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

 

 

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.

April 8th- DJ Rashad- Afterlife

 

Two years ago electronic music and the Chicago Footwork Scene was shocked by the sudden death of pioneer and focal point DJ Rashad. Since his passing there have been various tribute albums including one independently released by the producer Machinedrum and the compilation Next Life by label Hyperdub. However, Afterlife, is the first release since DJ Rashad’s death to feature DJ Rashad on every track and to some extent forms a Rashad album.

Excitingly Afterlife is also the first release on the newly formed Tek Life label, which is to be run by the Chicago based crew of producers and dancers known by the same name. For those who are uninitiated Chicago Footwork is a sample heavy aggressive and fractured form of house, which has become the soundtrack in Mid-Western American Cities to Footwork Dance Battles. Due to the tight nature of the scene and its main players’ relative poverty actual releases, compilations and international appearances have been sporadic and mostly supported by the labels Planet MU and Hyperdub. Though now with the founding of the Tek Life label, this Afterlife album and DJ Spinn’s recent tours, the wider world may be ready to eventually discover Footwork.

The sound, aggression and darkness of Footwork can most closely be compared to 90s Jungle. This similarity is so close that many Footwork producers have been turning their hand to Jungle samples and tracks in recent years. Indeed on Afterlife this can be seen on the track Come Close and it is on tracks like this, which crossbreed various genres that Footwork feels both more experimental and yet somehow ready for mainstream consumption.

To say that Afterlife goes in hard would be an understatement, since these beats were made for dance battles the album is full of energy. Nearly every member of the Chicago scene has a guest spot on the release: DJ Spinn, Taso, Traxman, DJ Paypal, Gant-Man and DJ Manny, all the main players are present and correct. Seemingly making this album not just a DJ Rashad (tribute) album  but also a mission statement that this is Footwork and we are Footwork.

Roll Up that Loud and Get Fuk’d Up are thrilling starts to the album with Roll Up that Loud being a particular highlight with its seemingly jungle-esque drum rolls. Get Fuk’d Up is slower and more mournful and perhaps highlights what made DJ Rashad stand out as a producer, his ability to keep a crowd hyped whilst also introducing mournful beats, which have come from a dark place. It’s these tracks, which are most often the highlight of Afterlife and serve to remind us of what could have been.

The real highlight though is the jungle-aping Come Close, which features a grab bag of RnB samples, jungle beats and almost Aphex Twin-esque drum loops. It’s nothing short of thrilling and brilliant and goes to prove that away from EDM the American underground can produce truly experimental electronic music.

Oh God brilliantly sounds like Footwork if it appeared in a film scored by John Carpenter with dark synths and strange noises. You can almost envision an impending gun fight in a dark  rainy city-scape.

There is rarely a dull track on Afterlife and the album takes in so many twists, turns and samples that each listen is exciting and leaves you fired up for the dance floor. Afterlife is not just a fittingly tribute to DJ Rashad but a stand out release to launch a label with, welcome to the world Tek Life.

 

 

 

 

April 1st 2016- Babyfather- DJ Escrow Presents BBF

Dean Blunt is a difficult bastard. Contrary to the point of impossible. Thriving off of conflict. His albums are built around fractured sound intent on putting off his listener. And Blunt employs all of these techniques fully and wonderfully on this Babyfather album.

Babyfather’s album DJ Escrow presents BBF sounds like many things all at once: a grime mixtape, the soundtrack to a Kidulthood style movie and the most fucked up pirate radio station to ever air. There are a multiplicity of sounds taking place throughout each track, which means that repeated listening is required to make the experience rewarding. It is of course worth noting that as this is Dean Blunt repeated listening is difficult as Blunt has set out to challenge and aggressively confront the listener.

Much of the album’s subject matter deals with the state of being young and Black in Britain today. However, Blunt doesn’t just reach the usual conclusion of it’s tough and everyone is against you. But instead aggressively attacks black youth for lacking cohesion and losing their way and for turning repeatedly to almost tragically comic violence. This criticism is also volleyed at the door of the Grime music industry with pot shots taken at its lifestyle and MCs including Wiley. Much of this is revealed through the skits between each track which are garbled out in distorted machine-like voices that sound as if they have come from a Garage MCs nightmares.

DJ Escrow presents BBF also includes a sizeable amount of mocking gunshots and sirens ring out regularly you sense Blunt has included them as a send up more than anything else. There is both real anger and mocking in the presentation of this record.

There are, however, real moments of beauty such as Meditation and Motivation though Blunt rarely lets these tracks develop and build beyond a couple of minutes length before plunging the listener back into an urban hell. Several tracks consist of white noise, feedback, bass and MC shout outs yelled over the top, you’d think based on these tracks that Blunt has got himself a weekend job with the C.I.A.

The aggression and sense of challenge presented by Blunt on this record is however all part of the brilliance of the experience and after several listens you come away with these sense that Babyfather have produced a record which approaches and sums up very differently Britain’s current urban landscape. Coming out as it does a few weeks after Kano’s brilliant Made in the Manor. You are left feeling that British MCs and Urban producers are finally finding a voice and moving away from simple Road jams.

If you like a challenge and enjoy the music of Arca, Kanye West’s most recent albums or anything Dean Blunt has previously put out then this is for you. But if you don’t want to approach music with an open mind and some patient repeat listening then I would advise you avoid the thrilling challenge of DJ Escrow presents BBF.

Tunes of the Month January 2016

Each month i’m going to post a selection of tracks, singles and downloads, not on the albums I’ve reviewed that I have been listening. Here’s January:

 

  1. Radiohead- Spectre, given away as a free download and supposedly Radiohead’s submission for the most recent Bond movie, sounds like the band turning back the clocks and creating something rather beautiful, grab yourself a copy here:

 

2.  Porter Robinson- Flicker (Mat Zo remix)- I normally loathe the EDM sound but Mat Zo has done something a bit different with this remix from the end of 2014 using jungle style drums beneath EDM synths to give this track a unique vibe.

 

3.  Babyfather- Meditation- Babyfather are Dean Blunt and Arca and this track was released on Hyperdub if you need more hipster hype than that I don’t think you’ll find it. Has a bit of a trip hop vibe to it with lazy weed induced vocals from Dean Blunt.

 

4. Drake-  Summer Sixteen- A surprise release from Drake who seems to have new material out each month, probably easy to do when you don’t write all of it yourself, but debates and disses aboout ghostwriters aside, this is Drake releasing a strong diss track aimed at those detractors. Beats wise it’s more of the same (a little more lively perhaps) though with Drake that’s no bad thing. Sadly no link on this as all material is exclusive to Apple Music but hey you’ve got Itunes right?

5. Partisan-  Coming straight out of Reading and making what could best be described as heavy grime instrumentals Partisan has gained a lot of attention on the underground electronic scene with various online zines giving him huge props, with tracks like this it’s not hard to see why, again a free download:

 

Enjoy!