The Domino Recording Company was founded in Putney, South West London by Laurence Bell in 1993. The label’s start-up capital consisted of a weekly £40 Enterprise Allowance Grant, some demos from friends in the American underground, the idea that self-expression was still possible in the corporate 1990s and a phone and fax machine on the bedroom floor. Twenty-five plus years later, the Domino headquarters are a short walk away from Bell’s first ‘office’ and the company’s ambitions, operating procedures and ethos remain the same – to represent and release music by artists who have no choice but to make music and to draw them to the attention of the world. Here at fopp we’re taking a look in no particular order at ten of our favourite Domino releases of recent memory, all of them featured in our current Domino promotion in-store.
Blood Orange – Angels Pulse
Two or three years tend to pass between Dev Hynes’ Blood Orange LPs, so it was a surprise when Angel’s Pulse arrived only 11 months after Negro Swan. Upon this set’s release, Hynes said that he often writes and records immediately after the completion of each project and keeps the material to himself or a small circle of recipients. In this case, he chose to publicize his supplemental work, terming it a mixtape yet (accurately) deeming it consequential enough to make available on physical formats. Angel’s Pulse indeed plays out like a tape, one consisting of 14 deliberate vignettes and full-blown tunes squeezed onto one side of an imagined C60.
Anna Calvi – Hunter
Anna Calvi took a five-year break after releasing 2013’s One Breath, but the intervening time didn’t diminish the grand sound she’s cultivated since her debut. From the title track’s breathy opening to the soaring melody of “Away,” her gift for elucidating the drama of a bygone era is intact and just as effective. If anything, the lustily provocative nature of her artistry reaches its dizzy apex on Hunter. Hunter is the record where, more than any other, Calvi’s talents have fully crystallized. The true character of her music has been unleashed and will likely see all those PJ Harvey comparisons finally fade, eclipsed by the radiance of this tough yet open-hearted work.
CD £9 LP £25
Jon Hopkins – Singularity
Singularity is the proper follow-up to Jon Hopkins’ 2013 breakthrough Immunity, a spellbinding album of highly intricate, glitchy techno which nevertheless felt organic, and even classical at times. Like that album, Singularity is filled with frayed feedback, skillfully crafted beats, and gentle piano melodies, as well as the occasional breathy vocals. This time out, there seems to be an extra shot of adrenaline added, and the album seems to reflect a deeper spiritual quest, both inwards and outwards.
Alex G – House of Sugar
For his third Domino Records release and ninth album in total, lo-fi pop experimenter (Sandy) Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) presents House of Sugar. The multifaceted title is, for one, a reference to the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, which features in the album’s closing track. It also refers to the Grimm fairy tale alluded to in “Gretel,” and to the short story “The House Made of Sugar” by Silvina Ocampo, a supernatural tale rooted in superstition and deceit. Intimate, theatrical, and strange, House of Sugar is designed to reward repeat listens, but like other (Sandy) Alex G sets, it’s immediately affecting.
Cat Power – Wanderer
On Wanderer Cat Power’s Chan Marshall packs the enormity of her experiences into songs that are fearless in their starkness and a far cry from previous LP’s sleek electro-rock. This time, Marshall focuses her production and arrangements on her voice, which has become the instrument her songs have always needed. As tender as it is uncompromising, Wanderer is exactly the album Marshall needed to make at this point in her career and life. It’s some of her most essential music, in both senses of the word.
CD £8 LP £25
Richard Dawson & Circle – Henki
The not-so-disparate worlds of botany and history collide on the likeably outlandish Henki, a self-described “flora-themed hypno-folk-metal” collaboration between English folk provocateur Richard Dawson and Finnish experimental rock veterans Circle. Combining the knotty horror-folk of Comus, the fleet guitarmonies of Iron Maiden, and the lofty art-rock of early Genesis, Henki is a lot. It’s also a ton of fun, as Dawson and company have tapped into some real heathen energy and let loose a spirited blast of woodland mayhem.
Superorganism – Superorganism
The fascinating story of how Superorganism came together can threaten to overpower the music the London-based eight-person collective make on their brilliantly fun and funny self-titled debut album. Coming off like the Go! Team’s wacky kid siblings, a Shibuya-kei Ratatat, or the house band on a 2010s reboot of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, the album is stacked from end to end with goofy samples, bubbling hip-hop beats, wobbly synths, fat basslines, and hooky guitars.
CD £8 LP £25
Dirty Projectors – Lamp Lit Prose
“I don’t know how I’m gonna be a better man/I don’t know how I’m gonna reach the promised land/I don’t know how I’m gonna get you to take my hand/But I’m gonna start and I know when.” With these words in the first track on Dirty Projectors’ 2018 release Lamp Lit Prose, David Longstreth (the group’s leader and solo constant member) shares the good news: he’s feeling better now. On 2017’s self-titled Dirty Projectors, Longstreth was reeling from a tough romantic breakup, and a dark mood dominated the material, as well as a greater reliance on electronics and vocal manipulation. There’s a palpable joy on Lamp Lit Prose that hasn’t been so strong in Longstreth’s work since 2009’s breakthrough Bitte Orca, and while it never turns sappy, Lamp Lit Prose speaks of hope and second chances in the more optimistic tone of the music, reinforced by the percolating rhythms, the breathy harmonies, and the angular enthusiasm of the guitar work.
Porches – The House
Porches’ third album, The House, returns to the haunting, singer/songwriter synth pop of 2016’s Pool, the project’s Domino label debut. Though still intimate in nature, The House welcomes a number of guests, including Blood Orange’s Devonté Hynes, Alex Giannascoli aka (Sandy) Alex G, and Pool bandmates Maya Laner and Cameron Wisch. It was written, produced, and recorded by Maine. A symbolic interpretation of the title emerges over the course of the album’s 14 tracks, which explore twenty-something domesticity through song sketches on topics like romantic love, feelings of isolation, self-doubt, ennui, and escapism.
Tirzah – Devotion
On her first full-length for Domino, Tirzah still doesn’t sound like anyone else — even if if she doesn’t sound the way she used to. She and longtime collaborator Mica Levi trade busy rhythms for a set of impressionistic songs that use little more than her voice, unusual keyboards, and the occasional beat to capture different states of being in love with frank originality. Despite these changes, what Tirzah’s previous work and Devotion share is a quiet yet unmistakable confidence. These tracks are so spontaneous they sound almost accidental, yet their pauses and spaces are just as eloquent as the music.