Friday, 28 November 2014
Patience is a virtue that I sadly don’t have. Whilst I can see the appeal of atmospheric electronic musicians like Jon Hopkins and the Haxan Cloak, I often find myself clockwatching during the big long build-ups. An artist like loopy French house producer, Mr. Oizo, is much more up my street. He doesn’t allow time to breath, let alone check a watch. Employing AD/HD pacing, he cuts out the foreplay and assaults the listener from the off.
The Church starts with ‘Bear Biscuit’, an energetic trap number with squealy woop noises and jittery glitch bits that sound like a crashed computer. This gives a taster of the crazy palette of sounds to come - the shrill telephones on ‘Machyne’, the obnoxious sampling on ‘Dry Run’ and the industrial glitchiness of ‘Torero’ - perhaps some of Oizo’s most creative sounds yet.
Of course, a lot of people out there are likely find these sounds more irritating than impressive. Some of them, particularly the squealing woop noises, tested my thresh-hold (maybe a little patience is required with this record). Personally, I feel there’s a humour to them that stops them from being plain infuriating. This is particularly present in the album’s closer, the title track ‘The Church’, which includes a kooky voiceover about a group of friends who get bored, steal a car and go to church. There are also some genuinely tuneful moments hidden in the mix such as the mental funk-jazz jam, ‘iSoap’, which adds a nice chic mood shift to the album. ‘Destop’ also contains some pretty chords in amongst its skittery bleeps and bloops that prove Oizo is capable of smoothness.
Thursday, 27 November 2014
You can always tell a Machine Head track from a number of motifs – namely lots of harmonic notes, lots of beastly grooves and lots of blood-pumping sing-growling courtesy of Rob Flynn. Over time, the Oakland metalheads have also brought in a number of new stylistic features. The Blackening saw them garnering more progressiveness and old-skool thrashiness, whilst The Locust introduced orchestral strings and more symphonic tracks.
Entering this album, I was a little anxious Machine Head’s sound might have started to stagnate by this point. The two singles that dropped beforehand, ‘Now We Die’ and ‘Night of the Long Knives’ although undoubtedly Machine Head, brought nothing new or that exciting to the table – except maybe some surprise blast beats on the latter track.
Fortunately, as it turns out after listening to the record, these singles are some of the least interesting numbers on the album. The rest are fairly creative and show some clear improvements to the band’s sound, the first being Rob Flynn’s singing. ‘Beneath the Silt’ features some dynamic clean vocals that I’d usually expect only off a Deftones track. Other moments include the long percussion-free segments of ‘Sail into the Black’ and ‘Damage Inside’ in which gothic vocal harmonies are also employed creating a truly ghostly quality. There's a real focus on atmosphere on these tracks that has never been the case in previous Machine Head releases. The softer parts are more ambient than ever.
And the heavier parts are heavier. Contrasting the eerie ballads, are tracks such as 'Ghosts will Haunt my Bones' which introduce some new sludgy, low-tuned riffage. ‘Game Over’, meanwhile, takes the speed and hostility up beyond 'Aesthetics of Hate' to a level of intensity that rivals some grindcore bands. All I can say is the group better be careful playing this live – people in the pit might die.
A personal gripe I have with the album is the lengthiness of some tracks here. ‘Game Over’ could have been left as a snappy two minute frenzy and had more of an effect. Similarly, ‘Sail into the Black’ could have been cut a couple minutes short and gets a bit repetitive towards the end.
The choruses on this record also sound a bit samey and the lyrics aren’t always inspiring. Revolutionary clichés such as ‘wake up America’ do nothing for me (In fact, it just sounds like to two Greenday hooks got mashed up).
That being said, the lengthiness of songs and the lukewarm choruses are outshined by the level of creativity being displayed elsewhere. Whilst some parts are predictable, others take wild twists and turns into territories that show Machine Head, as big as they are in the metal universe, are still a band to be respected. I’m not feeling this is 'the metal album of the year' as some people seem to be proclaiming but it is still far from being a forgettable footnote in the group’s career.
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
It’s comeback week. Wu-Tang Clan, Faith No More, AC/DC and Gwen Stefani have all returned with new singles. As usual, I divide the good’uns and bad’uns. Is bad’un even a word? Too late, I’ve typed it out now, there’s no going back...
'Necklace' - Wu-Tang Clan
‘Brother, I think that necklace is causing you too much trouble’. I’ll admit that the sample gets repeated a few too many times, but otherwise the beat being laid down on these New Yorkers' latest single is phenomenal. There’s a mysterious, worn feel to it like it was discovered on a dusty cassette tape in an ancient vault somewhere. Needless to say the verses over the top are insane too. Bring on A Better Tomorrow. I’m belted up and ready.
'Drown' – Marika Hackman
British folk artist, Marika Hackman, plays with some interesting vocal harmonies on this brooding, melancholy track that has all the stillness of being underwater and the hopelessness of realising you’re drowning. There couldn’t be a more disturbingly fitting video.
'Motherfucker' - Faith No More
90s alt/experimental-rock band, Faith No More, are back after a decade and a half with this profanely titled but marvellously crafted new single. The triumphant instrumentation and Mike Patton’s layered vocals build up into a satisfying guitar solo. It rocks like a [insert track title here]!
'Rock or Bust' - AC/DC
They may be getting on a bit, but they’ve still got more energy than most young rockers today. This is a monster of a riff and I’m surprised by the freshness of Angus’s distortion tone. Yes, this is classic Back-in-Black-era acca dacca, but the production’s 2014.
'Spark the Fire' - Gwen Stefani
The No-Doubt-frontwoman-turned-solo-pop-icon has managed to stay looking and sounding young for twenty years, I’ll give her that. However, this new track is just plain dull, not helped by the monotonous production provided by Pharrell. Also, it really doesn’t sound like Gwen is singing ‘spark’. Is pyrophilia a thing?
Trae Tha Truth – Try Me ft. Young Thug
Young Thug is like the asshole you don’t invite to your party because he’s guaranteed to wreck your parents furniture, piss off your friends, kill your family pet and then pass out on your bed in a pool of vomit. This track was alright until Trae let Young Thug come in and fuck things up, slurring gibberish awkwardly over the beat like he’s choking on his tongue and barking ‘ratatatat’ a few times because he can’t think of anything better to spit. Trae's disappointment, although he tries hard to conceal it, is clear.
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
Whilst the rest of the southern rap scene have been getting busy riding throwaway trap beats and dropping throwaway punchlines, Big K.R.I.T has been steadily moving away and sculpting his own much more original and quite possibly influential sound. He’s always been a standout character in deep south hip hop, mainly down to his speedily tight and acrobatic flows. He can jump around any beat at any tempo he likes and still perfectly articulate every word.
New to his style on this album is his choice of instrumentation. The usual 808s are there but it’s the other sounds on top that give it that flair – the Style Council-esque synth-bass, the female vocal harmonies and bounteous use of digital cowbell.
Also heading off in a new direction is the lyrical content. This record sees Krit covering third eyes, the big bang and God. That might sound like the priggish subject matter of a rapper who thinks he’s the world’s next modern philosopher, but instead Krit keeps it tastefully low key if only to build a spiritual, spacey vibe to the tracks.
Although the majority of the album is solid, there are some tracks that pale in comparison to others. ‘Pay Attention’ was ironically the song that held my attention the least, adopting a mainstream Drake-like chorus. The ‘Standby (Interlude)’ track is also blatant filler and doesn’t really do much for me. Thankfully, these tiny scratches don’t take away from the fact that this is still a gem.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 19/11/2014: Dizzee Rascal, Screaming Females, Band Aid 30 and more...
It's that time of the week again where I become Simon Cowell and make fun of musicians whilst vaguely complimenting some of them. This week I hate on a charity single and make tasteless jokes about being a child-killer.
'Take Me Back' - GL
This glossy, groovy synthpop number is like taking a Delorean-ride back in time to the eighties. All I can picture is perms and pink legwarmers and power-dressing yuppies. This song is more eighties than the Rocky training montage. Words cannot describe how eighties this song is.
'Pagans' - Dizzee Rascal
After that awful Robbie Williams collaboration, I was certain we were never going to see the old, screwfaced Dizzee ever again. However, the Grime icon has proved me wrong by serving up this gritty track featuring some fast and witty bars and a sinister trap beat. Accompanying it is a lavish video in which Dizzee plays a kung fu master with Raiden-like electric powers. Based on a true story.
'Ripe' - Screaming Females
Are these guys too cool to rock out or something? STOP STARING INTO MY SOUL! The music video is pretty pretentious/unsettling but casting that aside, this track on its own is pretty damn solid. The riffage is raw and satisfying and the rock chick vocals are killer (no screaming though. The band name is a lie)
'All I Really Need' - Brooks Brown
Brooks is a 16-year-old electronic producer from Kansas. I’m getting an early-Rustie vibe from this track. It’s so bubblegum-sweet that my face started creaking and I did something I haven’t done in years – I smiled. And then I burnt down an orphanage to restore order to my life.
'The Hunter' - Slaves
This UK punk track has a mean-ass riff. I’m not sure if it’s about global warming or lions or survival instinct - the lyrics lost me a little but I’m liking the pumped-up attitude with which the vocalist is singing them.
'Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?' - Band Aid 30
You want a good ebola charity single? Try this one. It’s a lot more original, a lot more infectious (pardon the pun) and a lot more relevant lyrically than this tripe. Honestly, what does Christmas and ‘Feed the world’ have to do with helping fight a killer disease? None of us should need the reward of a song as an incentive to donate to charity anyway. If you want to give money to the ebola relief campaign, go the direct route and hit this link. Fuck ebola!
Monday, 17 November 2014
Sunday, 16 November 2014
I’ve always appreciated album artwork. I still buy physical copies of albums, sometimes just for the record sleeves. In fact, most of the time I throw away the CD and just keep the case.
Lists of favourite album covers are a pretty common sight in the music bloggersphere. I thought I'd make my own list anyhow, since I am a musical genius and my opinion needs to be heard. Hence, I've created this gallery of my top 10 favourite album covers of all time.
So, music critic hat off. Art critic hat on. Welcome to the exhibition. Please do not touch the artwork. No flash photography please. The song in the Youtube clip below should help set the mood.
10. Limp Bizkit – 'Gold Cobra'
What an excellent album to begin with. This record sleeve’s got everything:
Sexy bikini-clad babes.
A snazzy down-with-the-kids font.
Gollum picking his nose in the background.
Oh, and look there's a giant cobra!
I admit, it’s slightly peculiar that the album is called “Gold Cobra” and yet the snake ISN’T GOLD. Perhaps the artist was colour-blind? Perhaps I’m colour-blind? Perhaps colour is subjective and none of us have the right to dictate what's gold and what's not gold.
9. Lady Gaga – 'Born this Way'
A deeply thought-provoking visual that symbolises the parasitic relationship that we now have with technology. As one critic described it, it looks like “a reject from the last terminator film”.
Oh, wait, 'reject from the last terminator film', that's not actually a compliment, is it? Hell, ignore that quote. That ignorant prick doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
8. Manowar - 'Anthology'
If you're a heavy metal band and you want to appeal to your fans consisting mainly of red-blooded, heterosexual males then the best thing to do is obviously to slap a load of half-naked, sweaty men on the front of your album (it certainly grabs my attention!)
7. Dolly Parton - 'Bubbling Over'
Dolly Parton's disembodied head erupting violently from out of what looks like a canal. Honestly, what more could you ask for?
6. Paddy Roberts - 'Songs for Gay Dogs'
Until Paddy Roberts came along, homosexual dogs were forced to listen to the same music as the rest of us.
I can't believe such injustice used to exist in the world. Quite frankly, it makes me sick.
5. The Faith Tones - 'Jesus Use Me'
Brendan Fraser, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Fry all on the same album cover. Honestly, what more could you ask for?
4. Saveta Jovanovic - 'Lazno Je, Lazno, Sve Sto Je Tvoje'
Natural body hair. Honestly, what more could you ask for?
3. Battleaxe - 'Burn this Town'
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This is a photograph, right? Well, no it isn’t. This was actually hand-drawn!
Some artists really don’t get the recognition they deserve.
2. Jim Post - 'I Love my Life'
I’ve always been a hardcore feminist. Not many people know that. Now you do.
Sexual objectification in today’s society seems to be reserved exclusively for women, and the reason I love this album cover so much is because it makes the man the sex symbol for once. American folk singer-songwriter, Jim Post, is what every girl wants and what every guy wants to be. That moustache and seductive gaze are enough to turn a lesbian straight. I can vouch for this, as a lesbian man.
Honestly, just look into those eyes.
Those aren’t eyes.
This is just silly. Stop it.
1. Ken - 'By Request Only'
So, here it is! My favourite album cover of all time. Well done for getting this far down the article. I hope it was worth it, having to scroll past blurred pictures of nipples. You know I applied for a job at the Financial Times the other week. Do you know why I didn’t get the job? No, neither do I.
Friday, 14 November 2014
When you accompany your album with a HBO TV series and proclaim it as an ‘ode to American music’ you set the expectations bar pretty high. Sonic Highways would have had to be the next White Album for it to have lived up to the stupendous sea of hype surrounding it. No-one can carry that off, not even the Foo Fighters, and they’re the biggest modern rock band we have.
Sonic Highways is certainly an epic album, I’ll give it that. There aren’t any short punchy songs on display. These are all five minute numbers with progressions and guitar solos and lyrics delivered like a Martin Luther King speech.
Some people might want an epic album. Personally, I prefer something a little more intimate and in my face. Wasting Light and indeed its predecessor, Echoes Silence Patience and Grace, both achieved this through raw production. The loud bits were cacophonous, and the soft bits were like a whisper and everything felt very close in proximity as if Grohl and co were in the room with me.
This new record instead feels like it’s been played from a stage and I’m somewhere in the seated area. In essence, I feel like I’m having music played at me instead of to me.
The exception to this is ‘The Feast and the Famine’. This track has all the punkish youthful angst I adore and has the catchiest chorus on the record.
There are occasional moments when the epic side works too. ‘What did I do?/God is my Witness’ has quite a nice bouncy feel to it although I do hate when people bring God into rock (Grohl probably isn’t a hardcore Christian, which makes it worse). ‘Subterranean’ was also a surprise. The melancholy chord progression reminds me of something Swedish prog metallers, Opeth, might have once pulled out of the bag. Saying that, have Dave Grohl and Michael Akerfeldt ever been seen in the same room together?
Overall, Sonic Highways has its moments when the epic factor does work. Were these parts contrasted with more up-close-and-personal-numbers like ‘The Feast and the Famine’ it might make the album a bit more exciting. I feel with Sonic Highways that I’m listening to a classic rock album with none of the modern edge. The catchy hooks are also missing. Wasting Light was full of crowd-pleasing choruses and even if some were a little clichéd lyrically, they stuck out more than what’s on offer here.
Thursday, 13 November 2014
This album is essentially a dude rambling sleazy nonsense over a bunch of lo-fi instrumentals that sound like they’re straight from eighties TV commercials. It’s cheesy. It’s silly. It's, for the most part, terribly uncool. It’s also among one of the best records I’ve heard all year.
Here’s why: Ariel Pink knows he’s an uncool motherfucker. It’s his shtick. He spends his songs portraying the loser and not the college-movie-misfit kind, but rather the genuine friendless creep who never gets the girl and never will. What’s impressive is that Ariel keeps a charmingly innocent tone to it all, rather than a tasteless rapey vibe. The characters he plays are so pitiful and so embarrassing, but likably and comically so.
The instrumentals, as retro and corny as they are, are also undeniably nostalgic. Part of me wants to hate the reverb-soaked synths and farting basslines and electronic panpipes but it’s all adorable. The lo-fi production helps. Some of the songs feel like they’re coming out of car speakers, giving the impression of one of those long childhood car journeys you’d spend staring out the backseat window. Lazy-guitar number ‘Put Your Number in my Phone’ and power ballad ‘Picture me Gone’ are good examples of this vibe. Other tracks aren’t quite as smooth and take the whacky cartoonish route instead such as ‘Dinosaur Carebears’.
This track sees a transition from dark-noise-rock with reverend-like vocals to cheap parping electronica to holiday park pop reggae. It’s one of the weirder moments on the record and will undoubtedly have many listeners raising their eyebrows sceptically. I personally love it’s inclusion and it serves as a reminder midway through the album that anything is possible on the next side.
This fragility and unpredictability is important in keeping any album engaging. The record isn’t a perfectly polished product. It’s got rough edges and bits that don’t quite work, deliberately so, just to remind you that nothing is perfect.
Hell, I’m still going to give the LP five stars though.
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
'Uptown Funk' - Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
Get your bellbottoms on and slip on those platform shoes. Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars are here to funk you up! This is about as retro as it gets, but I'm not complaining.
'Powder' - Gengahr
London rock group, Gengahr are championing that Britpop morning-hangover sound right now. They’re the bacon sandwich and paracetomol you take to feel human again. The visuals dropped two weeks ago circa Halloween hence the séance.
'Memorials' - Laurel
20-year-old up-and-coming pop singer, Laurel, sings over a moody, subtle electronica instrumental. I can’t get enough of the voice. It’s like Lorde-meets-Lana-Del-Ray but backed up with a ton of emotion.
'Stoicville' - T-Pain
A couple weeks ago, the Floridian artist shocked many of us with an NPR Tiny Desk Concert in which he proved that he could sing without auto-tune. Now, he’s also out to prove that there’s more to his lyrics than partying and banging chicks, dropping quite possibly the realest rap song of the year. T-Pain, I have a new found respect for you.
'Deliver' - Lupe Fiasco
‘The Pizza Man don’t come here no more’. Lupe speaks out for all the pizza-deprived city-dwellers who can’t get a delivery because they happen to live in a neighbourhood deemed a ‘ghetto’. Not only is it refreshing to see Lupe bringing back the social criticism of his early days, the track’s also got a super-catchy chorus. His flow in the third verse is also on fire.
'DnF' - P Reign ft. Future & Drake
How much did Future get paid to wail ‘drunk and fuck’ repeatedly? Probably more than I make in a month. Oh well, at least the video’s easy on the eyes.
Sunday, 9 November 2014
I was convinced I’d be retired and in a care home by the time this album got round to dropping. How long’s it been since this album was first scheduled to be released? Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty???
Two years? Is that all? Oh well, I wasn’t far off.
New York rapper/singer/songwriter/prolific-beef-starter, Azealia Banks, seems to have spent her career undecidedly swaying between cool-quirky-artist and the-next-Nicki-Minaj. Her 1991 and Fantasea EPs saw her playing with extremely creative beats. However, then came ‘ATM Jam’ featuring the blandest instrumental ever, an even more bland vocal feature from Pharrell Williams and lyrics that seemed to be mostly word salad.
Broke with Expensive Taste looked as if it were going to be a mishmash of mainstream fodder and alternative stuff. I was hoping the majority would be the more alternative stuff, because that’s my jam, and thankfully that seems to be the case. The beats are eclectic – some Latin on ‘Gimme a Chance’, some jazzy-garage on ‘Desperado’, some industrial glimmers on ‘Heavy Metal and Reflective’, some shouty gabber-rap on ‘Yung Rapunxel’ and some bright neo-rave instrumentals courtesy of Lone towards the back end. There's even a cover of Ariel Pink's surf-rock 'Nude Beach a Go-Go'. Familiar hits, ‘212’ and ‘Luxury’ have also made the cut, which is nice to see. ‘ATM Jam’ meanwhile has been wisely left off. Azealia seems to be going down the right path.
Vocally, I’ve never been sure what to make of Azealia, and this album still has me unsure. Her lyrics can be odd to say the least: ‘Fridgy froze kept, it’s that fresh bitch, I be in that prissy stone set with that wet wrist’. Perhaps there’s a clever hidden meaning beneath it all. Lines like ‘Cunt-cu-cu-cunt-cu-cunt-cunt-cunt’ however have me doubting it. I’d love to see the Rap Genius interpretation on that.
|Feminism and stuff|
Friday, 7 November 2014
Ex-chillwave-producer Chaz Bundick has dropped the ‘Toro y Moi’ pseudonym in exchange for ‘Les Sins’ and is now making more up-tempo, dancey stuff. Its house music for the most part, but a lot more intimate than your regular David Guetta shit. The textures are earthy, diverse and bright. There are woozy synth chords, mellow pianos and even some scary rave stabs on the track ‘Call’. Unlike your regular David Guetta shit, each texture is given space to breathe, instead of being a suffocating wall of synths. The drum patterns are also pretty creative, unlike your regular David Guetta shit. Of course, unlike your regular David Guetta shit, I can’t see any of the tracks from Michael being played in a club. Its chillaxation material more than anything, which is good enough for me. If I had one complaint it would be the slightly odd choice of vocal samples. They seem to have been randomly plucked out of thin air, but they’re not obtrusive enough to distract from the fun sunny instrumentals, so it’s no biggie.
Thursday, 6 November 2014
‘I’m too freaky for these niggas/I’m too freaky for these bitches’
There are a lot of people in the homophobic world of hip hop who probably do find Mykki Blanco too freaky to deal with. The rapper's practically a one man gay pride festival. He spits about screwing dudes, wears impressively tight jeans and also dabbles in transgenderism (in fact, most of this mixtape seems to be told from the perspective of his female persona). All in all, he's a libertarian's dream and a Pentecostal pensioner’s worst nightmare.
Of course, Mykki doesn’t care what people think and isn’t out to convert anybody on this record. He/she’s just out to be himself/herself (someone tell me how the prononuns work in this situation) and if that means offending a few sensitive ears, whoopdifuckingdoo.
The attitude on this record is truly punk – and that makes it pretty exciting. Every song is blunt and ballsy. Matching the lyrics are some equally lurid beats. They’re bassy and industrial and super lo-fi: Death Grips a la mode. Accessibility was never an intention here.
A bit of charm and wit admittedly wouldn’t have done a miss on this record. Some of the tracks try a little too hard to be in-your-face and they do end up coming across as a bit cheap. The track, Cyberdog, is simply horrible. The techno beat is as gaudy as LEDs on a wedding dress and I don’t know what the Germanic vocals are all about.
As for the album title, well, I’m still trying to work out what gay dog food could possibly mean. Dog food that’s attracted to other dog food? That don't make a darn bit of sense!
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
It's weekly round-up time again where I single out the singles that made the best and worst impression on me. I hope you all had a happy Halloween/Guy Fawkes Night/Diwali/belated-Easter.
'Leash' - Jam Baxter
British underground hip hop artist, Jam Baxter, pulls out some of his most cryptic lyrics yet accompanied by a slithering gloomy beat. The video that comes with it is strange to say the least. Baxter describes it best on Twitter, ‘here is my new video where there are bare flies in my ear’.
'Blank Space' - Taylor Swift
TAYLOR SWIFT??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Look, I’m sorry, this girl’s new pop stuff isn’t half bad. She’s just got so much bounce in her vocal delivery these days. It makes me want to get a hairbrush out and sing along. I wish I could let you hear the track for yourself, but Swift seems to be on an anti-stream campaign right now (some of you may have heard she’s forced Spotify to take down all her music), so consequently there’s no audio widget above, just a blank space.
'Jealous' - Labrinth
I’ve been going full out mainstream this week with my choices. Labrinth, the dude who sung ‘Earthquake’, has been proving lately that he’s more than just your average Joe when it comes r&b. Written from the perspective of a jealous ex, this powerful ballad actually raised goosebumps on me. Be patient with it. Trust me, the build-up’s worth it.
Brooklyn duo, Beacon, have pulled out this ethereal electro-pop number. It’s smooth and cold as ice. I’m not sure what the ‘L1’ stands for. Take your pick.
'L1' - Beacon
Brooklyn duo, Beacon, have pulled out this ethereal electro-pop number. It’s smooth and cold as ice. I’m not sure what the ‘L1’ stands for. Take your pick.
'Those Who Can’t, Cheat' - Clarence Clarity
Screw subtlety. Shadowy UK artist, Clarence Clarity, lays down this zany funk pop tune layered in Bungle-esque madness: deep pitch-lowered vocals, oriental-sounding interludes and a choral crescendo that’s about as in-your-face as fellatio.
'Open Wide' - Calvin Harris ft. Big Sean
Speaking of fellatio, this track sucks. Zero novelty. Zero emotion. Zero everything.
Even the music video somehow fails to be exciting despite containing a gunfight, speeding cars and hot chicks. What the hell happened?
Even the music video somehow fails to be exciting despite containing a gunfight, speeding cars and hot chicks. What the hell happened?
Monday, 3 November 2014
There are some people who understand the appeal of drone metal and good for them, they’re clearly more open-minded than I am. Personally, Sunn O)))’s schtick - playing one guitar note over and over again at a glacial speed – strikes me as a waste of a fretboard and a waste of my time.
Fortunately, this is not solely a Sunn record. Unexpectedly, the hooded drone metallers have decided to team up with 71-year old sixties-baroque-pop-turned-avante-garde singer, Scott Walker.
Those who know of Scott will know that he’s been a steadily-evolving nutcase. His last record Bish Bosch had some charmingly absurd lyrics on it, and this record isn’t far off, ‘leaping like a river dancer’s nuts’ serving as an example of this. The most poignant change vocally seems to be a bigger emphasis on sounding dark. Scott’s crooning sounds more suspenseful than ever on Soused and there are some choruses (if you can call them that) that come across as chillingly sinister stuff rather than gallows humour: ‘a beating would do me a world of good’.
To give some credit to Sunn where it’s due, this new darker sound that Scott is showing is partly down to the instrumentation backing him up. The band’s sound may be dull, but it’s a grey-cloud-kind-of-dull rather than full on blank-canvas-boring. In other words, their music creates a great dismal atmosphere. What’s missing is simply a bit of colour, a bit of variation. The first track, Brando, is the only one that manages this. The soaring, bright ‘white-Missouri’ section and plummeting, black drone riff make for a thrilling engaging contrast in moods.
Sunday, 2 November 2014
There’s no place for heroes in hip hop. It’s a villain’s world and El-P and Killer Mike are out to be the meanest and most cartoonishly evil rappers in the history of the game. On their last record they were shooting poodles and beating the bottoms of feet. Now they’re back and sounding twice as mean, ready to take on the entire rap game. Why? Because they feel like it, and because they can.
‘You are the smoldering vessel of punishment born to do nothing but justify us’
Insults on this album are delivered with impressive wit and disorientating speed. This is all backed up by El-P’s flamboyant production. The beats are even more colourful than on their debut, with one track sporting drumming from Travis Barker, another containing synths that sound like they’re straight out of Blade Runner. Everything is so hi-octane it’s difficult to know what to zone into. It’s like watching an explosion packed action movie in 3D.
However, beneath the theatrics there seems to be some depth too. This is not a Michael Bay blockbuster, but rather a Tarantino or a Scorsese hit. ‘Love Again’ is so dirty and sexually explicit, it at first seems repulsive. However, on closer inspection it seems to be mocking the hypersexual attitudes of other rappers with Killer Mike referencing ‘alpha arrogance’, El-P taking his verse to almost rapey levels and guest star, Gangsta Boo, representing female sexuality more aggressively than any female rapper has dared or wanted to before.
Arguably, the amount of guest stars doesn’t quite give the record the two-people-vs-the-world feel that was so exciting on the band’s debut (which it's important to point out happened to be my favourite album of 2013). The debut also had novelty to it that this record obviously can’t achieve. However, RTJ2 makes up for these lacking components with more diverse instrumentation and an upped intensity. It's without a doubt the most thrilling, fun and cohesive album I’ve heard all year. Hell, Run the Jewels could well be in the running for this year’s top spot too.