This week I have been mostly listening to…

Dry Cleaning – Boundary Road Snacks & Drinks EP

Dry Cleaning – Sweet Princess EP

More than anything, the pair of EPs Dry Cleaning released before their debut album became something of an instant classic last year are testament to the production skills of John Parish. His presence at the mixing desk is the only thing missing from these two releases, to differentiate the sound achieved on New Long Leg. Maybe the band sound younger, more naïve – more jangle-pop than post punk. Florence even pulls off some singing here and there (a few tentative oohs and ahhs). But her acerbic/absurdist lyrical style arrives fully formed, as does the improvisational interplay of guitar and bass, creating moments of tension and release as a counterpoint to Shaw’s deadpan vocals.

Digging into a band’s back catalogue from before they ‘got famous’ is not always a worthwhile effort – sometimes there’s a reason for the lack of success. But listening to the Boundary Road and Sweet Princess EPs, you can hear a band on the cusp of genius – all the elements are there, it just needed that production magic to make the stars align.

GCOM – EX-02

I’m not sure how I missed a brand new album last year from Tom Middleton, the ever-bearded sonic traveller who journeyed into electronic music’s stratosphere as part of Global Communication and Jedi Knights, to name but two projects. GCOM stands for Galactic Communication, and this time the self-professed sci-fi nerd is going beyond our solar system, to explore Exoplanets orbiting other stars, across a deluxe concept album that also features contributions from another far-out traveller, the mysterious Qebrus (now sadly departed to another plane of reality).

In its vivid depictions of alien worlds, EX-02 incorporates cinematic soundscapes full of soaring strings and epic crescendos, as well as brooding homesick melodies, bottomless bass and some truly extra-terrestrial sound-effects on the tracks featuring Qebrus. Not to mention the more familiar earthbound rhythms of future-garage and drum’n’bass.

The album sprawls over 1.5 hours and does take some time to get going. The early tracks in particular are plagued by over-long gaps of silence between each one (on streaming services anyway). But over the course of 20 tracks, Middleton takes us on a journey into lushly detailed musical vistas, before ending on a 14 minute ambient free-fall through endless nebulae, harking back to his work on Global Communication’s seminal classic, 76:14. Thus finishing a voyage that takes us beyond the Milky Way into the outer reaches of the cosmos.

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