DJ Black Low: Uwami (Awesome Tapes From Africa, 2021)

March 25, 2021 at 10:51 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

DJ Black Low: Uwami

I’ve been really feeling what I’ve been hearing from South Africa’s amapiano scene lately. Teno Afrika’s stripped-down instrumental release Amapiano Selections (digitally released last year, now available physically) got me into it, and Sun-El Musician has done some absolutely beautiful things with the sound in more of a pop context. The first album from DJ Black Low does have a variety of guest vocalists, but it’s a lot rougher and more homegrown than what’s currently conquering the charts and airwaves throughout Africa now, and he also tweaks things and adds some weirder sounds than Teno Afrika does. The sound is generally an easy midtempo beat with shakers and syncopated drums, and percussive yet melodic bass, as well as pianos and high-pitched keyboard melodies. It’s sort of deep house, sort of kwaito, sort of a less tense gqom, but ultimately something all its own. The tracks with guests vocalists Licy Jay are standouts, but it’s hard to disagree with anything here. Definitely looking forward to hearing more stuff like this, and how artists like Black Low push the style further.

v/a: Trilogy Vol. 2 (Mean Streets, 2021)

March 25, 2021 at 10:28 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Trilogy Vol. 2

I’ll say right now that I am totally up for a full-on ’00s-era dubstep revival. This one has a few familiar names to anyone who was following grime/sublow/etc. about 15 years ago (Kromestar, D.O.K, P Jam) and it retains that vibe without sounding stuck in a time warp. Boylan’s “Book of the Dead” starts it off nice and evil, with Psycho-tic strings and an especially sinister use of that “Hello, lover” sample. Trends’ “Slap” is bejeweled with an outward spiraling sequence, while the beat is straight-up rough business. Silas’ “Source” is more on an antsy, duck-and-dodge grime tip. D.O.K’s “I Am Eternal” also has Norman Bates vibes, but with complex trappy beats that are on the attack. “Alien Encounter” by P Jam starts off with a news report about “Hot Jupiters”, but the track itself, while minimal, is strangely tropical due to its percussion. The next two selections, by Trends & Boylan and Kromestar, are big, menacing sumo wrestler tracks. Lastly, P Jam and D.O.K’s “Funky Nandos” is a bit more jumpy and playful, with canned horns and skidding tires adding more color to the bouncy rhythm.

Toshiyuki Hiraoka: Waterphone II (Edgetone Records, 2021)

March 23, 2021 at 11:43 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Toshiyuki Hiraoka: Waterphone II

Horror movie soundtrack composer and experimental music veteran has utilized the waterphone in his film scores, and this is his second studio album created with the unique instrument. To be honest, most of the films he’s worked on look pretty terrible, but this album sounds incredible. With the help from some electronics, he gets lots of bizarre, vaporous sounds from these instruments, sometimes resembling melodic feedback, even eerily approaching the human voice at times. It’s easy to hear how these tones could be used in scary/creepy movies, but they work fascinatingly well on their own. Only a few moments sound close to drumming, like “Reason”, and several tracks have rhythms produced with looping devices. The definite highlight is “Nothing”, which just sings out and stays in my head long after I’m done listening. “Maboroshi” has textures that sound like a weightless grime track. The album flashes its way into the void with the brief “Dethaw”. Marvelous work.

v/a: Break Corps 2 (Norm Corps, 2021)

March 22, 2021 at 8:29 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Break Corps 2

As someone who’s been into breakcore ever since DHR’s heyday, I’m always curious about the current state of the genre, and if anyone’s actually doing anything new and innovative with a loosely defined style that’s nearly three decades old at this point. This comp doesn’t really suggest that any seismic shifts have happened within the past decade, but as long as one has a taste for big, stoopid breaks and rapidfire samples, the formula still has its charms. Ravey synths and lo-bit chiptune textures never seem to go out of style in this field, and somehow people are still getting mileage out of that “Babylon Bwoy” sample. CDR is the oldest-school artist here, and his videogame-ish track is typically fun and explosive. Kazuma Matsui’s two appearances are more like math-rock songs with breakbeats, which is a bit refreshing. Golden Boy’s “Connect the Dots” starts out sounding like classic gabber, but quickly downs some happy pills. Another track takes Technohead’s “I Wanna Be a Hippy”, showers it in distortion, and bonks it over the head with a comically large cartoon hammer for a while. NANORAY continues their run of super joyous, neon-flashy releases with two more fun tracks. goreshit’s “mina” is one of the more refined, ambitious, and even serious tracks here, but it still has a hopeful drive to it. Two shorter tracks near the end douse anime/J-pop tunes in ear-bleeding distortion and violent breakbeats. So yeah, nothing drastically setting this apart from internet breakcore comps from a decade ago, but I’m a sucker for this stuff so it’s all fine with me, especially if it’s a name-your-price DL.

Nickolas Mohanna & Matt Schulz: Automatic (Run/Off Editions / bs,bta, 2021)

March 21, 2021 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Nickolas Mohanna & Matt Schulz: Automatic

Guitarist Nickolas Mohanna and drummer Matt Schulz team up for two lengthy rhythmic explorations. “Jump Cut” is on the more minimal side of Krautrock, with Mohanna’s guitars flickering and simmering in a very disciplined manner while Schulz sort of embellishes the rhythm rather than provide a strong, commanding beat. It all seems to walk a very taut line until the last minute or so, when it all lets loose and becomes free. “End-Cab Switcher” picks right up from this thread, and here the drums dart around while the guitars multiply and expand outward. Slides and scrapes across the fretboard and the momentary wheezing of a harmonica help sustain the momentum. Early on it seems like the calmer side of free jazz, but it gradually gets more intense, to the point where it’s more of a whirlwind than you might even realize.

Om Unit: Acid Dub Studies (self-released, 2021)

March 20, 2021 at 11:23 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Om Unit: Acid Dub Studies

Om Unit does something a little different on his newest album. After a collaboration with warped dub crew Seekersinternational last year, he’s released a set of downtempo and ambient tracks which mix acid techno with Bristol-style dub. Some of it’s weightless, like “The Struggle”, and some of the beat-driven tracks like “Treading Earth” and “Celestial Envoy” seem a jump away from the halftime sound he’s often been associated with, but with a digi-dub flavor. “Circled” is like On-U Sound or Mad Professor taking on Kraftwerk’s “The Model”, and it’s the most gorgeous track here. He’s always been a master hybrid artist, and here he approaches some other sounds from a different angle.

v/a: Rondogs Vol. 1 (Super Hexagon, 2021)

March 19, 2021 at 10:32 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Rondogs, Vol. 1

British label Super Hexagon has released a few remarkable bass music/braindance-orbit EPs by artists like FFT and J.Wiltshire over the past 5 years. Their newest release is a Bandcamp-exclusive compilation with all profits going to Key Changes Music Therapy in Winchester. The beats gradually creep in with the first few tracks, with “Proximity” by ISMAEL. (track 3) being a sort of grime/IDM hybrid with fizzling horns and beats that swiftly pounce around. Jo Rae’s “20EG20” is dystopian robots-roaming-the-halls music that also has a kind of garage swing to it. Cocktail Party Effect follows his tremendous album from last year with “Car Crash Handshake”, some steel girder dubstep which emits light beams. J-Shadow’s track is a bit more clubby and accessible than the rest of the comp, but Kindohm’s “IG” drops us deep into the pit of the algorave, with sporadic beats cracking skulls in from all corners. The mighty Christoph De Babalon’s “The Legendary Sleep” is simply majestic, equal parts cinematic splendor and rough, ride-out jungle. {arsonist}’s “Idempotent” is definitely more IDM-sounding than her usual work but far from impotent, revealing emotions through its flickering, prismatic beats. Gooooose’s “Ion” closes the comp, with heart-racing arpeggios and choral vocals blooming out of gentle pianos.

Fudgy: The Now End of the Universe 2xLP (self-released, 2020)

March 18, 2021 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Fudgy: The Now End of the Universe 2xLP

This… is weird. A jokey, sprawling avant-pop collage which seems to have some sort of apocalyptic bent or some sort of scheme to figure out the secrets of the universe. They’re from Milwaukee but there’s members from all over, and it says it was recorded between 2006 and 2020. At times there’s a strange soul/early rock & roll thing to it, but in a very homespun way with rudimentary musicianship. Some parts are more avant, maybe Sun City Girls-ish, mixing noise and found sounds with African/Middle Eastern rhythms. Others are modern-day Kerouac road trip/touring stories, with “Baby Wonder” being more of a childhood remembrance. “I Am the Warden” is a haunting, creeping piece from the point of view of some dumb-ass cop abusing his power. “Chicago” is playground jazz with boppy saxophone. “Just When You Think You Don’t Know Someone” is closer to a straight-up indie rock song, but there’s a nihilistic tone to it. “What the Sensei’s Wife Knows (And When She Did Know It?)” is a trippy collage with a spoken sample about LSD. “Please Let Me Get Through This Chore List” is a stammering, stream-of-consciousness tale about a manic grocery store escapade. “Digital Saloon” is a fake trailer for a wacky movie about six unlikely individuals running a virtual business together, including a “sentient outer space sock puppet”. “Fast Food with the Demigods (Parts 1 & 2)” is a demented rap song that mentions sipping an Orange Julius with Samson. “Celebrations of the World” is an epic rocket journey to Mars, crashing into the brief noise-punk smidgen “Learned Helplessness”. “Bamboo Harvester” is a sort of lo-fi industrial rap track which contains a brief sample of queercore legends Mukilteo Fairies. “Honeyville” is a ridiculous country drama, and “Forgive” is a doo-wop ballad which drifts along over a single loop, until it all smudges away at the end. The digital version is up on Bandcamp (with only one previewable track), but interestingly enough, the vinyl edition of this album is only available if you make a donation to Milwaukee’s Pathfinders organization and email the band your receipt.

Pas Musique: Psychedelic Talismans (Alrealon Musique, 2021)

March 17, 2021 at 9:22 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Pas Musique: Psychedelic Talismans

Recorded solo under lockdown by project founder Robert L. Pepper, Pas Musique’s latest effort lives up to its name, with buzzing guitars and mesmerizing synth sequences coalescing into magical, uplifting pieces. Burning spirit jams filled with luminous textures, subconscious voices, and very tactile-sounding synth bass. There’s a good balance between hazy/ethereal and very plugged-in sounds, so that there’s fleeting grooves to latch onto and other gaseous sounds that seep into your brain when you’re not paying attention to them. The beat switches during “Splash of Red Touch-All” bump things up to a higher level. “In Likeness of Me” also diverts to a more playful rhythm halfway through before lapsing back into its previous acid swirl. “The Hour” has much more sporadic beats, jostling your awareness and ending with a warning that “the hour is approaching”. At the end of the violin-laced “La Bas”, the same voice surfaces again, stating that “I learned to accept the inevitable”. Even when heading towards destiny, there is still hope, and reasons to be thankful and celebrate.

Linaire: s/t (Capital Zero, 2020)

March 16, 2021 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Linaire: s/t

Anna Atkinson, the songwriter behind Linaire, sings gentle tunes over minimalist, Casio-ish drum machines and keyboards, sometimes with additional instruments such as a viola or contrabass. Like the first song says, “maybe it’s a litte bit sad”. Definitely reminiscent of early Julia Holter, as the music is minimalist, but the vocals are a bit more complex. “No Part of Me Ever Dies” has some Weyes Blood vibes for certain. “The Inside, The Outside” is a nice little cosmic waltz about divine powers. “I’ll Buy You Lunch” seems simple and childlike, but unexpectedly seems concerned with mortality; after its title repeats in the chorus, Atkinson says “Just don’t give your life away”. “Oh Who” incorporates swinging cellos, round-like vocals, and some skittery drum machines in the middle. The lush, gorgeous “Snowshoe” is probably the highlight of this set. “Worked That Way” is one of the most hypnotic tracks here, especially towards the end when the drum machine and viola come in.

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