Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Toro y Moi - Still Sound

Toro y Moi's Causes of This was definitely one of the better albums to come from the (can't believe I'm going to say this) chillwave scene in 2010. His new album, Underneath the Pine, is out in a month (on the 22nd February) and apparently sees him heading in to slightly new territory. Anyway, he released the video for Still Sound today which is going to be on the album. This song sees Toro y Moi backed by a full band rather than just his usual lo-fi electronics. However, it still sounds (and looks) more '80s than should really be possible in 2011. I'm quite a fan of the ghost in it.

Teebs - Arthur's Birds

I haven't really been posting anything on here recently because 1. I've been busy with uni work/exams/christmas and because 2. there is always a draught of good new music at this time of year. I have however spent this period, as I do every year, catching up on music I missed out on earlier in the year. Reckon I'm going to share a few of these with you over the next couple of weeks starting with this one. Teebs is signed to Flying Lotus' (who I love far too much if you hadn't noticed) Brainfeeder label and shares a fair bit in common with his label mates. Teebs makes (are you ready for it?) sublime lo-fi experimental instrumental hip-hop like Flying Lotus and Gaslamp Killah amongst others. It's some pretty delicate sounding stuff but kind of submerging at the same time. He released Ardour last year which was pretty great and here's the song Arthur's Birds off of it.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Maths - Ascent

Maths' first full length Descent was one of the best albums of 2009 and was overlooked by, well, everyone. On Descent, Maths managed to cram more emotion into thirty minutes of energetic screamo than should be possible. Here Maths return, a year and a half later, with a follow up EP to Descent with the tracks having been written at the same time and carrying on with similar themes and ideas.

Descent was very typical of the screamo genre and didn't do anything that hadn't been done before. It contrasted anger with beauty, fury with melody and hatred with self-loathing. What it did to, however,  was to be a more polished and melodic piece than the frantic sound of their predecessors and obvious influences such as Orchid while not incorporating as much post-rock or ambient influences like many of their modern counterparts like Envy. This created a sound which, while nothing new, was well and truly their own.

Being a follow up to and having been written at the same time as Descent the tracks here are, as would be expected, very similar to their counterparts off that album. In fact, these songs all feel like they would have fit perfectly on that album. While this would be disappointing in most cases, there are far worse debuts to sound like and, with this just being tagged as a follow up EP, a radical shift in direction was not expected. In fact, you would expect this album to sound like a collection of leftovers from the Descent writing process but it actually includes some of Maths' finest moments to date. It would, however, be nice to here more progression in the next release by Maths. Especially seeing as when Maths' draw the furthest away from their original sound on closer The Wind Swept Away, it is this EP's finest moment and shows that Maths have potential to do something really special with their next release.

That does not mean that everything is the same though. The vocals have improved greatly in technicality and production this time around. While this would be expected to take away from the emotion and feel of a band like Maths, it leads to more range in emotion in the vocals. The production hasn't just been improved on the vocals but across the board as well. You'd also expect this to drag Maths down, with the muddied production on Descent adding so much atmosphere to the sound but it helps Maths build up the dynamics which their sound is so reliant on.

As is to be expected if you are knowledgeable in screamo or have heard Descent, Ascent is a short listen. Being a mere eleven minutes long, shorter than a lot of songs out there, Maths do not have a lot of time on this. However, the songs on here, like Descent, stream in to each other with it being difficult at times to know when one has started and the other ended. This stream of sound helps make Ascent feel like a full piece of work even if it is only eleven minutes long. And what a fine piece of work at that.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Tyler, The Creator - Bastard

From the opening rant against Hip-Hop blogs to the final perfect album summary of IngloriousBastard is not your typical Hip-Hop album. The basis of the album is a conversation between Tyler and his therapist after he's been sent there for misbehaving at school. What comes from this set-up is not only some incredibly personal verses but also some masterful characterisation to the point where you aren't exactly sure who Tyler, The Creator is.

The most obvious thing to comment on about Bastard is Tyler's voice. Rapping in a raspy low voice well beyond his years, Tyler spits pure fury from beginning to end. This anger is not only seen in his voice but his lyrics are spilling over the sides with it. He raps with a fairly simple, almost Gucci Mane like, swag but what he doesn't have in flow he more than makes up for with his lyrics. Bastard is full to the brim with really impressive verses, especially for an eighteen year old. However, as is well chronicled about Bastard, graphic violence is never far from Tyler's rhymes. Whether it is drug use or casual references to rape, Bastard is rarely an easy listen and is always shocking. However, this graphic violence helps set the darkness of this album and helps set the deep, dark thoughts in this character speaking to his therapist. The source of this anger becomes clear on album opener, Bastard, where Tyler raps "I just want my father's e-mail so I can tell him how much I fucking hate him in detail." Having never known his father, it becomes clear that the Bastard of the title is in fact Tyler. He gets more and more honest about his father until the final track, Inglorious, where he discusses how difficult it was having a mother fill both parent rolls and summarises that his father just "didn't fucking like him much". This transaction from anger to sadness over his father even makes this album a surprisingly emotional journey at times.

This album is not all dark however, with its humour shining through regularly such as his calling out of "40 year old rappers rapping about Gucci" on opener Bastard. Many of Tyler's Odd Future buddies make an appearance on this album including his younger brother Earl Sweatshirt who brings some fantastic verses to the album. However, as great and as many Odd Future guest slots as there are on this album, no one steals the show from Tyler throughout. Something that I haven't really stumbled upon so far is just how great Tyler's beats are. Entirely produced by Tyler himself, the beats range from tracks with nothing but an incredibly moving piano piece (Bastard) to pumping dirty beats (French). The lo-fi rawness of all the beats throughout is something I can only really compare to Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) which is probably the best compliment an album can get. What you end up with is a Hip-Hop album which sounds experimental while never really leaving it's roots as a Hip-Hop album.

While this album is lyrically shocking and it is sometimes difficult to see through this, Tyler's raw talent shines through regularly. Tyler, The Creator really is the shining hope of his, much-hyped, Hip-Hop collective OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All). While, Tyler, The Creator and the rest of the collective seem to solely survive on the blogosphere at the moment, with this much raw talent at such a young age, there seems to only be so long until they burst out of this scene and make a name for themselves. Here's hoping that Tyler's graphic and shocking lyrics don't hold him back in this department because this album is really just a sad tale about a boy upset and angry about never having known his father. This really is one of the best Hip-Hop albums of the year.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Live videos from Nine Inch Nails' farewell tour

With it being over ten years since they released The Fragile and over a year since they played their last ever live show there are two facts about Nine Inch Nails that the world need to be reminded of. The first is just how much of a masterpiece The Fragile was and the second is how fucking tight a live band they were. It is a good job then that Trent Reznor shared two videos, one on Christmas Eve and one on New Year's Ever, of them playing The Fragile's Somewhat Damaged and Just Like You Imagined (featuring Mike Garson on piano) on their farewell tour. God damn I miss this band.