Thursday, 24 November 2016

Metallica "Hardwired To Self-Destruct" (2016)

And so the time has come to pass, the moment where the world's most important and influential Metal band graces us with new music. For my generation that's been quite the sour experience, firstly with the bizarre "St.Masterpiece" and then eight years ago with their attempted redemption on the thrashy, over compressed "Death Magnetic". I never gave their collaboration with Lou Reed any attention, its since been snubbed from their discography, which leaves us at a point where expectations aren't even a consideration. If they felt pressure or not, Hardwired certainly shows no signs of it, external or internal, its as if they have found their spark again. Of course time has passed and there will never be a "Ride The Lightning" again but dare I say it, Hardwired is their best sounding record since the "Black Album" in 91.

After many plays through its as if this record could reside between Black Album and "Load" / "Reload". Its got the Dynamic feel of "Black Album", the slower heavy grooves of the "Load" era and between a majority of mid tempo tracks there is a hand full of thrash tracks. "Moth Unto Flame" illuminates as an instant classic with its hard crunching riffs, fluent grooves, catchy leads and James's timeless delivery you can sing along to. It will undoubtedly become a staple track in the bands set list. "Hardwired" shreds as hard and fast as Battery, a short tempered, fast and furious burner. The album closer "Spit Out The Bone" also invests in a faster tempo that grinds through its verses, interluding with a Metalcore riff and leading up to a fantastic sparse guitar chord ringing, then a bass solo before Kirk throws in infectious leads.

The only moment on this record where Metallica don't quite sound themselves is on "Atlas, Rise". Mostly its a grooving song but its lead guitars are very reminiscent of Iron Maiden, to the point where it sounds "lifted", using the same techniques and harmonization. The rest of the records song fall into the mid tempo range with stomping, steady grooves crunching away while James sings similar to the "Load" era. They are far from bad songs but certainly the weaker aspect of the record, which is applicable to taste, depending on your thoughts to their slower style.

Individually each member is where they need to be. James at the fore front finds the fire in his hands and throws many vocal licks down in typical fashion however some of the mid tempo track lyrics aren't going to turn your head. Kirk is stunning with his contributions, every guitar solo is fire, inspired and in his distinct wah style. They are in shorter bursts by nature and some solos sound very similar to old classics but it all works like a charm. Rob mirrors James's Rhythm work with one or two short "solos" but Lars is the only one I'm not entirely convinced about, not the best drummer in the world but certainly has a great chemistry with James which is important. I found every beat and groove here solid, with exception to the fills. Everything is snares... snare, snare, SNARE! The one time he does something other than a snare fill it really adds a dimension, "Now That Were Dead" and its flat, autonomous tom hammering.

Much more could be said but in short its just a great record, not a classic but a solid release, something little were expecting this late into the bands carrier. This could well be there last full length record, which is actually a two disc release but not their longest. When I next see them live Ill be wishing to see at least four of these songs live and hopefully they will stick for the next few years, unlike the last two records of which nothing sticked. The band has found themselves again and in the build up to its release "re-textured" covers were appearing online of musicians playing the new songs in old album aesthetics. Hearing "Moth Unto Flame" as if it were on "And Justice For All" gave me shivers.

It also got me thinking that "Hardwired"s tone, distortion, production etc is not king here, the music is. The albums drums sound fantastic but James's guitar distortion is a little brittle and compressed. It gets the job done though, no complaints just not the most pleasing sound for the albums most prominent instrument, oh and James's voice is, strong, powerful and in its usual persona however live he is struggling to keep up. Possibly the bands last record and a solid farewell, lets hope its not though as clearly they have re kindled the fire.

Favorite Tracks: Hardwired, Now That Were Dead, Moth Unto Flame, Spit Out The Bone
Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A Tribe Called Quest "We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service" (2016)

Its been eighteen years... and I doubt anyone saw this coming. The legendary ATQC, innovators of Jazz Hop and creators of one of Hip Hop's greatest records "The Low End Theory", played their last ever shows a few years back and with the sad passing of Phife Dawg earlier this year the groups fate seemed final. Turns out they resolved their differences after the runion tour and decided to record a new record in secret. So imagine the astonishment I felt when I got an email announcing its release, more so at how good of a record it is and what a blessing to hear Phife on the record. How much of this was created with out his input I'm not sure but he came up with the title and the rest of the group aren't quite sure of its meaning.

I can't help but think its a tip of the cap to show the old traditions still have value in today's music. ATCQ sound like a group in the moment, flowing in the waters of inspiration and reinvigorating their identity because "We Got It" feels as if their is no absence. No greasing of the gears, no rough edges, they are in sync and doing what they do best. This is no nostalgia trip though, fresh production ideas and choices dominate this record without deterring from that warm hearted Jazz Hop soul the group always had. They also bring a star studded set of features, from Kendrick Lamar to Kanye West. Andree 3000 of Outkast and even their old friend Busta Rhymes. Speaking of old friends, Jarobi White is on the record, who only took part in the groups their first record.

Split into two sides of eight tracks the record flows effortlessly as a sixty minute piece, due much to its drifting from traditional song structures into artsy organic flows of creative sampling between the verses and chorus's. Some of this manifests with bold intrusive sampling, electronic Kraftwerk alike noises beep away in the start and end of tracks as well as snippets from Willy Wonker and the classic Thriller evil laugh in the records opening track. Q-Tip's production has no boundaries, its as if hes unbottling held back creativity and so many of his choices work. On "Lost Somebody" he lets the drum machine rapid fire like its glitching out. Bold, off key and different. The song even cuts to silence before some guitar jamming noises through into the next track. These experiments are fantastic but between them a set of solid and expressive loops, from the boom bap beat of "We The People" to the Reggae Dub grooves of "Black Spasmodic" Q-Tip finds all shades of Soul, Jazz and R&B to keep the flavors flowing from start to end.

Much of that bottled up creativity speaks to Phife and Jarobi who toy with afrocentric accents between sets of inspired raps. Q-Tip is also on point as the group talk to many relevant issues in the wake of Trump's election, "Muslims and Gays, boy we hate your ways". Id have to hand verse of the record to Kendrick Lamar who drops a impassioned rap on "Conrad Tokyo", his words come so fast with so much weight I feel like each listen adds a new dimension to the wieght of his words. The rest of the track meanders in the echo of his words while a keyboard solo jams away. Its a fantastic choice to let the instrumental take steer of the ship for the rest of the song.

The record rounds up with "Donald" a Phife Dawg track, layered with sampling and snippets of news presenters saying the president elects first name. I can't help but think the songs design is a tip to Phife's classic line "I cash more checks than Donald Trump". It an remarkable record and more so for its exceptional circumstances. One things for sure the substance is there and we have been gifted a wonderful album that must be respected, fans like myself would love more of this I'm sure but the reality is this is a send off, a twilight special and how blessed are we to hear it. One things for certain, the tribe can kick it! Yes they can.

Favorite Songs: We The People, Solid Wall Of Sound, Conrad Tokyo, Ego
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Mobb Deep "Hell On Earth" (1996)

As the album opens its purpose is stated with the opening words. "You know how we did on The Infamous album right?", "Well were going to do it again son!". Fitting lines to summarize both the albums strengths and weaknesses, Mobb Deep intentionally attempt to recreate the success of their legendary 95 "The Infamous" record. Just a year later the duo were fast to jump back into the studio, rounding up some familiar voices, Big Noyd returns for a couple of tracks, Raekwon and Method Man of the Wu-Tang Clan and Nas once again. Despite "The Infamous" being one of my favorite records, Id never given many of their other records, bar "Juvenile Hell" much of a try and with my conclusion in mind I believe this would be a record Id of really loved had I gotten into it years ago. These days my appetite for more of the same flavor is rather diminished.

"Hell On Earth" takes "The Infamous" blueprint and attempts to twist it to darker territory. Firstly the beats have the same sharp, crisp snappy tones and programming arrangements, with deeper spare baselines backing the kicks. The sampling looks for more upfront, direct sounds, sinister ensemble strings sections with Gambino crime family vibes rub up against the rugged, urban drum loops. It finds itself more involved, removing some of the atmosphere and reverb the drums use to fill between more sparse sample choices. As a result thicker walls of sound bare down on the listener with grimy mafioso vibes. The soundtrack to scarface inspired crime, it creates quite the air of burden, gloom and doom on some tracks like "G.O.D. Part III" where the mood is rather grim.

On the vocal front much not has changed in the duos tone, delivery and flow but lyrically there is less story telling and more gun play, braggadocio and threatening word play as the two make remarkable statements related to crime life and violence. Some tracks run narratives and others not so much but as a lack of familiarity would suggest I didn't enjoy the lyrical side as much as the beats which on a few tracks really hit the mark. "Hell On Earth" is very much a repeat of success that leans into the Mafioso Rap genre that was emerging at the time. Its a solid, enjoyable record but as I said I have a diminished appetite for "more of the same" in this instance.

Favorite Tracks: Extortion, Man Down, Can't Get Enough, Nighttime Vultures, G.O.D. Part III, Give It Up
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 18 November 2016

Old Man Saxon "The Perils" (2016)

Old Man Saxon is a Los Angeles based rapper who caught my attention with his untypical music videos. Staring at the camera with a blank expression, he shows us through his day living out of a car, visiting the cleaners, working as a dish washer and sitting on the john. Focusing on the odd, plain and usually unspectacular he makes a marvel of what is not in the visual medium. Either gauging on ice cream or rapping as a sales man it certainly caught my attention and I was happy to grab a copy of this EP.

The single track "The Perils" is fantastic, unfortunately the rest not so much. Saxon's rap style is dry, pale and steady, practically spoken word there is little oomph in his delivery and emphasis. Without the video his words don't have the same charm, they simply don't convey the same tone in message and story. On the other tracks I really couldn't follow Saxon's train of thought, there's a lot of hot air and foul talk between a string of lines and rhymes that didn't amount to much in my mind. it was in one ear and out the other.

The backing instrumentals were my favorite aspect of the EP. Two numbers were relatively jazzy and sample driven. The other two a lick more spacial and driven by odd vibes. "O.G Ghost" gets minimal with sparse drums and some light singing and has the records most incoherent lyrics, which I really couldn't get along with. Saxon shows a lot of promise with an interesting approach to his music in the singles but the other tracks here feel miles behind. Rather disappointed but it wasn't exactly terrible.

Favorite Track: The Perils
Rating: 3/10

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The I.L.Y.S "I've Always Been Good At True Love" (2015)

The I.L.Y.S are an Experimental Rock duo from Sacramento consisting of drummer Zach Hill and guitarist Andy Morin. Essentially they are two third of Death Grips, one of the most exciting new bands Ive heard, this bands identity resembles the group in its attraction to dissonant sounds and odd ball nature, the songs feel similar too however don't carry quite the same weight. This is the first of two records, a short one too at just under thirty minutes, which delves into arty, noisy aesthetic led tangents of Noise Rock and Grunge with a raw Punk attitude. Between it all electronic sounds mingle and intensify, giving much depth to the sound.

At first glance its a noisy mess of oddities but in a similar fashion to Death Grips, strange musical ideas emerge from the chaos. Simple and pleasing rhythms, grooves and riffs are abstracted by crooked distortions, bending and manipulating most aspects bar the drums. "Specalized" takes breathing, half spoken noises as musical samples and the tracks words are indistinguishable in moments. This waves of sounds are heard in excessive vocal revebs and the noisy guitars which utilize very half measured, dissonant, almsot plastic like distortions. Trying to pick it apart is quite the task as each song takes a different approach to the construct of its instruments. Ultimately they end up forming a coherent songs with an musical objective to relate to than its noisy exterior as the guitar riffs, for the most part, lead the songs.

With "Bubble Letters" the energy picks up for a moment as they push into party territory, that song and the following reminding me fondly of early 90s The Prodigy of all things. That's the records best moment as the rest of it is reasonable, to be fair these songs are quiet exciting in your first few listens, there's a lot going on and its all a blur. Getting familiar with them is fun but once the unpredictability wears off and the confusing aesthetics no longer creates a sense of excitement, the core music is rather simple and not particularly grabbing. Personally I feel as is too much focus on exteriors, the internal music is lacking in lasting substance, otherwise it could be a recipe for success.

Favorite Tracks: Articulate, Bubble Letters, Specialized, All She Does Is Kill Shit
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Regina Spektor "Remember Us To Life" (2016)

Its been quite some time since Ive checked in with Regina Spektor and its fantastic to hear she is still doing her thing. Born in Russia and raised in the Bronx, she was taught classical piano at a young age and with a fearless spirit for her music she emerged from local clubs and bars to take her music to the mainstream. With a soft, comfy and caring voice her quirky expressive style finds balance in wisdom and meaning with many of her lyrics providing warm insights as well as a sprinkle of humor in her turns of phrase.

On this record Regina has no shortage of inspiration, her words and keys are full of life and with a richer set of backing instruments they work splendidly on select songs to elevate the songs where perhaps the voice and piano may have been limited. "Remember Us To Life" has grander theatrics with the broad strings sections and lively drums kicking songs up a notch where they may but ultimately it is Regina who is the light of the show and she has many tales to tell.

The track listening is thick with songs that make themselves known, whether diving into her emotions, telling tales or remarking on observations, each song gets its point across so charming and eloquently. With heart warming highs on "The Visit" she sings of her re connection with and old friend from times gone by, so humble and genuine. "Obsolete" captivates me with its both haunting and beautiful pianos as Regina drifts like a spirit towards the void, singing of getting old and becoming less capable, a remarkable song. Between the introspection Regina makes social observations in her quirky nature, "What a strange world we live in, where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven" the music breaks with the words for a dose of sanity in an otherwise mischievous and crooked song where pharmacists and lawyers walk side by side.

I could go on, as I said every track is vividly mirrors its purpose with music, both gentle and lively, it becomes a theatrical album hard to take your ears off when Regina engages us with her thoughts. "Enjoy your youth... sounds like a threat" my favorite quote from an illuminated record which I could find little fault with, its all a treat to enjoy.

Favorite Tracks: Small Bills, The Trapper And The Furrier, Obsolete, Sellers Of Flowers, The Visit
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Periphery "Periphery III Select Difficulty" (2016)

 Hot of the back of last years double album, Alpha & Omega, Periphery strike swiftly, bringing us another record armed with some of their strongest songs to date. Being relatively new to the band I am not so a custom with their back catalog but if there's one thing I'm certain of, Its that Periphery are a band in the prime of their inspiration. With the third track "Marigold" things swiftly elevate as the music starts to sparkle and shimmer in the wake of moving lyrics, "Death is coming around like a hurricane, swirling, were on the clock and the needle's turning, the misery is killing me, slowly, give me a spine to work it out". Remarkable words which the music follows as string sections crescendo to its metallic, mathematical counterpart. An organic experience that ascends the record to soaring hights for another two truly genius songs with "The Way The News Goes..." and "Remain Indoors".

In this remarkable state the group harmonize and breathe together as the instrumentation comes to its form with vocalist Spencer leading the charge with his strong and softly piercing, melodic voice shining like rays of light over a tapestry of interwoven instruments in tandem with one another. Everything is in a gorgeous flow as minuet bursts of strings and synthesizers absorb into the ever transforming dance between groove laden Djent riffs and complex, lush, exotic acoustics. Gluing it all together the throbbing drums batter away with a measure for respite in the calmer passageways. It finds its apex with a grooving textual treat of a breakdown at the end of "Remain Indoors" as the vocals break for a syncopation of instruments slamming in tandem to take hold.

Unfortunately this trinity of brilliance leaves the rest of the record in its shadow. If the entirety of the album was on this level we may be talking about a modern masterpiece but as it goes they just didn't match this moment of magic and so the album, for me, fizzles out a bit early after such a burst of exuberance. Its mostly Periphery doing what they do best, mixing their lush acoustics and heavy guitar ensemble with fluidity as Spencer dances around them, jumping between his persuading clean lines and dense shouted screams. Maybe a few sparks re-emerge with "Catch Fire" and "Prayer Position" but mostly the feeling of those excellent songs linger and so Select Difficulty is a solid record but one that operates on different wavelengths, making for an odd experience when you find yourself disappointed by solid songs.

 Favorite Tracks: Marigold, The Way The News Goes..., Remain Indoors
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 14 November 2016

Kate Tempest "Let Them Eat Chaos" (2016)

Kate Tempest's debut record "Everybody Down" was a refreshing take on Hip Hop music, a blend of Rap, Spoken Word and poetry readings with character arcs that develop across the record as we follow a group of young adults and their struggles in day to day life. "Let Them Eat Chaos" is the follow up which repeats a similar formula, both lyrically and with a similar set of instrumentals, fortunately its for the better. With a refined approach Kate's overarching story shines brighter than before having a little more potency for social awareness and commentary, providing observations and food for thought which culminates with an "epiphany" on the records final track "Tunnel Vision" as the characters struggles related and transcend into global issues with world events and humanities direction facing crisis.

Revolving around seven separated characters from a block of flats, Kate investigates their lives and mindsets which have fallen into the common traps our urbanized society creates for individuals. In between observations Kate jumps into first person, giving us a direct train of thought from some of the characters shes follows. In sync with the instrumentals, Kate's tales drift between quirky, dystopian commentary and deeply moody, serious vibes as she introduces characters and their inner workings through monologue and dialog. It stirs an ever changing landscape as the album continually shifts gears as we drift from one person to the next. Kate creates a rather unbiased portrait of her imaginary characters, however the earnest in her tone creates quite the sympathetic air for her troubled people.

The instrumentals are very similar , "Grubby" even reuses some identical synth sounds. Despite similarity these beats are better built for purpose. Following Kate's direction they often have build up and a better sense of theme rather than jumping straight into the core loop. With this evolution the albums vision is strengthened and Its melodies and sounds within the instrumentals are easier to digest. I appreciated the odd ball nature of the previous effort but "Let Them Eat Chaos" tones down the oddities for a more thematic progression alongside Kate's moving tale following her seven souls. Listening back to her debut Its clear a big step forward.

Favorite Tracks: Ketamine For Breakfest, Pictures On A Screen, Tunnel Vision
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 11 November 2016

Mobb Deep "The Infamous" (1995)

"To all the killers and a hundred dollar billars"! A Classic line from a classic song on a classic record. In 95 the Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep, consisting of Havok and Prodigy, hammered the nail in the coffin on their sophomore record which time has taught us is a fine moment in the history of Hip Hop. Following up on their patchy debut two years earlier the duo took full control over production with a helping hand from Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. Coming with an inspired set of rhymes their dark and shadowy beats illuminated the pairs lyrics to a level of unrivaled harmony.

Both Havok and Prodigy have clean, concise flows. Likeable, easy to follow and plenty of mind for clever rhymes within conventional flows. Their tones differ and compliment one another as they pass the mic back and forth throughout the tracks. They are both brilliant story tellers, coming with very direct trains of thought as they walk us through the rough and rugged environment they call home. "Temperature's Rising" caught my attention for not only being a story of criminal events but a direct message to a friend locked up, with instructions on what to do. Very real and very direct the two make a point of letting you know they talk the walk they walk unlike the majority of rappers who reflect their environment and the people they know.

When not direct the duo can paint graphic pictures of ghetto life with their vivid word play and violent lyricism which dives into all sorts of drug abuse, crime, conflict and the imminent threat of death. Its an unapologetic picture painted sublimely with words that flow effortlessly. A chemistry oozing with pace and coherence to follow the main tales told through the sixteen songs which span sixty sixty minutes without a second of filler. Quiet the achievement!

Pairing with the lyrical direction, the beats are hauntingly dark, conjuring scenes of streetlamp lit nights in dangerous areas as banging drums lead chilling, eerie samples of guitars and pianos over the deep lurking baselines. Urban, harrowing and unforgiving they set a paranoid stage for their luminous flows to strike. The snare kick grooves are superb, using programed kits a selection of sharp, crisp punching drums that snap, making for banging grooves as they attack fast with minimal decay, even soaked in short reverb they create such a density without the instruments lingering. The result is infectious and repetitious without weakness, as the same sampled drums snap over and over the wild energy of the rappers keeps it feeling fresh through the entirety of the song. For most of the beats they don't go beyond the basic loop, with the occasional dropping of a drum line or sample as the lyrics reach an ample moment. The records best track "Right Back At You", with a momentary exception, is the same six second beat looped for the entire track and with the sublime verses of the duo and their guests its exceptionally banging.

Speaking of guests there's, Nas, Q-Tip featuring as well as Ghostface Killah & Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan. This is a 90s wet dream as New York's finest team up to kill it. All the elements lined up for this record and I couldn't list how many cracking lines have never left my mind, one sticks out though "Your crews featherweight, my gunshots will make you levitate"... Goosebumps! I seem to be drawn to picking out old favorites and revisiting this one really filled me with joy, such an incredible record and brilliant insight into a frightening and entirely different world.

Favorite Songs: Eye For A Eye, Temperatures Rising, Up North Trip, Right Back At You, Drink Away The Pain, Shook Ones Part II, Part Over
Rating: 10/10

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Lord Lovidicus "Trolldom" (2010)

The cold autumn nights of November are setting in and I find myself under moody skies of shadows, drawn to my favorite records of a darker nature. "Trolldom" is thee quintessential record of Dungeon Synth, a music scene that around seven years ago seemed to spark renewed interest after gathering dust from its early origins linked to Scandinavian Black Metal. Ive waited some time to talk about this one, as time has taught me its the particular type of record you save for the perfect mood, for then its minimalist, amateurish exterior transforms into magic. The forth of fifteen Lord Lovidicus records, "Trolldom" is the pinnacle of the early era when the sound was purist and tracks were performed on a cheap synthesizer keyboard, captured through a microphone and pasted together in an amateurish spirit that forged much of the albums charm.

Its simple and effective recording technique gave it two key aspects that appeal greatly to the ancient, eerie nostalgic sound associated with Dungeon Synth. Aesthetically the low-fidelity charm is achieved instantly, the imperfections and blurriness of the instruments play perfectly into its antique theme, forging an atmosphere of the forgotten, the mysterious unknowable past. The imperfect performances reinforce this, mistimed drums and key strokes left in create a sense of decay, lost to the half life of time, as if these are the remaining glimmers of a world and time lost forever to the cosmos.

This alone couldn't make the record what it is, its low fidelity faces up against a subtle sense of minimalism as many of the songs phase between two to three synth lines with short, simple melodies which play to grander themes. The power of these tunes playing to its vision lets one re-imagine the songs with a lavish folly of instrumentation sounding equally as impressive. In this inspiration Lovidicus taped into the heart of the shrouded, ambiguous imagination for worlds of might and magic lost. Its an idea, a spirit that only captivates a few minds but for those to whom it makes sense too, a world of fantasy awaits behind these odd, strange and wonderful collection of songs.

Most of the songs have a fairly linear progression, moving through each set of melodies and moving to a conclusion. Most of the tracks tend to have a climactic moment where the song stops in its tracks and breaks to a wash of sweeping synths that amplify the mysterious tone of these songs. The instruments mostly comprise of a deep base synth, some emulated string section and a lead instrument like a bell, harp or somewhere between. Alongside them the ever present thud of a tom drum keeps pace with an unappealing tone. Once again its simplistic and stark nature plays into the mystery and in some moments the beats get a little more complex with snares and hi hats. Mostly though its rigid, sharp and some of the cymbal sounds are rather harsh given there is a single sample being played repetitively. If he has one trick up his sleeve its the use of stereo sweeping which doesn't contrast the records tone.

The only vocal element is the occasional samples from what I believe are pre-Jackson LOTR movies. Many of his records have strong ties to that world of fantasy but it is not the focus here. Track names like "Sorcery" and "Merlin's Tower" make no secret of its wizards and magic theme which spark the imagination for other worlds where nature is imbued with unexplained powers that can be manipulated by those who can will it. For me I see moss swept castles surrounded by fog, like on the cover, hidden chambers, secret passageways held under moonlight and secret knowledge hidden behind lock and key in a world gone by. Undoubtedly his strongest record in a discography that offers such a wealth of variety now.

Favorite Tracks: Sorcery, Crystal Caverns, In The Chamber Of Lord Lovidicus, Merlin's Tower
Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Vince Staples "Summertime '06" (2015)

One of the best verses on Schoolboy Q's underwhelming "Blank Face LP" was the young Vince Staples who drops in mid verse, taking the mic from Q and sparkling with a slick flow of steady rhymes that build ceaselessly on top of one another without a moment for respite. The name caught my ear but it wasn't until a small viral craze took hold around Vince that I got caught in the hype. Unsurprisingly a video of a woman crying over the lyrical content "Hoes need abortions" only served as a platform of promotion for the rapper who I immediately dug, remembering him from the Schoolboy record. "Summertime '06" is Vince's debut record and a reference to the time he started rapping at the age of thirteen nine years earlier. Its technically a double record but with two sides at thirty minutes it plays side to side like a single experience.

As it often goes in Hip Hop music their are two sides in contention. Lets start with the beats, these are mostly dense atmospheric bangers, numbers that pair deep moody, at times, ambiguous layers of samples with crunching drums. With a lack of distinct focal melody much of the magic comes from how they character and fill the space between the drums and bass. The baselines on tracks like "Dopeman" are dominating, sounding menacingly sublime on a sub-woofer that can give volume to such low frequencies. Above them the drums rattle and shuffle away with a variety of pallets that often draw to a percussive, sometimes Latino, edge over traditional kick snare grooves. Together they lean towards the dark-side and flirt with low-fidelity and minimalism on tracks like "Surf". Its a refreshing set of instrumentals that set the stage for Vince to set himself aside from the crowd.

Staple's flow is a chemistry of contrasts, his voice monotone and off key, it gives an odd rigidity to an otherwise liquid flow that oozes from word to word in effortless waves of lines that feel like they have no start or end. Vince just keeps going and going with rarely a pause to catch his breath. Lyrically he's all about story and substance, there's barely a braggadocios or flamboyant moment of ego, he just knuckles down and sticks to the point, painting the picture of his life in a wild world. "Summertime" is a pleasant break to something different where Vince puts on a humble singing voice for a slower, dreamy song.

Watching interviews with him, its clear hes a bright and well articulated young man. A fair amount of that comes through in the music between some of the darker tales. There's no cheap tricks at work, in the beats or the rhymes. It strikes me as a real work of substance and vision with no filler that ill continue to enjoy for much time to come. A must hear for Hip Hop fans who want something progressive and fresh.

Favorite Tracks: Norf Norf, Loca, Dopeman, Jump Off The Roof, Summertime, 3230, Surf, Might Be Wrong
Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Mayhem "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" (1994)

Its one of Norwegian Black Metal's most iconic records from the heart of the music scene which had exploded in the revelations of the arson and murder that surrounded key members of the "black circle". Mayhem's founder and lead guitarist Euronymous had pioneered much of the scenes ideas and principles, running a record store and forming the band back in 84 it was a long journey to this record but the bands name is steeped in its inspiration. "Mayhem" is taken from a Venom song, the band who coined the term "Black Metal". It was Euronymous and his cronies who took the evil and satanic imagery from cheese to reality as their actions mirrored the depths of darkness the music would reach. With the suicide of original vocalist "Dead" in 91, "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" was the subject of many setbacks and delays. Further so when Euronymous was murdered by bassist at the time, Varg Vikerness of Burzum, who's basslines remain on the record, despite drummer Hellhammer stating they were re-recorded as requested by the guitarists parents. It was finally released after the band had officially disbanded in the wake of Euronymous's departure.

Controversies aside the record has remained as a staple in the genres history more so for the quality of the music which undoubtedly is a brilliant execution of a vision so cold, bleak and anti-life it will make you shiver in the wake of its eternal darkness. The records production is merit to amplifying the chemistry the instruments share, dense tonal freezing guitars shred over lurking basslines while Hellhammer's restless drumming gripes blast beats and ceaseless fills sounding like cascading mountings collapsing in a cavernous reverb. His pedals thud and snare rattles in a muted setting fit for the grunt work and the toms, crash cymbals for fills burst open with deep dense reverbs that almost feel like an additional instrument. His tireless pace and constant shuffling of the beats gives every song a rich expansiveness, as if opening another dimension for the music. He's a supremely talented drummer and in this moment his contribution elevates the art to places difficult to measure.

The guitar work is given a helping hand from Hellhammer's constant expanse as Euronymous toys with the dark, grim and bleak. Much of his guitar work could of been a little dull against bland drumming as the droning, colorless tone of the guitar amplifies the darkness in a minimalist nature. They stare into the abyss, with unforgiving tunes to conjure the gravest of images. The iconic "Freezing Moon" shreds the open strings of a guitar between a power chord with the same notes Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" is played with. The distortion style gives in a chilling vibe fitting of the songs name. Strangely enough the guitars tone has always reminded me of "Ride The Lightning". Maybe it too was recorded through marshal amps. Either way Euronymous vision for the guitar has shaped much of Black Metal to follow and steered into the darkness with a tasteful sense of Metal that makes for many a moshable, head banger riff between its unforgiving moments. His individual riffs are strong but perhaps the best charm comes from their linear arrangement that sees many of the songs continually progressing without much conventional structure.

At the forefront singer Attila Csihar's puts on an operatic marvel of disgust, a tormented performance which will polarize many listeners. For me it clicked from day one, Attila does not sing with convention but twists his voice like a performance art piece. He growls and groans, strains and slurs as the words are drawn from a rhythm into sprawls of forceful feeling spouting from his mouth, performed with gristle and glare. Between its ongoing exploration of vocal range Attila find moment's for convention and occasionally he hits the goosebumps with the sounds of twisted souls escaping torment through his voice. Its stunning in its moments but isn't always a commandeer for your attention. The lyrics, written by Dead who would of performed them in a very different style, are buried deep in nihilism, misanthropy and a view of life drowned in pessimism. Taken too seriously you might find yourself in a rather bleak state of mind.

The record plays through its eight tracks with each providing a spark of magic. The stunning "Life Eternal" walks us through a rather warm bass and guitar melody into a timeless stereo guitar solo that barely cuts through the mix before plunging us into complete darkness with the albums killer mosh riff. "From The Dark Past" has an inspired moment where the second key riff is dissected by abstract guitar noises, the way it holds over the mood for its second play is stunning. "Cursed In Eternity" gives me shivers every time it suddenly bursts into a pummeling blast beat and ferocious guitar riff at its ending. Then there's "Burried By Time And Dust" with its ceaseless blast beat which hammers down through almost the entire song. Lastly "Freezing Moon" has its unnerving lyrics leading into a form of breakdown that hammers a slow a simple two chord riff to eternity. Hellhammer's lively intro to the riff breaks sublimely for Attila to come in over the song.

Time has served this record well. Over twenty years on it sounds fantastic as ever, setting a benchmark that few other record have peaked where imitations have arisen. Although the sound of Black Metal has progressed forwards, records like this were so visionary you can still attribute a lot to them. Although released in 94 when the scene was expanding given the exposure, its music dates back a few years marking it alongside the most significant releases of that era that bridged the gap between its primitive take on evil. For me personally its a deep nostalgic dive into a cold, unforgiving place that is rather exhilarating to visit. A record that demands to be listened to year after year. On a final note, a piece of trivia for you. Varg and Euronymous actually had plans to blow up the same church featured on the album cover the day of the albums original planned release, instead it seems they got into a fatal fight.

 Rating: 10/10

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Birocratic "Replaced" (2016)

Following up on the disappointing "Julien Solomita" we have are second Birocratic release of the year and one that marks a distinct move into new territory with the pitch shifting, chopped and re-arranged vocal snippets becoming a thing of the past. With "Replaced" Biro indulges us in summery calming instrumentals echoing touches of Jazz, Soul and feel good music fleshed out with layers of detail for a dense colorful experience. Maybe for the first time the five tracks don't feel like they are here to accommodate rapped rhymes but command our attention as instrumental beats that are gorgeous in their lonesome.

The five fit well together, a summery laid back theme courses through each of the songs which have chilled tempos, while perusing a strong rhythmic presence. Steady kick and snare grooves take a spacious path with many snaps and claps percussive noises lining their path forward. Bass lines swell and strut around them, on "Don't Leave" it goes on the prowl climbing the fret board with style and jamming within its own space. Above the rich backbone lush summery synthesizers shimmer and dazzle with cosmic sounds radiating the space they fill around the lead instruments.

These are no simple constructs but fleshed out ideas dense with chemistry and notation. Each of the songs have a way of breathing in and out, finding the right moments to spark into life as rich layers of music converge. Between these blissful culminations the music can tone itself down, unwind a little and build towards the next passageway where several layers of percussive sounds can be heard firing under the growing layers of synthesizer all charming with their own melodic harmonies, forming a single moment.

The chemistry is astounding, the production lavish and swooning. The distancing from sample led production has landed Biro in a truly creative spot where his vision for these songs is coming together like a treat through a more orchestrated union of instruments, with details like rain, and birds chirping gently lining the tracks. There's little to fault on this record, maybe my only criticism is length. A string of short EPs and halfway records leaves one yearning for a full length record to treasure and if ever its part of Biro's plans to get a proper record released there may have been no better timing than this. These instrumentals are simply killing it with the vibes!

Favorite Tracks: Don't Leave, Slipout, Layback
Rating: 7/10

Friday, 4 November 2016

Alcest "Kodama" (2016)

French Shoegazing band Alcest have made waves in the past from their unique fusion with Black Metal, taking their hazy guitars to bleaker tones and pairing them with shrill screams between harmonious singing. On this record they distance themselves a little from the darker side of their sound and dive further into the introspective sounds of Post-Metal. Like a band that know their craft well, Alcest churn out another handful of enigmatic tracks illuminated by a keen sense of colorful melancholy melodies that weave in and out of their hazy, thick guitars that continually shift the musics pace with varying intensities.

Its a similar affair to 2012's "Les Voyages De L'Âme". With less screaming and darkness the band swim through similar waters which made it less remarkable for me. These songs are gorgeous, full of transitions between smothering guitars and acoustic interludes that fluidly explore the juxtaposition in their sound and to much merit can so swiftly move between gentle melodies to harrowing screams and dense guitar chord shredding with no rigidity. "Je Suis D'allieurs" sounds almost parallel "Nous Sommes L'emeraude" in its opening stages, something that most of this record does, echo moments from a previous record.

Its a strange criticism of a band you enjoy when they do the same thing, personally I think progression is important for musicians, hearing the same thing over and over rarely works. "Untouched" and "Notre Sang Et Nos Pensées" steer further towards spacious Post-Metal sounds, which give some freshness to the record. The records shortest "Oynx" hums a bleak and hurtful atmosphere of sorrow through heavily narrowed guitar distortions and bass guitar bleeding into one another for a peak into a grave moment of existence. These breaks from the norm where exciting in an otherwise predictable, yet truly serene listening experience.

Favorite Tracks: Kodama, Onyx
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Meshuggah "The Violent Sleep Of Reason" (2016)

When Meshuggah makes music its time to pay attention, the Swedish Metal band are distinguished as the creators of the Djent guitar sound and single handedly expanding the horizon of extreme music with their elasticated polyrhythmic guitar playing and punishing guitar style. They have been a massive influence on a new generation of bands and with each record they seem to continue on a successful path. As genius as they are, Ive never considered them to much of an "album experience" band but the sort ill cherry pick songs from their catalog. 2008s "Obzen" was the last I fully enjoyed but even that beast took years to make sense of which can often be the case with their abrasive music.

With "The Violent Sleep Of Reason" the band have once again deconstructed their sound and reassembled it into a new craft that's hard to love and as always, pushing the intensity wherever it can. To make generalizations it feels as if the elasticity and momentum they once focused around has been contracted into smaller grooves as each song pummels through shorter mechanical riffs looping into abstraction. Its mostly not very charming, rigid and continually vicious but with repetition comes reward and as you become accustom to its nature the songs creak open. In this tone the aggression works but breaking to lengthy elasticated grooves like on "By The Ton" seem somewhat displaced and further elongated.

Putting my faith in the band, I can say these songs have only grown on me from a point of initial disappointment. It just has me wondering if these musical geniuses have misfired into the mundane or reached another plateau that's hard to comprehend. One things for sure Jens's vocals have become rather tiresome, his monotone, forceful screams where once fresh and exciting but they have stagnated over time. They sound as sharp and ripe as ever but its become entirely predictable and feels mostly like a distraction from the guitar and drum work. The guitars don't particularly reach a new heavy with the Djent tone but do take things a step further on the lead guitar front by abstracting inclusions of spontaneous guitar solo's and backing the rhythm with a little color in places. Some of the solo's are a little more conventional for the band and feel like a throwback to the 90s.

With many listens I certainly haven't unlocked its secrets but I am done with it for now, this has been a piece of work but as I write these words I'm confident It will grow on me with time. On a final note the band opted for a live performance recording and its very noticeable but hardly restricting of what the music can accomplish. If anything the rawness of it all can be appreciated as a factor contributing to the overall intensity. Its another whirlwind of spiraling aggression that has once again provided an intense challenge for listeners.

Favorite Tracks: Monstrocity, Ivory Tower, Nonstrum
Rating: 6/10