Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Danzig "IV" (1994)

This fourth installation in the mighty Danzig series continues onward with an ever so familiar blues soaked, devil horned grin rumble of metallic rock reveling in the ecstasy. With minor tonal changes and aesthetic nuances adjusted for a shade more sweat and muscle, IV marks a shy attempt to broaden the scope a couple outbreaks of nonchalant forays into gloomier sounds. Its mostly defined, once again, by Danzig himself who, between his ever command presence, offers up a whispering softness of attempted diversity on Cantspeak as well as a spoken word style performance on the grim, tribal and mystic Sadistikal, the likes of which we haven't heard of before.

Aside from the small pickings of adventures upon new land, IV marks the band still firmly in a potent stride, producing, as always, captivating music lined with a similar balance of variety and the hooks to dig in deep as Glenn relishes in the empowered delivery of dark, menacing lyrics to sing along with. The metallic, groovy songs loaded with distortion guitar riffs are on fire and their acoustic laden counterparts offer up a sense of ebb and flow that lets the album ride sweetly from front to back without a hitch! Its becoming a very familiar experience with not much to elaborate on but the quality is yet to subside, as I'm guessing they, like many bands do, will eventually come to some sort of decline, a quick flick into the fifth chapter does not sound promising though.

Favorite Tracks: Until You Call On The Dark, Bringer Of Death
Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Puff Daddy "Forever" (1999)

I couldn't help myself, despite its poor reputation and some bad reviews I had to check out Forever. My love of No Way Out had me searching for more of the same on Puff's "solo" release, dropping the "Puff Daddy & The Family" moniker. It is perhaps telling of an album that focuses more on Puff as a rapper than producer yet it suffers from both mediocre production and a lack of spice the Bad Boi family brought on the last record. Despite almost every track having a feature, including the likes of Nas, Redman, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Bizzy Bone and a posthumous Biggie, the album fails to ignite a spark as it lulls through the motions.

Forever opens with a track to set the stakes high, the pressures of Puff's situation encapsulated with news sound bites, sirens, lightning strikes, gun shots and tribal singing slowly elevating with heavenly choral chants, spinning chopper blades and soaring bagpipes. Its an ambitious tone which slips away into the slick and pristine production of tight kicks and dazzling electronics sparkling around the piano melody on What You Want. You can hear the problem when Puff steps on the mic, his flow soft, timid and to calm to be the lead voice. He gets his point across with decent lyrics but the delivery lacks immediacy and energy to elevate the beat, his casual conversational style would prove to fall behind the production on almost every track.

 Do You Like It encapsulates a lot of this record, super slick late nineties production comes to life with tight snappy drums resonating off futuristic synths rattling electronic zap noises around the key vocal sample as the baseline strikes sparingly. Its one of the better tracks as Jay-Z brings it to life with a stronger, superior presence as a voice with power. Unfortunately this vision fades as quite a few weak cuts dilute the run time as the albums better instrumentals are drowned out. I must mention Pain, a brilliant sampling of the opening chords to Les McCann's Benjamin, however it was done better a few years back by Mobb Deep.

Puff's self obsessed, status oriented ego dominates the albums tone, every other song is affirming his wealth, success and it seems he is paranoid of anyone who doubts his riches. It gets tiring quickly and manifests into a handful of weak interludes that border being laughable. This obsession with status and perception reaches a bizarre point with the return of the Mad Rapper, Puff appearing in his dreams to rob him. Its a strange moment right before the closing track which no doubt is the records best cut. Puff declares himself as public enemy number one for a song almost redeeming of the record. A banging beat and enthusiasm in his rhymes goes a long way to create a bright end to a dull record.

Favorite Songs: Pain, Reverse, P.E. 2000
Rating: 3/10

Friday, 12 January 2018

Dead Can Dance "Spleen And Ideal" (1986)

Freeing themselves of the Post-Punk shackles their Self Titled debut was wrapped within, the Australian duo take a shy stride toward the vivid world they would come to inhabit on Within The Realm. This humble and quaint beginning is an exploration of imagination with a striking sense of nostalgia from cultures lost to the perils of time. Whatever the duos inspiration and vision for their music was, I find myself always overcome by a sense of worldly, earthly epic within the roots of a simpler existence, close to mother nature yet drawn to mystic and esoteric.

Initially the record strikes me as a half way house, a transition of sound but so swiftly do the supposed short comings of this record evaporate as its atmosphere engrosses with its rolling repetition. Drum arrangements and especially the baselines have hang overs from the Post-Punk record beforehand. The base guitar pops and plucks at a steady, unshakable pace on almost every song as if it were backing thick walls of distortion guitar. The drum patterns are somewhat stiff and repetitive, always churning away as if a requirement. Ironically it maybe these droning elements that help conjure the atmosphere as they provide a sturdy hypnotic backbone for the duos voices and spell bounding keyboard melodies.

With higher fidelity production and a richer array of synthesized instruments the spark is ignited. Gerrard's resonating voice memorizes without dense guitars muddying the rapid vibrato texture in her singing. Perry's deep and wholesome words relish in the reverb afforded to him in a more spacious production. It all amounts to a wonderfully relaxing and vivid experience of simpler lives yet beneath it all lurks an undercurrent of something eerie and haunting that never surfaces, always lurking in distant shadows. Despite the sense of mortal coil it remains a rather warm and endearing listen.

Favorite Tracks: Advent, Indoctrination
Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Killing Joke "Democracy" (1996)

Having spent time routing through old posts, writing up my favorite records of 2017, I am reminded of a few artists who discographies Ive been getting through on this blog but yet to make It over the finish line. Killing Joke's 10th record Democracy is the next in sequence and their final release before a temporary split leading to a lasting reunion seven years later. With the bands identity so ingrained in my mind its been hard to get into this record, simply because its not as unexpected or challenging as those classic early records. That being said Democracy is a solid record with firm theme and consistent tone that fully realizes its own vision.

Moving on from the metallic Pandemonium, Killing Joke trade in the tight and cleaner production for a denser, noisy affair more in turn with Extremites... Its loud, muddy and flavored by the smothering dissonance of layered guitars. Commanded by singer Jaz's dominant personality, he affronts the establishment, crying out at the facade of democracy and its influencers, criticizing the dull reality that a working class dream is of a paid mortgage. Its bleak and moody perspective on the follies of modern man are parallel to its foggy tone as big, mammoth wailing guitars plunder through the marching, pounding Industrial drive of drummer Dugmore.

Light electronics and occasional use of flange and phasers add some texture to the fold but it mostly goes through the motions with unchanging pace. The intensity varies from track to track but as the record stretches on it becomes somewhat monotone given its singular direction and droning nature. A lack of event or evolution holds it back but then that's never been the Killing Joke way, they once again home in on a feeling and grind it down in their Post-Punk alike noise guitars and churning Industrial pace. It ends up being a rather average album with a couple of more favorable songs.

Favorite Tracks: Prozac People, Aeon, Pilgrimage
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Outkast "Idlewild" (2006)

On this music blog we have covered all but the legendary Outkast's last album. 2015 was marked by my discovery of a group who had always been there in my youth, on MTV and in the sound tracks of games but I never made the connection. Going through their albums one by one introduced my two the journey of two very talented individuals who brought a wealth of brilliance to the Hip Hop game. I lost my steam after their double solo records and given the negative press on this album I let it pass by but this year I want to fill in some gaps and tie up loose ends with artists who's discographies are incomplete to my ears.

Idlewild is unsurprising with its direction given the duo have steadily broadened their horizons. Andre's role as a producer continues to push the boundaries of Hip Hop but this time the duo take a leap into a specific vision nestled in the roots of Swing, Jazz, Soul and Blues from the first half of the century, bringing in a fresh pallet of instruments alongside is drum machine. Its tang and flavor comes on so strong that for most of the record the Hip Hop aspect seems secondary as crisp, sharp tightly fit drum arrangements hold a tempo for the retro theme to shape the tone, however with heavy use of electronic synths it too is pulled in slightly alien directions at times. I'm exaggerating a little, the raps hold in firmly in territory but instrumentally its vibe is persuasively retroactive.

A sense of theme is obvious musically but lyrically and thematically there are hints of narrative that come in from different angles. Is Idlewild a film? A tale? Its a DVD being bootlegged according to one interlude track of which their are many on this twenty five track stretch. Its a scattered idea that Idlewild is more than just the setting for the duos emotional, self expressive raps as the lyrical themes occasionally sync up. Its a typical flurry of topical raps that offer food for thought, Andre on "Mighty O" stabbing into systemic racism and the war on drugs yet on "When I Look Into Your Eyes" we are whisked back generations to piano heavy Swing with a very contrasting tone. The consistency should be a minor indifference but seems important given the high bar Outkast have set for themselves.

With their ambition and innovations for Hip Hop firmly proven, the album plays like two geniuses falling into a routine. Despite its successful attempt to circumvent norms and stylistically define itself with a vivid, romanticized theme, the album falls short of feeling as necessary and urgent as they once did on Stankonia. They have little to prove and so the duo flex their skills again for a charming, indulgent, mature experience. With the best tools at their disposal the artistry is gleaming but the fire behind is dim. Its a fickle thing to explain but a great album falls short when expectations are so high. Idlewild is a stunning place, a gorgeous listen but one without that spark to drag you back.

Favorite Tracks: The Train, In Your Dreams, Greatest Show On Earth
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 8 January 2018

Ulrich Schnauss "A Strangely Isolated Place" (2003)

Suggested by a reader, this hour of relaxing bliss was an instant fit for me. In patches its fondly reminiscent of Tycho's Drive with its washes of lavish, serine, sleepy melodies. German composer Schnauss comes off the back of the nineties with shades of Breakbeat, Trip Hop and Electronic scene of that time echoing ripples through his dive into synth oriented Dream Pop that plays like a trip. So swiftly can you fall into the spell of sweetly arranged sounds bleeding into one another with thick drippings of reverberation. Ulrich's voice creeps in like another instrument in the arsenal as his high pitched words are drifted in from the back like a ghostly voice in the distance. Only utilizing words on a couple of songs you can also here him as an instrument in places.

Its drum breaks hold the music together with a stiff injection of life and pace into an otherwise swirling self indulgence of vivid synths loosing track of time as the chemistry blossoms and ripens. These compositions have an organic, progressive element as contractions sweep through the musics wall of dreamy reverberated sounds. It allows for the often static feeling music to go through many transitions and transformations that feel entirely natural and without resistance. It lives, it breathes and the swarm of inviting sound is dense, with finesse and balance that can border on Noise in one or two songs but always its richness is a persuasion to be charmed by.

Everything hangs in the balance and through it all a warm breeze of peaceful intention arises. Although sleepy and sombre its always in awe of beauty, conjuring feelings of an innocent day in the soak of sunlight, a walk in the park, the simple things mother nature offers us. As the title suggests a shade of loneliness or isolation is in there but that's mostly down to interpretation. This record is rather wonderful and a better understanding of the electronic scene at the time may suggest this being a precursor to a lot of Dream Pop influenced electronica that has come by in recent years. Without a weak point or track to pick as a favorite it sits as a potential go to for years to come with the album playing as one big experience.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Converge "The Dusk In Us" (2017)

Converge, a band with a reputation, known as pioneers of the more erratic strain of a Heavy Metal and Hardcore crossover, the Massachusetts based band have never pulled me in yet. Skimming over some of their classics like Jane Doe, I couldn't feel the spark others have raved about for years and unfortunately that's all I can say of this release that has made a fair few top album lists this year... or last. Its mostly not working for me, a few bombastic moments grab a nod but its artsy emotional soundscapes of rip roaring guitar noise and fluttery melodies tangled in disharmony pass me by as they rub up against one another, much like the vocal and guitars.

Disheveled screams rattle away, rippling of the music in a fury of rage. They bounce from the music in their harsh rawness, dispelling any chemistry the bands vision had in store. Elasticated riffs spasm in perpetual motion, their fate at the mercy of the guitarists who love to wail in with hissing screeches of feedback amidst the aimless assault. Battering his kit the drummer flexes dexterously with a solid display of composition that queues the direction and holds musical ideas firmly in place.

I can hear what Converge are going for here. Expansive music lines the front of erratic pummeling Hardcore, broadening the scope with songs that opens up into vivid places far beyond the core of the sound. Singer Bannon's voice just doesn't sit right with me, the constant delves into structure devoid thrashings and nonsensical anti-melodies threw me off pace whenever the band get going. In a few songs, ie the title track, Bannon drops his screeching making an impression but whenever the album builds some atmosphere its quickly demolished. Would liked to of enjoyed this more but the majority of music here drags it down to far for my ears.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 1 January 2018

Danzig "III How The Gods Kill" (1992)

This third chapter in the series continues on with a very expectant tone, the same knuckle strapped rock and rattle of Heavy Metal tinged in the bluesy voice of Glenn Danzig strikes again. Deep into their stride the band offer up another ten songs that will make a meal of picking your favorites, the energy is ripe, the music inspired and the tone dripping in a moody evil ready to persuade. With an increasingly metallic leaning, the intensity broods and moves a touch more expansive, the opening "Godless" a bold example as its thrashy uptempo pace collapses into a crawling swell of prolonged power chords fading into a soft and eerie synth. It parallels Doom Metal but only for this one song.

Much of what Ive said about Danzig and Lucifuge could be said again here, the music however catches up with Glenn here, the powerful intensity of the guitar work keeps up with his monstrous personality as the enigmatic front man with his cursed performance which always carries a burdeon. "How The Gods Kill" keeps the power at bay, a soft acoustic guitar accompanies Glenn who shows the soft side of himself in a pleasant melodic calm that unsurprisingly erupts with squealing pinch harmonic riffs to ratify the unease that lingers throughout.

Each of the songs ideas are executed with a touch more cohesion than before and the whole album is enshrined by its shadowy mystique, the songs turning the screws tight on a darker shade of the Danzig sound. Its chilling, spooky and perhaps best personified on "Heart Of The Devil" where Glenn affirms is evil intention, boasting the influence of his corrupt powers in a roaring performance. Followed by "Sinstinas" the mood drifts ethereal as the group take a turn with light synths and soft reverberated chords that plays like a sleepy dream pop love ballad reminiscent of Julie Cruse, of course its like a mirror to the darkside.

The edging of ideas creeping into new territory that can be heard here fits easily into the chemistry but only in the fractions it does. Otherwise this third chapter makes its self mostly known for its more sinister leaning and harder hitting guitar licks. As on every record so far Glenn's performance and persona illuminates the record and his lyrics get stuck in your mind. Its their most powerful asset, here as sharp as ever I think its fair to say this is my favorite so far! Chapter four is next.

Favorite Tracks: How The Gods Kill, Dirt Black Summer
Rating: 8/10