Tag Archive: Ghostface Killah


This post is the first of two that mark the end of Sonic Fiction for the foreseeable future and probably forever. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but I feel that as much as I’m still as passionate about all the music reviewed on the site I have to now focus purely on my own music career and improving those skills.

Thank to everyone whose read, commented on and retweeted/favourited/followed Sonic Fiction in its three years in existence. I will still keep the Sonic Fiction Twitter account alive as my own personal account so you can still find out about new music via that account.

  1. Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels” (Fool’s Gold)

  2. Adrian Younge & Ghostface Killah – “12 Reasons to Die” (Soul Temple)

  3. Black Milk – “No Poison, No Paradise” (Fat Beats)

  4. Action Bronson & Harry Fraud – “SAAAB Stories” (self released)

  5. RJD2 – “More Is Than Isn’t” (RJ’s Electrical Connections)

  6. The Child of Lov – “The Child of Lov” (Double Six/Domino)

  7. Youngblood Brass Band – “Pax Volumi” (Tru Thoughts)

  8. G&D – “The Lighthouse” (SomeOthaShip)

  9. Deltron 3030 – “Event II” (Bulk)

  10. FKA Twigs – “EP2” (Young Turks/XL)

Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels” (Fool’s Gold)

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Having worked together on the finest hip-hop release of 2012 “R.A.P. Music” El-P and team up again for their new project Run The Jewels. The duo has talked about this being their ‘fun’ album and as much as it sounds like they had fun making it, this is a serious hip-hop album both lyrically and sonically.

The album opens with its title track which instantly sets the tone for the rest of the album with its chattering hi-hat, 808 beat and minimal deep synth bass line. In the chorus El-P introduces a great screaming organ lead and employs Dub FX and a subtle reggae rhythm plays beneath the hard hitting hip-hop surface. Mike kicks off ‘Banana Clipper’ with the great lines “I move with the elegance of an African elephant, I presented the evidence, Eloquent as a president, Evident it’s with emphasis, I deserve me a championship, But before I banana clip, I’mma chill so my man can rip”. Later he praises his partner in crime while slamming boastful producers with a wry smile – “Producer gave me a beat, Said it’s the beat of the year, I said El-P didn’t do it, So get the fuck outta here”. All this delivered over sharp horn stabs and a double time beat. ‘36” Chain’ is a great example of El-P’s skill in creating multi textured tracks with its blocky synth stabs, video game blips and heavily compressed and reverbed snare combing to stunning effect.

‘Job Well Done’ is another album highlight and another track that demonstrates El-P amazing use of texture and space. His achieves this using discordant guitar and distant vocals adding more space and texture. The drums also have a great feel, pushing and pulling the listener. There’s also great use of dueling synth melodies and vocals in the chorus. The album ends with ‘A Christmas Fucking Miracle’ which combines sleigh bells, electric piano chords and a siren synth, everything is processed to feel corroded and dirty adding to the dystopian atmosphere.

All-in-all you couldn’t ask for more from “Run The Jewels” a hard hitting and full realised hip-hop album from start to finish, only time will tell whether matches up to “R.A.P. Music”.

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “12 Reasons to Die” (Soul Temple)

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With his new album alongside up and coming producer and multi instrumentalist Adrian Younge, Ghostface Killah comes pretty close to scaling the heights of his 90’s prime producing and album that never dips in quality across its 12 tracks. Like many Wu Tang Clan related releases there’s a storyline that runs through the album, this time the main character is Ghostface himself playing the role of a “vengeful soul hunting the 12 most powerful crime lords in the World.”

The album opens with ‘Beware of the Stare’ which immediate sets up the story and the tone of the album full of piano chords, a female choir, low slung funk bass guitar and a head nodding beat. ‘Rise of the Black Suits’ follows a similar formula adding chilling organ chords and an electric piano riff. ‘I Declare War’ is the most cinematic track so far with its operatic female vocals, spoken word outro and sweeping strings. The pace picks up on ‘Blood On The Cobblestones’ with it fast break beat, organ and horn stabs and great fuzz bass. ‘The Center Of Attraction’ changes things up again with it sparse electric piano chords and beat and back and forth strings. The next big moment on the album is ‘The Rise Of the Ghostface Killah’ with its cut-up female vocals and a spoken word male voice then a delay tail brings in the break beat and gliding electric guitar chords that slide around under Ghostface’s cool flow. ‘Revenge Is Sweet’ is a song of two halves beginning with sparse break beat and bass guitar before high pitched female choir cut in to tell more of the album’s story, strings come in and a male vocal duels with the female vocals. Then guitar chords float in  and then rap section of the track begins with Masta Killa getting busy on the mic. Wu Tang posse cut ‘Murder Spree’ and The Sure Shot’ (Parts One & Two) pick up where ‘Blood On The Cobblestones’ left off and the album finishes with ‘12 Reasons To Die’ which immortalises Ghostface in death to the sound of emotive piano, wind like sweeping synth, sparse bass guitar, mournful strings and an epic outro. With “12 Reasons to Die” Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge have set the bar extremely high for other hip-hop releases in 2013 and Younge has proved that it’s not just RZA whose the perfect foil for Wu Tang Clan MCs.

Black Milk – “No Poison, No Paradise” (Fat Beats)

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The profilic Detroit rapper/producerBlack Milk returns with his first solo album since “Album of the Year” (2010) and his second album of this year (Computer Ugly’s brilliant rough and raw “Synth or Soul” being the other album). It’s a welcome return and sees Black Milk firing on all cylinders from start to finish and in the progress making one of the best hip-hop albums of the year.

The album opens with ‘Interpret Sabotage’ featuring Mel it begins with electric piano that floats and is then interupted by static then a synth bass line and blunt hip-hop beat drop, a synth lead swiggles over the top of thin high strings and then Black Milk cuts in with his first verse. it’s urgent and frantic. Mel sings her chorus part over just the bass line and drums before the strings and synth cut back in. It’s a great opening track. Next up is the jazzy ‘Deion’s House’ which opens with a heads down beat and stabbing jazz piano and brass over the top. It features some great toms rolls and there’s more relaxed flow from Black Milk. ‘Codes & Cab Fare’ featuring Black Thought finishes off a fantastic opening run of tracks. It starts with a slow pulsing hip-hop beat, distant spoken word samples and a bell that rings out occasional, then Black Milk comes in for the first verse backed by thick dominating organ chords and creaking string samples. After more spoken word sample cut in, the second verse is taken by Black Thought, his rhymes and delivery are more aggressive as are the synth and effects that back him.

‘Ghetto Demf featuring Quelle Chris combines a hollow synth riff (sounds like the Normal or Gary Numan), a hip-hop beat, great gliding synth melody takes,dub delay FX that spin across the mix and spoken word samples that can be heard in the background. ‘Sonny Jr. (Dreams) featuring Robert Glasper & Dwele is the first of two instrumental tracks that help break up the rap tracks and showcase Black Milk great musicality (not a strong suit for many current hip-hop producers). Electric piano chords are stabbed out, then stop making way for a drum and percussion break, thin strings come in and bring an electric piano melody, so far so jazzy. A horn cycles over the top of everything. Like a lot of the album so far, it has a filmic, soundtrack quite. I really liked the vocal harmonies that come in halfway through. The next two tracks were the lead single(s) from the album and are both ‘Sunday’s Best’ and ‘Monday’s Worst’ find Black Milk equalling J Dilla as a master of soul sampling hip-hop.

‘Perfected on Puritan Ave.’opens with a chiming melody, strong synth strings and distant bass drum backing Black Milk. Then he strips things down to a horn sample, vocal harmonies and his vocals before the verse part quickly kicks back in. Halfway through the track changes completely with tumbling drums, trumpet solo and chopped up vocal sample underpinned by driving bass guitar. Then the strings swell back into life moving around the listener to heady effect. ‘Parallels’ featuring Ab combines a cool minimal synth riff, bubbling arpeggio and tough, stark neck breaking drums. Ab sings soulfully over the top, then Milk drops in for his first verse. Melody reminds of “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. The album closes with ‘Money Bags (Paradise)’ which with its 80’s style digital synths, hard and heavy downtempo beat and slow moving synth bass, recalls Black Milk’s previously mentioned Computer Ugly album.

All-in-all “No Poison, No Paradise” is one the most fantastic and varied hip-hop albums of the year.  “To be specific it’s psychedelic, soulful, organic, reflective, and dynamic. It sounds like the soundtrack to a sci-fi gangster flick about Halloween in the streets of Detroit. Throughout NPNP Black Milk loosely constructs a theme of how the negative qualities of his Detroit environment in many ways shaped the perspective and talent he has as it connects to life and music. It’s a spiritual, thematic, and sonic balance”. This an album that highly recommend to anyone, go get yourself a copy now!!!

Action Bronson and Harry Fraud – “SAAAB Stories” (Self Released)

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With “SAAAB Stories” Action Bronson and Harry Fraud have delivered their best release and most varied release to date. Both rapper and produce are at the top of their game and pushing each other to do greater things.

Things kick off with ‘2 Virgins’ the first of several slower and more contemplative tracks on the E.P. its slow reverse intro and strings off set by sweet picked guitar and sour distorted guitar solo flow underneath Bronson and his hype man Big Body Bes’s rhymes. ‘Triple Backflip’ picks up where ‘2 Virgins’ left off with its gliding electric piano, snapping snare and round and warm bass drum, in the second of the track these elements are joined by mood enhancing subtle strings and nice picked guitars. ‘No Time’ is a highlight with its soloing electric piano, jazzy bass guitar and head nodding bass guitar a perfect backing for Bronson’s smutty rhymes. ‘Strictly 4 My Jeeps’ is a summer banger that comes closer to matching the brilliant ‘No Time’ and also gets your head nodding and foot tapping. ‘Alligator’ demonstrates Bronson’s storytelling abilities and with its downtempo and spooky yet dirty synth recalls Fever Ray’s excellent self titled debut album. Album closer ‘Seven Series Triplets’ rounds things out nicely with its picked bass guitar and pulse quickening beat the perfect setting for verses from Bronson, Prodigy and Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon.

“SAAAB Stories” sees Bronson moving away from the perception of him as a food and sex obsessed Ghostface Killah impersonator and in fact I’d have to agree with Potholes in my Blog’s assertation that on this release he sounds closer to Ghostface’s Wu Tang tag team partner Raekwon. “SAAAB Stories” is the best hip-hop release of 2013 bar Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah’s exceptional “12 Reasons to Die”, this is an essential release!!!

RJD2 – “More Is Than Isn’t” (RJ’s Electrical Connections)

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It’s been over a decade since RJD2 released his brilliant debut album “Dead Ringer” (2002) which saw him regularly compared to DJ Shadow, with whom he shared a mastery of moody instrumental hip-hop. Since then RJD2 has tried out a number of genres including prog rocker for “Since We Last Spoke” (2004), singer songwriter on “The Third Hand” (2007) and funkateer on his lasting out “The Colossus” (2010). On his “More Is Than Isn’t” he finally cuminates all of previous ideas into one cohesive work, rather than again shifting his style.


The album opens with ‘Suite 1’ the first of three suites that are scattered across the album’s length. The track starts with waves crashing and bird song before spacious deep piano chords come in swiftly followed by a synthesizer that slips and slides all over the mix and sounds a little like a saxophone or the original bird song. Around a minute and twenty seconds a choir of voices can be heard in the distance. In the climax we briefly hear the bird song, waves and synth sax again. Next up is ‘Temperamental’ featuring Phonte Coleman of Little Brother, it begins with a heavy sharp hip-hop beat and electric piano chords played rhythmically, Coleman’s crooner’s emotive over the top. The backing vocals inimate the piano chords one miunte and thirty seconds in and then there’s some great distorted guitar comes in around two minutes in. Track three ‘Behold, Numbers’ opens with tense ascending synths/strings before a beat, reversed snare and stabs of the strings drop for a great percussive track that snaps your neck. Around a minute in the strings transform and intensify and a flowing melody that play over the percussive elements. At one minute forty seconds there’s an electric piano and slap bass break, that builds in intensity when hand percussion and flinty funk guitar riffs kick in over the top. Two minutes and fifty seconds the track becomes a snapping and cracking funk monster, with some of the original percussive elements mixed with the new slap bass, drums and funk guitar.

‘Her Majesty’s Socialist Request’ kicks off with high frequency synth tweet before crushing guitar power chords and double time drums and percussion cut in, the track breaks down to an Indian sounding string figure, the dramatic guitar riff and some of the percussion elements. Great piano loop kicks in around two minutes fifteen sounds in and plays over the guitar riff and percussion. All the elements are combined to stunning effect, only four tracks and I was already bowled over by RJD2’s latest work.  ‘Bathwater’ featuring P. Blackk the first of two MC lead tracks on the album is up next. It opens with a thick slab of fuzzy wah guitar, then the raps and double time beat come in, follow by lots of cut up vocals and guitar samples flying about. Synth bass and lead synth add to the awesome analogue filth. ‘Milk Tooth’ combines analogue synth bloops, a cutting soul break, bass and guitar, huge synth brass stabs and a female vocal harmony. Later there’s also a gliding synth melody that comes in part through, it sounds like a classic Moog. The track feels like a synth based version of Adrian Younge’s sound or a more soul based version of a Gaslamp Killer horrorcore track.

‘See You Leave’ is another vocal featuring The Roots associate STS (MC) and singer Khari Mateen. Big held organ chords and tumbling drums make up the intro of this track before a soul backbeat and rhythm guitar cut in, soulful lead vocals and guitar lick that recalls the Isley Brothers play over the top. There’s some solid rap verses but the soul chorus is where its at on this track. Next up is ‘Got There, Sugar’ a two part of a track the warps from one to the other partway through. A simple warmth synth melody, electric piano chords and sax solo open up this track, jazz drums shuffling away underneath. At one minute fifty seconds the track completely transforms into a wah-wah guitar and organ lead funk monster. ‘Descended From Myth’ sounds like a forgotten gem from a Blaxploitation soundtrack combining blaring horns, pounding drums and a stabbing synth bass. There track gets more synth heavy and sci-fi in feel as its progresses. It’s great to see RJD2 and Blueprint (MC) working together for the first time since “Dead Ringer”. The track ‘It All Came to Me in a Dream’ is one of the highlights of the album too. A drum roll brings in a tremolo fuzz guitar, head nodding beat, low slung bass and filmic dialogue samples, the track breaks down to bring in Blueprint’s first rap verse. There’s a great synth solo around one minute fifty seconds in.

All-in-all “More Is Than Isn’t” is RJD2’s best album since “Dead Ringer” and while it may not provide as many knock out moments as that brilliant work it comes pretty close to equalling it. It’s both a varied and consisent album that showcases both RJD2’s skills as a producer and as a musician, this is a guy who can make a great head nodding, neck snapping beat, write a fantastic chorus and play an amazing synth solo sometimes even on the same track!! Highly recommended to all lovers of instrumental hip-hop, soulful music and music with a ton of funk!!

The Child of Lov – “The Child of Lov” (Double Six/Domino)

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The secretive artist The Child of Lov is a hip-hop producer from the Netherlands but he doesn’t make any old hip-hop and when you hear his processed vocals you’d swear he was from America’s Deep South. The album opens with the loping bass guitar, downtempo hip-hop beat and skewed soul vocals of ‘Call Me Up’ the atmospherics and vocals of which recalls “Return to Cookie Mountain” era TV on the Radio. It’s swiftly followed by ‘Heal’ with its uptempo drum break, nagging post-punk guitar riff and stabbing bass guitar. Next up is the sparse ballad ‘One Day’ that features Blur’s Damon Albarn, twisted twangy guitar melodies, rippling synth bass and a dusty hip-hop beat. ‘Living the Circle’ combines corroded synth bass and a heavy stuttering hip-hop beat with a computer game style synth melody to stunning, head nodding effect.

The second half the album sees electronic drums dominate whereas acoustic drums had pervaded in the first half. ‘Go With The Wind’ utilises a subtle electronic hip-hop drums, computer game synth bass and a weird lo-fi guitar riff that underline the uniqueness of this artists sound. ‘Fly’ is another great up tempo track with a thumping, purposeful bass drum pushing everything forward. The album closes with ‘Give It To The People’ on which there’s very little vocal processing and the track has a brighter, pop production pointing at potential development for The Child of Lov’s sound in the future. “The Child of Lov” is a great debut album that demonstrates that you don’t need to the biggest budget or sound to make something that can shine and be unique. I look forward to hearing more from The Child of Lov in the future.

Youngblood Brass Band – “Pax Volumi” (Tru Thoughts)

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Youngblood Brass Band return with their first album in seven years and it is great to have them back. ‘Pax Volumi’ is an album that cements their reputation as a great hip-hop and jazz band that can deliver a great album as well as great live performances. Their previous effort ‘Is That A Riot?’ was the first evidence that they could keep the quality high across an album and ‘Pax Volumi’ confirms and nudges their trademark sound forward.

The album opens as Youngblood open their live sets with something huge and anthemic. The track is ’20 Questions’ and with its combination of thumping bass line , staccato snare, heavy bass drum and chattering hats. The rap flows in a start-stop flow over the top and the brass cuts in and out with the trumpet  playing staccato melodies in the verse and full section stabs in the chorus. There’s a great sax solo 2 minutes in and the track establishes the new punchier and more polished sound of the album. ‘Cite the Line’ brings back the band’s trademark military drum beat which plays under staccato saxophone, distant vocals and yearning elongated trumpets. Then the main beat and bass line kick in thumping your eardrums and backing the fast rapping, the horns ascend in the chorus to great effect.

‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ opens with mournful sounding trombone and droning trumpet, the MC enters and beatboxes a hip-hop drum pattern. The huge bassline slams in and brings with it a crisp hip-hop beat (the evidence of use of a sampler by Youngblood) and the rap verse, the brass emerges out of nowhere like a synth pad. Some of drums and the bassline sounds electronic or electronically processed. There’s a nice mellow drum less section partway through. Then the beatboxing, scratch and electronic drum re-enter with the core brass riffs. ‘The Plank Will Nod, and You Will Go’ starts with title spoken then the brass and drums thunder in before breaking down to rap and drums before the brass emerges again with snaking jazz melodies. The intro returns for an instrumental chorus. The track reminds of ‘Bone Refinery’ from the previous album. I really like the sousaphone and vocal only breakdown half through, then the brass snakes back followed by the drums to bring the chorus back in.

‘Erik Owen’ begins with sax and trombone playing long interweaving melodies over each other before Latin handclaps and staccato trumpet cuts in, a great minimal hip-hop rhythm takes over and the trumpet plays main melody. It’s a great bright upbeat track that changes up from the double time rhythms of much of the rest of the album. Towards the end of the album the band cover the Chaka Khan classic ‘Ain’t Nobody’ it  opens with a tons of percussion and deep bass drum before the trombone and trumpets play a funky riff and the sax harmonises over the top. The sousaphone plays the bass and the sax, trumpets and trombone take it in turns to play the main chorus melody. There are some great solos in the middle section of the song and a fantastic tough bass line in the outro. The album finishes with the epic eight minute closer ‘Third Half’. It begins with a lone trumpet soloing before a snare roll brings with tons of tumbling jazz drums and the other brass and sax, it all underpinned by a body movin’ sousaphone bass line. I can’t put my finger on what it is but there’s something familiar about the melody around 2 minutes 20 seconds played by the sax. The band gets into some heavy jazz soloing in the middle section with the drums pounding and rolling behind. It breaks down to sax for a second again with that familiar melody; then the drums come back in slowly building the tension. Trumpets and trombone interweave with the sax both competing and complimenting it. It’s a superb finishes to an album that makes the triumphant return of a band that have been away for far too long!!!

G&D – “The Lighthouse” (SomeOthaShip)

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The mysterious moniker G&D hides the behind it two disguised artists in Georgia Anne Muldrow (G) and Dudley Perkins (D) who’ve both been working together and individual as hip-hop artists for over two decades. However, both have found their profiles rise since 2006 (I only knew of Georgia Anne Mudrow’s existence last year due to her ‘Seeds’ album produced by Madlib). Some hip-hop heads might know Perkins from his time under the name Declaime but I imagine both of these artists are fairly new to most people.

On “The Lighthouse” their pedigree shows itself from the start, as the album kicks off with the cut up vocals samples, P-Funk synth solo and scratches of ‘Intro’. The album swiftly moves to the title track’s laidback percussion, cutting hip-hop beat and cosmic electric piano meanwhile the two vocalists float and flow over the top of a head nodding beat. ‘Fam Bam’ starts the move away from the psychedelic sound of that the artwork of the album suggests were in for. The track features a stuttering electronic hip-hop beat and reverberate claps that back Perkins mean rapping and Muldrow vocals and rapping that recall Erykah Badu and Seattle hip-hop duo Thee Satisfaction. ‘Electric’ combines a smooth bass line and sparse electronic hip-hop beat with another from Perkins with its feedbacking guitar and electronic sound it recalls Cannibal Ox. ‘Power’ brings back to P-Funk and Afro-centric lyrics from the duo, ‘No More War’ picks up where ‘Power’ leaves off with huge synth bass, a twinkling synth melody and shuffling electronic beat back Perkins and Muldrow’s duetting vocals. ‘Popstopper’ demonstrates the duo’s versatility with shuffling acoustic drums and popping funk bass backing Muldrow’s multi-layered lush vocals while a spooky synth stabs in and out of the mix. ‘Dance’ combines with guitar sound of ‘Electric’ with the popping funk bass of ‘Popstopper’ to get you on the floor! ‘Emo Funk’ and album closer ‘Majesty’ both show the duo can do slo-mo acoustic piano ballads albeit with their own unique twist. With ‘The Lighthouse’ G&D have arguably made the best underground hip-hop of year so far, check it out!!!

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Thirteen years ago Deltron 3030 the hip-hop supergroup that features Del The Funkee Homosapian (MC), Kid Koala (turntablist) and Dan the Automater (producer) released their self titled début concept album and showed up a lot of the underground hip-hop acts with their combination of ambition and great tunes. Towards the end of last year rumours began to surface that Deltron 3030 had reformed and earlier this the trio confirmed it and then announced they had almost finished a sequel to their début. Now that album is here for all to hear and here’s my review.

The album opens with “Stardate” on which actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt talks of fictional trio’s return over the top of  a synthetic choir and twinkling music box melody. ‘The Return’ opens the album proper combining a synth, long-held strings and choir in from intro track give way to phat hip-hop drums, scratches and a thick layer of organ and cartoonish synth melody. Del enters rapping slow and smooth telling the story of the Earth in 3030. Deep strings cut in during a break down at 3 minutes 30 seconds in. The track changes feel  to a kind of epic spaghetti western style sound. ‘Pay The Price’ is straight in with an upbeat hip-hop beat, scratches and plinking piano and bass guitar groove. Things get cut down for the verse with Del flowing over the top. Like the huge acoustic piano chords and twinkling reverberate melody, the resonate synth is a nice subtle touch.

‘Nobody Can’ featuring Aaron Bruno of AWOL Nation combines great head nodding beat, fuzzy electric guitar and deep bass groove, that back Del’s great rhymes that are off set by soul style guitar chops and an 8-bit synth melody. The tracks reminds me of hip-hop duo N.A.S.A. who released a great similar collaborative album”The Spirit of Apollo” back in 2009. Another huge guitar riff dominates ‘Melding of the Minds’ featuring Zack De La Rocha its backed by phat hip-hop drums and a deep bass guitar with cutting scratches and killer raps from Del and Zack taking the lead. ‘Talent Supercedes’ featuring Black Rob is a cinematic funk track that features A big beat and held horns. There’s some Ennio Morricone references in the verse, with the twanging (yet funky) guitar and clanging bells. Great drum breaks and bass guitar roll, pushing everything forward and flattening anything that gets in their way. ‘Look Across The Sky’ featuring actor Mary Elizabeth Winstead opens with a filter sweep synth effect before a soul guitar rhythm, bass line and midtempo beat drops. Del raps and Winstead sings vocals harmonies on this minimal track. In the chorus Winstead takes the melodic lead before the track breaks down again to the intro synth and a soloing psychedelic guitar.

‘What Is This Loneliness’ featuring Damon Albarn and Casual starts off with a slamming head nodding beat, Del crashes in backed by discordant guitar and chiming bells. Twanging guitar and strings up the tension as we move towards the chorus. Albarn comes in singing the chorus backed by a synth, strings, drums, bass and acoustic rhythm guitar, reminds me of ‘El Manana’ by Gorillaz. Next up is ‘My Only Love’ featuring Emily Wells a stepping epic beat, vocal harmonies, big reverbed chords and slippery synth open this track before backing down to beat, slow moving bass and guitar groove and minimal bell melody for Del’s verse. The intro instruments return for the chorus with Wells singing like Martina Topley Bird over the top.

The album closer with two tracks that really contrast with each other the first ‘City Rising From The Ashes’ featuring Mike Patton begins with a phat drum break, funky bass, horns stabs and a piano riff. In the chorus the brass plays a cool melody and has an almost Latin in feel and Patton sings the backing vocals, Del sounds awesome over the top. Kid Koala weighs in with some great scratch work out towards the end of the track. The album closer ‘Do You Remember’ featuring Jamie Cullum is more reflective. The track opens with Cullum’s vocals, piano and a stringed instruments covered in vinyl crackle and pop and sounding like a 1930’s/40’s jazz crooner. Then hip-hop beat drops and Del flows over the top of Cullum’s jazz vocal melody. Features some great hip-hop stabs and soulful guitar chops.

“Event II” isn’t a huge move away from the trio début album’s sound and lyrical themes but it does feature a lot more uptempo tracks and sweeping cinematic elements. The album feels both like a throw back to 90’s breakbeat driven hip-hop but also has a throughly contemporary production job and sounds like the album that Gorillaz should make if they even make another album. This is a great hip-hop album and highly recommended for both fully fledged hip-hop heads and fans of the likes of Gorillaz and N.A.S.A.

FKA Twigs – “EP 2” (Young Turks/XL)

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FKA Twigs first appeared on my radar just a couple of months ago when the track ‘Water Me’ appeared on line and generated soon serious hype. It turned the hype was justified as it’s an excellent track that establishes FKA Twigs signiture sound delayed cover vocal harmonies, ethereal synths and slo-mo treated electronic beats, all topped off with her breathy sometimes whispered vocals. I found out that she had in fact self released another EP back in 2012 that had completely passed me by and had now been snapped up by Young Turks home to The xx with whom she shares “unflinching intimacy” in her music. The whole EP is produced by Arca a hotly tipped underground hip-hop who recently contributed a track to Kanye West’s “Yeezus”.

The EP opens with ‘How’s That’. It begins with a steadily moving deep synth strings sound and a hollow snare drums echoes out before Twigs vocals enter dropping in and out, there very breathy, a tambourine shaking covered in spine chilling reverb. Then a bitcrusher bass drum and click electronic percussion bash away almost overwhelming the other elements before settling for the main body of the track. The track display’s Arca’s understanding of dynamics as the track swifts from the spacious calm intro into the fuller and menacing main section. Next up is the best track on the EP ‘Papi Pacify’ it masterfully combines a deep detuned synth riff, Twigs echoing vocals at the start of this track. Then another synth starts up and brings in the stumbling glitchy beat and thin synth chords. Halfway through the tone change suddenly as a heavier dark beat and corroded synth bass line stumble into view. It sounds like a horror film soundtrack with the wrong lyrics over the top (the lyrics appear to be a love song).

The second half of the EP kicks off with the brilliant ‘Water Me’ which reminded me a little of Fever Ray. The song starts with vocal harmonies echo out before a synth drone slides underneath. A ratty distant snare comes in, eventually giving way to a beat and pitched echoing vocal harmonies, swiftly followed by Twigs enters singing her lead vocals. Some cool backing vocals come in along with a gliding synth melody around the two minute mark. Then EP concludes with ‘Ultraviolet’ which like ‘Papi Pacify’ is a song of two halves the first features Twigs sings over distant ethereal synth and slow, sparse electronic beat. Then halfway through Twigs and the synths rise up taking the song to a richer more melodic and harmonic place. The track turns into a dreamy R&B tune in slo-mo.

“EP 2” is one of the finest of EP length releases of the year so far with a throughly modern sound that brings together influences ranging from the chopped and screwed hip-hop of DJ Screw, the inimate and sparse touch songs of The xx and the taut trip-hop of Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine” (1998). Highly recommended.

Liam’s Review’s

Prodigy & Alchemist – “Albert Einstein” (Infamous)

“Albert Einstein” sees two hip-hop veterans team up for a collaborative album for the first time, after much work on Mobb Deep albums and some of Prodigy’s solo albums. Prodigy has been rapping since his teen years and has been releasing music as both part of Mobb Deep and his own solo albums for 20 years. The Alchemist is a producer of some renown who also started his career as a teenage in a duo called Whooligans and releasing his first production job 20 years ago.

I gave Alchemist’s last solo album “Russian Roulette” a bad review as I felt it’s production was unnecessarily over the top but he’s manages to reign in these tendencies on his varied and solid album. Prodigy’s lyrics stick his hardcore hip-hop roots with street raps and subjects the order of day, however his ability to change his flow and tone across the album is impressive and keeps the listener engaged.

The album’s highlights include ‘IMDKV’ with its double time bass drum, sharp piano chords, punishing synth bass and chaotic acoustic drums circle around Prodigy’s vocals and piano in the centre of the track. ‘Give ‘Em Hell’ matches dramatic strings with subtle hip-hop drums to demonstrate Alchemist can tone things down when it’s appropriate for the song or section of a song.

‘Death Sentence’ sees Roc Marciano join the party as he and Prodigy trade hardcore New York rhymes over deep, pulsing bass guitar, acoustic drums, thin swelling strings and an ethereal synth melody. ‘R.I.P.’ features Prodigy’s Mobb Deep partner Havoc and Wu Tang Clan legend Raekwon and features great use of the classic sample “U.F.O.” by ESG, which is used textural instead as the main beat and adds an eerie atmosphere to the track. On ‘Bible Paper’ things get vey cinematic and recalls Redman classic “Smash Sumthin’ while the lush strings of ‘Brezee’ and ‘Raw Forever’ sound like lost gems from a Blaxploitation soundtrack by Isaac Hayes.

All-in-all “Albert Einstein” delivers classic hip-hop sounds from two highly respected veterans, it’s not a game changer but is a very good hip-hop album, especially for fans of classic hardcore hip-hop.

Young Fathers – “Tape Two” (Anticon)

The Scottish trio Young Fathers had self released one E.P. called “Tape One” before they found their perfect home in alternative hip-hop label Anticon, famous for releasing the music of cLOUDDEAD, Why? And their experimental-emotional hip-hop peers.

“Tape Two” opens with the emotive “I Heard” which immediately establishes that this is a group that can 1) write a great song, 2) features some of the trio’s signature sounds e.g. ghostly reverb vocals, subtle use of drums and percussion and 3) that the comparisons to TV on the Radio are fair. ‘Come to Life’ sounds like The Neptunes gone lo-fi with its dirty synth bass, tribal beat and Pharrell-like lead vocals. ‘Only Child’ puts the tribal drums upfront alongside deep piano chords tough start-stop rhymes. ‘Queen Is Dead’ is the most explicitly hip-hop track with its siren synth sound, hollow sounding bass drum and hard hitting but wet snare drum. ‘Freefalling’ sees the trio embracing a heavy Dub influence with its bass line and atmosphere aping the Jamaican genre’s sound. ‘Mr. Martyr’ is a dark and mournful highlight with sparse and deep drums and offbeat tambourine combing with distant synth chords, distorted synth bass and mournful guitar melody to create a great soundscape for both the lead vocals and rap verses. ‘Way Down In the Hole’ combines glistening synths, the group trademark lead vocals with tribal drums, siren synth effects and dirty synth bass to stunning effect. “Tape Two” finishes with the thin tribal drums, ascending and descending synth chord progression and deep synth bass buzz with spine tingling piano to round out an incredible release from a trio who promise to only get better as they evolve.

Aceyalone- “Leanin’ On Slick” (Decon)

Aceyalone is a seasoned rapper having been releasing solo album’s since 1995’s “All Balls Don’t Bounce” and having founded the Freestyle Followship in the early 1990’s. “Leanin’ on Slick” is Ace’s thirteenth solo album and kicks off in a fine style with the simple yet funky percussion, deep bass and wah-wah guitar of ’30 & Up’ which set the tone for this funky album that screams summer. It’s quickly followed by the title track which throws a James Brown vocal sample into the mix, so far, so funky. Horns make their first appearance on ‘I Can Get It Myself’ which also sports a great tumbling drum break.

‘What You Gone and Do with That’ changes the formula up with some popping electronic drums replacing the acoustic breaks that have filled the album so far and synth brass replacing the real thing. However, the track loses none of the funky swing present throughout the album. The formula gets another twist on ‘I’m No Cassanova’ with its Stax Records soul groove and lead guitar and again on “Working Man Blues” which adds acoustic guitar and the Cee-Lo Green singing the songs chorys and “Things Get Better” which revolves heavily around the lead vocals and vocal harmonies of Daniel Merriweather.

On the rapping front the album will be a letdown for those who want top draw innovative rhymes and flow, it’s not that anything wrong with Aceyalone’s rapping it’s just he’s not saying or doing anything new. Personally I enjoyed his rhymes and he can definitely deliver the mature lyrics and controlled flow of a rap veteran but it’s the musical backing that’s the star of this album. Overall though this one of the best hip-hop albums of year so far despite this one criticism.

Action Bronson and Harry Fraud – “SAAAB Stories” (Self Released)

With “SAAAB Stories” Action Bronson and Harry Fraud have delivered their best release and most varied release to date. Both rapper and produce are at the top of their game and pushing each other to do greater things.

Things kick off with ‘2 Virgins’ the first of several slower and more contemplative tracks on the E.P. its slow reverse intro and strings off set by sweet picked guitar and sour distorted guitar solo flow underneath Bronson and his hype man Big Body Bes’s rhymes. ‘Triple Backflip’ picks up where ‘2 Virgins’ left off with its gliding electric piano, snapping snare and round and warm bass drum, in the second of the track these elements are joined by mood enhancing subtle strings and nice picked guitars. ‘No Time’ is a highlight with its soloing electric piano, jazzy bass guitar and head nodding bass guitar a perfect backing for Bronson’s smutty rhymes. ‘Strictly 4 My Jeeps’ is a summer banger that comes closer to matching the brilliant ‘No Time’ and also gets your head nodding and foot tapping. ‘Alligator’ demonstrates Bronson’s storytelling abilities and with its downtempo and spooky yet dirty synth recalls Fever Ray’s excellent self titled debut album. Album closer ‘Seven Series Triplets’ rounds things out nicely with its picked bass guitar and pulse quickening beat the perfect setting for verses from Bronson, Prodigy and Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon.

“SAAAB Stories” sees Bronson moving away from the perception of him as a food and sex obsessed Ghostface Killah impersonator and in fact I’d have to agree with Potholes in my Blog’s assertation that on this release he sounds closer to Ghostface’s Wu Tang tag team partner Raekwon. “SAAAB Stories” is the best hip-hop release of 2013 bar Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah’s exceptional “12 Reasons to Die”, this is an essential release!!!

Boards of Canada – “Tomorrow’s Harvest” (Warp)

After all the mysterious codes, album playback’s in a desert and media hype we finally have the new album from Boards of Canada. “Tomorrow’s Harvest” doesn’t disappoint and stands up alongside the rest of Boards of Canada’s stellar back catalogue. There are two things that you notice after you first listen to the album 1) this isn’t a playful album filled with childlike nostalgia like “Music Has The Right To Children” (1998) 2) this is the most rhythmic Boards of Canada album to date from the drum beats the verge on hip-hop at times to the Vangelis style arpeggios and shifting synth textures.

The album opens with synthetic horn fanfare that purposefully recalls the introduction to an 80’s T.V. show, however this is a misleading and by second track and single ‘Reach for the Dead’ a few minutes later its clear this is going to a much darker proposition. The next track ‘White Cyclosa’ plunges us further into the darkness with its dread inducing synth drone, minimal echoing synth melody and unsettling shifting synth tones that rear their ugly head two minutes in. On ‘Jacquard Causeway’ a semi industrial beat competes with a curving synth melody and its counterpoint. As the song progresses more echoing synth melodies are added and the beat has acoustic layers added and feels looser as time goes on.

With its thin lightly modulated synth line and ethereal sounding vocal textures ‘Cold Earth’ is one of only tracks on the album that recalls earlier Boards of Canada releases albeit with a skittering beat and melody that jumps erratically around the beat and stereo field. ‘Sick Times’ also recalls earlier releases but with a darker, tenser atmosphere and thick, serrated electronic drums competing for the listener’s attention. ‘Collapse’ acts as the centrepiece to the albums palindrome structure it’s groaning reversed vocal effects set the disturbing tone and the Vangelis style arpeggio is another one of the albums key tropes. Next up is the album most playful track ‘Palace Posy’ with its bouncing synth bass and melody play off an almost head nodding hip-hop beat later a delayed synth stab and rhythmic synth melody kick and give the track yet more rhythmic variation, the closest thing to pop song that Boards of Canada have produced to date. ‘Split Your Infinities’ is another album highlight that opens with huge swath of synth drone and twinkling distant synth arpeggio, all this is underpinned by a crunchy beat and lo-fi vocal sample that come in, in the tracks second half. After the intensity of ‘Split Your Infinities’ and ‘Uritual’ the lighter and more pleasant ‘Nothing Is Real’ gives the listener a chance to relax, a pattern it repeated across the album’s structure.

The closer trio of tracks is one of the finest I’ve heard this year, starting with the digital degraded rhythmic synth riff and deep twanging bass guitar of ‘New Seeds’ which recalls Ennio Morricone’s finest soundtrack work but with a modern electronic twist. The track also has some great vocal textures and treated acoustic drums. ‘Come to Dust’ perfectly balances the darker and lighter elements of the album sound combining a deep  synth drone and distant vocal texture with a spacious beat and synth melody and topping it all off with a fast moving arpeggio. The album finishes with ‘Semena Mertvykh’ and the album deepest and darkest synth drone which is twinned with a synth melody so distant it sounds like its coming from down a deep pit, static and tape hiss add to the track’s creepy, dark atmosphere.

There was a eight year wait between Boards of Canada’s last album “The Campfire Headphase” and “Tomorrow’s Harvest” but the wait was worth it with Boards of Canada producing another exceptional album.

Kirsty’s Reviews

Release of the Month

Cosmin TRG – Gordian (50 Weapons)

A little under two years since Cosmin TRG’s wonderful debut album “Simulat” is his second, “Gordian” and this, like its predecessor, showcases Cosmin’s way of instilling his productions with moods, emotion and charm.  ‘New Structures for Loving’ starts “Gordian”. Bearing Cosmin TRG’s familiar signature of marrying a warm and delicate synth melody with a rumbling yet unobtrusive bass drum, it’s clarity and brightness sounds open and blissful while also being a confident opener. The title track is overflowing with textures; an imploding snare rattles amongst unbalanced rhythms as long stretches of fuzzy background noise add to the disruption. An off-kilter melody and counter-motif work against each other, embellishing the unsettling feel. Cosmin TRG uses these to neat effect; having elements that push and pull, taking the track down a series of wrong turns. Next are the twin standouts ‘Desire Is Sovereign’ and ‘Defeated Hearts Club’. The former recalls his debut “Simulat” as choppy hats and a propulsive techno rhythm are met with surges of a sharp, exuberant synth melody. It’s warm, dark and dense with a satisfying heads-down-and-dance quality. On the lachrymose ‘Defeated Hearts Club’ a grainy synth using melodic builds and tactile intricacies evoke a highly personal emotional moment that stays with the listener long after the album’s final notes ring out. ‘Divided By Design’ shakes the listener out of the sadness with a 4/4 warehouse techno bass drum and expansive, pretty synth chords covered in a hazy gauze. The album’s closing tracks reroute to lighter territory: the airy ‘To Touch Is To Divert’, ‘Vertigo’, which zings with energy and “Gordian” finale ‘Terminus Abrupt’ floats with skipping percussion and a silky texture.

Altogether “Gordian” is more developed and seamless with a greater distillation of Cosmin’s ideas than those heard on the diverse “Simulat”. Where some tracks on his debut were restless and buzzing with a kind of nervous energy (‘Osu Xen’, ‘Fizic’), this is calmer and settled. Fortunately, the sparkling organic sheen that elevated “Simulat” is prevalent too on “Gordian”. Practically every track is endowed with glistening melodies and energy gained from the immersive sound scapes, robust low end and moments of bliss. “Gordian” is a gorgeous listen packed with rewarding moments.

Listen to some choice cuts form “Gordian” below:

Liam’s Reviews

Disappointment of the Month

Neon Neon – “Praxis Makes Perfect” (Lex)

If you’d told me at the start of the year that Neon Neon the duo consisting of Griff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) and glitch-hop producer Boom Bip would return with an second album of high brow conceptual electro pop I wouldn’t have believed you. So when “Praxis Makes Perfect” release was announced a couple of months ago I was both surprised and excited, I’d recently revisited their excellent debut album “Stainless Style” (2008) and found it had aged very well.

The album begins with the scene setting instrumental title track which does its job brilliantly unfortunately from this point on its only the single ‘Mid Century Modern Nightmare’ that’s as impressive as that track. The album is littered with awful lyrics that fall way short of the witty tales found on “Stainless Style” or indeed anything that Rhys has written for the Super Furry Animals. The songs also feel very formulaic and similar stylistically whereas “Stainless Style” had more variety with sleazy electro hip-hop and funk pop featuring guest such as Spank Rock, Yo Majesty! And Har Mar Superstar, the nearest “Praxis Makes Perfect” comes it this is the breathy contributions of Sabrina on ‘Shopping (I Like To)’. All the electro pop elements are present and correct but don’t feel fresh as they did on “Stainless Style”. It’s a shame this album doesn’t live up to its predecessor as albums that still sound and feel great five years on are a rarity nowadays and it would have been great to have another of those from this odd couple, maybe next time?

Bonobo – “The North Borders” (Ninja Tune)

In the lead up to the release of “The North Borders” Bonobo’s fifth album, pre release tracks ‘Cirrus’ and ‘Heaven for the Sinner’ suggested that a radical change of direction may have taken place. However, when I finally heard the album in full I was able to hear that although house and garage beats are present and instruments such as the harp and bells dominate the mix. This is the same producer just refining his formula and simultaneously pushing into new sonic territory. When he’s pushing into this new territory he often reminds me of his Ninja Tune label mate Falty DL whose recent ‘Hardcourage’ album could be seen as a more overtly electronic sister album to “The North Borders”. Bonobo’s moving into four to the floor territory have mixed results while tracks such as ‘Transits’, ‘Cirrus’ and ‘Emkay’ fully engage the listener and pull of a balance between Bonobo’s organic trademark sound and this new stylist direction, tracks such as ‘Antenna’, ‘Don’t Wait’ and ‘Know You’ are bland and fill unfinished. He’s on solid ground though when it comes to hip-hop beats with the stand-outs including ‘Heaven for the Sinner’, ‘Jets’ and ‘Ten Tigers’, on these tracks Bonobo manages to incorporate new sounds and refresh his formula while playing to his strengths. So “The North Borders” isn’t a complete overhaul of Bonobo’s sound and his experiments are only partly successful but overall it is a very good album.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Mosquito” (Polydor)

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s new album get off on the wrong for me. Opener ‘Sacrilege’ tries to be an all out epic but falls short and doesn’t quite gel for me. Fortunately things improve on ‘Subway’ which utilises a sample of a New York Subway train alongside twinkling guitar,hushed vocals and is underpinned by subtle bass guitar. The band take things up a notch on the stomping alien alternative rock of the title track. On ‘Under the Earth’ they explore dub reggae for the first time with deliciously dark results!!! The band delivers the epic goods on ‘Slave’ which recalls ‘Songs of the Free’ era Gang of Four. ‘These Paths’ is another stylist departure with Karen O backed by electronic drums and synths. The track recalls Gang Gang Dance, though is more grounded and uses more conventional melodies.

The band returns to the sound of their debut album with the punk trash of ‘Area 52’ before collaborating with UFO hunting rapper Kool Keith on the epic alternative rock of ‘Buried Alive’. Keith delivers a fantastically smooth verse as his Dr. Octagon character. ‘Always’ finds a middle ground between ‘Slave’ and ‘These Paths’ with added cascading synth melodies. The album finishes with two slow building tracks ‘Despair’ and ‘Wedding Song’ which round the album out nicely, bring it to a satisfying close. All-in-all Yeah Yeah Yeah’s have delivered exactly they promised an album that both goes back to basics and provides an escape from the bad situations in life.

Cannibal Ox – “Gotham” (Iron Galaxy)

Back in 2001 Cannibal Ox worked with producer El-P on what would become a classic underground hip-hop album in “The Cold Vein”. Last year the MC duo announced they were working together for the time in over ten years and that they’d release an album in 2013. This single is the first new material from Cannibal Ox and its seem like that duo and new producer Bill Comiq are attempting to recapture the tense, dark atmospherics of “The Cold Vein”, while Comiq is no copyist the three tracks on the single strongly recall that album.

The single opens with dark lo-fi stabbing instrumentation and a male spoken word piece about darkness, these elements are quickly replaced by a beat and high pitched horror string stabs with MC’s Vast Aire and Vordul Mega painting a bleak picture on top of it all. ‘Gases in Hell (Inhale)’ continues along a similar sonic theme but with a section that features a plinking vibraphone and humorous references to the comedy show “30 Rock” helping relieve the tension. The single goes out on a high with ‘Psalm 82’ with its heavy click, clacking beat and shifting vocal samples making it the highlight of the a very strong single and whets the appetite for the album proper.

Tokimonsta – “Half Shadows” (Ultra)

“Half Shadows” sees a stylistic departure for Tokimonsta who recently signed with Ultra Records a big player in the U.S. dance music scene. Whereas previous Tokimonsta releases were full of glitches, stutters and other destructive audio and MIDI editing techniques on “Half Shadows” she puts melody and harmony front and centre and simplifies her beats.

“Half Shadows” is an interesting title for the album and very reflective of the light and shade utilised throughout the album. This wasn’t something that was present on previous Tokimonsta releases but now she delivers both dark tracks like the dystopian sci-fi ‘The Force’ featuring Kool Keith and the downbeat atmospherics of ‘Green’ featuring Andreya Triana and light, poppy tracks such as ‘Foolish’ and ‘Clean Slate both lead by the melodic vocals of female vocalist Gavin Turek. Tokimonsta even throws a third style with the last four tracks on the album on which all slow in tempo and change in mood in addition to ‘Green’ we get the ghostly pad and voices and distant hip-hop beat of ‘Soul to Seoul’, the reversed piano tricks of ‘Waiting for the Break of Dawn’ and closer ‘Moon Rise’ featuring Jesse Boykins III which is the most organic track on the album hinting at where Tokimonsta will go next and finishing off the album in a fine style.

The Haxan Cloak – “Excavation” (Tri Angle)

The long awaited second album by The Haxan Cloak arrives on the back of months of hype. “Excavation” has a significantly more electronic sound compared with the self titled debut album. In fact for the first six tracks, acoustic instruments are notable by their absence.

The album opens with ‘Consumed’ with its low bass drone, quivering female vocals and thumping bass drum setting up the rest of the album nicely. The heavy atmosphere continues on the two part title track. Part one places the listener in a darkened room with electric lights flickering disturbingly overhead. There’s no constant rhythm as you’re pushed and pulled and harassed by the sparse beat and prickly synth, all underpinned by an ominous drone. Part two is equally ominous but replaces the space of part one with a huge marauding beat that storms its way through the heart of the tune accompanied by what sounds like a heavy breathing monster. Your nerves will jangle as cymbals appear as if from nowhere. ‘Miste’ goes down the minimal route and utilises chopped up samples to refresh the established sound of the album. The biggest change though is yet to come.

This change begins on ‘The Mirror Reflecting (Part Two)’ when a ghostly synth melody emerges from the darkness hinting that light and hope are just around the corner. ‘Dieu’ brings the listener into the light and reintroduces the violin, an instrument that had dominated The Haxan Cloak’s debut album. Album finale ‘The Drop’ begins full of light that recalls a classic piece of film credits music but partway through its epic thirteen running time it returns to the darkness. A sparse synth drone dominates the remainder of the track.

Overall The Haxan Cloak has delivered a very good second album that expands his sonic palette and suggests a lighter future sound. My only criticism of “Excavation” is that with the exception of ‘The Mirror Reflecting (Part Two)’ the dark and light elements are segregated. It would interesting to see if The Haxan Cloak is able to combine these more in the future like his peers Raime.

Owiny Sigoma Band – “Power Punch” (Brownswood)

“Power Punch” is the second album by Owiny Sigoma Band who feature two Kenyan members and five English members including drummer Tom Skinner who released a great solo album as Hello Skinny last year. The band recorded this album in London and early suggestions were that this meant the English members influence dominates. However, I find that for the most part the Kenyan and English/European influences are given equal billing. In fact, the album opens with a melody played on the Nyatiti a traditional Kenyan stringed instrument.

The Nyatiti is quickly joined by chanting, chimes and a spacious synth on the opener ‘Nagalo Ni Piny Odoy’. However, these disparate elements don’t really start gelling until track four ‘Lucas Malone’. Though ‘Lucas Malone’ finds the perfect balance musically the English lyrics leave a lot to be desired, there psychedelic drippy-ness partly undermining the potent musical blend. Next up ‘Magret Aloor’ throws Dub bass and delay effects into the mix with stunning results. ‘Harpoon Land’ with its Nyidounge drum pattern and guitar melody matched with a funky drum break and deep bass it sounds like an undiscovered Afrobeat gem. ‘Owiny Techno’ is another unexpected delight the Nyiduonde drum playing off a techno beat and watery lead synth. The track comes across like a futuristic take on the Congotronics sound of Konono No.1 but slower and more laidback.

The last three tracks on the album turn into a funky tour de force. Starting with the offbeat rhythms and Nyatiti riffs of ‘Yukimwi’ via the upbeat acoustic drums, grooving bass and great guitar riff of ‘All Together’ and concluding with the rhythmical Nyatiti riffs, rolling Afrobeat drums, bass and guitar of  closer ‘Johnny Ra Ra’. These three tracks best illustrate why the album is called “Power Punch”. Overall Owiny Sigoma Band have produced an album that gets better with every play and promises to provide some great live shows.

Release of the Month

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “12 Reasons to Die” (Soul Temple)

12_reasons_1

With his new album alongside up and coming producer and multi instrumentalist Adrian Younge, Ghostface Killah comes pretty close to scaling the heights of his 90’s prime producing and album that never dips in quality across its 12 tracks. Like many Wu Tang Clan related releases there’s a storyline that runs through the album, this time the main character is Ghostface himself playing the role of a “vengeful soul hunting the 12 most powerful crime lords in the World.”

The album opens with ‘Beware of the Stare’ which immediate sets up the story and the tone of the album full of piano chords, a female choir, low slung funk bass guitar and a head nodding beat. ‘Rise of the Black Suits’ follows a similar formula adding chilling organ chords and an electric piano riff. ‘I Declare War’ is the most cinematic track so far with its operatic female vocals, spoken word outro and sweeping strings. The pace picks up on ‘Blood On The Cobblestones’ with it fast break beat, organ and horn stabs and great fuzz bass. ‘The Center Of Attraction’ changes things up again with it sparse electric piano chords and beat and back and forth strings. The next big moment on the album is ‘The Rise Of the Ghostface Killah’ with its cut-up female vocals and a spoken word male voice then a delay tail brings in the break beat and gliding electric guitar chords that slide around under Ghostface’s cool flow. ‘Revenge Is Sweet’ is a song of two halves beginning with sparse break beat and bass guitar before high pitched female choir cut in to tell more of the album’s story, strings come in and a male vocal duels with the female vocals. Then guitar chords float in  and then rap section of the track begins with Masta Killa getting busy on the mic. Wu Tang posse cut ‘Murder Spree’ and The Sure Shot’ (Parts One & Two) pick up where ‘Blood On The Cobblestones’ left off and the album finishes with ‘12 Reasons To Die’ which immortalises Ghostface in death to the sound of emotive piano, wind like sweeping synth, sparse bass guitar, mournful strings and an epic outro. With “12 Reasons to Die” Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge have set the bar extremely high for other hip-hop releases in 2013 and Younge has proved that it’s not just RZA whose the perfect foil for Wu Tang Clan MCs.

Liam’s Recommendations

1st April

Bonobo – “The North Borders” (Ninja Tune)

Ninja Tune beatmaker extraordinaire Bonobo returns with his fifth album. Early signs are of a change of direction with first single ‘Cirrus’ featuring a four to the floor rhythm and plenty of bells, suggesting Bonobo may have been listening to a lot of Pantha Du Prince recently. The album will feature guest vocals from Erykah Badu, Swedish singer and DVA collaborator Cornelia, NYC folk singer Grey Reverend and fellow Ninja Tune signing Szjerdene.

8th April

Owiny Sigoma Band – “Power Punch” (Brownswood)

For their second album, the band, comprising Nairobians Joseph Nyamungu and Charles Owoko and Londoners Jesse and Louis Hackett, Sam Lewis, Chris Morphitis and Tom Skinner recorded in the UK, having cut the first record, 2011’s self-titled LP, in east Africa. With the relocation has come a whole raft of new sonic textures, with electronic genres – like techno and South African Shangaan electro making an imprint on the album.

15th April

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons to Die” (Soul Temple)

“Twelve Reasons to Die” is the result of an unlikely collaboration between producer and film score composer Adrian Younge (most famous for his work on the brilliant blaxploitation film “Black Dynamite) and Wu Tang Clan MC Ghostface Killah. The album is executive produced by RZA (Wu Tang Clan) and comes with a comic book written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon of Ashcan Press.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Mosquito” (Polydor)

For their fourth album the Yeah Yeah Yeahs went back to basics returning to a basic studio set-up in New York and trying to have as much fun as possible. The result is a title track that is literally about a Mosquito, a track that’s produced by James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) and featuring rapper Kool Keith. Though the artwork is awful, Sonic Fiction look forward to hear what we think will be an excellent album of cutting edge pop-rock.

April 29th

Neon Neon – “Praxis Makes Perfect” (Lex)

Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) and underground hip-hop producer Boom Bip return will another high concept electro pop album. This time the subject is Italian activist and publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, responsible for the publication of Doctor Zhivago and The Leopard (plus all manner of political agitation). The album will feature a host of somewhat unlikely guests. Italian singer/TV personality Sabrina is on the record, as is xXx star Asia Argento. Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer will feature, and former Neon Neon associate Cate Le Bon will also return to the fold.

Kirsty’s Recommendations

26th April

Cosmin TRG – “Gordian” (50 Weapons) 

Berlin-based producer Cosmin TRG will release his second album, “Gordian”, on 26th April two years after his debut full-length “Simulat”.  Born Cosmin Nicolae in Bucharest, Romania, he first appeared in 2007 with 12”s on Hessle Audio, Subway and Audio Freaks (all produced under the name TRG), he then prefixed TRG with his first name and began releasing more house and techno-orientated material, which “Simulat” is the result of. According to the press release “Gordian” references an ancient myth, but also “describes the very contemporary, impossible task of discerning between real and replicated, authentic and contrived.” It adds: “Coping with facts, objects and bodies, the necessity of ‘making it,’ fear of failure, fear of ‘not being happy’ are today’s topics, and “Gordian” is my attempt at an exploration of those issues.” Nicolae expands further, “On “Gordian” I tried to shape and distill my sound further, while sticking to a certain narrative and collection of references that make sense to me.” He adds, “It is saying different things to different people, and leaves it open to interpretation, which I find the most interesting. I also think that where “Simulat” was about me making a statement, “Gordian” is about me starting a conversation.”

Listen to ‘New Structures For Living’ below:

What Kirsty’s Looking Forward to

Albums

Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – “Elements of Light” (Rough Trade) 11th January

Sonic Fiction favourite Pantha Du Prince (Hendrik Weber) has teamed up with Norwegian musicians The Bell Laboratory for a collaborative album, “Elements of Light”. The video previews below display the German techno producer and The Bell Laboratory creating an ambitious symphony of electronics, percussion and a special bell carillon, a three-tonne instrument consisting of fifty bronze bells.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Trailer 1 from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Trailer 2 from Sandra Trostel on Vimeo.

Apparat – “Krieg und Frieden” (Mute) 15th February

The electronic music producer returns with an album based on a German theatre production of Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace, directed by Sebastian Hartmann. Once Hartmann asked Apparat, born Sascha Ring, to contribute music to the project, the producer then spent four weeks working with a 30-piece ensemble in an empty factory alongside Apparat’s live band members Philipp Timm and Christoph Hartmann. After the piece’s final performance Ring, C. Hartmann and Timm transformed the soundtrack into a work for album release. Ring says of “Krieg und Frieden”, “It’s the first record ever that didn’t hurt at some point. It’s full of imperfection because it was made by humans.” He goes on to describe the album as “a bit of a weird record with not many beats and lots of drones.”

Grab the free ‘A Violent Sky’ now:

Function – “Incubation” (Ostgut Ton) 4th March

Nearly 20 years into Function’s career comes his solo debut album “Incubation” on the luminary Ostgut label.  As a member of Sandwell District and as a solo artist he is known for producing sleek, atmospheric techno, which he will explore further on his album, which was mastered by the respected engineer Tobias Freund. His goal,  “was to create something cinematic and heavy on imagery and emotion.” and  a “soundtrack.” The release was conceived as “one endless piece to be listened to straight through. So everything is connected and there are reoccurring themes throughout the album.” Listen to his beautiful ‘Inter’ below:

Ellen Allien – “LISm” (BPitch Control) March

Berlin icon Ellen Allien is due to release her seventh album “LISm” in March. The album is closely based on a soundtrack Allien wrote for the Drama per Musica dance recital performed in 2011 at Paris’ Spectacles Vivants Festival. She called on Bruno Pronsato to aid her with expanding the pieces and to co-produce “LISm”. As usual the album will be released through BPitch Control, the label she’s managed for over a decade.

Stream a medley of “LISm” below:

The Knife – “Shaking The Habitual” (Mute) 8th April

After seven years we will finally see the release of the Swedish brother-sister duo’s third studio album “Shaking The Habitual”. Their last was the flawless “Silent Shout” from 2006. In 2010 they released, “Tomorrow In A Year”, the collaborative album with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock that was written for an opera/performance piece based on the life and work of Charles Darwin. Both members have also released solo records under pseudonyms – Karin as the acclaimed Fever Ray and Olaf as Oni Ahyun. Light Asylum member Shannon Funchess has contributed to vocals to the album which will be released via Mute/Brille.

This video, which may or not be The Knife, leaked online could provide clues on what we can expect.

Listen to the title track from “Silent Shout” below:

Artists

Audion – Matthew Dear has hinted via Twitter that new material from his techno side project Audion could on the horizon this year. Listen to the classic ‘Mouth to Mouth’ below:

Answer Code Request – Patrick Gräser has this far released a handful of refreshingly varied, rolling techno 12″s on labels as Ostgut Ton, Marcel Dettmann’s MDR Records and Music Man. His “Main Mode” 12″ is an essential listen with other tracks of his included on Norman Nodge’s excellent “Berghain06” and Dettmann’s “Conducted” mix. Maybe in 2013 Answer Code Request will take the leap to producing a full length release.

Kompakt celebrates 20 Years

The esteemed German label will celebrate its 20th birthday in 2013 with a host of special events, including an extensive European tour, a documentary chronicling the rise of the label, a “fanzine” and re-issues. The best news yet is they of course will release new music throughout 2013. While there are no exact release dates, we can expect new albums from Justus Köhncke, Coma, The Field and Gui Boratto.

What Liam’s Looking Forward to

Albums

A$AP Rocky – “Long.Live.A$AP” 14th January

Having discovered A$AP Rocky through his “LiveLoveA$AP” (2010) I was looking to hearing his debut album and its finally coming out in just a weeks time after many delays. The album features top underground hip-hop producers such as Clams Casino, Hit Boy, A$AP Ty Beats, Soufein3000, Joey Fat Beats and Rocky himself and has already gained a Best New Music award from Pitchfork. “Long.Live.A$AP” promises to be one of the Albums of the Year 2013.

Jamie Lidell – “Jamie Lidell” 18th February

Jamie Lidell returns with his self titled fifth album in February 2013, pre release track “What A Shame” finds him returning to the electronic sound of his first two solo albums “Muddling Gear” (2000) and the brilliant “Multiply” (2005).

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Push the Sky Away” 18th February

The long awaited follow up to “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!” (2008) has got me excited due to its trailer and the Gaspar Noe directed video for first single ‘We Know Who U R’, a simple but highly effective song with a video to match. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album!!!

Low – “The Invisible Way” 18th March

In 2013 Low celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band, they will also release their 13th studio album. Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy at Wilco’s Chicago studio, The Loft, the band visited the studio while on tour and decided to record with Tweedy after hearing his work on Mavis Staples “You Are Not Alone” (2010).

David Bowie – “The Next Day” March 2013

On Tuesday (8th January)  David Bowie announced his return with his 30th studio album and his first since 2003’s “Reality”. The first single from “The Next Day” is ‘Where Are We Now’ which harks back to the “Heroes” (1977) a Bowie classic. This has surprised many critics and fans alike as Bowie is generally perceived as a forward thinking artist. However, this overlooks much of Bowie’s output in the 90’s and 00’s which referenced his own back catalogue on numerous occasions. Producer Tony Visconti quickly aligned any fears of Bowie deserting his innovative roots describing the album as both “innovative” and “quite a rock album” continuing if people are looking for classic Bowie, they’ll find it on this album”.

Adrian Younge and Ghostface Killah – “Twelve Reasons to Die” early 2013

“Twelve Reasons to Die” is the result of an unlikely collaboration between producer and film score composer Adrian Younge (most famous for his work on the brilliant blaxploitation homage “Black Dynamite) and Wu Tang Clan MC Ghostface Killah. The album is executive produced by RZA (Wu Tang Clan) and comes with a comic book written by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon of Ashcan Press.

Factory Floor – “Title TBA” 13th May

After a good two years of singles and build up it seems that the band will finally release their much anticipated début album in May 2013 on DFA records. The album will be preceded by the single ‘Fall Back’ eight and a half minutes of slow burning dance floor intensity.

YoungBlood Brass Band – “Pax Volumi” early 2013

The latest from the band is that they have completed their new album with a release planned for early in 2013, accompanied by an extensive world tour. I look forward to hearing this explosive bands combination of raw live jazz and hip-hop elements, been much missed since the brilliant “Is That A Riot?” (2006).

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – “Title TBA” Spring 2013

The band recently announced their new album would be out in the new year, more information as we get it.

Madvillain – “Title TBA” 2013

In a recent interview with Benji B on BBC Radio 1 Doom of Madvillain announced that the second album is almost done and he just has to finish off two songs and that if they’re finished on time the album could be out before the end of 2012. 2012 is now been and gone but the album is close to completion so hopefully it will be released before the year is out.

Artists

AlunaGeorge

AlunaGeorge’s music has been bouncing around the internet for around a year now and now the male-female duo are hotly tipped for success and finishing second in the BBC’s Sound of 2013 didn’t hurt their chances of going supernova this year. However, its their music and not polls that has me excited an combination on Timbaland and The Neptunes style beats, off kilter synths and R&B vocals instantly mark them out from the pack, while never forgetting about a hummable tune and killer hook. Their debut album “Body Music” comes out in June and I can’t wait for it. To read an interview with band on The Guardian’s website click here.

Ryan Hemsworth

Ryan Hemsworth started out providing beats for cloud rap acts such as Attrakionz and Deniro Farrar until the release of his instrumental E.P. “Last Words” late in 2012 in which he expanded out into a skewed hip-hop, ambient and dance music hybrid. His main influences are Three 6 Mafia, Mannie Fresh, Hudson Mohawke, Aphex Twin and Ryuichi Sakamoto. I look forward to hearing more material from this promising young producer.

Joey Bada$$

18 year old Joey Bada$$ released his excellent debut mixtape “1999” which perfectly recreated late 90’s New York and catapulted Bada$$ and his PRO ERA crew into the spotlight. It also drew the attention of legendary hip-hop producer DJ Premier and the two will release a free on Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound next week.

Night Engine

Although originality isn’t their strong suit musically Night Engine do create exciting music and show the potential to develop into a great guitar pop band. They recall both Franz Ferdinand and Berlin era and early 80’s David Bowie and neither of those are bad artists to be a reminder of. Check out their debut single ‘Seventeen/Treat Me Like a Baby’ below and read more about the band here.

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