dCS New Music: June 2023

For dCS, Sharon O’Connell selects four standout new album releases from Kassa Overall, Craven Faults, Fatoumata Diawara & Mandy.  

Kassa Overall

Kassa Overall isn’t the first artist to merge jazz, hip hop, and electronica, but the Brooklyn-based, conservatory-trained drummer, producer and rapper’s work is strongly impressionistic and packs an unusually autobiographical punch. Animals is his third album, and it sees him lean as heavily on vocals as he does instrumentation, with a guest list thatincludes rappers Ishmael Butler (of Shabazz Palaces) and Danny Brown, trumpeter Theo Croker, and UK nu soul-jazz singer Laura Mvula. 
It’s a dazzlingly virtuosic set that moves through myriad emotional states. The elegantly whirling fusion of ‘Ready To Ball’ opens with stop/start chromatic piano motifs playing off shuffling beat patterns, as Overall muses on jealousy and the folly of competitiveness. It’s a sharp contrast to ‘Clock Ticking’ – distinguished by its warped, head-nodding drive, and Brown’s characteristic high-pitched rap – and the DJ Shadow-adjacent ‘The Score Was Made’, which alternately gathers momentum and slows down before exiting via the (treated) sample of a roaring crowd.
The set finishes on a philosophical note with ‘Going Up’, where guest Francis And The Lights’ sweet falsetto reminds us that “life is very long, but you can’t have it all” against a backdrop of winnowing strings and warm, soulful electronics. This may be true, but for 35 minutes, Animals is enough.
Out now.
Label: Warp

Craven Faults

Rumours regarding Craven Faults’ identity have circulated regularly since their first release in 2017, but there has been no clarification as to who they are. All that’s really known about the producer behind the moniker, which refers to a series of major crustal fractures across Northern England’s Pennine Hills, is that they work from a studio housed in a former textile mill in Yorkshire.
In fact, any autobiographical detail is entirely superfluous. Their music is so richly evocative, it feels more like a manifestation of local landscapes and their long, agrarian and industrial histories than the expression of an artist’s selfhood. The album runs to 69 minutes but features just six tracks, each a subtly undulating plain of (analogue) ambient synths and drone.
All are compellingly moody and shift between motorik steadiness and delicate ebb-and-flow. CF’s touchstones are clearly the Kraftwerk of ‘Ohm Sweet Ohm’, Tangerine Dream, Harmonia and ‘giallo’ film scores, though the spirits of Fennesz and David Borden also hover nearby. The result is a virtual journey, the luminously throbbing ‘Severals’ and ‘Idols & Altars’, which suggests signals received from an underwater lost settlement, among its significant markers. 
Out now.
Label: The Leaf Label

Fatoumata Diawara
London KO 

Malian singer/songwriter and electric guitarist Fatoumata Diawara has said the title of her third album means “opening your mind”, a reference to the social and cultural mixing – in this case, London with Bamako – that creates new worlds of possibility. It’s an ebullient and dynamic project, put together with the help of some high-profile guests. 
Co-produced by Damon Albarn, who also plays on six of its 14 tracks, London KO is a(nother) fusing of her homeland’s wassolou and assouf traditions with heavy-hitting hybrids like Afropop and Afrofuturism. The artist continues her tradition of plain speaking about matters such as FGM and the wider struggle of African women everywhere, while also singing (mostly in Bambara) in her thrillingly muscular and deeply soulful voice about love, the pain of separation, the importance of family and more.
Star turns are provided by American nu-soul singer-songwriter Angie Stone (on the groovy and sinuous ‘Somaw’), Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca (on the furiously paced ‘Blues’) and Nigerian Afropop newcomer Yemi Alade (on the easy-going, jazzed-up highlife of ‘Tolon’). Diawara herself shines especially bright on the insistent, keys-hammered ‘Netara’ and ‘Dambe’, with its strong dub pulse. All are reminders that KO also stands for “knockout”.
Out now.
Label: Wagram

Mandy, Indiana
I’ve Seen A Way

“Does it sound unfamiliar or like something that’s hard to define?” This was the question that drove the writing of Manchester-based quartet Mandy, Indiana’s debut album – the answer to which is a resounding ‘yes’. Tagging their sound as experimental noise is accurate, but such a basic term feels meaningless, and fails to reflect the nuance and compositional nous at work in these 11 tracks of compellingly uneasy listening.
Recorded in various locations, including a crypt, the Wookey Hole caves in Somerset, and a Bristol shopping centre, it’s a hybrid of electronic punk, noise and techno that’s as cathartic as it is disorienting and abrasive. Despite the seeming chaos, it’s far from undirected, borrowing both structural and musical ideas from cinema (Gaspar Noé, Vangelis, Paul Misraki, Goblin) and using a shifting palette of emotions and tempos. Valentine Caulfield sings exclusively in her native French, her intonation, phrasing and timbre depping for translation. This is a record that should be listened to in full, though there are some highlights: ‘Injury Detail’, with its fizzing hi-hats, EBM strut and gaseous synth clouds; ‘2 Stripe’, with its Goblin-ish air of foreboding and chilly, PSA-style vocals, and ‘Peach Fuzz’ – a chunk of groovy, mutant techno that wheezes and gasps like a dying ventilator. 
Out now.
Label: Fire Talk