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

 

 

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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.

September 2nd- Zomby- Ultra

For those who don’t know Zomby is one of what seems like many faceless electronic music producers who, like Burial (who appears here), have chosen to hide and obscure their true identity in favour of putting the music first. For Zomby this worked wonders with his stunning debut album Where Were You in 92? However, twitter tantrums, live meltdowns and punch ups with Hudson Mohawke alongside some mediocre releases has seen his anonymity used as a critique of his behaviour. Ultra you’ll be pleased to hear goes some way to right these wrongs, especially when compared to last year’s patchy XL released Let’s Jam.

Opening with trap influenced Reflection things get off to a lively start, reflection is also dotted with vocal snippets, which sound as if they have been lifted from a rave record circa 1995. It’s an enjoyable start to the record. Second track Burst sees the producer turning to the squelchy synth laden sound he has been become known for, it’s enjoyable but the track lives up to its name in that it is merely a 2 minute burst of sound. Not allowing tracks time and space to breathe has been a criticism of Zomby in the past, especially LP With Love, and Burst suffers from that same criticism.

Fly2 sees the use of a UK Garage inflected vocal repeated over stereotypical Zomby beats, it’s brilliant and is given time to breathe and flourish, and around the 2.50 minute mark changes pace, compellingly and completely throwing the listener.

The change in pace found on Fly2 is systematic of an overall change found on Ultra that being Zomby embracing the darkness of his productions by slowing things down, fragmenting his bass sounds more and even introducing some Burial inspired crackle. It lends Ultra some vital depth, which has been lacking from some Zomby released in the past. E.S.P stands as an example to this alongside the Burial featuring Sweetz.

Stylistically there are also plenty of Zomby’s influences on show, the man has always worn his inspirations on his sleeve and this is still true on Ultra. Rave horns are in place, jungle inspired bass and sound effects ring out over tracks like I and vocal samples and snippets litter the album. Zomby has always done this, but here on Ultra the nostalgia for rave past is as strong as it was on Where Were You in 92? It’s a device the producer uses well and the album feels all the better for it.

The track, which got everyone excited for this release was the Burial featuring Sweetz, with its Footwork inspired vocal sample and heavy, slow baseline, the track is a product of darkness and resides in the shadows perfectly. Given that it was made by both Zomby and Burial this should not surprise anyone. The track is fragmented and split into various bass driven sections and it continually leaves the listener guessing. Sweetz is also complex enough that it makes you yearn for the two producers to have a whole album over which they could explore and expand their join sound.

Ultra is not a perfect release there are some faults but it is a release, which is an exceptionally enjoyable listen and which never leaves the listener feeling bored. The strength of material on show here should also go some way to quietening those detractors, which Zomby’s persona has encouraged.

February 7th- MssingNO- Fones EP

Electronic music is filled with men of mystery from Zomby to Burial and like his XL Label mate Jai Paul, MssingNO fits nicely into this category having released a highly acclaimed EP on Goon Allstars the producer then disappeared, to do what? Travel the world? Work a 9 to 5? Observe the gritty world around him? Who knows, but whatever MssingNO got up to whilst missing in action it sure as hell lit a fire up under his arse. Because Fones is exceptional.

As an EP Fones fits into the ever so popular and growing grime 2.0 genre with icicle beats enveloping street level aggression. Layered on top of each track are sped up female vocals which could have come straight from the PC music back catalogue.

Each track is incredibly textured with perhaps Scope standing out as the strongest track. Annie Mac has been dropping Scope regularly on her week night show giving it as much acclaim as I am here. Sparkly synths kickoff the track before they give way to a vocal which stands somewhere between J-Pop and UK Garage, after which the bass kicks in with a vibe that could be best described as influenced by two-step but is in fact from a world of its own.

The track Inta was released last year on XL Recordings fantastic Chapter VI album, a mission statement to the future of dance music from the UK’s best and most important indie label. A similar statement of intent is also laid down by MssingNo on Fones, as the producer uses the release to provide an insight into what grime and the future of UK bass music should, if sense allows, sound like.

Certainly this release won’t be for every grime and UK basshead out there. But those who are more adventurous will only gain from getting hold of a copy of Fones. If this is, as MssingNO envisions, the future of grime and bass music then that future is shaping up to be an experimental and exciting adventure.