious about trying to absorb all of the points along the genesis of the genre. I’m still doing that.

At some point in the 1990s I went headlong into the work of Brian Eno, probably around the time of the the second Future Sound Of London album where they’d used some of Robert Fripp’s ‘Frippertronics’ on that record. You read up about Fripp, you get to Eno, but then again most electronic music roads at some point will likely lead you to Eno. As soon as I found out about his electronic music, my local library’s collection of his CDs was rapidly depleted.

I liked most of what I heard, but the one that jumped out was his 1988 album The Shutov Assembly. I remember renting this the same day as Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works II, and being surprised at how similar they both were; both being largely formed of weightless, serene pieces that seemed at times to border on the classical in their melodic content. Since then, The Shutov Assembly has become a go-to album for me at times when I need to chill the fuck out; usually this is at the start of an overnight flight back from the States, or a 4.15 train to St. Pancras before a Eurostar connection. I’m normally fast asleep by the start of the second track, ‘Alhondiga’. I know it’s a complete disservice to the album not to actually listen to it all the way through, at least not consciously, but I sure appreciate the album for helping me to sleep.

Over the years I’ve become an Eno collector, but not to the extent that I wish I could. Nevertheless, when the opportunity came up to review his new single-track Warp album Reflection for Clash, I was all over it. My review of this supremely beautiful record can be found here.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence