Monday, 12 September 2016

Objekt- Kern Vol. 3

Image result for objekt kern vol. 3
Artist: Objekt
Album: Kern Vol. 3
Record Label: Tresor 
Release Date: 15th July 2016

In an age where dance music and club culture is one of the most viable gauges of forward-thinking youth abandon and streaming services continue to expand, it makes sense that the art of the mix is ever progressing as well. Berlin-based producer TJ Hertz (aka Objekt) has, since his break-out 12" Cactus/ Porcupine in 2012, become an embodiment of the notion that even in a digital age a vast gap exists between the act of searching for music and the actual listening experience. Kern Vol.3, his debut mix CD, supplies the backbone to the argument that DJ-ing shouldn't be easy, and that the smashing of expectations has somewhat become more exciting on the dance floor than fluidity. 

Squeezing thirty-six tracks into just over an hour and fifteen minutes, timing and judgement of execution is pivotal for Kern Vol.3, but it never really causes one to lose focus or track of textures, beauty of time signature changes. Thematically there's a certain sense of disconnection. Many of the transitions, like the stopping dead of the tape between Seldom Seen's 'So So So' and Final Cut's monstrous 'The Escape', don't really make sense, but the tension and eventual eruption is completely seductive. 

Whether the mix picks up a banging momentum or pauses for breath, the breaks and gaps often become part of the process. The off-kilter, sax-indebted bounce of Birdland's 'Can U Dance To My Edit?'- in turn a fitting mantra for the entire mix- blends seamlessly into Pollon's atmospherically infectious 'Lost Souls'. The mind-frying acid of TX81Z's 'Googol' into Polzer's searing 'Static Rectifier' is a prime example of the aforementioned pace this record gains. 

Arguably the most wilfully deconstructive segment comes a few moments later. The gorgeous, classical bent of Ondo Fudd's 'Blue Dot' arrives with pin-point precision, a transmission from a time and place lost in a whirlwind of techno chaos. It's only to be subsequently upended a few minutes later however, with a fusion of Rully Shabara's disturbing vocal melt-down 'Faring' and the dramatic drones of Yair Elazar Glotman's 'Oratio Continua'. 

Kern Vol.3 can seem uncompromising both on paper and in practise, but amid all the alien focus, sensitivity is never completely lost. There's plenty of eerie dystopia in the synth work of Echo 106's '100M Splutter', and the blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance of Anna Caragnano & Donato Dozzy's 'Love Without Sound' is every bit as reflective as it should be. The deep-end becomes a little too drawn-out within the last fifteen minutes or so, but does very little to degrade Hertz' often faultless understanding as a DJ. It's a mix that ultimately makes its focus the contrast between the light and the dark, the beautiful and the ugly, and in retrospect there aren't many better suited to giving the uninitiated a way in than TJ Hertz. 

8/10

Thursday, 8 September 2016

R.I.P. Fabric: A Commemorative Playlist



Image credit: Ewan Munro Flickr 

Just this morning, London night-life and youth culture was delivered a heavy blow in the closure of Fabric, perhaps the country's most esteemed venue for electronic music and enjoyment. After a six-hour hearing and vehement, heartfelt support for the club from a multi-tude of venue attendees and DJs alike, Islington Council imposed the verdict, citing two drug-related deaths which took place in June of this year as the chief reason. It described the behaviour of the club's drug-search policy as "inadequate and in breach of the license".

The news has largely been greeted by widespread anger and sadness. To many, Fabric's closure is a signifier of a wider agenda of the Establishment, the latest step in an ongoing campaign against the capital's culture which has seen the decline and closure of many smaller clubs and venues across the city over the last decade or so. Hessle Audio head-honcho Ben UFO- who's addition to the Fabric Live mix CD series is one of the most lauded- tweeted that this was "the end of a long and cynical campaign against the club by the police and Islington Council which started a long time before these recent deaths". Similarly, producer and DJ Bok Bok wrote: "This isn't really about drugs or door searches. Another step towards a city full of extortionate, empty properties and all privatised space".

The inherent argument about drugs and user safety is bound to be more contentious, but the idea that the closure of a night-club somehow makes younger people safer, especially in 2016, seems rather mute. In a world where drugs in the hand of street criminals accounts for a severe portion of drug-related injury and addiction, limiting one's options in terms of community and care-centric safe-spaces is counter-intuitive. The sense of unity that existed at Fabric has been cited by regular club-goers as being rather unlike anywhere else; in a passionate article by April Clare Walsh for FACT magazine, she makes the assertion that "from it's welcoming atmosphere to its zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment, Fabric was a place for unity".

Thankfully, it seems as though attempts to curtail and re-define London's culture has been dismissed on a powerful level. In a statement he gave this morning, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said "this decline must stop if London is to retain its status as a 24-hour-city with a world class night-life". There's support flooding through from people of many different persuasions and backgrounds, and it seems that people back action, whether it be through lobbying the club's constituency's local MP Emily Thornberry or donating to the Nightlife Matters campaign.

From a purely musical perspective, Fabric's importance and influence cannot be understated. Since first opening on the 21st October 1999 it has been host to some of electronic music's most legendary sets and performances. From its regular Saturday night residents Craig Richards and Terry Francis, to regular appearances from the likes of iconic, forward thinking masterminds like Ricardo Villalobos, Robert Hood and Marcel Dettmann, it has been a place to celebrate the most pounding, challenging and immersive electronic music has to offer. It has achieved wonders for the art of the mix as well via it's long- spanning FabricLive CD series, which for me was a pivotal, romantic board from which to dive into a sub-genre which has now become one that I hold very close to my heart. Ben UFO's Fabric: Live 67, for example, was a gaping gateway into not just the music for me, but the way in which boundaries can be pushed and expectations dissolved in the way records can be played together and bounced off of each other.

With that in mind, I've decided to create a playlist of tunes that I discovered through the legendary Fabric mix series. The playlist starts with The Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks', which was played as a closer by the late John Peel in one of the earliest editions to the series, and has since gone down as a defining moment in London clubbing history. It ends on The Walker Brothers' 'Nite Flights', which Simian Mobile Disco rounded their set off with. The epic sense of sky-gazing melody and doom-laden lyrics seem futuristically bleak. All of theses tunes, from the slinky, irresistible garage of Persian's 'Feel Da Vibe' to Mumdance & Novelist's banging off-kilter grime on '1 Sec', are responsible for some of the most profound moments of listening realisation I've had thus far.

The closure of Fabric may represent a thickening grey cloud over the city and youth's cultural heritage, but the music will always be profound to those who whom it sound-tracked formative experiences for, and people like me, who may not have delved so deeply into the music without it.

You can listen to the playlist via the Spotify web player HERE.



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Kitchen Sink: 5 Recent Records Reviewed

Image Credit: basietrane Flickr


Greetings all, 


Cheers, as always, for sticking with me and tuning in this time. Here are five brief reviews of albums released this year that I've been listening to a lot over the last couple of weeks or so. Most of them have been released within the last couple of months, with the exception of Radiohead, which came out in May. I would have loved to have given all these full reviews, but due to work and other commitments I haven't been able to. Hopefully there'll be another one of these within the next fortnight or so. I hope you find something you enjoy here. Happy reading! 

Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
XL Recordings, 10th May 2016

Just as lead-off single and album opener 'Burn The Witch' , with its dramatic strings and creeping underbelly suggested, Radiohead's 9th LP A Moon Shaped Pool finds them on haunting, remorselessly bleak and immersive ground. The album of theirs it shares most kinship with sonically is 2001's Amnesiac but in keeping with their most-lauded, rock-orientated '90s output thematically, it's the soundtrack to a keenly felt and deeply personal crisis of self in a time that seems to be drowning in existential doubt and gloom. It's their most coherent, fluid and organic album since Hail To The Thief; the wintry expansion of 'Daydreaming'  blending seamlessly into the soft but propulsive apocalypse of 'Decks Dark' is a prime succession early on. Even the less beat-centric tracks ('Desert Island Disk', 'Glass Eyes') come across as more wholesome and immersive than anything on The King Of Limbs. It's a beautiful, sumptuous album for late nights alone and, more importantly, it seems like Radiohead have become exactly what we need them to be again at exactly the right time. 

8/10

KA- Honor Killed The Samurai
Iron Works, 13th August 2016

In almost all of its sub-genres and idiosyncracies, Hip-Hop is an art form. Whether it be Future's codeine-drenched mumblecore or R.A. The Rugged Man's skull-duggery, all of it is designed to reflect and induce feelings, fears, and in the case of the more verbose rappers, actual proper stories. Despite what the New York Post  might attempt to tell you, veteran firefighter-by-day and dark-hearted narrator-by-night KA is one of the most dextrous in the game, and Honor Killed The Samurai might be the best rap record of the year so far. Impeccably cohesive, sewn together by a thorough mining of Samurai culture, wisdom and largely beat-less, cold and beautifully sad instrumentals, Honor... is a depth-ridden transmission from bleak, ground-level New York. Taking in his stride a life brought up in poverty, a community stricken with violence, police aggression and the need for humanitarian care and hope, KA's husky delivery suits the distance and despair on offer here perfectly. A masterpiece. 

9/10

Noname- Telefone
Self-released, 31st July 2016

Chicago MC Fatimah Warner (formerly performing under the guise Noname Gypsy) last burst in the wider-world's attention proper via her appearance on 'Lost', a track on Chance The Rapper's 2013 break-out mixtape Acid Rap. Telefone is her debut full-length venture under her new moniker and any notion that she might be riding the tip of a commercially acclaimed wave is due to be crushed by the sense of vigour, identity and talent which seeps from the pours of this 10-track tape. Backed throughout by smooth, glistening neo-soul production and endearingly reverent features and vocal hooks, Telefone carries itself with a touch of F. Scott Fitzgerald elegance and class masking personal malcontent and depressed honesty behind the facade of wealth and stardom. Setting this layered and textured precedent, Warner meanders her way through heartfelt nostalgia ('Diddy Bop'), race relations and political anguish ('Casket Pretty') and multiple but captivating odes to vice and romance while barely pausing for breath. All of it is delivered with strident character and candid wordsmithery that ensures Warner has set the foundations for a new identity all of her own. 

You can download Telefone for free HERE

8/10

Zomby- Ultra
Hyperdub, 2nd September 2016

Given that he's prone to being deliberately obtuse, one wonders how much of an idea of Zomby's it was to leave listeners wanting on his new full-length, Ultra. The star-gazing but doom-laden synth loops of opener 'Reflection' hint at something approaching an odyssey, but unfortunately for the most part this record falls short. Atmospheres and loops either out-stay their welcome without much in the way of progression (the aforementioned opener, 'Fly 2') or are so short that they feel half-finished ('Burst', 'Freeze', 'Yeti') and void what impact they may have had at their respective beginnings. The unstable, light-and-dark see-saw of 'E.S.P.' is a highlight, as is the layered, grime-leaning collaboration with Darkstar, 'Quandary'. 'Sweetz', however, a collab with Burial, is disappointingly dry and dissonant to the point of lacking direction. There's a small handful of tracks with real promise here, but ultimately there's not much to sink one's teeth into.

5/10

Jute Gyte- Perdurance 
Self-released, June 6th 2016

Man. It's all very well saying that that you like extreme music, or music that sets out to "challenge" you, but even baring those considerations in mind it's hard to imagine anyone with a palette strong and prepared enough for Jute Gyte's Perdurance. Definably a one-man black metal project from Missouri, the music on offer here is more akin to a sleep paralysis- induced nightmare soundtracked part by David Lynch, part by a possessed puppy. Opener 'At The Limit of Fertile Land' sets the stall out early with grinding out-of-tune guitar dissonance, fingernails-down-a-blackboard wails and forays into mindless electronic scree and ambience without ever really amounting to anything other than barbarism. There's some chunky grooves applied here and there but by the time centre-point 'Like The Woodcutter Sawing His Hands' comes around the commitment to discomfort is almost TOO exhausting to see the rest of the record out in one sitting. And none of that even approaches the utter horror of closer 'I Am in Athens and Pericles is Young'. Do I find this album commendable for its visionary ugliness? Absolutely. Will I ever listen to it again? Probably not. 

You can download the record from Jute Gyte's Bandcamp on a name-your-price basis HERE

4/10

Thanks for reading guys! Next time: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Teenage Fanclub and some more black metal, probably. 




Friday, 19 August 2016

Tombs- All Empires Fall


Image Credit: Samantha Marble Flickr


Artist: Tombs
Albums: All Empires Fall
Record Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: April 1st 2016


Amongst the plethora of bands in any given genre there are always those who seem to constantly have an understanding of quality control. Brooklyn's black/sludge/post-metallers Tombs have just three full-lengths to their moniker, but their driving ambition and staunch lust for experimentation mean that they've already grasped the art of pushing the boundaries without ever really sounding uncomfortable. 

All Empires Fall, a five-track EP which succeeds 2014's frankly stunning Savage Gold sees them pushing the boat out further into electronic, dystopian atmospheres and waters, finding them caught in the cross-hairs between Darkthrone and Vertical- era Cult Of Luna. In 'Obsidian' they've produced one of the finest, most scathing Black Metal assaults of the year. Furiously bleak and cascading, Mike Hill's hoarse shrieks cut right to the bone. 'Last Days of Sunlight' slows the tempo to a hypnotic, tribal crawl soaked in cavernous reverb. 

'Deceiver' starts life as a pulsating, singly-note synth-driven slice of dark futurism before evolving into a rollicking, mid-paced death 'n' roll banger, and closer 'V' reaches celestial heights as it progresses. 

Evolution and progression in BM, although vibrant, has been lauded and propositioned to the heavens at this point. Bands like Tombs, who get their heads down and are unique on their own terms, and the ones who we can trust with said evolution. All Empires Fall may not be as coherent as, say, 2011's Paths of Totality, but its expansive vision and brutal, tangible song-writing make it a fully engrossing listen. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'Obsidian', 'Deceiver', 'V'
For Fans Of: Inter Arma, Marduk 


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Wild Beasts- Boy King

Image Credit: Adam B Flickr


Artist: Wild Beasts
Album: Boy King
Record Label: Domino Recordings
Release Date: 5th August 2016

Kendal quartet Wild Beasts' prospective attitude towards sex and sexuality has always tip-toed along the line between garishness and sensuality, between blunt suggestion and a multi-layered literacy. Their fifth full-length LP Boy King recorded in Dallas and helmed by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans) comes equipped with statements from lead vocalist Hayden Thorpe like "it was time to put on the leather jacket", and "we've become the band we always objected to being". In an interview with The Quietus, Thorpe put forward Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral and The Weeknd's Beauty Behind The Madness as chief influences, citing sex as both self-deprecation and as hyper-carnal outrage. Thematically, Boy King indulges in lad culture in the most strikingly direct way, but it's not for want of a healthy (and very necessary) dose of subversion either. 

Taking as its stock male sexual entitlement as weakness, insecurity and depravity, on this record it's arguable that Wild Beasts' randiest wanderings get their most tangible and repulsive expression here. On the surface it presents itself as the kind of bravado and braggadocia that holds a mirror up to ugly club antics. The songs do recoil from that aesthetic more often than not, but they also embrace it. The real question is how far do the band go to denounce the hubris of the male front, and do they do it convincingly? 

For the most part the answer is that they're self-aware, introspective and understated enough to pull the trick off with texture and dexterity. On 'Tough Guy', perhaps the filthiest, most riff-centric moment the band have laid to tape thus far, Thorpe is almost immediately self-deprecating as he sings "you know the route well, you follow the old path, to a new Hell". The subtle but essential vocal chemistry between Thorpe and co-vocalist Tom Fleming rears it's head clearly on lead-off single 'Get My Bang'; "That's how I get my bang", coos Thorpe before Fleming counters with "we're going darker ages". 

Album highlight 'Celestial Creatures' is not so much a rejection of depravity as a positioning of it upon a lofty pedestal ("You're a deity, and I have nothing but my beliefs"). Its imagery of champagne-sipping angels glides perfectly aside the album's most beautifully kaleidoscopic moment compositionally. '2BU' is the first example of Fleming taking on lead vocal duties and he hones in on rather terrifying, stalker-ish sensibilities as he croons "I hope you run... Let's hope I don't find you first... You know that I'm the worst". Most apocalyptic and degrading of all is 'He The Colossus', a double-edged sword of lust and accountability, arrogance and self-pity; "Do I dare to desert the universe, lest I become He The Colossus?". 

Chief offender of Wild Beasts' not being sufficiently subversive is the unreservedly shallow 'Eat Your Heart Out Odonis'. Elsewhere 'Alpha Female', despite its deconstruction of male entitlement is lyrically lazy. Although Boy King is a brash and seemingly unrepentant piece of work in many ways, look closely enough through the cracks and the group's deliberate exercising of short-comings and embarrassment are intricately and interestingly dealt with. And as ever, it leaves one wondering whether the band's understanding of human nature at its most base and identifiable will ever run dry. 

7/10

Key Tracks: 'Celestial Creatures', 'He The Colossus', 'Get My Bang'
For Fans Of: Glass Animals, Radiohead  



Monday, 25 July 2016

Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa- Autonomy Music

Artist: Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa
Album: Autonomy Music
Record Label: Uncommon Records
Release Date: 19th July 2016

There are few in the underground Hip-Hop game who have been as prolific in recent years as Uncommon Nasa. Having been in contact with him for about three years now, a new project is always an exciting prospect- there's always the sense that it'll be a journey, a sort of post-modern re-visitation of ideas and values that are well-cited that then get re-claimed and re-dissected to comply with Nasa's personal achievements and world-view.

Autonomy Music is Nasa's third collaborative project with fellow New York MC Short Fuze. Nasa sits back and takes control of the production reigns, leaving most of the literary character of this record to Short Fuze, whose dynamic rhyming system and sometimes intensely personal lyrical direction mean that Autonomy Music (more often than not) offers exactly the right amount of feel and atmosphere that one has come to expect from Nasa's ever-widening platform, Uncommon Records.

The record's first half (save the sample-lead, reflective and re-constructive intro of 'Art Gallery of Autonomy') serves as a more direct helping, whether it be via Fuze's self-deprecating honesty on 'The Darkest Place I've Ever Been' or the gritty, hard-nosed dissonance of 'EMPD'. The production is brilliantly judged at almost every point, and gives enough space for Fuze's laid-back but urgent tones to take the front and centre stage.

It's on the doom-laden 'Self Distortion' that things begin to get more poetically introspective. "Hell is a ferocious prison", quips Fuze with tangible vulnerability, with Curly Castro coming through with a verse the smacks of loss and disappointment. Though this track (and others before it) re-traces religious iconography, at first it's hard to know whether to take these references as sardonic or not, but on 'Time And Space' any rejection of nihilism is swiftly done away with; "Reaching for the teachings of God, when the hand that feeds is bitten off", jests Fuze cruelly, re-citing the same disdain for spiritual belief on the following 'Addicted to the Horn'. On the penultimate track 'Oddest Future', over Nasa's crushingly stomping boom-bap Fuze is almost reminiscent of Zach De La Rocha in his rapid fire, venomous righteousness.

Though Autonomy Music doesn't ever really drop the ball in terms of its thematic guidance, there are some less memorable moments. When it's at its absolute peak (the last four songs) it's steam-roller momentum comprised of reflection, personality and lyrical providence offers a vast plain of thought-provoking and musically hard-hitting listening. These days, Uncommon Records has basically become synonymous with esoteric quality.

7/10

Key Tracks: 'Oddest Future', 'Time And Space', 'The Darkest Place I've Ever Been'
For Fans Of: Aesop Rock, Run The Jewels

Monday, 18 July 2016

Wildernessking- Mystical Future


Artist: Wildernessking
Album: Mystical Future
Record Label: Smgs
Release Date: 5th February 2016

Star-Gazing Black Metallers bring spacious, naturalistic but raw euphoria to bear on their second full-length

Since the turn of the 21st century it has become increasingly plausible to suggest and even recommend Black Metal to the average music nerd, even if their forays into the heavier end of the spectrum are few and far between. To call it the "Deafheavan" conversation in this instance would be slightly unjust, because Cape Town quartet Wildernessking don't really sound anything like that band. They've far more in common with pre-George Clark USBM than that, and their second LP Mystical Future is a work of Earthy, epic proportions. 

Opener 'White Horse' is a slow-burning voyage that sets out the band's penchant for raw but soaring atmospheric favouritism; the guitars are wholesomely thick, the snares crack with lo-fi, primal rootsiness. The rollicking 'I Will Go To Your Tomb' shows off their effortless construction brilliance, validated at the end by a bout of cosmic ecstacy. 

'To Transcend' is a restrained but purposeful guidance through shimmering naturalistic atmosphere, the space between the notes both cavernous and barely there, the tone both melancholy and hopeful. Most glorious of all though is the 13-minute closer 'If You Leave', accompanied sweetly in its first four minutes by haunting angelic female vocals, before regaining star-gazing heights via beautiful melodic progressions and masterful tremolo picking. 

The spaciousness on the record falls short of being airy and although the aesthetic is nothing particularly new, the craft and sense of emotional fulfilment on offer here carries it rather majestically. There's no question that this is a record that will appease Black Metal fans first and foremost, but there's plenty of feeling and eloquence here that many would find resonance in. 

8/10

Key Tracks: 'If You Leave', 'To Transcend', 'I Will Go To Your Tomb' 
For Fans Of: Agalloch, Winterfylleth