Friday, June 28, 2013

Jam of the Day: Rainy Milo - "Deal Me Briefly"


Chet Faker produced track for the up and coming R&B star Rainy Milo. Her voice is gorgeous.

Video: Nine Inch Nails - "Came Back Haunted"


Watch the seizure inducing video for the Nine Inch Nails track "Came Back Haunted," directed by David Lynch.

Videos of the Week


It seems I am in pre-vacation mode this week as my brain is only functioning at 3/4 strength. Just going to get worse from here on out. Here are some videos that made my week less fuzzy:



First new track from the Pixies in nine years.



Re-amped video from Bloc Party.



Slightly NSFW video from The Weeknd.



Creepy video from Locrian.



Damaged rave clip from M.I.A.



Visually stunning clip from Disclosure.

New: Pixies - "Bagboy"


First new Pixies track in nine years.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jam of the Day: Kill J - "Phoenix"


Imagine that, another sexy piece of Scandinavian pop. Statuesque blond Kill J, with the striking haircut, provides us with this sleek jam.

Album Review: Zomby - With Love


Zomby
With Love
Rating: Grrrr

Enigmatic UK producer Zomby rose to prominence off the basis of two records, his 2008 rave-influenced debut Where Were You In 92? and 2011's darker more intimate record Dedication. His latest record, the double-album With Love is a bit of a head scratcher. Over a sprawling 32 tracks, Zomby swings back and forth between rave, drum and bass, minimalist techno, UK bass, and his latest fixation trap music, sometimes flowing into each other breathlessly, other times making jarring transitions and stops that can be frustrating. After 80 minutes, it can be an exhausting experience, and one that doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense, however, somehow it works in an oblique way. With Love is Zomby playing for Zomby and no one else. Whether or not you come along for the ride is obviously not a concern for the producer, as his endless tweets suggest he likes the antagonism his views and music provide.

With Love is a very dark, somber affair, rarely touching the technicolor day-glow rush of his earlier work. Tracks rarely exceed the 3:00 minute mark, most seeming like mere sketches that get their point across then either merge into the next track, fade out, or abruptly end. These are contemplative moments, more suited for the after hours comedown than the euphoria of an evening out. It is difficult album to grab hold of and figure out and, ultimately, it is impossible to figure out. Zomby either refuses to or doesn't care to give you any signposts as to what to do. But this obfuscation actually makes the record a success, at least in my mind. As you listen to these seemingly disparate tracks, it forces your brain to obsess and evaluate these tracks over and over again, finding subtle motifs that pop up again and again, like moving through a vast series of rooms each playing their own theme, and grasping snippets here and there, the overflow washing over you.

Zomby's palate has remained relatively unchanged over his career, preferring to remain beholden to squeltchy analog synths and 8-bit sounds on his more rave inflected tracks, and keeping a fairly minimal tone throughout the record, preferring to stick to two or three elements, letting them rub against each other before moving on to the next moment. Over the first three tracks which blister through in under 6 minutes, Zomby basically addresses his themes succinctly, from the jungle-esque rumble of "As Darkness Falls," two-step anthem "Ascension," and trap influenced "Horrid," showing what interests him at the moment.

His best tracks find him working with subtle, gorgeous melodies that propel the tracks. "Memories" is a stunner, its shuffling beats playing along with the pull of a haunting piano melody as harsher analog synths play with texture and mood. "Overdose" blasts rave synths and lightning quick drum programming against the wall, with echoes of decaying hardware playing like a long lost SOS signal.



"This One" is slinky, bass heavy track that sounds right at home at a sleazy after hours party, while "Vanishment" retains an icy vibe throughout, the sounds of the city and nature attempting to intrude on the journey home.

As the album progresses it gets darker and darker and less uniform. Zomby's forays into trap-influenced tracks finds him shying away from the release found in traditional trap music and has him focusing on its more sinister aspects. From the ink black "Digital Smoke," the lurching ominous strains of "Entropy Sketch," the lonely piano motifs that flow against the clattering trill of "I Saw Golden Light," and the echoing, cavernous black hole of "Sphinx," suggest that in Zomby's world is one that to be lost in is a perilous place.

With Love is too unwieldy and chaotic to be considered a masterpiece, but most likely buried within this sprawl is a brilliant long player. Akin to Aphex Twin's hard drive dump Drukqs, there is a lot of material to sift through, but the sheer quality of most of these tracks makes it impossible to ignore. Perhaps in time, the view of this record will change and it will make more sense in retrospect. With Love is a difficult record to love, a difficult record to listen to at times, but shows Zomby is a producer that can never be trifled with.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jam of the Day: Woodkid - "I Love You"


Gorgeous track off his debut record The Golden Age.

New: Delorean - "Spirit"


First track off their upcoming record Apar.

Album Review: Alison Moyet - the minutes


Alison Moyet
the minutes
Rating: Grrrr

I am always dubious when a longtime artist returns with an album that borrows liberally from current trends in electronic music, as if it is last stab at relevance and market share. Of course, it is easy to forget that Alison Moyet began her career as half of the electronic duo Yaz, and has always dabbled with electronic music on her solo albums. the minutes, her first record since 2007's The Turn, is her first electronic-centric release since her Yaz days, and remarkably neither sounds like a cash grab nor some blind stab at what is current. Collaborating with Guy Sigsworth, formerly of Frou Frou and producer for Bjork, Madonna, and Britney Spears, Alison Moyet finds herself with one of her best, if not the best, records of her career; her voice still powerful and rich, with Sigsworth's productions aiding her delivery rather than just being something bright and shiny in the background.

You know things are different off the bat with the strings and muffled electronics of "Horizon Flame," Moyet's voice supple and deep, weaving in and out of the dense mix of keyboards.



Throughout the record there are nods to dubstep, from the push and pull of juggernaut "Changeling,"



the stuttering, squeltchy electronic landscape of "Apple Kisses,"



and the fierce, album highlight "All Signs of Life" that runs the gamut through dubstep and drum and bass.

Thankfully, Sigsworth and Moyet aren't slaves to one genre of music, making the minutes a stylistically varied experience, one that reveals its depths over time. There are epic tracks like the barnstorming "When I Was Your Girl" which features one of Moyet's most emotionally honest vocals,



"Love Reign Supreme" which travels in the same spritely electro-pop territory as The Postal Service,



and the stately electro-ballad "Filigree," Moyet's voice as regal as it has ever been.



the minutes was a huge surprise for me, as most of Moyet's solo records have been nice yet never really doing much other than providing bland musical backing for her powerful voice. Sigsworth seems to understand that power and works with it instead of not trying to come up against it. Providing more meat to the backing tracks actually makes her voice even more powerful. Welcome back Alison, we hope you and Sigsworth continue this fruitful partnership.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

New: Washed Out - "Don't Give Up"


Dreamy new track from the upcoming record from Washed Out, Paracosm.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jam of the Day: William Arcane - "Departed"


If you combined the vocalist from Foals with James Blake you might happen upon a good description of William Arcane's sound. Lush electronics paired with soulful vocals bring this track to life.

Album Review: Kanye West - Yeezus


Kanye West
Yeezus
Rating: Grrrr

Despite Kanye West being one of the most controversial and egotistical artists of his generation, there truly is no denying that he is also one of the most brilliant producers out there, backing up his boldest statements and eccentricities with jaw-dropping backing tracks, never satisfied to do the expected. Following up his masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy would be no easy task, and instead of repeating the maximalist tendencies of that record, he has changed directions entirely, moving back to the rigid structures of 808's & Heartbreak, making his harshest, most in your face record yet. It sounds like Kanye has been listening to acts like Death Grips, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson for inspiration, and has practically made a proto-punk/industrial record. Beats are harsh and unforgiving while synths frequently are used aggressively and atonally. And once again, Kanye is definitely on his soapbox again, both politically and personally. It seems even being married and having a child has not tempered his views on relationships, seeing them as still rife with betrayal and negativity. While My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy kept to a consistent thematic conceit, here, Yeezus' whiplash changes in tone and viewpoint are frequently jarring which keeps it from reaching the high that was achieved with that landmark record.

With that said, however, Yeezus is still a breathtaking record. Opening with the Daft Punk assisted "On Sight," the album blazes forth with clattering drum programming and acid house synths that are a far cry from Daft Punk's Steely Dan-tinged new record, showing an edge that has been missing from them for awhile. Kanye spits his verses out with as much venom as possible.



Yeezus contains his harshest backing tracks ever, frequently going into speaker damaging territory, not afraid to be ugly or confrontational. From the air raid siren cacophony of "Send It Up,"



the dark electro of "I Am A God,"



or the rumbling, trap influenced "I'm In It," these tracks are fearless and intense.

Often, Kanye's vitriol meets up perfectly with his all out sonic assault. "Black Skinhead," which appears to draw influence from both Marilyn Manson and The Timelords, is another Daft Punk assisted track that bangs and clatters with breathless percussion, low synth rumbles, and Kanye commenting on race and modern culture, spitting out verses like "They see a black man with a white woman/At the top floor they gone come to kill King Kong."



"New Slaves" attacks racism, corporate consumerism, and the prison system with bile and venom, as the backing track moves from stark electronic dissonance into an outlandish, over-the-top finale.



There are a couple of missteps on Yeezus that keep it out of the running for another Kanye masterpiece. His puzzling use of Nina Simone's anti-lynching poem "Strange Fruit" to back his divorce tale "Blood On The Leaves" is out of place, and quite frankly insulting,



while closing track "Bound 2" appears to be his one concession at a radio-friendly hit that just feels completely out of place within the confines of this dark and haunted record.



Sonically, Yeezus is a marvel of aggression and harshness, perhaps one of the most anti-pop records ever released from a major artist. While on person level I find a lot of what Kanye does and says abhorrent, I have to give him respect for never doing the same thing twice and always going for broke with his music. I don't think you can ever say Kanye phones it in. While I can't put it on the same shelf as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a couple of rungs below it is still high praise.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Video: Disclosure - "F For You"


Disclosure show off an intricate light/visual show in this clip for their slinky track "F For You."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

New: Drake ft. Sampha - "The Motion"


New track released by Drake. Unsure whether it will appear on his upcoming record Nothing Was The Same, but hey, who cares? It's a new Drake track!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jam of the Day: Until The Ribbon Breaks - "2025"


UK producer Pete Lawrie Winfield's Until the Ribbon Breaks project releases this haunting, skittering song that attacks a variety of cultural issues, framing them with a backing track that sounds like it is about to collapse upon itself. Bracing and thrilling.

Videos of the Week


Finally got my Internet back on so that I can actually post something. Here, after much exasperation, are my favorite videos of the week:



Gorgeously shot video from Fleur and Manu who directed the M83 videos.



Goofy and surreal video from Robyn ft. Snoop Dogg.



Super sad Local Natives track gets an equally super sad video. Get your tissues out.



The laundromat from hell in the new clip from The Postal Service.



Gorgeous video about what might have been.



Trippy video from noise merchants Fuck Buttons.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jam of the Day: Sirena - "Love Is Not"


There must be something in the water in Sweden. This year has brought us so many amazing acts from over there, and Sirena is again no exception. I love this sultry track from her.

Album Review: Austra - Olympia


Austra
Olympia
Rating: Grrrr

Canadian electronic act Austra arrive in 2011 with an intriguing debut record Feel It Break, featuring the classically trained operatic vocals of Katie Stelmanis, which set them apart from a lot of emerging bands. While I liked the album a lot, especially the throbbing first single "Beat and the Pulse," the rest of the record felt a little too rigid and cold, interesting sketches that needed to be filled out more. With new record Olympia, Austra feels a little looser and engaging, putting forth a collection of songs that are still cerebral but also feel like the band is having fun, and not putting forth some clinical project. Stelmanis' vocals, which are a formidable instrument, work with the tracks instead of against them; too often on Feel It Break they overtook the music, creating a harsh conflict.

Glitchy electronic rumblings form the basis for lead track "What We Done?" as dark synths and flutes rise from the murk, each new element adding forcefully to the track as Stelmanis' piercing vocals reign over it all. When the beats kick in, the track takes on new life, with all the elements coming together under synth swells.



There is a lightness and airiness to the production this go around which adds better flow and pacing to the record, more traditional percussion and analog instruments add to this effect. And the tracks are definitely more dancefloor oriented this go around. While there were some danceable tracks on Feel It Break, for the most part they were more atmospheric than beat driven. Here, you get the playful bounce of "Painful Like,"



the sultry throb of "Annie (Oh Muse, You),"



and the bright synth lines, bass wobbles, and strings of "Forgive Me."



But there are many more exquisite tracks on Olympia that focus less on the dancefloor and more on atmosphere and texture. Album highlight "We Become" is a striking midtempo track drawing from reggae and Balearic music, casting a lovely, lilting sense of loneliness and aching to the album, Stelmanis' vocals absolutely heartbreaking in its tenderness.



While several tracks highlight Stelmanis' amazing vocal chops with the music almost incidental to her war cries, like the steady build of "You Changed My Life,"



the angelic choir of "Hurt Me Now,"



or the deep electro pulse of "Sleep," with Stelmanis focusing on her lower registers as the music whirls around her.



Olympia builds off the foundations of Feel It Break and gives new life and trajectory to Austra's sound. The tracks don't feel isolated from each other, but work off one another, breathing with life and energy. The addition of more traditional instruments and warmer analog synth sounds also helps create a fuller, more inviting set of tracks. Olympia is an excellent step in the right direction for this up and coming act; definitely check it out.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jam of the Day: Gesaffelstein - "Pursuit"


Hypnotic and strange video for this sleazy electro track by French producer Gesaffelstein. The clip was directed by the team of Fleur and Manu who directed the M83 videos for tracks off of their record Hurry Up, We're Dreaming.

Album Review: Sigur Rós - Kveikur


Sigur Rós
Kveikur
Rating: Woof Daddy

Sigur Rós' seventh studio album Kveikur finds the band at a crossroads. Their sound, so distinctive after all these years, had reached somewhat of a rut. After lead singer Jónsi's more jubilant solo record, I was expecting a change in direction (or perhaps even a disbandment), however, last year's album Valtari found the band right back where the started from with more proto-new agey post-rock. While I found myself enjoying Valtari with more detailed listens, I was still disappointed that the band wasn't really charting new territory. When pianist Kjartan Sveinsson left the band, I really thought that would be the end of Sigur Rós as he was such an intricate part of the band's sound and direction. What could have been seen as a hindrance to most bands seems to have been just what they needed, sparking much needed life into what had become too familiar and stale.

From the opening industrial crunch of "Brennnisteinn" the old Sigur Rós that you've known is shattered, utilizing a more forceful rhythm section that propels the track forward, as the intense swirl of guitars and effects threatens to overtake the track.



And this more strident Sigur Rós finds its way into almost every track. From the screaming guitars of title track "Kveikur;"



slow building "Bláþráður" which climaxes in a fury of guitars, pounding drums, and orgiastic strings; and the hypnotic pull of "Isjaki" which finds the track propelled by intricate drum work,



there is a new found beefiness to the arrangements that make the tracks less ephemeral than in the past. Not to say Sigur Rós has completely distanced themselves from their prior sound. With Jónsi's distinctive voice they will always sound like Sigur Rós regardless of what direction they take. And there are more hushed moments here that draw from the past, but there is an added sense of urgency and purpose that had been lacking lately. Even on quieter songs here like "Yfirbord" so much is going on in the background that it pulls your focus from being lost inside the song into being one with it. "Rafstraumur" begins deceptively like an early, more timid track, but changes course soon into a more upbeat, joyous mix of rushing drums, angelic chorus vocals, twinkling pianos, and rising strings. While even the closing instrumental track "Var" starts out on a particularly somber, ambient note of piano chords and aching strings, has a subtle, anxious tone throughout it that keeps you on edge, never letting it become just aural wallpaper.

Kveikur is not a reinvention of the band, but more a shaking off the cobwebs and finding new inspiration in what made them so intriguing and special to begin with. Instead of the songs retreating into themselves, they live, breath, and occupy space with an intensity that I thought Sigur Rós had somewhat lost. While I hadn't necessarily given up on the band, the constant desire from them to something even slightly different and not getting what I needed was beginning to wear thin. With Kveijkur, the Sigur Rós spark is back, and hopefully will continue to grow.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Jam of the Day: Austra - "We Become"


Gorgeous track off the band's upcoming album Olympia. This reggae-tinged song has a lovely, subtle sense of sadness to it, that of course drew me in quickly.

Videos of the Week


Peach Party weekend is finally here in Atlanta, and it was a long time in coming. Here were the videos that pumped my peach juices for the week:



Fun, party in an empty pool video from AlunaGeorge.



Stunningly shot clip from These New Puritans.



Violent, evocative video from Poliça.



Goofy and fun video from A-Trak.



Ridiculously brilliant clip from The Lonely Island.



Off to college-themed video from Kisses.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jam of the Day: Cloud Boat - "Bastion"


Very intoxicating mix of glitchy electronics and indie guitar rock, borrowing a debt from acts like Hood.

Album Review: Skinny Puppy - Weapon


Skinny Puppy
Weapon
Rating: Grrrr

Three decades into their storied career, electro-industrial gods Skinny Puppy return with their latest record Weapon and strikingly jettison their past experiments with dense layers of samples and return to the basics of their earliest releases Bites and Remission to fashion a more streamlined and sleek Puppy. Weapon still has Skinny Puppy in a pissed off mood though, crafting a loose concept record about violence and weaponry in modern society and how this focus ultimately turns our future path to one of self-destruction and irrelevance. While Weapon may lack the intense, sonic collages that informed their best work, it is still a quietly forceful record that seeks its own level. Furthermore, it is also one of Skinny Puppy's most overtly dance-oriented record, foregoing more experimental drum programming for direct beats. Not to say that this record lacks an adventurous nature, it is still Skinny Puppy after all, with several songs pushing at the boundaries of their sound. But instead of the sonic exploration taking over the direction, it is used in connection with the flow of the record.

Weapon kicks off strongly with the electro pulse of "wornin'," its pounding beats buffeted by a sleek whirl of synthesizers, Ogre's vocals surprisingly direct and unadorned, relishing his lower, more guttural register.



This strong opening continues with the blisteringly paced thump of "illisiT" with driving programming and gritty, almost guitar-like synth crunches adding a air-raid sirn like quality to the track,



"saLvo" aches and moans with twisted synth lines and clattering drum machines,



while "gLowbeL" feels almost whimsical, Skinny Puppy pushing forward on a carnival like melody, as the beats threaten to run off the rails.



While the focus on Weapon is a more beat heavy experience, Skinny Puppy do throw in some more texture oriented tracks for the faithful. "tsudanama" is a Rabies-era sounding collage of fractured beats, electronic blips and bleeps, and an undercurrent of menace and terror,



and closing track "terminal" is an elegantly constructed electro-ballad, with its mournful synth lines cascading over an increasingly frenetic bed of clattering drum programming, while Ogre utilizes his frequently under appreciated vocals for dramatic effect.



But ultimately, Weapon is all about brutality and aggression in its approach. From the blunt force trauma of "slovent,"



thick electro pulse of "survivalisto,"



or thumping pace of "paragUn,"



Skinny Puppy engages your brain while getting your feet oriented for the dance floor.

While many will likely bemoan the fact that Skinny Puppy has taken a more streamlined approach to their sound since their return with 2004's The Greater Wrong of the Right, I think it was an extremely wise choice. Skinny Puppy had basically taken their sound to the outer edges, and any more experimenting would have drifted too far into pure, abstracted noise. This more "direct" Skinny Puppy comes to us with a better sense of purpose and direction. With Weapon they continue putting out amazing records that draw on their past glories, but move them forward in new and interesting ways.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jam of the Day: Washed Out - "It All Feels Alright"


Trippy, dreamy, and hazy, this first peek at Washed Out's upcoming record Paracosm is a sweetly psychedelic journey that portends good things for the record.

Album Review: Jon Hopkins - Immunity


Jon Hopkins
Immunity
Rating: Woof Daddy

Over the course of three solo releases, UK producer Jon Hopkins made beautiful yet fairly unmemorable techno that never seemed to push him into the next level of electronic artists. It wasn't until high profile collaborations with Brian Eno, Coldplay and Underworld and his collaboration with King Creosote on the 2011 Mercury Prize nominated album Diamond Mine that finally started getting him name recognition. These opportunities seemingly have jump started his creative juices, leading him to create his best album so far, and not only that, one of the best techno releases of the year. Immunity is a self-described journey through a night of clubbing, taking the listener through the highs and lows of a evening out on the town, where music is both a release, a tormentor, and ultimately a savior.

Starting off with the muted hums and whispers of "We Disappear," the album begins hesitantly before the first squeltchy beats rise from the haze, bell-like synths hovering in the background, the track rising to meet the road as all the disparate elements of the song join together. As the track slowly fades out, it bleeds into the driving force of dancefloor thumper "Open Eye Signal," an almost 8 minute blast of pounding drum programming, buzzing basslines, and rising waves of synths, acknowledging the night has begun in earnest.



"Breathe This Air" brings in some confusion to the journey, a hesitation if you will, the beats dropping out into a lovely piano interlude, as if the night's party favors are slowly taking root, with the euphoria growing and expanding as the crunch of the beats come back into the forefront.



The night fully comes into its own with the dark, pulsating "Collider" which pushes and pulls against swirling synths and clattering, pounding drum beats, all merging into a massive head rush of sounds.



The back half of the record is definitely the comedown portion of the night, the dance floor/club/bar receding into the background, memories of the night swirling in the head, the good and the bad choices being relived over and over again. "Abandon Window" feels like the cab ride home or to another destination, stark piano chords mirroring the street lights flashing by.



Glitchy programming and more stark piano chords flow through "Form By Firelight," masking the confusion of the comedown, while a moment of clarity comes through on the epic rush of "Sun Harmonics," where angelic voices merge with a steady, pulsating beat, the emergence from confusion into the light.



While the final, title track "Immunity" brings the evening to a close, haunting piano lines glide over a backwards masked clank of percussion, as King Creosote's wordless vocals create a Sigur Ros' like spell over the proceedings, eyes slowly closing, the journey at an end.



Based on his previous output, I wasn't expecting anything as transforming as Immunity, and it still blows me away how beautiful and brilliant it is. The pacing and flow of the record is almost perfect, each track placed for ultimate impact, an amazing journey to take. With this lovely record, Hopkins jumps into the same line as artists like Four Tet and Burial, able to create lasting and moving full-fledged sonic worlds that you can immerse yourself in. In a still early year, the amazing records keep coming, and Mr. Hopkins joins the race for album of the year.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Album Review: Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest


Boards of Canada
Tomorrow's Harvest
Rating: Woof Daddy

Almost outclassing Daft Punk in the marketing department, Boards of Canada slyly reappeared after a 7 year absence with a viral ad campaign that had secret 12"s being left in record bins, strange bar codes, a Tokyo billboard announcement, and a desert listening party, with everything adding to the mystery of what BoC were up to, and now we are left with the final product, their fourth album Tomorrow's Harvest. Possibly named after a website that deals with food production and preparation for emergency situations, and appears to cater to doomsday minded people, Tomorrow's Harvest has a slightly sinister and dark quality to it that permeates all of the 17 tracks. Likewise, brothers Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin have indicated that their influences this go around went to soundtracks from John Carpenter, Wendy Carlos, and Mark Isham, creating a tension and almost off-putting edge to these tracks that gives the album an uncomfortable air of dread and unease. It is like they wanted to completely distance themselves from the pastoral IDM they put forth on their last record, The Campfire Headphase, and delve further into the darker territory they were mapping out on Geogaddi. The resulting record plays like a compendium of all their works, fractured through their current mood and viewpoint. Instead of drastically reinventing the wheel, Sandison and Eoin have made what is undeniably a Boards of Canada record, but one that expands upon the legacy created and adds a new, almost twisted spin to things.

Starting off with a nod to Music Has A Right To Children's analog nostaglia with a National Film Board-esque fanfare, "Gemini" quickly shows BoC venturing off into new territory with dense interplay between keyboard drones and John Carpenter like synth arpeggios, creating a sinister landscape that could easily be in an Escape From New York movie. This blends in seamlessly with one of BoC's most brilliant tracks, "Reach For The Dead," gradually grows from a minimalist beginning into a steady wash of undulating synths and abstract percussion.



Throughout the record, BoC work more with texture, grafting odd percussive signatures with layers and layers of different keyboards and effects. From the clanking and throbbing pulse of "Jacquard Causeway,"



the lurching, lopsided grooves and hazy keyboards of "Sick Times," the twitchy haze of burbling electronics on "New Seeds,"



or the haunting downtempo track "Come To Dust" with its elegant, mourning synth strains,



Tomorrow's Harvest shows why Sandison and Eoin took seven years to meticulously craft these amazing tracks.

Interspersed through these tracks are many shorter more evocative songs that play on tension and mood. The sinister insect like scratches and 70s Italian horror movie tones of "White Cyclosa,"



hypnotic washes of keyboards and almost hidden voice samples propelling "Transmisiones Ferox," the clanking and feral "Palace Posy," and the unnerving, twitchy "Uritual" all serve to propel the record forward into its amazing depths.

Tomorrow's Harvest shows that Boards of Canada looks at their work with reverence but not as sticklers, able to draw from their deep wells and make a record that is distinctly a Boards of Canada record, but also one that moves to its own structure and purpose. There are moments of intense beauty on here but also moments that make you extremely uncomfortable. BoC are masters of atmosphere and know how to carefully structure their records to exploit this tension. Tomorrow's Harvest is another amazing record from Sandison and Eoin, and further cements their reputation as brilliant producers.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Video: Young Galaxy - "New Summer"



Young Galaxy present this video for their single "New Summer" and give it a seemingly big-budget summer blockbuster like feel. They made the video as a way to get people to look at the song different. Without the visuals, the song comes across as a lovingly nostalgic reminiscence of days gone past. With the visuals it is haunting elegy to a world prior to destruction. It is an interesting look into the combined powers of visuals with words.



Jam of the Day: Laura Welsh - "Cold Front"


British vocalist Laura Welsh continues here collaborations with producer Dev Hynes on this slow-burning R&B jam with some subtle electronic overtones.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Jam of the Day: Forest Swords - "Thor's Stone"


Sinister track from an upcoming record from Forest Swords.

Videos of the Week


This week flew by thankfully. Here are the videos that helped the week shoot past in overdrive:



Arty black and white clip for this moody burner.



Video composed of fractured images that will play behind Sigur Ros on their upcoming tour. This song finds the band becoming more and more visceral.



Late night antics in Chicago.



Typically weird clip from Deerhoof.



Fun in a mortuary.



Creepy video for this very creepy track.



All-star video for this frenetic song from Vampire Weekend.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jam of the Day: Boards of Canada - "Come To Dust"


Gorgeously icy standout track from their new record Tomorrow's Harvest.

Album Review: Tricky - False Idols


Tricky
False Idols
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Ever since he exploded onto the music scene with his brilliant debut album Maxinquaye, Tricky has done almost everything he can to distance himself from that album's distinctive and influential style. He moved to a more harder edge sound for subsequent records like Pre-Millenial Tension and Angels With Dirty Faces before almost completely forsaking his initial sound for more rap/hip-hop inspired forays and then alt-rock hybrids that never truly suited him. These post-90s records were never all out embarrassments, however, they did nothing but stall what was once considered a formidable force in the music world. After Angels With Dirty Faces, Tricky's albums were all considered (mostly by Tricky himself) to be his best record/return-to-form/masterpiece that ended up merely being words, the music not powerful enough to back up those claims. By 2008's Knowle West Boy, I basically tuned out the chatter for the records and just remembered the old Tricky, who was able to back up his big mouth with truly phenomenal music. So, with the release of his latest record False Idols, Tricky once again took to the press to announce this as being even better than Maxinquaye. Is it? Sadly no, but it is definitely his most cohesive and most interesting record since Angels With Dirty Faces.

Finally stopping his trend of making music that doesn't fit his personality, Tricky returns to his more atmospheric side, blending his dark beats with sinister electronics, strings, and textured guitars. Instead of trying to beat you senseless with an all-out sonic attack, Tricky lets silence and mood take over, with an overarching sense of dread and claustrophobia taking over. The worst you can say about some of these tracks are that they need to be fleshed out more. There are only a couple of skippable tracks among the 15 included here, which, on the basis of his last records, is a monumental improvement. While this record hearkens back to his Maxinquaye sound, Tricky almost appears hesitant and unsure here at times, not allowing that reckless sense of danger that permeated that landmark record take over. This prevents the album from really taking off, though it shows flashes of the cocksure brilliance Tricky showed early on in his career.

The album takes awhile to find its footing, making some missteps here and there, but towards the end of the record the pace hits its stride with some of Tricky's most ominous and strident tracks. "Does It" bludgeons with a dark as soot bassline and Middle Eastern musical accents, with Tricky speak-singing his words along with his latest breathy muse Francesca Belmonte;



percussion heavy "I'm Ready" drips with odd electronics and a sense of unease and dread; "Hey Love" heavily samples the synth riff from Japan's hit single "Ghosts" to create a twitchy vibe,



while closing track "Passion of the Christ" borrows motifs from "Does It" but smudges it heavily with booming drums and sampled/manipulated church bells.



These tracks show that Tricky still is very much in control of his vision, it is only where he seems hesitant or unsure does the record falter. Tracks like "If I Only Knew" and "Chinese Interlude" smack of trip-hop lite and stick out too much like sore thumbs in the mix. While he gets a little too mired in his alt-rock fixation on a track like "Is That Your Life" or lets his experimentation get too out of control as on the all-atmosphere of "Tribal Drums." The remaining tracks are all really good Tricky songs but just seem to lack that extra energy that permeated his best work, and which informs the back half of the record. With that said, it is hard to really argue much with the beauty of tracks like "Nothing's Changed," a reworking of his classic track "Makes Me Wanna Die,"



the slow-build of "Nothing Matters,"



or the trip-hop beats and languid guitars of "Bonnie and Clyde."



Despite Tricky's bold claims that this is better than Maxinquaye, False Idols is far short of that goal, but is still a step in the right direction, playing to Tricky's strengths rather than trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. I am hoping that Tricky no longer feels like he has to run away from the sound that made him a success in the first place and will get him back to making the music that he is so good at making. Despite a few missteps on the album, False Idols is an extremely welcome return to form for the trip-hop master.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Jam of the Day: Saturday, Monday - "The Road"


Slinky techno track from Saturday, Monday that is completely infectious.

Album Review: When Saints Go Machine - Infinity Pool


When Saints Go Machine
Infinity Pool
Rating: Grrrr

Danish electro outfit When Saints Go Machine will likely never be accused of going mainstream; they are much too enamored of bending machine made sounds into the most twisted shapes imaginable. Over the course of two albums they have jumped back and forth from somewhat more traditional synthpop tracks (with a much needed edge) and extremely challenging soundscapes and musical experiments. I keep waiting for that one album from them that balances these two forces equally, creating that perfect blend of pop savvy and sonic exploration. Their last record Konkylie was about as close as they could get for me so far, with just a few too many tracks that skirted too close over the line at times into too experimental. The first two teaser singles for new record Infinity Pool immediately got my attention. "Love and Respect" featured a more hip-hop leaning bent, with boom bap programming and a guest turn from Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, showing a new edge previously missing from their records. While "Iodine," a more traditionally WSGM synthpop track, initially didn't make as stunning impression, its all-enveloping warmth and humanity washed over you so easily, taking you into its considerable spell. So with trepidation I received the full length album, really wanting every track to strike me the way these two did. While none of the remaining tracks hit the highs set by these two tracks, ultimately Infinity Pool works as a yang to Konkylie's yin, providing a similar experience, albeit one that is darker and more challenging, but yet still admirable.

Of course the two standout tracks are the aforementioned singles. "Love and Respect" is so startlingly fresh for the band, it is almost difficult to imagine it is them at first, with its dark beats and rap from Killer Mike. Of course, once Nikolaj Mauel Vonsild's distinctive falsetto hits, it is immediately apparent who it is.



"Iodine" works its magic through a steady, clomping beat and intertwined synth lines that snake in and out of each other. Vonsild's voice is delicate and fragile, exuding a plaintive air of sadness and mystery.



Infinity Pool hits the high points for me on these tracks that take risks but yet still operate in a more traditional song structure. There are many moments where WSGM are firing on all cylinders and create some of the most avant-garde pop tracks of the year. "System of Unlimited Love" burrows under a bed of dense drum programming as swirling and sparkling synths fight against the darkness,



"Mannequin" feels like a cross between Kid-A era Radiohead synth experimentation with a classical sensibility,



"Webs" is a slow march of intricately layered keyboards and Vonsild's aching vocals, and closing track "Slave To The Take In Your Heaven" glides from organ reveries into a lush drum and bass coda.



Too often though, the tracks head off into experimental territory, preferring texture and atmosphere over beats and hooks. While a couple of tracks here and there would have been a good palate cleanser between the poppier tracks, there are far too many of these tracks throughout Infinity Pool that tend to weigh things down. With that said, there are a couple of decent experimental tracks here and there. "Infinity Killer" moves over fractured drones and bass wobbles to interesting effect,



"Order" has a striking use of muted keyboards underneath and more bombastic fanfare of brassy synths, while "Deadboy" has an odd affinity with the Japan single "Ghosts" with creaky, ominous keyboard lines throughout.

Aside from a couple of out there tracks, Infinity Pool is another worthy record in When Saints Go Machine canon. While I tended to be drawn to their more pop-leaning tracks, it is clear from their output that When Saints Go Machine is not particularly interested in making anyone other than themselves happy with their music. With the strength of their songs, it is hard to argue that this approach is not working for them. Instead of wanting something different from the band, it is best to just appreciate them for what they are.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jam of the Day: Jaymes Young - "Dark Star"


LA singer-songwriter Jaymes Young offers up a teaser to his upcoming mixtape. This dark ballad offers subtle dubstep wobbles to ominous effect.

Album Review: Disclosure - Settle


Disclosure
Settle
Rating: Woof Daddy

UK production duo Disclosure, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, occupy a strange position in dance music. They aren't a straight up dance act, their strengths definitely lie more in the pop song area, however, they aren't necessarily solidly in the traditional pop song structure world either, letting things go on occasion with straight up house tracks. It's this tension and flirtation between the two areas that makes them so fascinating. Not to mention, they know how to come up with some killer hooks. Before the release of their debut album Settle, Disclosure release a torrent of hot singles, the slamming club track "White Noise" with AlunaGeorge, R&B leaning "Latch" with Sam Smith, and kooky UK garage referencing "You & Me" with Eliza Dolittle. My fear was that the album would be these singles plus a lot of filler, but Settle actually goes beyond that, revealing itself to be a surprisingly cohesive journey from the duo, flowing like a good DJ set, with lots of highs mixed in with different styles.

Of course, most of the highlights come in the form of more traditional song structures. "White Noise" is still as fresh and slamming as it was when it was first released, its liquid bassline and fierce vocal turn from AlunaGeorge catchy as hell.



"You & Me" grabs from the get-go with its two-step beat, frenetic keyboards, and lovely vocals from Eliza Doolittle.



But new vocal collaborations also feature as highlights. Probably the best track they have done yet, "Confess To Me" with the gorgeous voice of Jesse Ware, is a stunning bass heavy track that would be sure to get any dancefloor pumping.



Ed Macfarlane of Friendly Fires adds vocals to the lush mid-tempo track "Defeated No More," R&B/two-step practitioner Jamie Woon provides his velvety voice to the sleek jam "January," while up and coming UK buzz act London Grammar take things out on a heavenly note with the gorgeous album closing track "Help Me Lose My Mind."

The good thing about all these collaborations is that they all work seamlessly, with no one showboating or distracting from Disclosure's basic aesthetic. If the whole album had been all collaborations it might have grown tiresome, however, the duo seem aware of that and mixed in several more dance-oriented tracks. Fresh new single "When A Fire Starts To Burn" brings some tent-revival-esque samples to life with a thumping beat and funky house keyboards,




"F For U" powers forward on a J Dilla sample and infectious garage beat,



and the percolating "Grab Her" slams bouncy basslines around with crisp drum programming.

Settle is a remarkably assured debut from this very young production duo (Guy is the eldest at 21) and foretells major things from them going forward. After the relatively disappointing new record from Daft Punk, Disclosure sets the bar very high for any other dance-oriented act this year. Settle is by far the best dance record of the year to date.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.