Sunday, 30 August 2015

N.W.A "Straight Outta Compton" (1988)


Just about everything that can be said about this records immense impact on Rap and music has already been said. It set Hip Hop on a new path, put the west on the map and delivered us the phenomenal talents of "Dr. Dre" and "Ice Cube" while forcing Gangster Rap and reality raps into the mainstream. If you have never heard of this record you need to do yourself a favor and read about it, listen and love it. Along with Metallica's "Ride The Lightning" I found this record through VH1 at around thirteen years old and it forever changed my outlook and music direction, so for this blog I thought Id focus on how this record impacted me as a person.

Being a relatively angry and frustrated young person I was initially attracted to the aggression and attitude on display, but as I learned the words the message sunk in quick and I found myself envisioning a reality I would of otherwise never know about. The lyrics depicted the American ghettos riddled with poverty, gangs, police brutality and drug problems. It opened my eyes to reality, I had a fortunate upbringing and I was understanding that the world was a big place with many problems. "Fuck Tha Police" was the song that really blew my mind, I had never heard such anti-authoritarian anger and it taught me to question what the police were and to challenge what was wrong and right in the eyes of the law. From that point on I always gave second thought to my assumptions and it set me on a path to be an open and accepting person who looks for tolerance and compassion over prejudice and judgement.
 
I've never grown tired of this record, there's a ferocious energy of anger and rebellion that always comes across and Dre's beats are still rocking today despite some obviously dated aesthetics the core compositions are fantastic, breaking out of the mold thanks to Dre's attentive ear for sampling music. Its him and Cube that make the record for me, MC Ren holds is own and drops some great raps but its Cube lyrics, also ghost writing for Eazy and Dre, and tireless flow that delivers line after line of Hip Hop's most memorable verses. He's raw and unfiltered, and with time developed his word play, flow and delivery but he could never top the impact and relevance of his rhymes on Straight Outta Compton.

I always felt the best of the record was found on the first three tracks and "Express Yourself", although the rest of the record doesn't fire quite with the same intensity its practically impossible to write thirteen tracks of "Fuck Tha Police" but the reality is they overshadow the rest of the record that's full to the brim of unfiltered reality raps and story's not for the faint of heart. Its hard hitting substance of tough times and reckless attitudes that take it all the way to the final track before Dre and Yella's throw back to their DJing days. Its a classic, one that had a profound personal influence on me and if you've never heard it before you should do yourself a favor.

Favorite Tracks: Straight Outta Compton, Fuck Tha Police, Gangsta Gangsta, If It Ain't Ruff, Parental Discretion Is Advised, Express Yourself
Rating: 10/10

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Anthemon "Kadavreski" (2005)


A while back I picked out "Dystopia", an all time favorite record of mine, to cover here on the blog. It occurred to me that Id never given their other records much attention. I picked out the follow up record, and subsequently their last, to listen too. It has a very familiar pallet with similar tones, the acoustic and distortion guitars, the operatic vocals and a wall of symphony through the electronics all feel very much of the same page, the only difference are some rougher guttural growls on the opener.

Consisting of four tracks the record opens up with an ambitious 23 minute piece that develops from a majestic traveler into a dark and hasty aggressor accompanied by vicious growls and hammering snare drums as the track unravels back and forth between somber acoustics and doom drenched crawlers crying out unsettled melodies over thick, symphonic chords plastered in distortion guitar. The progression is ever shifting in direction like schizophrenia, as if fighting between different parallels. At around fifteen minutes the song breaks its form with a lush, dreamy laden of piano sweeping in fast flowing, gorgeous form before confining itself to a simple melody that sets a tone for the final part of the track that fails to make sense, or climax the song with any meaning.

The lack of direction or cohesion gives this one an unusual taste, despite being a little erratic and shifting, whatever is taking place sounds great for the most part. The group deliver a similar taste of melody and mood to the predecessor, but not the song structure and emotional narrative. The following songs feel second fiddle to the colossal opener and feel easier to digest and understand in their small length, despite continual shifting mood, melody and tempo that turns in a heart beat. The final track "Weight Of The Feather" has the simplest of song structures present and from the mid point draws the record to a close with a big crunchy riff chugged over and over as the growing magnitude of symphony is cut short by the strike of a gong.

"Kadavreski" is a confusing record, one that's hard to form an opinion on. Its ambitious opener doesn't sit right with the other three songs and they all shift and turn a little to fast to follow. That being said at all times the record provides a lush dense wall of swallowing sound to get lost in, with moody brooding melodies leading the way.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Public Service Broadcasting "Inform Educate Entertain" (2013)


 Thanks to Brady and his Youtube channel Objectivity I was introduced to this fantastic musical project that takes stock audio from national archives and uses it alongside instrumentals to create a retrospective peak into the past using music to guide the mood and narratives of times gone by. Behind the name are two English musicians, Willgoose and Wrigglesworth who have been playing together for five years now and have released an EP and two full lengths, of which this was their first.

An interesting observation to make clear from the get go is that nothing here feels "nostalgic". In the same way Kraftwerk envisioned aspects of society both in the past and future, PSB feels like it "takes you there" more than it does remember it. The electronic leads, dense atmospheric synths and brooding indie guitars build up rocking atmospheres dripped with developing leads that continually grow and interchange with one another in a big layered sound that balances its density carefully.

Each song revolves around a set of samples the instrumentals correlate with. For example "Signal 30" is the records most "aggressive" sound with big distortion indie leads taking charge of the track, strumming out burgeoning riffs while archive samples play out sounds of cars crashing and an aggressive chap who's annoyed at a motorist. It may not be the best example but the chemistry between the two works on every track. Despite this the instrumentals could easily stand on their own.

The record has fantastic production. Each track may start with a few gentler shades of sound, but quickly the melodies and layers build up and a flood of sound heads towards the listener, peaking the songs in the big moments that often end the songs. The initial attraction to this project was its concept, but the writing and composition has revealed itself to have much class and depth that can be enjoyed without the samples context. A strong record that will continue to grow on me I'm sure.

Favorite Songs: Inform - Educate - Entertain, Night Mail, Everest
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Commissioner "What Is Commissioner" (2011)


What is Commissioner? That's a reasonable question to ask, but unfortunately the answer is far from. Commissioner is a noisy hash of genre crossing ideas that could of had some chemistry if it wasn't for a horrid execution and lack of emotion. I found this record when researching Suicide Silence's "You Can't Stop Me" record released last year. It was their first without singer Mitch Lurker who participated in this project before his death in 2012. The project is a collaboration with California based producer "Big Chocolate", the man behind "Disfiguring The Goddess" and you can hear a lot of that blunt force trauma vocal production style on this short record.

In an attempt to crossover Deathcore and Dubstep the two create a sour lifeless curdling of blistering noise that lacks any excitement. A continual barrage of wordless, deafening screams play out over a colorless mix of electronics and guitars. The slightly djenty, tonal guitar bludgeons chord after chord without a grain of groove or feeling. The electronics batter away with ugly, awkward textures and alien, industrial noises that are often very unbalanced in the mix and have uninteresting wobbles and noises screeching over what little is going on in the background. Theres a lot of harsh chopping and glitching sounds thrown in too the already clustered and aimless songs, further dispelling any signs of music.

It's truly been an awful listening experience, of the few times I could bare to stomach this record I found nothing in these lifeless noise abuse tracks. On paper a lot of whats going on could work, however the execution seem to suck out all feeling. The heavy guitars could of easily added in a little groove and mosh, but the breakdowns where beyond lackluster and everything about this record just reeked. Its hard to be so critical but there was truly nothing to take away from this experience.

Rating: 0/10

Monday, 24 August 2015

Chelsea Wolfe "Abyss" (2015)


Discovering the music of American singer Chelsea Wolfe last year through her previous record "Pain Is Beauty" was a breath of fresh air. Another reminder that there seems to be an endless source of sound out their that can reach you in many different ways. Chelsea's cold, bleak and shadowy music plays off her sweet somber voice like a spirit calling out from dark and on "Abyss" she takes a big step thematically and musically into her darkest sound yet. Accompanied by several members of Russian Circles the album takes the big roaring Post-Metal sound the band play to new territory with monstrous guitar work plunging us into the abyss.

What I previously liked most about Chelsea's music was the juxtaposition between the brighter melodies and the dark, gloomy tones that played off one another. Abyss is stripped bare of anything uplifting and plunges deep into a wallowing despair of darkness as the Post-Metal apocalypse broods sludgy, gritty riffs of ambiguous noise under a rattling kit and Chelsea's lonely cries. Its a hefty, atmospheric sound, but one that wasn't quite as enthralling as its ambition. The riffage falls savage to its textural ambitions and doesn't make anything memorable with the notations.

This is much the tale of the first half of the record and with "After The Fall" the album picks up with a distinct shift in direction as the distortion guitars drop from the focal point. This second half has a lot more melody and driving moments that still focus on an unforgiving despair. "Crazy Love" utilizes a haunting string section that cascades and descends with a tone of horror and evil under Chelsea's soft vocal inflections. Across the album she reveals the dark and tormenting experiencing of the sleep paralysis she suffers from, which a part of this album deals with and contributes to its haunting theme as she shares with us the frozen wakeful state of shadowy figures and being trapped in oneself.

Abyss is an ambitious and focused effort that I cannot criticize, the production works together monstrous distortion and bleak sounds with a clarity that avoids feeling sterile and the music its captured has its direction but for the most part this particular strand of dark isn't as immersible for me as I would of liked. What I like most about her music is that chemistry where the darker sounds smother the brighter melodies within and the first half of the record was devoid of any of that. I'm hoping its just something I'm not in the mood for right now, as I can hear whats great about this one, but right now it hasn't clicked.

Favorite Tracks: After The Fall, Crazy Love, Simple Death
 Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Birocratic "Beets 2" (2013)


Following up on the first "Beets" record I got exactly what I was hoping for. The first was short, too reminiscent of Nujabes and showed a spark of a unique sound which has blossomed on this record. NYC producer Biro has put together a second, short, installment of instrumentals clocking in at just seventeen minutes. "Frontusis" and "Ergo" two lush, melodic, sleepy Jazz Hop numbers that are decent but once again emulate the Nujabes style to the point of deception. They are great instrumentals, but the other six tracks all follow Biro's unique sound and further experiment with the vocal chops that made his tracks stand out on the first record.

Putting the best first, the record kicks off with two unforgettable beats, "Since You've Asked" flirts dangerously with compression as the baseline, kicks and vocal samples compete for volume, pushing one another back and forth, poised in an entrancing manor. Between the beat and bass two female vocal lines harmonize and play off one another as Biro chops and churns the lead vocals to end the audible lyrics with half cut words that play a charming melody with a quite genius touch to it. "Prismatic" follows with an upbeat moving track full of groove and jive with a zany melodic lead that hits hard like a hook. The song eventually breaks to a smooth, phased vocal cut that build the atmosphere up for one final kick of the zany lead before a seamless u-turn transition leads into "Round 1".

With the other tracks on this record Biro demonstrates more of his unique chemistry for matching chopped up vocals and samples. On "Herocratic" we get a taste of a break composed of chopped piano and synth to craft a new tune that sounds like a straight cut on first listen. These strengths are blossoming and Biro is showing much promise, the production was tight and consistent for a short collection of instrumentals showcasing his talent. Beets 3 is out, its longer and I'm now rather excited to hear what it has to offer!

Favorite Tracks: Since You've Asked, Prismatic, You Were
Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Wayne Shorter "Speak No Evil" (1965)


 American Jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter may not be as well remembered today but hes one of the music scenes most acclaimed with an astonishing ten Grammy's in his belt. Hes been at it since 59 and is still making records today with releases spanning a whooping seven decades. "Speak No Evil" is his sixth release and one of four in the year of 65. Seeking another Jazz record to enjoy, this comes from the recently discovered list of "Jazz Classics".

It starts of as a harder hitting album with an ambitious, striking saxophone singing out hooks over mellow, laid back piano and drums before delving into a typically improvisational avenue that lets the saxophone take lead with a variety of scales, usually drifting between flat and conventional melodies. Its atmospheric, chilled out but fairly uneventful. The album takes a while to get going with the title track brightening the mood with orchestrated leads that brings the piano to the forefront with the two dancing around one another in tandem in the songs opening construct. The last two tracks really pick up for me with milder moods and slow, steady leads that are much more telling than the first half. When coming at a steadier pace the words and feelings are in the saxophones voice. There's much sadness and sorrow in "Infant Eyes" with an observant tone, as if caught in the aftermath of tragedy with acceptance in mind.

Much of Jazz is hard for me to put into words. I enjoy it, as much as I enjoy whats mysterious and distant about it, the free flowing drums and soothing nature of their relation with the pianos create a pleasurable canvas for a lead to glide and pale through on its own accord but somewhere in that chemistry I feel rather at the mercy of my own ignorance. Despite listening to a lot of Jazz in recent years and very much enjoying the vibe it brings, I struggle to find the words as I did with this one and as I'm sure i will with another Ive been listening to frequently. Enjoyable record with a few "go to" tracks for that particular mood.

Favorite Tracks: Speak No Evil, Infant Eyes, Wild Flower
Rating: 6/10

Friday, 21 August 2015

Cal Chuchesta "The New Calassic" (2015)


 Anthony Fantano, AKA "The Needle Drop" brings his much loved idiotic, clueless roommate character into the spotlight with a mixtape record of songs to make you chuckle and laugh as Cal Chuchesta fumbles through a collection of rap numbers exposing his confused and dimwitted mind. The record is a collaborative effort with Fantano calling on his friends from the music parody scene to help produce and feature on the record, giving it some immersion and atmosphere as the features play in on the joke and give it some continuity.

The record starts off pretty strong, delivering some amusing lines and themes over some solid beats. As the album draws on things get a little stale, but it can be hard to stomach Cal for to long, especially as someone who doesn't listen to much comedy music. Its a difficult chemistry to achieve, matching good music with laughs but there defiantly moments where Fantano gets it right with some terrific lines "Got people calling me a parody, but no rapper compare to me" and "Iluminium rappers, plans get foiled". There's plenty of amusing lines throughout the record but rarely are they strung together through an entire track. The line "Rappers don't ride bikes, because they cant handle bars" could pass for a legitimate rap, reworded a little.

Behind the comedy the beats are pretty decent with the exception of one or two. Generally they have a modern sound with deep sub kicks, snappy snares and sharp hi hats. Makes for an enjoyable listen with Cal's inoffensive tone drifting into the background if your focusing on other things. Some of Cal's best moments come from his backup voice reassuring his raps and sometimes interacting with him directly, exchanging unusual dialog. The ending skit with Anthony and Cal is hilarious with Anthony talking to the listeners while Cal groans and cry's in the backdrop. Its a comedy record, we can't take it to seriously but it could of delivered more. A couple of tracks deliver humor you can return to over and over but the most if is mildly amusing and doesn't have much replay value.

Favorite Songs: Hot Dinner, Cocoa, I Need My Friends
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Mindless Faith "Eden To Abyss" (2015)


I was engulfed by a wave of excitement when I saw this record pop up in my feed. I can't remember how exactly I found this American band from Maryland, but back in 2012 I got hold of their record "Just Defy" and was impressed with the striking balance of Industrial Metal and EDM the band achieve. Leaning more towards the Neue Deutsche Härte style they fuse mammoth guitars with pulsating dance kicks and Aggro-Tech saw wave electronic leads. As the name suggests "Mindless Faith" muse over critical observations of human behavior when it comes to religion, money and consumerism, with a peril outlook.

"Eden To Abyss" develops the groups sound further into its electronic side with the big crunching guitars drifting behind the synthesized leads that sound thick and dense. There presence is richer and decorates the tracks with layers of tinkering industrial noises that latch around the main drum beat while aggressive leads run the show. The bass kicks thud and pound away like the heart of the track, continually aligning a dark rhythmic energy underneath that makes you want to move. Singer Jason delivers his words with steady passing as his rough distorted delivery bleeds into the track, making for a nihilistic sound.

Aesthetically the group have made a stronger, bolder record with louder instruments, ramped up aggression on the synths and made a more appealing vibe however its not quite there on the songwriting front. On "Just Defy" track after track rolled by making a resounding impression, often peaked by the lyrics. On this one the lyrical themes didn't hit as hard and often the songs drift into themselves and loose their hard hitting momentum. The more ambiance oriented moments are enjoyable but its pounding tracks like "Shit Show" that make the record work. Despite some criticism, there is some improvement and progression between records and overall makes for a very enjoyable listen if your looking for dark and heavy Industrial EDM.

 Favorite Tracks: Shit Show, The Fluffer
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 17 August 2015

Adrian Von Ziegler "Wanderer" (2011)


Adrian Von Ziegler is a Switz composer who has gained popularity for his music through the Youtube platform. Adrian composes compassionate, scenic, neoclassical ambient music that touches on Scandinavian folk, nature, mythology and fantasy themes of that variety. Upon first hearing his music I knew instantly it was for me and of the twelve plus records I picked up this was the one to jump out at me first and I'm hooked.

I will summarize "Wanderer" up quickly, its an ambient, atmospheric record consisting of three twenty minute songs that settle a natural, harmonious mood and drift on through with melodies and tunes poised for depth and meaning, while remaining subtle and calming. Progression is irrelevant, the songs hold a moment in time, a feeling without trying to climax and break the mode. Its quite simply wonderful and charming.

The execution is remarkable, Adrian breaths life into these songs with the sounds of bird chirping, rivers flowing, soft winds, the squawk of crows in the distance and the occasional owl. Alongside soft and lush stringed, plucked instruments and gentle synthesizers composed with love and care, these songs come to life on a "go to" record for relaxation, ambiance or that need for a natural connection to the beauty of nature.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Dr. Dre "Compton" (2015)


Its been a long time since we last had a Dre album and over those sixteen years there's been the constant tease of Detox lingering in the mind and "Compton" AKA "Compton: A Soundtrack By Dr. Dre" arrives as a pleasant surprise that's not to be confused with Detox which has officially been scrapped and may never see the light of day considering Dre has stated this will be his final album. Inspired by the upcoming N.W.A. biopic, Dre had been reminded of his youth and jumped into the studio to record this record in a relatively short window of time. My initial impression was positive, its sounds like he never left the studio. This is of course true as Dre has been busy over the years nurturing the talents of others.

The gap in time will give fans an obvious point of contention surrounding the "modern production" but as familiarity sets in a lot of Dre's song production come past the aesthetics with many of the tracks not feeling not to dissimilar to Hip Hop from the late 90s and early 00s. Its the array of guests who give the record a modern flavor with new vocal styles from Kendricks unique tone, to the sing rap antics of King Mez and a severing of auto-tune that even Dre gets in on during his raps. There's also a fair few drawn out sub kicks, trap hi hats and shuffling snare rolls but behind the shiny aesthetics the group at work on this record put together a collection of solid tracks.

Obviously the overall theme is about the city and the inspiration the artists have for it. In between Dre throws in a couple of numbers about the pressures on him in his business adventures and a solo track "Talking To My Diary". When using auto tune he is somewhat unrecognizable, but otherwise sounding solid, not to dissimilar to "2001", his tone aged slightly but still showing the finesse to deliver tight raps, however lyrically their aren't as many hard hitting lines and verses, but its still decent. His array of guests sparkle and light up the record, surprisingly so Snoop Doggy Dogg pulling out some of his best lines in years, sounding mean and angry with some real attitude in his delivery. Xzibit and Ice Cube where two names on the bill I was excited for but didn't feel either of them had the impact their raps once did. Eminem also delivers a fast hitting rap delivered with that relentless monotone force that can be a little unbearable at times. Kendrick and King Mez really lit the songs up with their frequent presence inflicting melodic hooks which gave a lot of flavor to the record.

According to the details Dre didn't directly produce every track on the record. To what extent this impacts the music may not be known, but the variety from track to track keeps this record fresh and vibrant. "Animals" by DJ Premier has his classic vibe and fits well in the record despite throwing it back to that early 90s feel. There's a couple of rigid transitions like a sudden mood and tempo shift on "Loose Cannons" and "Darkside Gone" executing a similar idea with a lot more style thanks to a sample of Easy-E. There's no skit tracks but some great audio scenes created around "Deep Water" which really add a layer of graphic to the song. There's a lot of quality on display, a large selection of tracks to digest and right now I can't get enough of this record which sounds fantastic now and I hope the excitement this one offers wont fade with time. His last two certainly haven't.

Favorite Songs: Talk About It, Genocide, Deep Water, One Shot One Kill, Satisfaction, Animals, Medicine Man, Talking To My Diary
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Dr. Dre "2001" (1999)


Wising up to the dangers of working with Suge Knight, Dr. Dre left Death Row Records to set up his own label, Aftermath. It took seven years for Dre's anticipated second release to come to light and the timing couldn't of been better. With Eminem's mainstream debut dropping earlier in the year its success put Dre's name in the limelight for "finding" Eminem and gave the record a massive momentum with blinding singles like "Still D.R.E." & "Forgot About Dre", an unforgettable collaboration with Eminem that the two spitting some of their slickest verses with Dre explaining where he'd been while blasting his doubters who thought he couldn't make a "comeback". When Eminem steps up to the mic he gives one of his most vivid raps that continual grew with intensity as he violently describes the two causing havoc and dropping the "Hoping out with two broken legs, trying to walk it off" line. The timing of the record couldn't of been much better and it delivered some of Hip Hops most successful music, but beyond the shiny surface of the singles, this album has a touch of quality on its own level, inspired by a drive to prove wrong to his doubters Dre gave us his best record.

Staying ahead of the game, Dre and co-producer Mel-Man took the clean, instrument oriented direction of the bling era to a new plateau, mixing the slickest, cleanest and tightly polished sound of the time with timeless hooks and flawless songwriting that gave every song a hook and catchy instruments that would stick in the mind for years. Track after track Dre carefully orchestrates a genius balance of instruments that play of each others space, dropping in subtleties behind the leads and narrating themes through short distinctive melodies and grooving beats. Looking into the source materials you can see a large portion of this record comes from the production team alone, and where there source material is used it sometimes barely resembles the original with the tunes and melodies being reinvented on lush, charismatic instruments.

The overall mood and tone of the record is sleek, dark, smooth and grooving. Proving himself time and time again, the main theme follows Dre through the recent years as he reminds wheres hes been and stating that hes still got it through dynamite tracks and raps. As a lyricist he finds his best form here, taking a stronger presence than on "The Chronic" while showering us in classic lines and solid verses that hold up so well over time. Once again there's an array of guests supporting Dre including Snoop Doggy Dogg who appears on two of the albums best tracks, but doesn't have quite the same charm as he did last time, Eminem, Xzibit, Kurupt and Nate Dogg all bringing their best to the record.

Despite having similar blueprints to other Hip Hop records of the era, 2001 is loaded with a substance and style that's executed to perfection. Its a stronger and congruent record that knows itself s better than The Chronic did. There is even an instrumentals version available that sounds great when you're in the mood for just the beats and they hold up on their own. The record wraps up with "The Message", a moving number produced by Lord Finesse, the only one not by Dre and Mel-Man and has the classic Finesse bell ringing quietly in the background. Its a humbling tribute song to end the record on and takes it over the hour mark without a moment of filler. A genius record that solidified Dre's status in Hip Hop forever.

Favorite Tracks: The Watcher, Still D.R.E., Xxplosive, Whats The Difference, Light Speed, Forgot About Dre, Lets Get High, Muder Ink, Ed-Ucation, Ackrite, Bang Bang
Rating: 9/10

Friday, 14 August 2015

Dr. Dre "The Chronic" (1992)


 Departing from Ruthless Records in 92 for similar reasons to former band mate Ice Cube, Dr. Dre set out to establish his name as an individual and teamed up with notorious thug Suge Knight to form Death Row Records. Using muscle and intimidation Suge got Dre released from Ruthless, which would only be one of many "incidents", the two formed their new label and Dre got to work making what can only be described as an absolute classic record that drove Westcoast Hip Hop into the mainstream, launched the career of Snoop Doggy Dogg and marked the beginning of his ever important role in Hip Hop. The memory of N.W.A. was gone in a blink of an eye as Dre took things to the next level.

As a producer Dre is about so much more than just the instrumentals, he molds and crafts the talents of his friends he brings onto his record, guiding their potential to flourish. On every track Dre has several other rappers to support him and even on "Lyrical Gangbang", "Stranded On Death Row" and "The Roach" he gives them all the limelight without dropping a single line. It gives The Chronic a robust and versatile arsenal, keeping things fresh and varied as beat after beat explore different themes with an array of voices to decorate the track. Its a smart move for Dre who's a competent rapper but not the best and in retrospect we here more of his lyrical talents on "2001", however there's some fantastic murderous verses in the cut and Dre's flow is steady, audible with an angry force flowing through the words, coming across with real intention.

With the instrumentals Dre both created and mastered the definitive G-Funk sound with an attentive ear for the melodies and hooks that brought tracks like "Nuthin' But A G Thang" to a new level, reinventing the source samples into stylish laid back gangster tracks with strong spacious instruments and hard hitting drum grooves, the ghetto whistle delivering a remarkable melodic hook and making its presence known on the chronic after its inception on the second N.W.A. record. The bass guitar is bold, rounded and brings a lot of that Funk groove to the fold and with these elements the chemistry is ripe for a record of bombastic, thumping gangster tracks with an infectious dose of melody in places. Its Dre's attention to detail that glosses the beats to perfection with subtle and intricate details hidden between the main instruments, giving them depth without becoming overwhelming.

The Chronic has style and substance, its an attitude and a lot of it can be felt in the source material, but the charm is with Dre and how he reshapes them into a distinctive style that him and Snoop define with their hooks, violent lyrical themes and tight rhyming that has a fair few classic lines scattered throughout. "The Day The Niggaz Took Over" plays out a social commentary over the LA race riots that broke out in response to the Rodney King incident, the song bringing a ferocious energy to a dark shady instrumental. Its moment like these where Dre gets so much right however I do feel the record suffers from burnout towards the end with a few tamer tracks lowering the intensity of the first half. Dre also cuts the beats hard, flipping the momentum into a new track, not a transition I particularly like, but it hardly makes a difference. The Chronic is a classic, but not my favorite Dre record and I always loved the album cover on this one, it remind's me of the kinda of record cover that would be remembered for just that and lost in a bargain bin. Luckily, or not, there's a bomb under the hood and a classic record that wont be forgotten anytime soon.

Favorite Songs: Fuck Wit Dre Day, The Day The Niggaz Took Over, Nuthin But A G Thang, A Nigga Witta Gun, Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat, Lyrical Gangbang
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Izioq "My Own Private Video Game" (2015)


 It's taken me a while, but I've finally grown into this record and learned to love it. Sometimes it just takes some mindless listening while preoccupied to let the familiarity and mood settle in. When I first spun this one I was initially turned of by the productions change of direction and general versatility. In hits me now like a slap to the face what this records about, on "My Own Private Video Game" Izioq ditches the recreational nostalgic aesthetics of "Retro Life" in favor of his own fantasy video game world. Possessing all the charm of its predecessor, this record plays out enchanting melodies in a new and adapt aesthetic.

Loosening up on the rulebook, the aesthetics in the percussion department see the biggest change, with tightly compressed kicks, snappy snares and tinny hi hats comprising a rigid sense of groove that brings a passionate off kilt groove to these tracks with beats that take control of the ride in the moments they crop into the songs. Avoiding any simplistic or entry level beats, Izioq gives the groove a breath of life that add another level to the songs character, like on "Wallow In Sorrow" with tight shuffling snare grooves or "Soundtrack Of A Soul" where the percussion becomes part of the atmosphere. This change in aesthetics extends to the electronics too which take full use of dense reverbs and a wide range of waves that wouldn't apply in the previous context. The expansion gives much freedom that Izioq flourishes in, "Pixel Cemetery" and "A Link To Our Past" using big atmospheric synths to guide some fantastic moments in the songs.

The chemistry between the texture and the music itself is spot on. As I said Izioq flourishes here and we get a collection of charming songs that dazzle and humble in the delights of imagination. There's warm, uplifting vibes to be felt, all in a relevant and meaningful context that explore many themes. One of the albums strengths is just how much substance there is from start to end and in the middle there's a run of songs that really hit the mark for me. These compositions have a dexterity and creativity that keep these short fresh songs continually evolving and unraveling as many of the multiple layers of melodies play and dance with one another and I just love how attentive the percussion is to this, how it will drop in and out, letting the focus shift without feeling forced.

 After many listens through I barely recognize that initial reaction I had and I find myself truly loving this record and experimentation that has come to this sound and approach. The production is solid, the creative ideas are flowing and the execution is on point. Can't wait to hear whats next.

Favorite Songs: Reset, A Link To Our Past, Wallow In Sorrow, Soundtrack Of A Soul, I Guess I Should Play Minecraft, Seiklus Sky
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Macintosh Plus "Floral Shoppe" (2011)


This cult album crossed my path a while back as I learned of a new "Internet genre" called Vapourwave that emerged online a few years ago. Although the music is relatively unheard of in popularity terms, it comes under a fair amount of scrutiny in online discussions, often attributing its distinct values to intentional decisions in an attempt to create something new. The arguments against are futile in my opinion, what music is not created with intent? And what is wrong with wanting something new and different? It would seem most of this controversy extends from unjustified hate, but enough of that, Vapourwave has two sides of a coin, the image and the music. Firstly the art creates relatively warm and inviting imagery combining elements of 80s corporate image and consumerism with early 90s computer renditions. Neon, high contrast colors and Japanese text tie it together creating an interesting reassembly of nostalgic culture. The music is mainly characterized by reuse of 80s music, sampled, chopped and rearranged they are often pitch shifted down and mixed with drums and other airy instruments that feature a fair amount of reverb to create songs that re-imagine the core samples into dreamy, relaxed, laid back tunes that come across with a touch of nonthreatening ambiguity. 

Vektroid is the alias of the music producer behind this record. She hails from the USA and has been creating and distributing music online since the age of 14. Not much else is known about Vektroid, but her large output of music under many aliases has been consistently released over the years and "Floral Shoppe" has become her most popular released, cited as thee definitive Vapourwave album.

Controversy aside there was not a lot that can get between myself and the music. I wanted to find something new and interesting and I found just that. The vibe and character of this record is a unique mix of an almost alien reinterpretation of culture asserted in a chilled out and comforting manor. The nostalgic re-samples in pitch shifted form give a particular flavor the sometimes glitchy percussion reinforces. The airy synths and additional revebs help drive home the calm nature of the record. Its an enjoyable oddity, simple in design and fruitful in execution, "Floral Shoppe" offers something new and fresh, both in theme and texture.

The extent of how much the music leans on its samples is a point of discussion. Being completely unfamiliar with all the samples its hard to understand the balance with the original compositions. Either way I think sampling and the power to re-imagine music is a beautiful thing and not much different from tradition forms of influence through simply hearing other musicians. We stand on the shoulders of giants and anything that's reused for further enjoyment is a positive in my mind.

Having listened to this and a few other Vapourwave records I've gotten my feel for what its about and although this was a great record that offered something completely new it was not without its flaws. Not all the tracks rise the same level and as a whole the album can stretch a little, much more so with the bonus tracks from re-releases. The genre has potential and "Floral Shoppe" executes whats possible really well at times, just not consistently. Its truely worth checking out if you have an open mind for new music.

Favorite Songs: リサフランク420  現代のコンピュー, ライブラリ, Eccoと悪寒ダイビング
Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Soulside Eclipse "Forgotten Conquest" (2010)

 
It was over five years ago now that I made my first record. At the time I was working an active job that gave me lots of time to think. Times were changing and I decided to take my own music seriously. I invested money into a new computer and audio equipment for music production and set out to turn the large collection of songs I had written over the years into a series of albums. During the composition and production of the first record I stumbled into the world of Dungeon Synth, a microcosm genre of ancient, mystic songs packaged in low fidelity. My intrigue into this music quickly had me writing melodies and songs which hastily grew into a full length. I made the decision to follow other musical interests alongside my "main series" of records, with some electronic songs developing into an album too. Unfortunately it was not long after this record that youtube started to take a big portion of my time. It started as a hobby, something to break up the continual indulgence in music, eventually becoming more and more engrossing. I then hit a point where it was viable for youtubing to become a job and at that time I ended up leaving the music behind, with plans to return to it again sometime. I left behind a lot of unfinished work but managed to write two full length records, of which this one saw release.

My point of view on this record is obviously going to be a unique one since I created it. Each song holds vivid memories, stories and a uniqueness no other music can create, so for me this record is very special and its not possible to approach the same way as my other blog posts. Therefore this will be an insight into the story behind each track and the concept of the record.

"Forgotten Conquest" Is no cryptic title, each song represents a part of a tale devised by my inspiration for imagined mythology and ancient nostalgia. The record starts with "A Journey Begins", fittingly the very first Dungeon Synth inspired song I wrote. It sets the tone of impending wonder and ambition as the songs rises with a building of anticipation towards the main melody sung through triumphant horns that signal the start of a new conquest across the seas for a civilization looking to expand their territory and wealth. "Eternal Myst" was originally written for guitar and was adapted to suit the record as the song to soundtrack the beginnings of the voyage as a thick fog rolled in across the oceans between the two continents. Its my least favorite song on the record, mainly for the lack of care the instruments received in production, and perhaps the writing to which is a little monotone and lacking depth at times. The song ends with the sounds of stormy seas, thunder, the horns of despair and the cry's of men as I took my first ever attempt and creating a vivid image of events through sound. The conquest is cut short as a kraken like creature attacks the ships in the fog of night.

"Drowning Tombs" dives into a world of eerie ambiance as we follow the one survivor, a prince,  through the wreckage of ships and bodies as his consciousness drifts into darkness at the wake of horrific events. The song unravels with spooky sounds, rain and deep noises that set a tone for the decent into darkness as our prince comes to terms with whats around him before passing out, overwhelmed by the horrors of his slaughtered people. Drifting through the night our prince awakes in a mysterious underwater "Cave". This writing of this song was a turning point in the records production, the sound pallet used and the chemistry of the instruments made its way into other tracks and gave me a huge motivation to finish the record. The songs eerie and wondrous feel signifying the beauty of the caves explored as dazzling melodies sparkle in their reverb soaked glory. The song turns to a darker vibe as our prince overcomes the beauty of the cave and realizes the reality of his situation. "Snow" shifts gears drastically to a slow and hazy drone of synth that signifies the princes escape from the cave onto the freezing planes of snow of an unknown continent. This song and the next are inspired by some of the early ambient works of Burzum and attempt, and succeed in my opinion, to create thick and stiring emotions through droning minimalism and simplicity of melody, using minimal notes to form melodies that build gently into grander beings. The princes journey across the barron planes leads his consciousness into darkness as "Withering Visions" takes us through his drift from consciousness as he losses touch with reality within himself. The song dives further into minimalism and creates an empty and sparse atmosphere above the underlining beat of his heart playing often with just two melodies and tiny amounts of background noise.

It was on a day of great inspiration I wrote the next piece, my job had me working alone in the woods for a day and the nature gave me these melodies that came so easily when I returned home to write. "Heros End" has the prince coming back to consciousness in a lush and green forest having escaped the snowy planes. At the midpoint of this song it turns to a dark and despairing melody echoed over sorrowful synths as out prince discovers the dead body of his farther, the king, who also escaped the wreckage. I especially love this part of the record as the two instruments repeat over and over, the reverbs continually increasing and amplifying the emotion as every passing second deepens the reality of his fathers death. The record ends with "Ice" a lengthy, sorrowful track of repetition that has the prince walking back out onto the planes of snow, knowingly walking to his own death. On his last legs he comes to terms with all that's happened and finds a moment of peace as he accepts his fate and chooses to die with the memories of his life he cherished most. Its in this final melody the record comes to a close and the prince passes away.

The record holds up well to what I wanted to create, and it continually inspires me to create more, which is something I will get back to one day. Looking back on the record there are one or two songs that could of received more attention. Some of the pianos get a little stiff in their repetition and in a few moments a lack of depth, or layers take away from the immersion the melodies offer. On the flip side, songs like Cave, Snow, Wither Visions and Heros End really hit the mark and I am very proud of what they turned out to be. Every now and then I have to go back and listen to the record, its like a therapy and writing this blog was therapeutic. I just want to say thank you if you took the time to read this all. The album is available for download here and streaming here. If you want to let me know your thoughts you are more than welcome to comment below.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Mazzy Star "Among My Swan" (1996)


 Its been an absolute pleasure to enjoy this record which instantly grabbed my attention, singer Hope Sandoval's sleepy, dream like vocals washed over the hazy distortion and entrancing acoustic guitars to create a sound that felt right at home, yet new to me. Mazzy Star are an American band whos music is composed by the core duo of Hope's vocals and guitarist David Roback. The band released three albums in the nineties before a hiatus that left 17 years between this record and their 2013 release "Seasons Of Your Day". Their sound and style is distinctively blurry between Alternative Rock and Dream Pop with a subtle touch of Country too. 

This record struck me with a vivid image of simple life, maybe on a farm or working the land but with a deep respect for life. The mood and tone balances both beauty and sorrow on a mortal hinge that could be felt in either direction as a sombre undercurrent drifts through Hope's soft, sleepy words. In the distance hazy distortions play out ambiguous riffs as radiant acoustic tones strum out colorful melodies that dance around Hope's voice. On the first tracks bells feature in a slightly discordant manor, their presence is spellbinding and the additional instruments that pop up throughout the album add new dimensions, the harmonica in particular conveying that simplistic, yet emotional depth the music has.

 Across the twelve tracks theirs a mix of tones, moods and intensities to be found. The percussion sometimes fully involved with a light kit, occasionally a tambourine keeping pace, something I haven't heard in some time. The group get psychedelic on "Umbilical", a chilling slow drone with a haunting organ building atmospheric intensity from the guitar and drums. The distant, hazy distortion guitar brings the most unique flavor to their sound, but on every track if its present or not they play out truly charming, engulfing songs that wash over with a touch of tranquility. Bewitched by Hope's voice and the humble emotion the instruments serenade I find myself hooked on this record and the peace it brings.

Favorite Songs: Disappear, Take Everything, Ive Been Let Down, Roseblood, Happy, Umbilical
Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Graveland "Raise Your Sword!" (2001)


Taking a little nostalgia trip back to "Prawo Stali" my research led me to this Graveland record which consists of three tracks from the same recording session. It's labeled as an "EP" and clocks in at thirty minutes, not far from what could be considered a full record however these songs were left off the record for a reason and despite being such, they make for an enjoyable listen.

"Till The Final Death" marches to the same warlike anthems of the full length, parading battle horns and war crys under the focus of tempered guitars that don't have quite the same groove and momentum, but bare a colder vision with riffs that lurk into higher octaves, rattling and fuzzing away at the mercy of the low fidelity distortion. Between these moments the familiar shifting riffs chime away with the symphonic elements and make for a solid song.

"Temple Of My Hatred" dives into darker regions with a relatively similar style of track, utilizing the same lengthy song structures and compositional choices, but homing in on a darker tone through a memorable lead rift that once again comes through a wash of fuzz and rattle as the distortion's higher end struggles to contain. A selection of moodier riffs give this one a different twist but its a very familiar feel.

"W Objecia Simerci" is the records most distinctive song with a different mix that has the snare snapping through the mix and more space between the guitars and synth. The composition is a little more sparse too with plenty of passages for just the guitars, or for them to drop behind the synth which has some brilliant choir tones singing out booming chants in their moments. Overall its really enjoyable, but a definite mark behind the full length which had the pick of the sessions best songs.

Favorite Track: Temple Of My Hatred
Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Autumn's Grey Solace "Monajjfyllen" (2014)


Autumn's Grey Solace are an American duo who could be considered a "spiritual successor" to the Scotish group Cocteau Twins who broke musical boundaries in the 1980's with their wordless Ethereal dream music. Scott, all instruments and Erin, vocals have been creating dreamy, melancholy ethereal music since 2002 and I have had the honor of being able to feature their music in some of my videos. The two refine some of the Cocteau Twin's best ideas and in their beginnings, delivered glossy sombre guitars and beautifully soft, delicate, almost ghostly vocals over gentle drumming, calm baselines and acoustic chords that echo out captivating serene revebs. Across the six records since the first the duo have dropped the subtleties and drifted further into rich reverbs and glossed over sounds which until this point had been nothing but a delight.

With not a lot of promotion, or presence online "Monajjfyllen" slipped completely under my radar with the duos migration to bandcamp. I was praying for more from the two and now its arrived Ive got to say I feel disappointed. The new record has lush aesthetics as one would expect. Erin's voice is as soft, airy and dreamy as ever. The guitars vibrant gentle tones always playing off the reverb, and there's a thick layer of airy reverbs and synths gliding through the mix. Its all great, but the music behind it doesn't carry the same weight.

Every track on the record drifts through itself in a haze of self indulgence that seemingly forgets to be spectacular in ways the duo usually are. None of the tracks break from the status quo and the temperature set in the opening moments never changes intensity as the songs drone for a few minutes before coming to an end. There's a lack of hooks, spark or excitement, and of what the album does offer feels very much familiar to the tones of previous songs. Each track brings a guitar chord to echo out over and over while the bass and drums quietly keep tempo. Erin's vocals, despite delightful in tone, fail to encapsulate and I'm left wondering If the magics gone or I've simply gotten my fill of this sound. "Divinian" was ripe with ideas and excitement and with this one offering just thirty minutes across eight tracks it feels like the two just didn't have the inspiration.

Favorite Track: Neowollic
Rating: 3/10

Monday, 3 August 2015

Birocratic "Beets" (2012)


Beets, exactly what you can expect from this short record, just not the edible kind. The play on words, or word, sets a straight to the point tone that lets the music speak for itself on this small collection of instrumentals by Birocratic, an American Hip Hop producer from New York City. How I found my way to this project I am unsure, but no doubt it has something to do with the obvious Nujabes influence that takes hold of a couple of tracks on this one, feeling like carbon copies, emulating his distinctive mix up of bright, jazzy piano hooks and bouncy drum loops.

 As a whole this record is very much a short appetizer showcasing static instrumentals that for the most part have little progression or change beyond the initial samples and concept. It holds the listening experience back, but one is still to be charmed by the dazzling chemistry of loud punchy kicks and snares that bouncy back and forth with airy jazzed up samples. Biro shows two sides of himself on this record, "Merlot" emulating the styles of Nujabes with a choice of rigidity in the cut and splicing of piano samples, a touch that comes into its own on "Wants To" which makes a engrossing melody of female vocals cut to distort the words and craft a tune with the instances between the distinguishable while rocking a bold moving bass groove underneath. Its not an original technique but its executed to serve its purpose. Biro shows a lot of promise but the short release hinders itself from offering up more of his style and creating an engrossing listening experience.

Favorite Songs: Orientation, Wants To, Stay Gold
Rating: 3/10

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Carl Karjalainen "Snakebird The Soundtrack" (2015)


Having thoroughly enjoyed my recent playthough of the addicting puzzle game "Snakebird" I found myself compelled to pickup the soundtrack, which I was pleasantly surprised to find out its free on bandcamp. The hours spent rattling my brain for solutions had been accompanied by delightfully quirky and innocent melodies that got stuck in my mind. This is often the case with soundtracks, but its a sign greatness when you can enjoy that same music in another setting. Whenever I need to knuckle down and do some jobs, "bits and bobs", the snakebird soundtrack is there to sooth and help me focus on the task at hand.

There is not much information available about Swedish composer Carl Karjalainen, but his music speaks in volumes, or maybe lack of. The soundtrack's gift is in its minimalism, its quiet, and what it crafts with so little. Its not demanding, or taxing in anyway and just a few instruments create little passages of time that drift on by peacefully if your paying attention or not. The percussion quietly shuffles along with muted kick and snare sounds that are not to dissimilar, as ambient sounds of waves on the beach and winds fill a void quietly in the distance. Along with a murmuring baseline, the lead instruments sing out chirpy, harmless leads and define each song with a strong melody.


Its music for a setting, music for a mode and beyond that there isn't too much spectacular at work but there doesn't need to be. There are a couple of songs which go for a bit more depth and it dispels the simplicity a little. The last song feels very out of character, but it was composed for the end credits, an attention grabbing song to signify victory over the game. For me this record is a great "go to" when you need something gentle to focus your efforts elsewhere.

Favorite Songs: Down Below, Sokosnake, Up Above, Space Maze
Rating: 5/10