Sharkula x Mukqs – Take Caution On The Beach (Hausu Mountain, 2021)

April 9, 2021 at 9:21 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Sharkula x Mukqs – Take Caution On The Beach

Chicago street legend Sharkula and Good Willsmith/HausMo’s Mukqs follow 2019’s Prune City with Take Caution On The Beach, another session of completely freestyled one-take rhymes over blown out future-shock beats. Sharkula’s word association games are kind of the opposite of battle rhymes — he always has a friendly, playful outlook and never seems like he’s trying to threaten anyone or put anyone down. His style is more like cartoonish improv comedy, with surreal turns of phrase (“go to Catholic Church’s Chicken”, “Darryl Strawberry Shortcake”) and preoccupations with fast food (vegan whenever possible) and booty jokes. He’s clearly bummed out about COVID-19 shutting down live music and limiting social interaction, but instead of dwelling on it for too long, he’s more interested in asking you a bunch of ridiculous questions like a nosy kid, inquiring about your restroom procedure directly before asking what candies and gums you like. The beats slap but also slump and zig-zag instead of being arranged in more upright boom-bap patterns, and there’s some heavier, more industrial moments, but even these lack the technological paranoia of most noise-rap acts. Nothing high concept, just supremely bugged out goofiness to get weird to.

Cameron Knowler & Eli Winter: Anticipation (American Dreams Records, 2021)

April 7, 2021 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Cameron Knowler & Eli Winter: Anticipation

The first collaboration these two young guitarists is a set of desert-inspired 6-string and 12-string acoustic duets. The music is very warm and open, and playfully laid back, definitely sounding like a musical conversation between good friends. There’s some rustic slide guitar folk (“And So I Did”) as well as mellower tracks like “Cumberland Application” which have more of a nocturnal glow. “Sippin’ Amaretto” is a bit more abstract and off the grid, maybe the most psych-folk piece here. The cover of “Caddo Lake” by Michael Chapman is more straightforward and rhythmic as well as melodic, and definitely one of the highlights. Final track “Southern Filibuster” is a live recording, and they just seem so comfortable on stage and have a remarkable amount of energy.

The Cyclist: Weather Underground (100% Silk, 2021)

April 6, 2021 at 8:13 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

The Cyclist: Weather Underground

The latest from one of the originals of the 2010s “outsider house” scene is another six tracks of lo-fi but high impact club tracks. The tape-saturated throb of his earlier work is still here, but it’s a little shinier overall, and there’s a bubbly, summery feeling to highlights like “Junglo”. “Weather Underground” mixes Afropop with acid and just seems like a really good summer festival house track. “Dubby Shanks” begins and ends with reggae samples, and “Crying for Sleep” has sort of broken beat rhythms, plus ethereal French vocals.

Deniz Cuylan: No Such Thing as Free Will (Hush Hush Records, 2021)

April 5, 2021 at 7:44 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Deniz Cuylan: No Such Thing as Free Will

Turkish musician Deniz Cuylan’s first solo album is a set of six delicate compositions for classical guitar, with subtle electronic enhancements and sparingly used cello and woodwind textures. While opener “Clearing” is sort of unassuming and drifts by softly, “Purple Plains of Utopia” is truly vivid, with beautiful interlocked guitar patterns and the other instruments rising up underneath at regular intervals. “She Was Always Here” breathes in a similar way, and switches to more of a gently dancing rhythm halfway through, with bowed strings rocking back and forth underneath the spiraling guitar sequence. “Flaneurs in Hakone” stunningly weaves a web of hypnotic patterns, rewarding close attention with its multi-layered details but also soothing and caressing. “Object of Desire” is a bit chilly and autumnal, with its triplets plucked rapidly like he’s trying to stay warm. The closing title track is slow and stately, with strings calmly rushing in, then gradually whittling away by the end. The album is short but heartfelt, and feels like a gentle, loving embrace while it’s playing.

Kalbells: Max Heart (NNA Tapes, 2021)

April 4, 2021 at 12:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Kalbells: Max Heart

Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver returns as Kalbells, following an intriguing 2017 debut album and an EP from last year. The project has expanded with the addition of Angelica Bess (of Body Language and NNA Tapes-signed Erica Eso, and guest vocalist with Chrome Sparks, Giraffage, and others), Sarah Pedinotti, and drummer ZoĆ« Brecher, plus a host of guest artists, including Luke Temple and rapper Miss Eaves (on “Pickles”). The group’s sound is sleek, a bit trippy, a bit wobbly, and even celebratory, with all of these characteristics coming together on tracks like “Hump the Beach”. These are all compact pop songs, but they squirm in several different directions during their three or four minutes, with surreal lyrics and obtuse melodies which all make their own sort of sense in the end. “Max Heart” sums up the album well, with a spoken narration of a dream-like scene, followed by a break of la-la’ed vocals and a twinkling piano solo, all over a slow, woozy, carefree rhythm.

Rudy Adrian: As Dusk Becomes Night (Spotted Peccary, 2021)

April 3, 2021 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Rudy Adrian: As Dusk Becomes Night

Space ambient master Rudy Adrian’s latest album has a pretty specific vision, capturing the feeling of being alone in a picturesque nature scene right as the sun has set and the night has fallen, and the sky has turned various shades of purple. There’s something very sweet about this album; even though it’s painting aural pictures of nighttime, it’s focusing more on the magical feelings and spirits rather than the darkness. Several tracks have sounds similar to chirping insects, and “Moa Caves” starts with trickling water, so it all feels very in tune with nature. Some of the later tracks like “Western Wind” get spacier, but not necessarily darker. By “Sunny Day”, we’ve made it to dawn, and everything is clear, crisp, and rejuvenating.

Joe Bowden: Roots – Tales of the Urban Yoda (self-released, 2020)

March 31, 2021 at 8:49 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Joe Bowden: Roots – Tales of the Urban Yoda

A vivid mixture of more straightforward jazz-funk, fusion, and R&B. “Doodlin'” is more fusion-y and has some more complex time sigs, but “Groovin’ High” is more laid back and flowing. “Sentimental” is a lovely soul-jazz tune, maybe a bit of a Crusaders vibe. Not sure why the singer isn’t credited on the packaging anywhere. “Second Skin” ramps up slightly closer to fusion. “The Golden Rule” opens with a drum solo, and the rest of the track is a bit more solo-heavy than others on the album. “Jazz Dayz” is definitely trickier and more fusion-y. “The Seventies” is a horn-heavy bop with some funky keyboards too. “All for You” has one of the catchiest horn melodies here, plus some nimble bass guitar. “Bustin’ Loose”, again, nice horns, kinda tricky rhythms, just a generally positive, driving sound.

Xentone: The Raver GF Experience (Degenerate Trifecta, 2020)

March 28, 2021 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Xentone: The Raver GF Experience

This 75-minute album seems to be a manifesto for the artist’s own brand of minimal dance music, dubbed “nunurave” (not to be confused with the justly forgotten “nu-rave” fad from around 2006). The tracks mix up styles, but generally consist of effective club tools which explore fun, ear-catching sounds. The titles are never too ambitious, simply describing sounds or samples heard in the tracks. Several songs share words in their titles and sounds/sonic elements, so they can be a bit samey, but that just gives the album the continuity of a DJ mix or live set. Starting off with the slow, choppy electro of “Acid Slip 004 Laster Tag Ravers”, the album moves into the minimal but big-bassed techno of “The Numbers”. “Acid Dip003 Nunu” is a mix of early ’90s rave (Hoovers, 2 Unlimited samples) with more modern EDM. “Deep Think” is sort of a pun, mixing that BDP “I think very deeply” sample into a deep house-ish track. “Bouncy House” turns K7’s “Come Baby Come” into a big-room stormer with a Dutch house bent. “Acid Trip 005 Microrave” is midtempo, trippy, a bit eerie, and has kind of a lo-fi dembow bounce to it. “Look At Her Butt” has no ambition other than to have fun with the exact sample you would expect (the intro to “Baby Got Back”). “Acid Drop” is one of the better, more progressive club tracks here, mixing rave stabs heavy Euro-drama. “Acid Dip009 Egyptian After Party” definitely lives up to its title, with Middle Eastern-inspired melodies and lots of wayward synth fx freakery. “Dancer” has glitchy disco samples and Chemical Brothers-like breaks and fx. “Acid Dip002 Nunushoes” chops up an “Apache” breakbeat and slices in some more rave synths, then gets feisty with a “don’t fuck with me” attitude. “Shorty Bang” is a bit more smoothed out than its title suggests but still has some complexity and some swing to its rhythm.

Jihee Heo: Are You Ready? (OA2 Records, 2021)

March 27, 2021 at 2:56 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Jihee Heo: Are You Ready?

South Korean pianist/composer Jihee Heo’s new album is a brisk yet refined set of eight compositions charting the progress she’s made so far as an artist. A graduate from the Manhattan School of Music, she’s been a part of the NYC music scene for a decade. After considering making this album for a while, she finally took the plunge after re-reading a passage from Art Spirit by Robert Henry, stating that no one can be final, but they can record their progress, and their work can guide others on their path. An excerpt from the passage is spoken throughout the opening title track, as Heo’s piano gracefully dances around the rhythm section of bassist Marty Kenney and drummer Rodney Green. “Blurring the Rules” starts out sparse and bluesy, but soon gets up to dance, frequently changing steps and showing off different moves. The Latin-tinged “Dancing in the Sorrow” and dusky “Dark and Light” both have titles that reflect the mixture of joy and sadness expressed in the music. The most striking cut is “Trust”, which features rapper Saidu Ezike delivering lyrics written by Heo about her frustrations as an Asian female living in New York. Then a song called “Oh, New York” seems to express hope and an appreciation for having the opportunity to live and work in the city, despite the toxicity.

The MFA: Oranges And Lemons 12″ EP (Traum Schallplatten, 2021)

March 25, 2021 at 11:20 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

The MFA: Oranges & Lemons 12″ EP

The former Border Community and Bpitch Control duo return on Traum with their first release since 2009. “Oranges And Lemons” seems to glitch up the synths from Origin Unknown’s “Valley of the Shadows” to a jittery tech-house beat, and that totally works for me. Extrawelt take the same track and add a bit more kick to the beat, and maybe a little more dazzle to the synths, but don’t take it too far out of orbit (the original was great to begin with). “Panacea” is tart, bubbly, and fizzy, and a little offbeat since the snares are on the ones and threes along with the 4/4 kicks, but somehow it’s not as distracting as you’d expect. “One Way” is a deep glider with some slightly prickly synths and warm melodies. A stellar comeback.

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