Category: Music


Around the start of 2019 I started hearing about a new album that was out in February by an artist that I’d never heard of. I was intrigued as the album was being described as UK Hip-Hop and Grime but featured Jazz musicians Nubya Garcia (saxophone) and Mansur Brown (guitar) it was also coming out on Brownswood Recordings a label mainly famous for putting out modern Jazz releases and not Hip-Hop or Grime releases. Then the reviews started coming out and my interest deepened. Finally the release date came and I can honestly say that for the first couple of listens I didn’t know what to make of.

It has gone on to become the album I have listened to the most this year and also the one of favourites but there’s no way I could have predicted that back in February. It’s become clear to me why it took so long for this to happen. This album is a challenge but in a good way at no point did I hate but it took a long time to a) understand it in all it’s complexity and b) to find myself enjoying the great music. This is an album that is bringing together two different worlds the world of electronic music production and the world of live musicians and vocals from multiple genres from Jazz to Grime via Hip-Hop, Reggae and Spoken Word.

This album isn’t just a challenge to listen to (initially) but was also a challenge for Swindle and the cast of guests on the album. It took three years to make this incredible ambitious album and while all enjoyed the experience everyone involved had to work hard to make it work. Many artists have tried to make some kind of fusion music and many end up with unfocused, messy, tuneless and unsatisfying results. While “No More Normal” won’t click with you instantly it will reward those that stick with it. For me it’s the album the most rewarding album that’s came in the first Quarter of 2019. Sometimes it’s worth spending more time with an album and this is one of those times.

Ok, so I guess you’re wondering what “No More Normal” sounds like, so let’s get to talking about that. Well, to quote my follow Blogger Sampleface it’s “a buffet of Transatlantic black music” that takes in the following genres “West Coast Hip-Hop, Grime and Drill, Soul, Midwest funk/house”, Reggae, Spoken Word. Jazz and Southern Hip-Hop e.g. Timbaland and The Neptunes. It’s a thoroughly Modern music but nods to both the recent and more distant past. The majority of these nods come through the live instruments and vocals whether it’s the Jazz saxophone solo from Nubya Garcia on “Run Up”, the souful badass vocals of Eva Lazarus that pop across the album or the cinematic strings that a times recall a Blaxploitation soundtrack and other times like the score to a Bond movie. But even in his production Swindle does seem to reference beats from early 00’s Hip-Hop and R&B in addition to the previous mentioned Timbaland and The Neptunes there is definitely a touch of OutKast on ‘Knowledge’, ‘Take It Back’ and ‘California’. However, these references aren’t reductive and this isn’t a retread of those genres instead Swindle is able to fold them into his own style and reinvigorate those sounds and genres. It’s immense achievement that with all of the vocalists, instrumental collaborators and musical styles involved that “No More Normal” always sounds like Swindle and no one else.

All-in-all this fantastic album is a celebration of the UK music scene and some of it’s key players both in the present and moving into the future. I will continue to follow both Swindle and his collaborators music well into the future.

I have two more albums I want to write about in this series and they will be posted between now and the beginning of July when I start writing about the best releases from the second quarter of 2019.

Check out this mini documentary on the making “No More Normal” below. It features clips from over half the albums tracks and really illustrates what an achievement it is.

Let me know what you think “No More Normal” below in the Comments.

 

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Best new single you've uncovered in the last week?</p>&mdash; Rough Trade (@RoughTrade) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RoughTrade/status/1130156163272728576?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 19, 2019</a></blockquote>
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It’s that time of the week again and so here’s the latest Music Question (on a Sunday). This week’s question is (what is the) best new single you’ve uncovered in the last week? This was tough one as there have been a few singles that have got me excited this week so it’s a three way tie between ‘Mm mmm’ by Hackney Colliery Band featuring Anglique Kodjo and Roundhouse Choir and great combination of a fantastic modern Hip-Hop influenced Brass band, powerful Malian singer Kodjo and backing vocals from the choir bonus points for the title. Next it would have to be ‘Zero Fux’ by Kool Keith featuring B-Real (Cypress Hill) a great lead single from the upcoming Kool Keith album “Keith” it doesn’t reinvent the boom bap/90’s underground Hip-Hop wheel but hearing two distinctly voiced MCs on the top of their game is great. Finally I would say ‘Favourites’ by The S.L.P. featuring Little Simz, The S.L..P. is Serge from Kasabian’s side project and this is a great debut single featuring Serge’s signature guitar riffs and the confident flow of Little Simz. 

Let me know your best single of this week below in the Comments.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I wasn't keen on ____________ until I saw them live.</p>&mdash; Rough Trade (@RoughTrade) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RoughTrade/status/1127574151588392960?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 12, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Ok, so this week’s Music Question courtesy of Rough Trade is “I wasn’t keen on ____________ until I saw them live.” My answer to this question is Fever Ray. My now ex-girlfriend was a huge fan of The Knife (Karin Dreijer’s first band/music project) and while liked some of their songs I found lot of it difficult to listen to, couldn’t put my finger on why but I did. But I really struggled Fever Ray’s self titled debut album (2009) to point of almost hating it. However, during this early stage of our relationship we had an arrangement where one partner could pick something to do that maybe the other didn’t want to do the rule being they had to pay for it. So we ended going to see Fever Ray in Manchester at the Academy 2 in July 2009. I was blown away both by the incredible show show and costumes and the power of the music as to enveloped me. I was converted to a fan then and there and while I still don’t own a copy of that album (one of few that for some reason I never get round to buying but can’t explain why) I’m a huge fan of it and dove deep into it after going to that gig.

Let me know what your answer to the question is down in the Comments.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>🎪 Festival season is almost upon us – where are you headed?</p>&mdash; Rough Trade (@RoughTrade) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RoughTrade/status/1125026110905786369?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 5, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Ok, so this week’s Questions concerns Festivals, which one are you heading to? I’m not going to any Festivals this year (can’t afford it) but if I could choose one to go to it would be Parkife in Manchester they have some great acts and DJs including Mr. Scruff, Solange and Little Simz. Let me know where you guys and heading who your looking to watching in the Comments.

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.

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