Saturday, 28 April 2012

Dross Glop

Artist: Battles/ Various Artists
Album: Dross Glop
Release Date: 16/4/2012

One of 2011's finest gets the remix treatment and, rather blatently, mixed results ensue

It's a dangerous game to play, releasing a remix album. Especially so in the case of a band like Battles, whose 2011 opus "Gloss Drop" was widely regarded (and very deservingly so) as one of the year's finest releases. However, Battles' clinically excellent and improvisational streaks lead some way to suggesting that they are big fans of the technical remixing process, and although "Dross Glop" is a risky move, Battles' ever- changing sonic personality means that it makes perfect sense.

It makes perfect sense until you hear it, at least. That's not to say there aren't some pretty captivating moments here. Gui Barrato's take on "Wall Street" is one such highlight. It's an organic funky house rendition of the track, complete with a cavernous, echoing guitar line and chilling piano melody. The Field's predictable take on "Sweetie And Shag" bares little resemblance to the original but the Swedish producer employs the "Looping State Of Mind" mentality to dreamy affect. Shabazz Palaces do a pretty good job of fitting their warped, reverbed vocals and stoned spaciousness around the creeping euphoria of "White
Electric" too.

One reason why remix albums are so often placed in the danger zone is due to them being prone to inconsistency, something which, rather predictably, "Dross Glop" suffers from. Most of the tracks here don't come within 10,000 sonic metres of the original versions' curious virtuosity, some falling well, WELL short of the mark, most memorably Gang Gang Dance's truly ugly take on "Ice Cream." The highlights here are stand- alone moments of clever funkiness and weirdness and are probably better approached as single entities, rather than a part "Dross Glop."

Download: 1) Wall Street (Gui Boratto Remix), 2) White Electric (Shabazz Palaces Remix), 3) Sweetie And Shag (The Field Remix)
For Fans Of: Remix albums, Shabazz Palaces, definitely NOT "Gloss Drop"


Blue Chips

Artist: Action Bronson
Album: Blue Chips
Release Date: 12/3/2012

A brilliant marriage of cold, raw imagery and adventurous beats

As will be the way in the handful of young entrepreneurs in the business of hip- hop in this age, there's a certain element of shock value employed rigorously on "Blue Chips"- the thing you're most likely to remember straight off is Bronson's consistently explicit ways to rap about sex and pussies. But with repeated listens, "Blue Chips" unveils itself as an emotive story- tellers' gold mine. There's cold, atmospheric loneliness on "9-24-11", a terrifically raw glimpse of the dark side of American suburbia on "Hookers At The Point" and remarkable sonic shapeshifts, like on "Double Breasted." Odd Future should take heed- this is what they SHOULD be doing.

Download: Double Breasted
For Fans Of: Danny Brown, OFWGKTA

Friday, 13 April 2012

World, You Need A Change Of Mind

Artist: Kindness
Album: World, You Need A Change Of Mind
Release Date: 19/3/2012

After 3 years of waiting, Adam Bainbridge delivers a tome of pop tunes both fun and endlessly thoughtful

Releasing a cover as your debut single is both a bold and arguably stupid move. Even more incomprehensible is then waiting three years to follow it up. Such were the actions of Cambridge resident Adam Bainbridge, the mastermind behind Kindness, and they undoubtedly paid off for him. His cover of The Replacements' "Swingin' Party" with its driving beat and barely- there electronic bubble was such an ambitious rendition of the song that most people had to be forgiven for not knowing that it was cover. It has taken Bainbridge three years to record and release his debut full- length "World, You Need A Change of Mind", and although it has recieved a limited amount of initial interest, it's an album tuned to set the dial of "exceed expectations".

It's a tangible but uneccesary point to say that Bainbridge is late to the '80s throwback party, as he could be seen to be tiresomely so. Thanks to the chillwave brigade '80s synth pop has been transformed from what was initially an unwelcome revival to something that has captured hearts, minds and souls, despite pattering out the back door of favour in 2011. To lump "World, You Need A..." with the now dead- end chillwave lot would be a foolish move however. Quite like Chairlift's "Something" earlier this year, this record is a confident acknowledgment of its influences and an undeniable sum of its parts, but it deals in great levels of depth, intricacy and fun. "Intelligent stupidity" could, possibly, be a fair two- word summary, but that doesn't come anywhere near to the mark in reality. Like the best '80s pop records, it scratches beneath the surface and pays remarkable attention to detail.

"SEOD" opens like the soundtrack to a cheesy American early- evening soap with layers of synth mutation. It then stretches out into an extensive sigh of both whispy and textured synths, before embarking on a quest fueled by stabbing Italo- House piano chords and the bustle of electronic brass. "Cyan" is a spacious Arthur Russell- esque jolt whose synths are both fluid and comforting throughout, flexible but always a constant. Bainbridge unlocks certain idiosyncracies here, as his vocals seem to float in from far away, like he's singing from some distant, undiscovered haven. "House" is a soft and smooth half- ballad more indebted to George Michael records than Talking Heads, but it's affecting and strong at the knees all the same.

Closer to the more fun end of the spectrum (although just as intelligent) is "Gee Up", a criminally short but infuriatingly intricate exercise in white boy funk. Meanwhile "That's Alright" looms as a hulking guilty pleasure. Like the bastard child of Sugarhill Gang and Prince, everything is maxed out, from the pounding drums to the crunching, funky bassline to the hilariously cringeworthy vocal samples of "the beat is BAD!"

Bainbridge has explored song- structure to the extent that it's the most focal point of "World, You Need A Change Of Mind." As much as these songs are catchy and fun, it's more often that their depth and underlying components are the most mesmerising things about them. "Swingin' Party" may have hinted at the potential he has for transformation and craft, but "World..." sees him realize that potential almost fully, making it a pop record to enjoy on every level.

Download: 1) SEOD, 2) Cyan, 3) House
For Fans Of: Prince, Arthur Russell, Ariel Pink

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Artist: VCMG
Album: SSSS
Release Date: 9/3/2012

A textbook electro album, and not always in a good way

If there are two men who understand how to impose a late '80s/ early '90s House revival better than most, it's probably Vincent Clarke and Martin Gore, both of whom having earned their place in the fame game via Depeche Mode. Although not necessarily experts in the production of the House music sound, having lived through the time they're replicating, and with decades of synth worship behind them, one would expect them to be well- versed.

Unfortunately, they don't always come off that way on "SSSS". It suffers slightly from a lack of something imperative to making dance music interesting these days- artistic vision. Nevertheless, there are bouts of originality. "Bendy Bass" hits the mark with deep production, a quite literally bendy bass line and spiky but stargazing lead melody. In a contradictory manner, some of the record's most deliriously funky moments are its least original. "Single Blip" is nearly cringe- inducingly cheesy but is a fantastically funky exercise in bleepery, whilst "Recycle", with it's flashes of thick euphoria and grinding undertow is the most potent floor filler here. "Flux" has chilled- out vibes and an endearingly pretty melody, making it a fitting closer.

The issue with "SSSS" is that it's consistently hard to attach emotions, atmospheres or characters to these songs, as the approach is largely formulaic. Consequently it leads to them frequently coming off as dull. However, there is a throwback revival going on, and VCMG, as well as a handful of the tracks here, deserve to be a staple part of it.

Download: 1) Recycle, 2) Bendy Bass, 3) Single Blip
For Fans Of: Azari & III, Orbital, Hot Chip


Monday, 9 April 2012

New Sounds: Ab- Soul

The ever- rising tide of experimental hip hop surges forward in a rather wonderful fashion with this new eerie and unnerving joint from California MC Ab- Soul "Terrorist Threats." Featuring Jhene Aiko and controversial blogosphere star of last year Danny Brown, "Terrorist Threats" is a song of contradictions. Pretty but violent, chilled- out but inflammatory, it features a cold, tense beat of chilling choir vocals, while Ab- Soul, Jhene Aiko and Brown unveil lines about a united gang threat, referencing issues with drugs, childhood, AK 47s and 9/11 along the way in intricate rapping style. It's a song that announces itself via words rather than beats, and that immediately makes it one of the most well- crafted and impacting hip hop tracks I've heard so far this year.

Download "Terrorist Threats" from The Needle Drop here:

Sunday, 8 April 2012

New Sounds: White Denim

Seismic shifts in sound have become an expected feature of White Denim, especially after last year's cosmic "D". However, the shift on new track "Get Back To Love (Street Joy)" really is unexpected. It's the first time the words "seriously sexy" can be applied to the band, as they embark on a sonic route that's more Solomon Burke than MC5 or Love. It's full of sensual, squelching synths and a slow- jam, chilled out vibe, whilst the vocals of James Petralli are both higher- pitched and arguably cleaner than they've ever been before. It's an obvious attempt to touch the more pleasure- orientated senses, and although it's not dense or heavily impacting, it's smooth, slinky and seductive.

Grab a free download of "Get Back To Love (Street Joy)" from RCRD LBL below:

New Sounds: Mexican Summer/ Software Recording Co. Label Sampler

The record labels Mexican Summer and Software Recording Co. are responsible for putting out some of the most interesting and diverse young bands to dent the blogosphere in recent times, and this joint sampler "Stash Rituals", which they made for Selftitled Magazine, is a fantastic opportunity to discover some of the bands on the rota and mine deeper into the sounds the labels support. There are quite a few names here who have recieved considerable levels of hype over the last few years already, most notably Oneohtrix Point Never, but also The Fresh & Onlys (pictured), Light Asylum and Peaking Lights. They've also got some tracks from newer artists who are just starting to make a name for themselves, like Mike Wexler and Megafortress, and some artists who you may never have heard of, for example Lilac & Champagne and Carlos Giffoni. I've only listened to it once through, but it sounds like there is some lovely stuff on offer here. I hope to do a proper review of it soon, but until then, make sure you download it in its entirety via the soundcloud link below.


Artist: Meshuggah
Album: Koloss
Release Date: 27/3/2012

Perhaps Sweden's most important band since Abba, Meshuggah release a slab of monolithic intensity on album No.7

Before you start spluttering your coffee all down your front or choking on your toast and jam at the analogy made in the tag line, bare with me a second. Can you name a group from Sweden such a cornerstone in pop music since Abba? There's Robyn, who has enjoyed relative success, but she's no leader. While it would be a lie to say that extreme/ technical metal legends Meshuggah have completely transformed the face of metal since they formed in 1987, their importance and influence in modern metal since that same year should not be understated. I mean, they've even got a whole genre emerging that breeds off of the blueprint that they've set out over the past 20 years ("Djent" metal). Whilst Meshuggah are probably not the types to concern themselves with such things, you can't make the same claim for Robyn, can you?

There is such a thing as "business as usual" with Meshuggah, despite the nature of their twisting, bulldozing and intelligent musicianship and ability to beat around the bush with song structure. They've never felt the need to venture that far outside of their own idiosyncratic comfort zone, and due to their ever- intriguing  sound, they've never particularly needed to. Their 7th album "Koloss" is no different.

Opener "I Am Colossus" has a dirgy, paranoid lurch about it, reflecting the band's favoured technique of off- kilter, clinical experimentation with rhythm and structure. "The Demon's Name Is Surveillance" is so impacting that it's not hard to visualize the surroundings that such a song would be an undeniably brilliant soundtrack to. The impenetrably monotonous yet skillful guitar hum sounds like a swarm of blood- hungry killer bees, while the terrifyingly fast use of the double kick drum sounds like ruthless machine gun fire. Lyrically, the song deals with more realistic fears as frontman Jens Kidman gets all "1984" as he howls "THEY KNOW YOUR EVERY RIGHT."

"Do Not Look Down" operates around a more conventional groove that swaggers along with guttural, bass- heavy riffing. "The Hurt That Finds You First" is a full- throttle return to the band's thrash metal leanings and the riffing takes on a considerably more high- brow and melodic tone than almost every other track on the album. The most impressive moment however comes late- on with "Swarm", the album's most undeniably evil segment. It chugs along with dark, unexplainably fast and intricate picking, like a relentless death- inducing fog that cannot be escaped.

"Koloss" is both a predictable yet adventurous beast. It's consistently intense throughout, and although not always empowering, more than often it's thrilling, electrifying, difficult and intellectual, and as with almost every Meshuggah release, it prides itself on those traits. It's everything we've come to expect from Meshuggah, and that is certainly no bad thing.

Download: 1) Swarm, 2) The Demon's Name Is Surveillance, 3) The Hurt That Finds You First
For Fans Of: Gojira, Textures, Soulfly


Saturday, 7 April 2012

Break It Yourself

Artist: Andrew Bird
Album: Break It Yourself
Release Date: 5/3/2012

Familiar but lovely, as always

Andrew Bird's familiar concoction of whistling, violins and acoustics is, of course, rooted at the heart of his 6th LP "Break It Yourself", but that's not to say there isn't room for diversity or some well constructed moments of wonder. "Danse Caribe" mutates from humble beginnings as a slow- picked Van Morisson- esque tune to a full- on violin- orientated hoe- down. Meanwhile "EyeonEye" has walls of cascading tremolo guitar picking and resonates as the album's most electric moment. There's a disappointingly mediocre duet with St. Vincent's Annie Clarke, but there are a handful of bright melodies here that make up for it.

Download: EyeonEye
For Fans Of: Beirut, Van Morisson, Vampire Weekend


Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Artist: Soap&Skin
Album: Narrow
Release Date: 19/3/2012

Austrian singer- songwriter's second is a work of theatrical wonder

Recently, on a cold February night in a snow- swamped Berlin, the 2000 seater Volksbuehne theatre played host to an airing of Anja Plashg's soaring, grandiose verses in both musical and vocal virtuosity. Upon listening to her startleing second album "Narrow" it's not unreasonable to say that that is the PERFECT setting for Plashg's music, but that's not to say that it can't be enjoyed elsewhere, because that is certainly not the case.

"Narrow" is only 8 tracks long, but so much emotion, atmosphere and musical intelligence resounds throughout it that it's almost crafted like the soundtrack to a Shakespearian tragedy. "Vater" contains some bewildering piano playing from Plashg. Sung in German, the music does most of the emotional confrontation, especially halfway through when it takes a storming and dramatic turn, matched perfectly by Plashg's increasingly desperate vocals. On her cover of '80s synth- pop mysteries Desireless' "Voyage Voyage" her piano chords start off as solitary, cold and lonely beasts before they are joined by endearing orchestral manouvers. "Deathmental" is a petrifying shock to the nervous system with it's sudden stabs of post- industrial, rave- endorsed synths, whilst "Boat Turns Toward The Port" sees Plashg's vocals soar to new, near- operatic heights.

At almost every turn, whether it's through the music or vocals, Plashg employs some kind of dramatic effect to make these dark, smothering piano- lead ballads much more than they be would usually. From the deranged to the grandiose to the hopeful, Plashg has her finger on a wealth of ways to showcase emotion through music, and often enough she taps into them in beautiful style.

Download: 1) Vater, 2) Deathmental, 3) Voyage Voyage
For Fans Of: Zola Jesus, Perfume Genius


Opinion: Ride The Lightning

With the Conservative party in complete disarray, is this the beginning of the end for David Cameron's premiership, or will the man in No. 10 withstand the onslaught?

Say what you like about David Cameron- And believe me, I'm certainly no advocate- but you cannot fault the man in one area: his absolute durability in the political arena. Even if the entire world was to disagree with him (it feels like that sometimes), his wholehearted, unquenchable conviction in what he believes would carry him through, or so it would seem. Even if he was coming from entirely the wrong side of the moral standpoint (depending on your opinion, of course), he would find some way to turn it around and crush any hopes of reconciliation. We've seen it plenty since he was elected in May 2010; the Tuition Fees Crisis and Ed Miliband's consistently vicious verbal attacks on the PM's regime in the House Of Commons are just two examples. It is essential for politicians to be excellent talkers, and David Cameron is certainly one of those.

However, it would be hard even for Winston Churchill to withstand the enormity of the barrage of anger and emotion that the Conservative party has faced over the last couple of weeks, and as a result, no matter how un- crushable, it will be a monstrous task for Cameron too. Such a statement is especially prominent when considering he has been thrust into the limelight in recent outrage- sparker the Cash For Access scandal.

Needless to say, you probably don't need me to go into great depths about the acts committed by the Tories that have induced such widespread displeasure. There was the Cash For Access scandal, in which co- Treasurer Peter Cruggas was seen offering reporters access to the Prime Minister and George Osbourne for vast amounts of money. There was also MP for Cabinet Office Francis Maude's fear- mongering that lead to the rush of panic buying for petrol endorsed in by half the population. That's not to mention the news that surfaced yesterday that plans had been unveiled to introduce new legislation that would impose on citizens' privacy in the most acute manner. To say that the Tories are having a rough ride at the moment is like saying George W. Bush had a few minor blips.

The Conservatives have a long history of being ridiculously hard to break (see Margaret Thatcher, Harold Macmillan), and although the news this week goes some way in disproving that, their tendency for emotionally hard line leaders has, mostly up until this point, been continued by Cameron. And after all, it's not like they've never seen it before- Thatcher's reign was dogged by in- party fighting and outrage from the general republic and she persevered by relying on her own internal moral grounds for 11 years. But alas, David Cameron is a different entity from that which dominated Britain in the 1980s.

From a left- wing perspective it would be far too easy for me to simply say that Cameron will never recuperate, but that's not looking that unlikely anyway. Unless he brings about change, racks up the rebel supporters and even remotely pays attention to a slightly more liberal conjecture, it's likely that the civil war he currently faces within the Conservative party will see him out. The next three years will be the REAL test of Cameron's character, and with plans to impose more dangerously controversial legislation in the near future, it's going to be a lengthy, arduous  three years for the man in No.10.