Tunes of the Month August 2016

 

  1. Sam Spiegel & Ape Drums- Mutant Brain- Released last year but now part of a stunning spike jonze video for kenzo this is certainly worth checking out:

 

2. Massive Attack- The Spoils- Best thing they’ve done since Teardrop? Easily.

 

3.  Caspa & Rusko- Fruity Loops- Proof the controversial bro-step originators do sometimes make a good tune, Wiley freestyled over the top of this (worth looking up in its own right)

 

4. FrancisandtheLights ft Bon Iver- Friends- Kanye West’s current favourite tune and a bit of a sunsetter, also rinsed by Zane Lowe on Beats Radio

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August 26th- Carly Rae Jepsen- Emotion Side B

One of 2015’s acclaimed cult hits was Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion, a brilliant 80s inflected Robyn influenced pop record, which lived up to its title and was adored by critics but unfortunately didn’t sell as many copies as it deserved. The reason for this? Who knows, maybe it was the hang-over from Jepsen’s first single Call Me May Be or the lack of much marketing around the release. Whatever the reason it’s lack of crossover success was a shame as the album was pure pop brilliance.

Jepsen has followed Emotion by releasing Emotion Side B essentially the studio off-cuts from last year’s album.  However, if these are off cuts it certainly doesn’t show, everything is polished, perfect and hugely enjoyable. The 80s vibe and Robyn influences remain and those who enjoy that sound will love this album. It might also be a safe bet to say that anyone who enjoys Chrvches might also enjoy what Jepsen has to offer here.

The opening two tracks are straight up synth lead 80s pop, anthemic and love obsessed. They are enjoyable and smart. And that is perhaps one thing, which is on show most here, this is pop, but pop for adults. There is a brain behind each track, which gives the album strength over the work of many of her peers.

Track 3 the One is perhaps the strongest on the album and could easily be a lead single and is indeed good enough to be most pop musician’s main single let alone their album off cut.

Cry also stands out as a lovelorn and brilliant pop take on a struggle with male emotions and expression as Jepsen sings about the difficulty of trying to read men when they struggle to express themselves in the way they may want to but have been socially constrained from doing so. It’s a sophisticated attempt to explore the dynamics between men and women in the modern world over subtle pop synths. And works exceptionally well.

Part of what makes last year’s album and this new EP so brilliant is the production, which is poppy yet mournful, clever and insightful, much of this influence has come from Dev Haynes, of Blood Orange fame, who has an ear for a great pop hook and has spent a lot of time in the studio with the one time Canadian pop idol star.

If you are a fan of alt pop music and enjoy Lapsley, Halsey, Chrvches, Robyn etc then this EP is for you, I doubt in fact there will be many better pop records released this year. Here’s hoping a few more people are listening this time around as Carly Rae Jepsen deserves your attention.

 

August 19th 2016- Frank Ocean- Blond

I think it’s safe to say the world can agree very little good came out of Hurricane Katrina, lives were lost, a city and its culture decimated and we all learned that, as Kanye West put it, George Bush doesn’t care about black people. This tragedy is made all the worse by the fact that, from what has happened in Baton Rogue in 2016, lessons weren’t learned. Despite all the immense sadness of Hurricane Katrina one small ray of light came from that disaster that light is the career of one Frank Ocean.

In 2008 Christopher Francis Ocean was a freshly enrolled student about to start university in New Orleans, after Katrina hit, Christopher’s accommodation, university and home studio were all under water. The tragedy prompted a re-think and a move to L.A to start a music career. A chance meeting with Tyler the Creator helped further fuel Ocean’s fire and from all of this the award winning and globally acclaimed debut album Channel Orange was born.

Then, after all of this…nothing. Fans were kept waiting, fans were often trolled, zero media was given, many false rumours were overheard, deadlines were missed, a visual album arrived, which felt like a marketing stunt. Then, finally on August 20th 2016, after a lot of nothing, the world got a new Frank Ocean album; Blond.

The album opens with new single Nikes. It’s a perfect album opener kicking off with auto-tuned, high pitched almost un-intelligible vocals, until around half way through the song, when Frank’s voice kicks in. And what a voice it remains, soulful, mournful and rich it hits the listener like a tsunami of honey.

The production on Nikes is slightly weird and darker than anything on Channel Orange and goes some way to highlight the overall feel of the album itself. Sure the Beach Boys and Beatles influences are still present in Ocean’s vocal harmonies but beats wise this is a darker beast and certainly a product of its influences and contributors. Who Ocean claims includes: Jamie XX, Arca and SebastiAN.

The album does feel claustrophobic but intentionally so, with the subject of many of the tracks turning inwards onto Ocean himself. There is however still room for plenty of Ocean-isms like Seigfried’s: “I’m living an idea, an idea from another man’s mind” or the same track’s reflection on: “Two kids and a swimming pool”. Ocean’s world remains one of constant self-questioning.

Stand out track and surely second single White Ferrari has all the hallmarks of being a huge hit. Lyrically it has a similar vibe to tracks like American Wedding, forbidden relationships. It’s a subject, which Frank frequently returns to and one which is prominent again on Blond.

If there is a criticism of Blond it is that Ocean’s subject matter is all too often same-y and self-reflective. Given everything that has happened in America in the last 4 years, it would have been nice to see Frank offer his voice on the subject. Instead any social commentary is reserved to a handful of segments mostly on opening track Nikes with its references to Trayvon Martin.

Blond is dotted with interludes, which set out to make a grand point about either drug use or relationships. However the most enjoyable element of these interludes is the looped backing track, which is itself beautiful. It feels a shame that its melody is wasted behind pseudo-social rambling.

Closing track Futura-Free is another stand out at 9 minutes it may feel long but much like Pyramids the track is broken into segments and there is a lot taking place, so the listener is never bored. The production on Futura Free is also open and allows the track to breathe more, giving the album a positive though still self-reflective close. The track ends with distorted elements of what sounds like vox-popped interviews on life’s big questions such as; what was your first memory? This is all looped over a beautiful melody. The answers given are childlike and joyous contributing to the overall positivity of the track. Futura Free might be the most complex track on here but it is also one of the most beautiful. And that description really does sum up Blond (and Mr Ocean himself) beautiful but complex.

-apple music exclusive so follow the link below for the video to nikes, cheers steve jobs.

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/post/idsa.06571398-669c-11e6-9b66-283cdffd1e01

 

 

 

 

August 12th 2016- 65DaysofStatic- No Man’s Sky OST

Warning this recommendation may include clichés and lazy gratuitous uses of the word epic! You have been warned.

Over the last decade 65DaysofStatic have built up a reputation and cult following by playing a more upbeat, more electronically influenced version of the instrumental rock style, which has brought fame to the likes of Mogwai et al. The word epic has probably been used to describe their sound on more than one occasion. However, in the case of this release the soundtrack to the game No Man’s Sky, such a term is entirely appropriate.

No Man’s Sky is, in terms, of scale the largest video game to have ever been made, with over 18 quintillion planets to explore, which are created through a regeneration engine. The scale of the game is vast. 65DaysofStatic have taken this vastness into consideration when creating the soundtrack.

All the usual dynamics of a 65DaysofStatic album are present and correct in this release with the main dynamic being; rock instruments that sound like electronic trickery. However, to reflect the style and vastness of the game, the band have slowed their sound down. Unlike previous efforts tracks are drawn out over 10+ minutes and instead of sounding like music from a future rave each track sounds exactly like the purpose it was intended for, a space themed video game. Of course this isn’t saying 65DaysofStatic have been unimaginative in their creation rather that they have achieved the task set out before them. The fact they have achieved this and that no track feels overly long is an added bonus.

One of the strongest points of 65DaysofStatic’s previous releases has been their ability to bring positivity and energy to instrumental rock, a genre, which often distinctly lacks both of these credentials. Whilst for the No Man’s Sky soundtrack 65DaysofStatic have sacrificed energy they have pleasingly retained a sense of positivity. Nothing on this record wanders off into GodSpeed! You Black Emperor territory. For this the band deserves credit as exploring space to the sound of a track like Mladic would have been (let’s face it) depressing.

In selecting 65DaysofStatic to create this epic soundtrack it would seem the game’s creators knew exactly what sound they wanted: Spacey, epic, and instrumental without any hint of depression, the band have delivered on this. Whilst some of the energy of their previous releases may have been sacrificed, the results remain engaging and at times beautiful, this is especially apparent from the opening chords of many of the tracks, which are drawn out and emotive.

The track Supermoon is a good example of nearly all the positives of this record, with its drawn out chords to open, beautiful piano and up lifting beat, it is perhaps the strongest individual track on here. Though a good soundtrack is never about one element but rather a composite whole and this is the best and most enjoyable way to engage with 65daysofStatic’s No Man’s Sky effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even if you have no intention of playing No Man’s Sky this release is still a worthy listen. Kick back and enjoy one of the UK’s most under-rated cult bands doing what they do best, it’s erm…epic!

August 5th 2016- Compton White- Compton White EP

August 5th 2016 will probably best be remembered for what did not come out and not in fact what was released. Like every other reviewer I was intending to recommend this week that you listen to and unnamed and unmentioned artist whose album failed to materialise. So whilst my album for the week has been thoroughly trolled, I have instead opted to recommend a little gem that came out a few weeks ago.

Compton White  makes what could be described as dubstep and post dubstep but those titles don’t really do this release justice as it doesn’t fit neatly into either one of them.

The album opens with a production titled Track 2, perhaps a little mocking of the listener before things get underway. However, with such a beautiful, complex arrangement that contains stuttering bass and broken rhythms any irie the listener felt towards the title of the opening track is easily dismissed.

Track 2 Hounslow stutters to life before exploding with the sort of bass that post dubstep producers forgot how to make. However, rather than veer towards the Skrillex button Compton White’s productions remain of the more studied and refrained bass banger and in that sense whilst Hounslow is bass-y as hell it is much closer to something Mala and Coki would drop than Flux Pavillion. This I am sure you’ll agree is a plus point to any dubstep track.

Doubled Diamond offers a more up-beat Burial take on Dubstep with crackling sound effects and a sunset synth vibe. In fact one of the real points of interest about Compton White’s first EP is that of use of Burial style subtle and fragmentation to his otherwise up beat bass driven tracks, it’s a technique which creates a nice juxtaposed sound throughout the EP. It is also one which is applied technically proficiently avoiding any ham fisted copy-cat sound-a-like accusations.

The EP is also littered with vocal samples and snapshots, which sound as if they are taken from a movie, often employed at the end or towards the end of each track each sample is well used and provides a neat method by which to break the EP’s tracks up.

The Compton White EP is a short release its six tracks flying by in a matter of minutes. However, what is on show suggests depth and complexity and shows buckets of promise. It is also to the producer’s credit that he has managed to squeeze so much into such a short EP. This may be Compton White’s first release but on the basis of the material on show here, he has an exciting time ahead of him.

 

July 29th- Trim- 1-800 Dinosaur Presents Trim

1-800 Dinosaur are the production collective and label based around a central association with its member and founder James Blake. Whilst Trim is one of grime’s most acclaimed though illusive MCs having spent years in the game but never released an album and always gazed in at the scene from a distance. The outsider pairing of 1-800 Dinosaur and Trim seems on paper like a perfect fit and based on the evidence on show here it is.

The production from 1-800 Dinosaur is as unique as you’d expect it to be based on Blake’s solo output. However unlike Blake’s solo material this release avoids whimsy in favour of dark and aggressive subtlety. Another notable difference between this release and that of Blake’s main material is the pace at which this album flies past. Often Blake’s albums feel overlong or meandering, but here the 1-800 collaborative keep things short, simple and effective.  RPG stands out as a brilliant example of the combination of experimentalism, subtlety and aggression.

Trim’s flow is stark, pronounced and brilliant. His delivery stands out in the face of a growing list of MCs now gaining mainstream attention. There are none of the Americanisms of Skepta whilst his vocal delivery is much darker than Kano’s. It’s a flow, which stands out because of its uniqueness and this album is all the better that.

Amongst a list of positives what really makes Trim stand out head and shoulders above his rival MCs is the clarity of pronunciation in his flow. When Trim spits everything sounds considered and clear, rather than rushed and garbled. It makes for an appealing listen and leaves you feeling that Trim is attempting to engage with the listener rather than batter their ears to death with a hype-man flow.

This description may make 1-800 Dinosaur Presents Trim sound like an all too serious affair. However, many of the lyrics whilst wrapped in darkness contain humorous put downs and shots at weaker MCs. With food based metaphors such as Burger King and Battered Fish being gleefully employed. There is also a cheeky reference to Blake’s previous song the Wilhelm Scream, which is delivered with some tongue in cheek wit.

Alongside Gaika, Kano and Skepta this release from Trim goes even further to prove that 2016 really is a standout year for grime. It’s no wonder that when faced with the high standard of grime albums this year, Wiley decided to scrap his. The bar has been raised in 2016 and nothing other than brilliant will get you noticed. Thankfully for Trim, this release is exactly that.

 

Tunes of the Month- July 2016

 

  1.  Protoje- Who Knows (Shy FX remix)- It’s festival and carnival season and here is this summer’s obligatory Shy FX tune, catch though.

 

2. Aphex Twin- Cirklon 3- Best track from Aphex Twin’s new EP Cheetah and the first track of his to get a video in many many years. The video is by a 12 year old Vblogger and YouTube gamer

 

3. Machinedrum- Angel Speak- Those who enjoyed Machinedrum’s old school jungle style drum and bass vibes may be disappointed. But there is beauty in the direction and sound of this new track

 

4. Viola Beach- Boys Who Sing- Young British indie-pop band who tragically lost their lives earlier this year, many will be familiar with their story, an album has now been released which pays fitting tribute to the band’s joyous sound and youthful energy.  Coupled with Coldplay’s heart felt tribute at Glastonbury it only feels right to say give this a listen again.