A Month In Music: February

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The Independent Culture

Spring might not yet have sprung but at least the desolate month of January has finally been laid to rest. Forget about the freezing weather – the post-New Year hangover period is never the best time for bands to get out on the road, and labels aren’t exactly falling over themselves to release their prize gems to a partied-out public. Three cheers for February then.

First up are some delightful nuggets from the Ninja Tune stable. Andreya Triana, who broke through on Bonobo’s superb Black Sands album last year, has just released her latest single “Far Closer” from debut album Lost Where I Belong. Oozing with 24-carat soul, the single also includes a bonkers Mr Scruff remix that’s well worth a listen. On this evidence Andreya’s in for a great year.

Also out on the Ninja imprint on 21 February is Matilda, the debut long player on the label from Stateless. It’s very much music for 2011; an exceptionally well produced opus that at one minute incorporates soaring live strings, the next juddering bass and cutting edge electronica, all fused together with some superb songwriting. As lead singer Chris James says: “It’s a proper album, it works as a whole. I want people to do the Pink Floyd thing, and listen to it from start to finish really loud on good headphones.” As someone who has done just that, I heartily concur.

On a widely different tip, Ben Ottewell from Gomez has just released his solo debut album Shapes and Shadows on Eat Sleep Records. The brains behind classic Gomez tracks such as “Tijuana Lady” and “Revolutionary Kind”, his solo stuff is much more stripped down but at the same time showcases his clever songwriting skills. If you haven’t yet heard the first single off the album Lightbulbs, then check it out here .

If throwing shapes and largin’ it on the dancefloor is more your bag, then look no further than the consistently excellent Ed Banger Records. Their latest compilation Let The Children Techno lands on 14 February. Featuring a 20-track bounty of beats from Mr Oizo’s title track to “Boat Party” by Skream and Fling Lotus’s “Caravan of Delight”, the fresh tunes mash up a host of genres, from down-tempo to dubstep and just about anything in between. Expect to hear these tracks dropped at a discerning dancefloor near you.

Legendary (and in this case, of SFA main man and collaborator extraordinaire, it is a term that’s definitely NOT hyperbole) Gruff Rhys kicks off his world tour to promote new album Hotel Shampoo this weekend with a launch party at The Gresham Hotel in Blackpool. Chances are that the hotel rooms for this defiantly quirky launch are all sold out by now but after that the tour starts in earnest in the Memorial Hall Sheffield on Valentine’s night, before heading to Oran Mor in Glasgow on 15 February, St Phillip's Church in Manchester on 17 February and The Kazimier, Liverpool on the 18 February. Check out www.gruffrhys.com for further details and more dates. In the meantime, here’s the excellent video for the second track off the album: “Sensations in the Dark":

And finally, Danish band Efterklang infuse their soaring indie tunes with all manner of classical instruments, and this together with the gorgeous artwork on their releases puts them in a completely different league than other play-it-by-numbers bands. However, the best thing about them is their live shows – so UK fans are in for a real treat when they play six dates here towards the end of the month. Kicking off at the Globe, Cardiff on 22 February, they then head to Queens Social Club Sheffield on 23 February, Oran Mor, Glasgow on 24 February, Manchester Academy 3 on 25 February, The Sage Gateshead, Newcastle on 26 February before a final hurrah at the Scala in London on 27 February. Well worth checking out.