Friday 31 October 2014

Pom Pom - Ariel Pink

I had this for over a week (on my mac while I wait for the vinyl to arrive) and couldn't bring myself to listen to it. Was my appetite for Ariel Pink dwindling? He of 8 classic albums in a row, without doubt the best artist of the 21st century! What was going on in my mind? This is something I thought would never happen. I finally put it on and I guess it was a bit like putting on an old pair of slippers in a way. In another way it's Pink at his most wacky, quirky and comic, I thought. Some of it reminding me of Lincoln era They Might Be Giants, King Missile, even Ween. "Has he jumped the shark on this one? Maybe? Time will tell." These were my initial thoughts but now I'm coming round(& round). I mean there's always been Ariel Pink tracks that have annoyed me but then later they become my favourites such as Schnitzel Boogie.

Starting an LP with a track I don't like usually isn't a great sign. Pink Raincoats is a bit too 'look at me I'm doing psychedelia'. Of course that means it'll be my favourite in 10 listens time. But then all is forgiven on the next four tracks which are classic Pink. White Freckles is prime Pink. Ariel Pink does Ariel Pink. Only Ariel Pink sounds like this. Four Shadows has got the best synth (Moog?) sounds since_______insert favourite weird synth tune. He's heading towards demented glam/goth rock opera zones on this one and here that's a good thing, a very good thing. Lipstick is like hearing Ariel Pink for the first time again, you know, it makes your heart go funny. You feel ecstatic and confused all at once. You also feel a little bit too close to this guy's mindtank which he has transposed into sound like nobody has ever done before. Listening to it feels a bit wrong but like seeing a car crash you can't avert your eyes, well your ears in this case. A kind of queasy rapture. Nebulous. Not Enough Violence is where he does his best goth voice ala Pete Murphy and it's bloody hard to resist the delight of it all. In particular the synth drums which really get a workout in the bells & clocks passage. Then Ariel is at his mightiest when he's singing 'penetration time tonight.'Then maybe 'When we power plant bodies.' Followed by a glorious chorus where I think he's yelping 'Fertiliser'? at least I hope he is. The blurred backing vocals and harmonies are incredible if undecipherable. This is fanfuckintastic! I'm conjuring in my mind a bizarre super group containing the aforementioned Murphy plus members of Killing Joke and Mike Mills from REM. Who knew that was my idea of pop heaven? Thanks Mr Pink. Then it's Put Your Number In My Phone which left me cold upon first hearing it but has now insidiously wormed its way into my brain with it's enchanting West Coast melodies. It made me homesick for Melbourne even though I never ate from the taco truck, they had one, which was highly rated. Nude Beach A G-Go is an absurd Beach Party film re-imagining that puts me in mind of Ohio's Nudge Squidfish. You think it's totally daft at the start but by the end you're thinking genius. Goth Bomb is grunge meets goth meets metal meets space rock meets scuzz. This is killer rockin Ariel Pink, up there with his previous rawk classics Butt-House Blondies and Trepanated Earth! Next is Dinosaur Carebears which is a bit like Chrome meets Residents meets King Tubby meets The Specials meets Cleaners From Venus and that's just for starters. A concoction of which you may well ask 'what for?' But I reckon you should ask "Why not?' The key to Ariel Pink's success as an artist is that he can mysteriously transcend mere pastiche.

Negativ Ed is next and it's synth-glitter-punk noise which had me laughing when he sings "Negatory, negatory". Sexual Athletics is a melancholy porn boogie-funk psych jam, aren't they all? Jell-o is throwaway funky bubblegum pop but it's not that simple is it with Ariel Pink? It starts to end in a blast of noise but then it's back again to the bubblegum to finish. This is not unlike a tune from 90s electro pop group RegurgitatorBlack Ballerina is classic Ariel Pink, how do you describe that again? Well here goes, it's smothered in dense catchy choruses with a lurid interlude featuring a nerdy teen, a stripper and an English bloke. Then we're back to the jam packed and blissfully murky pop again. Or something like that. Picture Me Gone has me conjuring The Beatles doing an 80s power ballad, or hang on, perhaps something totally different. Like say a rough demo of a Lindsey Buckingham track circa Tusk similar to That's All For Everyone, that never made it to the LP because the rest of Fleetwood Mac thought it was too fucked up and maudlin. Exile On Frog Street is a psychedelic fairy tale where I think Ariel is the frog prince. Complete with frog and sounds. There you go all you little girls, kiss the right frog and you'll end up with one Ariel Rosenberg as your Prince Charming. Who knew? Pom Pom closes with Dayzed Inn Daydreams which starts off in disturbingly dark territory 'I died unknown, still born one morning.' Whether to take that line literally or as a writer's block analogy is a bit hard to discern as the song becomes more puzzling as it continues. It then transforms into the absolutely lovely with a divine chorus that's a euphoric deluge 'I used to dream, dream away, hide in the dark, fade into grey, I used to pray, now I scream (or is it 'now ice cream'), god help me, no more daydreams.' This is another highlight of the album and his best song in this vein since Round and Round,  Bright Lit Blue Skies etc. Dayzed Inn Daydreams also gives The Bewlay Brothers and Gouge Away a run for their money in the best ever final track of an LP stakes. Probably his best album since Worn Copy and that's saying something as the last two weren't too shabby.

I like.
So that's 9 in a row then.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Que Fresco - Que & Mike Fresh

Dunno who they are or where they came from (all I know is Mike Fresh guested on a Zuse tune this year) but this has got instant classic written all over it. It's a rap mixtape that's totally of it's time ie. not that dissimilar to their contemporaries except they nail every track with total conviction (hey that's bloody rare in the rap mixtape scene) and bring their own shapes and flavas, particularly their singing. Que & Fresh keep it tight with twelve tracks at 40 minutes. I reckon that's about the perfect length for any type of album. Keep in mind Illmatic by Nas ran at this length. Unlike the previously reviewed Kool John Presents... $hmopcity, this tape does have djs the hood rich monopoly people and such. I'm so used to misogyny, casual violence, homophobia and whatever else in rap, I don't know if their song Gas Station is racist or whether or not to give a shit? It's sung in an Indian accent and is sort of about running a gas station. For all I know Que or Mike might be of Indian heritage. People still rate the film The Party with Peter Sellers so who knows? Apu in The Simpsons - Is anyone outraged by that stereotype? The Indian guy who just served me at the Petrol Station, does he care? Anyway that song is so damn catchy it could be a novelty hit which could destroy their career but then again the world needs one hit wonders. Doncha think there's too much longevity in pop now? GaGa, Robbie Williams and bloody Beyonce should have fucked off by now. Longevity was for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Neil Diamond. I don't know if I get what Que & Mike Fresh are on about on every tune but hey I love Young Thug, what's he on about?  

Uno Dos Tres opens the mixtape with talk of molly, strippers, designer spex and something about being a pimp like Johnny Depp? Hooks and eerie synths galore. Ahora is some kind of homage to Speedy Gonzalez and rapping about splitting an avocado which could be about guacamole or sex, perhaps both. The 'Ahora' chorus which is sung has a brilliantly strange and irresistible melody What Part Of The Game is a sledge aimed at rappers who sell out and sycophants who claim to know you when you become someone. More hooks, more catchy tunes. Yes Men follows the former's themes and this is all played out over a minimal askew gamelan sample and awesome spooky organ sounds. By The Way claims to be a hit and its off kilter ratchet/trap plus the 'By The Way' hook should make it one. Next it's the aforementioned Gas Station which is sung in poptatstic fashion. This is the kind of song you wanna learn all the words to, just because you love it so much. Tricky's all about flippin a brick er..I think that's selling like a key of cocaine or is it money laundering? I dunno I ain't no gangster. The bpm count is up this one, it's fast and clever. These guys don't mess around, they get in and out quick smart with no dilly dallying. Dope Boy Dress Code is a song with rapping and is quite possibly the tune of the year along with Ahora. This is so addictive. Que & Mike have incredible pop smarts. These guys are future stars if they aren't already. Oh My God is more hooks rapped and sung (is that a little two part harmony?) with wicked beats, I love that symphonic drum fill. You gotta love songs about food. Soul Food's about 'damn good chicken, damn good greens, damn good cornbread, damn good beans.' all sung in a scrumptious manner sprinkled with little mentions of molly & lean here and there. FKI's on the beat on the final track I'm Tired and what a beat with these strange piano rolls and like a mental octopus drum machine. Toward the end a dj yells 'another mixtape masterpiece man!' Well that statement is hard to disagree with.

You Might Also Like - eMMplekz

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Kool John Presents...$hmopcity

Now somehow I missed this one a couple of months back. This could very well be the mixtape of the year.  Kool John's part of the Bay area posse HBK Gang. So there's plenty of his mates here particularly IAMSU! as well as Skipper, Sage The Gemini, Jay Ant, P-Lo, YP $poelstra (who's also in contention for mixtape of the year along with Skipper), Dave Steezy, Young Bari etc. This is a hell of a gang with such high quality tunes and productions. This is more like a proper album with no dj throughout, which seems to be a trend in mixtapes. I know it's on i-tunes as well as LiveMixtapes but I don't know if it's made into to physical form.

RNS is a prime example of ratchet's deceptive simplicity with its claps, heys, classic 80s bass and little eerie piano refrain along with laconic yet catchy singing and raps. Wobble is a standout in a tape full of highlights. Horror piano, anthemic strings and a banging hook, would surely make Wobble a possible number 1 on the hit parade. Next Day is about girls, being purped up, having too much cash etc. Okay is a haunting tune with a menacing lyric delivery and a killer bassline. Scary and hair-raising! Just as I'm thinkin Okay is very John Carpenter/mid 90s Memphis the next tune is Smoked Out which contains a sample from Triple 6 Mafia's mixtape Smoked Out, Loced Out from 94. Layin Low In The Cut is a paean to smoking da weed with an insanely upbeat catchy chorus. Do Ya Dance is a sonic tour de force with it's weird manipulation of the background vocal sample, slowed deep frightful male voices, a female hook sung by Chi'ma and other queasy sonic detritus. Ready's keyboard is the most gorgeous sound I've heard this year making this one hell of a smooth sex jam, R&B in excelis. Bang Bang changes up the vibe from sex, drugs and materialism to that old hip hop chestnut violence, just to let us know not everyone's oversexed and chilled out on Lean, Weed & Molly. TBT has some incredible rapping from Sage & Show Banga about, you know, booty, coochie and woody's. Shmoplife Party closes proceedings with grim synths and the most mental bassline of the tape. It's an odd ode to hedonism. But it's a classic laid back party choon California stylee, a little reminiscent of prime Dre & Snoop

Sage The Gemini, IAMSU!, Skipper and YP $poelstra have all released excellent albums/mixtapes this year. In YP's case two excellent collections Heat Vol 1 & 2. Now you can add Kool John's $hmopcity to that list and this may be the best of the lot. This is a run only comparable to Wu-Tang's run of solo records from Tical to Ironman. High praise indeed.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rich Gang - Tha Tour Part 1

I must admit I kept looking at this on Datpiff and wondered 'To download or not to download? That is the question.' It looked like it would be a bit like last year's Boss Yo Life Up Gang mixtape which was Jeezy, Doughboyz Cashout & YG. It had a few good moments ie. DJ Mustard's trax but the rest hasn't stuck with me, maybe I'll have another listen to it actually. Mixtapes are free and hey this has got Young Thug on it, so surely it's a no brainer plus Rich Homie Quan's Still Goin In Reloaded mixtape from last year was one of the finest. I finally downloaded it. I was enjoying it a lot, until I realised this phrase 'Rich Gang' was being drilled into my head, like every 15 seconds. This started to gnaw away at my brain to the point that 5 or 6 listens in I couldn't take it anymore and had to switch it off. It was a bit like havin someone with Tourette's Syndrome yelling 'Rich Gang' at you for over an hour! Hey Birdman I know it's free and all and I don't want to seem ungrateful but surely the point is to get us to listen to the tape, not turn it off. The 'Rich Gang' phrase was used to the point of overkill. Maybe less should have been is more in this case. Having said all that I was enjoying Tha Tour. Flava's got a great spooky theremin going throughout, makin it a hell of a tasty track. I Know It 's beat is a dub-meets ratchet vibe that's irresistible, surely it could be a hit single. Throw Your Hood Up had me going back to and reassessing DJ Mustard's neglected (by me) 10 Summers as it has a tune with the same title. Imma Ride, Bullet, Who's On Top, 730, War Ready and Pull Up also stood out at this point of listening.The rest was probably gonna grow on me but if I return to the tape, I fear, I might get pushed over the edge by the 'Rich Gang' chant. Which is a real shame. Maybe these tunes are elsewhere, or on i-tunes, without that repeated phrase. Hope so.

er....this wasn't on the tape! Tune of the year?
Only 2 subtle Rich Gang mentions.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Juicy J - Low

Just saw this. How old's Juicy J now? He's still rappin about rubbers! Nicki Minaj gives it up to her influences ie. Three 6 Mafia and southern rap in general but not for the first time she also appeared on J's 2010 comeback mixtape Rubba Band Business just before she became a superstar. Actually didn't she do a pre fame mixtape with Lil Wayne, another Southern rapper? She also used to call herself the female Weezy (aka Lil Wayne). Anyway Young Thug obviously couldn't make it to the video shoot and Lil Bibby looked like he needed to do a wee throughout. I love that minimal outro, that could go for another 15 minutes I reckon. I like....late contender for tune of the year!

Saturday 18 October 2014

Rap Avalanche

A Quick Squizz At Recent Rap and R&B
Just when I was starting to think 'gee it was all happening earlier this year in the rap, ratchet, trap and R&B zones, but what's happened?' I was going back to hardcore, jungle and speed garage etc. (Reynolds has more on breakbeat garage here, loving that Ruff Da Menace track 2 F In Ruff (So What)). Then a bunch of new releases appear! Mostly free mixtapes but some albums too.

Now this is something to get excited about. Houston's Beatking, creator of 2014's best mixtape Gangsta Stripper Music 2, teams up with Three Six Mafia's Gangsta Boo for Underground Cassette Tape Music. Who would have expected this collaboration? Gangsta Boo & Skinny Pimp did feature on Gangsta Stripper Music 2 though. Gangsta Boo along with The Scarecrow aka Lord Infamous were my favourite 666 Mafia rappers. Female rapping really suited that 90s Memphis style. It's funny because Beatking is one of the few rappers who sonically doesn't owe an obvious debt to Triple Six Mafia like so many current artists do. This is like Beatking goes on a 90s Memphis ghostride with Boo as his guide ie. this is some creepin shit. It's more Boo's game this one. Beatking's rave-esque Club Godzilla side is toned down slightly here but it shows he's versatile and willing to experiment. Gangsta Boo is in fine form here and hey I'm a sucker for anything reminiscent of the Memphis rap underground from the mid 90s.

Next is Ain't Nothin Bigger Than The B. King Kev turns up with Bread Winner Kane on this collaborative effort. Kevin Gates plays the sidekick to Kane on this mixtape which is weird and a bit wrong as he's the King. It's a bit like Elvis playing sidekick to Barry Mannilow. I don't think Kane is Kev's heir but there's plenty of kicks here although this tape is long and I mean bloody long like a Swans album. I was thinkin gee this tune MYB is great and a little familiar and it turns out it's from Kev's very own classic Stranger Than Fiction from last year. I don't really understand how mixtapes work, like how do they get paid, why are old songs reused? Who are these hood rich people? etc. Perhaps we could all edit this one down by about half.

Tinashe's album proper has dropped (what I'm sayin that now?!) after last year's mixtape Black Water. Aquarius contains the choice hit single 2 On. The thing is there aren't any other DJ Mustard productions here which was initially disappointing but I'm gettin used to it now. We've got some luscious tunes on this album and some that stray a little too close to the overtly but slightly bland pop side. She's at her best when it's post-millennial R&B, better than Beyonce and almost up there with Cassie. Tinashe's still at street level and is givin us the real edge that we want on All Hands On Deck which is v Mustardy ratchet. On one tune it sounds like Dave Gilmore shows up doing an absurd guitar solo(?).

Rome Fortune's back. He has the best album/mixtape covers in the game and this cover is probably his best so far. I'm totally lovin that beard too. For this mixtape he takes an opposite approach to his previous tape Beautiful Pimp 2 where he used only one producer, Cito, for it's entire 11 trax. On Small World he's got every man and his dog on production duties including Fout Tet(?). It's a testament to Rome's vision that this all hangs together so well and might even be as good as Beautiful Pimp II. A metal riff shows up on one tune and strangely doesn't seem that out of place. The pace has picked up a notch or two on this tape. There's even a song, ie. with singing not just rapping, Friends Maybe, which is a collaborative jam with I Love MakonnenRome Fortune is Atlanta's most intergalactically smooth dude, still doin his own thing, you know, haunted, intimate and whispered raps combined with trippy future hip hop.

*Haven't checked out the new ones for Gunplay, Lil B(?), Rich Gang, Key! & FKI, Que & Mike Fresh, The Church or Billy Idol yet. They all came at once! Well maybe I wasn't paying attention.

Thursday 16 October 2014

UK Garage With Simon Reynolds

"Double 99 and Gant are just pure classic speed garridge. Deekline is sort of 2step turning into breakstep (breakstep really not a good development in my opinion, with a few exceptions - although he liked to call it Nu Rave, Deekline - sort of starts to merge into the nu skool breaks scene which you may nor may not recall - Rennie Pilgrem and others that my memory fails to dredge up. Stanton Warriors were the big breakstep act as I recall. But all of it -- speed garage, 2step, breakstep, proto-dubstep like Horsepower Productions, proto-grime like Pay As U Go Kartel, Oxide & Neutrino, and So Solid Crew - could be subsumed under the rubric "UK garage". Which runs from about 1996 in its earliest stirrings through to 2003-4 when grime and dubstep broke off as separate entities - so that's like an eight year period of great music and ferment in the UK dance underground, but also spilling into the charts. "I Don't Smoke" was a hit single."

*This was left by Simon Reynolds in the comments box of the previous post. Seeing as nobody clicks on the comments box I've put it here, hope you don't mind Simon.
As I've said, this is around the time I got off the Hardcore Continuum. I Don't Smoke went to number 11 in the UK chart for DJ Dee Kline in 2000, the year after it's original release. Horsepower Productions feature prominently in that J Rolla Proto Dubstep Mix with 3 tunes. Nu Rave & Nu Skool Breaks are familiar terms as I would have tuned into radio shows playing this music at the time but obviously got turned off by it. This is also around the time (99) I stopped going to clubs. I gave 2step a go but I just couldn't get into it. As far as Grime went I didn't hate it but I didn't love it (like I loved jungle) either, I guess that's indifference or at least tolerance, if it was within earshot. Having said all that it seems I'm open to reappraisals as some Speed Garage, 2step & Breakstep are now seeping into my consciousness in a very good way.

Oh Boy - Fabulous Baker Boys
This is a beauty from 97.

Destiny - Dem 2
Also from 97 and heading into 2step

187 Lockdown - Gunman (Original Mix)
This is a "Tune" from 97 as well.

Breakstep Questions Answered

Is this strictly speed garage though or more like something on the peripheries of speed garage?

This is a question I asked on the weekend, on this here blog, in regards to these tunes- DJ Dee Kline's I Don't Smoke, Double 99's RIP Groove and Gant's Sound Bwoy Burial. As if in answer to this Reynolds posts a bunch of I Don't Smoke remixes and calls it a breakstep classic. I wonder if this is a sub genre named in hindsight? Was breakstep a micro-genre post 2-step pre Grime? Perhaps it ran parallel to 2-step in the nuum.  Anyway there you go.

What about this one Soundscape's Dubplate Culture? It's got a bit of everything hasn't it? The micro-genre geeks must have had a hard time with this one. Whatever it may be, it's a classic.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Scott Walker & Sun O))) - Soused


It's there in my files awaiting listening and it's been there for a while. I know I will end up buying it just like you used to in the olden days when Tilt was originally released in 1995. You know, where in exchange for some money you get a physical item containing sound. I'm at some weird crossroads though and I haven't got the nerve to put it on. Scott Walker has recorded 3 of my favourite LPs of the last 20 years, Tilt, The Drift and Bish Bosch. I have actually listened to these 3 albums a lot and his brand of obtuse existentialism, strange beauty and sense of the absurd usually doesn't disturb me. In fact I relish it (I'm about to listen to the 4 tracks by Mars on No New York for gods sake!). What's going on in my brain preventing me from clicking on Soused in my 2014 playlist? Don't worry 4AD you'll get your money, eventually. What am I afraid he might unleash? Maybe I'm worried it won't be any good due to his collaborators but as I've previously stated I don't hate them. Perhaps I think they're unsuited or too suited. Is it too soon? I mean Bish Bosch was only released in 2012! Should I look at it more as a side project?.... not the true follow up to Bish Bosch? Has the mystique dried up? It's called Soused! Will it be like a Cosmic Psychos album? I noticed a review at The Quietus and thought that might gently lead me into the album. I couldn't finish the article as it was the worst pile o shite I ever started reading in my life. I'm still none the wiser about anything! Stay tuned to see what my brain does next. Will I listen to it before it's time for the end of year polls? When will I shell out the cash? Will I even write a follow up post?

A comedy album?

Sunday 12 October 2014

Proto-Dubstep, Speed Garage & Recreations

Funny how much I'm loving this Proto-Dubstep Mix 99-03 from J Rolla considering I was off the hardcore continuum come Speed Garage, 2 step & Grime. I didn't really make it back until the rowdier/wobblier side of dubstep showed up in trax from Skream, Rusko et al. Even then I was only into a handful of tracks compared to the hundreds of hardcore/jungle tunes that I loved (they would be into the thousands now since my rediscovery/reappraisal of rave a couple of years back). I mean I liked Burial's 2 records and Kode9 & Spaceape's Memories Of The Future but was that dubstep? I had Burial more aligned in my brain with Hauntological/90s Berlin zones and and the later with trip-hop territory.  Maybe I'm loving this mix because the material is so unfamiliar and perhaps I didn't need to get off the nuum around the tech-step to speed garage time. Especially because I've been diggin this tune (below) I Don't Smoke, which is soo good. It starts off like something from those nutty scallywags Position Normal doncha think?

Oh and this from 97. 

er...and this from 97 and I could go on..... Is this strictly speed garage though or more like something on the peripheries of speed garage? I don't know but I like it. There's even reenactments of this style today, check below Hodgson's One Spliff which is hard to resist as it's so damn addictive (No pun intended. Or would it be better to intend that pun?). This one via Energy Flash.

Anyway back to J Rolla from London, not to be confused with J-Rolla from NZ, who has a hyphen. Rolla's got a great bunch of mixes over at Mixcrate of 90s hardcore and jungle which are worth checkin out and er... some boring dubstep ones but you don't have to listen to those if you don't want to. 

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Reign - The Zombie Leader Is Approaching

Old skool German hardcore on Dance Ecstasy 2001 from 96! How good is that bass drum outro. A myriad of bass drum soundz...... Oh yeah!

And this....on the B-side. The mighty Skeletons March. How about that sinister and cold synth sound? Doooomcore! You know the score.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Rome Fortune - Beautiful Pimp II

I wrote this a while back but forgot to post it. This was released earlier this year.

Rome Fortune's Beautiful Pimp II is a great little mixtape. It's 11 tracks at just 30 minutes so there is no filler here and Fortune leaves you wanting more, which is rare in the rap cd/mixtape game. There are echoes of idylltronica, electro (remember the hip hop variety?), post-rave comedowns, trip-hop, ambient jungle, soul and vibraphone action. There are even hints of the jazz fusion end of drum and bass as well as downtempo soundz not unlike Throbbing Pouch era Wagon Christ. Beautiful Pimp II's got so much synth goodness you end up inside this smooth album's vortex and you don't wanna leave. It's digital like glass with no dirty samples. This aural soundworld is so crisp you feel it might crack at any second. This is one space age trip. Cito is on the beat throughout the entire mixtape making it so coherently flowing, like a proper album release and not just a bunch of tracks thrown together. Even when some scratching shows up it's so digital you don't end up in past hip-hop zones. Fortune's from Atlanta but he's definitely cutting his own path with his unique intimate laconic style. This is progressive future hop of the highest order.