Friday, 31 May 2013

Recommended Albums: May 2013

Another month, more releases to trawl through. There's enough that I've virtually abandoned recently to suggest that the ones left range from pretty good to something special, even when they're not presented in traditional album form:

Savages - Silence Yourself
A post-punk debut that feels like the three decades preceding it didn't happen, Silence Yourself has some fantastic songs and a great overall feel and structure. Listen alongside Iceage's You're Nothing for the ultimate 2013 post-punk experience - it's just as good as that album.

Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap (mixtape)
Chance seems to take his cues from The College Dropout-era Kanye and J. Dilla without necessarily emulating either. "Fun", and "quirky" are words that come to mind. You won't need to listen to Acid Rap too many times for some of these hooks to lodge in your head.

Merchandise - Totale Nite (EP)
A heady 30 minutes of psychedelic space-rock rubbing shoulders with hardcore punk and occasional Depeche Mode-like gritty euphoria. Has to be heard to be believed I suppose.

DJ Rashad - Rollin EP
One of footwork's biggest names releases a 4-track EP on Hyperdub (and I finally hear it). It's hard to choose a highlight, but "Drums Please", a collab with DJ Manny is perhaps my favourite right now. A good month for footwork releases, as a scroll down will reveal...

RP Boo - Legacy / FACT mix 384 - RP Boo (May '13)
What RP Boo can't do with vocal samples isn't worth knowing. The footwork originator's debut album Legacy collects some of his best jackhammer beats from the last 10 years. Meanwhile on his FACT mix he spins some entirely different tracks into a constant 160BPM mix - the way they were meant to be heard.

Inga Copeland - Higher Powers (mixtape)
I've been playing Inga Copeland's Don't Look Back... EP so much that an extra 20 minutes of demo/ additional material was always going to sit well with me. Best here is "A World In Danger III", featuring familiar collaborator Scratcha DVA.

Vår - No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers
A debut concocted of militaristic snares, triumphant acoustic guitar and throbbing electronica, from members of  Iceage and Lower. "Vår" translates as "spring", and this group seems to capture a type of youthful abandon, as looming as the shadows of darker subject matter may be.

Bambooman - Hollowed EP
Strange, hypnotic, relaxing instrumental hip hop coming from a man from Leeds. Despite the shortness of the tracks here they come together as an astonishingly developed whole. A few here are definite keepers, and I'm looking forward to whatever comes next.

Them's your lot from me this month. The next Culture Shock mix ought to be coming tomorrow, featuring tracks from releases here (if not try a previous instalment). Next month expect new releases by Boards of Canada, Kanye West, Melt Yourself Down, Young Fathers, Run The Jewels, Holden, Austra and more (bring it on!)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Single of the Week: Boards of Canada - "Reach For The Dead"

In all honesty I'm not sure if "Reach For The Dead" is the single best piece of music I've listened to all week. However, as with other Boards of Canada fans there's a certain substance to their music that induces a rush of excitement that no long-winded, "mysterious" advertising campaign can't match. I'm not saying I'm immune to this kind of hype: certainly "listen to Tomorrow's Harvest" has been scribbled over my unconscious like love notes to a girly friend, and I'm not trying too hard to resist setting myself up for disappointment. But that's also because I secretly believe that an album with tracks like "Reach For The Dead" simply won't be one.

With early releases such as Twoism and debut album Music Has The Right To Children (if you've only listen to one electronic album, make it this one) Boards of Canada seemed to extract and remove any trace of human arrangement from their music, presenting their CDs as discarded artefacts from another time: collections of music from advertisements, wildlife documentaries and instructional videos allowed to arrange themselves amongst urban decay. Gradually these urbane influences crept out of BoC's subsequent releases and became more pastoral, even more alien. I'm not sure if "Reach For The Dead" is an extension or a departure from this trajectory. Granted the opening hissy synth drone possesses the same haunting quality that has remained a constant in BoC's music (aided along with stretched out and twisted inhuman voice samples), but the lack of percussive elements throughout the first half of the track make this drone sound freer, perhaps lonelier (illustrated to great effect in deserted scenes of the accompanying music video). When the familiar electronic drums arrive they don't so much as propel the track into a new phase as ground it back into inescapable mechanical reality, a sound and theme so far out of time with Boards of Canada that has always sounded timeless.

Tomorrow's Harvest, the new album by Boards of Canada will be released on the 10th June on Warp Records. Pre-order on Bleep and receive an instant MP3 download of "Reach For The Dead".

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Single of the Week: Kanye West - "Black Skinhead" (Live on SNL)

You know, I was worried. Maybe I wasn't the only one. Maybe I still ought to be. The reputation of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the last Kanye West solo album is only for someone as brilliantly ambitious as the one who made it to be able to face. Far from shying from it, or introducing the new album with a relatively modest or "safe" sound (like those from the intermediary Watch the Throne and Cruel Summer projects), Kanye instead chose to debut two songs for his Saturday Night Live performance that demonstrated the next creative leap of his career.
"New Slaves" had already made it online, as shaky camera phone footage captured a projection of Kanye's head projected onto the side of buildings across the globe, but "Black Skinhead" was entirely new, and even more of a radical departure. Built on the industrial-glam shuffle that underpins Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People", it's surely going to be one of the most divisive stylistic changes in rap this year. But the SNL performance is nothing if thrilling: if MBDTF was Kanye facing and overcoming his demons, here he sounds indistinguishable from them, screaming and yelling in a way that overcomes ridicule by emulating the feeling of genuine menace.

"Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" will feature on Kanye West's upcoming album Yeezus, out 18th June via G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Single of the Week: Holden - "Renata" / Daphni Remix

I included the first single from James Holden's forthcoming album The Inheritors, "Gone Feral", on this month's edition of the ever-popular Culture Shock, so I suggest you go there if you missed that. This new one, "Renata" is instantly warmer than its predecessor, with its resonant bass tones playing underneath chippy arpeggiators and Holden's signature knocking percussion. It's a slow but sure builder, not unlike Jon Hopkins' recent "Open Eye Signal" (same place), reaching a satisfying plateau about half way through before playing around with jazz rhythm patterns before closing.
Daphni's remix is, for my money, an improvement on Holden's mix. Dan Snaith's approach is usually fun and here he isolates a five-note motif, giving it a similar jazzy percussive treatment but this time with more of a swing, helped along with some chopped up R&B vocal snippets (almost positively Aaliyah, but I don't have time to check, you know the one). This version is more careful to reach its crescendo but is no less effective. I like the way that once the track has appeared to finish, it restarts not once, nor twice, but thrice; paring it back to a progressively 2-step/garage feel each time.
Holden's new album The Inheritors is out on the 17th June on Border Community. The "Renata" single, backed with remixes by Daphni and Steve Moore, is out a week earlier on 10th June.