Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Plini "Impulse Voices Remix" (2021)


Uncommon but more so unexpected, Australian musician Plini has collaborated with three producers to bring us an intriguing remix EP of crossovers with the Electronic music scene sound. Often a recipe for disaster, on this outing it seems the two styles pull in the same direction, with guitars and synths of the original music being lifted into the bass and percussive designs of Downtempo, chilled out, laid back Electronic music. I must remark, my memories of these Metal adjacent remixes are somewhat scared by the early naughties attempts of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park with full remix albums. Over the years many other collaborations have come by with varying success but are yet to make footing as a common feature.

In this scenario the vibes match and make for a fine indulgence with the breezy moods and easy nature of the intersection. These are easy, summery songs, hard not to like. Despite that, I find it difficult to give this project merit beyond chemistry as its energy rides almost exclusively of the melodies of Plini. Dayce brings a powerful thumping, steady Dance beat with 90s hi-hats and airy reverberations. The bold bass and rhythmic glitchy grooves add a contribution but not one of remark. The following tracks play it even safer, limited to drums as the main creative contribution. Production techniques with fade ins, outs and frequency cut fades make transitional designs sparkle but again, the musics charm is all with the original material. Ultimately, these songs end up feeling purposeless in the shadow their source and fail to bring anything beyond a shift in tone.

Rating: 3/10

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Hexenkraft "Deep Space Invocations: Volume II" (2021)

 

Being rather fond of this Doom adjacent darkly Synthwave ride into the depths of hell, I thought I'd give some time to this new two track EP, having now built up an itch for the ever delayed full length debut Permadeth set to arrive some time in the future. Unlike Volume I its cuts are half the length but twice as intense, taking a massive influence from the Doom Eternal soundtrack. Gone are the acoustic guitars, soft strings and general meandering to the unsettling quiet of space and nature. These songs ride percussive strikes and dense wave synths to the edge of oblivion as danger lurks nearby. Its breaks for respites always pull one back into the action like a force of gravity. Its synthetic edge bleeds the lines between tone and force as it ebbs and flows in rhythm and shimmers of melody as notation whirls in its dark frenzy. Its always intense, like a spree of action with moments to catch your breath, knowing you've got to do it all over again.

Its reminiscence of Doom Eternal is uncanny. Although devoid of big chunky Djent guitars, its follows many of the same tropes and tricks to create a hellish synth atmosphere for action and carnage in other worldly environments. Track two, Devastated, feels like a guilty partner for its blaring siren like buzz saw cutting in and out of focus like a heart attack. Going purely off of memory, this is either a lifted idea from the Doom soundtrack or a brilliantly crafted inspiration that would also fit sweetly into the games audio, which in turn complimented the gaming experience massively. These are two of Hexenkraft's best executed songs, yet closely ride the curtails of another beast. Most important though, they are fun, engrossing and immersive even if short lived in the eight minute runtime. Its craft is focused and doesn't need to go beyond its means, unlike its predecessor which felt as if it had room for something more.

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Brockhampton "Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine" (2021)

 

Ive found this record difficult to put in words. A strong diversity of instrumental moods and heavy lyrical narratives that I struggled to connect with left me enjoying but not entirely resonating. Two years on from Ginger the group feel artistically evolved with maturity of word and a better execution of ideas. My lack of connection mostly stems from the endless stream of lyrics that Hip Hop offers, a form of personal exhaustion perhaps. Either way there is no doubt these songs hold up for there foundations. The group of producers who put hands on this one pulled together a colorful set of sounds to house within tight percussive grooves, a strong presence whenever put on spin.

The first five tracks feel like the strictly Hip Hop cuts. An emphasis on rhyme, reason and rugged beats brings Danny Brown onto the bass driven, wild Buzzcut. Its a massive salute that makes for a memorable number, followed by a strong appraisal for JPEGMafia and another collab with A$AP Ferg & Rocky. The attraction of big names says a lot for their ascendancy in the scene. Kicking of with deep bass kicks and some strong rap flows, Windows's inclusion of a poppy, over the top, auto-tune hook hints at where all this goes as the other aspect of this collective starts to emerge.

The rest of the record explores its Pop, R&B and Soul influences, often channeled into a modern context with high pitched and auto-tuned vocals weaving a lot of swooning singing into its songs while retaining darker themes in its lyrics. Its remarkably catching and In many a song, represents the groups unique sound at its best. When I Ball is a personal favorite for its old timely string section and warm, riveting baseline strutting beneath. The pivot to pitched up vocals so smooth. Its often been a point of contention but this time I think they pull these of the time trends so well.

It should be mentioned they swing back with a home run into the strictly Rap world with a ghetto whistle led banger Don't Shoot Up The Party. It comes with a strong message and bouncy energy that juxtaposes party vibes with a grim proposition. It held as a stiff moment in the albums flow as we move to a Gospell track before the vulnerable, emotion gushing The Light Pt. II that feels like a sweet send off as members of the group step to the mic to deliver some heart felt, emotional words.

A common experience of mine is holding off from writing as I don't feel I have a complete picture of the music. Sitting down to actually force out the words somehow brings it into perspective and with this analytical breakdown of what stood out to me, I feel as if I got closer to the record but again the short coming is always lyrics. These songs are loaded with substance that I could feel in passing but didn't stick around for long. Its a personal problem. The music of my youth as taken all of my lyrical capacity. I wish I could pick up and bond with it more these days, I feel like I am missing out on so much. Especially here on Roadrunner which is a fine record and a strong maturing of Brockhampton's sound.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Clipping "Visions Of Bodies Being Burned" (2020)

 

Its album number four by Clipping, an experimental Hip Hop trio doing remarkable things with their mashing up of Industrial and Noise with Horrorcore Rap and spoken rhymed monologues. So far I've developed a great appreciation for the artistry and craft but lacked an emotional connection. The same is true again with another fifty two minutes that seem to emphasize the same response from me. There is a difference this outing though, more of what I connect with. That's mostly a banging beat to elevate the obscurity of these minimalist noisescapes that house the rhymes.

Clipping's unsettling and grim take on urban life and crime has its apt tone again. Either expressed through rhyme or Industrial dissonance, Say The Name brings it to current events with a gripping power to address the death of George Floyd. The most notable track however is found in the lurching paranoia of Check The Lock. The John Carpenter-esque melodies and haunting bells are an illuminating compliment to the click, clack and rattling of sparse and distant industrious world building noises.

Alongside the lyrical talent of Daveed Diggs, who's sharp as a blade with his despairing narratives, a host of features fall short of adding something memorable to the mix. I was delighted to see the inclusion of Ho99o9 but even their shout raps felt at odds with the abrasive instrumental below the pair. Beyond these points of remark, much of what I've written about Clipping before remains true, its mostly a jarring experience of conflicting instrumentation that paints physical discomfort.

 Its best exemplified by slabs of white noise between tracks and the maddening Eaten Alive, its loose percussive performance seems perfectly dialed up to maximum confusion as its dislocated pace grows with the clattering of kitchen utensils. When Diggs drops out we are treated to a couple minutes of completely unhinged sound. Its a novelty, one this band are capable of channeling into convention with thumping base and a sensible kick snare groove but it too is sparing on this outing, with much of the record being chalked into that particular confrontational space again.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 9 May 2021

The Kovenant "In Times Before The Light" (2002)

 
Its interesting how a legal battle incurred not only a name change but also a shift in sound and identity for this Norwegian duo. Nexus Polaris would suggest this transformation was possible but it was Animatronic that solidified it, the first album released under The Kovenant name. A few years on from that record the pair decided to re-record their debut full length In Time Before The Light. Under their new moniker, the approach was to re-write the songs in their new Industrial infused aesthetic and the results are mixed.

Staying faithful to the original song structures, it is mainly the instrumentation that gets an update to match the fantastical dystopian sound. Without the measured pace of Industrial Metal guitars churning out choppy palm muted chords the original riffs rub up against its now lavish synth sounds. So to do the blast beats, when the atypical plunges into Black Metal darkness come, its a point the music is at its weakest.

Much of the original lone and linear synth lines feel stripped out, replaced with Industrial noises and re-worked textural tones for the new electronic enhanced aesthetic. Over top of them reigns a lavish dance of illustrious pianos, blazing through rapturous melodies, outpacing the music with its hasty notation. Along for the ride come the retro spooky and carnival keys too, they often sound a little suspect in presence.

 The better songs beforehand tend to hold up here but overall, its hard to enjoy this one being able to hear how these songs were converted. Sticking so rigidly to the original track design creates an odd contrast, where the musicality excels individually against outdated songs structures. In other words this wondrous sound the duo fell into moved with their songwriting too. Ultimately it leaves a stale taste but has me curious what I would think had I gotten to know these re-recordings first?

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 7 May 2021

Covenant "In Times Before The Light" (1997)

 

Following up on From The Storm Of Shadows, we arrive three years later with a debut record cast from the mold of an emerging Symphonic Black Metal scene. Unlike the stylistic evolution an of Enthrone Darkness Triumph, the duo stuck with a primordial Norwegian sound paired against its bold and cheesy Casio synth tones. Effective in execution but cornering the music to its niche, one which I happen to enjoy greatly.

Firstly, all three demo songs make it across to the album. The production is a clear step up too, everything audible but also a charming mess of gritty distant guitar tones and bold, punchy drums and keys entering a somewhat forced relation that carves its atmosphere with varying effect. Over it all shriek cries and howling raspy screams offer less immersion and more concept born of genre conventions.

Ultimately its aesthetic works and achieves an entertaining darkness fostered by antiquated medieval and fantasy themes articulated through its simple, often singular synth lines. A few tremolo guitar riffs perk the ears beyond the usual rigmarole of darkly power chord arrangements and plunges into blast beats that comes with the territory. Its with a varied outcome that the bands songwriting fumbles for a few tracks.

The stiff nature of its keys, punching through the mix with a lot of power, often accentuates a different character, one to become evolve greatly on the galactic leap forward that is Nexus Polaris. It gives many of the songs passageways that dispel magic purely on tone and nature of the melody. At the same time it also houses some fantastic chemistry, although a little limited give the lack of layering tones or melodies.

Monarch Of The Mighty Darkness a keen example, its opening doomly gloom a memorable one. Late in the song its medieval leaning arrangements forge an uneasy awkwardness alongside the shrill throaty howls of Nagash. The Dark Conquest has a similar problem, slow and menacing in its brooding opening yet meanders from the path has the keys differ with vibrant flute tones. All in all its a flawed record that has enough charm to carry it along. Will be fascinating to explore it again through the lens of its re-recording.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 6 May 2021

The Alan Parsons Project "I Robot" (1977)

 

British rock duo The Alan Parsons Project have admittedly been on my radar since before I started this music blog. Of the three records I own, any song cropping up on shuffle would grab my attention. How its taken me this long is criminal but for the past month or so Ive gotten deep into I Robot, their sophomore effort. Hailed as Progressive Rock, what is remarkable about the music is how much it reaches into the adjacent sounds of the 70s. With a luscious string section, these compositions often get a graceful lift into the cinematic realm. Its rumbustious baselines hit Funk and Disco grooves with class. The short experimental interlude Nucleus enters the Ambient Soundscape realms akin to Dreamtime Return released eleven years later.

What they touch, turns to gold, but not without echos of others who walked before them. The breezy lullaby of Day After Day reminiscent of Genesis in a vulnerable song and I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You is practically a Stevie Wonder track hands down. As said, its golden. The duo forge timely songs ripe with vivid instrumentation and holding song structures to make it work wonderfully. The variety is plentiful, dipping into emotional ballads, flushes of early Electronica synths, plenty of Progressive Rock cliches and the audacity to experiment boldly. The song Total Eclipse uses a choir of haunted soul voices to cascade with unease through nail biting tensions as it plunges into fiery depths.

Perhaps suggested by its variety, the structure is loose, moving through drastic shifts in tone that seem effortless with the aid of seamless transitions, pivoting the instruments between songs with organic handover passageways. It ends with Boules, a bonus track of sorts rocking a "phat" baseline with a tight reflexive drum loop and accompaniment of strange noise oddities. It always struck me as a Hip Hop beat in ways, further suggesting the duo had a finger on the pulse with the splash of current sounds the record embodies, although Hip Hop might be a bit of a stretch with the New York scene at its absolute infancy in this point in time.

One thing that stains the stunning music is its theme. I Robot attempts to engage with the concept of artificial intelligence from a heavily dated perspective. Compared to the current discussions around AI and its partial implementation through algorithms and machine learning, everything pertaining to the concept just seems out of step, however the vocal efforts of the band it comes through are wonderful. Barely a crease to be found beyond its timely blemish. Lastly, I'll end on a musing note. These two never found commercial success in their home town, shipping most their records in Germany, USA and Canada. Its something I find rather curious given how British acts tend to be well known here but the Alan Parsons Project has sadly faded from focus since their retirement over two decades ago.

Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Earth "Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version" (1993)

 

A recent revival of Hibernaculum and The Bees Made Honey had me curious about their pre-reformation works that had been heaped with praise. As a curious teenage enthusiast, this record had left me dumbfounded to what the fuss was about. Now, with open mind and ears I find myself with a similar sentiment, although context may play a roll given what this anomaly may have meant to listeners back in the nineties.

With three gargantuan songs totally seventy three minutes, Earth 2 strikes me as more of a singular experiment in tone than anything structured, planned or even designed. This is Drone Metal resembling very little of Metal and much of the drone one might associate with engine noises and electronic buzzing. The entire musical piece is a wash with the dense, drowning, fuzzy flood of guitar distortion cycled with amp feedback to muzzle anything that happens to wander across its bleak path.

Admittedly I can comment there is a strange charm and allure to the droning noise but is it a work of genius? I suspect not. As background or foreground music it is mostly grating and is best enjoyed when entirely distracted from its presence. Perhaps its just not my cup of tea. I understand the appeal but the particular aesthetic at play here is mostly a discomfort that feels pointless to endure its unsettling presence.

With Seven Angels, a lone guitar deploys burly riffs reminiscent of Black Sabbath on loop. Slowly chugging palm mutes and rising to chord slabs with slices of short melody, it stands aside for offering something to focus on yet feels unremarkable to me. The second track shifts aesthetics slightly, the guitar work goes in a moody direction but ultimately its emotions are smothered by the droning, dirty sludge.

 Its not until Like Gold And Faceted that we hear drums, slow, temporal and disappearing for tempo shattering duration's, they barely crash through the wall of brown sound. At the hour mark, a scream can be heard and before it, a little lead guitar but as mentioned, these events do little to conjure purpose or intent. I must say, it does sound like cryptic rumblings are woven beneath the drone at times where its consistency breaks and cracks of something else is heard, undecipherable.

The whole thing seems like an unplanned session hinged around the concept of smothering the listener in blistering feedback for an unreasonable amount of time. Its spontaneous blurts of additional sound seems disconnect and purposeless. If there is magic to be found here, it has certainly alluded me, although I suspect the aid of hallucinogenics might yield different results for those who use them.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, 3 May 2021

Brelstaff "In Human Terms" (2021)

 

Brelstaff, formerly known as Daryl Donald, throws a fresh "beat tape" our way. At twenty tracks, it runs deeper than usual with similar duration tracks ranging from one too three minutes. Anticipating demo quality, or unfinished ideas, I was pleasantly surprised to find an excellent array of beats loosely framed by the snippets of past time American gangsters talking while running their criminal errands. Its a niche charm for timely compositions that rides the dynamics of Jazz Hop and dreamy instruments sampled against the loose yet snappy boom bap nineties drum grooves.

Through its many temperaments, shades of experimentation lean mostly towards a Noir Jazz flavor with relaxed, indulgent tones that get a little summery here and somewhat darkly there. Often with a slight psychedelic, dream like tone, the music memorizes with its laid back approach rubbing of the punching groove of snare and base kick. Its all atypical yet has this character I can't quite put the finger on.

My thoughts are rather similar on each outing with this artist who has figured out there form. These beats need a voice to elevate them too the next level. A progressive or fluid motif is missing to have them work solely as instrumentals. Although very enjoyable they feel as if the right rapper could work wonders over them. Not Enough Crime, a favorite track of mine, the perfect framework for some verses and a hook to further the already animated instrumental. Overall, its a great little gem to enjoy.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Anna Von Hausswolff "Ceremony" (2013)

 

Stepping backwards in time, we arrive upon Swedish songwriter and Organist, Anna Von Hausswolff's sophomore record. As The Miraculous hinted, the engulfing esoteric gloom and might of her burdensome terror had yet to emerge. Ceremony feels rather undefined in its direction, closer to musical traditions stemming back to the 70s with songwriting, moods and templates that are yet to diverge from common and folksy sounds. Darkness is the flavor she brings but in this outing its just a shadow of the witchery yet to be discovered, more of a still and sombre grayness gently cast.

Interchanging her operatic voice with pipe organs and an array of string instruments, these calmed song temperaments gracefully cruise by. The second song Deathbed is the one track indicating her future direction. Its bludgeoning Doom Metal drone and grating guitar chords spell horror between her voice and colorful organs giving pause for light. The record then meanders into a string of bare and minimal musings, before traditional elements emerge towards the end, tethered to her subtle gloom.

I could get deeper into the particulars, her voice and instrumentation echoing strong feelings from many a musical style and artist heard before but that alone was the key take away. Rather than striding into new territory with something to shock and awe, at this stage Anna was still finding her feet, writing wonderful songs that have been enjoyable and even moving on its better tracks like Ocean. Ultimately though, its all a bit infantile in the shadow that her future self will cast.

Rating: 5/10