This week: European folk traditions, jazz grandeur and synthwave futurism

By in Features





Essential weekend listening.

This week’s rundown is by VF’s Becky Rogers, alongside contributors Annabelle Van Dort, Emily Hill and James Hammond.

Nia Archives

Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall



Nia Archives has become a refreshing face to a new wave of jungle heads, DJs, producers and beyond–transposing indie-pop energies with furiously fast and fun drum ‘n’ bass beats. Her latest body of work, Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall, comes after a very successful 2022 for the rising star, bringing together her dynamic and infectious sound across six tracks for her Island Records debut. Emotional bangers for the club guaranteed.–EH

Robbie & Mona


(Spinny Nights)


Erraticism meets composure on Robbie & Mona’s sophomore album, Tusky. Crafted out of disparate samples connected during post-production, Tusky treads a world of dark jazz experimentalism and finds solace in the abstract. It’s a release filled with grandeur, but knows its limits as glitching electronica unites sultry piano harmonies, vocal etherealism and improvised saxophone parts. It’s an intense listen, but an exciting journey into the unknown.–BR

Trees Speak

Mind Maze

(Soul Jazz)


For their fifth outing on Soul Jazz Records, Arizona duo Trees Speak combine motorik rhythms, prog-rock spaciness and synthwave futurism for their darkest record yet. With notes of Cluster’s cosmic soundscapes paired with John Carpenters’s cinematic yet ominous synth-work, Mind Maze is a thrilling listen that trades in a multitude of experimental influences. Featuring bonus tracks, “Seraphim” and “Orpheus”, these minimalist acoustic additions show a new side to the duo, venturing beyond the expansive sonic scapes of their other recordings.–AVD

Annelies Monseré


(Horn Of Plenty)


Temporarily stepping away from the guitar and piano, Mares finds Annelies Monseré’s voice among undulations of harmonium, accordion and melodica. With the sea, and its expanse of personal memory and interpretation at its core, these carefully layered tracks ebb and flow in cycles of drone and off-kilter melody. Seemingly as bound to experimentation as it is to European folk traditions, head to Monseré’s reworking of Cyril Tawney’s “Sally Free And Easy” for an example of the intrepid and enveloping nature of her work.–JH

Fever Ray

Radical Romantics

(Rabid Records)


Their first album in five years as Fever Ray, Karin Dreijer returns with an exploration into queer love. Exciting and challenging, Radical Romantics pushes the boundaries of synth-pop, mixing sentiment with maximalism to be fitting for moments of both respite and play. No aspect of love is left unturned here either, from having a crush to wanting revenge on their child’s school bully, but Dreijer isn’t offering answers, only perspectives to let the listener make up their own mind.–BR

Isao Suzuki




BBE’s much celebrated J Jazz series has long delivered a carefully curated selection of Japanese Jazz obscurities unavailable to the average collector. Available for the first time since its release 36 years ago, BBE’s reissue of bassist Isao Suzuki’s 1986 contemporary jazz gem Approach is no exception to this rule. Approach showcases the virtuosic musicianship and innovative compositional vision of its musicians—the prodigious percussionist and drummer Masahiko Togashi, keyboardist Hideo Ichikawa and guitarist Akira Shiomoto, all who join the young Suzuki on this early record, marking the fruitful beginnings of his now renowned career.–AVD

Sleaford Mods

UK Grim

(Rough Trade)


“This is UK Grim, put it in the bin,” Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson quips in UK Grim’s self-titled opener. 12 albums in and the Nottingham duo haven’t swayed too far from their aggy post-punk electronica, but UK Grim firmly stands its ground. Its charged-up tales of tales of robbing the till at work, a recovering addict’s nostalgia for drugs and constant jibes at the powers-that-be rattle alongside Andrew Fearn’s minimalist beats–putting centre focus on Williamson’s gripes. With additions from Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw (“Force 10 From Navarone”) and Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell (“So Trendy”), UK Grim isn’t revolutionary, but a needed sneer at the country’s current state of affairs.–BR

Lonnie Holley

Oh Me Oh My



Springing from Lonnie Holley’s enduring ability to render his lived experience into song forms and narratives that look to open-heartedness, beauty and trauma within the same assemblage, Oh Me Oh My comes as another vital chapter of his recorded works. With the likes of Michael Stipe, Jeff Parker, Moor Mother, Sharon Van Etten and Rokia Koné accompanying the LP, a wealth of approaches add to Holley’s genre ferment, which places a present tense, non-simulacra form of blues at the forefront. Moving between refrains and narrative threads, and as content to hit on grooves as it is to pull at the heartstrings or move towards the outer limits (“Future Children”), this one’s another worthy listen from an inimitable artist.–JH

Fatima Al Qadiri




After the roaring success of her 2021 album Medieval Femme, Fatima Al Qadiri returns to Hyperdub with Gumar–four short tracks exploring themes of Arabic music’s past and present. Qadiri is joined on the record by fellow Kuwaiti and vocalist, Gumar, whose impressively beautiful vocals pays homage to the influence of traditional lamentation singing. The rhythms provided by Qadiri are minimal, guided by the depth and sway of the vocals to create a perfect mesh of worlds.–EH

Frankie Rose

Love As Projection

(Night School Records)


Frankie Rose has stepped away from her garage-punk beginnings in Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls with her new album Love As Projection. Centred around focusing on the small things we can control to find joy, the release pulls together electro-pop and ’80s synths. It’s 10 tracks of danceable new wave fun, with Rose’s reverb drenched vocals slipping into the instrumentation and adding welcomed texture sonically. With big pop choruses and shoegazing recess alike, Love As Projection is a beautiful listen from start to finish.–BR