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We are incredibly pleased to announce the release of ‘Lifetime Of Love’, the debut album by Moon Diagrams, the solo recording project of Deerhunter co-founder and drummer Moses John Archuleta. A co-release by Sonic Cathedral (UK/EU) and Geographic North (US/ROW), our version comes on limited-edition double vinyl — one red, one pink — pressed at 45rpm, a CD in a mini LP sleeve, plus a digital version available on all download and streaming services. It’s out on June 30, but pre-order links are below.

Pre-order double vinyl

Pre-order CD

Pre-order digital

The US/ROW version is available from Geographic North

‘Lifetime Of Love’ was recorded in Georgia (Atlanta and Athens) and New York (Manhattan’s East Village) and gradually pieced together over a ten-year period. It finds Archuleta processing various stages of love, loss and regeneration via forlorn outsider pop, minimal techno and warm, weightless experimentation.

Hymnal opener ‘Playground’ has echoes of Eno and Grouper; lengthy workouts such as ‘The Ghost And The Host’ recall long-lost Harmonia outtakes, or something from one of Warp’s ‘Artificial Intelligence’ compilations; the bitter pill pop of ‘End Of Heartache’ – now premiering on FACT Magazine – has the scratchy guitar of New Order circa ‘Brotherhood’ and the square pegness of ‘Dazzle Ships’-era OMD. Several songs are instrumental, while ‘Bodymaker’ features Sian Ahern (Eaux, Sian Alice Group).

Throughout the album’s eight tracks, Archuleta follows sudden fits of inspiration or moments of chance, letting the unknown happen naturally, while still confining himself to a set of boundaries. Samples were taken from thrift store-sourced LPs, removed from their sleeves and chosen at random to find loops and textures. Elsewhere, he would anonymise digital songs and files, erasing track names and re-recording new versions of the randomised mixes.

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‘Lifetime Of Love’ is actually the result of three extended fugue states, each marked by a specific moment of catharsis. In 2007, between the release of Deerhunter’s breakthrough album ‘Cryptograms’ and 2008’s ‘Microcastle’, Archuleta began his earliest solo experiments. The nascent exploration was enough to free himself and create sounds without inhibition. ‘Bodymaker’ and ‘Nightmoves’ are products of these first recording sessions, capturing Archuleta’s willingness to venture outside of the taut, mesmerising drone-rock of his main band. The chilling, ambient techno of ‘Nightmoves’ perfectly foils and compliments ‘Bodymaker’’s broodingly sullen but sincerely beautiful shuffle into the dark.

Between 2012 and 2015, Archuleta experienced a reset of sorts following the collapse of his marriage (a ten-year relationship). Tours in support of artists including Ariel Pink and James Ferraro led to a rekindled interest in his solo material and he began actively cutting himself off from a number of personal relationships and experimenting with various drugs in order to begin recording again. Locking himself in his practice space, Archuleta would use only the spare instruments he found lying around in recording sessions. This period yielded a disparate mix of sonic sketches, from eerily bucolic choir recordings (‘Playground’), to dusty art-pop (‘Moon Diagrams’) and infectiously jubilant dance pop (‘End Of Heartache’).

For the final period, Archuleta found inspiration following an extended stint in Berlin, after he had decided to fly out of the US on Christmas day, largely estranging himself from his friends and family. While holed up in the Michelberger Hotel, Archuleta fully intended to finish the album. Instead, he remained in a state of relative isolation, haunting the hotel and taking in the city’s dark energy. After three weeks, Archuleta returned home to Atlanta, without having made much headway. Feeling unproductive, depressed and disorientated by jet lag, Archuleta resolved to finish the LP, working in a three-day flurry of productivity that resulted in ‘Blue Ring’, ‘The Ghost And The Host’, ‘Magic Killer’ and the final album edits.

Subtly grandiose and quietly epic, ‘Lifetime Of Love’ really does live up to its title: a hopeful and curious beginning makes way for a morose middle before a bittersweet, optimistic end.

The Early Years, shot by Lucy Johnston
The Early Years, shot by Lucy Johnston
The Early Years, shot by Lucy Johnston

The Early Years made their stunning return at the end of June with the ‘Nocturne’ single, an incendiary live show at London’s MOTH Club and news of a new album, ‘II’, scheduled for release on September 23. Before the gig they spoke to Joe Clay from the Quietus about the making of the new album, and why it took quite so long to materialise. You can read the interview here and below we will try to fill in the rest of the gaps from the last 10 years.

Pre-order ‘II’ on double vinyl – smarturl.it/teyvinyl
Pre-order ‘II’ on CD – smarturl.it/teycd
Pre-order ‘II’ on iTunes – smarturl.it/teyitunes
Pre-order ‘II’ on Bandcamp – smarturl.it/teybandcamp

The Early Years formed in 2004 in east London, around the same time that Sonic Cathedral first began. Soon after, they sent us a CD of demos which were stunning, the mix of celestial drones and krautrock rhythms on the three songs really stood out; when we saw them play, we saw one of the most exciting live bands we’ve ever seen. We put on numerous gigs for them all over the country as they signed to Beggars Banquet and put out classic singles such as ‘All Ones And Zeros’ and their debut album in October 2006.

They followed up with ‘The Great Awakening’ EP the following year, before tentatively beginning work on a follow-up album. When Beggars Banquet was absorbed into 4AD, The Early Years decided to move over to Sonic Cathedral and, in 2008, they recorded two tracks for a yellow vinyl 7”: the LCD Soundsystem-meets-Scott Walker machine groove of ‘Like A Suicide’ and the sinister ‘The Computer Voice’. The handful of shows they played around this time also saw them really pushing the electronics to the fore; they felt vital and visceral and you wondered what would happen next. Sadly, nothing happened. The momentum simply ran out amid that old cliché: musical differences.

“We had quite different ideas on what we wanted,” explains drummer Phil Raines. “Some were wanting to create an instrumental electronica record akin to Cluster’s ‘Zuckerzeit’, others wanted to produce a song orientated record, and we had real difficulty reconciling the two. To the point where we had a load of recorded material that nobody really believed in. Then we just stopped.”

The void was filled with numerous bands who were also inspired by the sound of Jason Pierce and Sonic Boom’s drones and Klaus Dinger’s rhythms, but none did it with the energy and electricity of The Early Years at their finest. Thankfully they didn’t go unnoticed: Brian Eno caught the band at a festival in 2006 and told Phil how much his mensch-machine style reminded him of Dinger, before describing their sound, obliquely as ever, as “post-pop, post-neat and post-postmodern”; former Can frontman Damo Suzuki said something similar when the band acted as his ‘sound carriers’ later that same year.

In 2009 The Horrors cited them as an influence on their turning point album ‘Primary Colours’. More recently, Paul Weller raved about them following his latter-day conversion to Deutsche elektronische musik and even commissioned them to remix ‘Green’ from his ‘Sonik Kicks’ album.

The Early Years never split, they just concentrated on real life concerns while still occasionally making music on the side, just not together. “We have hours and hours of music in the vaults but it didn’t feel like a cohesive whole,” explains frontman David Malkinson. “It was missing something,” continues Phil. “It was missing the musical friction and discord that we achieve when we are all together. That’s what makes our music work. Now we’ve all grown older we’re more tolerant of each other and are prepared to move towards each other’s ideas.”

Guitarist Roger Mackin puts it more succinctly: “I got tired of endless synth noodling. When the other guys also got tired of it about eight years later, that was when we started recording together again.”

There was a fresh start at the end of 2011, when the band reconvened for two shows, and released an orange vinyl 7” coupling a new song called ‘Complicity’ with a dusted down older recording from a few years earlier called ‘Fallen Star’. It was supposed to be a low-key, limited-edition release to sell at the shows, but was picked up by BBC 6 Music, who played it to death and the band ended up recording a session with Marc Riley and the groundwork was laid for a full-time reunion a couple years later.

When the band played Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia and headlined a sold-out 100 Club in London as part of Sonic Cathedral’s 10th anniversary celebrations in 2014, they debuted several new songs, including ‘Hush’ which has made it on to the new album. The latter show was recorded for a limited-edition live cassette and this time the momentum continued and carried on all the way up the M6 to what is essentially a garden shed at the end of David’s garden in Cheshire.

“The band didn’t having a base any more and sporadic attempts at recording in various strange studios yielded little results, everything just sounded so alien to what we were trying to achieve,” explains bassist Brendan Kersey. “So, relocating the studio to David’s house in Cheshire was a huge catalyst. It gave us the space we needed to explore and record ideas without the usual time and monetary pressures of a regular studio.”

“It’s a pretty small room, but it affords us a lot more time and lets the music breathe,” adds David. “It was such a relaxed, homely thing that really worked for us. And hopefully you can hear that come through on the record,” adds Phil. “I don’t think I’ll ever go into a professional studio again.”

Through a series of weekend recording sessions throughout 2015 (“Taking our time, getting every bit right,” says Phil) the new album was pieced together under the influence of cheap red wine from the local branch of Aldi as well as Steve Reich, Kraftwerk, Neil Young, Television, Emeralds, Suicide, Bowie’s ‘Low’ and ‘Lodger’, ‘The Idiot’ by Iggy Pop and The Walker Brothers’ ‘Nite Flights’.

The location helped, too. “It was quite magical just being so far removed from the big smoke for the weekend,” recalls Brendan. “In the countryside with your mates drinking wine and making great music until dawn… what more could you want?”

Not a lot, it turns out, apart from some help putting the results together. It was only when the recordings were finished that the band finally sought outside input. “I saw Jason Kingsland was the engineer on Deerhunter’s ‘Fading Frontier’ and I really liked how that record sounds,” explains Phil. “I just dropped him an email and he got back pretty much straight away. Working with him was fantastic, he was the arbiter of our potentially endless debates about mixing. He’s actually based in Atlanta, but he was able to live stream the audio out of his outboard and desk, so we communicated via Google hangouts and essentially mixed the album from home.”

It was left to Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road to master the results, and finally, after many years of failures and false starts, The Early Years had a second album ready to go. It’s a hugely important record for Sonic Cathedral as well as for the band, as it’s something we have tried to make happen for the best part of the last decade. We’re happy to say that the end results are more than worth the wait. It’s a perfect album, more relevant now than ever.

So what’s next for The Early Years? Can we expect another album before 2026?

“We have the songs written for the next album, a few of them are recorded and sounding ace,” reveals David. “We’ll give this record everything we’ve got then head back to the shed. It’s too much fun to go away again…”

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We’re very excited to announce that Moon Diagrams – the solo project of Deerhunter drummer Moses Archuleta – will play their first ever UK show for Sonic Cathedral next month.

The show takes place at the Shacklewell Arms in London on Thursday, June 16.

>>> BUY TICKETS FOR THE SHOW HERE <<<

Moon Diagrams released a limited-edition cassette entitled ‘Care Package’ last year as part of the ace Atlanta label Geographic North‘s ‘Sketch For Winter’ series. Listen to ‘Scratch The Snow’:

There’s an incredible supporting line-up as well: New York-based Vorhees, aka sound engineer Dana Wachs, has been described by Bradford Cox as “the female Eno”; ADSL Camels is Sian Alice Group and Eaux man Ben Crook playing dissonant and downbeat electronica.

There’s more info on the Facebook event page here.

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We were so incensed that Spectres’ ‘Dying’ didn’t show up in as many end of year lists as it should have that we decided to make our own list. Then we left Spectres out of it, because we don’t include our own releases. We also don’t include bands we’ve worked with before, just for reasons of fairness, although it’s not so fair to Younghusband, The Tamborines and Disappears, who all made great albums this year.

Anyway, if anyone cares, because surely these things are just a matter of opinion and arbitrary taste, here’s our 15 from ’15.

Happy Christmas to one and all and roll on next year. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

AOTYGRAPHIC

The Black Dog – ‘Neither/Neither’
Label: Dust Science
Released: August 14
Bought from: CD from a seller on Amazon

Deerhunter – ‘Fading Frontier’
Label: 4AD
Released: October 16
Bought from: LP kindly sent to me by Rich Walker from 4AD

Delia Gonzalez – ‘In Remembrance’
Label: DFA
Released: April 27
Bought from: CD bought from a seller on Amazon

The Fall – ‘Sub-Lingual Tablet’
Label: Cherry Red
Released: May 11
Bought from: CD bought from Resident Music, Brighton

Four Tet – ‘Morning/Evening’
Label: Text
Released: July 10
Bought from: LP bought from Sister Ray, London. Digital bought from Bandcamp

Helen – ‘The Original Faces’
Label: Kranky
Released: September 4
Bought from: LP from Sister Ray, London

Joanna Gruesome – ‘Peanut Butter’
Label: Fortuna POP!
Released: May 11
Bought from: LP from Rough Trade East, London

New Order – ‘Music Complete’
Label: Mute
Released: September 25
Bought from: CD from Amazon (sorry, impulse buy after Empire Records in St Albans had sold out)

Nite Fields – ‘Depersonalisation’
Label: Felte
Released: February 3
Bought from: LP bought from a seller on Discogs

Thee Oh Sees – ‘Mutilator Defeated At Last’
Label: Castle Face
Released: May 26
Bought from: LP bought from Resident Music, Brighton

Rival Consoles – ‘Howl’
Label: Erased Tapes
Released: August 26
Bought from: CD bought from a seller on Amazon

Todd Rundgren, Emil Nikolaisen & Hans-Peter Lindstrøm – ‘Runddans’
Label: Smalltown Supersound
Released: May 3
Bought from: CD bought from a seller on Amazon

Valet – ‘Nature’
Label: Kranky
Released: May 26
Bought from: LP bought from Sister Ray, London

Viet Cong – ‘Viet Cong’
Label: Jagjaguwar
Released: January 20
Bought from: LP bought from the Drift Record Shop, Totnes

Wand – ‘Golem’
Label: In The Red
Released: March 17
Bought from: LP bought from Hot Salvation, Folkestone