Albums of 2017 (So Far)

I haven’t posted any reviews this year as it was a one year project however I thought I’d share with you all a list of albums released in 2017 that I’d recommend you listen to, check some of them out, find something new and enjoy:

  1. Sampha- Process
  2. Syd- Fin
  3. Gorillaz- Humanz
  4. Slowdive- Slowdive
  5. The XX- I See You
  6.  Turinn- 18 ½ Min Gaps
  7. Bonobo- Migration
  8. TQD- UKG
  9.  Teenage Girl Fantasy- 8am
  10.  Spurz- Loud Futures
  11.  Sherwood & Pinch- Man Vs Sofa
  12.  Coldcut & Sherwood- Outside the Echo Chamber
  13. Luke Vibert- UK Garave
  14.  Kendrick Lamar- Damn
  15.  Jlin- Black Origarmi
  16.  Ghosting- Ghosting
  17.  Nyege Nyege Tapes- Sounds of Sissoo
  18.  Special Request- Fabriclive 91
  19.  Preditah- Fabriclive 92
  20. Charli XcX- No.1 Angel
  21.  Calibre- The Deep
  22.  The Bug & Earth- Concrete Desert
  23.  PC Music- Month of Mayhem
  24. Alt-J- Relaxer
  25. Rat Boy- SCUM (Deluxe edition not standard)
  26. Croww- Prosthetics
  27.  Brand New- Science Fiction
  28. Dizzee Rascal- Raskit
  29. Mr Mitch- Devout
  30.  Steffi- Fabric 94
  31.  DJ Tennis- DJ Kicks
  32.  Mura Masa- Mura Masa
  33.  Lorde- Melodrama
  34.  Murlo- Club Coil
  35.  Nathan Fake- Hives
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November 25th 2016- Burial- Young Death/ Nightmarket

Whilst not strictly an album a new release from Burial is a worthy addition to any albumoftheweek recommendation. There are only a very few select number of artists who can at the expectation of releasing new music set the world alight, crash internet forums and spark red hot anticipation in music critics the world over. One of those current artists is Burial, the London based producer who exploded out of the dubstep scene with his first two albums Burial and Untrue. Since then releases have been regular but unfamiliar and often in the shape of EPs or one off tracks, that are long in length but broken up into musical segments much like an urban opera.

When a record store in the USA accidentally sold vinyl copies of two unreleased Burial recordings on Black Friday, the music world duly went into overdrive and Hyperdub accordingly went into rage mode before fully releasing the tracks sometime after. And thank god for accidents because Young Death and Nightmarket are two stunning efforts.

Young Death has all the hallmarks of later Burial releases the crackle and broken beats that best summarises William Bevan’s sound are all present. However, unlike recent EPs Young Death is not as fragmented nor as long and passes by almost like a cut from Untrue. Whilst perhaps not as experimental as Ashtray Wasp or Rival Dealer, it is refreshing, exciting and most importantly uniquely Burial. The track is littered with distorted R&B vocals that provide a sense of loss whilst the beat at some points feels almost techno inspired. It is a great addition to the Burial cannon and will surely be adored by fans of the Burial sound.

However, the real gold on this release is found in the track Nightmarket, which comes over like a glitch, slower and more urban 90s Trance tracks. The heavier use of synths is new for Burial and yet used expertly and beautifully. Again vocal snippets litter the track, this time culled from sci-fi movies, which provide a spacey alienated feel to things. Nightmarket feels heavily inspired by 90s trance and sci-fi movie soundtracks especially Blade Runner and Burial favourite Alien.

Nightmarket is both longer and more fractured in structure than Young Death with the track feeling like it is broken into two synth driven songs, however, as always with Burial this fragmentation is engaging rather than alienating to the listener and conveys perfectly the atmosphere, which Will Bevan as a producer so often strives for.

Burial rightly generates so much excitement because his work is so often exciting and unique. This release is no different, it is a brilliant piece of work from a rather special artist. Whilst Young Death is a very good and very distinct Burial track when it comes shear production brilliance Nightmarket is in a league of its own.

https://burial.bandcamp.com/album/young-death-nightmarket-hdb100

 

 

November 18th- Mumdance & Logos- Different Circles

Last year Mumdance delivered one of the best and most exciting mixes of the year when he turned in his contribution to the celebrated FabricLive mix series. As producers Mumdance and Logos sit as pioneers of what they term the Weightless genre. Think part instrumental My Bloody Valentine noise, grime 2.0 beats and old school jungle reference points and you are getting close. Part of their vision is the record label Different Circles. And it is from releases on this label that Mumdance and Logos have compiled this new mix album.

Some of the tracks, which appear here will be familiar to those who listened to last year’s pioneering FabricLive mix, however, there are plenty of new cuts to keep the audience happy. To say the sound of the tracks on the record is like nothing else, even when they have been heard before, is an under exaggeration. This mix sounds otherworldly. At points ethereal but also dark and aggressive much of the sound presented feels like a logical experimental step for the sort of instrumentals Wiley was cooking up around 2003.

Despite its very experimental sound the Weightless genre has caught the imaginations of many grime producers several of whom are represented here including Rabit and Boxed frequenter Sharp Veins. However, many of the tracks are plucked from the back-catalogues of Mumdance and Logos themselves. Though a lack of diversity might exist it isn’t a problem when your productions sound as alien as these.

Different Circles is a short mix which flies by far too quickly and unlike last year’s FabricLive mix there is no exploration of wider genres or of sounds, which may have influenced Mumdance and Logos. However, as everything here sounds so fresh, exciting and experimental the negatives don’t have much of an impact.  Different Circles is a great mix for fans of experimental music, lovers of last year’s FabricLive mix and a great stepping stone for those wishing to explore the Weightless genre.

 

November 11th 2016- A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It From Here…Thank You

With impeccable timing given certain election results and tinged with sadness this week saw the release of the final album by A Tribe Called Quest. We Got It From Here…Thank You was confirmed for release as the final Tribe Called Quest album after the sad and untimely passing of Phife Dawg. Given the current political climate the tragedy of this loss is even greater, as we need groups like A Tribe Called Quest more now than ever.

On We Got It From Here…Thank You A Tribe Called Quest tackle some of the most difficult and yet tragically ever present subjects of current American and Global socio-political life: gun violence, police brutality, economic disparity, war, migration, the rise of the right wing political elite the list is almost endless. They show no fear in tackling these toughest of subjects with a wise new age sensibility for which they have become famed.

Closing track The Donald takes aim at well…you know who. Other tracks such as We The People reference the current crisis surrounding police brutality and the disproportionate treatment of the USA’s African-American populations.  We the People also takes on the subject of discrimination faced by Mexicans during the recent Trump election triumph. The Tribe often provide a simple answer to many of these issues, we all just need to be closer together on this one Earth, as we are all one and the same. It’s a mantra they have repeated throughout their career, though one which is as far away from being realised today as during the George Bush senior days of the group’s formation.

Whilst this may sound heavy going, the album is full of A Tribe Called Quests’ typical human touch and also a good dose of wit. Humour appears often in the use of samples, such as interludes from Willy Wonka. They may on their last album be tackling dark subject matter but they do this in a way, which only A Tribe Called Quest can.

The album is built around unsurprisingly brilliant golden-age era East Coast beats, which are sample heavy and often reference a period in hip hop’s history now sadly forgot. We Got It From Here…Thank You is also a guest heavy album featuring subtle appearances from Elton John and Jack White. Whilst more prominent appearances are made by Kendrick Lamar (perhaps the long term successor to the group’s crown) and long-time friends and collaborators Talib Kwali and Busta Rhymes. Busta has over the years grown into an almost some time member of A Tribe Called Quest and his appearances here on various tracks feels the most natural and fitting out of all guests.

Everything on We Got It From Here…Thank You is near-on perfect as a hip-hop album goes. The beats are exceptional (though at odds with the current scene), the subject matter poignant and the flow of each member is…well….why even bother you all know there’s few out there who can stand to toe to toe with the Tribe, when it comes to delivery.

Much has been made of both the gap between their last release and this and the fact that there will be no more new material from A Tribe Called Quest. However when it comes to We Got It From Here…Thank You, it is best not to call it a come-back, a send-off or a tribute, this is just A Tribe Called Quest doing what they do best.

4th November- Yussef Kamaal- Black Focus

London’s underground music scene, its pirate radio, small clubs and bars have recently been witness to a bubbling undercurrent of exciting and experimental Jazz. This is driven in part by the duo Yussef Kamaal; who are themselves inspired by Miles Davis, Flying Lotus and his Brainfeeder crew alongside drum and bass, especially the jazzy variety played by the likes of 4Hero and Spring Heel Jack. There’s a vocal sample part way through closing track Joint 17 which sums this musically milieu up perfectly: “You create your own reference point and that’s what Jazz has always been about” and that is exactly what Yussef Kamaal are about here on Black Focus.

Whilst the album does contain a smattering of electronics the largest percentage of what is on offer here is live instrumentation by two exceptionally talented musicians. Part of what makes Black Focus so engaging and exciting is the very fact you are keenly aware that two guys are making this with a reduced level of computer reliance compared to others who make a similar sound. Their ability is outstanding. Nowhere on Black Focus is this clearer than in the album’s drum work, which is both subtle and yet front and centre. To listen to the drum work of Yussef Kamaal is to hear a thing of great beauty.

Black Focus feels and sounds like the product of all of its many influences especially on tracks like Strings of Light. However, when your influences are so diverse and critically acclaimed this is certainly no bad thing. It would be incredibly exciting if this album were to herald more experimental and jazz inflected values returning to UK Drum and Bass instead of the jump-up style, which has dominated for the last decade.

There are parts of Black Focus where the album takes a more chilled dub and jazz vibe, like in the opening to the track Remembrance. Upon hearing this anyone who remembers 90s genre Acid Jazz may be filled with terror. However, these and fears are misplaced as Yussef Kamaal are aware of musicians’ mistakes past and balance the album’s more chilled moments with snapshots of breakbeat drums and technical wizardry.

Black Focus is an experimental album which will appeal to both Jazz and Drum and Bass fans alike. Whilst also being the perfect album to play on a lazy Sunday morning after the Saturday night before. The talent that sits behind it, is a reminder of just how brilliant live instrumentation can be. Let’s hope Yussef Kamaal inspire a few young minds to pick up a drumstick or a trumpet rather than a Mac and a copy of Garageband.

 

October 28th- Max Richter-Black Mirror (Nosedive)

 

Contemporary classical music has been going through a bit of a spike in popularity recently part of this is due to the fantastic output of the Erased Tapes label alongside others such as Francesco Tristiano and Petre Inspirescu to mention just a few names who are pushing classical music forward and helping to develop a new audience for the genre outside of Radio 3. Central to and an inspiration for much of this has been the work of British composer Max Richter, who gained critical and commercial acclaim with his genre-splicing contemporary classical album The Blue Notebooks.

Richter’s use of piano, strings and synths often creates soundscapes, which are both haunting and beautiful. In other words he is the perfect person to compose a soundtrack to an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series, which has returned to critical acclaim on Netflix.

Throughout Richter’s soundtrack there is a juxtaposition of heart aching beauty and dark undertones. A great example of this is Dopamine 2, whereby strings and shimmery synth create an atmosphere of serenity before the use of string plucking and bass are introduced creating a much darker and jarring effect. The play-off between the two worlds Richter is creating is simply stunning.

Despite Richter’s ability with multiple instruments Piano takes central stage here apart from on a few electronic leading tracks like Nocturne. Many of the piano pieces on the soundtrack adopt a similar melody or key as to the lead track On Reflection, in doing so Richter drags the listener back to central haunting environment.

The overall effect Richter creates on this soundtrack is for the listener to feel trapped, through the use of similarity, repetition and juxtaposition the listener is transported into a similar state to that of the main protagonist in the Black Mirror episode. As far as conveying the central feeling of the character Richter is brilliantly successful. And whilst sometimes unsettling the overall sound is one of beauty.

However, step away from the Black Mirror episode and Richter’s soundtrack works very well as a stand-alone piece of music. Perfect listening for early morning train rides or late nights in bed when you are unable to sleep.  The fact this release is available for £1.96 on Itunes makes it an absolute steal and well worth your investment.

 

http://www.factmag.com/2016/10/27/max-richter-soundtrack-black-mirror-nosedive/

October 21st- Nicolas Jaar- Sirens

 

Subtlety, Space and Silence are not qualities, which many would associate with modern electronic music especially in this post-EDM, brostep-inspired environment, in which we now live. However these three qualities are ones, which Nicolas Jaar fully inhabits. As a producer Jaar first attracted attention with his staggeringly excellent album Space is Only Noise, which has been lauded by many as being among the greatest electronic albums ever released. After some free downloads and an award winning essential mix Jaar now returns with Sirens, which quietly builds upon those omnipresent qualities within his work of: subtlety, space and silence.

Sirens kicks off with around 20 seconds of silence almost making the listener question whether the record has actually started. Fooling the listener from the off and putting them on edge with silence is an old trick but an effective one, it leaves the listener feeling unsure and uncertain and primed for the unexpected (of which Sirens contains muchs of). The silence is gently broken by the use of an effect which sounds like it was borrowed from an LTJ Bukem Record circa 1997. The track Killing Time is, much like everything on Sirens, a slow burner, which has been broken in to many seperate acts and then re-assembled into one track, it’s a skill, which fans of Burial will be familiar with and it is well employed here by Jaar.

Much of what makes Sirens such an engaging and interesting listen happens in the background. It is almost as if the listener is being told to pay attention to what happens in the shadows or the most interesting moments  could pass you by. You figure Jaar is a people watcher.

The complexity of Sirens is staggering there are multiple layers to every track: uses of samples, gospels choirs, jazz instrumentation, classical instrumentation, techno and much, much more besides. It will take the average listener a lifetime to decipher every element of Sirens. However, unlike lesser artists, it is this complexity, which makes Sirens entertaining rather than unlistenable.

There is a certain bleakness to Sirens, which fans of Jaar’s work will be familiar with but this bleakness is often balanced with such beautiful instrumentation that often it attains a strange alluring quality, which adds to the mystery of the album and certainly keeps the listener from tumbling into a self-pity party.

The reviews, which have so far appeared for Sirens have been over whelmingly positive with the album being called high art and its creator a genius. Whether these compliments are true or not I shall leave down to you. However, I will say that Jaar is a musicians musician who has, in Sirens, created a complex beast, which lives within subtlety.

October 14th 2016- Kuedo- Slow Knife

It’s been a stand-out year for Planet MU with exceptional records from Konx-Om-Pax and Ital Tek and now to join that run is the new album from Kuedo. Kuedo is the new project of Jamie formerly of Bristolian dubstep duo Vex’d. For fans of Vex’d Jamie’s work as Kuedo will sound hugely different but none the less brilliant.

For the release of Slow Knife Jamie has claimed that he was influenced by film scores particularly those which are inflected with dark synths, think Vangelis and John Carpenter’s works and the soundtracks to the Alien films. This influence shows throughout. Slow Knife is the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist.

Many of the tracks on Slow Knife feel as if they were born of and exist within darkness, however, beauty and light can also be found on tracks such as Love Theme. Jamie has put his synth to fantastic mood giving work and the listener is frequently transported from the sounds of a dark cave to those of light ascending to heaven and back again.

There are elements of Mumdance’s weightless genre especially in the deployment of subtle bass tones throughout the album. Additionally the synth heavy elements of this album will ensure that fans of Aphex Twin’s early and more ambient works will find much to love here.

Slow Knife is a beautiful album which easily does its creator and various reference points proud. Kuedo’s has with this album proved that it is most definitely the Slow Knife that cuts the deepest.

October 7th- Kate Tempest- Let Them Eat Chaos

Like only a handful of others before her; Bob Dylan, The Streets and Saul Williams, Kate Tempest blurs the line between poet and musician, this was put to brilliant effect on her acclaimed debut album Everybody Down and is once again in evidence here on Let Them Eat Chaos.

Part of what makes Tempest’s work so enjoyable is her ability to tell a story and maintain a cohesive narrative, all too regularly failing at one of these is the downfall of a concept album. But with concept album number 2 under her belt it is clear for Kate this isn’t a problem. Let Them Eat Chaos opens with two tracks which paint the scene and setting for the story we are to bear witness to, the setting being London in the here and now and more specifically a street familiar to the everyman. Let Them Eat Chaos is the story of the common man and woman in a socially and personally chaotic time. More than this it is the story of how our individual dramas often prevent us from seeing the impending greater storm that is just around the corner, in the case of Let Them Eat Chaos the storm is one of social disorder, xenophobia, the banking crisis and political corruption.

Each track on Let Them Eat Chaos tells the individual story of a character suffering with personal strife whether that be dissatisfaction, grief, love, loss, work, drink and drugs etc each character is awake at 4.18am traumatised in some respect by the thoughts of their own lives. Tempest tells each tale compassionately and passionately leaving the listener with the thought that there’s a little bit of me in each one of these people. Relatability really is one of the triumphs of Let Them Eat Chaos, the events and stories told will resonate with almost any millennial out there. Tempest has adopted an omnipresent approach to her generation looking at its problems from above and then sketching them out with stunning lyrical dexterity for all to observe.  Of course this is partially the point of Let The Eat Chaos to show that we are not alone in our problems and that even within difficulties there exists commonality.

The final track of Let Them Eat Chaos sees a literal and figurative storm break and each of our 7 characters leaving their various houses to observe the spectacle. Tempest is of course stating very clearly for the listener that sometimes despite our problems there is a greater storm which unites us. The imagery used is beautiful and her point is adeptly made. Adding further strength is the fact that Tempest doesn’t offer the listener any solutions to the various problems on show, this is not preaching to the choir but a state of the nation address. Let Them Eat Chaos says here we are, this is my strife and this is our society. The effect is refreshing in a time where every other musician is saying who you should vote for, who you should save, what celebrity is it and who is not, instead telling you how to think Tempest has painted an overview and left the choice up to you (though an awareness exists of what Kate thinks too).

Let Them Eat Chaos is a brilliant and complex piece of story-telling which only further cements Kate Tempest’s position as a reluctant voice of her confused, lost, embittered and embattled millennial generation.

 

Tunes of the Month September 2016

A little late putting this up but these are the tunes I was listening to in September:

 

Boston Bun- Get Into It- Starts off sounding like classic Trance track Nalin and Kane Beachball before going into a strong vocal house sound:

 

Altern8- Everybody (2 Bad Mice remix)- Released last year but getting a huge amount of attention this summer an old skl style remix of an Altern8 Classic:

 

Cadenza- People (DJ Zinc remix)- Zinc brings speed garage and old school jungle sounds to Cadenza’s latest with great effect: