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Read our verdicts on the new records by Clipping, Tobacco, Antwon, Sisyphus, How To Dress Well and much much more!
phil elverum / death rattle / virus syndicate #1
EDITOR’S LETTER Up The Monitors is a student-run publication focusing primarily on hip-hop, not shite indie, and experimental music. There’s not a clear definition on the music that we’ll cover, but there’s a rhyme and reason to it. If we think it’s cool, we’ll cover it. We put a focus on covering the biggest releases as well as the smallest, making sure to give the little guys just as much shine. We attempt to inject silly humour into our writing, without detracting from the informative side. Basically, we all think music in general is pretty neat, and we wanna share our love of it with the world, yo. So yeah, welcome to our very first issue! Supported by Audio Addict, this special edition magazine features some pretty damn special words. All created by our awesome editorial team, we’ve got features with art-rapper Antwon and lo-fi legend Phil Elverum among others. There’s also a whole bunch of reviews of some killer albums, including How To Dress Well’s new effort, and the latest from Clipping. We spent a long time putting together this issue, and we’re incredibly happy with the way it turned out. We hope you enjoy reading the issue as much as we enjoyed making it. Will this issue be a one off? Who knows! Not us, we’re just happy that it’s even out - it’s nothing short of a miracle, really.
AN AUDIO ADDICT PUBLICATION
-UP THE MONITORS-
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NE W S TW E ET S TU R N T UP f r i vo l o us F E AT UR E S D OP E S T UF F P HI L E LV E R UM A NTW O N D E ATH R AT T L E K ATY PE R RY S T O L E MY DAT E V I RUS SY ND ICAT E C a p ita l is m a nd Hip HO P F R A N K , T UR NE R WAY W H Y F R E E MUS IC MAT T E R S YOU R G UITA R IS NO T YO UR D ICK HOLL O W- JA MS A L B UM R E V IE WS L I V E R E V IE WS
editorial team Editor: Richard Lowe Features Editor: Connor Cass Reviews Editor: Josh Pauley Front Section Editor: James Barlow Art Director: Joe Price
Action Bronson Begins Food-Based Web Series
Trent Reznor Mad at “Conservative” Rock Music
By Connor Cass Rapper Action Bronson has released the first episode of a food-based web series, entitled ‘Fuck, That’s Delicious’. The Show is created by Munchies, the new food channel of Lifestyle blog Vice. Bronson has recently come off Eminem’s Rapture tour throughout South America, Australia and New Zealand, and the show sees him recalling his favourite dishes from these locations. He also dines at Eddie’s Sweet Shop and pizza restaurant Roberta’s, his favourite places to eat in New York City, his home state. The show includes scenes of Bronson swimming in the ocean (“none of you motherfuckers are athletic more than me”), discussing getting older (“there’s wrinkles on my nuts”) and drinking a milkshake while exclaiming the shows title “Fuck, That’s Delicious”. ‘Fuck, That’s Delicious’ is a monthly series and future episodes promises to see the rapper travelling in search of tasty treats. He will be visiting locations such as England, Eastern Europe and southeastern United States. Bronson has just completed a UK tour and is due to release his debut studio album, Mr Wonderful, later this year. Last year saw him releasing projects such as ‘Saaab Stories’, an ep with Harry Fraud, and ‘Blue Chips 2’, his second collaborative mixtape with Party Supplies.
By James Barlow During an interview with Daily Record, Trent Reznor expressed his dissatisfaction with the state of modern rock music today. The Nine Inch Nails man, who is currently touring Europe, believes that rock has largely lost its edge; he explained that “When you see a lot more excitement generated from the dance tent, I do think a staleness has permeated [rock music].” Later on in the interview Reznor agreed that his artistic integrity is a rarely seen trait in today’s music business: “Having seen a lot of bands on the current festival runs we are on, I would agree with that,” before stating that “a pretty conservative nature has crept into music and I don’t mean sonically.” “I get the sense that a lot of bands today are designing themselves to get a good review in the hip blogs and that is probably the safest and most cowardly thing you can do as an artist,” he continued to elaborate on his point. “If you have something to say, then say it.” It wasn’t all criticism though - Reznor offered some bold advice to today’s stars: “Express yourself and break the rules.”
Upcoming Wu-Tang Album Causes Further Controversy, Has Cher On It For Some Inexpeicable Reason Despite the crowd-funding campaign initiated by fans, whilst promoting ‘Once upon a time in Shaolin’ via their official page (and their members individual pages) Wu Tang Clan have seen a huge backlash against the exclusive nature of the album’s release from fans decrying the price tag and the implications: “realistically, it’s their choice to auction one album for 5 million.. but it’s also their choice to completely piss off any fan that thinks they should share this with them.”
By Richard Lowe The controversy surrounding the exclusivity of NY Hip Hop masters Wu-Tang Clan’s unreleased ‘Once upon a time in Shaolin’ album continues to overshadow the impending release of new album ‘A better Tomorrow’.
The controversial exclusivity of the album hasn’t been the only problem plaguing The ‘Clan in recent weeks, a decidedly desperate RZA has decried Raekwon’s ‘strike’ from the album, stating “If we don’t come to terms [with Raekwon], I think, within the next 30 days, then this will either be an album without Raekwon or an album that never sees the light of day. And that’s a very strong potential.”
Enigmatic Swedish Duo JJ Announce ‘V’ Album
By Joe Price Enigmatic Swedish duo JJ has announced a new album entitled ‘V’, which is due August 19th via Secretly Canadian. The band also quietly announced the capitalisation of their name, as they were formally known as the lowercase jj. The duo shared several impromptu singles and a free EP over the last few years, and they announced plans for ‘V’ all the way back in June 2013. The formal announcement from the mysterious duo follows on from a one-off single they release on Christmas Eve, 2013. The announce of ‘V’ was accompanied by a short trailer, which previews music from the upcoming album. The album trailer was also accompanied by a cryptic statement about the album, which is just as dramatic as we’ve come to expect from the pair. The statement ends with “We don’t even know your name or where you came from and someday this war will be over so we and our friends will stay together until the end. Making our way through this motherfucking life. Come on, we have to do it.” JJ is a project known for combining their ethereal dream pop with a hip hop influence, contrasting harsh lyricism with softer sounds. Expect to hear more from JJ regarding ‘V’ in the coming months.
BREAKING NEWS: Ryan Hemsworth is still the best <3
Fake Morrissey Twitter Opened, Promptly Closed
By Josh Pauley Morrissey has revealed that the Twitter account supposedly belonging to him is a fake. In a statement regarding the incident posted on the Morrissey fan site True To You, the former singer of The Smiths stated: “I gather that a Twitter account has been opened up in my name – It’s Morrissey – but it is NOT Morrissey.” “I do not know who has opened this recent Twitter account, but please be aware that it is bogus. That’s, of course, if you should remotely care.” The singer opted to sign off with the pun: “Untwitterably yours, MORRISSEY, Salt Lake City, 15 May 2014.” The verified @itsmorrissey account first appeared on Twitter on May 14th, accompanied by the tweet “Hello. Testing, 1, 2, 3. Planet Earth, are you there? One can only hope...” The account has since been removed from the social networking site. Morrissey recently unveiled the artwork for his tenth studio album ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business’, due to be released on July 15th this year. The album has so far been preceded by two spokenword video for the title track and ‘The Bullfighter’.
Simply put, here are some of our favourite recent tweets -the Up The Monitors team
100S ICE COLD PERM
The phrase ‘keeping it one hundred’ has long been a staple in the atypical rapper’s vocabulary as a braggadocios way of alerting the masses that they’re ‘real’, ‘genuine’ and ‘giving it their all’.
the new king of ‘pimp rap’ (that’s a thing, apparently, in 2014) when Snoop Dogg retires/ switches to his Lion moniker for good, 100s is the definition of elegance in every sense of the term.
It’s easy for any wannabe MC to spit the adage and let the words ring hollow, but for Californian rapper and Fool’s Gold Records signee 100s, ‘keeping it one hundred’ is a lifestyle that’s all too real, ironically right down to the name.
Whether it be his distinctive West Coast throwback flow, the regal, Prince-worthy funk beats that lavishly accompany songs like ‘Slide On Ya’, or the long, luscious locks that form his ice cold perm, 100s is without question carving out his own exciting niche in a world where club-ready thugs and rappers that are far too in touch with their sensitive side reign supreme.
Making Complex’s 2013 list of ‘25 New Rappers To Watch Out For’ and expected to be crowned
By Josh Pauley
SHADOW B O X There’s something about a soft female vocal over a bed of ethereal electronic production that is consistently musically pleasing, Grimes has already mastered it, and now so has New York’s Bonnie Baxter (who records under the irritatingly stylised moniker ShadowBox). As with Grimes, Baxter’s voice has got a babyish quality to it, but she by avoids being veiled by her own quirkiness. She began with the rock-focused Bonnie Baxter band, yet it wasn’t long before she decided to “tear it down”, leading to the Pitchfork approved EP Lady Doome in 2011. What this revealed, along with subsequent EP Haunted By Colours, is her glitchy, ghostly and alluring production is made to perfectly complement her vocal charms. 2014 has already seen Baxter become the central draw on the most compelling tracks on Illum Sphere’s versatile debut (The Ghost Of Then and Now). However, in the face of a rising profile she quietly unveiled ‘B15’, an instrumental of hideous percussion and jarring electronics, and leads you to re-evaluate ShadowBox’s identity, even before her first LP. She’s not someone who can be contained by limiting styles, instead she’s an artist who always strives to be ever changing, ever challenging and ever impressing.
By Connor Cass
NOT THESE TONES “It all came quite naturally to us; this blend of styles is something we set out to achieve from the start so it plays a large part in defining our sound,” James Conway, ‘computer player’ and one half of Greater London based electronic act Not These Tones explains.
Having met and jammed together at the creative hotbed that is Amersham College, the band formed in winter 2012 “with the intention of creating a more consistent sound… dense guitars, electric beats, synths- climactic dream pop.” The band consists of a revolving door of ‘guitarists and producers, even a violinist for a spell, with myself and Richard (Francis) at its core.” The bands debut EP ‘Eternal Recurrence’ “was a way for us to test the water” but it wasn’t all trial and error for the release: the title track is also a single on iTunes and has the best sales on the compilation it was featured on. It seems that the learning curve of the first EP has very much paid off: “The songs have been written in full, rehearsed and improved upon with instruments before being recorded… It’s not just our method that changed; we found new ways of manipulating our recordings to create sounds which previously wouldn’t have been possible. Point in case, the first single Sliding Doors, bar the vocals was made entirely from the guitar, every layer.” ‘Apres Midi’ is set for release, with ‘Slinding Doors’ set to be unveiled ahead of the rest, alongside a supporting music video on YouTube’
By Richard Lowe
POTER ELVINGER There are plenty of ways to stand out as a producer, but being elusive is no longer one. London-based producer Poter Elvinger has the mysterious online presence going for him, but it feels as if its working against him rather than for him. His production style sounds genuinely innovative in a stagnant field of spectral beat work, and he owes it to himself to speak up a little. With just under 3 released tracks to his name, all of his existing material showcases some serious potential. Using subterranean bass lines, left-field samples, and an overall shadowy atmosphere, his production sincerely sounds singular. There are not many producers that can work in elements of witch house alongside trap and legitimate deep house influences, his atmospheres are particularly peculiar. Intensely promising from such small beginnings, it’s not hard to see Poter Elvinger becoming the next Clams Casino, or Evian Christ. It’s the type of stuff that’ll creatively charge rappers, or even the current wave of alternative R&B artists. But for now, his production speaks louder than any lyrics might, and despite his anonymity, he’s already beginning to stand out.
By Joe Price
KITTKOLA The latest in wonder-kid Ice Cold Chrissy’s incarnations is Kitkkola. Previously the ever prolific Detroit producer has released music under the guise of Jaqkquil and most notably Coyote Clean Up and, while all of these outfits have revolved around Chrissy’s passion for crafting melodic deep house, Kitkkola in particular finds the man embracing an even smoother – and at times almost ambient – tone. Chrissy’s first release under Kitkkola was March’s Sarah’s Rocks which saw a digital release in addition to a retro-tastic release via cassette tape. Despite its track-listing signalling a disparate juxtaposition of moods – ‘Garbage Heads’ is followed by ‘Hopeidideinmysleep2nite Dub’ before ‘Fish Fry’ and ‘Root Beer’ – a consistent style which often lives in the space between house and chillwave – impressively allowing one to both dance and zone out - is maintained throughout its 17 shimmering cuts. The whole thing totals an expansive 80-minute duration and closes on the hypnotic ‘Problem Time’ which was quickly picked up by Pitchfork as a track of the week earlier this year. In this collaboration-happy age we live in and with some vocals draped over the top perhaps, it wouldn’t appear like long until Chrissy finds his slick beats hurtling towards mainstream attention.
By James Barlow
PREDICTIONS WITH PAULEY:
THE UNSURPRISING SURPRISE ALBUM RELEASES OF 2014
Chance The Rapper
After fortunate collaborations with Bieber and Skrillex, Chicago’s waviest rapper has been riding the hype train to the top of best new rapper lists everywhere. Pair that with cryptic tweets to his website which have become increasingly frequent and the chances of Chance’s debut album appearing out of nowhere seem relatively high.
Is ‘Yeezus: The Second Coming’ going to inspire another wave of rappers entrenched in their own maniacal self-indulgence? Or is the latest ‘Sad Kanye’ meme craze a suggestion that Yeezy’s gonna go all Drake on us this time round? We don’t know the answers, man!
At this point, a leak stemming from a Twitter tirade seems about the only way Banks’ debut album ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’ is ever going to see the light of day. But let’s face it: she’s pretty much all talk and no action at this point, right? She’s really just broke with a poor sense of timing, honestly.
Although your average Joe might believe the surprise album was a concept birthed by Beyonce, noise merchants Death Grips beat Queen B to the punch by a whole month with last year’s ‘Government Plates’. As erratic as they are prolific, it would be more surprising to see them announce a release date in advance.
By Josh Pauley
RAPPERS WITH DIFFERENT JOBS By James Barlow TRUST ISSUES? CALL DRAKE!
Hey girl, this shoulder? It’s yoooours (to cry on)
0808-WORST-1017 Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t imagining the beloved rappers that walk our Earth today undertaking certain professional careers a world away from music, while still acting like their regular, braggadocious rapper selves a little bit funny? No? Well might these five examples persuade you otherwise:
2 Chainz Taking Orders at a Drive-Thru: Just picture it: “Yeah I’ll just have a royale and a shake please.” “2 Chaaainz!” “Oh, you again. Okay, just tell me how much will that be?” “It’s gon’ cost a chicken!”
Chance The Rapper as Town Crier:
Screw ‘hear ye, hear ye’ – too old school. Try ‘IGH’ – Chance’s indistinguishable battlecry. Chance would unquestionably throw out the rulebook if he took over with the bell and wig. He’d also look super cute.
Lil B Runs For Office:
Everything about the thought of the Based God himself stepping up to the podium to bless the US of A with the most empowering inspirational and #rare speech this side of Rocky Balboa just seems so right.
Jay Z as a Horse Whisperer:
One would imagine horse whisperers have to be fairly gently spoken folken. While the man doesn’t really do subtle, the thought of Hov whispering ‘Brooklyn!’ into a horse’s ear sounds just magical.
Drake the Relationship Counsellor: I just think he’d be a really good listener.
it’s ya boy...
FIVE SONGS YOU NEED TO CHECK OUT RIGHT NOW By Connor Cass
Baths - ‘Ocean Death’
With jittery percussion and growling throbs, ‘Ocean Death’ is an electronic beast with a human heart. Baths warm vocals provide a sliver of hope amongst the eerily repeated “bury your body in my graveyard.” While ‘Earth Death’ sounds like an apocalypse, and ‘Ocean Death’ is the dystopian wasteland that follows.
Swetshop Boys - ‘Benny Lava’
When not being brilliant at twitter, Ryan Hemsworth produced the delightfully whimsical ‘Benny Lava’. The track effortlessly compliments two distinct rappers, Heems, whose sluggish, husky vocals and ‘suck my dick’-isms deceive his strikingly passionate lyricisms on his Indian heritage, and Riz MC, whose delivery is as swift as his wit.
Poter Elvinger - ‘Lonely’
He’s only a few songs deep into his career, but mysterious London producer Poter Elvinger has already built himself a unique sound. ‘Lonely’ is no different, as its typically muscular bassline plays backing to a simplistic, yet hypnotising, repetition of the word “lonely”, crafting something simultaneously hard-hitting and starkly emotional.
Death Rattle - ‘Wait’
Less Cinematic than usual, ‘Wait’ strips the duo to their most intimate. All that’s left are haunting synths and a subdued beat; attention is passed over to vocalist Helen Hamilton. With gorgeously grounded vocals and deeply personal lyrics on human flaws within relationships, Death Rattle has hit their emotional peak.
Dream Koala - ‘Earth’
Employing a sensitive falsetto similar to How To Dress Well and (the unbearably creepy) The Weeknd, ‘Earth’ is serene and timid. However, it subtly reaches a climatic, pulsating soundscape, dispelling the comforting calm. No panicking though, after a brief absence, you’re able to indulge in his vocal charms once again.
INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO THE LO-FI VHS WORLD OF
The internet is full of artists with strange, deliberately scruffy aesthetics. Whether it’s Yung Lean green screened over footage of Pokémon stadium or Spooky Black’s bizarre du-rag smirks, there’s no shortage of internet-friendly visuals. The difference between these artists and Bones, however, is that his aesthetic fails to provide the disconnect that others do. Inspired by the sinister VHS work of Harmony Korine, his grainy videos go hand-in-hand with his macabre music. His world is fiction - sometimes ridiculous, sometimes terrifying. His songs frequently sample music that makes use of hauntology and embody an almost punk attitude, and it’s rare for a song of his to last longer than three minutes. Think early Three 6 Mafia if the internet was widely available in the early ’90s. His pencil ‘stache, long and skinny fuel the creepy aura. I justhair, think he’d be aframe reallyfurther good listener.
Drake the Relationship Counsellor:
Whether squatting beneath eerie static or washing his switchblade with Fiji Water, Bones knows how to make everything appear mystifying. His background providing visuals for Raider Klan is evident, but his style remains his own. The videos are all shot on an old family camera that uses Hi8 tapes, edited through unkempt means. While a lot of these internetborn artists are working towards a bright and clean aesthetic, Bones goes for the complete opposite.
It’s hard to explain the appeal of Bones without resorting to comparisons of awkward surrealism. The darkened hues are cryptic, yet the guy behind the music is a skinny white dude from L.A. that dropped out of school to pursue his dreams. He doesn’t front like he’s about the life his music portrays - it’s just the art that he likes to create. Bones’ output doesn’t quite rival Lil B’s, but his work ethos isn’t too far removed from that of The Based God. Bones has accumulated over 15 releases since he started in 2012, and he’s currently readying the release of a new mixtape, Garbage. Regardless, Bones is a character worth investing time into, even if his discography is intimidating.
This article was originally written for, and posted on Pigeons&Planes, a blog owned by Complex Media. You can check it out at the address below: www.pigeonsandplanes.com
By Joe Price
MOUNT EERIE a look back on Phil Elverum’s FASCINATING CAREER
Despite crafting his music with so many recognisable elements, everything Phil Elverum does sounds new. Over the course of his fascinating career his imaginative songwriting has conjured fractured imagery vast, and emotions fervent. He confidently claims that he’s aiming for “not escapism, but sharper perception about the present.” His perspectives feel fresh, consistently. Not a single thing he’s done sounds like anything, but him: “I am trying to write words that speak from the perspective of a single human person about the often bewildering experience of living in the world.” His unique worldview is bit a fraction of what makes him such a captivating musician.
BY JOE PRICE “It starts with experimentation. I rarely sit down and write a song. It’s very much a studio project, based around exploring weird sound ideas and textures,” but as mentioned before, this studio exploration has always been a part of his work. “That’s why it was called ‘The Microphones’ at first, because I was in love with the world of recording.” It’s clear from his lo-fi work all the way to his high definition portraits of the Pacific Northwest, that he knows his way around a studio as well as he does pen and paper.
When asked if he could revisit any of his previous material that he wasn’t quite satisfied with, he was particularly self-deprecating: “I am not satisfied with any of it, honestly.” Despite the fact most, if not all of his records have received glowing praise, he states “every time I listen back I hear a million things I would do differently.” But he insists it’s for the better of his art, continuing to say that it’s why he continues to make records, “to keep zeroing in on the idea nugget.”
“I usually aim to develop these blobs of noise into more traditional ‘songs’ because I am hesitant to release something that feels less than substantial. I want to pack in as much actual content as possible.” He reiterates, however, that he’s still proud of his writing, despite the stigma of nature fetishisation people commonly attach to his lyricism: “I am mostly proud of my writing and I hope that it occasionally makes a kind of sense to others and doesn’t just sound like nature-obsessed romanticising.”
But this lack of artistic satisfaction is what led him to expand upon the ideas pursed on his final album as The Microphones, ‘Mount Eerie’. Turning that namesake into his main artistic output has considerably changed the tone and feel of his records, expanding into even more adventurous territories. Dabbling in elements of black metal as well as krautrock, he further expanded upon the sense of exploration his music always possessed.
The fact is that nature is a part of life, and it’s also perhaps one of the most intriguing, beautiful, and mystifying aspects. Phil is possibly one of the only musicians to fully elaborate on this; “We are animals living in a chaotic wild world” and he openly believes that “this fact is worth writing about, worth reminding repeatedly.” If his music is the results of this trail of thought, then it’s no doubt that it is, in fact, worth repeating.
ROSE PETALS AND RUSTY NAILS
My back was turned to them but I was like ‘God, you must be a fucking groupie or something’, I mean who does that?
“Oh yeah, Kid Rock rules” says Antwon matter-of-factly as if it is punishable to think anything otherwise. The San Jose rapper is a well-documented admirer of the American badass thanks to his tireless work ethic: “A lot of people work hard and get lazy. I think Kid Rock is a perfect example of working hard and achieving your goals, ya know?” It is this recognised respect that keeps Antwon working on and honing his own craft of unique hip hop. Most rappers will tell you of their devotion to hip hop from an early age, learning how to rhyme from studying the greats; not Antwon - his musical life began in hardcore. This early introduction to high-energy gigs is considered to have significantly impacted upon his live performances today which have been written about showcasing a so-called ‘punk-like energy’ but Antwon himself can’t recall any particularly wild gig stories. “Nah, not really wild” however a set with a certain Brooklyn rapper comes to mind, “sometimes they can be kinda weird. I remember one time I was playing a show in Portland with a rapper named Joey Badass and I’d messed up a song so I cut it and these kids started chanting ‘Joey! Joey!’ My back was turned to them but I was like ‘God, you must be a fucking groupie or something, I mean who does that?” Unphased though, Antwon said he “just went on with it, finished my set and chilled.” Was Joey’s set any good? “I dunno, I didn’t watch. I don’t listen to his music” he adds bluntly.
Over the past few years Antwon has steadily built up an impressive catalogue of releases – his latest ‘End Of Earth’ and ‘In Dark Denim’ bringing him a wider following. Both releases saw him utilising a vast array of producers – something that ensures his work is chock full of different ideas and styles. When asked whether he has a favourite producer to work with he immediately lists off several: “I like working with friends – Pictureplane, Cities Aviv, Froskees. They know me and I know them and they know what I would like rather than explaining to a stranger what I want a beat to sound like.” This ability to thoroughly convey what he can hear in his head to his producers certainly helps as Antwon explains that he ‘usually sometimes write like a line or two that’s in my head but most of the time I like to write after I get a beat’. His latest record ‘Heavy Hearted In Doldrums’ finds production duties carried out by the three aforementioned names as well as a host of others. One track also contains a feature from Himanshu Suri of Das Racist fame, whose indie label Greedhead released ‘In Dark Denim’. ‘Heavy Hearted In Doldrums’ largely continues Antwon’s go-to topic of rap – sex – but also shows subtle progression through its more varied production and melancholic tone, and will likely result in his music finding more ears than ever before. So after ‘Heavy Hearted In Doldrums’ what plans has he got for 2014? Well, taking a page out of Kid Rock’s book of course: “Keep on working, because that’s all I can do really, man. Just keep working hard.”
Antwon’s latest, ‘Heavy Hearted in Doldrums’ is available for freevia Unif Clothing. Check it out at the adress below: www.unifclothing.com/antwon
I like the idea of painting a picture of our surroundings with the songs and using the space around us as inspiration
“I like the fact I live next to a graveyard in London” are hardly the macabre words you’d expect to leave the mouth of someone crafting pop-leaning soundscapes. However, for it to come from vocalist Helen Hamilton, one-half of London duo Death Rattle, it makes perfect sense. The duo with “an intrigue and affinity with the darker elements of life” have the most apt of titles, a death rattle being the sound made by a person on the edge of death. Likewise, Death Rattle sound like they’re on the edge of tragedy. The duo, Helen and Chris (also Hamilton), began their working relationship in guitar orientated projects, most notably as That Mouth, whose split led to the creation of Death Rattle. They naturally transitioned to synthesisers when Chris “came up with these electronic synth lines which would eventually form into The Dig and The Blows.” These songs led to the vitriolic electronics of debut ep, HE&I. EP Fortress came shortly after, which jumped towards brooding soundscapes with an industrial edge. Progression is in their nature, creating a sense of unpredictability over their partially-completed debut album, as Helen reveals: “Chris is currently obsessed with writing anything that sounds like it’s from an eighties sci-fi movie and I’m hoping to bring a slightly rawer, more intimate vocal sound to the new songs,” which Helen demonstrates on latest single ‘Wait’.
The Knife’s Silent Shout has now handcuffed itself to the DNA of modern synthpop. Death Rattle are one of the few Knife-indebted duos with the ability to emulate the bizarre transition the Swedish eccentrics made on Shaking The Habitual, as Helen foresees. She says: “Chris loves a lot of it and can see him pulling us in that abstract, offthe-wall direction on a second album if he has his way.” Helen has an incredibly ambitious to-do list: “We’ve always wanted to work with Flood as a producer as we love his production on Depeche Mode’s Violator. I would also love to work on a film soundtrack with director Lars Von. We also want to rewrite the soundtrack to Watership Down.” For them, working with Von Trier is incredibly flitting, as the film producer is always intent on satisfying morbid curiosities. It’s a pairing that can’t go unfulfilled, and, with their always rising profile, the combination is a very real possibility.
BY CONNOR CASS
“I like the idea of painting a picture of our surroundings with the songs and using the space around us as inspiration,” Helen says, explaining their dark disposition, as their recording and writing space is “a derelict farmhouse in France which is very isolated, stark, cold and full of history.” Their desire to experiment with gloomy atmospheres always seems to be at odds with their instantaneous pop sensibilities. Helen ponders: “I am partial to certain vocal melody ideas that lend themselves towards pop but always try to refrain from sounding too commercial. Some of my favourite albums took 3 or 4 listens to get behind and I’d rather make that sort of album.”
NOT QUITE A FEATURE
KATY PERRY STOLE MY DATE By Josh Pauley
It’s no secret that rappers have a longstanding, lessthan-friendly relationship with the press. Just this year, we’ve seen Danny Brown storm out of an interview after a heated debate over a scotch egg, Kanye West nearly rip the head off of Zane Lowe in an impassioned/ egotistical rant, and Rick Ross get frustrated over being asked a question about an ex – his Reebok deal.
And to top it all off, he RARELY conducts interviews. My mind was frantically racing with ideas for questions, some serious (“what are your views on the uprising of internet rappers like yourself?”), others a tad more frivolous (“what’s your favourite pizza base?”). This was going to be the highlight of my journalism career so far... ...until this happened:
But why is it that rappers are so hostile towards their fellow music industry compadres? One fellow journalist offered me a solid opinion on the matter. “In general I’d say rappers aren’t afraid to avoid cosying up to the press because they don’t rely on it so much”, states Jamie Milton, online editor of the UK-based publication DIY. “They can put out mixtapes, gain fans in ways that don’t require add-on profile pieces and interviews. The press needs them.” After a promising but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at securing an interview with G.O.O.D. Music alumni CyHi the Prynce (shout-out to Sway for making that one impossible), this journalist was ready to succumb to the realisation that journalists are but the mere playthings of rappers. But just as I was about to turn in a page featuring a crude stick-figure depiction of Jay Z getting hammered by Solange and a scribbled apology, an unprecedented interview opportunity arose - a chance to interview the one and only BasedGod, Lil’ B. If you’re reading this magazine, it’s fair to assume that you probably know who Lil’ B is, but for those who aren’t acquainted, here’s a introduction. Lil’ B is nothing short of a rap deity, a man so prolific that his discography currently extends considerably far beyond the 45GB mark. His self-coined based principle (baseology?!) has usurped Christianity as the most popular religion of hip-hop heads worldwide*.
On April 29th, Lil’ B released the latest in a long line of tracks named after celebrities, ‘Katy Perry’. The next day, the REAL Ms. Perry herself goes and invites him to some nonsensical prom thing that she probably dreamed up in her ridiculous cotton candy mansion, and guess who hasn’t heard back from The BasedGod since? This guy. Once again, my advance/interview has been rejected by a rapper, dropped at the last minute for a prettier opportunity. It’s like being perpetually stuck in the Chris Brown & Rihanna affair, and I’m Drake, sat alone in my room reminiscing on the five minutes we had together where my hand fortuitously brushed her face as she reached over to grab a doughnut, all whilst pining ‘Trust Issues’ as a single tear slides down my face. Who the hell goes to a prom when they’re pushing thirty anyway? ‘Teenage Dream’ was four years ago, girl, and you weren’t even a teenager then, so stop acting delusional and stay away from my man. Fuck rappers, man. They’re all the same.
*this is a joke, not a fact. But it probably has.
VIRUS SYNDICATE CONDUCTING THE SWARM Virus Syndicate are arguably one of few winners of the first wave of the Grime scene. Whilst the Mancunian veterans reach their 10th year of existence. We caught up with 1/3 of Machester Grime trio Nika D and talked influences, growing up as an artist and the state of modern music. ‘I don’t think it’s our perception (of the music industry) which has changed so much but more the industry itself to be honest. We’ve been in the industry for a long time now so we’ve seen things evolve musically and technologically’ Nika muses ‘Things are completely different these days to when we started out. People moan about music being so easily available for free download and file sharing but that’s how it is now. You either evolve or become extinct’ However, it’s not just the music industry that’s changed; ‘we’ve definitely changed as people too in terms of life experience, maturity and underpinning knowledge of the music and entertainment industries Our musical tastes have broadened and we’re at a point now where musically we know what we want to do and where we’re taking our sound.’ He continues ‘Change is inevitable but its how you adapt that stands you out from the crowd. You have to be willing to change methods and disregard plans you’ve made to try something new when things aren’t working. Pride comes before a fall so don’t ever be too proud to say you got it wrong and try something new. I originally started out with british mc’s as my main influence, in Manny we used to get super proud when Trigga (Manchester based MC) tore it down, kind of like what Virus did with Sidewinder... a lot of the local mc’s looked up to us an idolised us because of that - we represented for them!” He also gives a lot of credit to his brother too “He introduced me to drum and bass and he also got me into Cypress hill as a kid, so it was a real honour to have DJ Muggs involved in the new album. My bro used to obsess over the tiniest little drum edits and rewind tracks until I heard what he was on about and he also took me to get my first pair of decks. He influenced me to pay attention to detail and hear those subtleties” On the state of UK Grime Nika has this to say; ‘I think it’s really strong right now. There is some real quality coming out and production levels are much higher now than they used to be. Producers like Preditah, Rude Kid, Dirt Klod and so on are killing it! Only the best mc’s have survived really. P money is a beast! Ghetts is on absolute fire! So yeah we’re big fans of the current grime movement.”
BY RICHARD LOWE
HOW CAPITALISM RUINED HIP HOP By Richard Lowe Everywhere you look these days, the old guard of hip hop has been overrun by the mighty power of capitalism, rappers use the reputation bestowed upon them by the release of 2 decades now don’t care about the state of society, not bemoaning the urban hell(because they now live in a much more upmarket urban jungle), most damningly; don’t chat about what’s going on in their endz, so to speak. Why? The problems just the same as it was in ’96 (just listen to track 10 from DJ Shadow’s landmark ‘Endtroducing’ for a deeper understanding).
So what does the future hold for money driven, aged hip hop artists? It’ll be interesting to see how Odd Future are faring in 20 years, will they still be parodying dickhead culture, whilst similarly enabling a reactionary dickhead culture in 2034? Will Trap music fondly be remembered alongside 2014s house ‘raves’ as the last true bookmark of authenticity? Most importantly, will the man with the money still control our lives, tastes and clothes? Will Nas be fondly remembered as a godfather of hip hop brilliance?
Upon first hearing ‘Illmatic’ many of us where enthralled, even more of us were also disappointed upon hearing the complete lack of quality records which followed ‘Illmatic’. In fact, if you really listen closely to the album you’ll find little of value, the flows are pretty a’ite and the beats are competent (if a little generic) but both are about as forgettable as. So why do we like ‘Illmatic’ so much? The answer is on the tip of every pot smoking non-conformists tongue; Money hungry record labels took a decidedly average rapper and hyped him until he was etched onto the cultural landscape of 90’s hip hop.
As culture continues to accelerate into one, watered down, garishly arranged and overproduced mess will hip hop(and artistic integrity) even exist in 20 years?
Scrolling through Nas’ (or any hip hop artist who was big 20ish years ago) Facebook page it’s sad to see just how much the reputation of these artists is exploited by corporate greed, one of the only pictures which is actually of Nas shows off his mansion whilst the rest of the content promotes re-hashes and merch. Coming from someone who, 20 years ago was writing lyrics about the under representation of impoverished black communities, railing against the system that was keeping him and everyone around him down, it’s sad to see how little he seems to care for his roots. He’s had so much money thrown at him that he simply doesn’t care about trivial stuff like appreciation of his roots or his authenticity because he has money. Whilst there’s still some hope for the hip hop scene, post 2013’s stellar resurgence, besides Kool A.D, Clipping and Bones, 2014 has once again been a dead out year for hip hop and it would appear 2013 was an anomalous drop in the ocean of commercial rubbish.
FRANK, TURNER WAY Imagine this scene, Thom Yorke and co coming onto a modestly lit arena stage and jumping straight into ‘Creep’, meandering through ‘High and Dry’, then concluding on an extremely predictable ‘Paranoid Android’. With no Ondes Martenot, innovative tower of lights or duplicate drummers intricacy in sight, it’s a truly horrific thought; essentially devoid of all the creativity that makes Radiohead a truly special live act. Yet, this is exactly how it’d be if Frank Turner had his way. Turner labelled Radiohead “petty” for not entertaining his nostalgia by airing ‘Creep’, an overrated grunge knock-off from an era they barely recognise today. However, Turner has highlighted an appalling attitude towards live shows, wanting to bands to play the role of a jukebox, stripping their autonomy and turning them into simple ‘entertainers’, which Lord Turner believes to be every band’s job title. When you imagine the word ‘entertainer’, images of tricycle riding monkeys and magicians appear, it may require talent, but it doesn’t contain the limitless creative possibilities of live music. Of course, Lord Turner can’t accept that, claiming; “it’s almost like the audience is an imposition on their sacred creative act. If that’s how you feel, don’t play shows and charge people to come to them, stick to the studio,” yet this ‘sacred’ creativity is necessary to prevent live music from becoming dull. I’d much rather see a set of Radiohead passionately twisting the mechanical sounds of ‘The King Of Limbs’ into feral but beautifully human pieces of music, instead of mindlessly playing songs two decades old. It’s similar for every band, seeing a group at their creative peak is far more exciting than hearing ‘American Idiot’ get played for the 3476th time.
But, the nostalgia market is unbearably huge right now, people are drawn to bands playing past albums in full and reunions lacking in fresh material. Turner is the one of those people; after all, he did praise Iron Maiden regressively playing their most famous tracks from the 80’s. These dinosaurs are blocking new bands that are genuinely making creative leaps, while new acts that will overtake the supposed legends are inevitably doomed to performing lucrative album shows ten years down the line (that means you The 1975.) Nobody forms a band with the intention of bending to their fans every want, and that should include the live setting. Turner believes artists have an obligation to play ‘the hits’, but what he really has is a self-indulgent expectation to hear what he wants. Gig tickets don’t contain a guarantee of ‘the hits’ hidden in the terms and conditions, bands can play whatever the fuck they want. Turner is obviously just whining because he can’t handle being challenged by anything other than quick appeal hits. He’s probably lashing out because his sham everyman image and acoustic tracks written in the key of beige couldn’t ever be comparable to the thrillingly immersive shows of Radiohead. Whatever, if Frank Turner’s content being an entertainer, then he can entertain me by never approaching the stage again.
By Connor Cass
WHY FREE MUSIC MATTERS In the age of the internet, it seems less and less people care about actually purchasing music. It’s not hard to fault, why pay for something when you can get it for free? Well say you actually put your music out for free, legally - how many more heads will you turn? The word free carries a lot of weight, and everyone loves actual free music: it feels like a gift, and just a little less naughty than that of a torrent. In a brief conversation with Michael Schwartz (aka rapper Michael Myerz), we both came to the conclusion that free music is more important than it ever has been. “By making your music free, it’s easier to get, meaning it’s easier for people to listen to,” he mentions. As an underground artist still looking to expand his audience, he perhaps understands this better than anyone else. Take this for example: in 2011 I stumbled across a random song by Body Cheetah. I would later go on to interview the man behind the guise, James Kristofik, and get to know him better. He’s perhaps one of the smartest, most intensely interesting people I’ve ever had the pleasure to talk to. His music is wildly inventive, and he has given every last bit of it away for free. If I hadn’t stumbled across his song on Youtube, I wouldn’t have ended up on his Bandcamp downloading his album. I wouldn’t have met what I consider one of the most under-appreciated artists going. This wonderful release method may come down to wordof-mouth luck more than anything, but with the rapidly expanding size of social media websites like Twitter and Facebook, it’s becoming an increasingly viable option.
No money has to be spent on marketing, and there’s no pressure to release by certain dates. It’s appealing from the artist’s perspective, but it’s also appealing from the listener’s perspective. What’s more exciting than coming home to an unannounced free project by one of your favourite bands? Pretty much nothing. It’s the biggest gift they can give a fan, and it’s also perhaps the best option to expand a fanbase without worrying with the hassle of PRs and managers. Speaking with DIY’s assistant online editor El Hunt, it’s clear I’m not the only one that sees the importance in the freebie. “I think there’s a climate at the moment where music fans expect things for nothing, and if an artist can be nimble enough to use that model I feel like it builds fan loyalty that just doesn’t exist around major releases anymore.” James’ generosity is what initially made me a fan, and his continuing compassion is what kept me coming back. James Kristofik himself recently took the time to tell me how much appreciates the support I’ve given him, and told me some exciting things about how a few big names have been contacting him thanks to me. This is undoubtedly the results of his kind-heartedness coming to fruition, and there can’t be anything more rewarding than that.
By Joe Price
YOUR GUITAR IS NOT YOUR DICK By Josh Pauley
Sometimes words fall out of the mouths of other human beings in an order that’s frankly unbelievable. Like when 50 Cent cussed out his grandmother for making him take out the rubbish on Twitter. Or that one time when that guy from The Black Keys got in a public spat with pre-arrest Bieber, a guy almost half of his age. Or when some random guy at university became the inspiration for this piece after a chain of words fell out of his mouth that left an entire room dumbstruck. What words, exactly? Well, this specific individual had the gusto to tell a panellist full of women who had just spent the previous hour outlining some of the hardships of which they’ve had to suffer as a result of their sexuality that he felt girls “didn’t look comfortable” holding a guitar. Of course, it’s totally possible that the aforementioned chump was intentionally being a misogynistic little toe-rag simply to provide his own twisted form of comic relief, but the more worrying prospect is that the guy was so utterly ignorant that he believed what he was saying was perfectly logical. Rewind thirty years or so, and this jilted, sexist mindset would likely mirror that of a much larger portion of music-loving males. In a time where glam rock behemoths roamed the planet doused in hairspray and caked in bronzer, the phallic nature of the electric guitar became the overcompensation necessary to remind us that men were still the masculine domineers of the six-string - and not an insecure collective perhaps a teeny bit unsure of their own sexuality.
But we’re not cock rock enthusiasts here in 2014, with the youth of today’s closest frame of reference to the testosterone era being the short-lived career of The Darkness. The truth is, the guitar has never had more female representatives in the limelight than it has today. In the past year alone, we’ve had the three instrumenttoting ladies of HAIM run rampant across the airwaves with their vintage brand of pop-rock, whilst the grittier, socio-conscious ilk of empowering all-women acts like Savages and Warpaint has left the press gawking in awe of their respective album triumphs. For the definitive showcase in a woman not only looking ‘comfortable’ with guitar in hand but an absolute force to be reckoned with, however, you’ll find case and point in one Ms. Annie Clark, more widely known under her stage name as the wonderfully enigmatic St. Vincent. As proficient in the art of fret wankery as she is penning perplexing pop songs, Clark showcases complexities without so much breaking a sweat. Throw in the teensy accomplishment of serving as musical guest on the season finale of American TV staple Saturday Night Live (guitar in tow, by the way), and you have a performer who is, quite simply put, kick-ass. It seems incredulous and almost patronising that we’ve had to dedicate an entire page of this magazine to essentially list a bunch of successful women who can play one particular musical instrument and play it well. But if one guy was ignorant enough to stand up and tell a whole room of people that female guitarists look ‘awkward’, then there are probably a hundred more idiots who can’t tell the difference between their dick and a Flying V.
HOLLOW-JAMS By James Barlow
Until 2012, holograms seemed like something destined only for sci-fi flicks – to inspire wisdom in young Jedi learners and the like at vital moments of their destiny. Then all of a sudden the world was left speechless as the famously long-deceased Tupac Shakur appeared in the middle of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s headline Sunday Coachella set for three songs as he strut around the stage on impeccable vocal form. While this landmark occurrence suddenly burst open the doors of possibility – could we expect a Beatles tour? – There have actually only been a few examples of hologram technology used since. Since 2pac the idea has been toyed with – a hologram of Elvis Presley accompanied Celine Dion exclusively for television viewers in 2007 and Frank Sinatra surprisingly appeared during the 2008 Grammy Awards to perform a duet with Alicia Keys. Eazy-E’s return to the stage for the first time since his 1995 death came during Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s slot at 2013’s Rock The Bells Festival while Ol’ Dirty Bastard was also brought back during the same festival to join his Wu-Tang Clan brethren. This year so far has seen Janelle Monáe join M.I.A. onstage despite performing her own set on the opposite coast of the US and vice versa. The real attention-demanding news recently however was during this year’s Billboard Awards Show which saw a holographic form of the late Michael Jackson moonwalking his way across the stage during a rendition of one of the cuts of his latest compilation, ‘Xscape’.
Now the release of another posthumous record of Jackson demos and outtakes is another debate entirely but the hologram performance couldn’t help but feel a little unsettling. Watching a calculated version of this deceased legend perform his most popular dance moves on the stage at an awards ceremony purely as a headline-grabbing gimmick seems a bit perverse if anything. It’s not even that it takes away from current acts that could potentially perform themselves but it comes down to an interruption of an artist’s legacy, despite them having no say in the matter themselves. We are now demanding that our heroes become a certain nostalgia act even after their final chapter has already been written. How much longer will it be until we see world tours from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Janis Joplin and – perhaps the most likely – original Nirvana lineup? It’s not even just restrictive to musicians that have passed away either – if this trend continues how long will it be until we see The Smiths reform? This new technology allows us to manipulate these voices and personalities into a way to solely please fans, bring viewing figures or attention. In reality this sounds as bad as it is on paper: reigniting our beloved stars purely for our entertainment. Not only does it show a refusal to move on but also a lack of respect for the artists who prided themselves on constant innovation and reinvention. While fascinating technology, this hologram business all seems a bit too polished. After all what can top the magical uncertainty of a true live performance?
- UP THE MONITORS R E V I E W S A N A V E T H E C L I D A N N M A D R A T S D L S I S T O B Y U N
B P P Y B G I K A Y P A G L
R O D I N R O W B B I N I K H U C C E A
N E Y G N S G A S O N
Clipping. has been tamed, at least, that’s how it seems. The unrelentingly abrasive, harsh noise the LA trio presented on mixtape Midcity, gets toned down considerably on debut CLPPNG. However, their aggressiveness isn’t lost, it’s just more slyly implemented. Midcity began with an intro that screamed static at any available moment, whereas CLPPNG’s ‘Intro’ is characterised by a tense squeal throughout with no hint of forthcoming abrasive cacophony. Demonstrating how producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson have now effectively mastered the nuances of abusing noise, leading to a sound far more terrifying than what’s presented on ‘Midcity’. On ‘CLPPNG’, they seem content embracing hip-hop conventions, only to brutally leave them bloodied and bruised. ‘Inside Out’ sounds like a psychotic Stankonia-era Outkast, while the most saccharine, accessible moment possible, a children’s choir, actually sounds foreboding on ‘Dominoes’. It’s not without humour, however, it’s also satirical look the present state of hip-hop. ‘Tonight’ features an exaggerated use of auto-tune, while exposing the ugly side to club culture that hip-hip constantly celebrates. ‘Get Up’ is one of CLPPNG’s most distressing tracks, featuring only a shrill alarm clock, yet the inclusions of the sweet vocals of Mariel Jordon leaves it coming across like a parody of lazy writing in the rap mainstream.
As a rapper Daveed Diggs progresses, he moves his lyrical scope beyond drug references and towards popular culture, Jay-Z, Team Rocket and hipsters all get a mention; nothing is too sacred. There’s a myriad of excellent features here too, however, the most bizarrely notable is Southern rap legend Gangsta Boo on ‘Tonight’, because of the sheer audaciousness of clipping. to have her simply playing a mindlessly drunk club–goer. Yet this is why ‘CLPPNG’ ends up being a triumph, as it’s rare to find an album so innovative in its confrontation. (Connor Cass)
HOW TO DRESS WELL
“WHAT IS THIS HEART?”
In refining his art, Tom Krell has found himself. On his third album as How to Dress Well, Krell has set out to answer the question the title of the album asks: “What Is This Heart?” It’s a deeply personal question with a deeply personal answer. Lingering and forlorn, it’s a record that stands as his boldest yet. Grandiose, yet intricate, this is Krell’s full realisation of his stunning talents. A portrait of every emotion, Krell paints a beauty that’s not always easy to appreciate. Pained love, fear of loss, it’s all here, and now it’s clearer than ever. The watercolours to ‘Love Remains’ Crayola, the production is less crude than before. “I don’t have the power, I don’t have the power” Krell repeatedly croons on haunting highlight ‘A Power’. It’s ironic, then, that his presentation of vulnerability is his true strength. It takes a lot of courage to craft a song around such a vulnerable hook. However, for every moment Krell showcases weakness, he showcases just as much strength. His divine vocals remain the highlight, with the higher definition recording resulting in a more vibrant and shimmering sound. Yet, the backgrounds to his vocals are just as interesting. The production finds itself revisiting his early lo-fi days, too. ‘Precious Love’ essentially finds Krell pouring his heart out over the music that follows every robotic “please hold.” No one is working with R&B instrumentals this inventive. “What Is This Heart?” is the album Krell has always intended to make, but has only just found the will to. It’ll be hard for him to best it, as it’s rare for R&B to be this poignant or daring. (Joe Price)
FREDDIE GIBBS AND MADLIB PINATA
Hip Hop collaborators Freddie Gibbs and Madlib (accompanied by everyone from Raekwon to Domo Genesis) have finally delivered long awaited project ‘Pinata’ and it’s obvious the wait’s been worth it. As the jazz inflected beats captivate from the get go, perfectly melding with killer flows from ex-gangster Freddie Gibbs as he unashamedly waxes lyrical about the ups and downs of thug life. The album has very much benefitted from it’s long production cycle as it’s difficult to find fault with much of the musical content.
The wealth of contributors (everyone from Earl Sweatshirt to Raekwon) add flavour to the album, blending with Gibbs’ rapidly delivered, but ultimately meaningful lyricism, touching on everything from drug abuse (‘High’ featuring recently reformed character Danny Brown) to basketball teams (‘Lakers’ and ‘Knicks’) to selling drugs for a living (‘Thuggin’). Pinata is a solid slab of hip hop goodness, whilst the album doesn’t change the game, the very competent flows and beats show off a solid, fresh piece of modern hip hop. (Richard Lowe)
AVEY TARE’S SLASHER FLICKS ENTER THE SLASHER HOUSE
3/10 The idea of Animal Collective’s musical madman Avery Tare straying from his psychedelic posse to release a solo effort entitled ‘Enter The Slasher House’ is one that stirs up notions of vivid experimentation, in-depth sonic palettes and jilted throwbacks to the grind-house era of film. It’s a disappointing culture shock then, that for the most part Tare’s independent debut is made up of either mind-numbing mediocrity that rivals the likes of Foster The People (‘Little Fang’) or rigid and characterless attempts at recreating the vibrant that domineer his main project (‘Duplex Trip’). There’s fractions of redemption to be found within the confines of ‘Modern Days E’, an antsy track that balances helter-skelter rhythms with a hook melded with hints of melodic brilliance, but in terms of blockbuster material, ‘Enter The Slasher House’ just barely scrapes the bottom of the B-movie bargain bin. (Josh Pauley)
BUILT ON GLASS
Nick Murphy, best known under the gloriously witty moniker of Chet Faker, has never been hesitant of showcasing his two-fold talent as a singing aficionado and a proficient producer. It’s hardly a surprise then, that his debut album Built On Glass arrives splintered into two pieces, that whilst undoubtedly are cut from the same cabinet, offer two very different perspectives of Murphy’s musical identity. The first half is a predominantly vocal affair, with Murphy exploring each and every aspect of his immaculate voice to a backdrop of rich and organic-sounding beats that compliment rather than constrain his simmering croon. It’s a feat perhaps best demonstrated on the single ‘Talk Is Cheap’, a signature Chet Faker number that manages to maintain primary focus on the vocal melodies despite being decorated by a delectable selection of smooth jazz instruments, and an attribute that extends to many of the other early album cuts, such as the blissfully uptempo ‘Gold’. Momentum is lost, however, in the gradual slip into the second portion of Built In Glass, in which Murphy tampers and tinkers with a broad selection of electronic in the pursuit of adventure to mixed results. ‘1998’ might benefit from the warm prong of chic analog synths that buzz and hum in tune with his indie soul, but ‘Blush’ is constructed from digital bursts of a most grating variety and ‘Cigarettes & Loneliness’ overstays its welcome by refusing to part with a textbook trebly guitar part for the entirety of its almost eight minute long running time. Although the initial hearty embrace of Built In Glass becomes garishly uncomfortable during its fleeting final moments, it serves as a sound testament to both the raw talent and reckless desire that Murphy possesses as an artist and acts as a telling insight into the genre-blending powerhouse that he could be. (Josh Pauley)
SO IT GOES
5/10 Ratking, being the latest sons of New York (the city that birthed El-P, Das Racist and Nas), promised to follow the streets rich history by providing adventurous production and socially conscious lyricisms. However, the trio end up dropping a surprisingly stylistically one-note record in ‘So It Goes’. Producer Sporting Life reveals a monotonous overreliance on numb beats, tame harsh noise and characterless vocal samples, while Wiki’s constant irritating vocal inflections actually detracts from the gritty realism of his lyrics. The detached drawl of King Krule doesn’t relax the tedium either. The bombastic brass of ‘Remove Ya’, ‘Protien’s refreshingly off-kilter qualities and ‘Puerto Rican Judo’, which see’s them and guest Wavy Spice frequently stealing attention with their audacious flows, are the rare occasions in which they prove that the explosively hard hitting group still exist. It’s just a frustrating disappointment that they defy this potential by overstating their most underwhelming characteristics. (Connor Cass)
7/10 As a female rapper whose career was birthed as the result of a viral video, Kitty has fought harder than most to prove to the hardened heathens of the internet that her craft is genuine. With impatiens, however, she leaves little room for even the most nit-picky of internet trolls to dispute that her charismatic, reverb-heavy blend of rap is appealling. Opener ‘emob0unce’ is essentially a DJ Mustard trap type affair decorated with a sheen of fairy dust, ‘BrB’ is her most gratifying pop pleasure yet and the sinister and snarky ‘retr0grade’ comes loaded with the quintessentially quirky wordplay that lies in the core of her appeal. A brief but bountiful musical voyage that journeys across a wide spectrum of emotions, impatiens is the eclectic sonic diary of an artist coming into the full bloom of their artistry. (Josh Pauley)
ULTIMA II MASSAGE
You’ll hear ugly, ugly sounds listening to this record. The sludgy grind of opening track ‘Streaker’ sounds as if the equipment being used is strained right to breaking point as drums drop out randomly and Tobacco’s distorted vocals growl away. Watching the track’s accompanying video won’t make you feel any less uneasy either. Ultima II Massage acts as a logical continuation of the twisted soundscapes of his previous two solo releases to result in his most undoubtedly deprived collection of songs yet.
have appeared on a Sega Mega Drive game - if they didn’t sound as if they’d been locked in a basement and unable to see the light of day for a good while, that is. Like most of his work, the lyrical content on Ultima II Massage is not the main focus, instead Tobacco’s sparing use of his signature vocoder-soaked and barely decipherable vocals is usually added into songs as another layer in the nightmare.
While the instrumental ‘Self Tanner’ and the cascading While there is plenty of diversity to be found here, the synths of ‘Father Sister Berzerker’ bear perhaps the running theme seems to be that if it sounds wrong it’s only resemblance of Tobacco’s group Black Moth Super Rainbow to be found here – their more eclectic right. Tracks such as ‘Video Warning Attempts’, ‘Beast moments, mind - there are some genuinely Sting’ and ‘Pool City McKnight Road’ contain the wonderful songs amidst the chaos. kind of shining synth melodies that could easily
A QUICK 3 WITH TOBACCO Q: What did you learn from your Kickstarter experience?
I wasn’t prepared for how intense the work was going to be. We had 4-5 people working 12 hours a day for about a month, and just barely made it before we had to leave for tour. So I guess the main thing I learned is sometimes I can’t do it all myself.
How have you changed your vocoder techniques? I worked for a long time at getting my vocoder to sound as human and emotive as possible, and whether anyone agrees with me, or ever even recognises it, that last Black Moth album was the pinnacle of that. So now I want to go in a different direction, and it’s all aural palette now.
The disfigured mechanical funk of ‘Lipstick Destroyer’, the perverted wall of sound of ‘Face Breakout’ and the poppy sleazefest ‘Eruption’ are all incredibly enjoyable highlights. Simply put ‘Ultima II Massage’ is the exciting culmination of beating drum machines, synths and vocoders into pulverised, pulsating mush. These sounds are beaten within an inch of their life and Tobacco is commited to recording the terrifying results. It’s outrageously, warped fun. (James Barlow)
Q: What’s up with the disgusting song titles on the record? For me, titles are about framing songs that probably have a sound that doesn’t match the meaning. And then it becomes its own thing where anything can mean anything.
I SHALL DIE HERE
“Eat My Face Off.” The opener to ‘Mess’ , ‘Mask Maker’, sees a menacing, robotic voice make this disturbing demand, instantly setting the tone for an album that is dedicated to musically vocalising anxiety.
40 years on the gut wrenching anger of the Punk and Grindcore scenes are no longer the soundtrack to the pushing of boundaries, whilst genre purists continue to carbonize the 80s/90s sounds and others usher walls of flesh ripping noise closer and closer into the pop punk format, the world of musical dissonance is undergoing a change.
Antwon’s music is defined by unorthodox production, endearingly direct lyricism hidden behind poeticism, and a deep desire to challenge the norms of rap. Not only does his signature style stand out amongst the legions of boom-bap revivalists and swag-preachers, but he injects a whimsical sense of character that few rappers possess.
Heralded in by otherworldly screams, the opener’s dirge-y crawl shows off The Body’s venomous musical formula of industrialised extremity, beckoning the listener forward into the groups grippingly twisted musical repertoire. ‘Alone all the way’s filthy bass stabs hark back to the claustrophobic violence of the late 80’s grindcore scene, accompanied by fat, buzzing guitars result in an off kilter, uncanny valley interpretation of NY Noise anti-heroes Swans.
‘Heavy Hearted In Doldrums’ is the result of Antwon’s strongest qualities bolstering one another to further highs. Using sounds of the past to create a new sound altogether, the consistent feel makes ‘Heavy Hearted’ Antwon’s best release yet. At only 37 minutes long, the concise record leaves no time for monotony. This allows Antwon to continually grease the wheels, refusing to slow down.
On ‘Mess’, Liars takes on the strands left behind on previous triumph ‘WIXIW’, specifically the abrasive bass barrage of ‘Brats’. However they move this sound to a far more feral and frenetic place, with the derelict atmospheres allowing for a visceral propulsion of overwhelming synths of ‘Pro Anti Anti’ and ‘Boyzone’ which, unlike its namesake, lacks in comforting fourpart harmonies, and instead features an unsettling combination of skittish percussion and erratic electronics. ‘Mess’ is an album of two distinct halves, one confrontational, the other more sedated, but on both it never loses focuses on the use of inhuman instruments to soundtrack paranoia. Liars deliver this so effectively that it could even leave MC Ride a quivering mess. (Connor Cass)
Unnerving and jarring dissonance alongside a complete lack of subtlety make ‘I Shall Die Here’ a horrifying statement of intent. (Richard Lowe)
With strong features throughout, and production that spectrally swirls, ‘Heavy Hearted’ is a delight from start to finish. It isn’t the album that art-rap needed, but it is the one that it deserves. (Joe Price)
3/10 The instrumental aspect of Grime (along with the UK grime scene in general) has seen a huge resurgence in the past 2 years, with countless members old and new of the ever intertwined Dubstep/Grime scene making LFO induced waves in the modern music scene. US based Sd Laika’s latest album ‘That’s Harakiri’ has taken that formula and channelled it through the distorted veil of the modern noise scene, with mixed results. Whilst Sd Laikas minimal grime/techno/dubstep combination sounds intriguing on paper, the problem with ‘That’s Harakari’ isn’t that it’s too overdriven or too experimental. The problem, quite simply, is that the albums musical content is really fucking boring, the tunes don’t really go anywhere and the progression isn’t particularly notable or interesting. Even when played at full volume the admittedly competent mixing doesn’t reveal any further substance, no subtly placed layers of sound buried deep within the mix reach out to grab the listener. It’s not all bad obviously been showcasing the much greater,
though; the albums music has slavishly produced and mixed, albums potential for something and much more interesting.
That said, most of the tracks on the album would sound great thrown into a mix and pumped through a fuck off huge sound system at a Dubstep night. In fact, the appearance of any number of UK Grime artists would benefit the album. The off kilter aesthetic of the albums percussive absurdity would mesh well with the similarly off-kilter flows of artists such as Trim. The lack of any coherent subject matter, structural complexity or contributing rap artists’ results in a showcase of why instrumental rap music needs that something extra to function properly. Whilst many fans of the album will cry experimentation and innovation, the problem is that the album isn’t hugely experimental or innovative whilst simultaneously lacking appeal to the Grime/Dubstep demographics. (Richard Lowe)
A sensitive singer-songwriter, an oddball rapper and an atmospheric producer: On paper it shouldn’t work by any stretch of the imagination, and yet the collective now known as Sisyphus manage to craft a surprisingly enjoyable listen on their eponymous debut album.
Providing each track with a mood-setting platform for each of his vocalists to make their own, Son Lux’s production is the knot tying them together.
Consistency isn’t the strong point here though – too often it goes right from a smooth Sufjan Stevens-led ballad to an in-your-face Serengeti rap on the very next track, which can cause the record to sometimes feel like a compilation album as opposed to a cohesive product. However the one underlying characteristic throughout Sisyphus is Son Lux’s refined production.
Undeniably Sisyphus’ highlights are the instances where all three members come together like in opener ‘Calm It Down’ and the fantastic ‘Rhythm Of Devotion’ - which combines Serengeti’s laidback flow with a gorgeous Stevens chorus melody while Son Lux sprinkles in Daft Punk-like voices and waterfall synths for a pure pop gem. (James Barlow)
DANNY BROWN @ KOKO, LONDON For perhaps the first time in his short career, Danny Brown is most likely more sober than the wild crowd before him given his recent announcement of quitting drugs. Due to this, the rapper is consistently in remarkable form – never failing to sound as on the beat as his studio self – however this may also be partly responsible for Brown’s apparent shyness. It isn’t until approximately halfway through his raucous set that he finally, and nervously speaks to the faithful audience before him.
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Aside from his go-to tongue-out-handhorns-symbol pose, this is pretty much the only crowd interaction Brown attempts. There are undoubtedly highlights such as Scrufizzer’s surprising ambush for his guest verse on ‘Dubstep’ and the crowd is a spectacle itself during ‘Side B (Dope Song)’ and ‘Dip’ wherein the floor begins shaking alarmingly. The eccentric one is on impeccable form but sadly doesn’t appear to be having anywhere near as much fun as his rowdy audience. (James Barlow)
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UNG LEAN @ BIRTHDAYS, LONDON
Yung Lean has had a bizarre trajectory to his current status. The Swedish mumblerapper rose from the murky depths of Tumblr, before becoming a minor viral sensation.
Shaking the walls and compelling waves of movement, his bold space-age reinvention of hip hop is incredibly silly, but his infectious song writing talents ties it all together.
The biggest question following all his internet-based success is, admittedly, a pretty simple one: does his internet-friendly aesthetic translate well to the stage? For better or for worse, the answer is a resounding yes. Love him or hate him, his performance at Birthdays in London has solidified him as a serious artist.
Bringing as much energy to the stage as any other rapper, it’s impressive how much power he has over a crowd at the age of 17. It’s here he transcends irony and in the process, shows off his legitimate talents. Whether it’s the fantastic hook of ‘Gatorade’ or the thud of ‘Kyoto’, he’s proved that he can entertain beyond the computer screen.
AUDIO ADDICT REINVENTED - FALL 2014