Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Top Songs of the Year //

So its that time of year again.

So the top ten is below, but here is another 20 that I haven't put in any particular order:

Me and the devil // Gil Scott-Heron // (XL)
The Let Down // George Fitzgerald // (Hotflush)
Maybes (James Blake Remix) // Mount Kimbie // (Hotflush)
Love cry (Joy Orbison Remix) // Four Tet // (Domino)
Eyesdown (Floating Points Remix) // Bonobo (feat. Andreya Triana) // (Ninja Tune)
Before // Scuba // (Hotflush)
Red Lights // Holy Fuck // (Young Turks)
See Birds (moon) // Balam Acab // (Tri Angle)
Odessa // Caribou // (City Slang)
Wut // Girl Unit // (Night Slugs)
Crossed Out // Pariah //(R&S)
Stableface // Eleven Tigers // (Soul motive)
India lately // Gold Panda // (Notown)
Fram // Blawan // (Hessle)
Theives in the night // Hot Chip //(EMI)
Evelyn // Fabtastic Mr Fox // (Black Acre)
Deadness // darkstar // (Hyperdub)
Pow Pow // LCD Soundsytem // (DFA)
King Night // Salem // (Sony)
... and the world laughs with you // Flying Lotus (feat. Thom Yorke) // (Warp)

Top 10:

10// Journey to the Core of the Unknown Sphere // Space Dimension Controller // (Clone Royal Holland)

9 // Hologram // These New Puritans // (Domino)

8 // Night Air (Ramadanman Refix) // Jamie Woon // (Cadent Sounds)

7 // Rubber // Yuck // (Fat Possum)

6 //Black Gold // Foals // (Transgrassive)

5 //I'll Stay // James Blake // (R&S)

4 // Chem Trails // No Age // (Sub Pop)

3 // Field // Mount Kimbie // (Hotflush)

2 // I Only Know (What I Know Now) // James Blake // (R&S)


1 // So Derobe // Joy Orbison // (Aus)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Fireworks (feat. Alicia Keys) (Deadboy Slo-Mo House Edit) // Drake // Self Released

Apperently, Deadboy isn't that keen on Drake, as his remix of Fireworks does not contain any of his rapping, despite it being his track. What it does have is Alicia Keys vocal, but pitchshifted so to be unrecognizable, sounding more like some early 00's garage singer. In fact, the track is a complete reinvention, starting out with sparse piano chords (I would say influenced by James Blakes' Klavierwerke, but as far as I can tell this has been hanging round on the internet longer), and an understated house beat, with 2step syncopation propelling it along. Alicia keys vocal wraps round the skeleton, the repeating "all we see are fireworks" is strangely affecting as it shifits in and out of focus, and shifts up and down in pitch. With all the haunting melancholia it is no doubt greatly indebted to Burial, especially with the slow-burning bass hum. Deadboy flirted with the sadder, deeper side of bass music with last years great U Cheated EP, but on this track he has taken it to rediculous levels. But whatever, it is just a great track.



Tuesday, 30 November 2010

BB / Ladywell // Joy Orbison // Doldrums

Joy Orbison has kept a relatively low profile this year after the ridiculous amount of attention he got last year from Hyph Mngo. This is his first release since The Shrew Would Have Cushioned the Blow, which featured a much less immediate sound, but nevertheless had the tell tale signs of the talented producer. Also on that EP was an remix by Actress of The Shrew, which completely inverted the 2step track and transformed it into a stretched-out house tune, with all the weirdness and confidence of Actress' work.

That seems to have rubbed off on Joy Orb as BB and the flip Ladywell are almost unrecognisable as he has taken a step away from his 2step roots and created two gigantic house hits. BB is the most Actress influenced as a pitch-shifted vocal sample of someone muttering "they got us man", its seriousness is completely incongruous to the rest of the music, exactly like the vocal sample on The Shrew remix. It actually seems oddly similar to Jamie xx's remix of Gil-Scott Heron. The track has a very prominent 4/4 beat, which is to be expected, that acts as a skeleton for an immaculate bubbling synth riff, which is playful and flirts with a syncopated snare. The only remnant of the old Joy Orb is the distant rising synth.

Ladywell starts off very sparsely, it chugs along with a standard 4/4 beat and simple bass line, but this is used as a framework for the copious and idiosyncratic sounds he throws on top. First a vocal sample (this time singing) is dialed in with a simple riff, almost like a ringtone. But the initial simplicity becomes chaotic as spiralling synth riffs join, sometimes they mix together, sometimes they don't; it is very spontaneous and organic. That with the snare being introduced out of nowhere, the track soon becomes very unpredictable. Unfortunately it ends too soon, but both tracks show an amazing new side to Joy Orb, especially after some dismissed him as a one-hit-wonder.



Monday, 29 November 2010

NY is Killing Me // Jamie xx (?) // (young turks / xl)

Jamie Smith has been a busy man. Fresh from winning the Mercury prize with The xx, he has remixed a string of high profile artists, and even has a single forthcoming on Numbers records. But today there was a big reveal: he is remixing the entire of Gil Scott-Heron's album I'm New Here, (called We're New Here) with NY is Killing Me as the first glimpse.

The idea could really work well as Jamie's style requires great vocal samples to manipulate and contort into inhuman shapes, so the great range of emotions and tones of Gil Scott-Herons voice is ample ammunition for an album. NY is Killing Me is a great showcase Jamie Smiths' technique, the rough old-man vocals of Gil sound even more world weary when piercing through the clean half-time beat and throbbing bass; distinctly contrasting with the dark, dancey backdrop. For the first minute I was worried Jamie was afraid to distort the vocals out of respect, but soon a background pitch-shifted cry plays with the vocals, like distant conscience voices trying to be heard. And, as a whole, the repetitive beat and the echoey voice make it like and eerie dream, like half-remembering his tales in his corroded voice.

I am definitely excited to hear the whole album, which is released Feb next year.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Pariah // Safehouses EP // (r&s)

Pariahs 6-track EP is certainly grand in terms of length, but unfortunately he has not been able to craft something as spectacular as his previous R&S release Detroit Falls. Or at least the first couple of tracks are less than inspiring, taking a derivative approach in a scene (if you can call it that) which is devoted to creating new sounds and new beats.

Fortunately, perhaps with the pressure to produce a hit reduced, the EP picks up with Railroad. Upfront there is the funky beat, but the track has a melancholic core that is just hinted at; the flashes of sub bass, and the Burial like cries. Yes, this too isn't particularly forward thinking, but the production is crisp and full of subtleties: think more of a consolidation of Burial, Joy Orbison, Scuba and many other electonic artists, the crushed up drum'n'bass fill is an obvious theft from Ramadanman. The music is extremely dense and interesting to pick apart and the last four tracks are by no means boring, there are little flecks of synth and vocals that are constantly shifting and transforming. But is a little pedestrian, and you will have heard it all before, just perhaps not all on the same vinyl.

The eponymous and final last track is a fuzzed out, blissful soundscape, lacking beats. It functions as an unique turn for what is a reasonably good EP, and hints at future expositions into other sonic territories. There is a huge undercurrent of melancholia to all of Safehouses, and it is no surprise that 'melancholia' is another term for nostalgia: this is knowingly indebted to his precursors, the distant piano chords and sound of a playground on C-Beams shows that Arthur Cayzer is deliberately basking in the fun of theses past tunes. It is just too bad he did not attempt to break new ground, because he has the potential to be massive.


Crossed Out:

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Twisted Voices: Interesting Pitchfork Article //


Pitchfork often gets a load of flack, but this article is very well-thought out, it really taps into the big movement of using processed vocals for great emotional impact. I can't help but feel there could be a load more names on the list, but nevertheless there are some great tunes that I may get round to reviewing.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Lucky Shiner // Gold Panda // (notown)

Over the course of a few relatively low-key releases, Gold Panda has carved himself a neat little niche in the current electronic landscape. He creates dance songs written about a forever on/off relationship with the east, using old, forgotten samples that are chopped up and sequenced rhythmically with the beat. The singles he has released have all been short snapshots into his interesting production technique, and it was no surprise Quitters Raga gained him a load of attention. The release after that, You (the first song of the album, not the last), whilst pretty, frustratingly seemed to be the same song with different samples. I cannot say I wasn't slightly worried that he had used up his creativity; a whole album of it could get boring very quickly.

No worries as Gold Panda's obsession with the east is fascinating for the listener to pry in on; Oriental influences are omnipresent on the album but never dominating, like he was writing standard dance songs but could not help but include them. The album is an aural recount of months spent in an entirely different culture; he exudes the confusion and fascination that any foreigner has in a strange country, especially the humbleness of ignorance at a daunting new way of life: never imposing himself, simply observing. This child-like interest perhaps has lead to the delicate and exquisitely pretty songs, which, unlike many of his contemporaries, seem happy to be so beautifully uncompromising (even unchallenging, if you ignore the negative aspects of the term), the music is able to exist just as it is without demanding the listeners attention. Lucky Shiner is a postcard sent back home to the listener: modest, spontaneous and desperate to convey more than the sum of its parts; even the packaging of the CD is basic but earnestly interesting.

Strangely, Gold Panda has stuck to his tried-and-tested rhythmic structure, but it becomes as essential to the whole album as the drums do. Instead of seeming overdone, they become his natural means of expression, playing with the repetitive riffs with background melodies and the beat. The repetition is like the endless travelling he must have undertook in Asia, it is both necessary and guides the listener through the album, whilst also used to build the tracks into climaxes like in standard dance music. India Lately is the best example of this, a small riff that is the forefront of the first half of the track is brought back after disappearing, both re- contextualised against the clatter of live drums and acting as a reminder of the change the track has been through.

However, for a brief period around the half way mark the music seems to complacent in being just pretty enough, and while never being boring or uninteresting, it lacks the dynamism of the rest of the album. This perhaps is the only downfall of Lucky Shiner, it seems sometimes too wrapped up in its own little daydream to be able to convey the experience to the listener, and instead just flows on by, and tracks merge into one another without change. That said, the album is undeniably a very pretty one, and deeper than one may expect from the previous releases. Gold Panda has accomplished something very special in Lucky Shiner, he is able to take the listener on a journey without the audacity to act as any kind of authority, these are his mixed-up memories, dreams, wishes for the listener to get lost in.

You can listen to the entire album here:

Monday, 8 November 2010

Something Different // Foals Covers //

With all the work I have at the moment I have been reasonably busy, so I haven't been up to any music reviews. So I thought I would mix it up a bit and write about something else, and anyway recently I have discovered some Foals covers (that is foals covering other bands) which deserve a listen.

Super Inuit (Holy Fuck Cover)

So this pretty much sounds nothing like the original, but the distortion makes a great change from their usual crispy clean sound.

One (Your Name) (Swedish House Mafia Cover)

The main riff is real easy to play on bass, and fun too.

Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani Cover)

The Bed's Too Big Without You (Police Cover)

Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears Cover)

Monday, 25 October 2010

Bunch of Tracks

Jamie XX // Far Nearer //

Ramadanman // Pitter //

James Blake // Limit To Your Love (Fiest Cover) //

Gold Panda // India Lately //

I may actually write these up later, I will see how things go

oh, and this

Monday, 4 October 2010

Rubber // Yuck // (Pharmacy Recording Company/ Fat Possum)

Yuck have announced their début album, which should be coming out early next year, and this track has been confirmed to be on the track list. Their previous songs have been awesome slices of shoegazey pop, but Rubber takes a darker, slower-paced, stretched-out turn, exposing an angrier, more disdainful side of their respective characters, which has been funnelled into this powerful 7 minute track. One guitar and the bass are dense like sludge, whilst another wistful guitar jangle plays over the top which creates a strange tension of power and delicacy. It neatly mirrors the ambivalent despair of the lyrics, "should I give in?" (which is suitably quiet, submerged in the noise) soon changes to "yes I give in" as the jangly guitar disappears. Yuck don't try to hide their influences and they show a certain element of knowing fun, after all their riffs are immense and lyrics are easy to sing along with. They could well help usher in the 90's revival which seems inevitable after the 80's revival of the last few years, but has not quite happened yet.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Interesting article on the Guardian website //

"The music, which to some extent - speaking traditionally, as a voice of God, about a world where the music is God - is as close to prog as it is to house, drum'n'bass and jazz rock, sounds at its best and purest like it has always existed but we're only just hearing it. It exists just outside of time, between sudden quiet and sudden change, between being hyperlocal and instantly global, between particular space and all space."


Thursday, 30 September 2010

Klavierwerke EP // James Blake // (r&s)

There's an obscure argument for the existence for god that says that while an almighty being creating the universe is impressive, an almighty being who has some hindrance to his creative ability yet nevertheless manages to create the universe means that is even more impressive. Therefore (apparently) it follows that the most impressive thing of all would be for the supreme being to have the hindrance of not existing and still being able to create the universe, QED god exists. Of course the argument in this case is ridiculous, but in the unique case of James Blake the logic somehow holds. That is, the less actual sound he puts on a record, perversely the better the music is. Soon he will cover John Cage's 4:33 and it will be the best thing in the world.

So Kalvierwerke exists as disparate sounds spread thinly over a skeleton of silence, each piano arpeggio, each mournful sigh of Blakes' own voice painstakingly timed with expert precision. In the eponymous opening track, simple club throb accompanies the mix; distant and subdued like it is coming through the wall of an cold apartment at 2 in the morning. The vocal murmurs, and the empty instrumentation conspire to create an ethereal yet deeply emotional overtones. Any influence from dubstep seems ridiculous: this music exists in its own vacuum separate from the present; it takes as much inspiration from classical music, which is where the name originates too.

I Only Know (What I Know Now) is the best track on the EP, but all the tracks are similarly simple and imbued with paralysing loneliness. All these words seem to fail to describe something so beautifully pure and isolated, words are too verbose, ambiguous, crude to express the minutiae of the details of this exceptional release.

It can be heard on Spotify now:

Friday, 27 August 2010

Fram // Blawan // (hessle audio)

Little is known about Blawan apart from that he is from Leeds and is signed to Hessle audio, and has released this impressive 12-inch. Both of the tracks are built on a skeleton of a tight dubstep beat, sparsely accompanied by whispers and sub-bass flicks. He may use the same formula on either track, but the intricacies of the beats are enough to drive the waxing and waning of the subdued synth ever onward. The whispers, omnipresent and ever hidden are a conversation that you can't quite discern in a crowded club, adding a slight hint of anxiety to the moody forefront. The components may be few and and simplistic, but they play off each other to create a danceable, if oppressive atmosphere. He may not do much to differentiate himself from his peers (Pangaea, for starters), but the tracks, Iddy especially, are a great introduction to this mysterious producer.




Saturday, 21 August 2010

Forever Dancing // Masks // (fear & records)

A record with the word "dancing" used to be a pretty straightforward signifier that it was a dance record. But perhaps I have been jaded by songs like We still got the taste of dancing on our tongues by Wild Beasts so that now the word "dancing"seems too eerily simplistic to be used in the title of a dance song. The word is superfluous: if you are meant to dance to a song, you'll know about it by listening to it, and besides, "dancing" seems too twee a label, when compared with "skank".

Anyway, the eponymous opener does nothing to change my view of that word, as Forever Dancing opens with a jangly guitar line, but soon a monolithic and distorted guitar rumble piles on top, and so the record goes: the two piece add layer upon layer to their sound creating a dense but penetrable wall of noise. They harness the sound with a repetitive and fairly simple drum beat, but their biggest trick is an apparently offbeat electronic high hat that spontaneously joins the pounding bass and snare drums, a similar trick seen on many dance (there's that word again) records, revealing an innate rhythmic core.

Tribal Fangs doesn't hesitate with the house influence, opening with a four-on-the-floor beat, as an abrasive guitar noise rises. Masks make the best of the contrasting ideals of dance beats and noise music, much like Fuck Buttons on their second album, but here the songs are shorter and more accessible whilst including a more upfront melancholic edge; there is a definite shoegaze undercurrent on these tracks also. Unfortunately, the middle track I covered myself in furs plays the emotional edge too far forward and seems like it is trying too hard to be "epic", which is a shame as the second half is stellar.


Thursday, 19 August 2010

Run Overdrive / Fuck Youth // Civil Civic // (self-released)

Like a Death from Above 1979 for 2010 , Civil Civic makes heavy, lo-fi dance-punk; anarchic in sound but not in tedious political ideology. The band is only a duo, Aussie ex-pats Ben (on bass) and Aaron (on guitar), but they make so much noise that you would never notice. Their overflowing energy means they never stay long on one idea, the tunes wind around myriad riffs, which are tinted with just enough emotional impact to make a vocalist unnecessary: call it a cliche, but they let their guitars do the talking.

Run Overdrive / Fuck Youth is a so-called double b-side, but this label gives the wrong impression as their music isn't modest or humble in the slightest. Actually, Run Overdrive does open with a wistful and melancholic riff, but 30 seconds later it explodes with huge bass and astral synths, before heading into synth-less 'verses' with slight emotional inflections. It is the sound of manic depression, and I would love to hear some lyrics that can keep up with the mood.

Fuck Overdrive is more straightforward in it's state of mind, starting with an aggressive grungey riff which opens up into a great dance-punk chorus, including liberal use of whammy bars. Both songs are insanely dancey and unapologetic about it too. They could do with a live drummer as the repetitive drum machine seems out of place.

Run Overdrive by civilcivic

Fuck Youth by civilcivic



Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Camera Day // Flying Lotus // (warp)

Not much time has passed since potential album-of-the-year Cosmogramma was released, yet FlyLo has announced a forthcoming EP entitled Pattern+Grid World, and Camera Day is the promo track.

It shows a departure from his jazz influence and instead relies on an unusually chilled out beat and 8-bit sounds. It is quite interesting, and features some impressive stereo effects, but I can't help but be slightly underwhelmed after his incredible previous work. However, the track may work better in the context of the whole EP, so I won't get too disappointed at the moment. The EP, with the creepy artwork above is release on September 21, on Warp.

Flying Lotus - Camera Day (taken from Pattern+Grid World) by Warp Records

Island Barbados // Ghost Hunter // (house anxiety)

Island Barbados is the first proper release from the Sheffield based producer Ghost Hunter. The track fits loosely into the post-dubstep style, but sounds more like an electonica cover of the chillwave stuff coming out of the US at the moment, like Memory Tapes. Swirling synth lines contrast with the heavy, mechanical beat creating a rigid but organic feel to the track, whilst also having an extended ambient coda (outro) for the come down. It is a very solidly produced track, yet much like some Mount Kimbie tracks, it isn't particularly attention grabbing, requiring a dedicated listen to pick up on the nuances. Not that this is a bad thing, but seems unusually modest for a first single.



Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Crooks & Lovers // Mount Kimbie // (hotflush)

There was very little to go by to guess what this record would sound like, but the hype surrounding this release has been incredible nonetheless .Mount Kimbie have vaguely come from the disparate dubstep scene, yet they have obviously distanced themselves by incorporating a wide variety of other styles, especially minimalism. I don't want to get too hung up on pigeonholing the band or the record, for one it is boring and secondly this LP is so sparse, so formless and so natural that it stands on it's own.

Mount Kimbies' two EPs showcased a sleek production sense, a juxtaposing sparse areas of sound with areas of complex beats. The songs where highly complex and protean, swapping intense beats for blissed-out melancholia at a moments' notice. On Crooks & Lovers the two-piece has used the larger canvas the format offers to draw out this dynamic over 35 minutes, heightening the contrasts of dubstep-inspired beats and ambient soundscapes, extracting huge emotional power from minor changes. The process, surprisingly, is entirely natural and what is most striking is the bands' confidence to be so subtle and minimalistic on their first major release. It just shows that they have a clear vision of what they want to create.

Furthermore, the inclusion of live instrumentation has warmed what was some coldly electronic parts of the EPs. The first track Tunnelvision and near-identical mid-track Adriatic feature a sampled acoustic guitar over a shuffling beat, while Field acts as the antithesis of the duos defining track Maybes featuring a lofi guitar in its second half. The live instruments are fittingly modest, being mainly the acoustic guitar on nearly half of the tracks, and a broken harpsichord on the swaggering Before I Move Off, which allows the band to use them live. Not to say that the album is completely pastoral, Carbonated and Ruby both explore very electronic worlds, the latter sounding similar to Burial. Like Burials' Untrue the album flows between songs effortlessly, with the intention of creating an overarching atmosphere rather than individual songs.

Overall, the album seems like a sleeping giant, the craftsmanship and attention to detail is exquisite, yet it seems that it could rear it's at any time and get frantic. The closest it comes are on the closing tracks Field and Mayor, where the beat gets more insistent and, on the latter track, funkier. Their place in the album shows that Domonic Maker and Kai Campos are intelligent DJs, using the short time on the album to create and release tension; idea that the music could explode spontaneously. It is a shame that it never quite does, but the rhythmic and emotional journey that Mount Kimbie take the listener on is more than enough to make up for it.

Mount Kimbie - Would Know (from Crooks & Lovers) by Hotflush


Monday, 16 August 2010

Georgia // Yuck //

No picture as this hasn't been released as a single yet, but the band really caught my attention at Field Day.

My journalism skills have failed me and I can't find much information about Yuck, except that some of them were in Cajun Dance Party. No worries however as the band itself is much easier to describe; they are a 4 piece who make some brilliant 90's sounding alternative rock. Georgia is possibly the best of a few songs that sound similar, with a grungey and slightly shoegazey sound not dissimilar to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, whilst the same four people release slower, stripped down songs under the name Yu(c)k. This song works as it has a wistful feel as the voices are drowned out by loud guitars. It may be a bit formulaic, but the riffs are great and very evocative of the sound of their inspirational bands, imbuing the track with a distant and daydreamy vibe that a lot of other bands aim for but miss. They are solid live, as well, so are well worth looking out for.



Saturday, 14 August 2010

Glitter // No Age // (sub pop)

So It's been a while since I updated this blog, but this new track from No Age has inspired me to continue writing. It's the first single from No Ages' Third album Everything In Between, after their awesome LP Nouns and the slightly experimental Losing Feeling EP. Although the LA two piece's sound is pretty easily identifiable, the new track follows from the EP with a slightly laid back vibe, a sharp contrast to the frenetic punk seen on the previous album. Paradoxically, Dean Spunt's voice seems emphatically sneering, fed-up, and desperate, having been unveiled from behind the usual wails of guitar. Musically, Randy Randalls noisy guitar has been sampled and twisted creating a surprisingly understated drone which covers the track, more of a distant rumble of thunder in the distance rather than a full-on storm. Their new live musician has allowed them to play with their sound more, utilising loops and guitar samples without fear of being unable to recreate the sound live, a mix of lo-fi ideals and hi-fi equipment and techniques.

No Age - Glitter by subpop



Thursday, 17 June 2010

A Town Called Obsolete (Mount Kimbie Remix) // Andreya Triana // (ninja tune)

Honestly, Andreya Triana is a paradox. Her two singles, A Town Called Obsolete and Lost Where I Belong are both delicate, minimal songs, a fairly standard mix of soul and folk, yet she has garnered the attention from the opposite end of the musical spectrum: Bonobo and Flying Lotus, as well as being remixed by some of my favourite new artists Floating Points and now Mount Kimbie. Her sullen, beautiful voice is the magnet attracting these helpless dance acts, it plays so well against the often cold instrumentation of the electronic noises and rigid beats. She adds the soul to the robotic bleeps of the computers; she is the ghost in the machine.

Mount Kimbie's music, however, is densely layered and often sounds very organic: uniquely unrepetitive and emotional. But on this remix they have created an uncharacteristically rythmic beat, which drives the lonely vocal line forward amongst the swirling synth lines. Burial-like off-beat bass flares also accompany her voice, like electronic wails in reaction to the deeply melancholic vibe. Andreya works so well in this situation it is a shame that she does not work with these guys on a regular basis as an album produced by any or all of the aforementioned artists could be spectacular.

Listen to it here:

Thursday, 10 June 2010

CMYK // James Blake // (r&s)

When the beat kicks in at just after the 1:00 mark, the tune feels like it has like it has settled into comfortable, driving rhythm. But it just can't stay still, the tune leaps and flips like it is uncomfortable motionless, starting and stopping; it practically has ADHD. This is what separates Blake from many of his contemporaries, who instead set up a groove and stick with it for a track. He completely subverts this idea, twisting the song through 2Step, house and plenty other ideas within just a few bars. The mashed up samples of Aaliyah and Kelis (I had to look them up) seem so incongruous with the sleek production but they add drama to this hyperactive treat.

I've got to add this awesome video of him and Mount Kimbie live:

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Weakness / The Let Down // George Fitzgerald // (hotflush)

I've been meaning to write about George Fitzgerald for ages, and I have just found out that he has a release due on Hotflush in July so this is as good a time as any to write about him. Also at this early time the details of the release are sketchy so no cover art or any exact details, but the songs are on Soundcloud anyway.

George Fitzgerald follows in the same vein as the other stuff coming out of Hotflush at the moment, not dubstep, but not not dubstep either: post-dubstep or bass music or whatever you want to call it. On Weakness George Fitzgerald builds an understated, chilled synth around an insistent garage beat, accompanied by a distorted male vocal line that develops into a tribal chant by the end of the tune, a cry for summoning the rising synth. Fitgerald plays the chilled beats against the intricate foreground melodies, so, like much of the current output from Hotflush, is both dancey and cerebral.

The Let Down is a more straightforward dance tune, but plays out in much the same way as Weakness, featuring a recurring female vocal sample on top of a repeating synth line. It still maintains an understated, calm atmosphere which contrasts against the undisclosed emotion of the vocal.

Weakness by George FitzGerald

and here's another tune by him, just because it is so good:

Friday, 21 May 2010

Cosmogramma // Flying Lotus // (warp)

Flying Lotus' process for creating this album seems almost absurdly simple. Take some jazzy instrumentation, a pinch of synth, and pin it to some thumping beats taken from anywhere on the dance music spectrum and scramble them all together. Simple. Too simple to work, even.

On the first listen, however, it is clear that Flying Lotus has undertaken a seriously complex proposition, and secondly, and more importantly; that it works so well. Throughout the LP spectral electronics weave around live sax and bass - all the time anchored to that incessant thumping beat, but never clashing. FlyLo plays the inherent intensity of the videogame sounds against the laid back, sweeping strings to create an ethereal atmosphere. At times he disposes element to reveal the other, flipping the mood from calm and starry-eyed to aggressively dancey in an instant. The tunes are often chaotic, but the rhythms act as a guide through the noise while the melodies spiral away: you never feel like it gets too much to be fun.

For an ostensibly electronic musician, signed to Warp and with releases on Hyperdub, some of the best moments on Cosmogramma are the raw and organic live sax, harp and bass from the superbly talented Thundercat, making the album more immediately penetrable than with the mechanical noises that dominate the myriad electronic music the record takes influences from. His aunt, Alice Coltrane, has had a very clear influence on the FlyLo, he has re-contextualised the unpredictable improvisation and pure passion of the live instruments in an harsh, rigid environment, creating something that seems so unique yet so obvious that it is strange it has never been done (at least successfully) before.

The album works as a cohesive whole, the individual songs often seem like arbitrary delimitations. That said, ...And the World Laugh With You stands because of Thom Yorkes presence, but his vocals are sampled and manipulated, showing FlyLo has not let Yorkes celebrity override his artistic vision, which would be all to easy to do. Do The Astral Plane also screams attention, and is the best example of his apparent disregarding of any concept of genre, featuring scat, swooping strings, crunching synth whilst remaining incredibly dancey.

With Cosmogramma Flying Lotus has crammed an immense amount of ideas, rhythms, beats and instrumentation into 45 minutes. The most staggering thing is that, despite the layering and complexity of it all it somehow is so accessible and immediate; the hooks will be caught in your head for days, whilst offering so much to listen to that it also has immense re-playability. FlyLo said that he wished to create a space opera with the album, but the journey through the stars that it takes you on is so knowingly fun that it seems much more like a space panto.

Flying Lotus - Zodiac Shit by sopedradamusical

Flying Lotus - Computer Face, Pure Being by inertiamusic

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Fields // Mount Kimbie //

Mount Kimbie have announced their début LP Crooks and Lovers is due on July 19th, and one song Fields is available to listen to now. As anything vaguely electronic and around 140 bmp is called dubstep, this duo are technically just that, but they're so different form the norm that they cause critics to come up with silly sounding alternatives: "post-dubstep" or "bass music". But nevermind the taxonomy, all that matters is how it sounds.

Fields builds round an alternating high-then-low sweeping noise. After a minute it drops out, replaced by an incongruous lo-fi acoustic guitar. As it plays, electronic noises creep round the edges and the original rhythm peaks through the gaps - ending before you can absorb it all. Mount Kimbie are just giving us a tiny peak of what could be one of the best début albums of the year.

Check out the, err, unusual cover to Crooks and Lovers here:

And listen to Fields over at the Resident Advisor

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Total Life Forever // Foals // (transgressive)

When Foals burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, nu-rave was in full swing, and all the indie kids (including me) loved their intense, dancey vibe. Their first album went down a treat, but in interviews Yannis and co. gave the impression that they wanted to experiment more, slightly uncomfortable with their hype. Total Life Forever is a definite response to this, where the band has expanded their sound into an eclectic range of styles.

Black Gold is the best example of their new direction: it starts with a Police-esque groove, diving into a blissed out chorus, before dropping the funk and building up to a gigantic sonic release. Many of the songs, including album teaser Spanish Sahara, utilise this build and release structure; in fact many songs have (at least) minute long intros. This marks a big difference to Antidotes where it was all build; the lack of any considerable release made the album tremendously claustrophobic.

The lyrics, too, are a much larger part of the music than on Antidotes, where the vocals where little more than squawks. Yannis has taken on a spectrum of different ideas, but overall the lyrics strike the listener as elemental: the deep blue of the cover is an indicator of the raw imagery and vivid colours that dominate the music. Furthermore, Yannis' new singing voice carries some quite heavy topics; global warming, orientalism, post-colonialism, just to name a few. Often his cryptic lyrics are strangely affecting, but sometimes it feels as though Yannis is out of his depth.

Luckily, the album is not entirely devoted to the "epic" songs, and where the band seem to be having the most fun, on Miami and the eponymous Total Life Forever, is where the listener has the most fun also. The twitchy guitars are constrained into funky riffs and are going to be as big indie club tunes as any of their previous work. In fact, Total Life Forever only suffers in the bridge, the awkward chant of "the singularity is here to stay" interrupting what otherwise is a class-A tune.

Overall this new direction sees to differentiate the band from the landfill indie bands who they were just on the fringes of. The album, as a whole, seems very similar to what Bloc Party did after Silent Alarm, they too dropped their main sound and tackled some heavier issues. Bloc Party, however, couldn't rise up to their new Radiohead aspirations, but Foals have created an album, for the myriad styles, that works as a cohesive and thematic whole, but without losing the dancey fun that generated all that hype in the first place. One word of caution to the listener: The songs are layered and complex so the album demands several listens through before it makes sense.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Good Shoes @ Wedgewood Rooms - Portsmouth // 24.05.10 //

+Support from Is Tropical

Sentence unfriendly trio Is Tropical opened the gig. They must stylize themselves as sound terrorists - covering their faces with hair and bandannas, attacking the audiences' eyeballs with a strobe flash on each beat, perhaps in the hope that it would disguise their unintentional assault on ears. Their music was a bland and lifeless form of electro-rock, and they looked ridiculous - especially as support for the much more sensible Good Shoes.

Good Shoes music, on the last two albums at least, was stifled. Their apparent urgency just didn't quite reach the listener's ears in the way that it should, the intervening technology destroying that vital energy. But live, Rhys Jones singing (usually shouting) and the band's frenetic playing, the is alive. Take Morden, for example; slightly repetitive on the Think Before You Speak LP, but live, with the crowd going mad, the band jump around the stage like they love what they are doing. The one downside to their live sound is that the intricate guitar lines smudge together in all the energy, but it doesn't spoil the fun.

Tenderoni // Kele Okereke //

In Bloc Party's later days, frontman Kele Okereke had tried to shift the band from it's original Sonic Youth-inspired roots to something far more danceable and electronic. Bloc Party's hiatus has allowed Kele to explore these new directions without any of the constraints of being a touring band; i.e. the songs don't have to be guitar based.

But listening to Tendoroni, the first release from the upcoming album The Boxer, Kele isn't so much "exploring" as following what has already been done: without even listening to the song the unusual name has been used by Chromeo, and the album title used by The National. The song itself is reminiscent of Bloc Partys later music like One More Chance as it seems lazy, the lyrics are essentially trite (here they are very similar to his lyrics on Your Visits are Getting Shorter) and musically uninspired. The synth, too, is exactly the same as the synth on Wiley's club hit Wearing My Rolex; this song is practically a remix. It has the potential to be a club hit, but that isn't saying much.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

You // Gold Panda // (notown records)

Gold Panda released Quitters Raga last year after having his previous tunes float around the internet for a while. His many prior tracks where all very different, drawing on an eclectic range of influences to create very beat driven electronic music. However, after the strange vocal melody of Quitters Raga proved to be so popular, it seems that Gold Panda has played it safe with his latest release and folowed the same formula.

The track has a similar highly distorted, cut-up vocal, which evokes the image of a DJ pushing a button on a keyboard or a sequencer rather than someone singing. The juxtoposition of the organic feel of the voice with the mechanicalness of the context is what makes the new track You so exciting, despite the fimiliarity. The fleeting glimpses of voice actually evoke a longing, and the inabilty to understand what is being sung only furthers this feeling.

Still, his best tune isn't Quitters Raga but the much more relaxed Back Home.

You by Gold Panda

Back Home by Gold Panda

This is Happening // LCD Soundsystem // (dfa)

So This is Happening has finally happened, and the album has been leaked despite James Murphy's pleads to gig-goers not to. In response, the entire 65 minute long album was posted on the DFA website, for anyone to hear. Although I generally avoid downloading leaked albums, I had to sympathise with the guy who did so and those who downloaded it as the hype for the album has been humongous; I mean who can blame them when this guy made All My Friends and Someone Great!

So the album itself. It starts innocuously enough, as Mr Murphy croons over a drum beat and simple synth, his vocals giving a warm introduction to the listener. But at three minutes in, the beat drops and the knife-like synth rises, exploding into a cathartic and very danceable groove. Following on is Drunk Girls and is the most obviously poppy and fun song which is definitely meant to be the lead single, and deliberately ironic considering the song You Wanted a Hit. One Touch is the third track, which maintains an aggressive synth bass sound for the duration of the track, with a repetitive chirping synth on top, against Murphy and Nancy Whang's robotic shout of "One touch is never enough". The lyrics are slightly nonsensical, like on the song Sound of Silver, as this is a purely aggressive dance track.

The mood shifts with All I Want, which is built around one distorted guitar lines, which is unusual for LCD Soundsystem. Murphy is as close to singing as he ever gets, creating a similar melancholic vibe as All My Friends, but he has wisely stayed clear of trying to emulate that song completely. A warm synth rises against the guitar track, and slowly overtakes it; this is the most rock and heart-on-the-sleave emotional the band gets. Gloriously, the guitar is mixed to the forefront so the lyrics are quite hard to distinguish.

I Can Change raises the mood again with fun 80's synths, showing what's great about Murphy's analogue sensibilities, as the apparently repetitive synth riffs are actually quite dynamic and nuanced. Despite quite an emotional lyrical theme, Murphy shows he isn't being too serious: "Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry / And this is coming from me".

All this has been mere foreplay to the two biggest tunes of the album: You Wanted a Hit and Pow Pow. The former begins with a pretty synth intro, until the bass and drums builds, and the synth drops out. The core of this song is sparse and minimalistic, broken with only an angry guitar riff. Murphy "sings" wryly over the top, exuding a subtly angry atmosphere, most likely directed at the record label. The chorus, however, is quite fun: "we won't be your babies / till you take us home". Pow Pow would fit well with the material off of the first album, as it is similar in lyrical style to both Yeah (how could it not be, with a title like that?) and the deeply self aware and ironic Losing My Edge. Murphy repeats "from this position" over a sparse bongo filled beat. The song has the most fun lyric of the whole album "we have a black president and you do not, so shut up". Both these songs show Murphys confidence and wit in his lyrics and sparseness of production, managing to create so much out of so little. They both last about 9 minutes, but the time passes in a breeze.

Somebody's Calling Me, unfortunately, is not quite as good as the rest. Perhaps it will grow on me, but the simple piano line seems lazy and quite abrasive. Not to dwell on the bad stuff, Home starts to build in a similar way to All My Friends with a repetitive synth, but drops into a bassy groove after a couple of minutes, and Murphy showcases some nice vocal melodies, for a change. A very calm and understated way to end the album.

The verdict is that, as the final LCD album, Murphy has ended (as well as starting) on a high. It is, in places, better than anything else he has ever done. But weather it is better than Sound of Silver is a very difficult one to call.

Stream the album here:

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Eyesdown (Floating Points remix) // Bonobo // (ninja tune)

My blog hasn't been for going all that long but already I have devoted an inordinate amount of words toward Floating Points, because, honestly, he's my favourite thing in music at the moment. His remix of Bonobo's Eyesdown is, unbelievably, possibly his best tune to date.

The melancholic mood evoked by the sullen female vocals and the jittery synth is erily beautiful and immediately striking, unlike some of his other tracks that are more slow-burning. Still, he doesn't lose any of the subtlety that his prior tracks exploited to create hypnotic and dynamic tracks despite their simplicity. FP also creates huge space in the track for the wistful vocals and synth to play about in; it seems as though Sam Shephard is (deservedly) becoming more confident in his production.

Hear the track here:

Bonobo - 'Eyesdown' (Floating Points Remix) by Ninja Tune