Archive for April, 2019


This is an album that could have very easily passed me by so thanks to Rough Trade Shops and there out this week Tweets for drawing my attention to it. It turns this is Apparat’s (aka Sascha Ring) first album in six years and I can barely remember anything about “Krieg und Frieden (Music for Theatre)” though I think I did listen to it on release. The good news is that “LP5” is a strong return for the now veteran producer.

“LP5” might be Apparat’s most ambient and understated release to date though he still unleashes the techno side of his sound on a smattering of tracks. But this not a boring or static album far from it, Apparat is able to use dynamic song structures and a real attention to detail in his sound design to make the listener is always engaged. Among the shimmering synths pad, soft pianos, picked electric guitar and FX is Ring’s voice as the emotional centre of the album. He’s always had a unique voice and it never fails to evoke emotion in the listener. Two great examples of all the above are second track and lead single “DAWAN” and “HEROIST” the former starts out as a spooky synthscape with it’s beat feeling barely there thanks to reverb and vocals that drift in and out of the mix then Apparat allows for a brief lull in the track only for a driving beat to taken over a push the track into a new space and then onwards to it’s conclusion. On “HEROIST” which starts out restless and adrift before finding it’s way to way the an acoustic beat that again changes course of the track.  ‘LAMINAR FLOW’ and ‘BRANDENBURG’ exhibit Ring’s masterful combining of both electronic elements and organic ones e.g. Strings. hese are just a handful of highlights on an impressive and cohesive album.

I have definitely found “LP5” one of the hardest albums of My Favourite Releases of the Year… so far series to write about. I knew on first listen that I liked it and that it was a great album but expressing how and why it is has been a difficult task. I highly recommend listening to this album and just giving yourself over to it for it’s forty four minute run time. Block everything else and immense yourself in it.

Check out Apparat below and let me know what you think of “LP5” in the Comments.

I wasn’t expecting this album in two senses 1) I literally didn’t know it was coming out until it started popping up in my Twitter feed in the last week or so building up to it’s release 2) I wasn’t expecting it to be impressed by it as I had found her last album “Stillness in Wonderland” underwhelming after enjoying her Tiny Desk Concert performance. But I was pleasantly surprised with what I found and that is a UK Hip-Hop album that has shown me that I’m missing out by not keeping track of what is happening in the scene.

This isn’t a subtle album and it gets right to the point on opener “Offence” with it’s punchy drum break, big and bouncy synth bass and Simz confident rhymes and flow asserting their authority over your mind and ears. ‘Boss’ is no less confident or bouncy though the drums are more brittle and electronic and the synth bass is bouncy yet hollow sounding, there is some fantastic blown out distortion applied to Simz vocals in the chorus.  The third track ‘Selfish’ keeps up the quality level but it a gentler track that introduces the soulful vocals of Cleo Sol on the chorus and I’m looking forward to hearing Cleo’s forthcoming debut album. The next highlight is ‘Venom’ on which Simz rips into anyone who would doubt her just because she’s a woman. On ‘Therapy’ she bares her soul over cutting snare, distorted but sleeky guitar and thick stabs of bass guitar.

While I recommend checking out and buying “GREY Area” I still feel that Little Simz is still due to make her best and most complete work but this is a great stepping stone on that journey.

Check out Little Simz below and let me know what you think of “GREY Area” in the Comments.

 

 

With the inclusion of this album in My Favourite Releases of the Year… so far you may see a theme developing… yes I like French music and Spotify has definitely caught on to this and is putting it in front of me on a semi regular basis. I’m not complaining as I’m discovering some great music from the Funk of Cotonete to this French Hip-Hop album by Soulence. I have enjoyed French Hip-Hop over the years whether it’s the appearance of MC Solaar’s music in the film “La Haine”, hearing Saian Supa Crew on UK evening Alternative radio shows back in the early 00’s and more recent mixes on Onra’s mixes both of French Hip-Hop and of Hip-Hop that samples French music. However, never taken the plunge and actually bought any French Hip-Hop or really explored the genre properly. I think this will change with “French Cassette” as it’s just shy of an hour of funny, funky and very French instrumental Hip-Hop.

“French Cassette” is a celebratory album and it’s celebrates both cliches about France and the French and the Boom Bap era of Hip-Hop. This is a album that’s all about breaks, scratches, sampling spotting and plenty of Funk to boot!!! There are also some synth sounds dotted throughout the album that come closer to recalling Dr.Dre’s G-Funk sound. Hip-Hop isn’t the only genre that crops up on this album there is also some track that use a lot of filtering in a way that is similar to the Filter House genre that was invented in France in the 90’s and made proper by the likes of Daft Punk, Cassius and Etienne De Crecy aka Super Discount. An artist who the album often reminds me of is The Go! Team mainly due to the lo-fi sound and the fun and humour that pervades the album, Mr. Scruff would probably be another relevant reference point. However, I think it’s worth pointing out that the humour and fun of this album doesn’t detract or distract from the production talent of this duo there isn’t a duff track on the album and the sound is phat with drums slapping like the best classic Boom Bap. This an album that needs your attention (and cash) now!!!

Listen to Souleance and let me know what you think of “French Cassette” in the Comments.

I first heard of Nubiyan Twist when I went to see Joe Armon-Jones at The Crescent in York last November, as Joe introduced the band he got to bassist Luke Wynter he said he was in Nubiyan Twist from Leeds. My first thought was that’s a great name for a band and that there was another potentially great band coming out of Leeds. It turns out I was right this is another great band coming out of Leeds (though now based in London) and what’s more another great band that met and formed at Leeds College of Music. Leeds College of Music is a respected music education institution in the UK but if it keeps on producing the amount of quality bands it is currently it will become world famous and rank alongside the likes of Berklee in the USA.

But I got off the point for a while there It’s time to get back to talking about the music of Nubiyan Twist and their album “Jungle Run”. On the bands Facebook page under Band Interests it says “To encourage artistic and social unity between different cultures and musical styles.” This is definitely a mission statement the band achieves on this album, they combine the disparate styles of dance music (including House and Drum ‘n’ Bass), Dub, Latin, Afrobeat, Ethio-Jazz, Hip-Hop, Turntablism and Soul into a potent stew of sound. This is quite an achievement considering the band has ten members And also joined in this album by guests Nubiya Brandon (vocals), Tony Allen (drums) the inventor of the rhythms of Afrobeat and Mulatu Astatke (vibraphone) the inventor of Ethio-Jazz. I have to admit that I am very jealous of the fact that the band gets to work with two giants of African music. Another achievement is to not be subsumed by those legends on the track states they contribute to this is a band with a clear identity and incredible musical talent to boot. Bandleader Tom Excell also produced the record in the bands own studio in Oxfordshire in the UK and it’s an impressive feat to say the least to build to get all these competing instruments and talents to play nicely in a mix. This isn’t just an impressive album it’s a lot of fun to the irresistible beats make impossible for you not to dance and the catchy choruses will be in your head in no time.

I know I’m probably repeating myself here but it’s hard to overstate how incredible this album is not only as a musical achievement but something that truly represents what music can be in the 21st-century. This is an album of the Internet age don’t get me wrong there are albums made fused cells are music together before the Internet age but “Jungle Run” is something only truly achievable in a world where you can access any music at any time with the click of a button. This is a real Album of the Year contender and definitely check it out.

Let me know what you think of “Jungle Run” in the Comments.

I think the thing that needs to be said about this great Hip-Hop album is that I’m surprised it hasn’t been reviewed by the likes of Pitchfork and The Needle Drop. In fact, there are zero search results for Yugen Blakrok on Pitchfork. This album is an underrated gem and it’s only been out for two months.

Yugen Blakrok broke through last year when she was featured on ‘Opps’ from the Blacker Panther soundtrack put together by Kendrick Lamar. However, she has been around for about a decade usually working with her go-to producer Kanif and it’s no different on this her second album. The album definitely has feel and aesthetic that recalls both 90’s Trip-Hop acts like Portishead and Underground Hip-Hop labels like Rawkus and Def Jux whose heyday was in the late 90’s through the early 00’s. The instrumentals feel close to albums like Dr. Octagon’s – “Dr. Octagonecologyst” and Cannibal Ox’s – “The Cold Vein” while Blakrok’s husky voice and angry undercurrent remind me of Sarah Jones and barely known U.K. underground MC Wildflower (she never got a record but did record a number of great guest spots including a couple with The Herbaliser that definitely worth checking out).

The lack of originality here isn’t a problem (let’s face no one is original at this point in music history) and I actually love that someone is making this kind of Afrofuturistic and atmospheric Hip-hop music. There is a great balance but punchy, dusty beats, ambient spot effects and Yugen’s voice and cosmically themed lyrics. I haven’t completely unpicked exactly what she’s discussing on each track but the Marvel and Astrology references do pop out.

If you love Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop and Sci-Fi then this is definitely an album for you. If you only like one or two of those things I still think it has a lot to offer. I really hope this album can be discovered by a lot more people because it truly deserves a wider audience.

Check out Yugen Blakrok’s music below and let me know what you think of “Anima Mysterium” in the Comments.

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