Thursday, 28 September 2017

Wiley "Godfather" (2017)

 Grime continues to grow bigger and I'm short of excuses, its about time I dived into another artist besides Dizzee Rascal and what a place to start! Its veteran Grime MC Wiley's eleventh album since his debut back in 2004 and Godfather is clearly the product of a master at work. At thirty eight years old Wiley brings a heavyweight of experience and craft to his rhymes, elevating the style beyond the street swagger and dialectic eccentricity Grime MC's rely on to a place of true substance. There's barely a word wasted across fifty four minutes of filthy banging beats and beefed up energetic raps with plenty to say.

Wiley's voice dominates the record with the sharpest flow and wit but he also brings over a dozen friends to feature on the tracks creating a wealth of variety as they handle some of the hooks and choruses too. Everyone brings their best and the same can be said of the instrumental production, lively, loud obnoxious beats with groove and attitude command your attention. The album vibes on dark and grizzly atmospheres with violent, menacing beats echoing the sound of London's streets. Slick mafioso strings rub up against dirty buzzing baselines and gunshots litter the gaps between sturdy, crisp, hard hitting kits that lay down tight patterns to anchor the rhymes and instruments together on the same wavelength.

Its one banging track after the next, the foot is never let of the gas and Wiley's sharp, concise flows make it easy to follow his train of thought as he slides in plenty of technically gifted trickery, sliding in bursts of double tempo words. Between the boisterous status affirming stances loaded with smart word play a couple of remarkable messages emerge, the story of the come up plays on "Speakerbox" stating the struggle origin artists like Wiley went through to make Grime happen and set the stage for future generations who can now do this without help from record labels. "Laptop" tells a more personal story of the hard work and grind centered around the love of making music on his MacBook.

Godfather scratched itches that modern Hip Hop hasn't come close to in recent memory bar Kendrick Lamar. Although the album is strictly Grime, "U Were Always Great" has a fantastic instrumental reminiscent of Jazz Hop summer time chill outs. Its all positives although a fairly predictable streak of materialism runs through on tracks like "Name Brand" given the fashion culture around the scene. The track "Bang" plays with fire as guest MC Ghetts goes spitting with an overtly aggressive tone that avoids being to much to bare. The strong instrumental holds it together and I'm left walking away from this one itching for more. The question is what Grime record should I pickup next?

Rating: 8/10
Favorite Tracks: Bring Them All, Joe Bloggs, Bang, U Were Always Part 2,

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Contortionist "Clairvoyant" (2017)

Shaking all remnants of their "uber brootal", technical indulgences of past, the Indiana Metal outfit The Contortionist mark their first decade as a band with this new full length that feels like a sophomore release given the dramatic shift in sound that 2014s "Language" brought about. Three years later "Clairvoyant" follows up by shaking the echos of old with barely no screamed vocals and the toning down of distortions to let the musical compositions shine brightly as an aesthetic treat of delicious instruments forming in a union of sound, poised to illuminate expressions and dazzle with melodics.

Being so familiar with its successor, "Clairvoyant" was an instant success, picking up exactly where they left off, it has been an indulging fifty four minutes that continues to deliver even as I listen and write now. After ten or so spins I feel as if I'm just stirring the surface water, the depth of an ocean below unknown. Despite being familiar with the songs, they continue to ooze with aesthetic charm and swells of inspiration as the density of compositions relays the same ideas through all its dimensions of instruments that are gracefully in sync with one another on this rich journey.

The music has a fantastic sense of pace, its progression dynamic and fluent with the contractions its riffs and leads bring about as every twist and return comes with space to breath and reflect. The keyboards play a huge role on this record as the glue that holds the music together, interweaving themselves in the density that lurks behind the guitar led sections and as they break, the keys rise to the fold, moving the atmosphere along between the highs and lows the dense music explores and quite often coming to the forefront with typically Progressive Rock like leads.

Singer Lessard gives a very self indulgent performance, swooning in his own voice he reaches for the subtle, soft and harmonies qualities in his voice and gently pushes them out to the waters. A lyrical dimension is obviously prevalent as the power of some words resonates greatly over top of the instrumentals. Its icing on the cake of a wonderfully atmospheric and indulgent set of songs that take their time to fully experience the magic of their melody without packing it into conventional means. They rather to explore those moments in their illustrious production which is a marvel of sound, getting an utterly sweet and supple aesthetic in a dense environment of energetic instruments that gel together with power and thickness. Its a massive step forward for the group, shedding the now irrelevant screams and metallic guitar moments its predecessor had stitched in. These songs will be fantastic to catch live, which I hope to do so soon!

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 22 September 2017

Souls Of Mischief "93 Til Infinity" (1993)

Five or so years ago I would of adored an album like this. Its clearly got those classic 90s Hip Hop vibes, soulful and jazzy with funky fresh flows. Back then I just couldn't get enough of the scene, Ive listened to so much of it now I'm actually surprised this one managed to get past me. The Souls Of Mischief are four MC's from the West Coast who are part of the Hieroglyphics collective led by Del The Funky Homosapien, who unsurprisingly produces a couple of tracks and features a verse on another track. Despite being from the West Coast, Souls don't rock the G-Funk vibes, in fact their sound more so resembles the East Coast but their streak of uniqueness is both in the technical yet inspired raps and the instrumentals which combine elements of the smoother Jazz Hop with the hype and energy of Boom Bap.

93 Til Infinity is their debut and said to be the groups best, such a common occurrence in Hip Hop. With an abundance of youthful energy and desire to make themselves heard, Souls put together a rich journey of impressions told through the lens of their lively, rugged rhyme styles which stand apart from the crowd. With a majority of smooth sounds drawing samples from Jazz and Funk, the MCs bring contrasting flows that duck and weave with the lyrical dexterity for trading blows between intricate mid sentence rhyme play, flow chopping and train of thought consciousness raps. Its all impressive and at times the flows can get quite technical but one of the group, Opio, has a nasal tone and on a couple of songs the fidelity of the mics used gives it a thin and rasp sound, a slight gripe I have but the point should be the contrast. All four have tones and flows that stick out from the often smooth backing which is its charm, on occasions it can dip a touch to far.

There's no doubt you'll find plenty of favorite lines scattered across the fourteen tracks. At fifty five minutes it does draw on but the group have a lot more to say than the average record. Apart from one or two boisterous tracks and flows it seems as if there is always a point to be made, an observation to be told and it comes through plenty of tricksy flows to show off the groups creativity. The production is somewhat varied to my ears, there's quite a clutter of sampling at work and through the layers a strong vibe emerges however there are a handful of songs where the clutter is a bit much the song gets muddy and some of the samples rub up against each other. The drums however are always sturdy, providing a solid bombastic groove for the flows to align with.

I didn't get deep into this record but a few years back this would of been my addiction. The vibes are on point and the lyrics are continually charming with creativity and originality and I think you could really get into some of the more technical flows that demonstrate multi syllable rhyming ans all sorts of techniques to sink your teeth into as a listener. Its been a fun listening experience, I can totally dig why people say 93 Til Infinity is a classic!

Favorite Tracks: Live And Let Live, A Name I Call Myself, Anything Can Happen
Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Milk Teeth "Be Nice" (2017)

Here on the music blog I have covered all the previous releases from this promising young band."Vile Child" and "Sad Sack" were both equally impressive records that captured the spirit of 90s Grunge yet spun it with their own taste and character that spared them from being seen as a nostalgia act. This limited four track release unfortunately looses the spark of uniqueness as their noisy and textually adventurous aspects of the guitar work are stripped back for a crisper, cleaner recording.

"Be Nice" still has the foundation for the energetic grungy attitude however the climatic moments here are not working. The big howling Post-Rock leads that usual swoon away in these songs can be heard shimmering into the fold but lack a striking melody or aesthetic magic to elevate the song like they have done so before. The ideas are certainly present but going back to old songs like "Burger Drop" or "Trampoline" the gulf of emotional impact is massive. So much magic emerges in those old tracks which are far more inventive than these four which seem to be hedged in by the cleanliness.

 Not to dwell on negatives, the drumming is fantastic here, a ton of energy sprawling out across the kit with fantastic fills, rolls and driving beats that really pulled along the riffs, which again felt a little sterile given the clean production. The lyrical themes are decent, musing on relationships and commitment with life on the road. Its really not a bad record at all but I expected so much more from this group and thus disappointment. I hope an album is on the way but if they are gunning for a cleaner sound with less of that big and noisy guitar work I'm probably not going to be keen.

Rating: 3/10

Monday, 18 September 2017

KMFDM "Hell Yeah" (2017)

I almost passed on this new release from the German Industrial legends "Kein Mehrheit Fur Die Mitleid" and having given "Hell Yeah" a few plays through that would of been wise. Why? Its exactly what I expected, 2014's "Our Time Will Come" was interesting given it had been a while since I last checked in them. Its clear KMFDM have got their sound down to a science, a formula they repeat every few years and so the music was predictable. This is their twentieth full length and its actually the second longest gap between records which is kinda remarkable considering they have been consistently at it for over thirty years since 1986.

And so we have another fifty minutes of fist pounding Industrial Rock loaded with harsh EBM beats and electro synths that don't offer a lot of depth in terms of replay value and subtly. Its all upfront, in your face with all of the instruments compressed, loud and very audible. The compositions interweave electronic melodies and samples backed by hard ripping distortion guitars and the incessant steady thudding of club kick beats. Its reasonable but no surprising or memorable moments arise from a sturdy set of instrumentals mostly arranged in verse chorus.

The most interesting aspect is the typically anarchistic social-politically minded lyrics which take current topics and stir them into statement ridden lyrics, making it very clear where on the left they stand. They do provide a few catchy hooks or lines with insight to ponder on, IE the "Fake News" bringing up an idea of "news addiction" which I found to be an insightful statement. The albums cover further enforces the current topical nature of the music but its not much to save this from being the same sound spun again. Not even the production seems to have progressed and so we have a predictable record. Although I like the bands style and sound, this record offered nothing new bar one or two intriguing lyrics.

Favorite Tracks: Freak Flag, Fake News
Rating: 4/10

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Nine Inch Nails "Add Violence" (2017)

Its been four years since the last full length NIN record and fans are still crying out for more! At the end of 2016 we got the short EP "Not The Actual Events" and seven months later another short experience comes our way with rumors of a third in the works to make up a trilogy. In my mind this record sets itself up for disappointment with a huge contrast between the remarkable opening track "Less Than" and its ambient, atmosphere driven tracks that follow. "Not Anymore" musters aggression again in a noisy whirl of gritty bassline distortion and ambiguous, eerie synths that culminate with an explosive emergence of industrious groove and textural ecstasy from its crying sirens. It though, doesn't par with the vibes of its opener.

Its to short of a record to bridge the gaps between the different avenues of Trent's genius. It kicks of with retro jiving synths pulsating over muddy dissonant bass noise, the words and rhymes sung with a 90s edge that kicks into a sublime chorus so fitting of that era. In a strange way Trent's "So what are you waiting for?" hook reminds me of Oasis, if anything its a sign of where the musics coming from. A simple power chord arrangement flying high in a dense wall of sound the breaks out from the verses. Its one of the best songs Ive heard from him but that's not saying much given my lack of time with the NIN discography.

The energy, intensity and momentum is switched off instantly as the next two songs roll into the quiet and calm of downtempo electronic ambience. "The Lovers" has a fantastic backbone beat and murmuring melody that plays like the beating of a heart or ticking by of time, ceasing a sense of passing time as Trent calls through the fog of a chilling and lonely soundscape. The following number is similar with Ethereal vibes creeping into its dense and rich layers of sound that subtly moan and groan with what sounds like an effeminate voice buried between layers of sleepy sounds.

The record drones out with an experiment in noise manipulation as the final loop of music at the four minute mark is repeated over and over for a further seven minutes with increasing distortion, eventually devolving into a tonal mess with no resemblance to where it started. It stretches the run time with little avail. Its been an interesting listen but the stellar songs really deserved a slot in a full length project, on this EP they might go by unnoticed by some fans.

Favorite Tracks: Less Than, This Isn't The Place
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Soley "We Sink" (2011)

Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Soley has created a rather beautiful piece of memorable melancholy with her debut "We Sink". The albums theme has been stirring deep in my mind these past few months, its cutesy childlike innocence takes a dreamy, wandering stroll towards harm as playful curiosity leads to a dark haunting with a handful of the albums songs. It alone is not the only charm, where danger is not near a stream of soothing delicate emotion ripples from her sweet and graceful voice, singing humble, personal tales over folksy acoustic guitars and warm, golden piano notes. With gentle instruments and guileless percussion, aesthetics take a powerful roll in setting the tone as natural ambiences, fidelity and microphone choices characterize the instruments meaning in the music.

"Bad Dream" is the albums first turn to shadows, the microphone and its use of reverberation gives the song an early recording nostalgia that heavily emphasis the aesthetic subtlety found steering key instruments in several songs throughout. "Kill That Clown" echos an innocence passing through black flames as a sublime solo piano orchestrates a dark, harrowing presence for Soley's voice to wander by, unaware of whats lurking in the shadows. Another dark track "About Your Funeral" has a fantastic example of the childish innocence infecting the rhythm with playful beat boxed rhythm. This can also be heard on the opener "I'll drown" with its percussion made of knocks and taps like the smashing of toys for instinctive, primal sounds.

These elements come together for entrancing songs that captivate attention with their emotional connections to wondrous and personal places that flirt with darkness in moments. The lyrics constantly teeter on pain and the contrast between its inviting nature and apparently darker meanings create an air of mystery that illuminates an ambiguity lurking in every moment of this record. Its without a weak point, every song goes somewhere and a couple really do strike a nerve in their element. This is a stunning debut that will only entice me for more now.

Favorite Tracks: I'll Drown, Blue Leaves, Kill That Clown, About Your Funeral, Theater Island
Rating: 8/10

Monday, 11 September 2017

Dagoba "Black Nova" (2017)

Celebrating twenty years of existance this French Metal band release their seventh full length after a couple of lineup changes leaving only two original band mates. I only know of the group thanks to their 2006 album "What Hell Is About" gaining some tracking within the burgeoning Deathcore scene, it wasn't one I were particularly keen on. Back then they were a hybrid of Groove and Industrial Metal with a sonic approach. A decade later you'd still describe it the same way, however the overall quality of writing and recording has improved substantially. Far better than what I remember of them.

Dagoba's music crawls forward with dark, mechanical atmospheres born of dense, syncopated grooves from thick distortion guitars and punchy drum tones that wage war with hard strikes and rapid blasts alternating with precision. Its a rather flat and monotone approach that rarely extends beyond low end grooves and the rhythmical muting of chords. They are brought to life by the synth and samples which inflict rapid Trance like leads, mechanical industrial noises to detail the spaces and drawn out atmospheric keys for a tonal richness.

Singer and founding member Shawter runs the show with grizzly shouts and burly short screams that are rather commonplace. He brings the band an edge with his clean vocals that have somewhat of a unique character or distinction, however they are only utilized on four tracks. "Inner Sun", the albums opener past the intro, makes fantastic use of this cleaner voice as they break through the noise of Trance synths busying up the metallic intensity. On "Lost Gravity" they stand more so on there own and the guitars cut in and out, its not as favorable.

The group don't pull a lot of wild cards on this record, its all pretty tame and sustainable for a handful of listens. A few good tracks show they are capable of more but ultimately it boils down to being a rather mediocre record built from decent aesthetics and a rock solid production. They do show signs of being able to writing gripping music but only when they break from the onslaught the of distortion guitars and drums battering away to focus on what little melody they offer. Ive enjoyed it a lot these two weeks but bar the one song its not particularly stuck with me.

Favorite Track: Inner Sun
Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Crimson Glory "Transcendence" (1988)

I fancied getting a little "old skool" with my Metal music and browsing through some online top lists this 1988 "classic" caught my attention, primarily for being labeled Progressive Metal at i wasn't to familiar with the genres roots bar Dream Theater who would drop their first album a year later. Crimson Glory are a five piece outfit from Florida who are still active despite not releasing any new material in this millennium. Id personally describe them as a traditional Heavy Metal and Power Metal hybrid however the influences of Progressive Rock are unmistakable, there is a clear elevation in song structure with time signatures and intricacies to ponder on throughout. Poised at a time where Thrash and Death Metal were starting to drastically change the identity and sound of the genre, Crimson hold onto the traditions but expand them with musical dexterity.

Transcendence isn't an album Ive dove to deep into but its lyrics portray fantasy themes of mythical beasts, lands of eternal season and dramatized figures of monarchical rule. Singer "Midnight" flexes these lyrics between a traditional range and the ear piercing wails of high pitched power done as good as the greats like Rob Halford of Judas Priest and Kind Diamond. On "Red Sharks" however the tone shifts to paranoid themes of communist threats in the mist! Sticks out like a sore thumb against the rest but doesn't detract from the fun music.

My vocabulary for describing these traditional Heavy Metal style songs is limited but what I can point to is the craft in song writing that guides the prowl and patrol verses into journeys with fantastic breaks for illuminating guitar solos that crescendo outbursts of color as acoustic chords chime with bright lead guitars and the rock solid rhythm guitar. These are the moments that the transcendence occurs, separating them from the likes of Dio and others in that genre. In other moments the band make great use of synths that might sound a little cheesy given the tone and age but they are executed without gimmick at fit snugly into the songs where they crop up. The drums have a big stadium feel, fit for the stage with plenty of gated reverb on the toms, very 80s. The bass guitar is mixed well, you can hear it often mirroring the guitars with little deviations and inflections.

All the components here add up to a terrific record that given its decade is certainly a gem, just not one too my taste. This form of Metal doesn't resonate strongly with me and without an emotional attachment much of its sparkle becomes more appreciative than impacting. It in no way turned me off though, in fact I think with more repetition it could grow on me. For now I will shelve this one for a rainy day, I'm sure the absence will give these songs new meaning when they return.

Favorite Songs: Masque Of The Red Death, In Dark Places, Burning Bridges
Rating: 6/10

Monday, 4 September 2017

IGORRR "Savage Sinusoid" (2017)

Kicking off with a horrid and vile, throaty scream, Igorrr's manic shouts plunge us into a pummeling groove of crunchy extreme metal distortion riffage accommodated by a textural ravishing of glitched out breakbeat manipulations that grow in intensity and complexity. Its obnoxious, absurd and with the second song, a Baroque harpsichord melody sets the tone for the excepted collision of worlds as a manly sung operatic voice groans with passion, steadily twisting into deviated screams of horror. Its a firm opening for an album that delivers the best I could of hoped for.

Its been five years since "Hallelujah" and the wait seems worthwhile as all that felt hazardous, novelty and experimental has been banished from sight. Perhaps its my accustom to his style or a genuine maturity but this release plays like a full album, a solid listening experience that delivers plenty of satisfying songs lavished in all sorts of bizarre oddities. This time around they feel as if with purpose and direction, rather than a slew of experiments trying to out-weird one another. That was the problem with previous records but this ones had me in the grip of its jaws continually returning for more of its notably more metal oriented pandemonium.

As to be expected gnarly breaks and blasts form a tireless spine perpetually stretched, squeezed, twisted and turned patterns manipulated through pitch, pace and repetition. Its distortion is the ecstasy that fails to work alone. "Robert" for example a breakbeat solo of sorts that only finds its groove in its final moments as more sounds flesh out its feel after a stretch of dizzying manipulations. The best of the percussion comes from the dense tracks where extreme guitar tones grind away alongside equally abrasive synths and noisy buzz saws.

The Baroque, Renaissance counterpart, or whatever you wish to call it, has its heart in operatic vocals and soft, luscious compositions on classical instruments, sampled or original the voices always seem to find their way to darkness. The musics roll in the record is much of its own as Igorrr finds a far better cohesion between the contrasting styles, often transitioning between the two sounds rather that forcing them together. As a result the album flows from chaos to beauty with the occasional collisions arising in between that are far better than anything I remember previously. Aesthetically and idealistically not much has changed but it is the composition and song writing that triumph here for a concise record that fills its forty minutes to the brim with some of his best material to date!

Favorite Tracks: Viande, Probléme D'émotion, Spagetti Forever, Apopathodiaphulatophobia, Au Revoir
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 1 September 2017

FKA Twigs "M3LL155X" (2015)

Two years ago there was quite a buzz around this EP. I saw it mentioned and praised in various places and always meant to give it a spin but it got past my attention span at the time. Given a nudge from a reader I made sure to pick up a copy and give it a whirl. The stylized title of capital letters and numbers is simply "Mellissa", a name for Twigs's self descibed "female energy". Released of the back of her debut LP tour, its the third shorter release but my only point of reference at this point in time.

Melissa is undoubtedly pushing into Experimental and Avant-Garde territory as tropes of generalized Electronica and R&B find themselves deconstructed without a semblance of melody, riff or tune in the instrumentals. Convention is pushed aside in favor of soundscape and atmosphere, intricacies of twisting, glitched, manipulated percussive sounds intertwine to dissimulate groove as illusive rumbles and noises groan and drift in and out of focus. "In Time" makes an exception as a soft synth lead churns a simple two part melody through the opening phase of the song cautiously blossoming with expansive, alien metallic synths.

 These spacious, paranoid atmospheres create a unique contradiction to the flavorful soft, dynamic and powerful voice of Twigs who's seemingly a talented yet somewhat typical R&B singer. In this environment her voice flourishes as a the soul emergence of beauty. Set in a vulnerable, exposed position, the harmony, melodies and expression in her voice becomes the illuminating chemistry that contradicts its juxtaposition to the twisted, shadowy instrumentals rich in ambiguity and illusion. Its continually captivating but the sort of singing that might go unnoticed in the easy going, popular, formulaic construct usually associated with the R&B style. I really enjoyed one moment where the auto tune was turned on as she drops into a spoken, casual dialect "You've got a god damned nerve".

I'm glad I delayed writing this blog post. After ten or so listens I didn't dislike Mellissa but It wasn't doing much for me. Ive often said repetition is key and in the last few days the musical connection really opened up. All Ive described was always there, just in a less emotional context. As the familiarity settled in the chemistry started to blossom. I didn't care much for the lyrics on the record but as I heard her voice more as an instrument It really started to click. Now both her voice and the instrumentals are a real gem. I'm going to keep listening to this one, and pick up her debut LP too! This record is well worth your time if you like more noise and atmosphere driven songs.

Rating: 6/10