The elusive Tom Vek deliberately dropped off the radar five years ago, giving conspiracy theorists half a decade to spread half-baked ideas about his untimely death.
Though I have it on good authority that Vek is very much alive and spent the back end of last year producing an EP for South Londoners, Breton, it wasn’t until April this year that he made a sly return to the airwaves with comeback single, “A Chore”.
Naturally, an explanation for his sabbatical hasn’t been forthcoming, and masterfully, his fans were tortured with a further two month tease, including the whiff of tour dates and eventually, the release of sophomore album, Leisure Seizure – giving music journalists everywhere permission to gush forth with superlatives.
Vek’s geek-chic reputation as the coolest one-man-band around has the weight of expectation to contend with, but no doubt his handful of summer performances will make up for the extended silence.
Even more synonymous with The XX’s rocket rise to fame is Jamie Smith’s flourishing reputation as a first class remix artist.
Pushing the haunting heartbreak of the band’s debut album to one side, Jamie XX is filling in between albums by carving out a niche as a dub-step DJ, deft at blurring genre boundaries.
Most notable is his rumbling rework of “New York Is Killing Me” by the late Gil Scott-Heron, though some would argue that his biggest achievement is vastly improving Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, a feat for any producer, no matter how talented.
A healthy dose of happiness comes on the side as standard when you order Summer Camp – what with all those lush sunshine vibes and chill wave glitchiness.
The virtually unknown duo of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey spread their rose-tinted nostalgia thickly onto slabs of warm and fuzzy tunes worthy of being filed alongside Best Coast.
Think hazy Polaroids, knitted tank tops and the first flush of love and you’re halfway to indie-shmindie heaven. And why the fuck not, summer camp always looked fun in the movies.
The industrial stylings of Factory Floor are an acquired taste, much like gherkin or The Daily Mail.
But their four track mini-album certainly piqued the critics’ interest when it pulverised eardrums last year.
The untitled release harbours a fundamentally bleak nature harking back to the low budget production of early Joy Division – heavy on emotionless soundscapes and a deadening loop of blunt percussion.
It’s the musical equivalent of Tarkovskiy’s Solaris – an unrelenting, dystopic mission devoid of any hope – and on the whole, its grim ambience is a bit depressing.
But it’s a feat of musical structure that shouldn’t be missed live.
Israeli nine piece The Apples are a modern jazz-funk outfit expertly flirting with vintage brass and bass.
Their un-ironic cover of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of” is known to slay crowds from the outset and no wonder, what with the combination of a double bass, turntablists, and two saxophonists to sex it up.
Their debut album Kings – a work that fuses elements of dub, fusion and middle-eastern rhythms – is a testament to the rich strands of culture that bind the group, taking traditional jazz and wrapping it up in tape delays and scratchy dub samples.
Leeds soloist Louis Jones, aka, Spectrals wouldn’t have been out of place on Sun Records back in the 60s, nipping at the heels of California’s golden boys.
Squeaky clean guitar licks conjure up whimsical images of old-fashioned ice cream parlours and coke floats, laced with romance and endearing glockenspiel chimes.
The only thing to shatter the Americana ambience is Jones’ obvious aversion to tanning, but we can’t hold that against him. His natural talent for producing a slew of happy-go-lucky love tokens is hypnotically delightful for lazy afternoons, sunless or otherwise.
Look “ethereal” up in the dictionary and any of the synonyms could apply to goth-poppers, Paper Crows. It’s a lazily obvious comparison, but vocalist Emma Panas clearly spent her youth listening to Kate Bush in the dark.
Single “Follow the Leader” has the production of Madonna’s “Frozen” to thank for its haunting atmosphere, while “Stand Alight” channels the likes of Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan pumped up on dub-step steroids.
For guaranteed chills, Paper Crows are best enjoyed in the drizzle at dusk.
“A German journalist joins a band” sounds like the start of a piss-poor joke, especially when it’s backed up with an album largely comprised of covers.
But in the case of Anika and her self-titled collaboration with Beak – the brainchild of Portishead’s producer Geoff Barrow – a Nico-like presence is unleashed upon us.
While a rendition of Yoko Ono’s “Yang Yang” borrows the disco-funk accessibility of early 80s sister-troupe, ESG, the deadpan delivery of “Masters of War” quivers with a Dylan-meets-dub momentum.
The album owes a huge debt to minimalist Kraut-rockers as its vocalist flatly warbles through a mix of tuneless oratory and detached melodies.
She stays so low in the mix it could be mistaken for the whispered wailings of a mad woman, which makes for a distracting self-awareness.
It’s unapologetic in its crass era-stealing style, uncomfortably ghostly and somewhat unsettling. But somehow it carries it off with Teutonic panache.
And finally, a few more that are worth a look in….
The Horn The Hunt… Echo Lake… D/R/U/G/S… Mazes… Dutch Uncles…
Visit www.greetingsfrombeacons.com for the full line up.