Sons & Daughters' new album Mirror! Mirror! feels rotten to the core. Produced by Keith McIvor, also known as JD Twitch and one half of Glaswegian DJ duo Optimo, it feels significantly darker than anything the band have done before.
Drenched in black with stripped back production Mirror! Mirror! feels a bit like the post-punk revival of the past ten years never happened. Whilst the band cite inspiration as coming from Stevie Nicks, Siousxie, PJ Harvey and Fever Ray it's really more a fairly faithful interpretation of the sounds of Joy Division, Gang of Four et al. Not that this is a bad thing - Interpol and more recently the Horrors have both created great music by using little more than a collection of four or five records from 1978-1983 as inspiration.
In fact Sons & Daughters sound so raw on this record that there is very little not to love. The Optimo sound surrounds this record like creeping dense fog - it's claustrophobic and pretty much impossible to escape. Guitars crunch whilst feedback cuts from left channel to right like a knife on 'Orion', all of it underpinned by David Gow's tight percussion. And the rhythm is the real star of the show here - whether straight up, no-frills and uncompromising as on reverb heavy 'Don't Look Now' or the punchy bass of tribute to murdered actress Elisabeth Short 'Axed Actor'.
The same is true of the 'Ink Free', which tackles singer Adele Bethel's writer's block, and it is a real highlight. Heavy and taught with the production applied with a subtle enough touch to give enough room for Bethel and (second vocalist and guitarist) Scott Paterson's frankly terrifying duet. The occasional burst of distorted white noise and the snare hits that punctuate the atmosphere feel like they actually leave a holes in the structure of the song.
Mirror! Mirror! is lean and focused and for that it should be applauded. Sons & Daughters have created, with the assistance of Keith McIvor, a dizzying and uncompromising album full of tiny details. As a whole body Mirror! Mirror!, the title surely a reference to self-absoption, talks more of the spiral of depression than anything else and that comes through in the palpable claustrophobia this record seeps out throughout its length.
Fabric 52 delivers. Optimo have long been heralded as innovators and legends and their mix albums have always been good. But good isn't always enough.
This is better. From the angry Soft Cell-esque 'Lady Shave' Fabric 52 feels like it falls through the door without so much as a glance in your direction. A drunken adolescence of a record, it is quite happy being self-obsessed and arrogantly unaware of your thoughts or feelings. It sounds like it would go on playing itself even if you tried to stop it.
Optimo have made a thrilling, wobbly, bubbling, acid-washed, squelchy set full of reverb and trouble and doubt. Whilst previous Optimo efforts may have been distracted and deliberately eclectic (How To Kill The DJ Part Two, anyone?) Fabric 52 proves they can work a groove.
This is an album that progresses through several themes and styles but knits things together closely enough that the joins aren't even visible. Even the anthemic 'Don't Call' from Desire is disguised beneath bleeps, rhythmic stabs and shouts - letting the track ride into town on Oni Ayhun's 'OAR003-B' is a stroke of genius and successfully transforms the track. It's one of those rare moments where a mix between a couple of tracks makes something completely new and manages to improve on the original. It's really that good.
Fabric 52 really feels like an important album. Sometimes mix albums are able to point to the future far better than an album from one individual act can. The dark, spiralling acid trip of Optimo's set feels like just such an article. As on the tripped out mish-mash of Nakion's 'Heartbit' and Xex's 'Heartbeat' that closes the album, this is a fantastic collaboration between the past and the future.