Archive for March, 2016


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A Man Alive’ is the fourth album from Thao Nguyen with her project The Get Down Stay Down (she also records as half of Thao & Mirah) and is one of the most personal to date. A large amount the lyrics deal with absence specifcally her father’s absence. These lyrics are a stark contrast to the albums thrashy party music. There is a bittersweet sense throughout the album that binds it together and rewards the listener with repeated listens as their understanding deepens and the layers are peeled away.

Merrill Garbus (aka Tune-yards) is on board as producer and contributes a lot instrumentally and back with backing vocals throughout the album. There is a lot of similarities between Thao’s vocal delivery and sonic and stylistic choices when compared to Tune-yards back catalogue. The use of lo-fi and distorted fuzzy production and funky, tribal rhythms that have a hint of Afro be about them I just two similarities. However, these similarities don’t spoil a brilliant album and is like a more direct version of Tune-yards “Nikki Nack” that sometimes suffered from overstuffing every song with elements and thus could be a very overwhelming experience. Another useful reference point is that of Deerhoof who combine serrated indie/post-punk guitars with Afro beat rhythms and poppy vocal melodies and have a similarly lo-fi aesthetic.

The album opens with ‘Astonished Man’ with a down tempo beat and vocals opening the track, then heavy buzzing synth bass joins in and push the track forward. In the chorus there’s a cool hook played by what sounds like a badly tuned guitar. Everything is very raw and lo-fi in a good way and reminds me of Deerhoof. Though Thao can create a more complex melody. Continuing in a similar vein is ‘Departure’ with its opening minimal sound set just a drum machine some percussion and vocals but then we get stabs of guitar and a deep thick synth bass joining in. At points in the chorus vocals to become a little grating and recall that of Garbus’ wI personally I don’t have a problem with Garbus’ vocals but I understand how they can annoy some people. ‘Departure’ is also the track where the lyrical theme begins With the shouted line “Half of all my blood in vain,” standing out. ‘Guts’ with its down tempo sparse beats and organ the only things accompanying the vocals, continues the lyrical theme with Thao stridently declaring “I’ve got the guts/ I don’t need my blood.”.

Next up is ‘Fool forever’ which opens with a tightly wound guitar playing across fast skittering drums while the vocal moves steadily over the top. This then breaks down temporarily before the riff returns to be joined by another riff played on very distorted organ, the jittery feel of the track is amplified by these elements combining. The Ballard-like ‘Millionaire’ Recalls ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Thao playing the part of Karen O. That this time the word is not directed at a lover but her father, “Oh daddy, I broke in a million pieces/ That makes you a millionaire.” The song opens with a sparse guitar melody and held organ delayed chords backing an almost bare Thao. A bass drum keeps time far in the background. Around 20 seconds in with the guitar and organ making a musical change to play soaraway chords for Thao to sing a long reverberant melody over. This structure is repeated throughout.

‘Meticulous bird’ puts us back on the upbeat tip with driving drums kick in the track off. Screeching synths play, counter point to the vocals weaving in in and out of the verse and chorus. The track is little difficult to listen to at first but once you get used to it actually works very well. It also another example of contrasts of sweet and serrated views on this album.The album closes as it began with a down tempo track and also brings back the main lyrical theme on The album closes as it began with a down tempo track and also brings back the main lyrical theme on ‘Endless Love’ where Thao sings a simple melody (sample lyrics include “I’ve got an endless love/ no one can starve,” and the chorus'”I don’t want it/ I don’t want it/ Carve it on out of me.”) over a sparse bass line and beat its Garbus on backing vocals again. The track provides very mellow end to the album though this is offset by nasty fuzzy guitar solo wind its wonky way through the middle of the track.

Let me know what you think of ‘A Man Alive’ in the comments or via Twitter.

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Nevermen are a trio consisting of Doseone (Subtle, 13&God, cLOUDDEAD), Faith No More’s Mike Patton, and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. The project initiated around 2008, after Doseone had appeared on the 2006 album by Patton’s Peeping Tom project, and Adebimpe guested on ‘Yell&Ice’ (2007) an album by Subtle. The trio announced that they were working on music together in 2008, and in 2009 Doseone announced that they had named themselves the Nevermen and had signed to Lex Records, also home to Subtle. All three members kept busy with their other commitments, most notably Faith No More’s reunion, so fans had to wait until 2015 before hearing the first taste of the group’s music. Singles “Tough Towns” and “Mr. Mistake” finally appeared in 2015, with the latter sporting a remix by Boards of Canada. The self-titled album by Nevermen (who had removed “the” from their name) finally appeared on Lex (in the U.K.) and Patton’s Ipecac label (in the U.S.) in February 2016. It was hard to know what to expect coming into this album between three unique collaborators though an interview with The Quietus had revealed that the group openly rejects the idea of having a frontman, and all three members contribute equally.

The consistent things throughout the album are the tag team effect used by the vocalists, the atmosphere of the tracks which are either icy intense or angry punky adrenaline rushes. It is easy to discern who created which part of the music and what role each vocalist is playing and the roles are always suited that vocalist. However, this never feels like a bunch of elements that are disperate but a whole as if this had been a band that around the years. There is quite an industrial feel to the album, not in terms of the genre Industrial music but the sound palette is quite metallic and there’s a lot of serrated then cutting guitar and synth sounds. The trio skilfully combine hip-hop, metal/rock and punk trash throughout the album.

The album opens with a cold metallic drone, then drums and vocals kick in with Tunde and Doseone the most prominent voices. For the verse Mike Patton take over for a few lines, then Doesone chips before Tunde finishes the verse., this an approach used throughout most of the album. The verse gives way to tribal drums and thin synth melodies of the chorus. Heavy guitars kick back in the second verse ramping up the tension before the drop to a bare guitar melody and bassline rumbling in the background. The sonic assault of the music and trio of tag teaming vocalists could be overwhelming in the hands they said this comes across as a strong album opener.

Up next is the Heavily treated drums and rushing synths of ‘Treat ’em Right’ these underpins trio of vocalists throughout the song’s introduction. Everything drops out to give way for a new more complex and percussive hip-hop rhythm before shifting into a rock style section with trebly guitar melodies. There is barely time to get to grips with one section the track before the next is upon you but is exciting instead of irritating. ‘Wrong Animal Right Trap’ combines thunderous drums and super distorted vocals that give way to heavy punky guitars and bass with the three vocalists harmonising before tag teamming through the rest of the song.

Tough Towns’ begins with a shifting synth atmosphere that fades in, eventually joined by glacial hip-hop beat and Tunde and Doseone harmonising. The track is very cinematic and atmospheric with a creepy vibe. It utilises a whole different tempo and tone to the other material so far, showing that the group is far from a one trick pony. The shift in tone and tempo continues on album centrepiece ‘Hate On’ with its spooky opening harmonies from Tunde which then break down to bells playing a sparse melody and icy atmosphere. A slow and loping beat and more vocal harmonies takeover before speeding up given way to a deep bass and slowly evolving vocal melody. A bit see processed percussion pushes the section forward as more synths join in underneath the vocals. The album the shifts between the more up tempo distorted and tense material and atmospheric slower tracks.

This is definitely album that can only really be made in the last decade, a modern melding of multiple genres and production techniques that pulls no punches. Compare to Young Fathers & Saul William’s “Martyr Loser King”. Along with Adrian Younge’s “Something about April II” this is an essential release in 2016. Go get it!

Let me know what you think of “Nevermen” in the comments or via Twitter.

 

Since her debut release in 2010 Tokimonsta’s sound has evolved starting out as a glitch-hop producer who went on to become the first female producer signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label she’s in moving towards a more commercial sound since 2013’s “Half Shadows” album which was released on dance label Ultra. “Fovere” sees her continue this evolution while also referencing her past in glitch-hop.

Acoustic piano, processed vocals, heavy use of reverb and slick transitions are common traits thorughout “Fovere”, Tracks are short, tight and to the point, never outstaying there welcome, Most tracks stick to a fairly minimalist style, which is refreshing when compared to the maximalist EDM that currently dominates pop music.

I’m waiting’ opens with ascending synth arpeggio with spots of heavily processed vocal weaving in and out of the mix. The general vibe is very relaxed and ambient. However, for the final third bass drum and snare become much more prominent in the mix and propel the track towards its climax.

Next up, is ‘Put it down’ feat. Anderson Paak & KRNE. This is very much a club track, it starts with quick ascending plucked string and shuffling beat with Anderson Paak’s vocals coming in shortly after. The track then drops to a more straight ahead beat with a good swing, and a hook that will get stuck in your head. Stutter vocals come in on the second chorus giving the song more rhythmic variety and more electronic feel. This is easily Tokimonsta’s best club track to date and stands had the shoulders above the other tracks in the same style on this mini album. ‘Giving up’ feat Jonny Pierce begins with guitar and sighing harmonics from Pierce. Then the track breaks down with fast-moving high has slow-moving bass line consent atmospherics underpinning the vocals this picks up into a chorus featuring tightly timed piano arpeggios and finger snaps. Towards the end of the track two different vocal tracks intertwine while and an 8-bit synth line adds further melodic sophistication. Been true in general vibe reminds me of Leeds band Stateless, who did kind of cool Coldplay meets trip hop album from 2007. Second electronic track I know of that features Johnny Pierce of the drums, the first being a Matthew Dear track called ‘In the middle (I met you there)’

My favourite non club track on the mini-alum is ‘Straight Lace’ as it reminds me of earlier Tokimonsta tracks. Compressed squelchy beat and airy synth open the track and are then jo9ined by a nice percussion loop and reverb heavy piano chords. Occasionally we hear Tokimonsta’s owned processed vocals deep in the mix. As the track develops and makes more room for her vocals to become the lead vocals. My favourite tracks so far reminds me of earlier Tokimonsta tracks. Again it’s nice to hear understated track in a genre that just seems to scream LOUDER LOUDER LOUDER!!!

The mini album closes with ‘Wound Up’ feat. Allie with its dirty processed synths that weave in and out of each other before reverb heavy vocal harmonies poemerge into the mix. When the rhythm comes in its in double time and skitters along behind the vocal harmonies, a simple minor sounding melody plays over the top. Then the track gets going properly first with of a strong and full vocals coming in quickly followed by the return of the hi-hats and a snare drum. Lots of pitched vocals in the breakdown before a kalimba melody comes in this section and continues into the final section bringing the track and “Fovere” to their conclusions.

Overall, I feel this is a solid release from Tokimonsta and points towards a bright future where she continues to develop her sound and attract a larger audience.

Let me know your thoughts on “Fovere” and Tokimonsta in the comments below or via Sonic Fiction’s Twitter.

 

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