Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Apex Twin "Collapse" (2018)

I'm not here to comment on the history or legacy of English musician James D Richard aka Apex Twin. There is one, however his music has always been just out of my reach. Ive never been sucked in but throughout my time I have heard nothing but praise for him. Catching wind of this new release I fancied a try given its an EP. This trend of thirty minute records is quite appeasing to me. Its the sweet duration where music never seems to outstay its welcome. That is true in the case of this album, each listen feels like another leaf upturned with much to discover in this meld of relaxing, pleasant ambient countered by dizzying jumbles of electronic percussion.

Its not all magic though. Much of these six tracks felt like an effort, enduring the drum sequencing in hopes of finding its charm. James assaults the rhythm with fast choppy waves of sampled sounds that stack, collide and trip over one another as they fall neatly into position. Its crisp and clear, clean and punchy yet the off-kilter timing and swift, rapid rolls leave me a little disoriented as flurries of glitched out sounds constantly bombard the listener. Feeling the groove and rhythm is difficult. There are glimpses of aesthetic delight and occasional strides of movement but a lot of it just isn't on a wavelength I'm able to connect with.

Behind it an arsenal of strange and wonderful inhuman sounds forges calm and yet unusual atmospheres fit for indulgence but constantly hurried along by the abrasive presence of tireless sampled percussion. The Occasional emergence of childish melodies ground the emotions from the continual roll synthetic and odd sounds. In other moments thees same oddities form cohesion to resemble something more traditional but at all times the music resists being anything but.

Tracks MT1 and Abundance gives the musical side far more credence to form a memory of the music as much of the drum sequencing feels like a continuous attempt to dismantle itself and all sound encompassing but on these tracks they give a little more room to breathe. Ultimately its a strange experience with two elements mostly opposed to one another in my mind. It does find bursts of charm and passing intrigue. My curiosity will have me continuing to expose myself to Collapse in the hopes that something unheard may click for me in the future.

Favorite Tracks: MT1 T29R2, Abundance10edit
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Between The Buried And Me "Automata II" (2018)

Automata II is the second installment of the Automata double mini-album format the band have split their music into this year. This second half clearly strides into consistency with a stronger sense of theme that their progressive nature can usually make a meal of given the array of influences these musicians share. Across its four tracks the theatrics of showmanship play out in moments of carnival festivity as horns and trumpets emphasis jovial moods emanating between the cracks of rattling drums kits and metallic groove shredding guitars. The chemistry is tuned to its apex on Voice Of Trespass as striking memories of Diabolical Swing Orchestra are conjured.

On the other three songs this particular vibe is less prominent as the slew of intensity shifts, direction changes interchanging of instruments leads it along many paths. Its thirteen minute opener The Proverbial Blow takes the cake as both records best song. Its opening riffs evolve with intricacies in replay as subtle organs and synths wade in on the melodies. Its energetic thrust eliminates the building hype as calm wades in on the storm, holding us in suspense. Singer Rogers brings a vocal performance to elevate the fine direction the song takes, the steadily rising intensity finds its moment for shouts and screams or tight distortion guitar grooves.

A distance lead guitar wails across a suspended atmosphere as the music builds its tension to release. Its fine musicianship but only on this track does it really resonate. The other songs tend to fall into the mishaps of Prog music that doesn't quite engage this listener with the direction itself. As shifts permeate and new instances arise the juggling of serine melodic harmonies and dirty aggressive hammering play somewhat jagged. That's more of a comment on the first Automata though, this is clearly the better release, the best of both could of made a swell record but instead we have two reasonable releases that are sure to keep fans happy.

Favorite Track: The Proverbial Bellow
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 17 September 2018

C418 "Excursions" (2018)

German composer Daniel Rosenfeld aka C418 has birthed iconic music and sounds stained into the minds of millions of Minecraft fans worldwide. His unique sound and approach seems an uncanny match for the games engrossing atmosphere, almost to good to be true. Over the years he has released the games soundtracks alongside his own records that mainly dive into the House and Downtempo orientations of Ambient Electronic music, while showing that his flair extends into all degrees of composition hes attempted. With each passing record the wonders are revisited with a degree of expectancy and predictability but always within the allure that his style conjures, resonating and radiating its hypnotic, colorful warmth.

Its not been since my first exposure to his sound that the soothing radiation of warm indulging sounds has been so strong. Even within the realms of familiarity and anticipation, his capability finds an exuberant stride. One hundred minutes of beautifully ambiguous moods and engrossing atmospheres that win me over with a luminosity and vibrancy to these sounds we know all to well. The textures of synth, tones of melody, buzzing baselines, composition traits, the shrink and expansion is all akin to what we love about this artist and its executed wonderfully. One new experiment emerges, the sounds of birds chirping in Cold Summer gives it a wonderfully exotic and mysterious vibe if only for a song or two.

Its hard to dive into details when everything feels so snug and sweet. This is the C418 we know, the songs don't take long to feel like you have known them forever and yet the magic flows forth through a range of songs so typical of him. We have light ambiences led by pianos, quirky ambiguous melodies and banging percussive lines that seem to creep in like the morning sun through blinds. The transitions are sublime, one instance there is barely a beat and moments later the synths have arose, the snap and clap of snare and kick is in full swing. Excursions has flow, zen and sustains its spell for a remarkable length, suspending us in its dimension. Possibly his best.

Favorite Tracks: Cold Summer, Benton, Thunderbird, The President Is Dead
Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Greta Van Fleet "From The Fires" (2017)

Following up on Black Smoke Rising we have an unusual release from the greatly hyped Greta Van Fleet. Its marketed as a double EP, eight songs that could of been an album however four of the songs are from the aforementioned release. So its like another four songs released alongside the last. Because of that Ive just focused on the new independent tracks, of which two are covers. That was unknown to me before writing this up, perhaps it serves as a testament as to how well they embody the era that inspires them since I was none the wiser, these songs fit sweetly into the run time.

These songs took a little longer to get into and I believe that's because these are the less dynamic cuts. They don't aim to dazzle up front with hard hitting licks but sneak up on you as their atmospheres build in intensity. Both the originals here culminate in guitar solos after the songs tempo feels hastened in the rising tide of instruments steadily raising the energy. The cover songs also ask something more from front man Josh Kiszka who certainly rises to the occasion without a sweat.

Admittedly I felt these song illuminated their potential to reach more crevasses of this era but in reality its a patchy release to comment on with just two originals. With an album arriving in just a month we will find out what this band is made for. Until then I will continue to enjoy these EPs very much so. Its been a while since Ive been so excited for a band outside my musical comfort zone and this is it!

Favorite Track: Edge Of Darkness
Rating: 5/10

Friday, 14 September 2018

Algiers "Algiers" (2015)

Algiers self titled debut record is a similar beast of burden to its surpassing successor The Underside Of Power. Release two years prior, this record plays with the rawer edge and grit you might expect closer to a formation. Its influences, attributes and roots stand more so exposed and open as the union of sounds frequents dark corridors of shadowy, dread soaked atmospheres. Its bleak resentment drags us down to hell as moments of relief and uplift are far and few between here.

The rattle and snap of Blood's percussion echos the chain gang clank its vocals personify. Subtle gospel, soulful choirs hang heads in the shame of abuse and suffering. Its a song that captures the downtrodden mood and tone of the record. Overpowering, dense guitars wail in a wall of sharp distortion and feedback, playing into the conjuring of a hellish, fearful atmosphere. Singer Fisher cries 400 years a slave, 400 years of torture, driving in the nails that seethe.

The track highlights the records darker tone. It and many of the songs lyrics leap from the page, others addressing police brutality and many horrors linked to the era of slavery it draws its inspiration from. Its electronics are also chained to this path, chirpy, punchy sounds of sequenced snappy beats and stabs reminiscent of 80s Hip Hop find themselves sucked into this abandon. Almost all the sounds from this eclectic tapestry of influences find themselves sinking into terror.

Its a brood, punishing listen fit for overcast skies and the cold of rainy days. At its inception Algiers dive deep into the disgust and dismay of slavery, from a very personal and unforgiving angle that Fisher time and time again ties together with his words. I'm not sure how hearing the records in this record effected my enjoyment but the darker direction and rawer tone smothered some of the magic I expected to hear like on its predecessor. Very impressive record but something restrains my enjoyment.

Favorite Tracks: Blood, Iron. Unity. Pretext.
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Greta Van Fleet "Black Smoke Rising" (2017)

Do Greta Van Fleet live up to the hype? Does it even matter? Music should be about what you get out of it! If you can connect with the artists vision there is often something wonderful to be enjoyed. That is certainly the case for me and I even got to see them live earlier in the year at Download Festival. I really wish I had got to spin these songs sooner as I would of really dug that show. Familiarity and repetition are important for getting to know music but the reality is I was already singing along by the third listen. The four songs that make up this record are fantastic.

Hailing from Michigan USA, Greta have fallen under the spotlight for their enigmatic revival of 60s Rock, frequently being compared to the likes of Led Zeppelin. It is singer Josh Kiszka, one of the three brothers, who's electric singing makes them stand out. His howling voice hails back to that era vividly and compared to anything popular, or within my scope that's happening right now, he stands alone. It is a little unfair to focus on him alone though, the rest of the group embodies this era too.

Across these four songs you may be thinking this is a nostalgia trip but whats really making this music tick is the songwriting. The hooks are driving and powerful, the keys and organs gleam with that spark Lynyrd Skynyrd had. The music develops its themes and channels them into fantastic eruptions of energy when Josh kicks his voice into fifth gear and the guitars rise up with the hard grooving licks. Between its brilliant choruses the verses set the tone for whats to come, keeping you anticipating the shifts and waves of mood and charged emotion that come with it.

Another thought crosses my mind. This is not a style and era of music I'm that well versed in and so they could be plugging a void. The production is modern, bright and crisp, so much so to make the music far more inviting compared to the soft and muted recordings of times gone by. As I said up above, music is what you can get out of it. If you've exhausted everything from a style you like then its hard to get excited about new music in the same vein. I can see why fans of Classic Rock are skeptical but there is a huge opertunity here for a new generation to discover some truly fantastic music.

Favorite Tracks: Safari Song, Flower Power, Black Smoke Rising
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Parliament "Medicaid Fraud Dogg" (2018)

My interest in Parliament and Funk music is superseded by its influence on the Hip Hop music of the 90s. In this case of George Clinton and his P-Funk musician collective, its the re-imagining of his songs from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube that are among some of my all time favorite Rap tunes. Their last record was thirty eight years ago, so it was quite a surprise to hear of a new album in the works, I thought they were done and dusted, the last Parliament tour was in the 80s bar occasional one offs as the Parliment-Funkadelic collective. So after a long hiatus Clinton returns with his son Tracey Lewis to go another lengthy round.

Medicaid Fraud Dogg plays very much like an open, grooving jam, a free for all. It explores avenues with varying degrees of styles, aesthetics and instruments that mostly stick to a Funk template but often slip into rather mellow and jazzy lulls of relaxed expectations. Clocking in over a sizeable one hundred minutes it clearly sets no bars for curation and may test some listeners patience. It drifts from track to track with no obvious theme or direction bar the references to medication culture. Many of the songs have a leisurely temperament about them and a few tracks take a drastic shift as one young rapper gets the limelight to showcase their modern rap style with a tightly produced modern, Trap influenced Hip Hop beat. The track Mama Told Me aims to meld the two sounds together in a rather tragic mess.

It doesn't suit how I enjoy records, yet there is some good music is to be found. Its glossy sound revises lots of classic Funk sounds and ideas. With an arsenal of trumpets, the bass guitar, saxophone, piano and other instruments, Clinton's musicians meld the punchy synthetic sounds with little in the way of new tricks or surprises but certainly with a big dose of style and fun. The production however is insufferable in its inconsistency. The difference in volume between tracks and instruments can be misleading. The loud voice over the quiet music of Kool Aid sounds like an interlude compared to the loud and prominent Dada that follows.

The album hits a few good notes with its "social media ain't shit" hook on the Antisocial Media track. Its a reminder of how little this record lands its hooks. Not even its jiving I'm Gonna Make You Sick Of Me song with its big raunchy baselines and funky synths, fit for a west-coast remaster, can deliver something memorable on the lyrical front. The album rolls out on a lull and given my lack of affinity with Funk music the length may just wear me down. There wasn't a lot to take away on this one.

Favorite Tracks: Backwoods, I'm Gonna Make You Sick Of Me, Antisocial Media
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Immortal "Northern Chaos Gods" (2018)

The return of iconic Norwegian Black Metal outfit Immortal is now upon us. They truly are the gods of northern chaos and this mighty ninth chapter in their story has been a shock on two levels. Firstly the surprise of its release, living up to the name, sound and reputation of the band. Secondly the fact that it exists. Last I heard of Immortal Abbath had left them over legal issues and produced a solo record totally akin to the Immortal vision. It seems that Demonaz has stepped up to fill his boots. Once the guitarist he was forced to take a back seat roll as lyricist after the punishing speed of their music took a toll on his tendons. He is now back on the guitar and in control of the rights to the bands name, this is his testament to their sound.

Demonaz has no issue replacing the legendary Abbath and that's no dismissive statement. He has big boots to fill and somehow the music retains the same breed of beastly cold, icy onslaughts of shapely guitars and demonic snarling in the form of shrill screams and throaty roars. The themes of Ravendark and Blashyrkh return again and the song constructs and progressions feel perfect. Where Mountains Rise deploys its acoustic, reverb soaked guitars, the same tone is achieved as they have done before. Everything is just as you would expect, right when you might anticipate it to be somewhat different given the personal change.

With modern production and a nine year gap between records the groups aesthetic is the best its ever been. The harsh, dense, ravishingly cold and cruel guitar tone puts forth a biting meaty fuzz of blitzing power chords and savage tremolo picking. It plays in parallel with longtime drummer Horgh dizzying assaults on his kit as blast beats and crushing grooves reinforce the dynamic onslaught. Through it all the demonic cries seek us out through the icy cold blizzards and their breed of Extreme Metal is a alive as its ever been, this record does all that Immortal is known for.

With so little done wrong, one can only imagine what some experimentation might have done to their sound. All the riffs and drum patterns fit snugly into what the band have previously established and so its ultimately the execution that is impressive. The chops and churns of pace, styles of riffing and momentum shifts all have echos of past records. If your a fan who wants more of the same, this new chapter gives you exactly what you want. If you were hoping for an new avenue for the band to walk down, this is still a pretty sublime record and I can't recommend it enough to fans of Black Metal. What a treat its been!

Favorite Tracks: Northern Chaos Gods, Called To Ice, Mighty Raven Dark
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Lion's Daughter "Future Cult" (2018)

With every listen Future Cult has crept deeper into the conscious, its harsh iterations of Extreme Metal and obvious synthetic experiments have yielded charm in their familiarity. What was initially a wretched experiment of clashing styles found its territory as the repetitions revealed the chemistry that's not so always apparent. The Missouri based Black Metal outfit jump the bandwagon and fuse elements of Synthwave and this surge of interest in Carpenter horror soundtrack aesthetics.

The band have a harsh aesthetic, readily reliant on the pummel of blast beats and angular discordant guitars, commanded by the flat and narrows shouts of singer Giordano. The best bits emerge from the moments between when intensities wavier and so its harshness serves as that root into extremity it frequently turns too as the music drops in and out of its anger. In these fluctuations the trio prime the atmosphere for the music to break to its more meaningful and progressive passageways which give most the songs here conclusive moments of dark illumination.

The retro synths would fit sweetly into a 80s horror soundtrack but not so much in the case of this mid paced metallic pounding. Instead of sacrificing their harsh and assaulting aesthetic and jagged music to fit the synths in, the three let them rub upside. The clash is obvious yet the charm is in progression, how the music finds its way to more cohesion, the brutality sways into chemistry and that is their sweet spot.

The introduction to The Gown highlights this chemistry as the dialed down guitar tones work with the synths through an initially percussion less instrumental in perfect tandem. The texture and atmosphere oozes over the warm, burly baseline. As the record stretches on a couple of tracks cop out of the experiment with the synths being pushed deep to layers of grit and fuzz heard in the creeks between thick distortion chords. The do however remain as solid songs in the run time.

There is definitely something to be done with these two styles. The Lion's Daughter have dipped their toes in and proved the waters warm. However my take away from this record is their musicianship, more so than the aesthetics that often feel rigid and raw. The synths could easily be swapped out for guitars and retain the same atmosphere as I felt their dark avenue is what shinned more so that the Carpenter accent. I hope they continue on this path and push the fusion further.

Favorite Tracks: Future Cult, Call The Midnight Animal, Die Into Us, The Gown, Grease Infant, Galaxy Ripper
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 7 September 2018

Logic "Under Pressure" (2014)

Released on the one and only Def Jam records, Maryland rapper Logic invests half a million into his breakout debut album. How do we know that? Under Pressure is a characteristically blunt, youthful set of songs with rather direct commentary from the "onboard assistant" and Logic himself who takes a raw and straight forward approach to his rhymes and story telling. At the end of the tracks the fourth wall is broken as the feminine electronic voice runs through facts and tidbits related to the albums creation, giving us an insight to the scenes and inspirations behind the music as Logic binges on Outkast, A Tribe Called Quest and Tarantino movies during its recording.

The instrumental side of the music takes on a rather traditional approach hailing back to the 90s with modern sounds far and few between. Soulful, jazzy sampling lays down warm, temperate moods and good, grounded vibes that tight, rugged beats back up with solid sequencing. These sounds and Logic's flow occasionally drifts into territory that fondly reminds me of To Pimp A Butterfly. Its got an organic quality hailing back to the pre-digital age of musicianship and that chemistry infrequently finds these illuminating grooves where it all clicks instrumentally speaking.

Its obvious that logic aims high and with his lyrics, painting a vivid introduction to himself and the city he came from. Its typically in the moment and he has no problem getting the stress and worries off his mind through the pressures of making it in the rap game. He mostly takes on a more palatable, generic flow letting the words come across with ease and oddly in moments of technical proficiency, pushing his swift snappy flows he lacks the same lyrical cohesion. It a raw, direction experience, tackling the topics head on with plainer language delivered through enjoyable lyrics.

For me the record plays without any stand-out moments. Or any duds considering the flip side. Its all feasible and achieved to a solid standard. It paints a picture without re framing anything, its sixty seven minutes can drag its feet with only a couple of features at the end to shake things up, Childish Gambino droping in, his voice a good match to bounce of Logic. Under Pressure is a fine effort, it lands where it aims and perhaps lacks a drive to go further as the chemistry here feels ripe for something special which doesn't manifest, however its a good listen.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Teyana Taylor "K.T.S.E" (2018)

This year we've been spoiled, Kanye has brought us five hyper curated projects. The introspective and of the moment Ye, a brilliant psychedelic collaboration with Kid Cudi on Kids See Ghosts, an introduction to the highly articulate Pusha T and at bottom of the pile a disappointing production with Hip Hop legend Nas, the pairs styles just struggled to meet. The last of the five is again a highly curated seven track twenty two minute record, correction, eight tracks, an exception to the Wyoming sessions. Its actress and model Teyana Taylor second release and that's about all I know of her!

K.T.S.E is a record of two half, two tones that have moments of overlap. Its better half comprises of soft, smooth and luscious R&B licks lined with subtle, inspired hip hop beats and percussive grooves. Kanye lines up beautiful, soulful samples to let Teyana's singing swoon and sway with the warm and soulful, emotional music. Its use of instrumentation instead of synthetics adds a matured warmth and class that reminds me fondly of Black Messiah. When in these songs the record is classy, full of good moods and uplifting aura. Teyana sounds like she seeking the heights of the classics as her vocals soft inflections stir up a delicious, appetizing smoothness.

We are blessed with four or so songs that firmly move within that blueprint however hyper sexual themes of 3Way and WTP indifferently highlight and align with shifts in her singing and Kanye's production. Teyana also shifts gears with her voice, pushing the power of her voice towards the sterile and over inflected modern style Id associate with Beyonce, out of ignorance of course as R&B isn't music I delve into that often. It doesn't charm like her softer side and with indifferent lyrics and topics It can become quite the bore when before shes inches away from greatness.

 The production of WTP stands in contrast to all that came before it, an obnoxious, retro Dance tune with god awful 80s stabs and strikes repeated to insanity, a real turn off. It also plays up to some really odd laser zap sounds heard on Issues. Its such a bizarre sound given the instrumentals tone but somehow works as an interesting and unusual oddity. This is mostly a brilliant record mixed with some obnoxious production and unfavorable singing that strongly turns me off from what I was enjoying moments ago. I'm a bit fussy but every listen has been peaks, mostly peaks and valleys.

Favorite Tracks: No Manners, Gonna Love Me, Issues / Hold On
Rating: 6/10