Even Temper
This Is It Forever

Worriedaboutsatan released their first album Arrivals in 2009, followed by the haunting single ‘Heart Monitor’ in 2010 to massive acclaim. They then proceeded to disappear. Confusing? Yes. Frustrating? Definitely. But after dabbling in electronica side project Ghosting Season for a few years, the sonic duo of Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller have reawakened the sleeping beast. Even Temper bears all the hallmarks of what makes ambient electronica great - the gorgeous layering of beats hidden under layers of static or shimmering guitars, the bass pulsing like the hum of a machine. The atmosphere is enveloping and hypnotic.

Even Temper feels like the soundtrack to a gritty, industrial, Tron-style movie. Each track ripples under layers of dust, slowly rising from the basements of empty factories to the blasting dancefloors of the future. Tracks like ‘Baychimo’ wouldn’t seem out of place in a neon-tinted space bar, whilst the drums of ‘Jaki’ draw you into euphoric parties in dingy basements filled with sweat and dirt.

The whole album sounds like it was pulled from a fire, covered in ash and crisped by the flames. There’s always something hissing or seething in the background, the cracks and pops constantly making the record feel like something warm and alive, like a well-loved vinyl. You can almost hear it breathing.

Even Temper doesn’t try to break free of the electronica scene as much as climb into its very being, living right in the echoing and grimy heart of it all. This is a record that sets a tone and explores every dark corner, every empty room, and fills them all with beautiful noise.

Alex Adams

The Mouse Outfit

Step Steadier
Self Released

Manchester’s Mouse Outfit swagger back onto the scene more cocksure than ever with their second full-length album, the appropriately named Step Steadier.

The Mouse Outfit are a hip hop production team and live band whose debut album, Escape Music, won the 2013 Wordplay UK hip hop album of year award and was also listed in the ABC News top 50 albums of 2013.

Sticking to their tried and tested formula of solid, funky, jazzy beats with the best in UK hip hop spat over the top, one could be forgiven for thinking The Mouse Outfit are playing it safe on their second offering. But while old allies like Sparkz, Dubbul O and Dr Syntax still feature heavily, plenty of room is given for new associates such as Verb T and Truthos Mufasa to prove their worth, ensuring the album has elements of freshness for old fans without compromising on the slick, professional Mouse Outfit sound.

Tempos vary depending on the MC, which is testament to their phenomenal ability as a band to change their sound to get the best out of their guests. We’re treated to upbeat and bouncy on opener ‘No Stoppin’ This’, before the pace is slowed and becomes infused with reggae for Fox’s tracks, ‘Step Steadier’ and ‘Wrap Another Zoot’ [read our interview with Fox here]. That said, even when the rhythm is different, the sound is still undeniably Mouse, and that is their greatest strength.

David Ewing

Red Painted Red

Hey Dum Dum
Wrotycz Records

Red Painted Red’s new release is an acquired taste, but in the best possible sense. Here is a band brave enough to discover novel ways of relating voice to backing and lyrics to melody, as well as developing a structure for their songs that is entirely unique. Yew’s voice is used both as a powerful force, speaking text with insistence and clarity, and as a blurred layer of sound that is part of a fuller texture.

Hey Dum Dum opens with the disturbing intro of ‘It’s Real’. String samples blend with fuzzy vocal loops to clear a spacious landscape for the album, while close-miked interjections of the words “it’s real” retain directness. This is the nature of the entire album, which at first may seem no more than ambient noise. Light and shade are balanced with expertise, and the result is wonderfully unsettling.

There are times when the spoken word is on the verge of being in bad taste – ‘Rhythm of Life’ could pass for budget hypnosis therapy – but you are always drawn back into a dark, captivating sound world. ‘Her Hair’ is a seamless balance of spoken and sung word, with rising strings building a rich, beefy sound. The album is a relatively varied journey towards a more commercial-sounding final track, ‘Don’t Give Up The Sun’, whose music has moved towards a psychedelic, Kate Bush-esque sound by the end of this mammoth track, with Yew’s honeyed tones as mysterious as the forlorn cat on the album cover.

Claire Roberts

Shield Patterns

Violet EP
Gizeh Records

Violet is an EP that provides dissonant sounds which are oddly enjoyable to the ear, likely helped by the vocals that float with the level of intensity of Kate Bush and Björk. The drums are often sparse, but they give you something to grip onto while the understated noise phases your mind out over the course of the four tracks.

Whether you see it as a positive or not, this is an EP in which all tracks blend into the next. Only the piano on the third track, ‘Age Of Ice’, particularly standing out, rocking me away from the happy stupor the music was steadily leading me into. By the end, you realise you’ve been dragged from where you were and placed somewhere far less connected, with the EP slipping in and out of ambience throughout its short life.

Shield Patterns are the kind of band whose records I imagine would be ruined once you’ve seen them live. Their music wouldn’t give you the same feeling when you get back home. They’re unsettlingly relaxing, as if they’re in on something you know nothing about, which is something I find infinitely interesting.

Jacob Ormrod


Estate Recordings

Born in Manchester and raised in Kingston, Jamaica before returning as he came of raving age, the original Mr Fox has been a mainstay on just about every bass-heavy scene that the UK has produced in the last 20 years. From his days in mid-90s hip hop crew Subliminal Darkness to more recent affiliations with Manchester super group Levelz, Fox has kept crowds skanking in the palm of one hand with a firm grip on the mic in the other. To stay musically relevant in such changing times is admirable, but to be reaching your peak after two decades is even more impressive.

His style is honed from years of collaborating with a vast array of producers and MCs and hosting an impressively eclectic number of club nights and shows. From the relentless lyrical grime of ‘Animal Kingdom’ to showcasing his seductive Sugar Minott drawl on ‘Trouble Come a Calling’, he is able to move through different styles with ease.

Another local stalwart who shares his ethic of ‘work hard, play harder’ is Chimpo, who produces all six tracks on this release. As regular collaborators on stage, their chemistry is captured brilliantly on record, which is sometimes the downfall of many MCs who fail to retain their energy in the studio.

Fox can flit between crooning Studio One choruses then toast like Kingston royalty, which is why he is such a sought-after collaborator and a great addition to the Manchester melting pot that Estate Recordings are cooking up this year.

Nathan McIlroy

Read our interview with Fox here.

Mat Skinner

…with the Power of a Thousand Suns
Self released

After being told that Mat Skinner came recommended by Guy Garvey, I was excited to see what one of my favourite musicians heard in the offerings from this solo artist. What I found was a mediocre offering with too much of a country leaning for me. While the lyrics interested me throughout the EP, I was left severely underwhelmed.

After a lacklustre start, the second track, ‘A Place More To Stay’, offers something I could get into if it wasn’t so rigidly stuck to a slow beat that keeps it on a standard level throughout. The third track feels unfinished, the lyrics almost out of sync with the rest of what’s going on in the tune, while the next track continues with the same boring style that preceded it.

By this point, it’s clear that Mat Skinner is pushing something that I’m just not interested in and, if it wasn’t obvious enough, I don’t think much else of the next two tracks on the EP either, especially ‘The Scarecrow’, which drags on for far longer than it really needs to.

If you’re looking for slow folk that doesn’t really feel like it’s pushing too hard up against any of the established norms of the genre, then I’d give the EP a look. If not, definitely miss this one out.

Jacob Ormrod