Tag Archive: Kid Koala


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.

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deltron-event-2

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.

1.       Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music” (Williams Street)

Killer-Mike-R.A.P.-Music

Killer Mike and El-P’s collaborative album is called “R.A.P. Music” with good reason; it does everything that a modern hip-hop album should. The album has a consistency rarely present on guest and producer heavy albums while it manages to cover a lot of sonic and emotional territory without anything feeling put on. The music veers from huge sounding synthetic bangers (‘‘Big Beast’, ‘Southern Fried’ and ‘R.A.P. Music’) to emotive epics (‘Ghetto Gospel’, ‘Reagan’ and ‘Anywhere But Here’) via Southern rap flavoured tracks (‘Willie Burke Sherwood’, ‘Untitled’ and ‘Jo Jo’s Chillin’) and Killer Mike’s flow is just as diverse ranging from the enunciated words of ‘Reagan’ to the super speedy ‘Southern Fried’ and every point in between. What “R.A.P. Music” shows is that when hip-hop is stripped down to its core and rebuilt from button up, in addition to this despite his confident persona it’s clear that Killer Mike isn’t an egotist. He tells stories about other people in his life and discuss wider political issues, the lyrical themes that have been central to hip-hop since 1982 but feel so rare in 2012. “R.A.P. Music” was the first landmark hip-hop release of 2012, a great year for the genre as a whole.

2.       Nas – “Life Is Good” (Mercury)

Nas returns with the superb new album “Life Is Good” a top hip-hop release in a year packed full of high quality hip-hop releases. Though the album doesn’t quite reach the heights of hip-hop classic “Illmatic” the quality rarely drops over the albums 14 tracks (18 on the deluxe edition). Nas balance’s a selection of solo joints complimented by well chosen collaborations with the likes of Large Professor, Amy Winehouse, Mary J. Blige and Anthony Hamilton amongst others. He also strikes a balance between hard hitting hip-hop tracks e.g. ‘The Don’, ‘Summer on Smash’ and ‘Accident Murderers’ with lighter summer jams e.g. ‘You Wouldn’t Understand’ and ‘Reach Out’ and jazz inflected tracks e.g. ‘Cherry Wine’ and ‘Stay’. Strings and piano are the dominate instruments and compliment the mature subject matter about the recent events in Nas’ life and his new found optimism. The cinematic scope of “Life Is Good” is stunning with Nas demonstrating that he has the gravity to compete with other blockbusting rappers like Jay-Z whose similar productions can sometimes sound hollow and overblown. The album rarely lets up its relentless pace but this no bad thing and none of the tracks out stay their welcome. On his most personal album to date Nas doesn’t pull any punches is his brutally honest tales of his own past and present, matching the vivid production of No I.D. and Salaam Remi (best known as Amy Winehouse’s producer on “Back to Black”) every step of the way!

3.       Flying Lotus – “Until the Quiet Comes” (Warp)  

The much anticipated “Until the Quiet Comes” starts as it means to go on with subtle shuffling beats of ‘All In’ with bells and chimes that lead the way harmonically and melodically. These elements become the glue that holds together this elemental, organic and sophisticated release from the highly regard Flying Lotus. For much of his career he has balanced ghetto fabulous beats, drum ‘n’ bass/UK Bass music undertow with his families’ roots in jazz and spiritual music and this continues on “Until the Quiet Comes”. However, it’s the cool jazz and calm spiritual music that is the dominate force whereas previously it had played second fiddle to the glitches, electronic breaks and huge bass rumble of the current music scene. Not that the modern glitches and deep penetrating bass lines and beats are absent, they just play a subtler supporting role with the exception of the ‘Sultan’s Request’ and its thick, brittle digital sounding synth bass, which gets twice as heavy in the second half of the track. The album also sees Flying Lotus utilising vocal samples and guest vocalists much more effectively, a particularly good example is Thom Yorke’s contribution to ‘Electric Candyman’ in which Yorke’s vocals are expertly and sparingly used, whereas they appeared anonymous on “…and the world laughs with you” from “Cosmogramma” (2010). “Until the Quiet Comes” initially feels like it might greater longevity than “Cosmogramma”, which though it really hit home on the first couple listens, its impact dulled over time. It was also a busy and demanding listen, whereas space is utilised throughout “Until the Quiet Comes”, which allows the listener to “fixate on any one sound and extract feeling from it.” Time will tell if this feeling becomes reality but one thing’s for sure Flying Lotus has delivered a more than worthy follow up to what often viewed as his masterpiece.

4.       Kid Koala – “12 Bit Blues” (Ninja Tune)

The latest album from the prolific Kid Koala takes a basic concept, expands on it and executes it to perfection. That concept is an album built around samples from old blues records put together using his trusty turntables and newly acquired Emu SP 1200 sampler. When I heard about this concept my initial thoughts were that this might be an overly dour album but Kid Koala proves me wrong with an album packed with hip-hop bangers that blow the cobwebs away!! Chirping synth and a vocal sample that says “the kids in rare form tonight” kick off the album before stride piano and boom-bap hip-hip beats enter to start off ‘1 bit blues’ properly, these elements turn out one of running themes throughout the album. But Kid Koala keeps the interest going with blistering guitar riff, analogue synth swiggles, sci-fi effects and a huge array of expertly deployed vocal samples. The highlights on the album range from the aforementioned opener, ‘4 bit blues’ where a down tempo hip-hop beat backs pitched down slurring vocal samples, heavy bass, brass and stride piano, ‘7 bit blues’ with its head nodding beat raucous guitar licks and subtle scratching and ‘8 bit blues (Chicago to NY to LA)’ with its expertly scratched vocal samples, neck breaking hip-hop beats and huge horns stabs. Kid Koala’s major achievement with “12 Bit Blues” is marrying modern sound elements such as the synths and the SP 1200 sampler beats with samples that date from close to a hundred years ago. As usual Kid Koala uses his turntables subtle to make the samples his own and add a modern rhythmic edge to his tracks. “12 Bit Blues” is a superb album that matches his career high “Carpel Tunnel Syndrome” and “Some of my Best Friends are DJs” track for track!!!

5.       Thee Satisfaction – “awE natural” (Sub Pop)

In “awE naturalE” Thee Satisfaction have delivered an energetic album filled tracks that both provide amply bounce that’s need for a hip-hop jam but also manages to subtly subvert both traditional methods of creating sounds and challenge the overly simplistic ‘soulful’ vocals used so liberally in hip-hop music. It’s refreshing to hear an act pushing the limits of hip-hop while still managing to make music that moves your body. The fact that these tracks are stuffed to the gills with affecting vocals, jazzy tunes and an expressive emotional palette makes an engaging and entertaining listen. From the opening disorienting swirl of ‘Awe’ to the fast moving finale of ‘Naturale’ via album highlights ‘Earthseed’ with its dark and dank atmopsherics and vocal the curve their way through notes, ‘Queens’ seductive and slippery groove and ‘Enchantess’ a darker twist on ‘Queens’ with pitched down vocals and a guest rap from Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces. The half an hour run time demands that the album be played again immediately and is the album is equally satisfying and reveals more of its charms with each repeat listen. Thee Satisfaction never out staying their welcome and yet able to go distance on the longer tracks, if you like original, warm music with depth and attitude “awE naturalE” will be a welcome addition to your music collection.

6.       Blockhead – “Interludes After Midnight” (Ninja Tune)

I was quick to praise Blockhead’s last album “The Music Scene” (2010) but was quick to fell out of love with it on return visits. “Interludes After Midnight” promises to be an album that I enjoy for a lot longer as repeats listening has reaped greater rewards. The album consolidates everything that Blockhead has achieved in his solo career to date but crucially also learns lessons from “The Music Scene” and achieves it ambitious aims where that album had failed. In the end “The Music Scene” felt like Blockhead was just getting to know his new software Ableton Live but the album actually feels ‘live’ and can’t be directly attributed to the sounds or techniques of any particular software. Regular fans of the Ninja Tune labels output will instantly warm to this music and bares comparison to Bonobo’s solo work and “Sound Mirrors” by label head honchos Coldcut, as well as 70’s T.V. and soundtrack music, particular Bernard Herrman’s “Taxi Driver” score. The arrangements on “Interludes After Midnight” are inventive throughout a classic example being ‘Never Forget Your Token’ which starts out with electric piano and oddly pitched male vocals but ends with a twisted electric guitar unrecognizable from its first half. These arrangements could be jarring but instead feel completely natural as Blockhead’s well thought out concepts and production nous holds everything together. It’s rare to find a beat maker as distinct as Blockhead and he deserves far greater recognition and praise than he currently receives. All-in-all a superb instrumental hip-hop album; where ambition is matched by the quality of each track from top to bottom.

7.       El-P – “Cancer 4 Cure” (Fat Possum) 

In some ways “Cancer 4 Cure” is business as usual for El-P, all the usual signifiers are in place, his lurching, crushing beats, massive dirty synth bass-lines, stuttering vocal samples, stabbing instrument samples. However, one that’s no bad thing and two I believe this is an artist who subtly evolves his sound with each new release. The first difference that jumps out at me is that whereas in the past there were only hints of film music influences on El-P’s production’s “Cancer For The Cure” makes this explicit with a majority of the tracks shot through with a dystopian atmosphere akin to John Carpenter’s soundtracks to “Escape From New York” and “Assault on Precinct 13”. Further to this the album repositions El-P as “a real hip-hop focused musician rather than a beatmaker”; the musicality is turned up to ten and so this already heavy music makes an even greater impact. The album also features a couple of El-P’s most minimal and spacious tracks to date in ‘Stay Down’, ‘Sign Here’ and ‘The Jig Is Up’, in addition to this melodic vocals feature on ‘For My Upstairs Neighbor’, ‘Oh Hail No’  and ‘Works Every Time’. The album feels more thematically together than “I’ll Sleep When Your Dead” (which was great album) and this makes the album feel like it’ll maintain it impact over a longer time.

8.       Oh No – “OhNoMite” (Traffic)

Oh No’s “OhNoMite”’s overall sound and approach harks back to classic 90’s hip-hop sound though the source material is entirely made up of samples from Rudy Ray Moore’s audio achieves drawing heavily on the soundtrack to Blaxploitation film “Dolemite” from which the album takes its title. As a result of this the album is pack full of funk loops, smoky jazz chords and swinging tough hip-hop beats that get your head nodding. The album is stuffed with guest appears but doesn’t suffer from attention deficit disorder, each MC contributing high quality raps that fit into the album overall theme. The old skool styling’s of album don’t get in the way of enjoying it, in fact it’s a major part of “OhNoMite”’s appeal. One of the stand-out elements of the album is the fantastic array of analogue synth sounds that feature throughout; it’s also a sound that doesn’t always bed in well in straight hip-hop tracks, in my opinion and Oh No’s production’s successful ingrate them with thrilling results. This is a thoroughly brilliant and refreshing hip-hop record that will appeal to fans of Madlib, The Alchemist and filthy funk 90s classic hip-hop.

9.  Big Boi – “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” (Mercury)

“Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” is an ambitious and highly emotive album, one that fuses together 80’s funk, new wave and ambient synth textures with Big Boi’s trademark Dirty South hip-hop style. It is in short Big Boi’s pop album and rivals fellow OutKast member Andre 3000’s “The Love Below” as the finest pop entry in their respective back catalogues. This is the album that I thought I’d be hearing from Andre 3000 when he got around to making his debut solo album but Big Boi has beaten him to the punch. I’d go as far that is the most emotional raw and broad hip-hop since Kanye West released “808s and Heartbreak” (2008). It’s difficult to single out highlights on an album where quality level never drops from start to finish, this could be an overcooked and busy affair with seventeen tracks and many more collaborators but Big Boi and his opulent backing tracks gel with everything single contributor. Whether it’s the swarming strings of ‘The Thickets’, the 100% electro fest that is ‘Thom Pettie’ or the lush 80’s funk come-on’s of closer ‘She Said Ok’ it all just works even when it shouldn’t. Big Boi recently proclaimed his love of Kate Bush’s music and this influence runs through the whole album informing its lush synthetic and acoustic textures and arrangements. Prince is another 80’s pop star whose influence is a regular feature on the album and it’s no bad thing even on the out-and-out cheese fests of ‘Raspberries’, ‘Descending’ and ‘She Said Ok’, the influence is always present on 80’s funk numbers ‘Apple of my Eye’ and ‘Higher Res’. I didn’t think I’d be writing this but with “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours” Big Boi might have just trumped his debut solo album“Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty” (2010).

10.     Doseone – “G Is For Deep” (anticon.)

The long awaited new solo album by cLOUDDEAD co-founder Doseone is one of the finest releases by any member of that trio since their self titled debut album in 2001. It picks up where the last Subtle (a spin off project from Doseone and Jel of cLOUDDEAD) left off but with a much greater emphasis on space and pop hooks. Throughout Doseone strikes a balance between chip tune elements, deep probing electro beats and strong melodic content. The releases of cLOUDDEAD and their related projects have always used ambience in conjunction with beats and rapping but here it feels more like Doseone is tapping into a rich vein of dream-pop that recalls the Cocteau Twins in their 80’s pomp. The new found space and melodic clarity make for a more immediate listening experience though there are still enough twists and turns to keep long time fans interested, I’m sure some will see this as a compromise but this genuinely feels like a natural evolution for a unique artist.

Kirsty’s Reviews

Disappointment of the month

Albert Swarm – Wake (Ceremony Recordings)

“Wake”, the debut album of the Finnish producer Pietu Arvola, meanders and rolls on without direction. It is stagnant and, bar the closing song “Moths and Moth Catchers”, devoid of anything remotely memorable. All seven tracks follow the same arrangement: it begins in an infancy stage where unnameable sounds drift and float then elements are slowly added and expanded until reaching a plateau for the final minute or so then it comes to an end. Everything sits in the same frequency range, leaving little space for the songs to breathe and settle. This sounds less like a stylistic choice of a suffocating atmosphere and more of flattening  over-compression. Except for sections of ‘A Dream That Glistened’ and ‘Moths and Moth Catchers’ there is a lack of melody, a hollow void where something enticing should be. Sadly the only thing that even comes close to the emotion found in the strangely operatic and heart-wrenching ‘Familialities’ from Swarm’s “Held” EP from 2011 is ‘Moths and Moth Catchers’, which utilises a chordal structure to  underpin, and emphasise, a much longed-for melody. This last song is the point where “Wake” finally comes alive and makes a play for the listener’s attention.

Barker & Baumecker – “Transsektoral” (Ostgut Ton)

Sam Barker and Andreas Baumecker’s debut album is purposed to travel the spectrum of electronic music. Both established figures within Berlin’s techno family, Barker is known for co-running the Leisure System nights and his razor-edged electronics as Voltek. Baumecker, meanwhile has headed up the record label Freundinnen and worked as a resident DJ and booking agent for Berghain. Having previously collaborated on 2010’s “Candyflip” and the notable “A Murder of Crows” EP in March, “Transsektoral” collates 11 new tracks from the pair. Ranging in tempo and texture, the album pushes a sleek but rough sound injected with contemporary and past techno with a dose of IDM/electronica dynamics.

A track like the chilling, buzzing ‘Crows’ seems to build in reverse and, as with the rest of the album, feels like a polished jam, taking unexpected twists and turns that sound like a result of spur-of-the-moment decisions. Silvery spurts of ambient music can be found in the twinkling, bubbling tracks ‘Sektor’ and ‘Tranq’. Disciples of Ostgut Ton’s techno arsenal will be at home in the awesomely punishing shunt of ‘Buttcracker’ and ‘Silo.’ “Transsektoral isn’t without flaws: ‘No Body’’s uninspired ghostly garage feels three years old and the finale ‘Spur’ tips the scales of sentimental into a cloying syrup. Yet the dark and skippy ‘Schlang Bang’, ‘Trafo’’s hyperkinetic race and the aforementioned standouts create the kind of well-paced experience that lends itself to a DJ set. Their debut may not be flawless but it does come close. With its infectious sense of fun and masterfully undercooked programming “Transsektoral” finds the sweet spot between old-school dance music energy and the modern techno aesthetic.

Steffi – “Shraper” EP (Ostgut Ton)

Steffi’s 12″ for Ostgut Ton reveals three tough, energetic tracks to add to her collection of evolving productions. After the many intimate house and techno moments on her debut album “Yours & Mine”, Steffi provides further flashes of her fine techno sound for “Shraper”. The eponymous first track (A-side) combines a simple yet effective driving beat and scraping, scratching percussion with a whomping bass line and a thin, yawning synth line to hypnotic effect, cranking the energy levels right up. The string version of the second (B-side) track ‘Tank’ is a ride around Panorama Bar with a mellow mood created by a deeper bass, bouncing metallic hats and a bell pattern added underneath a silkier version of the synth melody from the opening track. The Beat version of ‘Tank’ builds and builds with fewer elements namely a demanding bass drum, fast16th hats and percussion, a neat DJ tool to bring any dance floor together.

Release of the month

John Tejada – “The Predicting Machine” (Kompakt)

On his eighth solo album, John Tejada shows his enduring acclaim is entirely deserved thanks to his singular variety of smart melodic house and techno. ‘The Predicting Machine’ cycles through ten tracks that effortlessly and elegantly weave lean electronics and pounding, yet sparse, beats and emotive melodies. On last year’s “Parabolas”, he restricted himself to a narrow palette of sounds, perhaps as a way to highlight his expertise with detail, but on “The Predicting Machine”, his second consecutive release for Kompakt, Tejada runs wild, excitedly and purposefully pulling sounds from an assorted catalogue of eras and styles and it is this wide-eyed enthusiasm that makes him and Kompakt such a perfect match. “The Predicting Machine” covers a lot of ground yet perfectly summarises Tejada’s deeply focused approach to music making.  Opener ‘Orbiter’ sculpts bleeping hooks and thick fogs out of its aquatic groove.  The knowingly titled ‘A Familiar Mood’ returns the listener to the percolating tech house that made Tejada’s name. ‘An Ounce of Perception’ introduces a limber, Kompakt schaffel-inspired rhythm then descends into a 7 minute long gleaming melody, which leads the listener into spiraling arpeggios on ‘Winter Skies’.

A moment of sheer magic occurs when the opening bars of the anthemic tech-house track ‘The Function And The Form’ begin. Its fizzing melody and growling bassline lifts “The Predicting Machine” up a level. The vintage beat and the incredible, rich modular synth textures surrounding it play out joyously. The sparkling arpeggios that kick in at around the 2:30 minute mark are a masterful touch. Following the track is the ‘90s jacking cut ‘Stabilizer’. ‘Horizon to Horizon’ possesses a wet, elastic rhythm underneath a near classical arrangement. The soothing closer ‘When All Around Is Madness’ chimes with effervescent clouds of synths. When it comes to effortlessly and beautifully conveying emotion in music no one gets close to John Tejada’s finely tuned melodies or his instinctive musicality. Every one of his tracks is an inviting and wondrous soundscape filled with luxurious and elegant detail. “The Predicting Machine” will see a high ranking position in the end of the year charts on Sonic Fiction.

Liam’s Reviews

Disappointment of the Month

Nick Edwards – “Plekzationz” (Editions Mego)

“Plekzationz” is Nick Edwards aka Ekoplekz’s first release on Edition Mego the legendary Austrian experimental electronic music label and his first since 1994 under his own name. The album is made up of 4 long form tracks all around 15 or 16 minutes in length, this is in stark contrast to Edwards other work as Ekoplekz which generally short to average songs lengths and this has always seemed suitable for the noisy and intense natural of the music. In fact, oddly enough the first two tracks ‘Chance Meets Causality Uptown’ and ‘No Escape From ‘79’ feel like three Ekoplekz tracks that have been loosely joined together, the join between the tracks show through and I think these tracks should have been 6 separate 5 minute tracks rather than two 15 minute tracks. The album takes a turn for the worst on track three ‘Inside the Analogue Continuum’ which struggles to separate itself from the other tracks on the album and indeed much of Ekoplekz back catalogue and doesn’t really get going almost seven minutes in when a bass drum and rhythmic noises give it a sluggish forward momentum. The surprisingly use of a drum ‘n’ bass break at the end gives the track a belated shot of energy but it’s too little too late for the worst track of Edwards impressive career to date. The album final track ‘A Pendent’s Progress’ however turns the tide with its slimy acid fried delayed synth slivers, dub siren and metallic percussion that reverberates out with a long tail. The track is classic Ekoplekz just stretched out over 15 minutes, in the second half more instrumentation is added and the gets busier and denser with a great feel that seals the deal. Unfortunately “Plekzationz” is a flawed release and fails to match the brilliance of Ekoplekz back catalogue. Though ‘A Pendent’s Progress’ is well worth downloading via Boomkat.

Sun Araw – “The Inner Treaty” (Sun Ark/Drag City)

“The Inner Treaty” picks up where last year “Ancient Romans” left off for Sun Araw. Like “Ancient Romans” this is patchy album on which Sun Araw tries to expand his basic palette with very mixed results. The first half of album is the most frustrating as tumbling electronic drum patterns and busy percussion fight for attention amongst the wah-wah guitar and synths which veer from stabby to psychedelic. ‘Like Wine’s disparate elements briefly coalesces into a hypnotic engaging loop but then everything falls apart again and the song ends. The second half of the album isn’t much of an improvement, though with ‘Treaty’ Sun Araw keeps things simple in the drums and percussion department with the other instruments given space to breathe and development organically. The organic, psychedelic synth that comes in around 2 minutes is an inspired touch and off sets the other instruments perfectly. However, after this great example of what he does best Sun Araw undoes his good work with ‘The Summum’ the fastest and densest track of his career to date and that left me completely cold. The album closes with ‘And I’ another disappointment that features 80’s electro synth bass, dubbed out guitar and drums backing Sun Araw’s vocals. I’ve been a big fan of Sun Araw for two and a half years now but feel he’s really failed to deliver an album that comes close to any of his first four albums, yes there are good tracks on both “Ancient Romans” and ‘Treaty’ from this album. But I feel this is an artist who has run out of effective ways to develop his once distinctive sound.

The XX – “Coexist” (Young Turks)

“Coexist” is the long awaited second album from the XX the quietly unique band that first emerged back in 2010. Much has been made of the ever sparser sound employed on “Coexist” and though there’s no doubt that there are a certainly a few tracks that bare this out, I think there are other interesting developments. Firstly there a few tracks (‘Angels’, ‘Chained and ‘Sunset’) that feel rushed where the music might have felt urgent in the past. This gives the feel that the band is either bored of their previous slow style or uncertain of how good their songs are. I feel it maybe the latter as even after a few plays the songs don’t stick in my head as much as those on the XX’s self titled debut album and though Jamie XX tries out some new effects and production techniques at times they feel distracting rather than complimentary to the music or vocalists. ‘Reunion’ and ‘Swept Away’ seem like missteps into ambient house influenced dancefloor tracks that are an ill fit for the vocals and lyrical content of the songs. The album is by no means a complete failure and my own misgivings could well be endearing traits for others. I think hardcore fans of the XX will find much to love but others may find that the hype doesn’t match up to the reality for “Coexist”.

Animal Collective – “Centipide Hz” (Domino)

The new album from Animal Collective is a significant departure from their previous album “Merriweather Post Pavillion” (Sonic Fiction’s Album of the Year 2009) whereas that album was sampled based and entirely electronic with slow to mid paced songs, “Centipide Hz” enschews this to become Animal Collective most ‘rock’ record to date. With Panda Bear back on the drum stool that album kicks off with ‘Moon Jock’ a stomping, crashing, intense combination of drums, guitar, off kilter vocals and Geologist’s out of this world effects. The album continues with the lighter but no less disorienting “Today’s Supernatural” the album’s obvious single the angular sound of which owes something to the band’s 2007 album “Strawberry Jam”. For the next track ‘Rosie Oh’ the pace drop for the first time and the track recalls a warped version of the Beach Boys, if they lived under the sea instead of surfing on it. This same sonic blueprint is employed again on ‘Pulleys’. The upbeat rhythms, crashing drums and guitars are back on ‘Applesauce’ joined by warped synths for a potential future single due to its catchy chorus. The bucolic and organic sounding ‘Wide Eyed’ recalls XTC in their prime and is Deakin’s first songwriting credit for the band, featuring the man himself on lead vocals and promising much for future contributions. “Father Time” floats in out if synth fog and static sounding Hawaii in a psychedelic heat haze. Panda Bear’s big moments comes with “New Town Burnout” with its pattering electronic drums, hornets nests of spiky guitar drone and a stop-start lead vocal from the man himself, the song is one of strongest melodical and harmonic on the album and bares the most relation to those on “Merriweather Post Pavillion”. After the nutty synth sounds of ‘Monkey Riches’ and epic video game soundtrack music of ‘Mercury Man’ the band settles into the home striaght the aforementioned under water pop of ‘Pulleys’ and the stomping, splashing start-stop rhythms and padding percussion of finale ‘Amanita’. Overall “Centipide Hz” is a hard album to define with the band covering a lot of ground over its 50 minute plus length, oddly it also feels longer and more meandering then the much slower “Merriweather Post Pavillion”. In fact, though there are some great indivdual moments on “Centipide Hz” its doesn’t feel like it convinces as an album. Animal Collective have always managed to complete coherent and conceptually strong albums in the past but here only tenourous links are made using radio static and fictional indents, which fail to tie the whole album together. All-in-all Animal Collective reach some real highs worthy of their reputation but can’t replete it over the whole of ‘Centipide Hz’.

Clark – “Fantasm Planes” (Warp)

The “Fantasm Planes” E.P. picks up where Clark new album “Iradelphic” left off; in fact three of its tracks are reworkings of tracks on “Iradelphic”. The E.P. kicks off with the first of three new tracks ‘Fantasm Planes’ which matches a flute melody with dancehall beat and thick analogue synths lines. Next up is the first of the three reworks ‘Henderson Swooping’ with its picked acoustic guitar and moon boot sized dancehall drums. ‘Com Re-Touch/Pocket for Jack’ takes the original ‘Com Touch’ synth melodies but brings down the tempo and back them with heavy drums before a new guitar line and synth and drum backing drop in for the second half of the track. The third and final reworking is ‘Secret Slow Show’ featuring the vocals of Martina Topley-Bird backed by acoustic guitar, tumbling drums before the track is complete turned on its head for the final quarter of the track with distorted acidic electronic drums kicking in. The remaining two tracks on the E.P. are brief instrumentals ‘Brigitte’ with its slow moving metallic synths and misty psychedelic vocals and ‘Dove in Flames’ an organic and minimalistic synth instrumental. Overall Clark’s delivered another superb release and worthy companion piece to the excellent “Iradelphic”.

Gaslamp Killer – “Breakthrough” (Brainfeeder/Ninja Tune)

The debut album of DJ and Brainfeeder signee The Gaslamp Killer is an instrumental hip-hop triumph that instantly recalls classic DJ Shadow and Dan the Automator and contemporaries like horror-core hip-hop duo Gangrene (aka the Alchemist and Oh No). The album mixes The Gaslamp Killer’s love of Turkish melodies, psychedelic rock and dread filled synth atmospherics backed by acoustic hip-hop beats and breaks. It’s a heady brew but the Gaslamp Killer utilises his DJ skills to perfectly balance.  In less skilled or knowledgeable hands this could have turned into an unappealingly sonic stew. He also expertly manages the contributions of the many collaborators that include Gonjasufi, Computer Jay, Mophono, Adrian Younge, MRR, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Daedelus and fellow Brainfeeder signing Samiyam. An exciting thread of tension runs throughout “Breakthrough” with little let up in the nerve shredding strings and dread-filled organ and synths. It’s difficult to pick out individual highlights as the quality doesn’t drop across the whole album and it feels like it was made as a piece, almost like a DJ set with each track of equal importance. “Breakthrough” is another stellar release from the Brainfeeder/Ninja Tune axis and the Gaslamp Killer deserves to be as highly praised as a producer as he is as a DJ.

Deefhoof – “Breakup Song” (ATP)

On their 13th album Deerhoof have succeeded in converting themselves into a alternative rock party band. Though the band could never been accused of slacking in the rhythm department, they’ve gone all out here to create an album that keeps you moving while still providing melodies and hooks aplenty and emotional content to stop the album becoming a vapid collection of indie dance tracks. In fact, the band are so convincing as a party band that tracks like ‘The Trouble with Candyhands’, ‘Flower’ and ‘Theres That Grin’ could easily be mistaken for edgy Cuban/funk/hip-hop jams. There’s not a duff moment to be found on this every track is solid gold pop nugget, not a note or beat is wasted and your dripping with sweat by the end of this half hour work out!!!

Cat Power – “Sun” (Matador)

The new album from Cat Power instantly separates itself from here previous releases due to the strident and confident style in which it’s performed. Cat Power has never been an artist who you’d associate with the word confident, she has always hidden within her music, shying away from the spotlight. But on “Sun” she has no fear, she strong despite all the personal problems she’s been through since her last album “The Greatest” (2006). The album’s production (Cat Power produced it herself and the album was mixed by Phillippe Zdar of Cassius fame) and use of electronic drums and synthesizers also marks it out too. The album starts as it means to go on with the strident drums and chiming guitars ‘Cherokee’, this swiftly followed by the deceptively titled ‘Sun’ with it foggy synths and dark atmospheric guitar strums the perfect backing for Cat Power. Next up is the swaggering single ‘Ruin’ with its funky, driving chorus full of cutting guitar and lizard like bass and drums, it’s the track with most pronounced Zdar influence. Speaking of production both ‘3,6,9’ and ‘Always on my Own’ are the most impressive display of Cat Power’s production abilities with great layering and interplay between her own multi tracked and panned vocals. The mid section of the album from ‘3,6,9’ to ‘Manhattan’ drop back to Cat Power’s more typical slower tempos but the atmospherics and beats add something not heard on previous Cat Power albums, she isn’t retreating to her comfort zone, she’s developing her trademark sound. The remaining provide a great ending trio with ‘Silent Machines’ kicking things off with a thumping electronic bass drum and gliding guitar riff, followed by the epic but never wasteful ‘Nothin’ But Time’ which features Iggy Pop intoning deep, dark backing vocals from 5 minutes in. The album lands its final blow with the bruising and dark ‘Peace and Love’. From start to finish “Sun” is an astounding return from artist whose every release is further evidence that she deserves exposure to a far greater audience.

Release of the Month

Kid Koala – “12 Bit Blues” (Ninja Tune)

The latest album from the prolific Kid Koala takes a basic concept, expands on it and executes it to perfection. That concept is an album built around samples from old blues records put together using his trusty turntables and newly acquired Emu SP 1200 sampler. When I heard about this concept my initial thoughts were that this might be an overly dour album but Kid Koala proves me wrong with an album packed with hip-hop bangers that blow the cobwebs away!! Chirping synth and a vocal sample that says “the kids in rare form tonight” kick off the album before stride piano and boom-bap hip-hip beats enter to start off ‘1 bit blues’ properly, these elements turn out one of running themes throughout the album. But Kid Koala keeps the interest going with blistering guitar riff, analogue synth swiggles, sci-fi effects and a huge array of expertly deployed vocal samples. The highlights on the album range from the aforementioned opener, ‘4 bit blues’ where a down tempo hip-hop beat backs pitched down slurring vocal samples, heavy bass, brass and stride piano, ‘7 bit blues’ with its head nodding beat raucous guitar licks and subtle scratching and ‘8 bit blues (Chicago to NY to LA)’ with its expertly scratched vocal samples, neck breaking hip-hop beats and huge horns stabs. Kid Koala’s major achievement with “12 Bit Blues” is marrying modern sound elements such as the synths and the SP 1200 sampler beats with samples that date from close to a hundred years ago. As usual Kid Koala uses his turntables subtle to make the samples his own and add a modern rhythmic edge to his tracks. “12 Bit Blues” is a superb album that matches his career high “Carpel Tunnel Syndrome” and “Some of my Best Friends are DJs” track for track!!!

Kirsty’s Recommendations

3rd September

Albert Swarm – “Wake” (Ceremony)

The Finnish producer released his ornamental debut EP “Held” last August on the Brooklyn-based Ceremony Recordings.  While Swarm’s sound leaned more towards ambient on that release, his debut album “Wake” will see his music taking a dark turn that is driven by percussive elements and bass lines. The press release promises a “momentous shift towards dark, meditative techno.” All seven tracks on Wake are previously unreleased. Listen to the first single  ‘Moths & Moth Catchers’ below.

10th September

Barker & Baumecker – “Transsektoral” (Ostgut Ton)

This collaboration between Sam Barker (aka Voltek) and Andreas Baumecker, sees two experimentalists stitching together elements sliced from dub, techno, glitch and ambient to create a debut album that is being released on the lauded Ostgut Ton label. The duo have collaborated before on this year’s “Candyflip” and “Murder of Crows” EPs for Ostgut Ton. Barker has releases on Tresor, while Baumecker ran the record labels Freund and Freundinnen. The pair are closely linked with Berghain, the Berlin techno Mecca from which Ostgut Ton is run. Barker runs a night there called Leisure System and Baumecker is a resident DJ. Their ambition with “Transsektoral”, a press release claims, was “to travel across the entire electronic music spectrum… reflecting different iterations of techno from all angles.” The non-album track ‘Analogical’ offered a healthy dose of grinding, hissing machine sounds, which indicates the direction “Transsektoral” will take.  The debut will be available on CD and vinyl on 10th September.  ‘Analogical’ can be downloaded for free on their Soundcloud page.

John Tejada – “The Predicting Machine” (Kompakt)

One of the most accomplished producers in electronic music today is releasing “The Predicting Machine” on Kompakt. As with its predecessor, “Parabolas”, the album will contain “a carefully arranged body of work exhibiting stunning amounts of musicality while dauntlessly delving into the depths of its own sound.” As an architect of story arcs within tracks, John Tejada builds on the smallest of surfaces, finding grandness in every detail and every track of Tejada’s sends the listener on a drive through landscapes and synthesised spectacles. This album is one to be very excited by. The wonderful first two singles ‘The Function And The Form’ and ‘Radio Channel’ can be streamed below.

Liam Recommendations

3rd September

Animal Collective – “Centipede Hz” (Domino)

The follow-up to “Merriweather Post Pavillion” Sonic Fiction’s Album of the  Year 2009, comes on the back of a lengthy break for the group in which they’ve released solo albums and the “ODDSAC” “audio-visual” album. The album will see the band abandoning the sampled based, purely electronic sound of “Merriweather Post Pavillion” in favour of tracks that came together from the band jamming together in their rehearsal space. This was the result of the band deciding to all move back to Baltimore to write the album something the band hadn’t done for a several years. Much is expected of this long awaited and highly anticipated album, can the band deliver?

Cat Power- “Sun” (Matador)

The first new studio album from Cat Power since the critically acclaimed “The Greatest” (2006). In a surprising move the album is producer by Phillipe Zdar of Cassius, Cat Power has said of the album “You have a huge responsibility with the things you’re trying to create to do your best… There’s pressure – not from critics or anything like that, but to do something that means something in your heart. And you wanna do it the way you wanna do it … I wanted to prove that I could depend on myself, musically, because I hadn’t been playing guitar or piano in like five years and… it was just this feeling that you’re not growing if you’re not doing something creative”.

Deerhoof – “Breakup Song” (ATP)

The prolific Deerhoof return with an new album just eighteen mouths after the last one. The album is their eleventh and is described by drummer and songwriter Greg Saunier as “…a sensational record of Cuban-flavored party-noise-energy music. We called it Breakup Song, but don’t expect a bunch of Grammy-baiting sob stories, OK? In Deerhoof’s thesaurus, freedom’s just another word for feeling good again and raising hell and getting away with it. Stick with us and the bad guys with guns will never catch up.”

Nick Edwards (aka Ekoplekz) – “Plekzationz” (Editions Mego)

Confusingly the man known as Ekoplekz has decided to release this new album under his own name but keep the theme that runs many of his album and song titles – inserting Eko or Plekz and z’s instead of s into the  titles. The album features four long form tracks and has been described by FACT magazine as “a lo-fi affair, recorded on a four track and nodding to classic dub and grotty No Wave.” Of course there will be more Ekoplekz releases in the meantime so keep checking back.

10th September

The XX – “Coexist” (XL/Young Turks)

The XX return with their second album two years after the slow burning success of their self titled debut album. Much has changed in the time between the two albums, many of bands songs became T.V. dramas and advert staples and Jamie XX has been busy remixing, producing solo material and spending his weekend’s DJing all over the world. Like, Animal Collective there’s a lot expected of “Coexist” unlike Animal Collective, the XX don’t have the years of development and experience to fall back. Will “Coexist” live up to the high expectations of fans and media alike?

17th September

Kid Koala – “12 Bit Blues” (Ninja Tune)

A year on from the brilliant “Space Cadet” album/comic book OST and comic book the Canadian turntablist follows it up with an album which uses the classic SP1200 sampler as it main musical weapon of choice and used it to create a warped version of the blues. Initial physical copies come with a cardboard hand-powered turntable kit.

Sun Araw – “The Inner Treaty” (Sun Ark/Drag City)

The ever prolific Sun Araw follow up last year hit-and-miss “Ancient Romans” with new album “The Inner Treaty” prerelease track “Like Wine” promises an album that plays more to Sun Araw’s strengths but details about the album are non existent, so we’ll have to wait and see. One things for sure Sun Araw always delivers a hand of brilliant tracks per album.

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