Tag Archive: trip-hop


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

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

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

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

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

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Last night I attended The Gig Of The Year (for a little town like York at least) when I went to watch The Midnight Hour at The Crescent Community Venue in York. For those of you who don’t live in the UK I should explain that York doesn’t get bands like The Midnight Hour playing even in the town biggest venues. The city of Leeds is just half an hour down the road and when a tour misses out Leeds the next nearest stop is Manchester just over an hour and half to the West of York. There is no need for a band like The Midnight Hour to play York and yet local Promoter Ouroboros pulled off this amazing booking.

The evening began with support act Jack Waterson who had just released his album “Adrian Younge Presents… Jack Waterson” two before hand. The guitarist wasn’t on stage for long but played an explosive slice of psychedelic rock from his album before handing over to an off Adrian Younge’s cohorts Loren Oden who sang an epic long song while playing Fender Rhodes electric piano I picked up on hints of Marvin Gaye in his voice during this song.

After a brief break between sets it was time for the main event, The Midnight Hour took to the stage with a drummer, viola player, violinist, trumpeter, alto saxophonist, Waterson on guitar, Oden would rejoin the fray later in the set. Adrian Younge played the Fender Rhodes with Ali Shaheed Muhammad playing an incredible looking purple Fender Jazz bass. What followed wasn’t at all what I’d expect from the band. I had listened to their self titled debut album for the first time in months earlier in the day and it’s pretty much a smooth Jazz album, that’s no bad thing but it doesn’t prepare you for the live versions of those tracks. What we got instead was what my friend Paul Lowman described on Twitter as “not just the best psychfunkjazz band around, but they did ‘s Excursions, aka maybe the greatest opening of any LP, ever. Anybody who wants Hendrix fuzz & Fender Rhodes funk in their face, catch ’em live” and I couldn’t put it any better myself. The band so tight and were able to segue from song to song and change styles on a six piece all while keeping the vibe Friday night not the reality of a Sunday night. In a lot of ways the live versions of the album tracks were a better representation of the other material Adrian Younge has put out both as a solo artist and in collaboration with Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

The other members of the band were equally impressive with the drummer able to switch from delicate Jazz right through to all-out Funk-Rock breakbeats, the horns were both capable of punchy stabs and expressive emotive soloing, the strings add melancholy flourishes and Loren Oden showed not only could he get into Marvin Gaye territory but also could also pull off a Curtis Mayfield style falsetto. The bands talents were acknowledged throughout the set by both Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad who got everyone up at the front of stage to thank them and give a great speech about their family (the band), never giving up on your dream and never forgetting their are no barriers between us and Love is real. All-in-all an incredible experience, I even got to meet Ali Shaheed Muhammad after the band finished. 

You owe to yourself to check out The Midnight Hour’s music, their live show and anything else that the individuals involved our involved now and into the future.  

Late last year a single called ‘Yesterday’ by an Artist called Connie Constance popped up in a Spotify Release Radar playlist and I liked it and was intrigued by it. My first thought was that I couldn’t place what music might have influenced this combination of Synths and Soul. This week listening to Constance’s debut album “English Rose” it hit that it was Stevie Wonder that was the Artist ‘Yesterday’ was indirectly referencing. It’s this that really sums up Constance and her music, she’s really hard to pin down and reading her Artist bio it starts to make sense this is a person whose never fit in. Constance grew up in Watford a suburb of North London and pretty leafy, white middle class one at that. She stuck as a young mixed girl surrounded by white people.

This is a theme that continues throughout the album with neither Constance’s voice, lyrics nor the music styles and elements she’s using fitting nicely into easy categorization. Her voice can easily be compared to Otis Redding, Ari Up from The Slits and Bjork (though she doesn’t push her voice as far as a young Bjork did) and the music ranges from Neo Soul ballads to Indie Rock stomp via nods to contemporary dance music. Another helpfully reference point is Amy Winehouse due the F-Bombs, bitter songs about exes, unashamed use of her London accent and the fact that across the album she can sound both young and wise beyond her years. All-in-all though Connie Constance is Connie Constance a square peg in a round hole. Check out “English Rose” below and let me know what you think if the Comments below:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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According to his Bandcamp page Shag is a 20 year old University student who loves making beats and has clocked up a ton of releases since December 2009. I discovered Shag through the brilliant hip-hop blog Potholes in My Blog back in June when he put out his “Far, Far Away” album. I was impressed by his instrumental sci-fi hip-hop and would have reviewed it, if it wasn’t for a lack of time. Now comes his latest album “NULL” produced using a combination of dusty MPC samples and Korg MicroKorg and his newly bought Moog Sub Phatty synth.

The album opens with ‘Robots’ that features a portamento Sub Phatty melody that underpins a spoken word sample that sounds like it’s from a pre-50’s T.V. show. Then a great head nodding beat drops with a great synth bass underpinning everything. ‘(The) Funk’ features a great whining G-Funk synth melody over a laid back beat and bouncing, floating chords. Later in the track a phat synth riff takes over from the chords and chimes are introduced. ‘Every Day’ keeps the chimes and puts them over strummed rhythm guitar and vocal sample that sound like there from an old soul record, heavenly backing vocals and a piano melody.

 

‘Mercury’ revisits Shag’s obsessed with space utilising an ascending synth melody, a blocky analogue style synth pad that both recall an 80’s videogame theme, Then a subtle but still snapping beat drops. Next up is ‘Nothing I Can Do’ which opens with a synth thats floats in and double backs on its self. Then the beat and a huge gloopy synth bass and rich, reverberate vocal sample drops, before a soulful vocal sample is intercut with a sampled rap vocal samples, which is a great trick to pull off. The album ends with the double header of ‘In Reality’ and ‘Moving Forward’, the former opens with rhythm guitar and a double time bass drum beat and a rap vocal sample that says ‘fantasy’ a soulful vocal sample is added and interchanges with the rap samples. Then we hit the chorus where a line from Nas and one from Q-Tip are intercut to play with the meanings of the lines in their original context.. There’s some nice bass guitar and rhythm guitar riffs and great filtered synths bubble up in the chorus. The later combines an analogue synth that plays behind a collage of spoken word samples coated in delay. Then the head nodding beat drops and a rap vocal sample echoes out over another fizzy digital synth that cuts through the mix.

After hearing “Far, Far Away” and “NULL” a few times I’ve come to the conclusion that Shag is one of top amateur hip-hop producers self releasing their music right now. That’s saying something when I’m bombarded with hip-hop releases every week via Potholes in my Blog. Buy and stream Shag’s vast catalogue here, you won’t regret it.

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