Friday, 7 August 2020

Brelstaff "Brelstaff" (2020)


Formerly know as Daryl Donald, this name change to Brelstaff signifies little in the way of musical progression. Its another collection of mini Jazz Hop instrumentals exploring the craft with a familiar Entroducing... akin charm. These short, mostly two minute tracks swiftly conjure an atmosphere and reside there for a brief stay, fleshed out with some variations. The selections of drum patterns and samples mix sweetly into easy indulgences. With enough ambiguity and noises between the obvious pairings, the tracks keep delivering a fresh depth on each listen. Together, the tracks are all laid back, summery and warm. The Jazz flavor keeps it musical and grounded, not running away with the uplift but holding back an air of spirituality. The mood is an introspective one, perfect for both background music and giving it your attention.

The short compositions do feel somewhat demo like. Fade ins and outs give ques to where ideas start and end. Stitched on mini beat creations and the like make it into the twenty minute run time but in all fairness there is no filler. No track out runs its purpose, once seeing through its variety it ends. A voice in the form of rhyme or reason, rapping or singing may serve it well as the voices calling John Coltrane's on the track of the same name seem to ramp up the mystique over a mysterious pondering bass line. Its a dusty track with a lot of charm. That note may just signify what's missing, the foundations are in place but as a collection of beats they feel in need of something to elevate it upwards to the next level.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Fellsilent "The Hidden Words" (2008)

With The Double A being my go too record for youthful nostalgia, memories of this, the bands debut album, are somewhat foggy. I seem to remember its release closely linked to their announced split but these events were over a year apart. Whatever I thought beforehand, returning to The Hidden Words as been another delight from a group I'm keenly fond of. Its amazing how much time has lapsed and love not lost!

The album essentially feels like an extension of the EP, four original tracks, four new and three "linking" interludes has the band simply expand on the persona established. One big change is the arrival of a second vocalist who slips in almost unnoticed. With a similar tone and candour to his partner Neema Askari, Joe Garrett feels neither essential or overlooked, his inclusion works without any bright sparks of ingenuity.

As with the EP, Fellsilent slap together an arsenal of pelting Djent riffs, loaded with groove and rhythm that plays between atmospheric and melodic trade offs. They move from pummelling metallic assaults to steadying backdrop shuffling fretwork as their dynamism flourishes in these mostly straight forward song structures. Often do they keenly lead to a belting breakdown to slam your head along with! The linking instrumentals also serve up riffing delights with infusions of acoustic string plucking.

Returning to this record gave me a greater appreciation for the balance of complexity when chopping up polymetered grooves into 4/4 patterns. So sweetly do they push both angles. The power and persuasion of rhythm is without any burden yet many riffs have puzzling arrangements. Like with Meshuggah I am sure the mystery would unravel a little learning to play their songs on guitar, something I hope to find time for!

Its such a shame this was the end of the road. The band certainly materialised a fine execution of sound and style but where to go from here? Who knows... In all likelihood it may have never surpassed this moment given how fantastic they where at this point, perhaps they exhausted all they had? I remember the statement at the time indicating that everyone involved felt like they had seen it through and wanted to move on. Some music elitists make comments like "they should of quit after XYZ". Maybe that's exactly what these guys did? Go out on top.

Rating: 9.5/10 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Joey Badass "The Light Pack" (2020)

Stagnation is the word that comes to mind enjoying this chilled jazzy trio of Hip Hop tracks flying the flag for the 90s sound. From B4.Da.$$ to All-American Bada$$, young Joey made quite the impression, solidifying him as one to keep an eye on. The Light Pack marks three short songs in three years, all of which could slip into his previous records. It was underwhelming on first impression, his opening verse affirming style and stature, taking shots at Mumble Rap and pronouncing his successes. It sounds tired to these ears, with his established flow unchanged.

The second track brings on Pusha T, who's style is still rather fresh and interesting to me, a reminder to check his work out further. Its a brief bit of spice over a moody, slightly gloomy beat. The final track Shine brings some uplift in tone but again I just don't find Joey's raps that exciting beyond their obvious competence. The concept of mind, body and soul this project is supposed to embody doesn't leap out at this listener. It's ultimately a small release that hasn't advanced any musical prospects for Joey and ended up feeling a little dull in the shadow of his albums.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Logic "No Pressure" (2020)

Announced as his retirement record, No Pressure doesn't feel like a send off but its title reflects the mood, a resignation to expectations. With such a prolific output, work ethic and passion for the craft I fully expect to hear more from Logic at some point in the future. For now however he is making an honourable move, devoting his time to fatherhood, putting his energy towards the raising of his newly born son.

It's a firm return to form, echoing the greatness of The True Incredible Story with many of its hallmarks. The digital effeminate voice returns telling intimate details about the projects creation and his influences in rhyme, rap and culture. The days of rapping over classic 90s beats are resurrected on GP4 with an interpolation of Outkast's Elevators. Its checks all the boxes, its spirit inline with what defines him best.

When it comes to rhymes Logic offers up a slice of time perspective as he so often does. With the relief of retirement and the pivoting to parenthood the depth and maturity is gripping. The songs roll one after another with no shortage of engaging topicality. Of course its all packaged within the sharp skill set he possess. I'd say on just one track he sets himself for "failure" as a run through the alphabet in rhymes starts strong but steadily looses its path in the self imposed lyrical challenge.

On the production side he lists his influences boldly. 90s vibes and a helping of Kanye inspired voicing makes for a colorful, soulful, grooving record of mostly uplifting beats and Jazz Hop vibes. A couple fun tracks like A2Z and Perfect shake things up to take the foot of the gas. On the way out things get more thematic, bringing in bright pianos, the sung raps and more of a pop appeal as the record build to a grand bow out.

Obediently yours pulls out one heck of a speech from Orson Welles's radio show archives. A very powerful message of privilege and debt to those without it. A great way to leave something striking in the mind as we potentially say goodbye to a true talent, using this moment to forward deep meaning. At seventy six minutes its a meaty record, full of substance that doesn't fire at the faster of paces. Its a strong body of work set to be steadily enjoyed and enjoyed this I have!

Favorite Tracks: GP4, Soul Food II, Perfect, Man I Is, DaBod, Obediently Yours
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Backxwash "God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It" (2020)

I have an absolute adoration for Hip Hop music, however diversity is something lacking in its first decades. The 90s, for example, many would consider the pinnacle of both artistic creativity and success. But in comparison to the world of Metal and its stylistic divergences, its obvious the genre is narrower and closely knit. When records like this come along its a firm sign of progression, barriers collapsing and diversity in this age of musical cross pollination Internet culture.

God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It is a short concise plunge into the uneasy. A cathartic release of repented energy. A self administered therapy with an undercurrent of religiosity feeding into its themes of sin, abuse and guilt. Kicking off a sample of Ozzy Osbourne crying for help with an air of despair to his voice, a tone is set for the slow drums to drill in the dark subjects this album will tackle. The transition into Black Sabbath's Self Titled track a nice touch to see it off.

The instrumentals set out a harrowing tone of internal struggles and paranoia. The sampling and beat arrangements are dark, gloomy and ghostly with enough groove in their to keep it from feeling burdensome on the listener. Reading over the lyrics, a lot of pain and personal anguish is exorcised across these tight and direct verses. With a motioned rhythm in flow and Canadian cadence flavoring annunciation, backxwash has a firm command over the narrative where the two elements come together.

The vocabulary and linking of rhymes is frequent and often entrancing. The hooks and between parts embellishes each tracks depth. As the album plays on, its somewhat ambiguous tie to religion grows, suggesting an arc as the finial songs shift in tone. Redemption lifts the mood but its wording shows a person doing right by them self in the face of intolerance. The final vocal sample from some form of spiritual speech indicates forgiveness for all those who do you wrong. A solid conclusion.

Everything about this record speaks to vision and execution. Every line and wording feeling relevant, a grouping of short tracks offering no fluff. Interlude tracks flesh out the musical theme and its dark atmosphere carries between each track wonderfully, letting the album play like one big track in the bigger track. Its not taken many listens to appreciate its greatness. I've got a feeling this one to frequent back to in the future of the never ending musical journey!

Favorite Tracks:
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Bathory "The Return......" (1985)

The Return...... Of Darkness And Evil, as its full title goes, is a fitting title for Bathory's sophomore record. I always remembered this as the "smelly" one. Listening to it again over fifteen years later a much more nuanced and interesting opinion is formed. Quorthorn makes a keen stride to embellish a more sinister tone, many abrasive ideas that would eventually become hallmarks in Black Metal. The strike of demonic gongs, deep command roars steeped in reverberations, shrill howls furthering ugly throaty textures and plenty of shadow echos to wrap them up in.

Despite issuing some key ideas for the scene to come, its all fractionally mismatched with the guitar tone that still has a warmer Heavy Metal charm about it, even with the low fidelity. These ideas that aim to dive deeper into the "evil" theme are currently pungent in inception. The whole thing is somewhat akin to early Graveland records. Its fair to say bar one or two songs the music is lacking a magnetism that came before it.

Perhaps in attempt to embrace the dark and foul, performances from the band become fair at best and seem intentionally sloppy in moments of lost synchronicity or attempted "edge". Tempos stutter, and drums loose there groove. It rarely aids the music or its intended theme, that needs to come from good songwriting and Quorthorn's riffs are baked stale for half of the record.

In the latter half of the album a darker guitar tone grinds power chords effectively and in two songs lays a much foundation for the evolution of the genre. Its guitar solos still seem lost in the Heavy Metal cliche tho, breaking the mood. These moments and the intro of dark scenic ambience give the record some needed merit because despite being early, raw and influential, its embryonic experimentation is ugly, not in the aesthetic and rewarding sense but that of a mostly haphazard record.

Favorite Tracks: The Rite Of Darkness, Reap Of Evil
Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Steve Roach "Journeys To The Infinite" (2020)

Having spent a pretty penny on records this month, the availability of a free compilation was a welcome one. Once again the itch developed for some relaxing meditative music of which Steve Roach is both a master and pioneer. With this being a collection of eight tracks all from different projects, there was much to enjoy. All were new to me, with exception to one song rehashing a keen temporal melody off Structures From Silence. With such variety on display it is hard to comment on the particulars but I found myself in awe of the apparent ease and simplicity of his unfolding compositions, which are inherently deceptive as time silently ticks by.

The songs start in timid places. Simple arrangements of atmospheric synths or modulated synths, unimposing in stature, lure one into the fold. As the master does, the music grows patiently. Layers build and a thick atmosphere engulfs one with stealth. Later into these lengthy constructs one can be in awe of the density that amounts to such deep and spiritual insights. With eighty two minutes of finely crafted, temporal, meditative ambience peering into the mind, its easy to get lost in this record.

With such a plethora of music produced and continuing to create, it can be daunting to know where to go with his catalogue but it seems the musician has a constitute quality to his output. Maybe this compilation will serve as a jumping on point to another album as I find myself keenly curious by the soundscapes he forges. I particularly liked Skeleton Passage with its Tangerine Dream vibes and also the subtle world music ques akin to another classic Dreamtime Return on two of the songs. Fine music!

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Malcolm Home "Infinity" (2020)

Immediately warm and welcoming, the smooth, soft jazzy beats at play feel right at home, pardon the pun. Infinity is a debut album loaded with seventy five minutes of breezy Jazz Hop instrumentals. Its subdued Hip Hop element gives rise to a colourful melodic that feels so reflective of many electronic and ambient artists in recent memory. Its of the times, a chilled out, carefully crafted set of songs with melodies learning in the Synth Pop revival direction with a touch of Anime theme song spice dazzling in a couple of song which also tend to be the better ones.

Originality is term thrown around too easily and although I don't hear anything that feels like a stone overturned, the particular fusion of glossy sounds and involved layers of notation has it steering into a combination of recent styles and sounds that feels like a little bit of everything and none of it all at once. This seems to be true of its better moments where the chemistry is ripe but over its broader cut of songs the threads that pull yield different results as the magic stems from this middle ground.

The breezy effortless dreamy arrangements, soaked in reverbs and oozing with summery vibes, get a little tired in the less involved instrumentation. At times the looped nature of the music shows its flaws as songs revolve with little beyond the initial temperament set. Equal to it though are these fantastic flushes of growth as some songs seem to evolve with a lead instrument acting as a voice. Losing You has a dynamic electric guitar solo illuminate an already captivating song.

Infinity's best feels loaded in its front. Save Me brings in a voice for collaboration I cared little for, the vocal didn't gel. Past this point It sounds like the less fleshed out ideas reside in the albums final third which drifts on. This plays up some of the production tricks as they become more noticeable, like wonky keys that flavour a little obscurity throughout. A couple of slow, dreary, dramatic and slow Post-Rock style songs end up here too. A niche touch but a little of key with the overall vibe.

This is a dense record given its runtime, some simple songs are given fair leeway on the repetitions yet on other tracks you almost don't want them to end with the amount of variety being unleashed. It all suggests a need for curation and focus on being more than a collection of beats because in its stride, it really hits the mark! Despite its chilled out nature and easiness, it can get dull in the forefront but It also provides an atmosphere which may just be right for rest and relaxation!

Favorite Tracks: Mercy, Losing You, Drown In The Stars, Los Pantalones, Infinity
Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Bathory "Bathory" (1984)

I was listening to Scandinavian Metal Attack, a compilation of Heavy Metal released earlier the same year that the Swedish one man band Bathory featured on, when I realized its been well over a decade since Id last dived into these classic records that influenced the shape of Black Metal to come. Venom coined the name two years earlier but Quorthorn took the cheese out of the equation, sharpening the axe of evil with an aggression, keenly influenced by Motorhead. This self titled debut pushed the pummeling sound further whilst taking the occult seriously, laying foundations for a whole new musical scene to arise, inspired by the taboos of evil.

 With a brittle angular distortion guitar tone and shrieking howls, this dusky record and its simply awful audio fidelity presents an initial challenge. Much of the tone is pushed into the mid to high range with the low ranges being a muddy mess of bass resonance. All instruments have there sloppy moments with riffs falling off beat, drum strikes inconsistent and collisions of noise. Despite this the music overcomes the technical aspects, Quorthorn's throaty shouts and groans are sufficiently menacing for his evil themes of all things occult and taboo to have a sense of seriousness.

For a primitive and somewhat embryonic record the songs hold up well all these years later. The punkish riffing slogging power chords and melody interwoven picking rhythms stand on their own two feet. Without chasing the gimmicks of speed and extremity for extremities sake, Quorthorn uses his guitar to forge a genuine direction often illuminated by the shrill eruptions of lead guitar that dazzle the songs with speedy tapping arriving through a difficult to decipher whirl of low fidelity sound.

Its Intro and Outro songs make light use of thematic soundscapes to embellish the tone. I can't comment much on the origins of such integration in Metal but its almost no surprise to hear it here as many pioneering ideas have roots in Bathory. Another being the abrupt ending of tracks on two songs, something Darkthrone would get a lot of credit for later. Not all the songs are great, a couple drone with repetition but it has its moments. Many year from my last dive into this world, its clear the songwriting prevails and so its aesthetic elements fall into place given the uncomfortable topicality. The influence is obvious, the nostalgia magical but the best is yet to come!

Favorite Track: Raise The Dead
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Fellsilent "The Double A" (2006)

Forever immortalized in my memory, local Metal outfit Fellsilent represented an exciting time in the musical adventure, as me and my friends started visiting our local Metal bars and clubs. At our first outing these polyrhythmic Djent brutes stole my heart! It was at a time when Meshuggah where still yet to gain their status as extreme innovators and pioneers of a new sound. Finding a local act embracing this sound and executing it with utter class just felt like a match made in heaven. Never has a revisit to this glorious era ever failed me and my recent dive into Catch Thirtythree of the same time had me reveling in the demos and this four track EP again!

 The band have a instinct for big lurking riffs that slog out grooves with a mechanical coldness. Soft melodies seep in through gleaming acoustics, Post-Rock guitar ambience and subtle shifts in tone as a colorful notes align themselves alongside these beastly marches of stomping metallic bludgeoning. The balance in complexity is inviting, keeping polyrhythms locked in the 4/4 bar makes it easy to follow and all the more infectious! Every song has a keen cut of riffs to fit into typical song structures but always do they lead to some form of mammoth peak or breakdown in the final third.

All four songs are superb. Silence Is The Loudest Cry For Help a timeless lyrics that conveys an emotional current to its otherwise chromatic, relentless, battering aesthetic. The vocals add to this grey onslaught. Neema Askari has a distinctly flat and harsh approach, straining his chords with some personality. When they open into uplifting clean sections the relief is simply brilliant. Again its all put together with that final third of a song ascending to its peak and their is no exception.

This band is so ingrained into my being. They were like an illusive beast we never saw again for years as the shows just didn't seem to line up. I think we eventually got to see them again with Enter Shikari a couple more times before they split up in 2010. Its a shame but not all bands make it. Despite being utterly brilliant the stars didn't align and so its likely they will be buried by time and dust a little fast than most but if you love Djent, do yourself a favor and give this record a try! Its a gem!

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Spread "The Whole Nine Yards" (1999)

Around fifteen years ago my music archive hard drive suddenly stopped working. This was absolutely devastating for this young audiophile. It subsequently brought about the practice of frequently backing up all my data, in multiple places. I was able to recover a fair amount from the drive but sectors of it were damaged. Fortunately I could also print the entire directory list to file and at least have a record of what I'd lost... The internet has changed greatly since then. Its much easier to find niche content now. Browsing over that directory list I thought I'd have a little search and what would you know the album has been available on YouTube for two years!

The power of want and nostalgia had mystified The Whole Nine Yards as a "lost gem" in my mind. Hearing it again... how little of that is true! With so much time passed its just the one track, Sacrifice, that I can actually remember in its entire sequence. How I ever found this band in the first place is a mystery now. It is however a fun revisit to the glum moody spirits of Nu Metal, this record perfectly embodying the downtrodden, broken and frustrated tone many bands shared at the time.

As a self produced record, they clearly checked all the boxes for being picked up by a label looking to cash in on the fad. Its obvious weak point though are the vocals. The production at time deploys some reverbs to help mask the weakness but its mostly the clean takes are off key and strained, you can hear what they were aiming but it falls short. The screams and shouts can be a little tiresome too with a lack of interest in the textures they arrive with. They do all the cliche approaches with a couple of Corey Taylor shout raps thrown in the mix too.

When it comes to originality there is little. Deploying all the tropes, one can hear plenty of Korn, Coal Chamber, Godsmack and Slipknot with the echos of the Alternative Metal scene present. Mixing throttling bursts of distorted aggression, quirky guitar melodies and open wound vocal performances, little touches of DJ interludes like Limp Bizkit akin Hip Hop beats just give it everything heard elsewhere before. I probably sound harsh in my tone, despite how its aged poorly with a tired look back at the scene, The Whole Nine Yards is a pretty competent and impressive attempt to fit in with the times, forging some decent songs of that vein. If your in the mood for something depressingly indulged and aggressive then this EP has it.

Favorite Track: Sacrifice
Rating: 3/10