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.