Thursday, 31 December 2020

My Top 10 Music Discoverys In 2020

The one thing you can count on is music! Whatever is happening in the world there never seems to be a shortage of good records, new and old. Each year I aim to discover new artists and each year I seem to reflect that I should of done more. What is becoming more prevalent here on the blog is "rediscovering" old artists, going back over there catalogs and immersing myself in music enjoyed many moons ago, often finding songs that slipped between the cracks and getting a richer sense of the musicians behind it all. That will continue this year no doubt and I've included one in the list again!

(10) Bolt Thrower

I believe it was a cover of a Bolt Thrower song that lured me onto this British Death Metal outfit. I'd heard of them plenty over the years and checking them out I loved the mid-tempo crushing and subtle sense of groove. Straight forward songs that grab you with a mighty aesthetic that steamrolls its way forward. I will throw another record of theirs on the playlist for the coming year!
(9) Malcolm Horne
Warm bright and jazzy, these Jazz Hop beats and there fusion with synth tones make for inviting music. Whats also interesting is finding him through a different medium livestreaming on Twitch. Its not the normal way I find new music but anyway Is a good way and I hear a lot of potential in the best songs on the debut record. One to keep an eye on for more music in the future!
(8) Clipping
Unfortunately I can't revel in the praise others have thrown on this unique group. Having enjoyed their catalog now, Ive got a good sense of what they are about. Its a different experience, one that doesn't quite click with me but undoubtedly I will follow them closely in the future, if not for intriguing music but hopefully something will snap into place and I can enjoy them on another level.

(7) The Crystal Method
Its only the one record so far but their debut Vegas instantly snapped into place with that 90s feel of Electronica and Big Beat. Its stuck with me as a record for a particular mood and can put on and fall into. Will throw another onto next years playlist.

(6) Backxwash
Already in My Top Albums Of 2020 list, Backxwash makes it to this one too for having a highly competent and interesting flow. Given how stylistically directed this project was, I can't help but feel their talents with rapping can go beyond it. As I often say, one to follow and keep an eye on for whats next.

(5) Cult Of The Damned
A random stumble on Youtube and I was immediately hooked! I must admit I'm not sure this Rap collective have the lasting power but their flavor is spicy and exciting. I've been binging them a lot and it looks like new material is on the horizon for 2021.

(4) Old Sorcery
If ever Dungeon Synth feels explored in and out, something comes along to shake things up. Not only does Old Sorcery infuse some fantastical old school synth ideas but in the process crafts some really wonderful songs. The latest turn into Black Metal doesn't yield the same excitement for me so I am hoping for a return to roots with the next project so to speak.

(3) Bathory

Of all the nostalgic dives into music from my youth, Bathory has been the best of them all. Not only did I get a fuller picture of what I already loved but found a bunch of new gems and got a real sense of the artist and their journey through some tepid times in the 90s. Although a career cut tragically short, it ended on a high with the Nordland records I had barely touched back when I discovered this massively influential artist in the world of dark and extreme music.

(2) Ocean Grove

They have my album of the year but were also a fun discovery to dive into their debut record an EPs. I actually found them right around the release of this sophomore record. Initially a rather run of the mill Metalcore outfit, their jumpy evolution seems to have blossomed into a beastly brew of sunny energy just fit for my tastes. I'm left itching for more.

(1) Grimes
 I'd heard of Grimes quite some time ago and only this year got around to her music. Art Angels sucked me in and I absolutely adore its vibes. Alongside Flip Phone Fantasy its been my must spun record of the year. Her voice is a wonder and the playful vibes are uplifting and warming. Her earlier catalog is more experimental, less charming but fun. With Miss Anthropocene she dipped toes into a darker tone in places. Not quite as killer but I hope she can hit her stride again in the future.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

My Top 10 Albums Of 2020

This year has undoubtedly been one turned upside down by pandemic turmoil running amuck among the globe. Fortunately the music still flows, perhaps not as it would of been without covid. Having listened to less than usual this year, there was quite a few additional records I considered for the top list. Ordering out records is arbitrary anyways, Id say the top five here where the clear favorites that had defined some of the best music I encountered this year, although of course, this list only focuses on releases from 2020. Tomorrow I'll cover musical discoveries as is tradition.

(10) IGORRR "Spirituality And Distortion" link

As one of the more interesting takes on extreme music in recent memory, Spirituality And Distortion sets a landmark for once experimental ideas blossoming brightly into wonderful music. IGORRR has come a long way, evolving from a bedroom experiment into a band and now finding what ticks beyond the novel on a cracking record with little to fault.

(9) Plini "Impulse Voices" link

Its inevitable that a Plini record will end up on my top list. With such a high level of curation I will undoubtedly by engulfed by this Progressive Metal indulgence of melodic delight. Although little can surprise in terms of style and direction, Its always a masterclass in guitar and composition that I am a sucker for.

(8) Backxwash "God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It" link

Fantastic discovery this year with Canadian rapper Backxwash making a fine impression. This short record is concise, to the point yet wonderfully artist and dynamic, fusing the darkness of Metal with keen Raps and trendy percussion. A fantastic take on crossover between the two genres. One to watch out for in the coming year!

(7) Haken "Virus" link

Having followed Haken for a few years now, they had yet to really strike a nerve but this record did that! Having hit a stride on their last outing, Virus arrives continues in a similar vein as these now seasoned veterans deliver a Prog Metal masterclass! Riveting record.

(6) Deftones "Ohms" link

The Deftones will always muster excitement from me. Gore was one of those records that initially seems exciting and fresh but with time tired to sound like one of their worst. I'm certain Ohms wont suffer that same fate. Their pivot in tone and inclusion of retro synths yielded something fantastic and lasting. Its amazing how this band keep reinventing themselves.

 (5) Zeal And Ardor "Wake Of A Nation" link

Zeal And Ardor have been one to keep a close eye on since their inception and this EP, despite being short, was a brilliant and fiery reflection on the racial movements spreading across the globe this year. The manifestation of anger and frustration into music darkness was simply brilliant and keeps me excited for whatever they will do next! 

(4) Code Orange "Underneath" link

A force in the world of brutality, Code Orange return with a focused vision, steering into Industrial territory and terrorizing all who listen with their manic ferocity. Infused with synths and glitched production magic, this is a real meaty slab of aggression to pick apart. The songs behind its aesthetics and design have really lasted the year well.

(3) Tame Impala "The Slow Rush" link

Loving this synthetic fusion with Psychedelic Rock, the return of Tame Impala gave me exactly what I wanted, which was more of the Currents magic! These songs felt a little sharper and the reflective tone of the recording was endearing. Over the year the songs have really held up well.

(2) Myrkur "Folkesange" link

Utterly charming from the offset, this pivot to pure nostalgic Scandinavian folk tales was stunning. I let it simmer for a while and then binged again in the winter months. Amalie Bruun's voice is sublime and together with the instrumentation they conjure a vivid sense of rural, heathen life surrounded by natural beauty. Truly endearing, Vinter was a favorite to play during Christmas. 

(1) Ocean Grove "Flip Phone Fantasy" link

Something felt special about this band right from the offset. Hailed as a Nu Metal, Rap Metal revival I had to check them out. What I found though blew me away. These guys are more 90s than the decade itself. The energy and nostalgic vibes are no tribute but a reinvention of old ideas channeled through a brimming wall of sound production that gives off endless energy. Initially it was my workout record, binging on it for months on end and since then I've been astonished at how its magic hasn't tired after so many repetitions. Even learning to play it on guitar now! Just makes it even better. Can't wait to see what they do next!

Monday, 28 December 2020

Kid Cudi "Man On The Moon III" (2020)


Oh boy do I wish this album had arrived earlier in the year! I can't help but feel It would of made my up and coming top albums of the year list. Right now I'm intoxicated by its particular mood, an airy mix of club and urban street vibes, subdued by its laid back pacing and dreamy, psychedelic tinge. Records like this need time to mature and given how much I loved my introduction to Kid Cudi through Kids See Ghosts, a collaboration with Kanye West, I wouldn't be surprised if this one delivers its magic for time to come. After binge listening for days on end, it still has a sparkle.

Kid Cudi's voice is a charm, soft and moody, he drifts between casual R&B singing, spoken word temperaments and monotone raps all interwoven with spacey auto-tune both flavorful and expressive. Not one to linger to much on lyrics which generally go in one ear and out the other with me, I picked up an introspective individual reflecting on a moment to pause and expresses life with a kind warmness. Anchored to reality in its uplift and happier vibes, the music comes across with a slight sense of melancholy, humanistic and soulful, a connection to the reality that all good things come to pass.

The instrumentals compliment his tone well, these beats are tight and snappy yet spaced out with a keen sense of where silence has power, Quite often do they drop entirely for bars at a time. With a modern percussion design, one might mistake these drums for subdued Trap beats. Although they share some textural similarities the patterns being sparse and complimentary tend to serve the bigger picture, rather than dictate groove and bombast through the rhythmic drive. Behind them, bass kicks articulate the occasional melody and whenever given some direct attention one can really appreciate the art of subtlety at play on pretty much all these songs.

One number that stands apart is Show Out. Teaming up with London rapper Skepta and Pop Smoke it crosses over into Grime territory with a lively kick drum rattling off and grittier raps to lean on a darker mood. It slips in well to the overall tone which is more upbeat, led by Cudi's swooning sung vocals and synthetic backdrop. Many airy synth tones create these easy going atmospheres. Soft organs, choral voicing and all flavors of osculation in between forge a setting for subtle melodies to gracefully breeze with the easiness. A variety of instruments, pianos, guitars and keys give each track its texture and perhaps acoustic guitars that struggle most on Elsie's Baby Boy.

Somehow they seem to rub up against Cudi's voice, his held notes seeming off from the brightness of plucked strings. It illuminates that for all the praise, nothing is perfect. It seems wherever the main formula, which has plenty of variety, is strayed from, things don't quite hit the same heights. In praising the subdued percussion, the rattling Trap hi-hats of Sad People sounds a little grating. As an album it loads its better tracks in the front but given tracks are short and sweet, some not even crossing the three minute mark, its meaty eighteen tracks, just shy of an hour, it gets by as its weaker cuts tend not to linger for long. Given the mellow, indulgent fragrance of Man On The Moon III, it gets by but curation could of really elevated the experience.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, 27 December 2020

Grimrik "Die Mauern Der Nacht" (2015)


My curiosity in Old Sorcery's use of retro synths had this artist recommend to me as a link between Dungeon Synth and old school electronica, something that I don't think bridges the divide but I see the connection. Grimrik has been one of those instantaneous connections that needs little explanation however its darkness is of a different breed in my opinion. Die Mauern Der Nacht, translated, "The Walls Of The Night" has deep and lonely astral vibes of unending exploration through the dark abyss of the night sky. The synths that make it so brood and meander on the endless mysteries of the cosmos with an undercurrent of eeriness manifesting in spooky synth tones and puzzling melodies that conjure its peculiar position.

Its slow, atmospheric, taking its time to unravel as arrangements of buzz, sine and triangle saws work in tandem. Sprawls of classic textures sweetly stitched together over airy choral synths and murmuring baselines conjure the sense of vast distances between stars, the unending voyage. In doing so the album is structured as one seamless piece of music, cut into smaller fractions. Its events are sparse as many tracks explore the bare bones through minimal layers of sound, drifting to the next movement, often given a little gusto through quiet percussion, which looks to do little beyond creating a framework for pace with simple bass kick and snare arrangements.

Its gleam and shimmer is charming but musically the record is quite uneventful and sparse. On one hand it plays into the concept, on the other it does get a little dull for this listener as its tone and temperament is one I have explored before with the likes of Oscillotron. On that note, this theme too I have heard through the likes of Arkhtinn and Darkspace. Its the same slice of sound that others have smothered with satanic aggression in the form of howling screams, shredded guitar chords and pummeling drums. In the wake of all that, I've found this flavor a little lacking.

In the opening phases recurring melodies lock it in for a slow but steady pacing but the music never crescendos and slumps in the latter half as songs take on a cinematic flavor with string led compositions brooding on a temporal rhythm. The lack of spectacular hiders it. As much as I love these star struck nebula vibes, the music never evolves beyond much of a mood setter for my taste. Great as background music but after a couple of spins it felt dull to give my full attention. Definitely a worthwhile check out but something I might not come back to until a long night time drive home under the those walls of the night sky.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Eminem "Music To Be Murdered By Side B" (2020)


Another Eminem record already? Technically this is just the "deluxe edition" of Music To Be Murdered By released earlier this year. Labeled as "Side B" we are treated to sixteen cuts, the majority of which are a grade better than the original lineup. With references to Coronavirus and the global pandemic, Its obvious a portion of this was recorded after the original release. Its had me curious as to why these songs where packaged and released this way. One thing I'm sure is, I've officially brought it twice now, the second time to get my hands on these new tracks which I am happy to say a far swab of are pretty fantastic and just fun.

It doesn't need to be iterated that much of Ems topicality revolves around his stature and split from the universal adoration his fans once gave him and the peak of his popularity. Its become a dull hindrance over the years but not so much this time around. It does comes up, as well as media beef but something seems keener in these raps. Book Of Rhymes perhaps embodies this spirit, a track about getting all the words his written off the page an into the music. I remember his struggles on Revival, clearly battling with his output and listeners perception of it.

On Side B he sounds releaved and free of that stress. Much of his material breezes on with a clear concept in mind, manifesting into structure, flow and puns in a variety of ways. He goes off on many narratives with plenty of word play and crafty raps that have you checking the connections as he rattles them off. Not all of its great, one rhyme about "Channeling like the panama canal" is a stretch but this lack of filter balances out Ems talent shines in many spots with strings of fantastic links. At plenty of times he gets into it with swift raps, loading and weaving rhymes and puns together. His talent is still very much there.

The record brings with it a DJ Premier feature and Dr. Dre out from the shadows. He lays a classic piano laden beat on album closer Discombobulated but his rap is mediocre. His name will always spark excitement but the best is in the past. Its mostly Em that makes the record fun. Side B's instrumental production brings a variety of modern beats with hints of auto-tune and Trap influences on a couple song but its mostly unremarkable, run of the mill stuff. Its been a fun handful of spins, no doubt a couple songs will bring me back on occasion but the thing of note is that this material seems better than the first half. It is also fresh in the mind and hasn't have the majority of a year to fade from aswell.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 21 December 2020

Ocean Grove "Dream" (2020)


Reporting on this three track release of b-sides is more so an excuse to remind you all this amazing band exists. Flip Phone Fantasy has to be my album of the year and Dream brings a little extra from that session for us to enjoy. Its title track is another 90s vibes extravagance, fulled with rich octane guitars strumming out power chords in a stride and bursting with lively drums, its cruises sweetly to the sun with mid tempo late summer vibes. Led by Dale Tanners soaring voice, it very much reminds me of Liam Gallagher in spots. The song however is rather one dimensional, with little variety and a routine crescendo to see it out with a simple melodic overtone, its easy to see why it didn't make the cut.

That's not to say its a bad song, it just doesn't reach the heights on the album. The accompanying acoustic version of Shimmer is a nice touch that holds up on the songwriting front. The glossy production with layers of airy reverberation gives it a similar wall of sound feeling even without the brimming distortion guitars. Sunny is notably labeled as a remix, its distortion guitars stripped out, a Trap drum groove thrown in too. It exposes the other layers of sound from the mix with more clarity. A nice way to enjoy the song on a new level. Again, the songwriting holds up, just affirming my love of this record I have binged hard and its magic still persists! Go check it out If you have not already.

Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Bathory "Nordland II" (2003)

Nordland is a mighty double album, two hours of spirited nostalgic lore and viking aggression without a weak spot. All from the same recording session and with little distinction between its two halves, it is simply an epic musical output by an inspired musician finding new ground. That's an important point to linger on, it would be all to easy to describe this as a return to roots. Although it has the spirit of a Hammerheart, or Twilight Of The Gods, this is a rather forward thinking pair of albums, refining and rebuilding the chemistry that defines it, introducing new elements along the way too.

With keyboard synths and cultural instruments, stringed and woodwind, the symphonic aspect feels fleshed out and spirited acting as the sail for many melodies to carry the music forth alongside the swells of male heathen choirs and metallic force. Its never a glum affair, much of the atmospheres conjured have might and pride, an uplift sailing against winds and rain. The harsher realities of ancient rural life trumped by the glory of natures unforgiving beauty and human life among it.

Each song feels poignant in its narrative, gleaming melodies swell, riding into shifts of tone. Guitars, synths and choral voices interchange to hold over lengthy songs with excitement. Quorthon sings with one of his fairest performances given his authentic singing, which is challenged. He utilizes his strengths, not straining and often refraining with a spoken word temperament that electrifies the many choral arrangements that proceed him. Where songs of old were driven by fresh ideas, this collection really explores whats possible with more musical involvement on all fronts.

The metallic element is a keen one too. His rhythm guitars are initially more of a backing element but with Dragons Breath and a couple numbers or Nordland II, he delivers some bouts of cunning aggression that triumph over anything from the Trash Metal era and meld so well with otherwise melody oriented music. The lead guitars are a blessing too, not only peaking with rampant shredding solos but hitting bold with striking metallic melodies into the songs at regular intervals.

To summarize, this is undoubtedly revisiting his Viking Metal glory days but with such a refreshing attitude. These songs are given so much love and care that they come to life on a new level with deeply involved song writing. Better sound design and use of instruments outside the norm flesh out its theme well. Strides are made on all fronts however thumbing over the tracks again one by one, Ive got to say it does feel as if the more rhythm guitar driven songs end up on the second album. It has the darker charm with a more aggressive temperament. Its been a fun journey and this is one heck of a note to end on, even if it was sadly not planed as so. It will always be a curiosity to think what might of followed but great to know he found his way again after a patchy series of albums.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Bathory "Nordland I" (2002)

Another epic journey concludes as we embark on Quorthon's final works, essentially a double album that rekindles the flames of old, having lost his footing through the nineties. Sadly we may never know where he would venture on from this high point, his untimely demise coming just over a year on from the release of Nordland II. Supposedly linked to heart conditions it is often speculated that Bathory never toured for this reason. At this stage of his career though, he was truly a one man band, not only writing but performing all the music that makes up these records. Both are of the same studio session with little distinction between its two halves. It made sense to write about them together in one single post, so that will come next and for now we will focus the journey this infamous artist has taken us on to get here.

Starting out in the mid 80s, the early records are gritty, edgy and ambitious, pushing boundaries which seem tame and cheesy by today's standards. That is precisely the legacy though! With The Return, many ideas emerge that would become staples of the Norwegian scene in the 90s. Its not until Under The Sign Of The Black Mark that something special sparks. Still hammering out the extremes, his songwriting elevates, outlasting the gimmicks and giving us a glimpse of whats to come in the next few years. The introduction of synth on Enter The Eternal Fire also a remarkable idea, a clear traceable linage to the many Symphonic Black Metal bands yet to come.

Blood Fire Death marks a true stride of genius. Clearly growing as an artist, the Nordic inspiration of his heritage and Viking roots brings fresh, original ideas to Metal. It all flourishes with a pivot to focus on this spirit alone with the mighty Hammerheat, putting Quorthon at the heart of two big musical movements set to evolve over the next decades with him practically checking out and pivoting to Thrash Metal during its decline. It is this era that highlights something forgivable in the early days, sound production. Whatever the reasons, the harsh abominable aesthetics hinder much of the output moving through the 90s. Its been a stain on much of the music, with Blood On Ice providing just a little relief along the way.

 Fortunately the Nordland saga is finely produced. Still a little harshness lingers but the two have a fair aesthetic for music we will talk about in the next post. One thing is for sure, early Bathory is essential listening for fans of Black Metal and Viking Metal, those first five records plant the seeds of so much music to come. On a personal level, it was really fun to get back to these records, rediscovering some fascinations from my youth and getting a much fuller picture of a patchy career with ups and downs, ultimately ending on a high note!

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Old Sorcery "Sorrowcrown" (2020)


Concluding our journey for the time being we arrive at Old Sorcery's third album Sorrowcrown, a lengthy epic wading into Black Metal territory. Its unsurprising given the natural link between it and Dungeon Synth, however in my mind it comes a bold and unexpected move given how such a distinct style had been harnessed. This is no flirting affair but a full on plunge into bleak darkness, adopting many tropes of the genre and its modern flavors. Phantasm is the lone synth song, the shortest at thirteen minutes among three other gargantuan songs. Its opening half consists of brooding strings yearning for warmth, spelling a shadowy caution of unease felt under its majestic gleam. Its suddenly pivots with a minimal delayed synths echoing off the tense atmosphere over a quiet percussive pattern. Giving way to a rich, gleaming flood of suspended pan flutes, the ice thaws in a moment of beauty. True magic before descending into the esoteric unease of monk-like Gregorian chants, distant to the lurching whispers and lonely winds. That later part feeling somewhat stitched on.

Its other three songs are of the Metal persuasion, with only a couple of notable breaks into Dungeon Synth interludes. Leaning to the pale and narrow, its mostly of the Darkspace production style with a lack of high frequencies and clarity in scarcity as its bass, drums and shrill guitars become a muddy momentous force. Over its three songs the unending roar of blast beats and shrill howls finds a few notes of intrigue while mostly being reminiscent of artists who have walked thees paths before. Closer track Blades Of A Reflection manages to conjure a guitar and synth aesthetic almost mistakable for the classic Det Som En Gang Var, something I have strangely not encountered an emulation of before. Voidborn is a track toiling with maddening synths and mischievous melodies to encapsulate a devilish environment. After a meandering interlude it concludes with a beautifully slow and lunging riff playing out under glistening astral synths that swell brighter as the tempo drifts apart.

Fortress Of Molten Silver has perhaps the most interesting opening. A cryptic voice makes shadowy utterances as the guitar fuzz melds with synths. It feels short lived as the arrival of hazy lead guitars pluck sad, lonely melodies through the mud of sound, much like I Shalt Become, which tends to be the nitpick of this record. I don't think Sorrowcrown would have lured me in alone. Much of what it offers are ideas I've heard fleshed out well by other artists before. The chemistry Old Sorcery has didn't seem to apply to this project. Its a lengthy behemoth that slugs through tones of fantastic musical extremities toying with the black and beauty of night. In length it feels more like a meandering journey, fantastical but also a collection of ideas lumped together. With a lack of originality in the mix, its sudden pivots to new shades of intensity feel reminiscent of others. The mixing is also questionable, although low fidelity in nature, its blurry guitars and quiet drums always seem tough to get used to.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 14 December 2020

Plini "Impulse Voices" (2020)

As one to keep an eye on, news of another Plini record could only bring joy. Over the years this Australian guitarist has steadily brewed an exceptional sound of serine, beautified Progressive Metal. Embellished by dazzlingly colorful instruments its both aesthetically indulgent as it is musically deep. Impulse Voices, his sophomore record, follows up on the highly praised Handmade Cities of four years ago. I've relished in the anticipation of this one as Plini's philosophy is about taking time to cultivate the best of his creativity for our pleasure. With eight tracks just shy of forty minutes, its a rich experience that I've steadily grown to know and love. Each spin yields a new insights as one picks apart its many elements, while growing to love these songs. Its easy to enjoy from the offset but providing a lasting magic.
Not to dissimilar from what we have become accustom too, the fruits from a labor of love blossom again with every moment feeling cared over. Dazzling melodic guitars swoon, cruising on soft winds with sweetly elasticated grooves rustling up from below to add a moments energy to this warm and inviting music. The instruments are colorful and bright, an unending expression gushing forth from the lead guitar that sings its glory over much of the music. Subtle synths chime too, swaying with the breezy motion, swelling with the tides of change, adding unusual aesthetic persuasions in places, see the rave synth rise and fall on Perfume towards its conclusion.

In its opening half everything feels just right. Papelillo delivers a wonderful swell of heaviness at its ending. The current of djenty groove lurks and prowls throughout the song but its climax lunges into a remarkably dark yet approachable conclusion that glosses up the gritty metallic techniques of old. Its in the second half that something notable emerges. Unsurprisingly yet possibly a link I've overlooked on previous records, a strong Jazz Fusion vibe opens in a handful of moments, the guitars get stripped away, the keys take lead, expressing dexterous melodies with a bolder tone giving it a notable contrast to the usual array of subtlety playing with volume and intensity.

A saxophone solo on Pan further embellishes this Jazz link, a lovely, fitting climatic moment exchanged against one of the record best guitar solos. However in those less seamless keyboard switches it seems the cohesion is dialed down a touch. Experiments toying with space and syncopated silences towards the end of Ona / 1154 carries a little friction too. These are hardly blemishes though, Impulse Voices is an indulgence from an artist in their stride. Stunning music, beautifully produced with drummer Chris Allison seeming like a perfect fit to bring as much magically intrigue to the percussion as Plini does to these scenic songs of melodic fondness. Simply wonderful.

 Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Cult Of The Damned "Part Deux" (2018)


Following up on a dazzling debut EP, three years later on, the Cult Of The Damned collective take their straight running of verses to the album format. Eleven tracks at fifty three minutes, Part Deux takes a moment to find its stride but ultimately delivers on deviously creative raps delving into the underworld of drug abuse and poverty among other adult subjects. Kicking off with its title track, nine British voices bring some of their finest rhymes to set slick vibes, rapping over a Noir Jazz bass line sample shimmied along by a soft but steady drum loop. Its a dynamic opening.

Unfortunately the pace fumbles on the next two songs as beat production explores similar vibes with estranged sampling presenting some challenging tones that don't quite gel with the energy of these hungry rappers. Track four, The Usual, then pivots, bringing in hook and chorus, a rarity for this group. The song tributes drug abuse and binge drinking, playing out like a mad bender, going through a wild series of events as two of the collectives best, Tony Broke and Bill Shanks, exchange verses.

From here on, temperaments change. From The Depths is a moody, rain soaked, gloomy number for self reflection, similar to the sombre vibes of Coffee later on. Never No brings a little uplift with a lively percussive loop playing up mischievous vibes reflected in its lyrics. The two again toy with hooks, it suits them well when applied sparingly. All these instrumentals have a similar subdued energy, not looking for flash and effect but timely beats with softer grooves and jazzy samples with a few layers that brood moods fit for repetition as the expansive vocabulary and creativity of these rhyme styles have this Hip Hop head playing the record on repeat.

With only a couple minor fumbles, the group have brought a little more structure with Barebase narrating subtle track concepts at start and end of some songs. The occasional use of choruses too, its all timely and with a cohesive set of beats the endless stack of verses, it runs like a stream of curiosity to pick apart. Loaded with references, skewed annunciations, witty word bending and satirical intent, the talent oozes but just like last time, some voices stand firmer. Overall though the rising tide has brought all boats with it. Records like these have legs and although new music from this ensemble is on the horizon, it seems I'll have to dig into more from these UK artists.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Future & Lil Uzi Vert "Pluto X Baby Pluto" (2020)


Of the handle of spins I've given this one since its release, I'm left with little positive to say. I'd checked out Future before, a big name in Trap music, very much enjoyed his approach to the sound. Lil Uzi Vert is one of the more exciting modern artists, his Eternal Atake that dropped earlier this year was mostly disappointing but had some undeniably interesting stylistic choices in its opening third that I'm still enjoying when they pop up on shuffle. The two coming together under this florescent space themed album art was enticing but across its sixteen tracks nothing matched the curiosity invoked by its trippy record cover.

If a theme is present, these instrumentals do have a flavor detouring from the club and street vibes but holding all of those conventions. My cosmic leanings are more to the liking of an Aeons Confer, however for fans of Hip Hop I can see how this has an astral tone softly worked in there. Either way the beats handled by an entourage of accompanying producers are this projects saving grace, if it has one. Deep, slow subdued bass grooves, rattling hi-hats with shuffling inflections and timely pedal kicks prop up the framework for loose fitting samples and soft instruments to play out laid back melodies. Its a moody design for the backdrop, laying down the vibes and rarely pushing bold leads or musical hooks upfront.

This sets the stage for Future and Lil Uzi Vert to shine however both seem to be on autopilot as not a single track brings anything of worth verbally beyond the river of self affirming swagger. Perhaps the pacing of some flows and auto tune accents bring a little excitement but on the lyrical front this project is hollow. Its unfocused braggadocio at its finest. An aimless stream of consciousness rapping revolving around sexual exploits all to often. The rhyming is lacking and so many lines set off alarm bells for the lack of self filtering. There are countless lines that "work" but for what? "Bitch I'm plugged into the wall like a phone charger" after rhyming the word charger twice already seemed like a low point. However there are plenty of lines like this through the record that should of been trashed.

Its hard to hate on an album and that is too strong a word anyways. Every record I buy with love, I want to get into music, not find myself walled out. These two are both capable of so much better and there coming together seems to be without purpose or intent. Their union doesn't yield anything of artistic note. Instead it just seems like a run of the mill, autopilot creation. I'm sure they enjoyed themselves putting these tracks together and speaking their minds but as a listener this really lacked anything of merit. Even though the beats are competent its hampered by these incessant vocally manipulated voices that say little of interest and the whole thing quickly becomes a dull drone in the background.

Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Old Sorcery "An Inkling Of Void" (2020)

As the second of two, one track EPs between the albums, An Inkling Of Void immediately identifies itself as soft, reverberated, smooth oscillating synths play out minimalist melodies of eerie calm. Its the melodies of limbo, caught between sadness and rest, glimmering in the moonlight. Although its design is gorgeous and the aesthetic timely, its all to reminiscent of Burzum's twenty five minute epic, the first to my ears to establish this niche. That shadow looms as the spell cast is not as potent, however the song grows into its own as spacious bass saw murmurings usher in yawning starlight synths to steer the opening portion of melody to a scenic route.

Its then, that richer arrays of synths arrive to create a curious atmosphere. Its faintly reminiscent of Steve Roach but with an uneasy underbelly typical of Dungeon Synth. In this stretch, the meditative mood takes over and time drifts slowly by. Past the midpoint a brief heavenly uplift is teased when new tones shift the temperament but it plateaus and we return to the normality again. Eventually the music steers back around to the opening melodies, embellished by all that came between. This plodding ending feels conclusive and satisfying as it fades. I was Initially put off by the opening construct, it took all but a few spins for any preconceived notions to be shattered. Inkling has got a soft, sweet, secluded magic of inanimate shadows and starlight glow. A fair treasure to behold if you value this ambient temperament and sequestered mood.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Old Sorcery "Strange And Eternal" (2019)

Every once in a while a record gives me writers block. Its as if I can't pinpoint where the magic emanates. It is of course from the sum of its parts but on this outing the tranquil immersion into this enchanted realm is so indulging the whole record seems sequestered by itself. Of course sitting down to write, giving focus and attention more of its elements reveal themselves and yet its strange atmosphere still mesmerizes.

 Old Sorcery's staple-mark whirl of psychedelia synth tones is as ever present and more involved on this outing. They embed mystique into scenic passages of warm and airy beauty. Its slightly estranged, with a ghostly, ephemeral charm falling short of spooky or eerie. With a richer set of instruments and layers its ambience feels more direct and involved as playful, mischievous melodies dance frequently in focus.

At the middle track rolls around the clouds are overcast as mood and temperament shift. It brings out a cryptic voice of esoteric conjuring, lurching discernible words from the shadows. The song pivots to a magical moment of colorful madness as echoing pianos and trippy oscilating synths dance in a spiraling tandem. That crafty voice returns again here, and then on its final fifteen minute epic album closer.

After a lengthy brooding of classic Dungeon Synth styling, the voice arises with arcane reverberations, reciting in a tongue and tone fitting of an occult ritual. I believe it is simply Finnish, the title translating to "The Sleeping King On Fire". As a non-native listener, the ambiguity stokes majesty within this deeply mysterious music. Its the one new element that really stood out among the endlessly entrancing normality.

I still feel as if this record is alluding me but whats obvious is with more involved instrumentation and less of a focus on ambience and atmosphere, both these aspects are enriched by the boldness it strides with. It occupies a friendly space yet is still shrouded in mystery. One of its best aspects are the pivots, when sudden transitions arise they feel rather integral to the overall vision and momentum this time out. This is one record for me to return to often as its magic feels rather untarnished.

Rating: 7/10