Model Home: 1 LP (Ornette Coleman Fiend Club, 2019)

March 1, 2019 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Model Home: 1 LP

I’m having a hard time finding any information about this group, and I missed their recent show in Hamtramck, but this is an absolutely jawdropping noise/hip-hop project from DC. They’ve released 6 albums on Bandcamp since last June, and an LP of their first one showed up on my desk at WCBN and it knocked me into a stupor. Very, very strange street poetry smothered by cracked electronics and spluttering drum machines. On tracks like “Center Uv the World Swing”, all of the sounds are jumbled together and struggling to break free and it sounds marvelous. “Move Immediately” and a few other moments seem to have a dancehall influence seep into them, while “Jungle Tape” sounds like just that, if it were being blasted from a malfunctioning tape deck in a sewer. “Fake Feet” inevitably brings to mind Chicago footwork, but if anything, this is closer to the stranger corners of that style like DJ Nate or RP Boo than the more danceable stuff from the Teklife crew. The LP ends with an unlisted bonus track filled with shout-outs and excited synth bubbles and bloops. Super exciting, way avant-garde stuff recommended for fans of Occasional Detroit and Sensational at his weirdest.


Zilched: Pulling Teeth 7″ EP (Jett Plastic Recordings, 2018)

March 1, 2019 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Zilched: Pulling Teeth 7″ EP

Detroit trio Zilched play a hazy sort of garage-psych-gaze. While the vocals are sometimes submerged under guitar fuzz and tape hiss, the lyrics are uncomfortably direct, reflecting an inescapable loneliness, even when in the company of others. The chorus to “Tool” laments “I’m so sorry that I get so lonely at night, I can’t help it if I wanted you only”. “From the Grave” is slower and has more of a rumbling bassline, and a slightly more hopeful outlook. The B-side contains “Hollow”, a shambling, jangly indie pop tune which is easily the highlight of the EP. “(hatefucked)” is one of the record’s more upbeat-sounding songs, but the lyrics are actually quite deadly. The group obviously haven’t been around for too long, and they sound pretty shaky, but there’s some exciting songs on here. Digitally available at Bandcamp.

Nazar: Enclave 12″ EP (Hyperdub, 2018)

February 24, 2019 at 8:21 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Nazar: Enclave 12″ EP

Revolutionary sounds from Angola, turning kuduro rhythms into brutal industrial warfare. Very jagged, blown out, punishing, even bloodthirsty, but always danceable. “Warning Shots” is my favorite, but the slower “Airstrike” (with battlefield report vocals from Shannen SP) seems to be the hit-of-sorts. Very dense grids of galloping rhythms, gunshots, warped bass, and explosive distortion. Super exciting, definitely looking forward to hearing more from this artist.

Protovulcan: Psychic Pinball tape (Toy Moon, 2018)

February 24, 2019 at 7:53 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Protovulcan: Psychic Pinball tape

Sinister madness conjured from several vintage synths, hyperactive drumming, and trusty old vocoders. Synth-punk (or -prog, or -psych) made by robots whose main desire is to crush all the puny humans. Think the center of a Venn diagram between Servotron and Black Moth Super Rainbow. It’s definitely not as hazy as the latter, but there’s far more of a groove to it than the former. It’s pretty dystopian, but also kind of funky at points (see “Waking Up Dinosaurs”). “Celestial Slingshot” will make you feel trapped in a satellite hurdling across the galaxy as far from Earth as possible, and it’ll be supremely exciting. Oscillator Bug and Odd Nosdam conclude the tape with some dramatic remixes.

River Spirit: Me I Fall (self-released, 2019)

February 23, 2019 at 8:47 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

River Spirit: Me I Fall

River Spirit’s second EP was one of my favorites from last year, and the Detroit trio have now released a short but powerful album. The majority of the nine songs on Me I Fall are brief, but they’re filled with tight, unpredictable arrangements, mostly for guitars and drums but also incorporating synths and strings. Vanessa Reynolds’ vocals twist along with the instruments, sometimes blossoming into harmonies or becoming dreamier with a splash of reverb. Some tracks switch between several ideas in a short time, like “Dim the Light,” highlighted by the proclamation “I changed my mind”. The catchiest tune is the comforting love song “You”, which is under three minutes but memorable enough to seem much longer. “20 Years” actually does repeat its hook more, meditating on time going by and not knowing what to do but knowing that something has to change, and building up to a more transcendent bridge. All the while, the arrangement is constantly shifting and developing, underscoring the impact of the words.

Eki Shola: Possible (self-released, 2019)

February 23, 2019 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Eki Shola: Possible

Eki Shola’s second album, the first of a trilogy titled Pieces, is a vast step beyond her 2016 debut. While Final Beginning was a bit more easily identifiable as jazz, Possible is at least as much of an abstract electronic and future soul album. Ultimately, all of these categories are irrelevant; this music is all about fearless creative expression. And she has a lot to express here — her house was destroyed in the 2017 California wildfires. Despite such tragedy, her music is about healing and moving forward rather than grief or anger. As for the music itself, it’s a refreshing blend of detailed beats, soothing synths, and unconventional vocals (she’s not afraid to contort her voice with alien effects, or even run it backwards). The closest immediate comparisons I can think of might be Pursuit Grooves or Georgia Anne Muldrow, and even then mostly just because of how different and creative this music is rather than how it actually sounds. “Butterfly” is the immediate standout, with daydreaming vocals and lightly swirling bass. “December Glow” is more of a daydreamy trip-hop number, and “Four Letter Word” is a more lyrical neo-soul song with a bumping beat. “Can’t Breathe” hints at a bit of panic but it smooths itself out soon enough. “Looped” is one of the most out-there tracks, with a weird froglike noise throughout and trippy vocals which drift away. A post-dubstep/wonky influence threads throughout some of the beats, with “Beat of Life” mixing glitches and wobbly bass with jazzy keyboards, and “Suspension of Life” blipping partially backwards over relaxed keyboards. The song also houses motivational words from Eki, continuing with a thread started on “One”.

Om Unit: Violet 2×10″ EP (Violet, 2019) + Om Unit/Kid Drama: Untitled Works 12″ EP (Apollo, 2019)

February 18, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Om Unit: Violet 2×10″ EP

Continuing to blur the lines between drum’n’bass, footwork, and dubstep, Om Unit is still putting out records at an astonishing rate. All four of these tracks would work perfectly in practically any 160-170 BPM set, but the reggae samples and extra dubwise basslines make “Righteousness” and “Sleeping Dragon” stand out. “City Lights” is closer to a more dubbed-out version of mid-’90s ambient jungle, and “Shackup” is similar but with more skeletal breakbeats. Very concentrated and high-energy.

Om Unit/Kid Drama: Untitled Works 12″ EP

Less club-ready is Om Unit’s first EP for R&S ambient sister label Apollo, which is co-produced by Kid Drama (aka Jon Convex). These tracks have fast beats but they aren’t as complex or busy, and they seem to move much slower overall. The second track has some shoegaze-y guitar which gives it an extra dose of heartache. Then there’s some heavier jungle breaks and bass on the third track. The fourth track is a bit cooled out but it’s still gliding along with thick, floating waves of bass and kicking beats.

Rich Pellegrin: Down (OA2 Records, 2019)

February 17, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Rich Pellegrin: Down

Rich Pellegrin’s third album for OA2 features the brilliant Seattle duo Bad Luck as well as the Mizzou New Music Ensemble (on the alternate version of the album’s title track). Opening piece “Trial” is an instant attention-grabber, filled with complex, stop-on-a-dime arrangements and an overabundant amount of energy. Absolutely fresh and exciting. “Birthright” isn’t quite as explosive or colorful, but it’s still intense in its own way, slowly boiling and featuring an incredible bas solo by Evan Flory-Barnes. “Down” and “Acceptance” both seem semi-mournful, but not entirely, and “Exile” is reserved but gradually buds into a joyful state. For the concluding, alternate version of “Down”, Pellegrin successfully pushed the Mizzou New Music Ensemble out of their comfort zone, making non-jazz-trained musicians improvise, and it sounds completely natural.

Paint Thinner: The Sea of Pulp LP (Oblek, 2019)

February 17, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Paint Thinner: The Sea of Pulp LP

Detroit’s Paint Thinner (including former members of Frustrations, Terrible Twos, and Human Eye) make their long-awaited vinyl debut, three years on from their demo tape and following gigs with bands such as His Name Is Alive and Ritual Howls. This band make stark, uncompromising post-punk reflecting a lifetime of dread and disillusionment. The music is all barbed wire guitars and starethrough vocals, and it’s as bleak as it is tense and electro-shocked. The album starts with “A Day In My Head”, which stretches out to a sort of desert-psych extended solo ending. Then most of the album is relatively straightforward songs like the dream-dashing “Fell Flat” or the harsh surf of “Glistening Dots”, songs which for all their bitterness and disappointment and offputting nature, still contain attention-grabbing hooks. After “Hidden Key” ends in several minutes of off-the-rails noisy soloing, there’s a space-clearing instrumental “Interlude”, and it all ends with the blistering 9-minute confessional “In Your Tower”, which ends up rushing into a dramatic faux-orchestral section. Now available from Bandcamp.

Stephan Haluska: Empty Room tape (Constellation Tatsu, 2018)

February 9, 2019 at 10:08 pm | Posted in Reviews | 1 Comment

Stephan Haluska: Empty Room tape

Ambient harp music which somehow sounds darker and more mysterious than most music of that nature. You usually expect it to be all fluttering and angelic, but here’s “Empty Room” sounding sparse and isolated… and yet it’s not impenetrable avant-garde anti-music. There’s some immense beauty to this album, it just doesn’t present itself in an obvious way. The last track, “Ocean Projector”, is over 12 minutes long, and for the first half it’s barely audible, but before you know it you’re being swallowed whole.

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